Dumbo Double Dare Training Log: Weeks 10 + 11

July 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

Sometimes even the best laid plans get bamboozled.

I was supposed to be in Wisconsin this weekend but between multiple canceled flights and running around Newark airport like a tired lunatic at an ungodly hour of the morning (yup, that was me in the Packer hat), I pushed my entire travel itinerary to next week. I missed the Storm the Bastille nighttime 5K through downtown Milwaukee, but oh well, there’s always next year! I was working on a draft of our week 10 #NatConTraining log, but between work stuff and the epic travel kerfuffle, I just couldn’t finish it, so here’s a week 10 + 11 combo post.

July 10, 2016 – 9.5 and stayin’ alive!
I did not want to get out of bed Sunday morning. My arm buzzed (gee, thanks FitBit) at 7:20am and I frantically tapped the device (eyes still closed and half asleep mind you) to shut it up…oops, I mean shut it off. At that moment, getting out of bed was as unappealing a task as the other important one staring me in the face: running 9.5 miles. After about 20 minutes of staring at the ceiling, just me alone with my thoughts, the sarcastic side of my brain said: “ya know, that half marathon isn’t going to train itself”…so, perhaps a little begrudgingly, rolled out of bed. Luckily, I had my clothes, shoes, and fuel all prepped the night before in case of such an event.

For all the half marathon training long runs so far, I haven’t run to music. I’ll occasionally use it on the shorter 30-45 minute runs (I mean, who doesn’t love running to some Springsteen, am I right?), but not for the longer runs. Running the race with music isn’t something I plan to do (it is Disney after all; gotta enjoy all those sights and sounds!), so I definitely don’t want to train with music and then get used to running with it and be mentally effected during the actual race. This past Sunday was an exception. And boy did it help!

I went into the run with no time expectation or goal; I just tried to relax and do what I needed to do. Which, interestingly, I ended up actually achieving that while focusing on form. The run still had its rough patches (this one stretch of road along my route always ends up being my slowest mile), but of this I can often be certain: the runs that seem difficult at the beginning, end up surprising you in the end. Also – I had way too much fun taking post-run pics this day. Had to make sure I was between 9 and 10.

So on my current route, I pass a statue of The Boss on Nassau Street (at least once, if not twice) and every time I pass by, I tap the top of his head. Because why not? #BornToRun Toward the end of my 9.5 miler, I happened to be walking by, which was a little unusual, so I stopped for a quick selfie.

July 17, 2016 – 4 miles
It was a hot, humid, and sweaty 4-miler today. I got a later start than I wanted to this morning (Between all the travel stuff last week I was getting up much earlier than normal and thought I could try to get into a better and earlier morning routine…yeah, nope. This girl needs her 7-8 hours of sleep. But I’ll keep trying), but still made it work and finished before the temps got above 85 degrees.

Humidity and I are not friends (wait, is anyone friends with humidity?). Alone with my own thoughts this morning (no music today), I kept thinking about my high school self and that inhaler that was a constant presence in my bag during basketball and track season. Humidity was always the x-factor in triggering the hyperventilation/exercise-induced asthma for me, particularly during basketball (gyms with no AC, bring it!). After high school, I never used that inhaler again. There’s a strong possibility it could be hiding in my senior year pair of track spikes…mmm, gross. Aren’t running thoughts interesting?


In an attempt to get creative with my stadium mileage tracking photos (points for trying?),  today’s is below. Though I still had to at least take a selfie since today I could put up the mileage on one hand and I just like taking pics with my Packers running hat. Next week, weather/Mother Nature/United Airlines-permitting, I’ll get crafty with some Milwaukee shots so stay tuned!:)

Dumbo Double Dare Training Log: Week 7

June 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

Our Dumbo Double Dare #NatConTraining is in full swing and Saturday’s 8 mile run concluded week 7. That’s right, we are already on week 7 of 19! Time flys when you’re having fun (running).

We haven’t quite been the documentarians we were during #WDWNatConTraining for the Disney World Half Marathon this past January, but we’re working on that (just wait until we get into the weeks with a big walking day followed by a run day!). An exciting career opportunity for Connor came up early this month and he’s spending the summer working up in the Berkshires. So that means we’re both navigating a majority of our training solo. It was a little hard to get used to during the first week as our entire training and race journey thus far has been together (we ran the half marathon side-by-side and crossed the finish line holding hands), but this will certainly strengthen our mental toughness and help make us better runners.

The 8 miles I ran on Saturday went so much better than I remember the first time around; maybe I just have a different frame of mind now (or maybe it’s weather-related, who knows?). It’s also the farthest I’ve ever run solo and I did it without music (I’ve been listening to music during the short weekday runs, but not for the longer runs as I don’t want to make it a habit since we won’t be running with music during the actual race). Knowing how hot it was going to be this weekend, I made sure to have my clothes and fuel all prepped the night before so I could get outside before it got too hot. I had been thinking of what my run/walk strategy would be for this particular training run for a while. My recent MO had been 7 minutes running/3 minutes walking, but when I did that for the 6.5 mile training run two weeks ago, I realized that it was not quite a sustainable pace for me just yet. For our half marathon in January, we followed the Jeff Galloway Run Disney training program and our strategy was 5 minutes running/3 minutes walking for the first 5 miles, then 6 minutes running/4 minutes walking for the rest of the way with an added minute walk at each hour mark (plus GU time!). Using that as I guide, I decided to try 6 minutes running/4 minutes walking for the first 4 miles (then GU time!), then 7 minutes running/3 minutes walking for the remaining 4 miles.

The run definitely had its ups and downs, but overall it felt pretty good (I also took my new Packer hat for a spin, that must have helped)! I was very aware of my pace—not only because of the heat, but also because we’ve noticed that our paces quickened somewhere during our April/May training runs (must have been those two short beer runs we did, haha)—and kept it pretty well in check while still maintaining mostly sub-12 minute miles, save 2 of the 8 miles.

Next weekend the real fun begins: 1 mile walking on Saturday followed by 7 miles on Sunday. Stay tuned!


Daringly Dumbo

April 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

The last time we wrote about running was way back in January following our first-ever half marathon at Walt Disney World (read about it here: Post-WDW Half Marathon Thoughts) and we teased about not quite knowing what race to do next…well, that day has arrived, my friends!

Connor and I will be running the Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare Challenge this September (a 10K on Saturday followed by a half marathon on Sunday of Labor Day weekend) in support of Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.


We are raising $1,930 (for our 19.3 miles) for Autism Speaks! To celebrate World Autism Awareness Day today, April 2, we are asking our friends, families, and colleagues to contribute to this great cause. Any amount given is greatly appreciated and will go a long way toward autism research. Head on over to our fundraising page for more information:
NatCon Dumbo Double Dare Challenge 19.3 miles for $1930.

Like our months leading up to the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, we’ll be documenting our Dumbo Double Dare training on social media via ‪#‎NatConTraining‬. Follow along, share your comments and enthusiasm, and help us meet our goal to support Autism Speaks.

My 15-Year Spinal Fusion-versary

February 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Today is my 15-year spinal fusion-versary. It’s not really the type of thing one celebrates with a cake, I suppose. So here’s a photo of me with my infamous back card celebrating the stainless steel rods that have been decorating my spine for half of my life. That’ll work in lieu of cake, right?


I just got a new laptop a few weeks ago and in clearing some things off of my old one, I found the blog I had to keep as part of my photojournalism class in college (here it is, it’s a hoot: Lightyears Away). So I started browsing it and came across my favorite project for that class: the photo essay I did on surgery scars (seriously, check it out!). That got me thinking about my back brace and my surgery and my back in general and…holy cow, I’m coming up on 15 years here!

I’m not really sure why I feel the need to write about this at every five-year milestone. It certainly had a significant impact on my life then (as a quiet, sarcastic, immature but impressionable 15-year-old) and still does to this day (as a quiet, sarcastic, immature but impressionable 30-year-old). Funnily enough, I actually summed things up pretty well on the 10-year spinal fusion-versary blog post, which was aptly titled Baby, Got Back?.

Everything I wrote about my surgery experience five years ago is exactly how I remember it today (from the surgeons admiring my bruised knees from just finishing my freshman basketball season to log-rolling out of bed very slowly every morning to name a few). And, for the record, I still cannot drink V8 Splash without gagging, warm vanilla sugar-scented anything brings #allofthememories flooding back, and I’ve still never legitimately needed to use my back card (it’s more like a strange conversation piece/wallet swag).

I recently came across article about a young girl in Milwaukee who also has scoliosis (among other complications):
Magnets in spinal rods help girl ‘grow’ without surgery.
The advances in technology that have been made in the last 15 years are simply incredible (though I admit, what she has to go through would freak me out to the core). This story makes me so thankful to have been living near Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin at a time when I needed them and also so grateful for their wonderful orthopedic team (yup, that’s my surgeon quoted in the article!) and nurses who helped me through the whole process. It’s quite a special place that helps so many children day in and day out, and I’m proud to be one of them.

Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ

February 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Connor: What would you like to do this weekend?
Me: Hmm…well, we’ve talked about going to Asbury Park…
Connor: Let’s do it!

Who goes to the beach in the middle of February, you ask? Well, that’d be us. I’d never been to Asbury Park before and wasn’t about to let a little cold weather and windchill get in the way of us exploring a new town…ok, so I had one moment of wussing out before we left…which I will chalk up to having to fill up the tires on the car without gloves and the rude gas station attendants. But I digress.

We started off the morning with brunch at Toast. When Connor suggested it, I took one look at the menu, saw red velvet pancakes, and was immediately hooked. We both got scrambles and a single pancake (red velvet for me, chocolate chip for Connor). So good! After brunch, we went meandering down Cookman Ave, stopping in a few shops here and there. Got two Springsteen albums at a record store, like ya do. Then our meter was up, so it was time to move. On to Kane Brewing!

So we first discovered Kane at Winberies in Princeton. As they started popping up at other places in the area, the more we tried, the more we really liked it! And since they’re close to Asbury Park (and their beers are not available in liquor stores), we decided to go check them out. We got a sampler of Solitude (Belgian dark strong), Hop Head Triple IPA, Simplicity (Belgian strong), and Malus (Belgian strong w/local apple cider and spices). Then we got a second taster of HopLab Triple IPA and Silent Night (imperial stout with coffee). Apparently we picked a really good day to go—the latest batch of HopLab: Triple IPA was fresh from the tank AND they had a special barley wine bottled for Valentine’s Day, Vengeful Heart. They have a really nice little operation up in Ocean Township and are certainly growing. Can’t wait to see what else they brew up!


Beer tasting at Kane. Check! Now, it was time to check out the boardwalk. We parked near the Convention Hall (they were having a special Valentine’s Day Bazaar inside) and walked around the Hall and outside along the boardwalk. Since we drove all the way out there, I decided we should at least go check out the ocean instead of just looking at it from the boardwalk. At this point in the afternoon, it was 15 degrees with a windchill of -6. Yes, you read that right. So down to the water we went…that lasted about 5 minutes. The chill really set in and our hands were like ice! We all but ran back up the sand dune and back to the car. I managed to get a few fun black and white shots.

We drove back to Cookman Ave (and thank goodness for the heated seats in my car!) and checked out Johnny Macs (free pizza, woo hoo!). My, my is it an eclectic bar! Then we stumbled upon a brand new restaurant called Skratch (they just opened one day earlier!). We each got a Kane (naturally) and split some mussels (in salsa verde w/garlic, yum!) and chicken wings. Both were great. Next time we come down here, we’re definitely going to return, plus there’s a speakeasy in the basement that looks really sweet!

And there you have it. Our winter day trip to Asbury Park, NJ! You can bet we’ll be back when it’s a little warmer…like at least 50 degrees.:)

Post-WDW Half Marathon Thoughts

January 12, 2016 § 2 Comments

Now that we’ve returned from the happiest place on earth and (I think) recovered from our first half marathon, we wanted to share the excitement and experience of race day and what we learned.

First of all…we did it! And we completed the race in under three hours, which was our goal (not too shabby for our first half marathon, huh?).

Second: What a blast we had! Leave it to Disney to know how to truly make every mile magical. Despite getting up at 2:30am (Connor would like to point out that he was awake at 1:15am…show off…also, dude, why?), the morning actually flew by. We ate our english muffins with peanut butter (our favorite easy-to-digest pre-run fuel), boarded our bus around 3:15, got to Epcot about 30 minutes later, and sat around/stretched for about an hour before being ushered to our starting corral. The race started at 5:30am, but we didn’t actually cross the starting line until about 6:15am. Here’s a shot of us in our corral and then a little video of the race conDUCKtor (haha, see what I did there?), Donald Duck, sending us off in true Disney style.


After that, we were off and running! It was a little packed at the beginning (you don’t realize how narrow those Disney roads can get when you’ve only been on them by bus!), but those expert crowd-weaving skills I’ve mastered by being a frequent Disney visitor over the years really paid off. We didn’t stop for many photo-ops along the race course (holy cow those character lines can get really long!), but we at least had to do this one:


The race moved along quite swiftly actually. A few of our top magical moments include: running up Main Street, USA, around the Magic Kingdom park, and through Cinderella Castle; the amazing team of RunDisney volunteers (everyone we met was so nice and supportive!); Sarge from Toy Story giving us all some much-needed motivation around mile 10 (take a look below), and making the final loop around Spaceship Earth hand-in-hand.

It’s hard to believe that the training is finished and the race has come and gone. What seemed like an impossible feat merely a year ago, is now a reality: we actually did it! Although miles 8-10 were a little rough (I can’t quite pin point why), we felt very prepared from the training we did. That being said, e couldn’t speak more highly of the Jeff Galloway training program recommended by RunDisney. For first-time half marathoners like ourselves, it was an incredibly valuable resource and guide as we ventured into this unknown territory (until this point, neither of us had run anything longer than a 5K). If you’ve ever considered running a full or half marathon or even a 10K, you can absolutely do it. The Jeff Galloway program is for you! Check out all his customized RunDisney training programs here: Running Programs & Guides.

So, you might be wondering: what’s next? Good question. Well, we’re still thinking about it. I won’t dare mention specifics, but I have a feeling we’ll coast toward our next race soon enough. Until then, here are some more of our favorite shots from race day, including a celebratory photo-op with our favorite dog!

Pre-Race Day Thoughts

January 8, 2016 § 1 Comment

It’s your not-so-typical Natalie/Connor Friday night here at the happiest place on earth. Instead of gallivanting around the parks as per usual, we are lounging in our room before dinner, awaiting the much-anticipated event of the last few months: the Walt Disney World Half Marathon.

This is the first half marathon for us both and just being down here over the last few days, I can’t imagine doing it any place else. The training schedule, which started in September, definitely had its challenges (work conflicts, travel, illness), but we adjusted as needed and still managed to figure out our optimal run/walk system (as well as the best times to hit our GU too, of course). We’re aiming to do 5 minutes running/3 minutes walking for the first 5 miles and then do 6 minutes running/4 minutes walking for the rest of the way, adding an extra minute walking at each hour mark and when we GU (my sweet tooth usually pulls me to more chocolaty things, but for some weird reason, the cherry lime flavor is totally my jam!).

One of the things I think I liked best about the whole training process was actually documenting it. For pretty much every training run, we took a photo and shared it (check out #WDWnatcontraining on Instagram if you’re interested!). It was a small way to add some creativity to our runs and I found that I enjoyed the process more while doing it. Here’s one of my faves from our 11-miler…we channeled our inner Aaron Rodgers (Go Pack Go!).

We definitely feel ready for the race tomorrow morning. Not in an “OMG let’s get this over with” kind of way, but it feels like we’ve been training for so long now, it’s just time to rip that Mickey band aid off and do it!

There are just too many good photo gems from the #WDWnatcontraining catalog not to share. Hmmm, I sense a theme here. #GoPackGo #GoNatConGo