Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Half Marathon 2012

What birthday is complete without some kind of race, right? Well, that was my thinking when I registered for the Holiday Half Marathon...not to mention the race venue was at the Los Angeles County Fairplex...which is conveniently two blocks from my house! So a race that is so local I can throw a rock and hit the gate plus the fact that was my birthday, seemed like a no-brainer.
I arrived to a venue blanketed in fog, and the sights of many runners with candy cane stripped socks and reindeer antlers...cute for them. I decided to just show my Half Fanatic pride with my blue tech tee. I took my place in the start corral with the 2:10 pace group...not sure why I felt so ambitious that day, birthday high perhaps?
So the gun goes off and the start line awning starts spewing snow...or snoap (snow/soap). I thought that was cute touch...just don't eat it. We headed out into the Fairplex and ran all over the vacant fairgrounds. I was hoping I would run into a fried Twinkie or chocolate covered bacon stand but to no avail. We continued onto the AAA Auto Club Drag Strip where we got to run on the actual rally strip. So, I guess I didn't have to wait until Walt Disney World Marathon weekend to experience this :)

We headed out of the Fairplex and headed to the Frank Bonelli Regional Park, home of the Puddingstone Lake and Raging Waters. This is where race got especially beautiful. Nothing but wonderful trees, the sun reflecting off of the lake, and the birds. One sight that caught my attention was the dew hanging on the ends of the pine needles on some of the trees. If we were in denial about it, guess what kids Winter is on her way. We ran around the park until we came upon the Puddingstone Dam. This is historically a local trail for bikers and runners alike, but to see so many runners pounding the pavement was just such an inspiring sight.

We continued through the park to the sights of more trees and great scenery. Fast forward to mile 10 when the hills really started to show up and try to stop the show. I guess that is to be expected when you race in a canyon. So couldn't complain to much. Although, on this race I embraced the hills. I looked forward to them. You have to conquer hills and other obstacles. This builds strength in not only your body but your mind. Always remember, a race of ANY distance is just as much a mental race as it is physical. So, I drug myself over this hill and down into another beautiful valley to the sights and smells of wonderful fresh pine. I guess Holiday Half Marathon was an appropriate title for this race.

We made our way out of the park, past Brackett Airfield (which is a local small airport) and back into Fairplex for the final stretch. I made my mad mans dash to the finish line and crossed with a time of 2:23. Not to bad for a birthday run. And the high kick I did as I crossed the line added a little fun for the spectators. I think there are some small logistical items that can be reviewed and improved on in the future i.e., wave start would of been nice, a larger start corral for comfort, and more tables and stations at the finishers chute. Outside of that, a pretty successful race. And the bling isn't too bad either :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rock 'N' Roll Las Vegas 'Strip at Night'

So, one day I woke up and said to myself "I think it would be a good idea and kind of fun to run down Las Vegas Blvd at night time" At this moment as I share this with you, I do not doubt that was a good decision.
Race weekend started with my arrival in Las Vegas on December 1st, and my race crew (my good friend Ruby and my brother) made our way to the Sands Expo center at the Palazzo Casino and Hotel for the race expo. We did the norm, picked up bibs, safety pins, awesome shirts, swag bags, then I made my way to purchase some arm warmers. On my way I ran into fellow Team #RunDisney cohort Kelly manning the Team Sparkle running skirt booth(you really should check them out ladies...they are kind of epic). We said hello, laughed a little, and I wished her well as I continued on my journey of discovering arm warmers, GU,and Power Bars. I picked up all of the required items for my race and headed to my hotel The Mirage. Yes, this hotel was strategically picked as it was the finish line of the race. HA!
Fast forward to race day. I didn't do to much on Sunday. I grabbed a quick bite to eat, walked down to Caesar's Palace, then went back to my room and rested my legs for the busy and exciting evening ahead of me. Around 2PM, I took my pre-game shower, put my armor on, fueled up on some Gatorade, chomped down on a yummy oatmeal raisin Power Bar and by 3PM I was ready to make my way to The Luxor Festival lot. Some people may disagree, but I actually walked from the Mirage to the Luxor. Vehicular traffic on Las Vegas Blvd had been halted due to the race but it was still congested. Yes, I could of taken the Monorail...but I found the short 30 minute walk quite refreshing. I really was able to get myself into my zone of thinking...and the lovely smell of green fig from my favorite hotel Vdara didn't hurt either. I eventually arrived at the Luxor and stretched a little bit in the lobby. I knew all that awaited me outside those glass doors were windy conditions and asphalt, and I wasn't about to sit, stretch, and potentially tear my compression running shorts for anyone so that was out. Lobby it was. The stretch was nice, I met some nice people also sharing my idea of a pre-race warm up. Once I was all ready, limber, and excited, I made my way to my starting position in corral 19.
Ok, I mentioned it earlier but I will say it again, the wind was KICKING on Sunday. Silly Pacific storm. Luckily there were no dust storms on the strip. Once our corral was given the green light to slay the scene and pay the kids dust, we shot off away from the strip and past Mandalay Bay toward the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. At about mile one we hooked back towards the strip and started the long journey toward Downtown Las Vegas. I have to tell you, It was a lot of fun running past all of the resorts on the strip. So many LED displays cheering us on, news helicopters, great bands, neon, etc etc.

We made our way past Circus Circus (barf) and The Stratosphere and headed toward Downtown Las Vegas. We ran through some sketchy neighborhood at one point which was...interesting, then made our way to Fremont Street East. The entertainment there was really cool! There was this really interesting mechanical grasshopper/praying mantis thing that shot fire out of its antenna! I couldn't get a good picture because of the lighting, but trust me when I tell you it was pretty cool! This was actually the hooking point as we headed back to The Mirage for our final 3 miles! I made my way back and continued to look all around at the interesting sights that were Las Vegas. I crossed the finish line with a smile and saw my friends waiting for me! I finished around 2:22, which wasn't half bad considering I had been slower than that in past races! My knees and body felt great! I was invigorated! Funny how Las Vegas is able to bring high energy into you life! Who knew.

All in all, a flat course that was a lot of fun! If you want a race to do that is fun and easy, this is it. Keep in mind, this is a young race only in it's third year so there are still some kinks they are working out (cough)water stations(cough). I can see myself doing this again next year for sure!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

runDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Boy, what a fantastic weekend to be in Walt Disney World! First of all, let's talk about how lucky we as runners were to experience such beautiful weather during the day AND at night. For those that may not be familiar, the Wine and Dine half marathon is 'The Runner's Night Out'...a nice race. This was my very first night half marathon and it is a completely different monster than an early morning race. Fatigue is your worst enemy. But we will get to that later in the post ;)
The evening started with me fueling up at my hotel on a great chicken salad and fruit. I went back to the hotel and took a quick nap before putting on my gear and heading to the bus. I boarded the lovely motor coach and made my way down to ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which was the starting line for this race. Once I arrived, I made my way to the main lawn where many runners where checking bags, waiting in crazy long lines for character photos, and dancing to keep their energy up. This was quite the exciting sight to see. I met up with some of my Team #runDisney tweeps for a lovely group photo, met some new people, laughed, judged, and headed off to the runners only area to wait for the corrals to open.
We headed to our respective start corrals and waited for race kick off. More high energy music, more meeting of people, National Anthem...ya know, the usual. So then, fireworks...race time. Corral A heads out, the B, then my corral C for CRUNK, or Crazy, or Combustable.

We shot out of the corrals began our 3 mile trek to Disney's Animal Kingdom (DAK). Once we entered DAK we ran past the always stunning Tree of Life, through Africa, into Asia, through some backstage areas, around the perimeter parking lot and back onto the road and continued to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Let me not forget to mention the various parade floats, characters, and bands that flanked the streets to provide us with some awesome entertainment!
At mile 9 we arrived at Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS). At this point, I can tell my body is fatigued so I slow down to compensate and conserve as much energy as possible. The good thing is, Hollywood Studios was really cool! We came in behind the Hollywood Tower of Terror and shot down the boulevard and literally ran all over the park. The most impressive part for me was running down New York Street with it illuminated with the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Lights! That was seriously an awesome experience and visual.

After we were set free from DHS we got an unexpected detour that I wasn't expecting (and I am not quite sure why since I read the map beforehand) but we got to run on the pathway to Disney's Boardwalk which lead us to the back door of Epcot. So for me, running on the boardwalk was a lot of fun. There were lots of spectators there cheering us on...which I needed because all I wanted at this point was a cheeseburger and a nap. When we entered the World Showcase at Epcot, I knew this was it. I am one mile away from my runDisney Coast-to-Coast accomplishment. So I dug DEEP and pushed myself from World Showcase, through future world and to that really cool laser filled mile 13 marker. Let me talk about that by the way. The mile 13 marker and final stretch was hands down one of my favorite parts of this race. You turn the corner and all you see is fog and lasers. All you hear is high energy music. VERY cool and well played runDisney...well played.

I turned the corner and there it was...the finish line. I finished strong with a time of 2:31. Not half bad...and guess what, I earned my Coast-to-Coast! SUCH an amazing race! Such great energy! Such great people! Such great bling! Will I do it again? ABSOLUTELY! This was the best race I have run all year! It won't be to long until I return to Walt Disney World...I will be back to go Goofy in January! Wine and Dine Meet Up + Great Race + Coast-to-Coast=EPIC WIN!

Friday, November 9, 2012

runDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Official Meet Up

was one of the forty fortunate athletes that were selected by runDisney to participate in the Wine and Dine half marathon weekend meet-up! For my runDisney enthusiasts we all know that this is a big deal! Friday morning, I met up with some great runDisney racers who we heading to EPCOT for a wonderful event. Thanks, Krissy for the lift ;-)
Once we arrived at EPCOT at 7am before park opening, we were greeted by runDisney staff and signed in and received the our coveted runDisney technical shirts! These shirts are only given to staff and at meet up events so this made everyone VERY happy. We gathered in front of Spaceship Earth and met Olympian and runDisney training consultant, Jeff Galloway, and the now three-time Wine and Dine half marathon winner Anton. We began our two mile run through Future World, and even met Mickey Mouse in front of the Future World fountain and snapped a quick photo. we proceeded to run around the world showcase 1 1/2 times ending in the Germany pavilion.  All of the runners I spoke to were just take a back any the amount of energy and happinesswe were all experiencing.

The runDisney Team running through the World Showcase at EPCOT

Once we all arrived in Germany, we made our way to the Biergarten Restaurant and were treated to muffins, juice, and coffee. Team #runDisney took this as an opportunity to take a group photo (you know, since about 20 of us made up the meet up). We then had Q&A with Jeff Galloway and Anton. Then we were treated to a quick nutrition demonstration and Q&A with the now official nutritionist of runDisney, the Diet Diva herself, Tara Gides! She is SO nice, by the way. And then something we weren't expecting, a cooking demonstration with sports chef, Chef Steff! He made an a some card loaded spaghetti casserole that was so full of flavor!

After the demos, runDisney was nice enough to give us swag! We received really nice water bottles, and $10.00 (in addition to the $10 we got for being registered racers) to enjoy the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. We were then able to take 1:1 pictures with, Jeff, Mickey, and Tara! Then we took at few team photos which was incredible!

As far as running events go, this was one AMAZING meet up and I am humbled and privelged to have been selected for such a great event. I met so many people, had the time of my life, and ran with an Olympian! This was the perfect way to kick of my runDisney Coast-to-Coast race challenge weekend!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rock 'N' Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon 2012

I have always joked around with my friends that like Natalie Nunn from The Bad Girls Club (minus the horse face) that 'I RUN LA!' Well, I can finally say that I did! This was my Rock 'N' Roll Triple Crown race which is an exciting feat all its own. So here's the rundown about the race. The race jumped off on the corner of Figueroa and LA Live Drive. Start corrals were parallel with the iconic Staples Center arena. The corrals were filled with lots of fun and energetic people. Many of which were dressed in Halloween costumes and attire. Considering this race was Halloween themed, I found that fitting. Although the man dressed nothing but a diaper was a little odd. We started out at 7:30AM (which I thought was a little late personally) and headed south on Figueroa towards USC, or as I like to call it 'The University of South Central'. We ran around the perimeter of the campus and headed towards Exposition Park. Home of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, the California Science Center now the home of the NASA Space Shuttle Endeavor, and the Coliseum that was used in the 1984 Olympic Games. We ran around the Coliseum, and headed back toward LA Live and back into Downtown LA. For those that may not be aware, Downtown Los Angeles is actually built on a HILL! So from miles 6-10 we were basically smashing the pavement on an incline.

We ran through lovely parts of metropolitan Downtown and headed through the Hill Street tunnel. I continued on my 13.1 mile journey and reached the Los Angeles River bridge at mile 9. You may know this bridge from seeing it in just about every car commercial that is filmed in Los Angeles. So I walked up the incline because my knees were bothering me and galloped across the bridge to the turn around point and headed back. But I had to stop and take in a breath taking view of Downtown Los Angeles from the bridge. Sunday was a clear day, no smog, just amazing splendor of my city. So of course I snapped a photo.

After I took in the view and took a breath, I headed back to LA Live on the route. Back through Downtown, through the tunnel and down hill to the finish line. My motivation to finish was to one get out of the sun because it got really hot! And two, give my knees a good rest because they were over worked...and I am pretty sure if knees could talk I would have been cussed out. I did finish strong with a smile with a time of 2:28:55. Still under 2.5 hours so I call that a success. Every race is a learning experience. A new boundary to push through. Los Angeles was no exception. Mind over matter was the lesson this week. Oh, and remember to keep more KT with you when possible. Hahaha. Next up, I fly to Walt Disney World for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend. Can you say Coast-To-Coast? I sure can!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rock 'N' Roll St. Louis Half Marathon

You can't spell the word hustle without STL! The Hustle City was a very good race! For starters, I spent the majority of my trip in the The Lou with a very near and dear Fraternity brother of mine who showed me all that St. Louis has to offer. Great sights, great food, and such rich history. And don't even get me started on the beer! Needless to say I had fun in a new city. Now, here's more tea on race day!
First, another dear friend/fraternal sibling of mine Benny raced with me. Came all the way into town and dominated his race (way to go Benny). So... race morning was C.O.L.D.! COLD! But this is St. Louis after all so can I really complain? The race started on Market Street, facing the Old Courthouse and the Famous Gateway Arch. Watching the sun come over Illinois, the Mississippi River, and reflect on the stainless steal Arch was a VERY special moment.

The race kicked off and we ran toward the arch, made our way past Busch Stadium which is home to the St. Louis Cardinals (BIRDS!). We continued through Downtown St. Louis looking at all of the wonderful architecture and culture that the city has to offer. We continued making our way down Del Mar Blvd. for quite some time until we got to Art Center which is home to the Fox Theatre. This is literally the cultural heart beat of the city. I then magically sprouted wings and FLEW up this ridiculous hill around mile 5 next to Saint Louis University . I told you I wanted redemption after Long Beach. I came for ALL of these hills and paid them nothing but dust. We made our way over the SLU bridge and headed into The Grove. Gar bars on those side and the home of Sweety Pie's (as seen on the OWN Network). I kept flying right on over to Reservoir Park and the Botanical Gardens. I must share this with you...seeing the leaves change colors in fall and watching them fall as you run past is really quite the sight. The smells of Autumn in the air, the squirrels watching from the overhead power lines wondering what the hell we are all running for is really something to appreciate. Nature was a beautiful inspiration for this race. More hills here...but I paid them NO mind.

We then came to Lafayette Park which was another beautiful area of the race course. This was close to the home stretch. Mile 11. I had made it to mile 10 in under 2 hours so in an effort to save my knee I dialed back the pace a bit. So I made my way back toward downtown passing Union Station and returning to the Arch Mall where I crossed the finish at 2 hours and 21 minutes. I am proud of this run and certainly look forward to running it again some day! Not to bad for a Rock Encore! Next up, RNR Los Angeles! Can anyone say Triple Crown?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Long Beach International City Bank Half Marathon, um...Long Beach kicked my butt. Sorry, I can't make that any nicer. Allow me to explain. The Long Beach Half is really a wonderful race. This was my first time running 'The Beach' and I have to say, it is VERY scenic, and energetic. The first five miles of the race take you through Rainbow Harbor, which consists of parts of the Long Beach Port, near the historic Queen Mary, past the Catalina Express docks, past Lighthouse Point, The Aquarium of the Pacific and other lovely Pike points of interest. The first 5 miles had variable inclines due to the many many MANY vehicular ramps and bridges...and this is where I suffered burn out. By mile 6 at Shoreline Village, I was pretty much spent. Even though I was dialed in at about a 7 out of 10 with about a 10 minute/mile pace...I was still worn OUT. The next 4 miles are along the cement bike path on the beach itself. This was pretty nice considering the breeze off of the ocean kept us cool.

Let me just say, as many of my close friends and fraternity brothers know, I have spent A LOT of time in Long Beach. I think another reason why this didn't go as 'fast' as I would of liked was probably because I knew that running from The Pike to Belmont Shores and back was just kinda crazy haha. Just a sidebar.

Meanwhile, when we arrived in Belmont Shore around mile 9 or so, we were greeted to more yummy Go-Go Juice 'Powerade' and donut holes...which might I just add were rockin'! We made our way back through Belmont Shores and headed back up Ocean Avenue back towards the The Pike! With the minor pain in my IT band in my left knee I hobbled across the finish line with a finishing time of 2:33:35. Not the best, but hey at least I finished! You have to keep in can't 'win' every race. It is important to keep that into perspective. The next race is Rock 'n' Roll - St. Louis and I am ready to get back into the saddle and try again! Will I run this race again? Absolutely! I want redemption! That race time ain't hot! But the race was beautiful! One more race (Surf City 2013) and I will complete the Beach Cities Race Challenge!!! YES! AHHHH The Clink of Success is Near!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

runDisney Disneyland Half Marathon

So let's talk about it! The Disneyland Half...of all of the races I have done or attended this one took the bacon, the cheese, and the organic bread! This was a FANTASTIC race put on by our friends at runDisney! Let me walk you through race day. The morning kicked off with me arriving to the Mickey and Friends parking structure at the Happiest Place on Earth at around 5:15 AM. From there I proceeded to gear check to drop off my stuff, ate a Clif bar, adjusted my hat, and made my way to Corral C. Approx. 14,000 runners participated in this race so there were 8 starting waves. The start corrals were filled with energy! Lot of people waking up, reconnecting with people they haven't seen in a long time, and people like me just mentally preparing to run13.1 miles again...for fun.
The national anthem was sung by a man currently serving in the US Army and we were treated to some fireworks as he sang. He was pretty awesome if I can say so myself. Then before we knew it, Corrals A and B were off and we were moving up to the start line. The start line had a stage to the left and my very good friend Mickey Mouse waving us off and wishing us luck. Then we were off and running down Disneyland Drive under the Downtown Disney District bridge and off to Katella Avenue. We turned left at Harbor and entered in the driveway that used to welcome guests to the Timon parking lot...before Tow Mater and Lightning McQueen decided to move Radiator Springs on top of it. Rude, what did Timon do to YOU anyway? Sidebar.
We ran in the backstage area of Disney California Adventure and entered Paradise Pier. I turned my headphones off as I realized the World of Color fountains on Paradise Bay were dancing and full of life, which meaned ENCORE MUSIC! I ran up and took a photo next to one of my favorite shows at the resort and proceeded to continue running and appreciating the energy and wonder of this wonderful race...and it had just started!


The race route then took us to Cars Land for a brief moment then behind Tower of Terror, Down Sunset Boulevard, past Soarin' Over California, then out the Downtown Disney Gate. We then ran into Disneyland Park backstage area (by Indy and Main Street Vehicle Parking) under the train bridge then onto Main Street U.S.A. We ran through Frontierland past Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and into Fantasyland where we got to run through Sleeping Beauty Castle!!! I have to tell you...that was an awesome feeling and experience!
Then we ran through Tomorrowland, up into Mickey's Toontown, past Circle D and out the gate towards Ball Road. The next 6 miles were kinda boring. Running through the industrial streets of ratchet Anaheim left something to be desired for me personally, but the on course entertainment (dancers, hot rods, cheerleaders) made it easier to get through. Our journey took us all the way to the Honda Center! We ran around the facility to the reservoir, then headed right to Angels Stadium! This was another killer be able to RUN on the field! That was REALLY COOL!
After Angel Stadium we made our way back to the resort where I saw my Dad and Brother cheering me on about 1/4 mile away from the finish! We exchanged high-5's. My good friend Ruby was closer to the finish line and captured some AWESOME finish line photos of me! And my aunts, grandma, bestie Meg, and cousin all met me at the Victory Village and literally made me so happy! I finished this race in 2:20:49. Would of been better had I not hit the wall at mile 10 and been starving LOL. I should of held on that last Clif Bar haha.

One amazing race and I can't wait to do it again next year! This truly was the Happiest Race on Earth!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Rock 'N' Roll San Diego

Half Marathon number 2! And just 3 1/2 weeks after OC! RNR San Diego was a beautiful run! I stayed with my Aunt who lives in Oceanside, so this made the drive a lot easier for me! Of course on race day, I woke up at 3:30 AM and prepared for battle. I drove to Sea World and parked my car...Sea World was the finish line for this race, but I was a smart guy and bought the Race Day Fast Pass! I boarded the bus which took us to the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. I arrived at the start village and picked up my bib, stretched a little and made my way to Corral 29. The gun went off and away we went! This was my second race, so I was way more comfortable with my pacing and endurance. This made this race much more enjoyable. We raced through Hillcrest and ended up in Balboa Park around mile 4 and 5. Now, I've been to Balboa Park serveral times, but to run through it was just beautiful. Especially as the sun was coming up! Talk about amazing sights.


The race took us on the highway and around the University of San Diego neighborhoods. I had a little difficulty around miles 11 and 12. Mostly because it was a switch back and no one likes to see that they have to run uphill at the point they are nearing exhaustion. But I digress. As we approached Mission Bay (where Sea World is located) my energy spiked! I was finishing my second race and I knew my time was light years faster than my rookie race! I saw my cousin and my brother at the finish line and gave hi-5's. I crossed the finish line at 2:15:41. I had shaved 10 minutes off of my rookie race. This was a new PR (personal record)! I made my way through the racer's chute and was BEAT! I remember almost falling over from the adrenaline drop haha. But I made it! This was a beautiful race! I like San Diego as a city anyway, so how could I not enjoy?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

he OC Half Marathon May 6th, 2012 - The Rookie Run That Started It All

So here it was. Race day. My first 13.1 mile half marathon. What had I signed up for? What was I thinking? How am I going to do this? All thoughts that went through my head as I was shuttled over to Fashion Island, the start line for the OC Marathon and Half Marathons. I hopped off the bus and made my way to start corral C. C obviously stood for crazy! I have never raced before! I found my place among the other runners and tried to keep a look of confidence on my face, when in fact I was really nervous and anxious. Before I knew it, off we were. Leaving Fashion Island behind and making our way through Newport Beach. After the first 3 miles I started to gain confidence. Running on Pacific Coast Highway was quite a rush. The scenery of the Southern California coastline was inspiring. I was also inspired by all of the spectators along the route. Families came out of their homes and cheered us all on. We didn't even know these people! The support was awesome! You know what else was awesome? Gatorade at a LOT of the water stops haha.

The views were spectacular! I don't know if it was because I was experiencing 'runner's high' or what, but everything was just so fantastic! Although right after the Clif Bar food stop around mile 10...there was a HILL! Worst. Hill. EVER! It was unexpected and it appears to have gotten the best of everyone. But it didn't stop us from running our asses to the finish line at the Orange County Fairgrounds! I saw the mile 13 sign and literally sprinted like a cheetah was coming for me! I LEPT across the finish line! I was in so much pain from muscle cramping (needed more water and vitamins) but I did it! 2:25:19 was my finishing time! I met up with a friend of mine, JJ at the finish!! It was an awesome first race and an amazing experience! If you can, do this race :)