Friday Five – December 19th – Christmas Traditions

This week’s Friday Five theme with the DC Trifecta is Holiday Traditions.  Since Preston and I got married, we have yet to spend one Christmas at our own home, and this year is no different.  With our families in two different states, there has been no consistency to our Christmas celebrations since we got married.  But there are some traditions that we’ve either instituted ourselves or taken part in with our families since we got married.

1.  Christmas Date Night or Weekend Away

Seeing the National Christmas Tree in 2011

Seeing the National Christmas Tree in 2011

Since we started dating, Preston and I have made it a priority to have a special Christmas Date  during the month of December.  This has usually involved a nice dinner out in the city and seeing the National Christmas Tree.  This year we mixed things up though and made it a Christmas Weekend Away, which included us running the Christmas Town Dash 8k at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg.  During such a busy time of year, its nice to be able to set time aside just for the two of us.

2.  Decorating the tree together

One of my favorite Christmas ornaments

One of my favorite Christmas ornaments

There’s nothing more magical than decorating the tree and being able to enjoy looking at it during what is usually a very busy and stressful time of the year.

3.  Christmas Eve service at church

Going to church on Christmas Eve is extremely important to Preston and I and helps us to keep the focus of Christmas on what it really is – Jesus’ birth.

4.  Christmas Eve dinner with my side of the family

Christmas Eve 2012

Christmas Eve 2012

When we’re in Illinois visiting my side of the family, we always enjoy the annual tradition of Christmas Eve dinner out at a nice restaurant.  My family has been doing this for as long as I can remember.  Its fun to dress up, go out to a nice dinner, and then finish the evening with a special Christmas Eve service at church.

5.  Christmas Eve pajamas with Preston’s side of the family

Christmas Eve 2011 with my in-laws

Christmas Eve 2011 with my in-laws

Preston’s family has had a long standing tradition of everybody in the family receiving new pajamas on Christmas Eve, which everybody then wears to bed and while opening presents on Christmas morning.

QOTD: What is your favorite Holiday tradition?

As always, thank you to the DC Trifecta Bloggers (Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC, Mar from Mar on the Run, and Cynthia from You Signed Up For What?!) for hosting the weekly Friday Five Link Up.  Be sure to check out their posts as well!

DC_linkup

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My Year of Running

Its incredible to look back and think about all that I’ve accomplished this year!  At this time last year, I was training for my first half marathon, and now I’ve crossed the finish line of three half marathons, as well as a handful of other races.  I love looking back and being able to see all that I’ve accomplished this year!

With my last race of 2014 having been last weekend, now’s the perfect time to start looking back.  I’ll share a couple of different year end reviews over the next couple of weeks, but I thought it would be fun to start the end of year reflection with the linkup that Miss Zippy is hosting.

year_of_running_2014

Best Race Experience:

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon! Photo Credit: MarathonFoto

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon!
Photo Credit: MarathonFoto

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon, the Disney World Half, back in January has been my best race experience to date.  There was no greater feeling than having my sights on accomplishing my goal to finish my first half marathon (which I set in March 2013), and then doing everything necessary in order to ensure that I accomplished my goal.  And doing so with Preston by my side made the experience that much sweeter.

Best Run:

post rnrvb

I absolutely loved my last half marathon, Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach.  There was no sight better than finishing the race on the boardwalk while overlooking the ocean, and then being able to put my feet in the sand post race.  Not only did I PR and meet my goal pace, but I was able to celebrate my accomplishment with several other bloggers at the finish line.

Best New Piece of Gear:

pro compression

My PRO Compression marathon socks and sleeves.  They have been critical to my post long run recovery, especially after races.

Best Piece of Running Advice You Received:

To keep up with cross training, weight training, and yoga.  Being a successful athlete means taking care of all of your muscles and incorporating a variety of exercises and stretches to make you the strongest runner possible.

Most Inspirational Runner:

Preston's six Dopey Challenge medals: 5k, 10k, half, full, Goofy, and Dopey

Preston’s six Dopey Challenge medals: 5k, 10k, half, full, Goofy, and Dopey

My husband continues to be my #1 inspiration.  Not only is he my #1 cheerleader, motivator, and supporter, but his own accomplishments inspire me everyday.  I am still in awe that he completed the Dopey Challenge back in January.

If You Could Sum Up Your Year in a Couple of Words, What Would They Be:

Continuing to Make Progress

QOTD: How was your year of running?  Did you accomplish everything that you wanted to?  What did you learn this year?

Posted in Milestones, Motivation, Races, Training | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

Giving the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run Another Chance

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile now, then you know that I didn’t have the best experience back in April at the annual Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.  Between being placed in the wrong corral, spending much of the race trying to maneuver around runners slower than me, and there not being much food left for slower runners like myself at the end of the race, my first Cherry Blossom experience was quite disappointing.

After finishing the 2014 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

After finishing the 2014 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

Because of how much Preston enjoyed his first Cherry Blossom experience back in 2012, as well as what I’ve heard from others, I was very disappointed that I didn’t have a better experience.  My own race experience left much to be desired, but I decided that I’d enter the lottery for the 2015 race, and if I was selected then it was meant for me to give this race another try, and if I wasn’t selected then it wasn’t meant to be.  Given the low registration cost of this race, I don’t feel as though I’ll be wasting money by giving this race another chance.

cucb lottery results

I found out early yesterday morning that I have successfully gained entry into the 2015 race.  I’m optimistic that this year will be a better race experience for me, and if it isn’t, then I’ll know for certain that this race just isn’t for me.  I want to give this race one more chance to see if this year was just a fluke or if my feelings about this race are truly confirmed.

Regardless, I’m excited to experience another race with Preston, especially since he has decided to start limiting the number of races that he will register for, at least for 2015.

QOTD: Do you ever rerun a race that you didn’t have a positive experience at previously in hopes of having a better experience?  Will you be running the 2015 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run?

Congrats everybody who entered to receive a discount code for 33% off of a FlipBelt from my Holiday Fit List discount code giveaway!  15 of you commented, and I have 15 discount codes to give away!  If you commented on that post, please e-mail me at dancingtorunning@gmail.com so that I can get your discount code to you.

Posted in Races | Tagged | 26 Comments

Shamrock Half Marathon Training Log – Week 4

This past week was another very successful week of training!  I was able to maintain a sub 10:00 min/mile during both of my weekday runs, and then I PRed during my long training run over the weekend.  Combine that with two yoga sessions this week, as well as two weight training sessions, and I’d say that this was a very productive week!

All of my recent successful runs, as well as my quickening pace, has me thinking a lot about what I’d like to accomplish next year.  As I’m pondering possible races for next year, I’m also thinking a lot about what goals I’d like to accomplish.  If I continue to have training weeks like this past week, it’ll definitely be difficult to narrow my goals down to just a few that I want to focus on in 2015!

I love it when RunKeeper celebrates my accomplishments with me!

I love it when RunKeeper celebrates my accomplishments with me!

Mon 12/8 – 30 minutes of yoga

Tues 12/9 – 3.15 mile run on the treadmill, 0.32 mile cool down walk, kettlebell squat swings, legs, abs

Wed 12/10 – 40 minutes of yoga

Thurs 12/11 – 3.17 mile run on the treadmill, 0.38 mile cool down walk, legs, glutes, abs, chest, back, arms

Fri 12/12 – Rest day

Sat 12/13 – 6.62 mile run around the neighborhood, 0.40 mile cool down walk

Sun 12/14 – Rest day

Total Weekly Mileage – 14.04 miles (2.12 miles more than week 3)

Total Shamrock Training Mileage – 54.62 miles

Because we’ll be at Disney World starting on Friday, I’ll recap both weeks 5 and 6 of my half marathon training at the end of week 6.  Although I’ll be taking it easy on the training front while we’re away, I’m still hoping to get a run or two in on the hotel treadmill.  I’ll be packing my running shoes and hoping for the best!

QOTD: Have you started thinking about your 2015 goals yet?  What are you hoping to accomplish next year?

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Friday Five – December 12th

Wow, what a crazy week its been!  Yesterday at work I really started to feel the stress and time crunch of only having one week left until Winter Break.  On top of that, we have a lot going on at home right now (who doesn’t during the Holidays?), and I’m trying to keep on track with my Shamrock Half Marathon training.  It makes me tired just thinking about everything on my to do list right now!

Despite how busy life is right now, there’s lot of exciting things going on too.

1.  Today is one of my favorite days of the entire school year – its Pajama Day!  Not only do I not have to wear dress clothes today, but I get to wear sweats to school!

2.  This past week I received invitations for three different FitFluential campaigns.  One of the many things I love about my ambassadorships are the opportunities that I receive to try out new products and share my thoughts on them with all of you.  (Speaking of which, did you see my Holiday Gift Guide for Runners earlier this week?  Be sure to check out the post and see how you can save up to 33% on a FlipBelt!)

gift guide

3.  I’m participating in the Holiday Card Swap that Meranda and Lacey from Fairytales and Fitness are currently hosting, and this week I received a card from Deborah of Confessions of a Mother Runner.  I still need to get my card in the mail to my Secret Blogger – I promise I haven’t forgotten!

4.  On Sunday I logged my 500th mile for charity!  Its incredible to think about how many miles I’ve run and walked for charity through the use of the Charity Miles app.  I can’t wait to see how long it takes me to log another 500!

5.  We leave for Disney World exactly one week from today!  This will be my first trip to Disney World at Christmas time, and I cannot wait to experience the Christmas time magic there!  This will also be our first time back at Disney World with my in-laws since September 2011.

During our last trip to Disney World with my in-laws in September 2011

During our last trip to Disney World with my in-laws in September 2011

QOTD: What exciting things are going on in your life right now?

As always, thank you to the DC Trifecta Bloggers (Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC, Mar from Mar on the Run, and Cynthia from You Signed Up For What?!) for hosting the weekly Friday Five Link Up.  Be sure to check out their posts as well!

DC_linkup

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Charity Miles Milestone: I’ve Reached 500 Miles!

Not only did I run my first 8k this past weekend, but I reached another milestone as well: I logged my 500th mile for charity!  Since I discovered the Charity Miles app last spring, I have been logging miles for charity each time I run outside.  (The app is only GPS enabled, which means that any miles I run or walk on the treadmill cannot count towards the fundraising efforts.)

charity

So how does Charity Miles work?  Every mile logged allows you to raise $0.25 for the charity of your choice.  The majority of the money that I’ve raised has been for Team RWB, the veteran’s support organization that both Preston and I are members of.  In addition to Team RWB, I’ve also raised money for Achilles International, Feeding America, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Stand Up to Cancer, and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Simply by running and walking, activities that I already do on a regular basis, I’ve raised over $125, all without having to ask, beg, or plead for monetary donations from friends and loved ones.  Through my own sweat (and sometimes tears), I’ve helped raised funds for worthwhile organizations.

My most recently logged miles and funds raised on my Charity Miles app

My most recently logged miles and funds raised through Charity Miles

I cannot wait to continue raising funds for charity through the use of Charity Miles, and seeing how quickly I can log another 500 (or more) miles.

QOTD: Which charities do you prefer to raise money for?

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Holiday Fit List (A Gift Guide for Runners)

This post is sponsored by Fit Approach on behalf of FlipBelt.

Its hard to believe that Christmas is only two weeks away!  If you’re still looking for the perfect gift for the fitness enthusiast in your life, then you’ve come to the right place!  Below are some gift ideas fit for any runner!

gift guide

1.  Road ID

Safety is always at the forefront of my mind.  Although I always carry my phone with me when I’m out running, and have the Road ID app downloaded on my phone (which displays emergency contact info on my locked home screen), not every runner likes to carry their phone with them with they’re running.  A Road ID bracelet is a great alternative.

2.  Race entry to a 2015 race

Do you know which race(s) your favorite runner has their eye on?  A race registration makes a perfect gift for any runner.  And what’s even more perfect?  Since it doesn’t require ordering something that has to be shipped you can wait until the last minute to purchase this gift!

3.  New running shoes

A runner can never have too many pairs of shoes.  Just make sure that you know your runner’s preferred brand, style, and size!

4.  iTunes gift card

If your favorite runner likes listening to music while they run, then an iTunes gift card will give them the opportunity to add some new tunes to their playlist.

5.  FlipBelt

If your favorite runner struggles to carry their phone, keys, ID, and anything else that they might need while out on a run (maybe an inhaler if they have asthma, or fuel if they’re out for a longer run), then a FlipBelt is a perfect solution to their carrying needs.  Unlike armbands which can cause chaffing, FlipBelts sit on a runner’s waist.  Because of its unique design, FlipBelts are able to hold a number of items, and all items are able to remain easily accessible to a runner during their run.

flip belt

If you’re interested in getting yourself or a loved one a FlipBelt, I have a couple of discount codes available to share.  To save 10% use code SWEAT10 at checkout.

Interested in saving even more on a FlipBelt?  Through my Sweat Pink Ambassadorship with Fit Approach, I’m able to offer 15 readers a discount code good for 33% off a FlipBelt.  How can you receive one of these discount codes?  Leave a comment below between now and Sunday, December 14th at 11:59 p.m. sharing how you currently carry essential items with you during a run, and I’ll randomly select 15 readers who will receive a discount code.  The names of those selected will be shared on the blog next week.

QOTD: How do you carry essential items with you during a run?

Disclaimer: I received a FlipBelt for free in exchange for this blog post.  I received no other compensation.  All opinions are my own.

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2014 Christmas Town Dash 8k Recap

I couldn’t have chosen a better race to close out my 2014 race year with!  Between it being a well organized race, being somewhat familiar with the course from previous visits to Busch Gardens, and feeling great throughout the race, the 2014 Christmas Town Dash 8k has set a high bar for my first couple of races in 2015.

Preston and I have always been interested in visiting Busch Gardens during the annual Christmas Town celebration.  Last year I heard about the Christmas Town Dash 8k, and had kept it in the back of my mind throughout the year.  Each year, Preston and I like to do a Christmas celebration just the two of us.  Sometimes its included a night out on the town, and in 2011 it included a trip to New York City to see The Rockettes.  This year we decided to head to Williamsburg for the weekend in order to enjoy Christmas Town, and to also run the Christmas Town Dash.

We drove down to Williamsburg late Friday evening.  First thing Saturday morning we headed to packet pickup, which was held at the local Dick’s Sporting Goods.  We found packet pickup to be very organized and efficient.  Our goody bag included two discount coupons to Busch Gardens – one for 50% admission to Christmas Town and one for 50% admission to Busch Gardens next spring or summer.  Those discounts alone covered the cost of race registration.  We also received a long sleeve tech tee and a coupon for a free Chick-fil-A sandwich.

race shirt and bib

After picking up our packets we spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon at the outlets finishing up our Christmas shopping.  Because of the rain, we debated spending the rest of the day at Busch Gardens, and I’m so glad that we ultimately decided to brave the bad weather.  The park was pretty much empty, we got to enjoy several shows, and even got to ride a roller coaster in the light rain.

christmas town

The race was Sunday morning.  It was cold and a bit windy, but nowhere near as cold as it was for our Turkey Trot Thanksgiving morning.  The race started and finished at the Busch Gardens parking booth plaza, and we were able to park a short two minute walk from the start.  This allowed us to wait out the cold and windy air in the car until just before the start of the race.

pre race ctd

Half of the race was in the parking lot, and the other half of the race was in the park itself.  We ran the first mile and a half in the parking lot before entering the park in Ireland.  We ran through every country at Busch Gardens before exiting the park out of Ireland, and then ran the last almost two miles in the parking lot again.  My one and only complaint about this race was that the second parking lot part of the race included lots and lots of turns.

There was lots of entertainment throughout the race.  Just outside of the park entrance and exit there was a DJ playing music and keeping us runners pumped.  Inside of the park the usual Busch Gardens music was playing in each country.  Along the course I spotted the Chick-fil-A cow (Chick-fil-A was one of the race sponsors), a snowman, and several of Santa’s elves.  And the bridge between Germany and Italy was lined with Marines, who gave us high fives as we ran past them.  Receiving high fives from them was definitely the highlight of my race day experience.

Those who are familiar with Busch Gardens know that it is a hilly theme park.  A year ago I would have been scared of tackling all of the hills.  However, I felt super confident throughout the race and never felt overly tired.  I was able to successfully maintain four minute run/1 minute walk intervals for the entire race.  Although I apparently started RunKeeper in stopwatch mode instead of GPS mode and never knew my exact pace during the race (which I was very worried about), I was able to crush all three of my goals and finished the race in 52:07 (10:29 pace).  And since this was my first 8k, it was an instant PR!

After I crossed the finish line, I received my medal from a Marine Sergeant Major, who not only put my medal around my neck but also shook my hand in congratulations.  Receiving my medal from him was the icing on the cake of an incredible race experience.

CTD finish

Some of the pros of the race included:

  • Lots of pre-race communication from the event organizer, both by e-mail and on Social Media
  • Packet pickup was efficient and well organized
  • Plenty of parking attendants to direct traffic once we arrived at Busch Gardens
  • Plenty of porta potties in the start/finish area (I waited less than five minutes before the start of the race)
  • Lots of on course entertainment and support
  • The course was well marked
  • Two water stops with plenty of volunteers
  • Low registration cost with lots of race goodies, including a long sleeve tech shirt and 50% coupons to Christmas Town and Busch Gardens in 2015
  • Plenty of post race water and hot chocolate

The few cons of the race included:

  • The last almost two miles of the race included lots of zig zagging and turns in the parking lot
  • Very limited post race food options (only bananas and granola bars were available)

This race was a great experience, and Preston and I are already talking about making a return trip to Christmas Town in 2015!

QOTD: Did you, or do you plan to, run a holiday themed race?

Posted in Milestones, Races | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Shamrock Half Marathon Training Log – Week 3

Another week has come and gone, and I’m happy to report that it was a fantastic week of training!  My week started off with Preston and I flying back from Illinois, and after a longer than expected travel day, it became an unexpected rest day.  The extra rest paid off with not one but two speedy treadmill runs this week.

I successfully completed two sub 10:00 min/mile runs on the treadmill this week!

I successfully completed two sub 10:00 min/mile runs on the treadmill this week!

Yesterday I ran my last race of 2014, the Christmas Town Dash 8k at Busch Gardens.  Although it was a bit windy yesterday for the race, both Preston and I had a fantastic time running through Busch Gardens.  I’ll recap the race later this week, but spoiler alert: we both enjoyed it immensely and are already considering running the race again next year!

CTD finish

My one and only setback this week was some pain and swelling in my right foot.  Its not unusual this time of year for my right foot and ankle to bother me, and I’m attributing my current pain to my chronically weak ankle.  I had planned to spend some time on the elliptical Saturday morning, but decided that extra rest would be a better idea in preparation for Sunday’s race.

Despite my one setback, I had a great week of training.

Mon 12/1 – Travel day

Tues 12/2 – 3.10 mile run on the treadmill, 0.31 mile cool down walk, kettlebell squat swings, abs

Wed 12/3 – 30 minutes of yoga

Thurs 12/4 – 3.15 mile run on the treadmill, 0.39 mile cool down walk, abs, chest, back, arms, shoulders, glutes

Fri 12/5 – Rest day

Sat 12/6 – Lots of walking around the outlet mall and Busch Gardens

Sun 12/7 – Christmas Town Dash 8k

Total Weekly Mileage – 11.92 miles (3.97 miles less than week 2)

Total Shamrock Training Mileage – 40.58 miles

QOTD: How does the cold weather affect your body?

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Friday Five – December 5th – Holiday Travel Edition

Happy Friday everybody!  With this week’s theme being Friday Favorites, us now being in the midst of the holiday season, and with Preston and I having flown to Illinois last week for Thanksgiving and us flying to Disney World in another 14 days, I thought that it would be perfect to dedicate this week’s Friday Five to Holiday Travel.

Although many people dread the travel part of the Holidays, there can be some positives associated with it as well.  It all depends on your mindset and approach to travel.  So what are some of my favorite parts of Holiday Travel?

1.  Crazy lines and crazy people at the airport make for great people watching.

Holiday travel definitely brings the crazies out.  Even during delays and connections (which we thankfully didn’t have to deal with either of those last week when we traveled to Illinois), I am usually quite entertained by the people I’m surrounded by.

2.  Long days of travel make for lots of time that you get to spend with your significant other.

While long travel days might not be glamorous, there’s nobody else I’d rather spend my time with than Preston.

3.  Surprise gifts of TSA Pre-Check are always welcomed.

Preston and I were blessed to be surprised with TSA Pre-Check during our return trip from Illinois on Monday.  When the TSA agent directed us to the pre-check line, he even said “Happy Holidays!”  It was definitely a welcomed gift!

4.  Delays give you the opportunity to meet new people.

Back in January when I traveled to Illinois for my mom’s surprise birthday party, I was not only rerouted but also met with delay after delay after delay.  The delays meant that I not only got to suffer the agony of the delays with other people, but that we had lots of time to talk and get to know one another.

5.  Holiday travel usually means that you get to spend one of the most magical times of the year with loved ones who live far away.

Since both Preston’s side of the family and my side of the family don’t live near us, we always travel for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Its wonderful to be able to spend both holidays with our families.

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Christmas Eve 2012 with my parents and sisters

QOTD: What is your favorite part of Holiday Travel?

As always, thank you to the DC Trifecta Bloggers (Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC, Mar from Mar on the Run, and Cynthia from You Signed Up For What?!) for hosting the weekly Friday Five Link Up.  Be sure to check out their posts as well!

DC_linkup

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged | 28 Comments