14 July, 2014

Race Season

The official RunDisney training program for the WDW Marathon started at the beginning of this month.  As I was planning my long training runs around my scheduled fall races, I realized I had a 13-mile training run scheduled for September.  What's a girl to do?  Find a half marathon, of course!  I'm actually traveling again for this one - up to Camp Lejeune, NC.  And since I haven't written out my race plans in a while, here's the list as of tonight:


I'm sure I'll pick up a race in March, maybe on my birthday weekend (Swamp House?).  That's the weekend after Gasparilla, which would be rough.  I guess we'll see where the wind blows my paycheck!  And of course, I'm sure there will be a handful of shorter races between now and then as well.  

For now, I'm looking forward to four new half marathons, one repeat half marathon, one multi-race challenge, and my first full marathon.

Now seeking new medal display ideas...I'm gonna need it!!

21 June, 2014

Oh, the Places I'll Go!

Today is the last day of Part One (weeks 1-2) of Jamie's Excellent Adventure.  Although I did my race recap right after ODDyssey, I didn't chronicle my travels to Philadelphia.  I also took zero notes while I was traveling, vacationing, and enjoying the hell out of the last week, so I'm using this post to record every thing I can think of.  It'll probably be long, but it's been amazing, so hopefully it'll also be entertaining to read.

The Journey
I set off from home just about 6 am on Friday the 6th.  Without doing a whole heck of a lot of research, I felt like I wanted to make it into Virginia on the first day and then have a shorter but more stressful (DC, Baltimore, and Philly traffic) day the second day.  I listened to the radio, sang loudly, and left my cruise control on almost the whole day.  I split up my food breaks and my gas breaks so I wouldn't be in the car for more than three hours at a time.  And I have to say, I really enjoyed that first driving day.  I didn't quite make it to Virginia, but as it turns out the town I stopped in was 10 miles south of the border.

Random thought I had at 1pm that first day: "I've been driving for 7 hours now.  That's how long I have to finish the Disney Marathon.  I think I might've preferred running."

On the second day, I found myself all of a sudden confused that when the speed limit slowed to 55 heading into DC, suddenly the slow cars around me were going 75.  The previous day, with a speed limit of 70, I was the fast car at 75-80.  I also think I stopped for a total of 3 tolls: one at the tunnel in Baltimore, another random one in Maryland, and the cover charge for the privilege of entering Delaware, which should have just had a sign up that said "closed for construction."  I eventually made it into Pennsylvania and had an "I am woman, hear me roar" moment when I realized that I had actually made it all the way there, all by myself.

And then I ran a half-marathon.

The Destination
My first week in New Jersey was actually pretty quiet.  I bummed around Jackie's house quite a bit, drove around the area (literally for the first time by myself, since I didn't get my license until college and then the only other times I was here I was with Scott), did some shopping and A LOT of eating...  After the stress of the end of school, start of grad school, leaving my old job, packing, driving, and racing I was perfectly happy to decompress and just relax.  Of course, "relaxing" at Jackie's house is an adventure all on its own, what with the kids and the toddlers and the pets.  I have to say I totally love it as a temporary visitor, but I'm better suited for a quieter existence!

The Active Part of Vacation

this IS our warm-up routine!

On Saturday the 14th, I did a 5k with Jackie's whole family.  The course was a small circle that we were told to lap 10 times (though I did 11 laps to make it 5k by RunKeeper standards), and every time I passed the girls they would ask what lap I was on.  Their response was always "so am I."  So I'm not really sure how far anyone else actually ran but I was proud of them for going out and doing it!

...and I also had a 5k PR, so I'm pretty proud of myself too!

oui, je suis une artiste!
Saturday night, Jackie and I went to one of those "drink and paint" places that was having a fundraiser for a group she belongs to.  We drank, ate, and painted.  I think they do a really great job running the place, because there were about 15-20 people there, and no one's painting was completely awful.  They were all also very different, as you can tell by my painting (on the left) and Jackie's (on the right).  There are things about my painting that I don't love, but who cares?  I'm still going to hang it up at home somewhere, probably with all of the paintings I bought at thrift stores.

the family that jazz hands together...
On Sunday (Father's Day), I went up to New York to spend the day with my cousin Jenn and her family.  I drove to Trenton and then hopped the train to Penn Station, where I met up with Jenn and the girls.  We hopped on the subway to Hell's Kitchen, where we had a huge amazing Greek feast (and every time we turned around there was another plate of hot pitas straight from the oven).  Trip and the girls then headed off on their own NYC adventure day, and Jenn took me to see Violet, my first Broadway show in more than 15 years.  (the last was either Miss Saigon or Beauty and the Beast)  I requested Violet because it stars Sutton Foster, and she didn't disappoint.  In fact, the whole cast was great (I bought the soundtrack), but she was radiant.  We both cried too.  There's something so magical about being on Broadway.  The theaters are old and beautiful, the performers are the best in the world... major goosebumps!  (by the way, here's the Tony's performance from Violet, in case you are interested)  The day wrapped up back at Jenn's for dinner, a subway ride (by myself) back to Penn Station, and a train back to New Jersey.

Also, I (allegedly) saw a dead body while I was headed back to the subway station.  There was a man laying on his back, not moving, and an EMT jumped out of a fire truck, walked over and looked at him, and then asked the people standing around what was up.  The guy's head was blocked from my view by a mailbox or something, but he definitely wasn't moving.  Since the EMT didn't immediately check his vitals or anything, I decided that he must have been obviously dead.  My crosswalk light changed, so I didn't get to stick around and find out the rest of the story.

Tuesday the 17th found me back in Pennsylvania, this time for dinner with Dawn and Mark.  I was really glad they were able to meet me, since Dawn was my closest cousin growing up and we haven't had a chance to really catch up in far too long.  We caught up on each other's life stories (between all of us, there was a lot to discuss!), dished some family dirt, and had a genuinely wonderful time.  And despite being full from dinner, I couldn't resist swinging through the Sonic drive-through next door for an orange slush for the drive back to NJ!

Dinner the following night became a mini high school reunion.  Originally planned for Tom and I, it turns out that Bill and Vicky were also able to come out.  Bill showed up with a folder of letters and postcards from the college years that had me cringing, laughing, and crying.  Our relationship has been from the beginning quirky and uniquely us.  I love him so much, and continue to be grateful that he's in my life.  The four of us laughed so much during our dinner I think we all hated that it had to end.

Dinner did have to end though, because I was up bright and early Thursday morning to spend another day in New York.  This time, my hosts were my cousin Alexander and his girlfriend Megumi.  Alexander promised me a day of hijinks, and he didn't disappoint!  They picked me up at Penn Station and our first stop was the Houdini Museum.  The museum displays were moderately interesting, but the visit took an unexpected turn when the man behind the counter asked "would you like to see a trick?"  We then had what was basically a 20-minute private magic show by this guy, who truly knew his stuff.  He transformed dollars, hovered coins, and did a lot of fun card tricks.

We then took the subway out to Brooklyn, where we had lunch at a Vietnamese sandwich shop (yum!) and then went to this place called Film Biz Recycling, where they sell and rent items used by TV and film production in NYC that might otherwise end up trashed.  We returned to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge.  I'm not sure why this was so exciting for me, but it was such an amazing moment.  Walking toward the city, seeing the Statue of Liberty and the new World Trade Center building to the left, midtown to the right, and the cables and iconic structure of the Brooklyn Bridge straight ahead... Wow, I just loved it!

The Brooklyn Bridge: possibly my favorite half hour of vacation
We then stopped for margaritas and a snack at one of their favorite kitschy bars before doing a quickie tour of the financial district.  They rode the subway back to Penn Station with me, I got a bagel, and then hopped the train back to Trenton.

Side note: I had the pleasure of sitting next to a drunk man on the train back from NYC.  He was simultaneously hitting on me, sexually harassing me (thank you for telling me that your thumbs, like your d---, were large), making racist anti-Muslim comments about the man across the aisle (who was black and speaking French, so I think perhaps he wasn't personally responsible for 9-11), telling me about his wife and kids, and talking about how much money he makes.  Really though, he was harmless and got off the train long before I did.  Had he been staying on until Trenton, I might have jumped off at some point and taken a later train.  It was kind of fun chatting with a random stranger though, even a creepy one.

Yesterday, Jackie and I took the kids to Great Adventure.  The park was pretty dead -- the longest we waited all day was 30 minutes, and a bunch of coasters were actually walk-on.  I got to take each of the babies on Dumbo-like rides, and rode coasters of varying scariness with the older girls.  I think I might have ridden ONE coaster that was there when I was younger.  That park has changed a lot!

The past week has been full of memories, lots of walking, and lots of late nights and early mornings.  Today was my last full day in town, and I spent it doing homework and laundry.  I took myself out to Bobby's Burger Palace for dinner (yum!!) and started getting my things together.

I'm so sad to be leaving.  It turns out I feel South Jersey roots that I didn't know I have.  I'm happy I got to see so many of my friends and family members, but also bummed about the people I couldn't connect with or spend enough time with.

On To School
I leave tomorrow morning and head to State College.  My one week summer intensive course starts on Monday at 8:30 and I'm definitely looking forward to getting started...but I'm also terrified at the same time.  It's been a long time since I've set foot in a classroom and actually tried.  I guess we'll have to see how it goes!  Hopefully I'll have another "I am woman hear me roar" moment on Friday when I'm done with the class!

11 June, 2014

ODDyssey Half Marathon Recap

Greetings from rainy New Jersey, my home base for two weeks.  What started as a "runcation" for the ODDyssey Half turned into an extended visit stretched out between the race and my week at Penn State.  So I'm enjoying quality time with Jackie and Jon and their kids (OMG toddlers love taking selfies. This is my new favorite "make it stop fussing" activity. Thank God for the Otterbox!).  And since I have some quiet time, I thought now would be a good opportunity to recap the original reason for this trip.

The Expo was held the day before the race, on Boathouse Row.  This was fascinating for me, since you see the boat houses from the opposite side of the river any time you take the Schuylkill Expressway out of Philly.  To actually be over there... I don't know - I thought it was kind of awesome!  I was able to get a close parking spot, and after two days in the car genuinely enjoyed the short walk to Lloyd Hall.  I picked up my bib and t-shirt, got a quick photo in front of the race banner (thank you random stranger -- yes I will hand you my iPhone for the sake of my own vanity!), and then headed out.  The expo was small, and I didn't really have a whole lot of interest in shopping.  I found a bench under a tree facing the water, and hung out there waiting for Nicole, who arrived about 20 minutes later.  Once she got her bib and shirt, we made our way from Fairmount Park to Center City to check into our hotel.  I got us lost, circling all those one-way streets trying to find the parking garage, but we got there eventually.  We carb-loaded for dinner, I got some homework done, and we got to sleep nice and early.

Pre-Race mornings are always mildly stressful, especially in a hotel room, double-especially when you're sharing that room with someone else!  But Nicole and I got ourselves fed, dressed, and out the door in plenty of time to walk the four blocks to the shuttle stop.  Because we waited until the week before to book the shuttle, we ended up with the earliest time -- 5:30.  As a compulsively early person with a desire to use the port-a-potty before it gets completely horrid, this suited me just fine.  The bus ride from Center City to Fairmount Park was quick and easy, and I have to say I kind of like the Mega Bus.  With outlets over every seat and free wi-fi, I think maybe it wouldn't be the worst way to travel long-distance.

Nicole and I both rocked the pink & blue...
completely unintentionally!
Anyway, we found ourselves in "hurry up and wait" mode once we arrived.  We took some photos, stretched, I got to see Lynne (who was running her very first half -- and did so faster than my own PR -- I'm so proud of her!), and then we lined up in our corrals.  The start was disorganized.  The PA wasn't loud enough to be heard in the back of the field.  I think someone sang the National Anthem, but without speakers further back we couldn't hear any of it.  Pre-race announcements?  I dunno -- maybe there were some.  I heard the "womp womp womp" sound of Charlie Brown's teacher over the speaker, but couldn't actually make out any words.  They also set us off in waves, which I guess worked out ok because I never really thought the course was crowded.

The race, once we got underway, was lovely.  We started and ended at the Please Touch Museum, and wound through Fairmount Park.  The smell of honeysuckle was absolutely distracting for me.  It turns out that's up with jasmine and orange blossoms on the list of smells that link me instantly back to my childhood.  But I digress... It was a beautiful course.  Unfortunately, it was also brutal.  There were two monster hills during the run.  The first, a steep climb around mile 5, led to the Strawberry Mansion Bridge.  I was actually able to maintain my intervals for this one, though certainly not my pace!  The second, which felt like it lasted a half mile, was after mile 12.  I vaguely remembered reading recaps from other years, and knew this hill was a spirit killer, but I was feeling cocky.  After the causeway bridges at Melbourne and Sarasota, I thought I'd have no trouble here.

I.  Was.  Wrong.

I walked the whole hill.  My legs absolutely refused to even pretend to run until I was at the top.  Luckily, once I reached the top of the hill, I think I only had 1/4 mile to go on flat ground to reach the finish.

After crossing the finish line, I was handed my medal and a Philly soft pretzel and I set off to find Nicole.  Strangely, it wasn't until we were waiting in the beer line that I realized I didn't see anyone handing out water.  Nicole said she had gotten a bottle, but they were being stingy with them.  They also handed out chocolate-peanut butter Kind bars.  I would've liked to try it, but it was so melted and gross that it went in the freezer at the hotel and then just looked like a rock-hard mess.  Chocolate: not the best idea for a race in June!

The line for beer (and commemorative pint glasses) was long, but moved quickly.  We sat in the shade enjoying the fermented fruits of our labor, and then headed back to the hotel and a post-race brunch at Reading Terminal.

My Race Stats:
Chip Time: 3:14:55 (my second-slowest race of 2014)
Pace: 14:52 min/mile
Overall Place: 2800/2881
Gender Place: 1674/1741

My Splits:
note: RunKeeper thinks I ran 14.47 miles at a 13:30 pace, and I don't know why it was so far removed from reality.  So I'm mostly including these for S&G's
mile 1: 12:16 min/mi
mile 2: 11:55 min/mi
mile 3: 12:51 min/mi
mile 4: 12:55 min/mi
mile 5: 13:35 min/mi
mile 6: 15:13 min/mi
mile 7: 14:10 min/mi
mile 8: 12:47 min/mi
mile 9: 14:18 min/mi
mile 10: 13:45 min/mi
mile 11: 13:58 min/mi
mile 12: 14:04 min/mi

mile 13: 13:55 min/mi
mile 14: 12:55 min/mi
mile 15: 14:17 min/mi

Up until that last hill, I really felt like I was doing very well.  I felt happy and strong into the end, which I hadn't experienced in a long run since I adjusted my intervals.  And I think on a flat course this would have been an easy PR.  I enjoyed this race, though I certainly wouldn't travel up from Florida for it again.  This was my ninth half-marathon, and although I'm disappointed by my time I'm proud of how far I've come.

I had considered running the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut race this coming Saturday, but I'm going to let common sense prevail.  This means my next half marathon isn't until Lake Nona at the end of October.  My only other races for the fall season are the Space Coast Half and Divas Half.  The rest of the time I'll be training for the WDW Marathon.  And although I haven't registered for it yet, I think my first post-marathon race will be Gasparilla.

02 June, 2014

Six Months of "During"

It's been six months since I posted the first of my "during" photos.  My weight hasn't really changed much in the past two months, and I have to say I don't see much of a difference at all anymore.  Honestly, at this point I'm just keeping it up because I think once marathon training picks up in the fall there will be big changes relatively quickly.  

I'm fine with that.  Everybody plateaus at some point.  I know I need to add a day or add distance if I want to keep improving, and I'm hoping that my later start time at the new job means I'll be able to consistently do 5k on my run mornings instead of 2 miles.  I also need to get back to eating healthy foods.  I've been so bad recently, and I feel it all over.  Frankly, I'm impressed that I haven't gained weight over the past few months since my race season ended.

Anyway, that's all for today.  Maybe I'll have some positive changes to report by August.

24 May, 2014


Often, the periods between my blog posts are either filled with negative things I'd rather not talk about or negative space -- nothing at all to talk about.

This time, it's been absolutely crazy around here.  I kept thinking, "I need to blog this," only to decide that sleep was a more effective use of my time.  But so much has happened and is about to happen that I feel I need to document.  So here is a timeline of the past two weeks and the next five weeks:

The Past Two Weeks:
May 10: Graduation Day!!  Celebrated by Park Hopping with Mom
May 11: Mother's Day -- celebrated with Mom
May 13: Got a call to schedule a job interview
May 14: 14th Company anniversary -- celebrated by going to the doctor. (I'm fine)
May 15: Job interview
May 17: Return to Magic Kingdom, this time to get a sneak-peek of the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride with Cindy, a former intern who worked on the project over the past year. (that's her screaming next to me in the photo to the left. Kat, who was an apprentice at DAK a few years back, is behind my right shoulder)  The ride is great, and I'd say a wait of up to 40-60 minutes is acceptable.  The queue is shaded and has activities.  While at MK, I also did the Hall of Presidents, Haunted Mansion, TTA, and had a Dole Whip.
May 19 (morning): First day of grad school! 
May 19 (afternoon): JOB OFFER!!
May 20-23: Flurry of work-related activities, including trying to wrap up projects, tell people I'm leaving, make sure my area's training compliance doesn't crash & burn while there's no one in my position, learning about my new position... and of course, still trying to get through my normal daily tasks while my head is 8,000 other places at once!

Homework for week one. This includes 2 essays, a quiz, reading 4 chapters in textbooks, and watching a 40-minute movie.  

Next Week:
Monday: Memorial Day; planning to spend it getting ahead on next week's homework so that next weekend I can knock out as much of the following week's homework as possible
Wednesday: getting fingerprinted. 
Some other day: take my car to the dealership to get her road trip ready
Weekend: lots of homework, laundry, and maybe try to start packing

Week of June 1:
Last week in my current job!  Currently, my plans are to work Sun-Thurs (or work 4 10-hour shifts Mon-Thurs).  I'm going to need to pack and move all of my personal stuff out of the office.  There's a lot, including a large metal zebra, race bibs, and a bunch of stuff on the wall.
Thursday: Last day at DAK.  Potluck with my team. I'm planning to be a soggy sobbing mess by Thursday afternoon.
Friday: Leave for vacation early morning*
Saturday: Arrive in Philly in time to pick up my race packet for ODDyssey, spend the night in the city

Weeks of June 8 & 15:
Sunday 6/8: ODDyssey Half Marathon, head over to Jackie's house (my home base for these weeks)
Rest of the time: Bum around PA/NJ, catch up with as many friends and family as possible, do homework, possible trip up to NYC, eat LOTS of pizza, bagels, Chinese...

Week of June 22:
Traveling to Penn State for week-long summer intensive "Seminar in Employment Relations" class on campus.  If not for everything else going on in my life right now, this would be the highlight of my summer.  I'll be staying on campus (in a dorm building that wasn't there when I left 14 years ago), spending most of each day in class, and actually interacting and networking with my classmates.

June 28-29: Drive home

June 30: Start my new job

It's far too much to process logically.  The best I can do right now is to keep breathing, make lots of to-do lists as things pop into my head, and do my best to stop and enjoy the ride whenever possible.  I'm sure I'll check in between now and the end of June, but at least now you know where I'll be!

*Yes, I'm leaving home for three weeks.  Scott is going to be staying here, enjoying some roommate-free living and cuddling with the kitties.  I'm so glad our friendship is "ok" enough that he's willing to do that for me.

15 May, 2014

Actually Park Hopping!

If you've been reading the blog recently, you might have realized that I haven't actually been doing much park hopping.  Perhaps after 14 years of living in the shadow of Disney, I've had enough "magic."  Actually, I don't think that's true at all.  Life has been pretty busy, and I genuinely enjoy my couch!

That said, I decided that the best way to celebrate my graduation (by the way, "Hi, my name is Jamie. I'm an alum of Penn State University, and a grad student.") was to "hop" to all four Disney parks in one day.  And the only person brave or crazy enough to play with me was my mom.

As you can see, we did it!
AK, Studios, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom: all in one day!
We got into Animal Kingdom around 9:45 (because I left my ticket in the car.  rookie move!), took our selfies, and then headed to our designated ride, Kilimanjaro Safari.  Unfortunately, the wait time was 45 minutes, and that wasn't on my agenda.  We walked through the gorilla viewing instead, and then left AK for the Studios.

At the Studios, our one and only activity was sitting at the bar at Prime Time Cafe and enjoying a peanut butter & jelly shake.

From there, we took the car to the TTC and then the monorail to Epcot.  We got there around 1:00 and bee-lined to the World Showcase.  We split an avocado margarita, had lunch in Japan, and then split a Gran Marnier slush.  Hooray for Epcot!

Our park hopping day ended at the Magic Kingdom, where we finally rode an actual ride (the People Mover), plus enjoyed the air conditioned entertainment of the Carousel of Progress.  It was a lot of fun, though exhausting, and we got a bunch of fun photos.  Plus, the bonus of not riding rides is that we basically waited in no lines all day!

That evening, mom and I had dinner at Red Robin with two of my work friends.  We ate and talked and laughed... It was a wonderful non-conventional way to celebrate my non-conventional graduation.  And then we wrapped up the weekend with Mother's Day brunch at TooJay's.
BONUS: more photos from our weekend-o-fun

07 May, 2014

Leapin' Lizard!

I'm having a bad lizard week here at Casa ParkHopper.  Monday I came home to a dead-ish lizard in the middle of my kitchen floor and two cats completely disinterested in assisting with its disposal.  As it turns out, the lizard was only "dead" until Elphie took a half-hearted swat at it and her claw hit it mid-back.  THEN it was miraculously cured and running right at me!  It's now dead (I assume) in front of the kitchen sink.  I won't touch it*, and haven't yet been motivated to pull out the vacuum to suck up the tiny carcass.

Today I kept thinking I was seeing motion out of the corner of my eye, but both cats were asleep on the couch.  Finally I realized there was another freaking lizard in the house, this one very much alive and on the move.  On the stairs.  And then the little effer JUMPED from one step to another.

Did you know they do that?

I guess Little Orphan Annie did!

Anyway, I took some video and uploaded it to Instagram.  I can't figure out how to embed it here, but here's the link.  For the record, once I made my new pet do its party trick for the camera, I did try to rescue it.  I grabbed a big plastic bowl with lid and actually managed to get the bowl over the lizard.  But the lid was pretty thick, and sliding it under the bowl gave the lizard a big enough opening to dart through... of course, straight toward me!  After I squealed and nearly lost my balance 7 steps up the stairs, I chased it down the steps.  It evaded capture and darted under the TV cabinet.

If I'm lucky, I won't see it again until the next time the furniture is moved.  Of course, my luck isn't actually that good...I bet I see that lizard again before bedtime.

*I can't touch dead things, even when they've been motionless for multiple days.  Blame this on an unfortunate fish tank incident when I was a kid.  I was carrying a dead swordtail to the bathroom for a burial at sea, and right when I got to the toilet, the thing resurrected and flopped out of my hand right into its watery grave.  NEVER AGAIN -- zombie creepy-crawlies are REAL!

UPDATE: not sure this is the same lizard, but I managed to catch & release this one! (Sorry for the blur - the phone didn't want to focus through the plastic bowl)