Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why I'm STILL a Social Worker

As I approach 10 years in DC, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on my decision to become a social worker, a decision I made ten years ago as a naive 18 year old getting ready to start college. After 4 years of being involved in high school service, and growing up with a sibling with exceptional learning needs, I thought there could be nothing better than spending the rest of my life trying to make the world a better place for people with disabilities. I'd witnessed first hand the challenges that children with disabilities and their families faced across multiple systems, and I vowed that I was going to make a difference. I knew then that social work was a thankless job and that the pay would most likely barely cover my expenses, but it didn't matter. I knew that my calling was to be a social worker, and that it was what I was meant to be doing.

Ten years later, social work is wearing on me. Burnout is a very real thing people. I've recently realized how much being in a thankless career can absolutely suck. While I absolutely love being a therapist for kids and teens with intellectual disabilities, the school setting I am in is undergoing a lot of administrative and financial changes that make it very difficult to get excited to go to work everyday. Nothing about me wants to get up and go to work when I know that I'm going to have more work to do than I can possibly get done in the time given to me that week, and that I'm facing a principal who has no respect for clinical services in her school (one that can not and would not exist without clinical services being fulfilled on IEP's).

I am more than used to giving to my kids- giving, giving, and then giving some more- and not getting any thanks for it. I am even ok with this, because seeing the changes and growth that they make in therapy are enough for me to know that I'm doing a good job. However, this past week I realized how important it was to me that other professional adults acknowledge the hard work and dedication that social workers do on a daily basis. This has never been as clear as when our principal purposefully left all clinicians out of an end of the summer recognition ceremony and then treated a leaving clinician, an 11 year veteran who has given everything for these kids, with the most disrespect I've seen in a long time. For the first time, I truly understand what being in a thankless job looks like, and I can't say that I'm thrilled with it.

I've spent the last 5 days yelling about how disrespected I feel at work, crying over how hurtful that disrespect can be, and brooding over whether it was finally time to get serious about finding a new job. While I can't say that I have all of the answers, there is one thing that hasn't changed and has even grown stronger from the challenges I've faced this year:

I LOVE being a social worker. 

I love the looks on my students faces when I walk into a classroom to pull them from group and they know that for the next hour, someone is going to give them undivided attention, love, and the freedom to be themselves.

I love seeing a student finally begin to trust and open up in therapy after years of sitting in silence or talking just to avoid the problems they face.

I love being witness to my students beginning to mature into adults and use the social skills that I've spent the last 5+ years helping to cultivate.

I love the hugs I get in the morning from the student who can't verbalize his appreciation, but wants me to know that it exists anyway.

I love seeing the spark in their eyes as they master a new skill or problem solve through a difficult situation on their own.

It shouldn't matter whether my work is appreciated by others or not, because of these things and millions of other moments each day that make this job worth it. But it does bother me when I'm blatantly disrespected by a professional who wants to preach about how much she appreciates her staff. It bothers me enough that I've spent the first 5 days of my precious 2 weeks of summer vacation mulling it over and over in my head. Ultimately though, this has nothing to do with being a social worker and everything to do with environment and the problems of other people. I still believe that this is my calling: to love and serve and work with some of the most vulnerable. I do it because it does my heart good and because I love the change (albeit very SLOW change) that can be made.

I've realized that no one else can make this better for me except ME. I can't change the way that other people treat me or view my job- I can only allow myself to not be bothered by it and change my environment when I'm ready.

For all of those professors who told me as a naive 18 year old that this job wouldn't be easy, you were absolutely right. What you didn't say though, was how absolutely beautiful and rewarding it would be at the same time.

Friday, August 1, 2014

It's been a While!

Hi friends! It's been a while, I know, but a LOT has happened in the last few months and well, blogging kind of took a back seat. For the 2 minute update, here's what I've been up to!

I got married on May 24th to the love of my life in a beautiful Catholic mass and fairly traditional reception. It was by far one of the best days of my life so far, and I'm so grateful to all of our friends and family for coming and celebrating with us!

We spent a few weeks at home catching up on sleep and getting settled into a new routine before heading to Belize for an amazing honeymoon on the beach that included snorkeling, zip lining in the rain forest, and exploring the Mayan ruins.

Our little slice of heaven for a week!

As if one wedding wasn't enough for my family this summer, my brother got married 6 weeks after us in an equally beautiful and unique ceremony. Kev and I enjoyed getting to spend time with my family and catch up, since we didn't get to see them much at our own while we made the rounds.

I got to introduce Kevin to a Cincinnati classic- Graeter's ice cream is a must on any visit!

The reception was at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals.

We've also been hiking multiple times, had grown up cookouts with other married friends and their kids, spent time with extended family, and are heading to Colorado soon for one more mini vacation before I go back to school and we get back into a real routine. Who knows what other changes may be coming this year? :) 

In big news, I'm starting my training for the Army Ten Miler in October, and I'm signed up for Glass Slipper Challenge again, so I'm definitely getting back into running, which is a blessing and a curse. Takes up time, but I secretly love the runners high!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I'm a Nut in a Rut

It's been a long 2 1/2 weeks. A REALLY long 2 1/2 weeks.

Side note: For anyone considering working full time, getting a PhD, and planning a wedding at the same time, without help- don't. From personal experience, you WILL want to pull your hair out and punch the people closest to you about 65 days out from your wedding. Prayers and sleep will be your only saving grace.

I'm not exactly sure what's caused the rut that I'm finding myself in right now, but I have plenty of guesses. Not having an upcoming race has definitely left me unmotivated to run, which is only compounded by the continued miserable weather we've seen this month. Classes this semester have kicked back into full gear, and I have no other choice but to use some of my free time to do schoolwork. I'm in a job that I've started to dread going to every day, which makes the day feel so much longer and more exhausting than it probably is. And I'm planning a wedding, y'all. Anyone who has done that knows how much work it is. I had no idea how incredibly time consuming and all emotion consuming it would be, and I'm honestly counting down the days to being done with it.

Motivation comes in strange packages, but I think I've finally found something that's going to get me back out there. Anyone familiar with the female torture device called "spanks?" I've been able to avoid them for a long time, but I caved and picked up a pair before my wedding dress fitting a couple of weeks ago, mostly because I knew my diet had been less than stellar (thank you to all of the contributing factors described above). I wore them for my fitting, and to be humbly honest, they worked their magic and that dress looked incredible. But underneath that dress, I couldn't breath well, my insides felt like they wanted to pop out of the spanks at any point, and I was begging to get them off as soon as they were done fitting me for alterations.

Step right up, Motivation. You've now earned a place back in my life!

There is no way I'm going to be able to wear those things for 12 hours on the day of my wedding. So I rejoined Weight Watchers this week, since it worked so well for me the first time I used it several years ago. And this afternoon, I'll be lacing up my shoes again and hitting the gym for a much needed run before I head back into the abyss that is RSVPs, hair trials, and table numbers, coupled with statistic analysis homework. That 35 minute run on the horizon has never looked so appealing!

Is anyone else feeling in a rut? What's your motivation to keep running/moving as life takes over after PHM?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Disney's Princess Half Marathon Race Recap- Surviving the GSC!

Oh, PHM. I love it. I do. Every year, I love this weekend even more. It's like the drug that I can't get enough of, and keep spending all of my money to come back for more.

This year started like every other year- an unwelcome 2:45am wake up call for the second day in a row. I had laid out flat Erika/flat Belle again the night before, so I was prepared to jump up and go. I did forget to charge my Garmin, and frantically threw it on the charger in the hopes that I could get enough juice to get me through the race. Lesson learned- this was the first race that I had my Garmin for, and you need to charge it after a 10K if you have hopes of getting through the 1/2. Mine just barely held on to cross the finish line, and I was legitimately praying every time I looked at it for it to just hold on another hour, then another 50 minutes... you get the point.

We caught a bus around 3:40 after scarfing down a pre-race breakfast of some water and half a bagel with peanut butter for the second day that weekend. The line wasn't bad at all, I'm pretty sure we were on a bus within 5 minutes. Side note- PHM really does bring people together. I was in line right behind my high school gym teacher, who didn't recognize me for a second, but was still super funny. I'm glad she didn't remember me, though after I introduced herself she probably had that moment of "this girl couldn't finish the mile, how the hell is she doing GSC?" Yes ma'am, I had the same thought myself, you were not alone.

Once we made it to Epcot, through bag check, and 3 bathroom stops, we headed toward the corrals. It wasn't long before we saw a couple of construction porta-potties at the beginning of the walk and jumped off the road to use them before we got to the long lines at the start line. We managed to snag a group shot before we headed off, and also saw a number of the Disbroads follow our lead and jump off to use our construction potties as well. Yes, I did feel a little star struck, and no, I didn't say hi. Yell at me later, but I let my shyness get in the way and kept it moving toward the corrals.

Princess Erika, Meg, Amy and Jenni, ready to run!

After a 5th and final bathroom stop, we were ready to get into our corrals and get moving! Unfortauntely, each of us was in different corrals, but we all wanted to run our own races, so it did work out for the best. Jenni started up in A, Meg in E, I was in H, and poor Amy was back in O (proof of time people- submit it!). I really didn't have a strong goal for this race, other than to beat my time from last years and get a new PR. I didn't care if it was only by a couple of seconds, as long as I could say I PRed the race. I was prepared for it to be miserable again with the humidity, and even brought along an extra washcloth from the hotel room to keep in the pocket of my Sparkle Skirt so I could wipe my head and keep the sweat from my glasses. The first corrals got going and soon H was up and ready to go!

When I tell you it was humid, it was HUMID. Not as bad as last year, mostly because it was overcast, but damn, that fog was brutal. I ran through most of the first mile and then slowed down to start my intervals. I'd recently bumped down from a 3:1 to a 2:1 and found that I was able to maintain my intervals much longer than I was on the 3:1. Coming off of an injury this fall, it helped to slow down too and was probably the only reason I didn't reinjure myself when shoving all of my training for this race into 7 weeks. 

I started noticing around mile 3 that my splits were much better than I was expecting, and started calculating a finish time in my head. I'm not sure yet if this was a good or bad thing, but I realized that I had the opportunity to make this a sub-2:30 half (last year was 2:39), and that motivation sent me into overdrive. I knew as long as I stayed in sub 11:30 miles, I had the chance. It would be close, but doable. I had a new goal, and it felt AWESOME. 

I am not a picture taker, and I generally zone out for good portions of the course, so I can't tell you exactly what was going on before Magic Kingdom. I did manage to see my bestie Greg at TTC, waiting with a "Chafe now, Wine later" sign with all of our names on it. I gave him the quickest cheek kiss of life and probably screamed "THANK YOU!" at him as I kept running, but it was worth it to see someone cheering for me out on the course. The sun was coming up by the time I hit Magic Kingdom, and the one picture I did want to get this year was in front of the castle. But with my new sub 2:30 goal in mind, there was no way in HELL that I was stopping in the lines for an official one. Thank goodness for the kind cast member who knew how to catch and was paying attention as I threw my camera at him and begged for a quick shot on Main Street. It's one of my favorites from the race and was worth the precious seconds that I gave up. 

 From that point on, it was just one foot in front of the other. I loved hearing "Let it Go" at the halfway point and shed a few tears knowing that I was completing a new goal this weekend. The spectators along that portion of the course were great, and helped me keep focus. And then I hit mile 9, and the nausea kicked in hardcore. I'm not sure if it's because of the humidity, because I don't have that problem in training at home, but both years I've gotten horribly nauseous around mile 9-10. Last year I thought it was because of the powerade, but I limited that this year and was still sick, so who knows. I spent most of mile 9-12 just praying that I wouldn't vomit on the side of the road and end up getting picked up by the sweepers. I saw my splits start to get worse, and doubt crept into my head, but I did my best to push it back and keep moving.

By the time I hit Epcot, it was better, even though my intervals were completely off. My Garmin beeped to tell me that I hit the 13.1 mark, but I wasn't out of Epcot yet and knew that the weaving I had to do early in the race was catching up to me and was going to impede my goal time. I hit the home stretch though, through my hands in the air, and did my best to sprint across that finish line with pride. I had completed a 19.3 mile journey that I didn't even know I wanted as badly as I did. It wasn't perfect, and it wasn't always pretty, but the journey was mine and that was enough for me.

I got my medals, took my finisher picture, and hobbled toward the reunion area to look for a bench to crash on. I pulled out my phone to find a text from Meg saying that she and Jenni were back at the hotel showering and one from Kevin, who was getting my splits via text back at home. His simple "Good pacing babe. Keep it up and finish strong! Proud of you!" was my undoing, and all the stress of the day piled on to let out one ugly cry in the middle of the Epcot parking lot. After getting myself together, I found the elusive champagne tent I've always missed and took one last victory shot before heading back for a much needed shower.

Can I be honest? Despite the fact that Disney's official timekeeper tells me I didn't manage a sub 2:30 half, in my head, I did it. Garmin agrees with me too, and if Garmin says so, it must be true right?

Garmin Spits:
Mile 1: 11:22
Mile 2: 11:24
Mile 3: 11:21
Mile 4: 11:18
Mile 5: 11:18
Mile 6: 11:10
Mile 7: 11:04
Mile 8: 11:33
Mile 9: 11:18
Mile 10: 11:11
Mile 11: 11:35
Mile 12: 11:53
Mile 13: 11:39
Mile 14 (.32): 3:38
Garmin 1/2 time: 2:29:19!!!!!!
Garmin official time: 2:31:44
runDisney official time: 2:31:54

We celebrate on Sunday the way that we alway do- lunch and margs at San Angel Inn, followed by tequila shots, and a beer ( or in my case, a glass of Reisling) in Germany. We walked- a LOT- all over Epcot, and by 7:30 I was overtired, barely moving, and slightly nauseous again. Greg had met us back at Epcot after his own spectator power nap, and he was gracious enough to drive me back to he hotel while the rest of the girls finished off the night in Epcot with some apparently amazing French pastry ice cream sandwich.

I've come to the realization that I have a serious love-hate relationship with 13.1 miles. I love running this race at Disney, because it makes each mile go by that much faster and reminds me that my dreams can come true. Never in a million years did I think I could run 19.3 miles in 2 days and survive to tell the tale without injury. But I did, and lived to tell the tale. I still love PHM, and will most likely be back for one more next year before I have to give it a small break. But it was always have a place in my heart as my first and second (and so far only) half marathon!

Disney PHM Enchanted 10K Race Recap

Well, I've been home from Disney for almost a week now and still feel like I'm processing last weekends events and how I feel about everything. I came home and immediately jumped into a massive statistics take home midterm, a large Black History Month event at work, and a 5 hour assembly party to get my wedding invites done yesterday, and these recaps were pretty low on my list of to-dos. Thank goodness for Monday snow days that allow me to catch up on what's clearly important- reliving an amazing weekend through stories and pictures!

My PHM weekend started Friday morning with an early morning flight out of BWI without all of my running friends that were following half an hour later out of DCA. I was sad to not be traveling with the girls that have made this weekend important to me, but was grateful to find a ton of other Princesses on my flight to chat with. Before I knew it, we were in Orlando and I was meeting my girls for our ME trip to All Star Sports!

We dropped our bags and headed towards Disney's Fit for a Princess Expo at ESPN WWoS. I can't even begin to express how glad I was that it had moved back to ESPN this year, as the memories of this years Expo are so much more positive than the last 2 years (2012 I ran through it 30 minutes before closing, and there are no words to describe the horror of 2013 at Coronado Springs). I held the spending spree together pretty well (which Kevin appreciated) and left with only an official GSC wine glass and a RawThreads Little Mermaid tank, both of which I absolutely love. We spent the rest of the day at Hollywood Studios where I got to ride my favorite- Rockin' Roller Coaster- and hold all the bags while my friends braved ToT.

After a quick dinner back at the hotel and an early bedtime, it was time to get up and get the 10K started! Can I just reiterate everyone else's thoughts? 2:45 am comes REALLY early, but I honestly don't even notice it once I get up and moving? I had laid everything out the night before, so flat Erika was ready to go as soon as that alarm went off. We headed off to the bus around 3:30 am and made it to  the staging area with plenty of time and before most other people, so we had a chance to snag this beautiful pre-race pic:

Seriously, I love these girls. Wouldn't runDisney without them!

We also managed to find the GSC wall, which was noticably missing from the expo yesterday. It was nice to find my name and know that I was a part of something new and special.

The race itself? I have mixed feelings. I understand that WDW has limited park space to run through, and because of this, I full accept the fact that I am going to spend a large chunk of these races on the highways. HOWEVER, I thought that the entertainment on the first 3 miles of the course was sorely lacking, with the exception of Elsa and the snow in the first mile (that part was AMAZING and literally made my jaw drop). I tried to snag a picture of the mile 2 marker, because it was my girl Ariel, but I wasn't willing to slow down enough to take a good picture.

 I will say, once we got into Epcot, I was a much happier camper. Running through the World Showcase before the sun came up was great and a fun experience. I absolutely loved running the Boardwalk, as it was a part of WDW that I had never experienced before. I thought it was so sweet that people were up early and out along the boardwalk with signs, cheering us all along before 7 am! My only complaint, which isn't fair to Disney because they don't control it, was that the humidity was BRUTAL. Seriously, I had to take my glasses off at every walk interval to wipe them off and clear the sweat/fog just so I could see during my next run interval. I remember the humidity being brutal last year at PHM, but I don't remember having to do that before. Before the race I was much more concerned with wearing the ears for 6 miles, but that turned out to be the least of my worries!

I had planned to take the 10K slow and save myself for the half, because I REALLY wanted to PR the half this year. I did slow down significantly from my training pace, but it didn't feel like it! I really think it was because of crowding and humidity than what I was consciously doing with my body. It certainly wasn't my best 10K time, but I'm ok with it for this time.

Garmin Splits:
Mile 1: 11:59
Mile 2: 12:07
Mile 3: 11:28
Mile 4: 11:22
Mile 5: 11:25
Mile 6: 11:08
Mile 7 (.36): 3:29
Total: 1:12:56
Official Time: 1:13:15

Negative splits! I just noticed that I had negative splits- I totally didn't care when I finished this race, I was just glad it was over and I could shower and stretch like crazy to keep myself loose for Sunday. I grabbed my medal, my GSC wrist band so I could be legit for Sunday, and all the food and water they were willing to give me, and headed off to find 2/3 of the rest of my posse that had started before me. We hung out by the bag check tent waiting for Amy, who didn't submit proof of time and was stuck back in Corral E, and I enjoyed the break to sit and relax for a while. That is, until I stood up to leave and found this:

 No more obvious proof that your behind is MASSIVE than a nice sweat spot left on the pavement after a quick 6 mile run. Thanks humidity for that reminder!

Overall, I enjoyed the Enchanted 10K. I'm finding that I really like the 10K distance, more than the 5K for sure, and love that it requires less training time than the 1/2 does for me. I may have to find more of these in my local area to improve my time!

What were your thoughts on the 10K? Did anyone else struggle with the humidity and eyewear as much as I did?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Last minute freak outs!

Anyone else having last minute freak outs? I can't be the only one trying not to have a meltdown the night before my 6:30 am flight!

The worst part is, I'm not worried about the race AT ALL. Maybe I should be, since my longest training run was only 10 miles and I only did 2 back to back run days, but I'm really not. I know I can do both distances, I've done them each once before. I'm slightly concerned about recovery, but not nearly as much as I expected to be. 

No, my freak outs are about other things. Things like:

Will the weather hold up long enough for my flight to get out? And will I spend all weekend hanging out in the rain?
Will Mother Nature rear her ugly head in other ways? (I don't think PMS is helping the freak outs much)
Will I be able to get my bag through bag check with all 6 bottles of smartwater weighing it down, or will I be chugging one in line for security?

The list goes on and on, but I have to let it go and attempt to sleep. Hopefully by the time my 4:30 alarm goes off, I'll be in a better mental spot (hopefully I fall asleep sometime before my 4:30 alarm goes off!). 

For tonight, I leave with two questions. 
1. Anyone staying at Sports have extra heart stickers/tattoos? I didn't have time to go look for any and would love to be recognizable for other #pinkheartsphm chicas.

2. Any good suggestions for a good non-park place to explore alone on Monday? My besties that I'm traveling with will be at MK all day, but I'm staying back to catch and early evening flight. I'm looking for something new to explore or see while I wait for my trip on the ME. 

Also, if you see me in corral H for the half (not sure where that is for 10k), come say hi! Flat Minnie (10k) and flat Belle (1/2) don't do it justice, but this is what I'll be wearing!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Are you ready?

Officially down to just over 48 hours before I'm getting on a plane and heading to Disney, and my brain is definitely in overload mode. You know you've started going crazy when this is what your Target haul looks like:

Water bottles, pre race breakfast, toiletries, ziplocks for gross clothes, sunscreen...

 Also picked up this gem with a gift card

Seriously, I love me some Ariel. She can do no wrong in my mind.

Anyways, back to packing. My running besties coming with me are already calling my mom, since I'm prepared with food, meds and anything else I can think of. Hopefully I'll be able to get it all in one checked bag and one carry on, because it's time to go!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Taper Time?

Ok, if I've learned nothing over the past year, it's that training is a must. Let me tell you, I am a HORRIBLE trainer when it comes to being prepared for these big races. I didn't train at ALL for the Army Ten Miler in October and I paid for it greatly but reinjuring myself and putting myself out of running commission for much longer than I probably should have. I let this injury overtake me mentally and didn't start training for GSC until the new year. Yeah, shoving 4 months of training into 7 weeks isn't really enjoyable either, but it's a much better option than not training at all!

I'm not going to lie, I'm thrilled that it's taper time. Some people hate taper, because they don't like to limit their running. Me though, I'm looking forward to getting my life back. Don't get me wrong, I can't wait to get down there and rock the GSC like I know that I can and will, but I'm also glad that I will be able to rededicate the hours I've put into running into something else. I'm sure that my professors would appreciate me putting those hours into my text books, and future Erika would prefer that they be put into wedding plans. And I know that Kevin is undoubtly looking forward to having a conversation that doesn't revolve around how sore I am, how my runs yet, or what my running costumes look like this year. 

Oy, I am SORE. I took my 5M fairly easy yesterday, because I knew I needed to get in a strong 10 today. But yeah, I've never run 15 miles in one weekend before. And I've never done it while fighting off cold cooties- usually the second I get the sniffles my training disappears and I curl up into a ball of useless misery. Not this year though, not 2 weeks out from completing the biggest races of my life. Not two weeks before I prove to myself and everyone around me that I am a runner and an athlete. I mean, don't all runners and athletes look like this?

I don't feel like an athlete right now. I'm bundled up on the couch with my compression socks in front of a fire that my love has so graciously built for me. And I know that tomorrow I will probably feel even worse. But by Tuesday, I'll have that same itch that everyone else gets during taper and I'll be dying to lace up. Just hoping that my muscles agree with me!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Spectators: Won't Someone Cheer for Me?

It's February, and we all know what that means, right?


I can't really being to express my excitement/anxiety/joy that this is only a few weeks away, but I'm thrilled to start the month off by participating in the Virtual Disney Princess Half Marathon Blog Hop! I'm hoping that my post on spectating will be helpful to those of you who may have loved ones coming to cheer you on in your own 3.1/6.2/13.1/19.3 mile journey.

For those of you who have run races before, you know that spectators can seriously make or break a race sometimes. The more people out there yelling and cheering for you, the better. Who doesn't want to hear someone screaming their name as they run past looking like a hot mess?
From what I hear, the best runDisney races for spectators are in Disneyland, but WDW can get some pretty awesome people on the course too.  There is absolutely nothing like running down Main Street, U.S.A and seeing hoards of people there cheering as you gaze up at Cinderella's Castle and realize the goal that you're accomplishing- it's seriously one of the best feelings in the world.

For the 5K and 10K, spectator options are limited to only the start and finish lines. While disappointing, that's the reality of the way the course is set up and there isn't must we can do about it.

For the half marathon, there are a number of places along the course that your loved ones and friends can see you and cheer you on, many of which are listed on the PHM page of the runDisney website under the Spectators tab. The most popular are definitely in Magic Kingdom and at the finish line at Epcot, but there are plenty of other options if you don't want to be limited or you have smaller children that may be overwhelmed by some of the crowds. Your best options are:

1. The start line: Spectators can line up just past the start line in order to see their runners begin the race. You will definitely find some people along the first 1/2 mile of the race or so, but most people find it near impossible to get from the start line to MK in enough time to see their runner there, and choose to go to MK instead.

2. Mile 4, Ticket and Transportation Center: TTC is a GREAT place to catch your runners! If you want to catch them here, just take the monorail from Epcot to TTC and get off- the runners run by right at the bottom of the ramp. Many people will be taking the second monorail over to MK, so it's not too hard to jockey your way to the front to catch your runner.

3. Mile 5.3, Main Street, USA, Magic Kingdom: This is definitely the most popular spot for spectators to congregate. MK will open up to spectators at 5:30 am, and can be reached by monorail from TTC or Epcot. Spectators generally line the left side of Main Street and the right side is left open for the runners to pass through. There is a ton of energy here, and it's a great place to get caught up in the hype!

4. Mile 7ish, Near the Polynesian Resort: One of the less popular, but super easy to get to spots to spectate is near the Polynesian. It's a part of the course where there are fewer things to see and crowds to keep you moving, so seeing a familiar face here is great motivation to runners. It's just a short 10 minute walk from the TTC through the Polynesian resort. There is a fairly well marked path (and if you get confused, ask someone or follow those who look like they are headed in that direction). 

5. Mile 12-13.1, Epcot Parking lot: There are two spots at Epcot where spectators can catch a glimpse of their runners. The first is right around mile 12, which is where runners enter the park for their last loop (for those of you who have heard about the fabled Peggy Sue, I'm pretty sure this is where I remember seeing her last year and she seriously is the best!). Spectators can also head over towards the finish line on the other side of the parking lot and see their runners as they exit the park and sprint towards the finish line!

Phew, that's a lot to take in, I know. I've done PHM weekend twice now, once as a 5K runner/PHM spectator and once as a PHM runner, so here's a couple of personal pieces of advice.

If you're trying to catch a runner at the finish line of the 5K or 10K, don't blink or you might miss them. There are a lot of runners coming through at once, and it's easy to miss people if you aren't paying attention. I ran the 2012 5K with my mom, but finished about 10-15 minutes ahead of her. I thought I had plenty of time to get through the finishers chute to find my dad and see Mom cross, but literally in the 5 seconds he took to congratulate and hug me, Mom passed us and we had no idea. She wasn't very happy that we missed her either!

I was a spectator the next morning for my friends as they ran their first half, and followed the advice someone I had meet on the bus the day before as to the best spectator spots. I took one of the last runner busses to Epcot, leaving the hotel around 3:45-4 am, and got in line for the monorail as soon as I got there. I was early for sure, but I was on the first monorail out of Epcot and was able to snag a spot at the TTC along the rope, which left me the perfect spot to see my Princess runners. As soon as both of them passed through I walked through the Poly to catch them at mile 7, where I also had prime viewing thanks to no crowds. As soon as they both passed through there, I quickly hightailed it back to TTC and took the monorail back to Epcot and made it to the finish line just a few minutes before my very quick friend Jenni crossed the finish line and was able to see Meg cross a couple minutes later.

This plan worked perfectly for me as a fit single girl with no kids to drag along, but may be harder with kids or parents that can't move around great. Talk to your spectators and figure out what will work best for them AND you, so you can have all the support that you're looking for and they can be there to cheer you on! And don't forget to tell them to bring race signs, they are fun to look at for all runners and a good distraction when all you can think about is that post-race ice bath!

Don't forget to check out all of the other helpful hints and posts in this years Virtual Disney Princess Half Marathon Blog Hop!

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

Friday, January 31, 2014

Virtual Disney Princess Half Marathon Blog Hop!!!

Ok y'all, I'm geeking out a little bit. That's a lie, I'm geeking out a LOT. In a "maybe you should take a step back because you are scaring your loved ones" kind of way.

Why you ask? What would make such a calm (lies), controlled(lies), seemingly together person act this way?

I've been following a number of different blogs since I decided to run PHM last year, mostly to get tips and read all of the race recaps from years before in preparation for my own race. One of those blogs is Margaritas, Miles & the Mouse and I'm telling you- Patty tells you everything you need to know. So when she posted asking for guest bloggers for a virtual blog hop for this years PHM, I nervously jumped on the bandwagon and was soon added to the list! I may have jumped around my office a little bit (ok, again, it was a LOT) and quickly started planning out my post! While I'm still anxious that it may not hold up, I'm excited to share my information and stories with others in hopes that it helps them alleviate some anxieties about their own journey!

Stay tuned on Monday for my post on Spectator Viewing to go live at 7 am!

Saturday, January 25, 2014


I HATE obstacle courses. I don't know why, but I always have. Once I start moving, I don't want things to stand in my way ( one reason I don't think I could ever do an obstacle run, it would throw off my momentum and frustrate me to no end. I want to GO, full steam ahead, until I cross whatever finish line goal is in front of me. 

This week we got hit with about 7 inches of snow and really low temps again- obstacles for training. Monday was supposed to be a 7.5 mile training run and thanks to some very dead and tired legs, only ended up being 4 miles. Seriously? Doesn't my body know that I have a race in 4 weeks and that I need it to cooperate? Tuesday and Wednesday were forced rest days thanks to the snow and the icky roads preventing me from being able to get to the gym and my trusty treadmill. I finally got there on Friday after work for a quick 4 and back this morning for a not-as-quick 8, and even though I'm sore and tired, it honestly felt so good to get out and run, even if it was on the treadmill and all I had to occupy me for an hour and a half were reruns of "Bath Crashers" on HGTV (hey, they did the job). 

Oh yeah, this week we also picked our wedding rings, went to our cake tasting and booked that- with no arguments!-, started designing the invitations, and had to reschedule our meeting with our priest due to snow. And I spent 2 mornings in court with one of my students, did all of my report cards, and finished new schedules for all the students for 2nd semester. Oh, and sat through a 3 hour statistics class from hell.

Add training onto all of that over the last couple days and I am EXHAUSTED. I left the gym and wanted to come home, shower, throw on that compression gear and take a nap.

Instead, I walked in the house to news of a nasty mall shooting at our local mall where 3 people died, multiple others were injured, and thousands of people have been traumatized. I spent the next hour reassuring my family that Kevin and I were ok and that we hasn't gone to the mall that morning. And I quickly realized that the snow obstacle that had seemingly kept me from my outdoor long run, may have saved my life. If it had been nicer, I had planned on going to the mall this morning to pick up undergarments and accessories for my dress so I would have them for my upcoming fitting, and would have done my long run this afternoon in the warmer temps. What derailed my training turned out to be a blessing in disguise. 

I'm no longer complaining about obstacles, not with the horror that some people in my neighborhood have dealt with today. Instead I will say an extra prayer for those involved and for the snow that kept me safe this morning. Next time I see an obstacle, I hope that I can view it from a more positive place. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Top 5 Tips for Running Disney

This will be my third PHM weekend. I ran the Tangled 5K in 2012 and PHM in 2013, and I can't wait to head back for the GSC next month! There's a lot of information out there about how to run Disney and as runners we are expected to pick and choose what to listen to and what to ignore. Here are my top five tips for running Disney though:

1. If you are going to do run-walk intervals, be courteous towards those runners around you when you change your pace. One of the best pieces of advice I read before the 2013 PHM was to make sure I was as far to the side as I could be before I started slowing down and to raise my hand to alert those behind me that I was moving to a walk. It seems silly, to raise your hand like you're asking permission to run your race, but I promise you that it makes the experience much more enjoyable when you don't have more serious runners giving you dirty looks as they pass your slowing body.

2. Don't spent all day on your legs the day before your race. In 2012 I ran the 5K as my first ever race on Saturday and celebrated by spending the day at Magic Kingdom with my two friends running the half on Sunday. Not only were we exhausted, but their legs were much more tired on Sunday than during any of their long runs. We planned much better in 2013 and spent most of the morning/early afternoon at the expo and downtown Disney, and then stayed off of our feet and lounged at the hotel. It had a much better outcome Sunday morning!

3. Figure out how to fuel and hydrate your body before getting to Disney. Avoid foods that don't move through your system well. I know, it sounds super gross, but after spending my first princess weekend listening to my friends panic about having to go to the bathroom during the race, I was extra careful last year and had no problems. Hydrate like crazy for the entire week before the race. Your coworkers may look at you like you're nuts for going to the bathroom every 15 minutes but it will be worth it on race day, especially if it's as hot and humid as the 2013 PHM was.

4. Wear a costume! It doesn't have to be something elaborate if you aren't into that kind of thing, but if you are, go for it! In 2012 my friends and I made matching custom shirts from target drifit shirts, mouse ears cut from funky fabric, and sequin tiaras for the ears. Simple, but fun and Disney themed. Last year I went with my girl Ariel and made my own sparkly green skirt for $10 and paired it with a purple tank. This year is Belle and I'm going a little more traditional, but still comfortable.

Wear what's comfortablej for you and have fun with it. Where else can you dress like a princess as a grown adult and not be considered abnormal?

5. KEEP MOVING! I can not stress the importance of this enough. Believe me, I am one of the laziest people around and I know first hand how tempting it is to let myself lay around and relax after a long race. Especially Disney, when you have to be up at ungodly hours to start. Take a short nap if you need to, but don't linger too long in the hotel room. Get the shower, drain those legs, throw on the compression gear and your medal(s) and head to the parks for a celebratory lunch. We always go to Epcot for lunch in Mexico so we can get that much deserved margarita, and my God is it worth it. Walk the parks for the day, it will make recovery so much better. Fair warning though- it doesn't matter how much you move, by Sunday night/ Monday morning, going down stairs and moving from a standing to sitting position will be painful. I seriously had to hold onto things to use the bathroom, and getting onto certain rides at MK was torture. 

Remember to have fun! We've worked our butts off to get there and deserve to enjoy the ride!

Friday, January 17, 2014

We Are Surviving

Last Sunday was my first long training run of the year, a whopping 6 miles that left me feeling like death and wondering how I was ever going to add another 13 miles to it in order to get through GSC. More than anything, my hips felt like they were on fire, which is my surefire sign that it's time for new running shoes! I panted my way up the hill from the trail where my Mr. Happily Every After was waiting for me patiently (he ducked out at mile 2.5, the wuss) and emphatically demanded that we head to the local running store after a quick shower in order to purchase new shoes.

Thank God that I have been able to introduce him to running and that he actually likes it, because where most men would have not been thrilled with the idea of spending money on more shoes, Mr. Happily Ever After jumped on the bandwagon and decided he needed shoes of his own! He may not have been nearly as thrilled with the idea after he saw the final bill, but 2 gait analyses, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 pair of custom insoles, 1 package of running socks, and a magic stick to roll out my hips and IT band later, we were headed home. And despite the fact that my run was miserable and my hips were aching, for the first time in months I was EXCITED to go running again!

Let me tell you, those pretty new Brooks have been taunting me from their box all week, just begging me to take them out. My hips though, they had other plans. I knew I wasn't going to be able to get a run in until Thursday anyway, because my PhD night classes started back up this week and we had our food tasting with the caterer on Tuesday, so I figured that a few days rest should be plenty off for me to be good to go on Thursday. And then Wednesday night came about, and those darn hips had me (and unfortunately Mr. Happily Ever After) up every hour, making it impossible to sleep or get comfortable. I woke up feeling bad for myself, and writhing in self-pity. The self-doubt crept right back in- my body couldn't handle running anymore, I didn't want to run, I don't really like it anyway, I was never going to be ready for Disney in just 5 short weeks. You name the doubt, I probably thought it. But, because I had packed my gym bag the day before, I threw it in the car and headed off to work.

I iced that hip off and on all day, and limped around the school looking as pathetic as I could. I left with every intention of going home and laying on the couch all night- and then I saw my gym bag. And 40 minutes later, I found myself staring at the treadmill, just praying that I could get through a mile in my pretty new Brooks, so I could say that I at least did SOMETHING today. I popped my headphones into the jack attached to the TV, and went for it. My hip still hurt, but once I got started it didn't matter. I got sucked into the latest drama between Rachel and Ross, and watched Joey make a fool of himself, and almost 2 episodes of Friends later I had put in a 5 mile run and felt like I still had gas in the tank. I had SURVIVED.

Today at work we are celebrating the 12 year cancer-free anniversary of the other social worker, who has been my mentor and friend for the last 7 years. She's a fighter, but more than anything, today we celebrate that she's a survivor. It's a reminder to me that everyone has a fight that they are fighting, and we all stumble and feel like we're being trampled. Most of us are not battling cancer, but at this point in training I can guarantee most of us are battling injuries, or fatigue, or nerves about the race. I've realized that it doesn't matter how big or small the fight is, it's YOUR fight and it's important to you. I may not be battling a debilitating illness, but the fight to find time to train and the fight to stay pain free feels like a mountain some days. No matter what the fight is though, we're all surviving, one run and one day at a time.

Plus, you've never seen a Princess give up in the face of adversity, have you? I didn't think so.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Year of the Happy Endings

Welcome to my year of happy endings!

Why should anyone bother to read this? I'm just another almost 28 year old living out my dreams on the East Coast, right? Maybe. But anyone that bothers to get to know me will quickly realize that I'm not just another 20 something living in the big city, trying to make a name for myself.

I'm a school social worker with a passion for working with kids with disabilities.

I'm working on my PhD in Social Work part time, on top of working full time.

I'm planning my wedding, set to take place in just 129 days!

And on top of trying to balance all of the above, I'm chasing my Glass Slipper dream of racing in Disney for the 3rd time next month. Yeah, add training for that on to my normal schedule and you can just guess how prepared I might be for that one.

I thought I would try blogging for a number of reasons. Mostly, I need an outlet for all of the crazy thoughts in my head that my fiancee, family and friends are tired of hearing about on a regular basis, and what better audience than the internet! If my stories and antics are helpful to anyone else, even just by putting a smile on their face, than it makes every moment worth writing down. And I promise you, my life will provide plenty of laughable moments, and my kiddos at work will fill in the blanks when I'm having a relatively normal week.

Secondly though, I am literally spending the next year running toward my goals, including the one of getting married and starting this new phase of my life, which will hopefully one day include a family (that I can take to Disney as much as I want!). My first goal of 2014 though is to complete the GSC. And to be honest, I wasn't too positive about it until a couple of weeks ago. It took just a couple of days of work spent stalking Facebook and the Princess Half FB groups to get me completely motivated to get moving again. I joined a gym. I bought my first SparkleSkirt (that should have been enough right there, those things are AWESOME). I started planning my costumes. And I went back and found the blogs of the women who had run before me and motivated me to get through my training for my first Princess and first half LAST year at this time. And I started to realize something: those women, who I thought of as wonder women and my half marathon heros, are just normal women like me, talking about their experiences and sharing them with others.

Well, blow me over. I can do that too!

So here I am. I hope to encourage other first timers and other princesses to get out there and move, just like others have encouraged me. I've realized that it's never too late to start- I can say I didn't officially start training for GSC until January 3rd (my first run in 2 1/2 months) and 2 weeks later I'm ready and can't wait to get to Disney to hurdle my next challenge.

GSC will just be the first- followed quickly by trying to balance wedding planning and multivariate statistics for the next 4 months and keeping my sanity through Memorial Day weekend wedding craziness. Heaven knows how I'll be handling married life come May 25th when things REALLY get real. But I do know that I'm going to attack each hurdle like this first one- running with a purpose and a goal in mind. And hopefully at least someone reading this will be along for the ride!