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.

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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!

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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?).

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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.

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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:

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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

 

“Meet Me Tonight In Atlantic City”

November 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty,
and meet me tonight in Atlantic City.
-Bruce Springsteen-

Atlantic City, New Jersey: a place I’ve been to only once and actually never thought I’d find myself back in. Until this weekend, that is. The casino atmosphere has zero appeal and I’m not much of a beach dweller (though I love looking at the ocean and walking along the shore), but Connor found himself there on a business trip and I—desperate to escape Princeton for a little while—decided to tag along. As I was cruising down the Atlantic City Expressway last Friday night, I strategically made sure this classic Springsteen song was playing:

While Connor was working I strolled along the ocean (picking up #alloftheshells like my younger self would have done), meandered the Boardwalk, saw a Broadway show (while discovering my inner Elf), and delighted in salt water taffy and the many little surprises and oddities I stumbled upon (like the awesomely creepy Miss America statue across from Boardwalk Hall). I wandered in and out of numerous casinos just to scope out the atmosphere (as unappealing as I find the casino culture, it’s also weirdly fascinating to me, mostly because I don’t understand any of it) and find the coolest/most bizarre slot machine. There’s something delightfully adventurous about being in a city where you don’t know anyone, can freely wander, and have no agenda or anything pressing to think about. Connor was even able to sneak in a little beach time and wandering with me too. And we spent (wasted?) a whopping $5 on a few slot machines, which was amusing…that Britney Spears slot though? Not as “lucky” as I would have thought. Anyway, here are some fun shots from the weekend’s escapades!

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No Mousing Around

October 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’ve had a few little birdies lately (you know who you are and thank you!) give me some much-needed encouragement to start writing again and jump back on the blogging train. Well, it worked—I am back!
Though sometimes I still feel like this:

Writing is like a muscle; you’ve got to consistently train and work hard to make it stronger. So in that spirit, let’s get to it! Knowing that it’s been quite a while since I last wrote, take a quick look at the previous post and notice the first item on the Things To Do list: run a 5K or 10K. Well, not only did we sign up for a run, earlier this spring we signed up for a half marathon. A. HALF. MARATHON.

This coming January, Connor and I are going to be heading down to Walt Disney World for the Marathon Weekend to run 13.1 miles through the happiest place on earth. Funny…what I wrote in January on here is exactly what I’ve been saying to myself over the last few months leading up to our first training week: it’s always good to work toward something, right? Very true. I honestly can’t say I’ve had a challenge like this come my way in a while. I’m excited (it is Disney, after all) and a little nervous, but I have my running goal set and I’m determined to finish strong (and have a damn good time while I’m at it).

I also love that the Run Disney Twitter jumped on the encouragement bandwagon with this right after we signed up:

And to quote my Dad: “well, there’s no DUCKing out now.” Ain’t that the truth.
We adapted the Disney hashtag from our trip last October to incorporate a little social media fun into our training. Head to Instagram and check out: #WDWNatConTraining
We’re just finishing up training week five right now and we are rocking it!