May 19, 2016

California here we come... Travel Day and Expo (Part 1)

So last June, yes, that long ago, we signed up for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon, actually, the Pixie Dust Challenge, and started planning a trip to California. I was heading out there with Kris, Eddie, her dad, David, and we brought the kids too.

I left on Wednesday, and rode the bus to get to Orlando to hop on a plane. Needless to say it was a super long day of travel. I got up in Miami at 6am and landed in Orange County, CA at 11:30pm (PDT), so it was actually 2:30am my time. Crazy! After a bite to eat after we landed it was straight to bed, cause damn we all needed it.

The next day we took our time getting up, meaning we chilled a bit before leaving the hotel, cause our east coast bodies were up way too early for the west coast time. And since it was race weekend, it was time for the expo.

Now, I've been to my fair share of RunDisney expos, but they've all been at the Wide World of Sports in Disney World. At Disneyland, it's at the Disneyland Hotel. So, we had to cross the street from our hotel, pass the parks and through Downtown Disney. It was so cool to see it all and it was all so close!

Packet Pickup is underneath in the basement/parking of the building. It was way less massive than packet pickup at Disney World, but it made it so much easier. Especially since everyone was running and we had to pickup bibs for the 5k, Pixie Dust, and Kids Races. And the absolute coolest part of the expo was getting the coast to coast wristband! OMG, I couldn't believe we were really doing it.

After we got our bibs, and Kris and I had our pics taken for the challenge, we headed up to the expo. Now this is my first experience ever being at a RunDisney Expo on opening day. We got our bags and shirts, and then saw the 2-3 hour line for official merch! WHAT?? Ok, I'm never going to an expo that early again.

We looked around a bit took some pics, and headed out to Downtown Disney for lunch. We got tacos and margaritas, it was Cinco de Mayo after all!

Now, the kids were done and wanted some time in the hotel, so we went back. But later, Kris, Dave, and I went back to the expo to check out the official merch. We only waited about 20 minutes to get in. And the merch was all soooooo cute! I love Tink to begin with, so this made it even harder to choose. I ended up going with the I Did It! shirt, since it had the Disneyland map, and the graphic was still as cute as everything else.

That night we hit up Buca Di Beppo for dinner and turned in early, that darn east coast time. The boys had to be up early for the 5k, and we planned on going out to cheer them on.

Apr 22, 2016

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side Recap

Now, I'm not a HUGE Star Wars super-fan, but when runDisney opened up the Star Wars Half Marathon, Kris and I signed up to be able to get our coast to coast medal when we were out in Disneyland for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon. And then I saw the new movie, and I gotta say I'm kinda digging Star Wars. I mean, who wouldn't want to root for Rey?

Soon enough it was time to go to the Dark Side though, and embrace all the bad guy-ness with it. I took a couple of days off, so I could make it into a nice weekend and off to Orlando I went. I also took the bus this time, so I didn't have to spend my weekend driving either!

I got up on Friday and we headed to the expo. Kris had go the day before to grab her bib and fix an issue with it, so we just picked up mine, and then wandered around looking at all of the cool stuff. Veronica came with us and was able to score tons of snacks, and a big bag to keep all of her goodies in too, so she was a happy kid. And we got to see the storm troopers guarding things too.

After the expo, we headed to Hollywood Studios. We figured some pics with Kylo Ren and Chewbacca were in order for the weekend.

Saturday we went for a walk to the store, and then I did a friend's  daughter's hair for prom. Kris's dad was nice enough to take the kids for the night, and after dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, we came back home set up our stuff, watched Outlander (cause we had to!), and called it a night. We had a 2:30am wake up call that came much too soon.

We got dressed and headed to Epcot for the race start. It was a tad bit chilly, which was nice, since in the weeks leading up to the race I had feared the heat and humidity. But it was a nice around 60ish at the start.

We realized we missed the pre-race pic with some of our online groups, but then we headed towards the start. Just like at the Princess Half, the corrals were about a 5k from the staging area, so we started the hike back there. Luckily, we were able to catch the national anthem as we were almost to our corral. and were in there before the first corral was let out. I feel like we moved up in corrals a bit, since we were in corral H.

At about 5:30am, corral H was off. And I knew we'd be in for a very packed course. The course for The Dark Side was a reverse of the Wine & Dine course, which I know pretty well.

We started out on the road, and before we knew it we were entering the back of Epcot and about to go into the World Showcase. Gotta say, I love running through the World Showcase. It was still dark when we got there, so it was all lit up. It looked so pretty. But, almost immediately was the first water stop, and it had gotten so narrow so fast that the water stop was totally in the wrong place. It slowed up a congested area even more.

We left Epcot and headed towards the Boardwalk. I knew as soon as they said this would be early in the race, that I might be walking for a lot of this part. We did walk some, but luckily the course was on a slightly wider part of the road (not the super narrow sidewalk, like in Wine & Dine.), so it wasn't outright horrible.

Soon we rounded the corner and saw Hollywood Studios in front of us. It was a pretty quick turn through the park, since it is under constructions on the back lot, but it was so fun. The symbol of the Empire was projected onto the Chinese theater, and Kylo Ren and some Storm Troopers were on the stage.

We started heading down Sunset Boulevard and took a pic in front of the Tower of Terror.

Then I heard someone say, "photos on the right." I thought it would just be a photographer, but nope, it was tons of characters! People from the 501st (an awesome group of Star Wars cosplayers) were dressed up and waiting to take pics. There were tons of storm troopers, Vader, sand people.... if there was a weird character, they were there. Since they weren't official Disney characters, there weren't official photographers there, but you could get a pic with your phone. We were able to get this pic with a sand person?

Another highlight was the water stop at mile 3.8. I was able to see my friend Emily that was volunteering! I got my water and a cheer from her, which was so cool.

Next was the long trek to Animal Kingdom. This park is a little farther out, so there were a few miles before we got there. There was a huge screen showing Star Wars scenes, and also a DJ. On the miles out there we also saw lots of the earlier corrals on their way out of Animal Kingdom. Even saw some people I recognized from online.... yes, I'm that nerd.

The Animal Kingdom parking lot was uneventful. Usually for the Wine & Dine, they had characters and big marionettes here. But they only had one scene where you could take pics on the way in. We came in through Dinoland, passed by Everest, and got some shots of the Tree of Life. Then right before we left the park we saw 2 storm troopers. They looked like they were Disney ones, since they had a photopass person with them.

And right before heading out of the park, were another bunch of members of the 501st all decked out. The placement for these was bad though, since it was right before the exit to the park, it got super congested in that area with people taking pics, and others trying to get out of the exit gates. Look for better placement next year runDisney!

Then was another long stretch of road to get to the Wide World of Sports. This part was really character free, and trust me, for miles 9-12 characters would help keep your momentum going and your spirits up.

I was feeling great until after mile 10, when my IT band pain started to flare up. It had been perfectly fine, but since the course was pretty congested all the way through, and I had to do so much weaving around people to get running or walking I think it just got aggravated by that.

Soon we turned into the back of Wide World of Sports through the trails. I was not looking forward to this at all. My first runDisney race (the Happy Haunted 5k) was on these trails, and that's where I first messed up my IT band. I was as cautious as I could be on the trails and finally made it through to sidewalk! As soon as I hit that sidewalk, my leg felt TONS better. we pretty much had about a mile left.

There were tons of people cheering everyone on once we got to the sidewalk, which was awesome. Then a bit more gravel, before we got to the parking lot and the home stretch before the finish line. And Kris and I finished it out, with a runDisney half marathon PR of 3:08:41 (14:36 better than our last best runDisney race), which included 3 picture stops.

After the race, we got our medals, which were amazing, food and sat for a bit. And you know they say that the Dark Side had cookies, well they do!

Then we got in the never-ending line for the bus back to Epcot. Another fail of this race is that it wasn't an out and back. It was point to point, you start in one place and finish in another. Now for something like the Wine & Dine, where you have an after party right after the race, this makes sense. But here it was just another 5k to walk to get back to go home. After being in the line for the buses for about 30 minutes, we decided to cancel the brunch we had planned. That extra walking and waiting just zapped our energy.

We finally got on the bus and then had to walk to the other side of the Epcot lot to get to the car. Once we got home, Ed had picked up breakfast for us, so we ate, and then napped. The nap was just what we needed. Later that night, we hit up Epcot and checked out the flowers and the concert by Blood, Sweat, & Tears.

Gotta say, that even though the course was crowded and the getting back to the car was a mission, that this is one of my favorite runDisney races. Everyone was in Star Wars costumes or Star Wars/Disney mashups. The energy of everyone was just great and the people were all amazing. I'd love to go to the Dark Side again, especially now that I have so much Star Wars clothes to go with it.

Apr 13, 2016

Healthy Chicken Fried Rice

I've been cooking a lot more lately, and since I get home so late, I want the things to be quick, easy, delicious, and healthy. And this dish is super easy, so yummy, and quicker than calling for delivery. This fried rice has protein and tons of veggies to keep you full and no MSG or other icky stuff in it.

I keep this super easy by using a veggie mix. I love this one (Eat Smart Vegetable Stir Fry) that I find in the produce section. It has tons of my favorite veggies, broccoli, snow peas, shredded carrots and broccoli slaw. The broccoli slaw kinda has the look of bean sprouts in the finished dish, which is great, cause I never seem to finish a package of bean sprouts when I buy them. You can also use any fresh or frozen veggie mix that you like. All the veggies really make this filling without being so heavy on the rice. Plus you get in more veggies, and that's always a good thing!

This is also a great recipe to use up leftovers. I almost always use leftover rice for this recipe. It makes it all come together so quickly And feel free to mix it up and use any protein you have on hand, beef, pork, ham or even tofu. You can also use leftover veggies.

Healthy Chicken Fried Rice
Serves 4

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders
1 package stir fry veggies (fresh or frozen)
2 cups cooked rice (white or brown)
2 eggs
Green onions (optional), greens and whites, cut on the diagonal
1 tsp. garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce or liquid aminos
Olive Oil

1. Slice the chicken breasts into bite size pieces.
2. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat.
3. When the oil is hot, throw the chicken in the pan and season with garlic powder (I don't measure, but I think it's about 1 tsp.).
4. Cook the chicken, stirring occasionally until fully cooked and no longer pink.
5. While the chicken cooks, whisk the two eggs.
6. In a small frying pan, heat 1/2 tsp of oil, and cook the eggs into an omelette (or scrambled eggs, if you can't make an omelette). When done, remove from pan and set aside.
7. Once the chicken is cooked, add the veggies and about 1/2-3/4 cup of water to the pan.
8. Stir the chicken and veggies around scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
9. Let the veggies steam in the water to cook uncovered. Let the water evaporate.
10. Once the veggies are done and the water is almost all gone, add the rice and stir into the chicken and veggies.
11. Chop up the egg into small bite size pieces and toss into the pan as well.
12. Add the soy sauce and stir everything together.
NOTE: Here's the part where it's by taste. You wanna add enough soy sauce to make the rice that brown "fried rice" color, but not so much that's its too watery. Start with 1 tablespoon and then see if you think you need more. Taste it to make sure you like the flavor. If you add too much soy sauce and it's watery, just cook and stir a little longer to let the liquid evaporate.
13. Garnish with green onions (I like a lot!) and serve!

This is also totally 21 day fix approved! Each serving is equal to 1 red, 1 green, and 1 yellow.

My guinea pig for my recipes, as always, is Grandma, and she loved this so much, she went back for more.

Have you ever made a take out recipe at home?

Apr 6, 2016

5 tips to make it through your hot run

I'm a South Florida native, so to me the heat and humidity are just normal. I usually start my half training for the year in the summer. This year it has extended to the beginning of summer (known as spring in most parts). I know that a lot of people do struggle with getting out there for a run, especially a long one, in the heat. Since this seems to be more of the norm for me, I figured I could share some tips to make those hot runs more bearable.

totally gross and sweaty!

My top 5 tips for getting through that hot run....

1. Get out there before the sun.
I know it sucks to get up before the world is awake, but trust me avoiding the sun will help keep you a bit cooler. I know for me the humidity will probably still be there, but taking the sun out of the equation will keep you cooler a bit longer. Now since you will be out there before the sun, make sure you are visible, wear reflective clothing, a reflective belt or vest, anything that will make you visible to others out on the road. I usually get up for my long runs on the weekend by 5:30 or 6am so I can make it back by 8 at the latest. The one bonus is you get to see some gorgeous sunrises!

2. Don't overdress.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but this is the time when less is more. A tech tank, some shorts, and you're good to go (and running shoes obviously). And make it tech material to wick the sweat away from you. No cotton (it only ends up being gross and heavy when you get sweaty)! I like to wear my compression socks on runs sometimes, but if it's too hot, I don't. They may only be socks, but they will make you warmer. You can wear your compression socks after your run for recovery. And if you will be out when the sun is out, don't forget to wear a cap or visor. Gotta keep the sun out off of your face.

3. Water, hydration, and more water!
Drink water! Drink water and make sure you are well hydrated before your run. (I'm not saying chug a bunch of water right before you go out there, but get in plenty of water the days before your run). And get plenty of water while you are out there too. Yes, I know that hydration belts stink sometimes  and carrying a water bottle is a pain, but do it! Bring your water with you and make sure you will have a few places to refill your water on your route (a water fountain at the park--or my fave, a water cooler Latin cafeteria window--always work). Also, you might want to consider drinking some sports drink too. It will help replenish all the salt you're losing as you sweat. I'm not usually a sports drink fan, but if I'm at a super hot race, I'll take some along with my water. It seems to help. And, when it's super hot, I love throwing some water on the top of my head. So consider a little splash too (or even one of those cold towels). It feels great and does a great job of cooling you down.

4. Slow down.
There is a rule of thumb that says you will run faster when it's cooler, and slower when it's warmer. This isn't the time for PRs or crazy fast miles, a hot run is just about getting in those miles. Keep a good pace, but nothing crazy fast. Start out slow and save your energy. It will probably feel weird that you're not at your normal pace, but running like this will get you through.

5. Run with a friend.
This is a tip that really can be used for any run that's gonna be hard, but get out there with a friend. You will motivate each other and push each other to keep going. I know when I'm visiting Kris, I don't feel like getting out there, but we push each other to do it. Having someone count on you helps to get you out there. And bonus, if you pass out from the heat, your friend will stop your Garmin and drag you home! Just kidding! LOL Now I do a lot of solo runs, but seeing my fit friends out there getting in their runs makes me motivated too. My awesome friend, Jenn, did this year's super hot LA Marathon. I was tracking her and knew it was getting tough, so I sent her messages and gifs to keep her motivated. She told me that was the extra push that kept her moving in the heat. Never underestimate the power of positive peer pressure.

These are just a few tips to get you out there during the heat. I know it's a sweaty crazy mess to get out there in the heat, but you can do it. Get in your miles and you'll be a stronger runner in the end.

Mar 21, 2016

Sarasota Half Marathon Recap... a new PR!

Let's take it back to last year. I saw the Sarasota Half Marathon medals and fell in love! They were HUGE. I needed this medal. So in our naïveté, Kris and I signed up during the blitz, and got a great deal on the race. You can't keep us away from a sale.

Soon enough it was almost March, and due to the craziness that was the half Wine & Dine Half Marathon, we hadn't done a half in over a year. Crazy! Well as luck would have it, my little brother's engagement party was Saturday afternoon. I didn't want to miss it, so I went to the party, with my car fully packed, and then headed straight to Sarasota.

Luckily, our friend Annie lives in Sarasota now, so we raided her apartment for the night. It was a smooth ride up there and, I got in a little after Kris did. Annie made us some pasta for dinner, and Paul, her husband, even manage to make some extra well done garlic bread (LOL thanks Paul!).

After dinner we called it a night since we were also losing an hour due to daylight savings time. And even though Kris told me she checked that our phones would update, I was still paranoid. We set extra alarms just in case. But of course, I barely slept. We finally got up when our real 5:30 alarm went off. The race started at 6:45am, but we wanted to get there at about 6 to make sure we had time. We got dressed and headed out.

We got to the race start in no time. Annie was also volunteering, so she drove us over. We walked over used the port-a-pottys, and then headed back to the start area. There were no corrals, but we kind of hung out on the side, since we always start with a 5 minute warm up walk.

We had decided with the craziness of the time change and the insane weekend, that we'd just take it easy and not even push it for the race. I wanted to try for a PR, but it was just too hectic to think about, so we started on our way and headed towards that bridge. 

Now, I knew about the bridge, since a friend that did this race before told me about it. I knew it would be an out and back on the bridge. Luckily, compared to the McArhtur Causeway in the Miami Half this was nothing. We were also alongside the 2:45 pace group, which had a fabulous pacer. She was motivating and helping everyone get over that bridge. And she even said hi to us and cheered us on.

We got over the bridge and then looped around before turning back and tackling the bridge again. This time we were treated to the sunrise while we ran over the bridge. Not too shabby. I'm not gonna say this was pleasant, but I was glad we got in both out and back on the bridge before mile 6.

Now we crossed the start area again, which is where the relay switch was. This race is also a relay, where you can run with a partner and both do half of the course. Back before a half marathon was NBD, Kris and I had talked about doing this as a relay. But now, I feel like why bother, the second runner gets stuck running in the heat, since the sun is up, and we can't talk as we run. I'd rather suffer together. LOL

The back part of the course was another out and back, but it was by some really nice houses. And thankfully, there were a lot of trees covering the route for most of it. It was great, cause the sun was out and it was getting hot. I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. Thankfully, there were plenty of water and gatorade stops on the course, and they even hand strawberries at mile 9. 

Now, I have to say that past mile 9 is always the hardest part for me during a half. And with the heat, this wasn't easy. I really wanted to skip a run interval, but I knew a water stop was coming up, so we'd prob have a little extra walking time. Each time my app told me that we passed another mile and I heard our pace and total time I knew we were doing good. But, of course, I didn't want to jinx it, so I didn't say anything. 

We finally made it out of the tree cover at mile 11 and it was hot. Finally we reached mile 12, and then the longest mile ever, but I knew we had this and we were almost there. 

Now, I had started my Fitbit late, so the time on that was off, and the mileage is always off on my Nike app, so I wasn't really sure how we were doing time wise. I was hopeful that we'd be under 3 hours. And that's all I was aiming for. I saw the time on mile marker 13, and knew we had it. I knew we passed the start with the clock at about 3ish minutes... and we crossed with the clock at 2:52! OMG OMG OMG. Our official time was 2:48:35, we PRed by 34:31!

Holy crap, I couldn't believe it. We grabbed the bling, water, and some much needed cold towels (I'm totally addicted to post race ice cold towels, they're the best!), and walked around in shock for a bit.

And this is totally how I felt. My legs were toast. Thankfully, my knees felt great, my legs and feet were just so tired. We grabbed some food, which was awesome. They had fresh pancakes, yogurt parfaits, fruit, and muffins. It was all so good, or I was just starving after running 13 miles...

We took about 3 sips of our free beers and were ready to get going. I was so gross and needed a shower! We went to Annie's and cleaned up before heading to Kris's place.

I'm still in shock that I did a half marathon in under 3 hours. Me the girl that hated running, the girl that was a couch potato and nothing else. In 3 short years, I've become a running fool. And I'm not gonna lie and tell you I love it. I dread it most of the time. But you know what the real "runner's high" is? This. Knowing that you did something amazing and you are a badass. Knowing that you pushed yourself and reached your goal.

Might have to come back to Sarasota and see what I can do again... But for now, it's onto the next race in a few short weeks.

Mar 8, 2016

Live Like Bella 5k Race Recap

My cousin, Vicky, asked me to join her team for this 5k and I was more than happy to. Live Like Bella is an amazing organization that helps with childhood cancer, they assist the families and also donate to fund research. The race took place at Zoo Miami and was also superhero themed. Can't beat an excuse to be a superhero.

I went to one of the local running stores for packet pickup on Thursday, they gave me my bag, shirt, and wristband to get into the zoo, but as I started walking out I remembered my bib. Looks like I had accidentally registered as a walker! Luckily, they changed it and gave me a timed bib right away. Thank goodness.

I threw on my Wonder Woman top and my new black skirt, and thought this would be the perfect chance to test our my new Asics too. The race didn't start til 8am, so I left my house about 7am, I wanted to make sure I could get there and navigate where I had to be.

I got to the zoo in about 25 minutes, so I had time to find the start, which was right in front of the entrance to the zoo. I also had time to use the restroom, and check out some of the dancers they had busting a move before the start.

I actually found a friend from high school and his girlfriend that were doing the race as I waited, so we chatted a bit. And then we were off. I don't usually keep my sunglasses on, but the sun came out, so I was glad I did.

This was a pretty small race, so we all lined up, walkers in the back, and we were off. The first part was a loop around the parking lot, then we started running through the zoo. This was pretty cool. Metro Zoo Miami (I always call it Metro Zoo, since that was it's name for all of my life until a few years ago when they changed it) is a big zoo. There are winding paths around the animals areas, and the animals have a pretty decent sized area to roam. I always recommend people go to the zoo when it's a bit cooler, since there is so much road to cover and it can get hot. And now I know... it's a little over 2 miles to walk the whole zoo. And it did get pretty hot out there, even though it was a nice morning.

And the coolest part, I got to see animals while I was out there running! Of course I had to get some pics. Seems like only the bigger animals were out that early. I got to see the elephants, camels, rhinos, and a little warthog too. And I can say now that I've run next to an elephants and a rhino. I did run next to them, they were just chilling while I did it!

And before I knew it I was heading towards the front of the zoo again and the exit. I wasn't expecting a medal, but there were volunteers waiting to give us a little bling. And I always like a little bling ;)

This was a great little race, gotta say between the superhero theme and the zoo course it was pretty cool. And it was all for such a great cause too.