Monday, 8 December 2014

Maningrida Marathon Part 2- The Race

As we live in remote NT, the weather here is quite tropical with temperatures only dropping to about 26 degrees Celsius at night and humidity of anywhere from 85-95%. Because of this we made the decision to start the marathon at 3:00am, with the hope of everyone being finished at 9:00am.

I made sure to lay out everything I would need the night before, and I woke up feeling relaxed and as ready as possible. When I arrived at the start line I packed a spare set of clothes just in case the predicted thunderstorms arrived, as well as some sports drink into the car that would be following us. After a very tough 32km the week before at 4min:1min intervals, I made the decision to drop back to 1:1 intervals with the hope of sustaining that pace for the whole race.

Ready to go at the start line!

We lined up at the start line and with the Rocky song playing in the background, we began the Maningrida Marathon. I dropped behind the group quite quickly because of my intervals but as we were running several loops of an out and back course, I knew I would be seeing everyone again. It was pitch black so I took the first 12k out and back loop just to enjoy my surroundings and be appreciative for the chance to run. As I began my the 16k loop I put on some music to keep myself motivated. The sun still hadn't quite risen, and the temperature was still sitting at around 26 degrees. At about the 17k mark I stopped to refill my Camelbak with cold water, and passed off my headlamp, as it was now light. I was beginning to feel a little flat at the 8k turn around, when I heard a loud siren behind me. Not knowing what it was, I moved to the side of the road and waited. I eventually realised it was the town firetruck and began to panic, wondering why it was here, chasing me with its sirens on. As I turned around, the driver put out over the P.A, 'WELLLCOOOMMME TO THE 2014 MANINGRIDA MARATHON. IF YOU NEED SOME WATER JUST LET ME KNOW, I HAVE 40,000 LITRES' This was just the pick me up I needed, it was genuinely a real laugh out loud moment. I waved to the people in the truck and began my way back for my final loop.

One of my mantras for a mid-run pick me up!

The final loop was to be 14km, and I was starting to feel it. I had managed to snag an icy pole and refill my Camelbak with water at about the 22km mark, and I knew as soon as the watch hit 35.2km it would be time to turn around and finish it off. I had also grabbed a cold towel filled with ice, which was amazing as the temperature was nearing 30 degrees a this point. When I turned around with 7km to go, I was in struggle town. It was hot, I was tired, and I was barely moving at a shuffle. I turned the music up even louder and began to belt out songs at the top of my lungs.

With about 3km to go, I was lucky enough to have one of the support crew come and run alongside me. He told me stories about the other runners and kept me distracted until the finish line was in sight. At that point we had about 500m to go and he told me to run by myself and finish strong. I sprinted (well at least, I tried to) towards the finished line. I was amazed to see a crowd of 10 people waiting for me to finish with a finish banner stretched across the road. As I broke the banner I couldn't believe I had done it! I was led to an ice bath and everyone was congratulating me and hugging me. It was honestly the best feeling ever!

Cooling off in the ice bath

As I sat down in the ice bath, I was surprised to see the two head runners of our running group presenting us with medals, congratulating us on completing the second Maningrida Marathon. I was honestly blown away by the amazing support on the course. Without the support of my #maningridarunners buddies I would have never been able to complete this amazing feat. They were there for me every long run, every 3am, 4am, 5am start. Throughout the whole marathon they were there with ice and cold water and towels and anything else I could have needed. They erected motivational signs all along the course and never once complained when we needed someone to run with us to get us through a tricky mental block.

Celebrating with my fellow marathoners!

I appreciate that people want to run a big marathon for their first, but for me, my first marathon of 3 people was just perfect. I would not trade it for any other race in the world. It was such a special day and I will hold the memories from this close to my heart forever.

What was your first race experience like?

Ash :)

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Maningrida Marathon Part 1- How I came to be racing the Maningrida Marathon!

Ok so this one will take a bit of explaining! I hadn't mentioned it because it wasn't an 'official' marathon. As I have mentioned before I live in the bush. I mean, middle of nowhere. My closest city is an 8 hour drive, and the closest marathon would probably be a three day drive or minimum $800 in flights plus the fact as a teacher I can't really get time off aside from school holidays.

Anyway, a couple of years ago my running group created in informal Maningrida Marathon, and this year we decided to revive it. 3 of us ran the whole thing, with other members of the running group joining us for company along the way. We had all been training together, and 5 of the 7 have a marathon coming up over the Christmas holidays, but the other 2 people had been following the training plan along with us. It seemed like a waste to not run a marathon after all the training, so that's when the decision was made to resurrect the Maningrida Marathon. Basically we just 42.2km on the road leading out of town and members of the running group/friends and family act as volunteers with all the marathon essentials. I had wanted to give the full marathon distance a crack before Dopey, so I decided to join in too. So that is the background story of how I came to be running a marathon at about 2 weeks notice.

I had a back to back 16km and 32km last week and I absolutely suffered through it. I felt like I just couldn't go on. So even up to the night before of the marathon I was never 100% I would make it the whole way. I was just going to turn up and give it a crack, and even better, there were no entry fees so there was no stress if I wasn't feeling strong enough to finish. I really didn't want to risk injury but I did want to give myself a chance to build some confidence, and as my Galloway training program has me running a full marathon in two weeks anyway, I decided to switch it around so I could join my running group!

Feeling like death after 32 hot and sweaty kilometres. 

I will be recapping the marathon in the next couple of days!



Thursday, 20 November 2014

Avengers Half Marathon Race Recap

I was super excited to run this race, and Captain America was ready to go!

Captain America, ready to run!
I decided to take it easy at the parks on Saturday, arriving at about 11am and leaving around 4. I used the rest of the afternoon to go for a swim, have a spa and basically just relax, knowing full well that the 3:30 am wake up call was not going to be pretty. I settled into bed around 8:30 and fell asleep quickly- SUCCESS! Well, not quite. I woke up about an hour later and then after being awake for a few hours, slept on and off until 3:30. I put it down to excitement!

I jumped out of bed and got dressed- I always lay everything out the night before and compare it to previous pictures of 'flat Ashleigh' to check that I haven't forgotten anything. Staying on property at Disneyland meant it was only about a 10minute walk to the race start, which was super convenient. I would definitely recommend looking at staying on property if it is within your budget, at least for race day/pre race night. The start area was pretty calm when I arrived, and to be honest I never noticed it getting as hectic as Wine and Dine. I made my way to my corral with ease at about 4:15, and sat down and waited for the start. Rudy and Carissa, the race MC's kept me entertained until race start.

Flat Ashleigh.

I was in corral F, but corral E and F had a joint start, so even though I was at the front of my corral, I ended up being in the middle of the 2 corrals when we were released. I didn't notice too much congestion, and I settled into an easy pace, running 4:1 Galloway intervals (just like Wine and Dine). The first few miles through the parks were awesome, there was lots of people cheering, lots to keep me distracted and a few character stops. I didn't stop for Captain America, Black Widow or Hawkeye, because as much as I would have loved to- the lines were huge! I mean, I am not running right on 16 min miles so I have some leeway, but with those lines I just didn't feel confident enough to wait for 10-15minutes so early in the race. I ended up stopping for Minnie and Mickey inside Disneyland, as they had a super short line- which was excellent. I also stopped for a photo with the Green Army Men, at the front of Disneyland, with some of the mile markers and at Angel Stadium. In retrospect, I would have had time for one or two character stops, but it was too early in the race to know that at the time.

Race start!

Mickey and Minnie and Captain America!

The next few miles through Anaheim were less eventful. I don't want to say boring, but it didn't compare to Wine and Dine. Maybe it peaked to early, with the first 3 miles being so action packed and then the next 6 being a little lacklustre. There were cheerleaders and school bands out, which was really cool, but these next 6 miles were also where the winds picked up, and I was struggling. I needed all the moral support I could get. I hi fived everyone that was offering, I really needed the pick me up. Mile markers were blown down left, right and centre. Some were missing clocks, some were missing the art and were just empty frames. This wind was brutual. It stung my eyes and when dirt hit my legs it hurt. I was so happy when I saw Angel Stadium in the distance.

Mile 6 marker missing its clock. Sorry for the random guy in the photo!

I found the Green Army Men after missing them at Wine and Dine!

The mile in and around Angel Stadium went too quickly, the energy was awesome and there was lots going on. We then ran through the Clif Shot station where I grabbed a Razz Clif Shot (yummy!), and then there was a stretch of service men and women down the street. I hi fived them too- it was just the mental boost I needed for those last 3 miles. As I ran back I was so excited to make it back to Disney property.

Angel Stadium!

I speeded up as I approached the chute, knowing that my Coast to Coast medal was only about 160 metres away. When I crossed the finish line I was beyond happy. 2 weeks. 2 coasts. 2 halves. 2 races with crazy weather. I recieved my Avengers medal and made my way down the chute to pick up my Coast to Coast medal. It was a super short line, and they just put my bib number in the computer, checked me against my photo from the expo (I presume), and I was on my merry way with my medal in hand.

The family reunion area had been closed due to high winds, so I decided to just make my way back to my room, when my lovely boyfriend spotted me. It was a relief. I was just so mentally drained from the race, it was nice to have someone there to help me out. I got back to my room and showered, and then hit the parks with all 3 medals (Wine and Dine, Avengers and Coast to Coast). It was time to celebrate!

How do you deal with racing in less than ideal conditions?

Ash :)

Monday, 17 November 2014

Avengers Expo Recap

We arrived in California on Wednesday night, and the expo was scheduled for Friday/Saturday, so we took a little bit of time to do some research and made sure we knew exactly where we would be heading on Friday morning. After having already got my shoes at Wine and Dine I decided to give the New Balance stall a miss (which meant a sleep in as I didn't have to register for the virtual queue). I had seen some pictures on Facebook of some really cute merchandise- I smashed the half Hulk t shirts and some really brightly coloured jumpers and I was determined to get them. However, I had also heard really bad stories about super hectic Disneyland expos, so we decided to head down to the expo at 9 (one hour earlier than opening) to ensure we wouldn't miss out.

IT WAS CRAZY. I mean it was organised crazy, but it was still crazy. The lines were massive. We jumped in line for the official merchandise and I decided I would head down and pick up my race number later (it's not like it can sell out). By about 9:30 the line started moving, and we managed to make it into the official merchandise by 10:15. I ended up choosing the Hulk I smashed the half tech shirt, an Avengers half jumper, an I did it cotton t shirt, medal pin and I smashed the half drink bottle. I felt like a lot of the merchandise, although very similar to Wine and Dine was a little more expensive, and it was also a lot busier in there so I wasn't really interested in browsing. I basically picked up what I wanted and left. There was lots to choose from though- a big selection of tech shirts, jumpers, jackets, mugs, glasses, tumblers, head bands etc- but I did hear a lot was gone by the end of the first day. I was really happy (and fortunate) to be on holidays and have the freedom to be able arrive at the expo early Friday morning. I really felt for all the runners who couldn't make it till late Friday or Saturday and may have potentially missed out on what they wanted.

My expo haul! I think I have an addiction!

I had a quick look around the expo but most of the vendors were the same as were at Wine and Dine the week before. I picked up another Team Sparkle visor (blue), a SparkleSkirt, some ProCompression socks, Feetures socks, GU gels and stopped off the the Clif stall where they were sampling a few of the their bars and gels. I had a chat to the guys running the stall and they were really helpful and arranged a couple of samples for me for non-Australian products so I can test them and buy them in January if I like them. That pretty much made my day- it's so hard when I see awesome new products that I want to try but they are only avaliable overseas. The guys at Clif gave me a couple of sachets of their electrolyte products, Shot bloks, gels, as well as their Orange Mango recovery drink which I have been dying to try. On my way out of the expo I stopped at a cool Avengers back drop Disney had set up and stopped for a photo with my bib. I really enjoy all the photo opportunities Disney provides both at the parks and with their races.

Awesome Avengers photo!
A huge thanks to the crew at Clif Bar! I can't wait to try everything!

 After exploring the expo, I headed over to packet pick up and there was no line! YAY! I picked up my packet and recieved the best bracelet of my life. Who thought a yellow wristband would mean so much to me. I am still wearing it now. I headed over and got my photo taken for my coast to coast medal and then I was finished. On my way out I had a quick look at the Dooney and Bourke bags, but the line was giant and to be completely honest I am not a huge handbag person anyway. I thought I would leave the Dooney and Bourkes to the true handbag fans.

The awesome, the amazing, the Coast to Coast wristband!

In total we were at the expo for about 3 hours including all the time in lines which wasn't too bad. It was well set out and organised, the only downside being the huge lines, however Disney did a great job managing everyone and the lines moved relatively quickly.

Do you enjoy shopping at expos? What do you normally look for at a race expo?

Ash :)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2014 Race Recap

It has been a long time since I have written a race recap and I think Wine and Dine is a great race to break the drought.

With a forecast of torrential downpours and chilly temps, I will admit I was nervous. Having said that, as soon as I got on the bus, the energy was electric. I jumped on the bus at 7 at Port Orleans French Quarter, and something about a bus full of adults dressed up as Disney characters just makes life all the more magical. When I arrived at the race start (at about 7:20) I lined up for a photo with Chef Mickey- I thought the lines were long when I arrived- but after 30 minutes in line for Mickey, all the lines had doubled in length so I decided to give Minnie, Goofy and Chip and Dale a miss. I hit the porta potties and then found myself a spot on the grass and enjoyed watching all the costumed runners walk past and managed to strike up some conversation with some very friendly fellow runners. Around 9pm I headed to my corral and that's when the rain started. At first it was just a light drizzle but it got progressively heavier as the start drew nearer. I was lucky enough to be given a garbage bag by a very friendly fellow runner (THANK YOU) and before I knew it I was walking up to the start line.

The start line- AMAZING ENERGY

When the fireworks went off I couldn't help but wipe away a tear- actually a few tears. Very joyous tears. I couldn't believe after months of training, years of dreaming and waaaay too much planning, I was in America, running one of my dream races. It was one of the best feelings I have ever had. In fact, I am tearing up a little just thinking about it. I had decided to run 4:1 intervals and stop at whatever photos stops took my fancy. I mean, what is the point in running Disney if you can't enjoy the characters and sights that make Disney special. Personally I felt like there was lots of character stops and sights to keep me interested, although some people did mention that they felt like there were less character stops than past years (potentially due to the rain).

Some of the characters out included: The Country Bears, Fairies, Timone, King Louie, Buzz and Woody, Captain Jack Sparrow, Star Wars Character, Green Army Men and also photo stops at the Osbourne lights, Animal Kingdom tree and an Incredibles back drop- I could be forgetting a couple but these are the ones that stick out in my head.
Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa

Buzz and Woody

Although it was very cold and rainy for the whole race, I had an awesome time. I enjoyed the course. I stopped for photos, I high fived cast members as I ran past, I had fun. SO MUCH FUN! I found the miles to tick past really quickly, as my intervals very comfortable and there was so much happening on course I barely had time to notice how far I had run. I actually distinctly remember feeling sad at the 6 mile mark because I knew it was almost half way over.

The course was well marked, there were heaps of volunteers and cast members out, the medical aid tents were well stocked and lots of water stops. I thought the course was great, as it started at ESPN, went through Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios before finishing in Epcot, so I felt like I had a really good tour around Disney property. 

Mile markers all along the course- of course I had to get a snapshot with Australia!

When I ran through the finish chute the volunteers were amazing. I was wrapped in a space blanket and handed my medal. It was a little crazy but that was to expect with 12,000 odd finishers. I slowly made my way down the finishers chute collecting my food before making my way to Epcot for the finishers party- and more on that to come soon!

The medal was very cool- a spinner with Mickey on one side and Spaceship Earth on the other, although I did hear (and see) a lot of horror stories with broken medals. Mine made it through the night and I did take it to the park on Sunday for photos, but I kept the medal in my pocket and only put in on for photos. I would have been devastated if it had broken, so I decided to play it safe and not wear it around at the parks.

Very happy runner with her medal! (and the support crew)

Did you run Wine and Dine? How did you find it?

Ash :)

Monday, 10 November 2014

runDisney Wine and Dine 2014 Expo

The Expo! What can I say? The day started off on a bad note with the New Balance virtual queue website crashing and no one being able to register for the limited edition runDisney New Balance shoes. After that nasty shock, I made the decision to head to the expo early as I was desperate to get my hands on those Cindy shoes! I arrived at approximately 8:15am and the expo opened early at about 9:30. The line moved very quickly and I was lucky enough to get 2 pairs of shoes (Cindy and Goofy) within about 5 minutes of the expo opening.

The Disney merchandise was quite good- I loved the purple Wine and Dine hoodie (although the material has started to go a bit 'bally' already) and I also picked up the grey Wine and Dine tech shirt, plus a couple of pins and a tumbler. I also got one of the I did it shirts, though I thought the colour was a bit ugly (bright/fluoro). I was in the expo quite early and although the merchandise area was a bit crazy, the line to pay moved super fast and I probably was at checkout for less than minute.

The general merchandise at the expo was excellent and I ended up with lots of excellent purchases including: Dr. Kool wraps, KT tape, visors and Bio Freeze.

I then went to packet pick up and I was very lucky as my line my nice and short. I probably waited about 10 minutes, then I headed back over to the merchandise area to pick up my shirt before going home. Some of the other lines were quite a bit longer though and I suspect they may have been waiting longer.

I found the expo to be really well organised and New Balance worked hard to move people through the shoe queue quickly. I didn't wait in line for over 10 minutes for anything and there was a great variety of vendors and lots of interesting products to look at. If I had to pick one negative it would be that the I did it shirt in the women's cut was such an ugly colour- although I am sure there are some people who love it- it just doesn't work for me personally.

Just a few of my expo goodies!

Ash  :)

Thursday, 23 October 2014

One week until I leave for the USA and Wine and Dine and Avengers Half!

The countdown is on! Well the countdown has been on since registration, but it is so close now I can practically taste it. Because we are coming over from Australia, we arrive at WDW on the Monday and stay until the Wednesday after Wine and Dine, before travelling across to Disney Land for the Avengers Half. This means 9 more sleeps until we leave for the trip! To say I am excited is a massive understatement.

I haven't raced in a long time, and Wine and Dine is part redemption, part birthday fun and part bucket load of excitement. I have been to WDW once before but only for a day, so going this time with a Premier Passport will give me a lot more freedom to explore the parks. Wine and Dine falls on my birthday so I am hoping to squeeze in a couple of fun birthday activities- and if you see me on course please stop and say hello (and happy birthday!) :) 

I was fortunate enough to have Avengers fall the weekend after Wine and Dine which has allowed me to a) extend my holiday a little b) earn my coast to coast and c) have double as much runDisney fun in one holiday!

I am super excited to see if this round of intense training has paid off, and looking forward to just having fun. I live in remote Australia as a teacher and haven't seen my partner in 15 weeks (as he stayed in Melbourne for his work), so a big part of me is excited for the holiday just because it will be with him. 

Second last hard run before I leave for America! YAYYAYAYA! :) 

Any tips for touring the parks while on a runcation?

Ash :)