Training Begins

Half Marathon training is underway. This is actually happening people. 1 week down! I let Runner design a training plan for me, no questions asked. Actually, I was reading¬†Runner’s world big book of marathon and half-marathon training and some stuff online – but why not use my personal trainer to my advantage? ūüôā He gets such a kick out of it.

The plan is tfirstruno run 4 times a week for 16 weeks. So far I’ve stuck to the schedule. Last week I ran 13 miles – holy cow. I even did my very first run outside in 40 degree weather and squeezed it in right before the Kiwanis meeting. I knew I had to follow the plan to the tee so that I wouldn’t bring about any bad karma straight off the bat.

Subsequent runs were done on the treadmill in the sweatbox that is our apartment’s gym. Do you think I could just bring in a personal fan? The good news is that I’m improving with each run. I get my running mojo from listening to this song on repeat to keep the energy up.

PS: Are you offended if I say that I’m training for a marathon? Runner gets upset. Obviously, if you know me, then you know I would never run 26 whole miles, and if you don’t know me – then I will happily clarify that I’m running a half (13 miles).

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Choosing My First Half Marathon

After I made my announcement, it wasn’t long before Runner researched every race in America that I could possibly run in April and May. I¬†was looking at¬†this time frame because 4-5 months should be plenty of time to train and I wanted to do it before starting grad school.

In the running (pun intended) were:

La Jolla Half Marathon – La Jolla, CA – April 26

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Absolutely gorgeous race and hello KIWANIS! I’ve never been to California and that alone would be amazing, however, with grad school starting soon, it just didn’t make financial sense. I give Runner credit for finding this race, it is perfect.

Pittsburgh Marathon РPittsburgh, PA РMay 3

Many positive reviews about this race are out there, almost swayed me – but the hills!

Flying Pig Marathon РCincinnati, OH РMay 3

Seemed like a long drive for a city I’m not excited about.

The St. Michaels Running Festival РSt. Michaels, MD May 16

This was appealing at first because it seemed close and scenic on the waterfront. However, it would still be a 2 hour drive to get there, so a hotel would be needed. Also, I found a race video on youtube that showed the runners sharing the road with cars which made the whole thing less appealing.

And the winner is…

Delaware Marathon – Wilmington, DE – May 10

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Something about this one is just so darn appealing. It’s not too far away and the date feels right. The logo is purple, so it’s meant to be. I’m a fan of their Facebook page and people are getting excited!

Walt Disney World Marathon

I was so happy that I was able to come with Runner to this year’s Walt Disney World Marathon. Back in 2012 we got engaged after Runner completed his first marathon but I haven’t been back to the race since. Our racecation began with a Thursday night flight out of DCA. Runner and I scored a great deal on a non-stop to Tampa. Runner’s best friend Joey, picked us up and let us stay at his house both before and after the race. IMG_0121Since we were in town early, Friday was our designated theme park day. So many choices – Busch Gardens, Sea World, and Disney. Universal Studios was the winner because I had never been there and we went with our friend Sonia – a true¬†Harry Potter fan.

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Krusty Burger!

Krusty Burger!

I was most excited about visiting Simpsons world! Growing up, my siblings and I would watch at least 2 episodes everyday. Mom would make us turn off the Itchy & Scratchy parts too, lol. There was a large area of the park with statues of all the characters, great for photo ops. There was a Moe’s Tavern where you could order a Duff beer and a Krusty Burger where we tried the signature treat. I was most disappointed that there was a Quik-e-mart but no squishees! There was also a Simpson’s ride which ended up being more fun than I expected. Harry Potter world was a blast. Done to the nines with so many products to buy – good thing we weren’t obsessed fans. Although, I was almost tempted to buy a wand which has special powers in certain locations in the park. To visit both Harry Potter areas and to take the Hogwarts Express we had to buy the park hopper pass which was extra $$ but we figured we better see it now or never. Butter beer was good!!!

IMG_0137 It was a chilly weekday, so we had no problems with lines. We left the park at a reasonable hour, so Runner wasn’t too worn out. That night we made it back to Tampa in time for Italian beef sandwiches with our friend Kie. The next morning, Saturday, we rented a car and headed back to Orlando. This time our destination was Walt Disney World. The expo was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Kudos to the plentiful and free parking.IMG_0143 While the expo wasn’t too exciting, I did get to make a poster to cheer with. We also tried a ton of Powerbar/Goo/ShotBlok samples. Shortly after that we found a hotel on Hotwire just outside of¬†Disney’s¬†main gate. Gotta love off-season hotel prices. We scored a great deal because we really didn’t care where we stayed, just the location. We have successfully used Hotwire this way for years. Highly recommended for those who travel on a budget. That evening we met up with our friend Kathleen for Runner’s ritual Chik-fil-a pre-race meal. We called it an early night and headed straight to bed – Runner was snoring by 8:30p. Now that is dedication!

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Stuck in traffic, but also a great view of the race!

My morning wake-up call was at 3:30am to drive Runner to the starting line. I returned promptly back to bed. The race actually stepped off at 5:30am. Was I there to cheer the runners on? No. While I feel bad that I wasn’t, the logistics of it just made it impossible. However, I did make it through traffic to the finish line (parking at Epcot was $17 ouch!). ¬†After the race we had a satisfying lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings¬†and¬†returned to Downtown Disney for more shopping fun.

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That evening we drove back to Tampa for a dinner of steak and cheetos. No joke. Thanks Joey! That night we were also introduced to the local gem, Seffner Tiki Hut. Finally, on Monday, before getting dropped off at the airport, we had a delicious lunch at Hungry Harry’s BBQ. All you can eat for $11 best. decision. ever.

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The boys at the Seffner Tiki Hut

Race Recap: 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Disney EntranceDisney concludes my 2014 calendar.  I cannot look forward to the rest of 2014 until I look back and reflect on my concluding race of such a great year.  Next week I will not only look at my 2014 season as a whole, but I will also look forward to my 2015 adventures and goals. For now, please enjoy my recap of the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon.

Race Organization: 20/20
There is no race that is organized as well as the Disney races. They have thought of everything that could come up during the expo, the race and the post-race and addressed each scenario.  Their staff and volunteers are always welcoming and happy even during what are a few long days since there are four consecutive days with early race starts.  They have entertainment throughout the race and work to help the runners complete the race as easily as possible.
The one ding against runDisney is that they are so big and complex that they cannot adapt very well to unexpected events.  When there was rain during the race the characters had to go inside instead of just being under cover to still allow the runners to enjoy the energy given by each character through the race.  Despite this one criticism out of all the races that I have ran, runDisney and the Walt Disney Marathon is the cream of the crop.

Expo: 12/20
For Disney being such a well put on and large running event Disney’s expo is lacking in size and attendance of the biggest and best companies and displays. The expo takes place in a great location, at the Jostens Center at the ESPN Wide World of Sports just across from where the packet pick up is.¬† The organization getting into the expo is quick and easy, especially compared to getting into the expos at the Chicago and New York City Marathons. Also, the Disney expo, more than any other, has more custom apparel and merchandise than any other race. If you want anything running related to be Disney themed, you can find it at this expo.¬† Be it t-shirts, running pants, jackets, headbands and even shoes it is available at the expo.¬† Unfortunately many other large running companies are not present at the expo.¬† Champion is the sponsor of the runDisney shirts and they seem to have a monopoly over all the other clothing companies including Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and Asics.¬† No other large company has any presence at the expo also there are, for obvious reasons, no other races present to promote their upcoming events.¬† I understand that runDisney competes with any other race since they have races throughout the year but giving other races the opportunity to promote at their events is good for the running community as a whole and a better experience for the runners themselves. Although the race organization is top of its class, the runDisney expo is definitely not near the best I have ever attended.

In front of 'Spaceship Earth' before the big Race!

In front of ‘Spaceship Earth’ before the big Race!

Race Experience: 18/20
Even to non-runners, the idea of running through Disney parks, during which some are not even open yet sounds like a great opportunity.  This is the opportunity that every runner has during the Walt Disney Marathon.  Getting to run through the Magic Kingdom Castle before the park is open and right at dawn is a great experience that you can only get if you run in the race.  In every race you interact most with the volunteers that man the water stations throughout the long miles and often times after a few hours these volunteers understandably get tired and often will cheer just a little bit less but in Disney this is not the case.  Weather the volunteers and crowds are at mile 2 or 22 they cheer loudly and excitedly for every runner.  For anyone who has been to Disney they know that no matter how old you are you enjoy the parks and the atmosphere and running through the parks is no difference.  It always amazes me how much energy running into the parks gives every runner.  Even after 22 or 25 miles, when you enter those parks you quickly gain more energy and view the future miles as shorter than before.  The only failure that I found in Disney’s execution was one that probably hurt me more than other runners.  In the previous years they have served chocolate and fruit gummies just before mile 23, right as you enter MGM.  This year those gummies were not available and I feel that runDisney saw this as a cost cutting measure.  This treat helped take your mind off the fact that you still have a long 5K to go, and they also provided a refreshing flavor after a whole morning of GU, Powerade and Water.  I hope that Disney just forgot to order these and did not try to save a few pennies by removing them.  Besides that small change that I really didn’t like, Disney put on a world class race that is hard to beat anywhere in the country.

Post-Race: 14/20
Post-race is usually the best part of the day‚Ķbecause the race is over!¬† At the Disney marathon the post-race is a lot of fun for many reasons.¬† The first is that you are in the shadow of Spaceship Earth at Epcot and surrounded by the ‚ÄúHappiest Place on Earth‚ÄĚ.¬† Secondly after the finish you are able to take many photos with more characters, backgrounds, friends and family that were waiting for you to finish.¬† This was mostly the case in 2015 as well, with a few drastic differences. ¬†¬†When I finished the race I saw that there were no nylar blankets available and the massage area seemed much smaller than last year, with a much longer line.¬† I was rushed through the drink area to the picture taking section where I tried to get a picture taken with a friend who was running Dopey but was told that only Dopey runners were allowed to go into that area and I was not allowed as just a marathon runner. Lastly, after I got my bag my friend wanted to wait in line to get her picture with Dopey but it started to rain and they had to take Dopey inside, leaving dozens waiting in line.¬† There was a good chance of rain the whole day and Disney should have been prepared to handle the rain. Disney made some big, and uncommon, mistakes during my post-race time and I am confident that these mistakes will not take place in the future if I were to run the race again.

Relaxing at Downtown Disney later that day!

Relaxing at Downtown Disney later that day!

Extras: 12/20
Disney, as mentioned above, customizes anything that you would want.  You could legitimately have a whole running wardrobe with just runDisney branded items.  The one thing that runDisney doesn’t do well is provide extra items, or allow other groups to have items, to runners during the expo for in preparation for the race.  Every branded item is tightly controlled by Disney and does not allow for some of the unique collector items that you can find at other races.  I hope that in the future runDisney will reach out and open up the abilities of companies to expand the runDisney brand with more new and unique products.

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 76/100
The Walt Disney World Marathon is one of the best in the country.  Although some of the details of this year’s race were not to my liking, the most important aspects, the race experience and organization, are near perfect. While in Orlando for the race you get the opportunity to go to Disney, Universal Studios, the beach or any other activity that Orlando offers.  As you run around the parks you get to see Disney like very few people ever get too, and you really get a lot of energy from the surroundings, the crowds and the excitement.  I still believe that the Walt Disney World Marathon is the best marathon for any first time marathoner, and one of the most enjoyable for seasoned marathoners to participate in.

Journey to Becoming a PA

Deciding on a career path can be a tricky thing. In kindergarten I wrote in a book that I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up. Honestly, I’m not too sure where that idea came from. Shortly after that I decided that I would become an author/illustrator mostly because I loved to read and draw. Then, in fourth grade, after attending a Women in Science day with the Girl Scouts, I came home and told my mom that I would become a surgeon. We got to dissect a cow heart that day. I was forever changed!

I went to college with pre-med dreams. Over time, I became a bit disillusioned by the medical school application process and frankly scared that I didn’t have what it took to become a physician. What did I really know about the day in and day out of being a doctor? I¬† wanted to help people and make a difference, but I knew there were alternative ways to do that. I decided that I needed work experience to figure it out.

Entry level jobs, for a student with a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience, during the Great Recession were hard to come by. My first healthcare job out of college was with an ophthalmologist who posted an ad on craigslist. He wanted someone he could train to see patients his way. This was a position that I was very eager to accept, as it would give me the patient contact experience I was looking for. It was with this job that the door to allied health was open to me. As an ophthalmic technician, I decide which diagnostic tests to perform and whether or not to put dilating drops in. Just a few short months of being on the job, I gained the confidence and desire to work with patients in the clinical setting. I wondered what my career path would look like if I remained in the field and what other opportunities were out there.

This drove me to learn more about becoming a Physician Assistant (PA). They can examine, diagnose, treat, prescribe and assist in surgery under a supervising physician. The schooling is short (2-3 years) and there is flexibility in working in general practice or specialties. The job opportunities are bountiful. Through reading up on the field, talking with PAs, and shadowing opportunities – my desire to become a PA was solidified.

Applying to PA school is extremely competitive. The process requires a lot of time and money. I made a sad attempt of applying back in 2011. That was a real wakeup call to the necessity of researching thoroughly every school you are applying to and applying early. In the three years that followed, I laid as much ground work as I could.I needed to boost my grades, which I did in community college at night. I also continued to gain certifications in ophthalmology. I even decided that I would apply to a nursing program if my second attempt at becoming a PA didn’t happen.

Thankfully, seven applications, four interviews and two acceptances later… I am proud to say that I will be attending the: Southern Illinois University Physician Assistant Program!