Marathon Training a go-go

Welcome to October!

Fall is supposed to bring cooler temperatures, much more suitable for running, especially for running long distances, but so far, there have been far more days with above average temperatures and humidity than those cool, dry mornings autumn is supposed to gift us.

I’ve been building my running base through the summer, trying to run 3 weekdays with shorter runs and then a long run on the weekend.  I ran 16 miles in mid August, then backed off a bit to build some more base and gear up for 2 goal races on fresh legs.  I blogged about both of them already.

I am now coming of the running high of a PR at a destination half-marathon last weekend, and a few glorious mornings of relatively cooler temperatures this week, even if the humidity was still up there.

Now,  comes the hard part.  The longer and longer runs, which take more and more time to execute and recover from.  It means the challenge becomes as much mental as it is physical.  It means saying no to staying up late the night before, no tasty beverages, and saying no to events that would conflict with being able to get that run in or the sleep sufficiently the night before and after.

I also need to think about and plan ahead the night before for all the gear I need to be out on the road for 4 hours or longer as the temperatures get colder and colder and the daylight hours become shorter and shorter.  The need to plan routes that are safe and interesting enough to make me want to get my ass out the door when it’s cold, rainy, windy, or snowing  (I don’t do dreadmills), or dark becomes a thing.

The need to better manage all the things I need and want to do on the weekends as I will be losing at least half a day to these long runs each weekend by the time everything related to the run before, during, and after has to be factored in.  So does the meal planning to ensure I am getting enough calories, nutrients, and hydration, not just the night before, but every day.

every accomplishment

Note to self: I need to change up my running playlist.

Thankfully, RunDisney provided some motivation last week.  They released the 2018 Marathon weekend medals!  The full marathon medal and the Dopey medal are pretty damn sweet.  The Marathon medal is a spinner!

Today was my first long run that was not part of a race in 2 months.  The goal was 16 miles, 17 if I felt good.  The goal was also to run those miles at a relatively easy pace, much slower than race pace.  My plan was to run 60:30 intervals, which could easily be reversed toward the last few miles if I needed to walk more than run.  In the back of my mind is the mantra “build endurance, long runs are not about time, they are about distance”.  The ultimate goal is to remain injury free!

I must admit I’ve not been doing a very good job lately of cross training or fueling during the week.  I really need to get my ass in gear about both of those things.  When one is putting in the miles beyond a half-marathon distance, one needs proper fuel not only before the run, but during and after as well.

I woke at 5:30 to have time to shake off the cobwebs, consume my tea and have a little something to eat before the 3+ hour run.  That being Go-Go Squeeze! I also took a quick shower to wake up and make braiding my hair easier.  My crazy running friend Sarah wanted to run with me, even though she has no desire to actually run a marathon officially.  Even though she’s a bit crazy, I enjoy the company as running with others definitely makes the miles and the time go by faster and it’s more enjoyable. We had a plan to meet at 6:20 am, so we could begin the run with the dawn breaking.

It was 68 degrees with 85% humidity at 6:30 am.  Cloudy and barely light out.  We set out on our journey.  The humidity sucked.  Seriously, it’s October Mother Nature.  The high temperature should be in the 60’s not the low, and WTF with the crazy humidity?  *Sigh*

We plugged along, stopping at mile 4.5 and 13 to refill our water and a take advantage of a real bathroom stop (same one, we pass it twice).  About mile 11 it started to sprinkle a bit, and it was welcome given how muggy it was and how sweaty we were.  It didn’t last very long.  Or so we thought…

About mile 14.5, it started to rain lightly, and then quickly, quite heavily.  We were quickly drenched.  The salt from our sweat ran into our eyes and stung like the devil!  We reached mile 16 and change and Sarah was getting blisters, so we opted to walk the rest of the way back to the car, which amounted to about another 1.25 miles.  Of course, 10 min before we got to the car, the rain stopped.  We were chilled by that point though, and quite done with being soaking wet.  It wasn’t supposed to rain until the late morning/early afternoon!

All in all, we ran 17.36 miles (well, ran and walked) with an overall average pace of 12:48, in 3:42:13.  My goal was about a 13- 13:30 min/mi pace, so we ran a bit faster than I had planned, and felt like a hybrid moderate run.

I came home and took off my sopping wet running clothes and lay on my back with my feet up the wall for about 20 minutes.  Then I took a nice hot shower and had some pancakes and focused on fluid replacement.  Despite my tailwind and water intake throughout the run, I had a dehydration headache for a several hours afterward.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m much less stiff and sore after the long runs than I used to be.  We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, I suppose.

Next weekend, it’s 18 miles.  It seems like a milestone of some sort, although I’m not sure why.  Many marathon training plans stop at 18 miles.  My intention is to train to 23 miles.  I’m confident if I can do 23, I can do another 5K.  Especially at Disney.  I know the route that covers the last 3 miles of that course, I’ve run it before.  The crowd support and knowing my family is near will get me through the last 5K of the race.

I just need to do the training.

eatsleeprun

Are you training for WDW Marathon weekend or another marathon?  How is your training going?

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Race Review: Wineglass Half Marathon

Ever since I read about this “must do”  destination race in a running magazine last year, I have looked forward to experiencing it.  After all, they had me at “wine”.

With a name like the Wineglass ,what’s not to love?  Their logo is awesome, too.  A runner is the stem of the wine glass, and they have both a male and female version of it.  Brilliant!

wineglass banner tree 2

The Wineglass Marathon and Half Marathon are held in Corning, NY, the end of September/beginning of October each year.  They sell out fast, so if you are entertaining the possibility of running this really well organized and themed race, register, and get your hotel room as soon as you can!

The companion Corelle 5K is held the day before.  This race had spots available right up to race day and is a great warm up for the signature races or to share as a fun run with your family if you are running the half or the full.

I wrote about the 5K, including the Expo, packet pick up, and awesome swag for all the races, where to stay, and some of my impressions of the pre-race experience here:  Race Review: Wineglass Corelle 5K

Packet pick up is at the Corning Museum of Glass.  I definitely recommend you take advantage of the 2 day half price admission for runners to explore the museum.  It’s fascinating and beautiful.  I wrote about that in my 5k review as well.

Pre-Race

Pre Race communication was great.  Both via email and social media.  A full color program was included with bib pick up in addition to the virtual version sent a few days prior.

There was a pasta supper with Dave McGillavray (the race director of the Boston Marathon) as the guest speaker, but I did not attend.  It sold out pretty quickly.  He and Bart Yasso also ran the 5K the day before and were available at the Expo on Saturday, the day before the feature races, to meet and greet runners.

Sweet swag!

Did I mention the swag was awesome?  A long sleeve tech half zip (different accent colors for both men and women and for the half and the full), a small bottle of champagne, and a stemless commemorative wine glass along with a fantastic large, heavy-duty string backpack and two $10 gift cards to stores near the finish line were given to all runners at packet pick up.

wineglass string bag

Nice, heavy, string backpack

wineglass half swag 2017

Half Marathon Swag

wineglass program 2017

Race Program Guide

The Course:

The full and half are point to point courses, both net downhill (the full more downhill than the half), that end in picturesque downtown Corning, NY, on Market Street.  The second half of the full is the exact same course as the half.  It’s a great course to chase a PR for either distance, and many run the full hoping for that elusive BQ.  My hope was to PR, in an attempt to improve my corral placement for the WDW Marathon in January.  That is less than 100 days away!  Eek!

Wineglass Half Marathon Course Map

Buses were provided to both start lines from both Corning and Bath.  5-6:30 am for the half and 5:30-7 am for the full.  It was just a few minute walk from my hotel (Radisson Corning) to where the buses were picking up the runners.  It could not have been more convenient!

Schools were available and open for the runners at both start areas, which was handy given how chilly it was!  I recommend getting on the bus early if you want to stay in the school, by the time the last buses arrived, there was really no room to get into the school.  There were plenty of porta johns outside of the school and water available for the runners pre-race.

A frost advisory was issued for the morning, and after weeks of running in above normal heat and humidity, a morning temp of 40 at 5 am dropped to 34 degrees at 7:45 am race start!  It was foggy and damp, so it felt even colder!  It was quite the change!  It was perfect running weather though, and a gorgeous fall day, although it required gloves initially and a layer to shed once I warmed up a few miles in.

UPS trucks served as the bag check by bib #, and would transport the runner bags to the finish.  Each runner was given a clear plastic bag to write their name and bib # on to use for bag check.  This was a brilliant and efficient way to manage bag drop and pick up and it was super easy on both ends.

Highlights of the course

I planned to run with the 2:20 pacer for the half as long as I could.  The course ran through quiet neighborhoods, past farms and corn fields, and along some busier roads and intersections.  There were two slight gentle uphills early on, but the vast majority of the course was a gentle downhill or flat.

One of the most beautiful parts was running on a paved trail through a park.  Kids and others had written on the paths with sidewalk chalk messages of inspiration.  School kids were out cheering and with signs and handing out high fives.  It was really scenic and lovely.  The energy was inspiring.

There were way more spectators than I expected all along the course.  Many with signs and cowbells and even some neighborhood unofficial fuel stops of ice pops, candy and pretzels, and water.  The support from the locals was absolutely amazing.  I found other runners also being super supportive of each other, which you do not always see in races.

Official course support was fantastic.  Plenty of water stops, gels, Gatorade, and porta potties.  Energy was high despite the cold temperatures for the spectators.

I managed to stay with the 2:20 pacer until about mile 8, then I dropped back about a minute at a water stop, but she was ahead of pace.  I lost sight of her about mile 10, but my Garmin told me I was still close to a 2:20 pace.

The Finish line and wine down Par-Tay

As we made our way into Corning, you could hear the spectators cheering and clanging their cow bells as we approached with 1/4 mile to go.  The support was universal and heartfelt.  They were literally cheering for everyone, not just their runners.

The sun finally broke through when I was at about mile 10, and it was bright blue sky by the time I reached the finish.

As the runners made the turn down Market street, the finish line was in sight.  It was the prettiest finish line I have ever seen.  Spectators lined both sides of the street and an MC brought the runners in.  The finish chute was lined with mums and with the banners on each light post,  with the yellow leaves of autumn, it was… quaint.

wineglass finish line 2017

I crossed the finish in 2:21:08.  A nearly 4 minute PR for me.  I was amazed how fast the miles ticked by.  This course really is a PR machine.  I ran 60:20 intervals with one extra walk break due to a wardrobe challenge (trying to get my warm up half zip off toward the end, I couldn’t manage to run and do it at the same time).  I did slow a bit the last few miles, but I was both surprised and pleased I ran it as fast as I did.

In the finish chute you were given your medal, and they actually placed it around your neck instead of handing it to you.  It’s a sweet medal – it’s glass!  A yellow-ish glass for the half and blue glass for the full.  It’s like a sun-catcher!

They also handed you a heat sheet, which was a welcome thing given it was still quite chilly, water, and Wegman’s sponsored the post race food.  That was fantastic as well.  They had chocolate milk, water, soda, bananas, apples, bagels, and chili or chicken noodle soup!  That soup was delicious!  They even had portable benches so runners could sit to eat before leaving the finish area.

They also had a last chance to buy Wineglass merchandise at a tent.

Results were instantaneous either by walking by the results tent (your name and finsih time showed on the screen) or by punching your bib number into a large clock, suitable for photos.

Wineglass PR photo with clock

From the end of the finish chute, I had about a 3 minute walk to my hotel!

The Radisson sponsored a wine down party in the afternoon.  I did not attend, as I had a long drive home, but were I to do this race again, I’d definitely stay another day to partake of more the region has to offer.

Should you do it?

Hell yes!  This should be a bucket list race.  Especially if you like wine, glass, a course that is net downhill and a PR machine, and amazing support.

Kudos to the race director. It is incredibly well-organized, has fantastic theming, great swag and themed merchandise, beautiful unique and hand crafted glass medals, and a community that turns out in droves to welcome and support the runners.  I was so impressed with how friendly and welcoming everyone I encountered was.

I will be back, and hopefully, can convince some of my friends to join me, at least as spectators if not as runners!  I wish I had another day to explore the many wineries in the area.  Next year for sure!

Cheers!

 

Race Review: Wineglass Corelle 5K

About 10 months ago, I read about the Wineglass Marathon weekend in a running magazine as one of the 10 “must do” destination races.

They had me at wine.

So I did some research and quickly bit the bullet and registered.

wineglass logo

 

The Wineglass Marathon, Half-Marathon, and the Corelle 5k are held in, you guessed it, Corning, NY the very end of September/first of October each year.  The title gives you a hint of why this race is so popular.  Corning is the home of Corning glass and just a stone’s throw away, are the finger lakes and the many wineries of the region.  It’s a net downhill course and many marathoners use it for a BQ or PR race, and the weather historically is perfect for running thanks to the time of year and location.

Pre-race communication both via email and via social media was great.

Did I mention the wine?

I live about 6 hours away, so I took Friday off and drove to Corning from central MA.  It was a long, uneventful drive with blissfully no traffic.  In fact, for quite some time, I barely saw other cars on the road!  In the middle of the day.

Where to stay?

I highly recommend if you are going to run this race, and you are not local, that you not only register early (it sells out long before race day), but book your hotel ASAP.  The Radisson in Corning is the official race hotel, and just a few blocks from the finish line and definitely worth staying at.  The other hotels are a 20-30 min drive.  When I first registered in January and tried to book the hotel, it was full, so I booked a hotel in Horseheads.  About 10 days before the race, I checked again, and there were a few rooms available, so I changed my reservation.  I feel so fortunate and am so happy I did.  The convenience can’t be beat.

Corning is a quaint little town and there are tons of shops and eating venues on Market Street, which is also where the finish is.  In the swag, we received two $10 gift cards to two of the shops in town.  One had Wineglass Alex and Ani style bangles, socks, and some other themed merchandise.  Wegman’s even had cookies and cakes especially decorated for Wineglass runners!

wineglass wegmans

The Expo:

The expo was held at the Corning Museum of Glass, which is a pretty cool place.  I enjoyed touring the museum on Friday afternoon, and it was not crowded at all.  The museum gave 50% off admission to all runners, good for 2 days, and everything in the store was 20% off.  I might have done some shopping…

They also had a special make your own sandblasted wine glass for $13/glass.  If you were lucky enough to register ahead of time, you could also sign up for a make your own glass (really participate in making your own glass, a professional glass maker guides and assists with the “dangerous” parts as the glass ovens are over 1000 degrees) project (as in from molten glass), as those were sold out for the weekend by Friday afternoon.  I did register weeks ago, and I’m so happy I did.  There is a significant charge, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity most likely for me.  I chose to make a grape wine tumbler.  The experience definitely gave me a greater appreciation for the skill and patience it takes to make glass objects.  Others in my time slot chose ornaments or glass flowers.  It was so interesting and fun, and I love the finished product!

The expo itself was off to the side of the gift shop in a function area.  The official wineglass merchandise was squeezed into a rather narrow hallway leading into the expo room.  I arrived about an hour after the expo opened on Friday.  It was not crowded.  There was a decent variety of Wineglass merchandise.  The vendors at the expo were okay.  There were only a handful of them, although I did purchase a RunSeen long sleeve tech shirt.

I went back on Saturday morning, and it was quite crowded, and they had some different merchandise, and were apparently sold  out of some of the things they had the day before.  If you can get to the expo on Friday, I recommend it, both to beat the crowds and for the best selection of merchandise.  They had some unique items, too, like fleece throw blankets!

wineglass blanket

A cozy fleece blanket

Bib pick up was quite organized with 3 distinct areas with queues and a packet pick up monitor at the entrance of each race area to help make sure everyone found the correct race distance.   There was also good signage.  I picked up my half marathon packet first and then the 5K.

5K swag included a long sleeve cotton race shirt in black.  I really liked the logo.  After the race, in addition to the medal, all runners received a commemorative Corelle 5K bowl, but you had to pick it up at the Corelle store downtown, which was near the finish line for the half and full.

Half-Marathon and Marathon swag was fantastic!  A great, heavy duty large string backpack, a stemless commemorative wine glass,  a small bottle of champagne, and a long sleeve tech half zip for a race shirt!  Sweet!  An actual printed full color program was also included, in addition to the virtual one.

All the volunteers were super friendly and helpful.  They all wore bright yellow T-shirts which made them easy to identify as well.

The Corelle 5K:

corelle 5K

Will run for corning ware?

20170929_185207

Flat Kimmy for the 5k

In sharp contrast to the weather everyone in the northeast has been running in for months, it was 50 degrees and a light drizzle with on/off rain the morning of the Saturday 5K.  It began at a school, where there was ample parking, several port o potties, and the gift of being able to stay in your car until about 10 min before race start.

The course was out and back, and a fairly scenic run.  There was one water stop about mile 1.5.  Course support was good.  Lots of volunteers cheering and ensuring the safety of the runners.  I planned to run it slow and easy.  I used 90:30 intervals, but it was a bit  chilly, I ran a bit faster than I wanted to.  Averaged a 10:30 pace.  There were quite a few spectators lining the finish area, and I was surprised how loud the cheering was, even for the mid pack runners.

Results were available immediately on site or via the website.  My bib did not record unfortunately.  I had checked my half bib chip at the expo but not the 5K bib.  No big deal for a 5K, but for the half, I’d be upset, especially since I’m attempting a PR.

Post run they had water and bagel halves from Wegman’s, although it was a bit hard to notice as it was behind the runners milling about after crossing the finish.

The medal was really cool.  It was really well-made, sparkly, and the 5K actually spun around.  Impressive for a 5K medal for sure.   The fact you also received a commemorative Corelle bowl made this a really amazing 5K.  Great course, great support, great swag.

I highly recommend this race.  I came alone, as none of my friends wanted to join me.  It’d be more fun to be able to hit the local wineries with friends, but I’m also enjoying some much needed down time and am used to running races solo.

I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow’s half-marathon!  So stay tuned!

 

 

Race Review: Rock ‘n Roll Philadelphia

In my quest to improve my corral placement for the Dopey Challenge at Disney in January, I planned 2 fall goal races.  Both are destination races, but ones I can drive to. Rock ‘n Roll Philly is the first.  It was on my bucket list to run a RNR race.  The timing worked out for this one.

rock and roll philly logo

Why plan 2 goal races in the same month, especially when the second race is just days before proof of time is due? Because of the possibility one of those races might not be conducive to a PR.

Turns out it’s going to be this one (and hopefully this won’t be an issue in 2 weeks) with kind of weather forecast for this weekend.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

First off, registration was easy and pre-race communication was good.  That’s not something I can say about most half marathons I’ve run.  I received detailed updates and final information via email, but the official Web site and Facebook page also had the updates and the Website was easy to navigate with a wealth of information.

The Expo

I took Friday off from work and drove to Philly from central MA.  What should have been a 5 hour drive took 6, in the middle of the day when there should not have been any traffic.  Three words.  George. Washington. Bridge.

After checking into my hotel around 2 and sending my car to the crazy expensive valet parking, I walked the 3 blocks from my hotel to the Philadelphia Convention Center for the expo.

The convention center is huge, encompassing several city blocks.  There was no signage outdoors to indicate which building, side of the building, or doors we were supposed to use to get to the expo.  I was only somewhat clued in by the fact there were lots of school children going into one building, so I assumed that was not the one I wanted.  I was correct.  Signage could have been better.

The expo was actually quite well organized, and I walked right in and got my bibs and T-shirts for both the 5k and half with no wait at all.  Pick up was by bib number and very clearly marked.  They did have a reminder and tablets just outside the expo for those who needed to print their waivers, which had your bib number and starting corral on them.

The T-shirts were “meh”, in my opinion.  It’s not a shirt I’ll ever wear for anything but a nightshirt.  The 5K is gray with a record on it and the half is dark gray with a guitar. They run small.

After picking up bibs and T shirts, you were then in the official merchandise area and also Brooks had a huge booth.  I did find the port-o-potty style dressing rooms to be amusing.  Runner humor really does make you chuckle at the darndest things.   I was uninspired, other than purchasing a RNR pint glass.

RNR philly potty fitting rooms

Confusing to the experienced runner!

From there, it was your typical expo.  I did very much appreciate the free Bark Thins chocolate!  If only the booth next to it gave away red wine…  Some booths had nice give-aways, some seemed out of place like Lasik (?!), and the rest were the usual expo exhibitors.  It took me all of 15 minutes to go through the entire process, although granted, I sped through the expo without really stopping anywhere.

The 5K

Saturday of the race weekend there as a 5k which started at 7 am and a 10K that started at 7:30 am.  When I signed up for the races, there was no 10K option.  Probably a good thing, as I’d have signed up for it like a fool, and regretted it big time given the way the half went.

RNR philly flat kimmy 5k

Flat Kimmy for the 5K

I left my hotel at about 5:40 am and walked the 1.3 miles to the start area, in the dark.  It was 67 degrees and probably close to 90% humidity.  I was comfortable in a running skirt and tank top.  The sunrise was quite pretty.

There were tents set up for runner services, medical, and a good number of porta potties, although there were not really that many runners there for today’s races.  I suspect tomorrow, it will seem as if there are not nearly enough porta potties at the start/finish.  There was also a beer “garden”.

The finish was in front of the “Rocky Steps”, the corrals were to the left if you were standing looking at the steps.  It was a bit confusing as they were not easy to see from the pre-race area and there wasn’t really any direction to them other than the DJ saying “over there”, which was not at all helpful considering we couldn’t see where he was pointing.  We were corralled at about 6:45.  There were only 5 or 6 corrals, and I was seeded in 2 with a 28 min estimated finish time.  That was waaaaaaay optimistic.

The 5K course was out and back.  It ran along the river and they kept us to the right lane of the outbound road to allow the 10 K runners to have the left lane once they started.  As is usually the case, by the time I was at mile 1, the lead runners were already at mile 2+.

I ran with a new friend from Team Shenanigans.  We ran the first half mile or so at a slow and steady pace, then started intervals at 90:30.  I believe there were 3 bands on course (one was actually a DJ), but they were all good.  It was sunny and quite warm and humid, even that early in the morning.  There was one water stop on course.

I finished with an overall 11 min ave pace, which was a little (actually quite a bit) faster than what I had planned, and somewhat surprising considering the humidity.  I was not paying attention to my pace, I just ran to comfort.  As I ran past the start corrals to the finish chute, the 10 K was getting their final countdown to start.

Post race there was a photo opp with a RNR background and Marathon Photo photographers, water, bananas, pretzels, a protein bar, and cheese doodles.

The medal was fashioned after a nickel, with Ben Franklin sporting a sweatband on his head on an orange ribbon.  The 10K was basically the same medal on a yellow ribbon.

RNR philly 5K medal

5k Medal

From there, I walked back to my hotel, pausing to take some photos along the way. Benjamin Franklin Parkway is quite pretty as are the sights along the way.

Half Marathon

Another early morning.  4:45 am wake up for a 5:30 meet up with a friend who was running with me, and then the 1.3 mile walk to the start area.   Why so early?  I needed to shower and braid my hair, make sure I have everything I need, and have wakey tea, get some hydration and a small snack into me before leaving.

It was cloudy, but crazy humid.  CRAZY humid!  I was not at all optimistic about a PR given the temperature and humidity.  I know my body well enough to know I could not push the pace I’d need to in the humidity that day.

RNR philly flat kimmy half

Flat Kimmy for the half

We got to the start nice and early.  We had our photo taken SIX times.  One of the advantages of getting there early, I guess.  We scoped out the finish and start areas, and acclimated to the temperature and pre-race experience.  It was my friend Sarah’s first half-marathon, my 17th.  Over the next half hour, the number of folks milling around increased significantly.  The race began at 8 am.  We made our way to the corrals about 7:25.

There were 24 corrals, we were in 16 with an estimated finish time of 2:20.  There were speakers placed every few corrals so we could all hear the MC and send off music for each corral.  The race began a few minutes before 8 with the wheelchair athletes and the elite runners.  Several Olympians were running!

RNR philly start line view 2

From a corral far, far, away, taken when several corrals had already started, when I could finally see the start line.  We saw the lead runners hit the 5k mark on the opposite side of the street about here, too. 

Corrals were released every 1-2 minutes and each corral got a send-off song.  The MC was doing her best to get the energy up of the runners.  Some people just don’t know how to have fun!  I did laugh when a few corrals before ours she said, “We let the intense runners go first, and then we bring the paaaaarrrrr-tay!”  Our corral got “Jump Around” as our send off song.  So of course, we had to jump around in the corral before we got the air-horn release.  I’d estimate each corral was a few hundred people.

The course

The course was billed as flat and fast.  The first 5K went from the Eakins Oval toward City Hall, around a few city blocks and then back to where we started (opposite side of the oval), then toward the penitentiary (a long, gentle uphill) where there was a turn-around back to where we began that out and back, and toward the zoo.  The course was quite wide in most places, but did narrow in several, which made it hard to keep a consistent pace, especially on the out and backs where you had one lane of road only.

I made a cardinal error, in that I did not start my intervals early enough and went out a bit too fast without realizing it.  The first 2 miles were race pace, but that did not last. The heat and humidity were already biting me in the ass by about mile 5, at which point I officially abandoned the stretch PR goal and hoped to run about my usual race pace.  By mile 8, I just wanted to finish upright and uninjured, I didn’t care what my finish time was.

At mile 8, we ran across a bridge and began our trek back toward the finish.  There was a DJ at the other end of the bridge doing his best to get the energy up.  At this point, most of us mid and back of the pack runners were doing run-walk intervals and a lot of people were starting to struggle because of the heat and humidity.  The medical tent at mile 10 couldn’t get ice into bags fast enough for people.

Course support was good.  Water stops were every 1.5 miles or so and both water and Gatorade were options at most stops.  They had one energy gel stop as well.  Porta potties were strategically placed along the course.

Rock and Roll is about the music and there were bands or Dj’s every 2 miles or so.  Most of them were quite good, although my favorite was the simple drum corps playing various cadences.  They were awesome.

The Marathon photo photographers were at the beginning and first 5 K of the race and at the end.  I didn’t see any after the 5K point until almost mile 13.  They make you pay for your photos and it’s expensive.  So unless I ever get a fantastic finish photo, I’m not likely to ever purchase a race photo.  Especially when there are no more photographers than at a race where the photos are free!

The finish was around a corner and up a slight incline before you had the finish line in your sights.  There was a bridge you ran under.  RNR had photographers on the ground and on a crane with a big RNR rug and a band playing right at that corner.  Spectators were lined up looking for and cheering for their runners from that point all the way to the finish line.

RNR philly finish area

The finish line, prior to the race, in front of the “Rocky Steps”

There was an MC and music at the finish line, although I couldn’t tell you what it was.  I collected my half finisher’s medal and we made our way thru the finish chute.  This was a fustercluck. It was not wide enough nor designed to move runners through.

The finish line photos with the RNR backdrops were FIRST, causing people to get caught up in the lines for photos and newer runners not realizing there was water on the other side (which you had to seek out, since there were many more runners finishing than there were people to hand them water).  Once past that, there was Gatorade way off to the right and snacks way off to the left (bananas, chips, granola bars, etc.) and chocolate milk on both sides but if you were not walking directly past it, and were in the middle of the cattle crawl, you missed it.  They also had ice cold facecloths they were handing out waaaaay over on the left side, which again, many people missed.  Because of all the dripping water, it was also quite muddy in this area.  At this point, the finish chute got narrow toward the exit.

From there, I had to search for where I was supposed to pick up my challenge medal.  It was a black topped tent on a street corner at the entrance/exit from the street to the finish “festival” and family reunion area.  Not really well identified or explained pre or post race other than “pick up your challenge medal at the tent”.  I was given a wrist band when I picked up my bib to wear to identify me as a challenge participant which they cut off when I picked up my medal.  I must admit the remix challenge medal is pretty cool.  I liked it much better than the other two medals.  I kinda wanted the Liberty Bell design of years past.

RNR philly half medal

Half Marathon Medal

In talking with other runners after the race, several others also found the finish chute to be horribly organized and that was surprising for a race of this size and scope.  Also mind boggling was the fact the bibs were HUGE and instead of the timing chip being on the bib, they still use D-tags you have to put on your shoes.  Who the hell still uses D-tags? Why a race organization that is HUGE and all over the world.  I don’t get it…

Recovery

After the race, my friend met up with her family, who sadly did not get to the finish line in time to see her finish.  We had our snacks/drinks and did a little stretching and recovering, then they made their way to find lunch and I walked back to my hotel, took a shower, had a bit to eat, and then packed up for the drive home.

Would I do it again?

I’m not sure what I expected, but given the travel and the expense of travelling to a race weekend, even one I can drive to, I’m not inclined to do another RNR race.  It was a great race to experience, and Philadelphia provided a lovely venue and a pretty course.  RNR provided the musical entertainment on course, and there were some fun signs and spectators along the way that made the race more entertaining than most half marathons out there.  That really helps the miles to go by faster, especially when it’s a challenging weather day like this one was.

That said, I’ve got one more RNR race on my bucket list.  I’d like to do RNR Vegas and run the strip at night.  I’m setting my sights on that one as a 50th birthday celebration race. I’ve never been to Vegas in my adulthood.  Seems like a good excuse to go.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Another layer to the hybrid marathon training plan: The 80/20 concept

I am solidly into marathon training territory now.  My long run this weekend is 15 miles and this, and every long run between now and Jan 2018, will be the farthest I’ve ever run.

I’m not as freaked out about that as I thought I would be.  Especially now that I’ve discovered this training concept.  I can be BOTH the tortoise and the hare!

tortise and hare race

Except I’m not just training for my first 26.2.  I’m also training for two goal half marathons, two weeks apart, in September.  Both are about a 6 hour drive from my house and will be an essentially solo adventure.  Those two races are the only two distance races between here and WDW Marathon Weekend 2018.  They are also strategically planned to attempt to improve my PR and corral placement.

Oh, and on top of that, I’m not *just* training for a half and a full, but that damn Dopey and it’s 4 days of 2:30 am wake up calls and a gazillion steps and miles each day on top of the actual race distances.  Walk, run-walk, or run, that’s a lot for a body to do in 4 days.

When I made my training plan, I opted for a slightly modified Jeff Galloway RWR marathon plan.  I’ve read his books, Hal Higdon’s marathon training book, and most recently, Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 running.  That one got my attention.

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?  Yep.  It’s real.

The book is far too wordy and in-depth with regards to physiology for the average recreational runner like myself.  Even though I’m a physical therapist and totally get the physiology of running and the changes that happen, I couldn’t attend to all the words in the book.  It’s a bit over the top and really, all that explanation is not necessary unless you are a total health science geek.

That said, the concept is simple.  Run 80% of your runs at an easy pace (conversational, slightly below the low end of your target HR range, and slower, WAY slower, than you normally run), and 20% of your runs at a high intensity.  It’s basic message, run slower to run faster!  Who doesn’t want to do that?

you don't have to go fast

Why?  The basic gist is that the way our bodies operate physiologically, running at the same pace all the time, or pushing ourselves constantly, tends to lead us to injury or a plateau we just can’t break out of.  Our bodies need time to  recover and adapt to the changes that distance running brings.  We really were not meant to run 26.2 miles for fun, let alone when being chased by a saber-tooth tiger as if it were the difference between our life or death.

When I trained for my first half, I fell victim to the pushing oneself too hard every run, and ended up with a stress fracture.  I should have known better.  But you know, #runningisstupid and most runners are not great at listening to their bodies when a race is looming.

This time around, I’ve been stuck at the same average pace for almost two years, and can’t seem to break out of it, even though I’m running more consistently and farther.  In fact, I might be getting slower, not faster, even though I’m running more.  Turns out, I’m pushing it too hard, even though it doesn’t always feel like I am.  At least so far as the 80/20 philosophy goes.  I have learned I’m a poor judge of how hard my body is actually working sometimes!

Turns out most recreational runners, and even more serious competitive runners, tend to do all of their runs at the same moderate to high intensity pace, even when they *think* they are running “easy”.  They also tend to run too far, too often with not enough rest in between.  They are usually not running easy enough for even a fraction of those runs, let alone 80% of them!  Even if they think they are.  We need a measurable system for feedback.  Be it heart race, pace, or perceived exertion.  Most likely, a combination of those things is the winner, winner, chicken dinner answer.

So I thought, “run slow 80% of the time and get faster?  Hell yeah!”  And then I tried it. Holy crap, it really is hard to run slow!  I never in a million years thought you’d EVER hear those words out of my mouth.  Who am I?

This morning was the first short run I really, really tried to run slow and monitored it.  I chose to use my heart rate as a guide (breathing and perceived exertion as secondaries) and keep it below 150.  I thought it would be easy!  I started out with what I thought was a slow, easy pace.  I was doing 2 min:30 sec intervals which is my usual short run recipe. After the second round, my HR was in the 160’s.  So I dialed it back, or so I thought.  HR still in 160’s.  This went on for a little over a mile.  WTF?  Was I that out of tune with my pace?  It didn’t feel fast or hard.  Why was my HR so high?

So I changed up my intervals.  Run for 90 sec, walk for 30.  I deliberately slowed down during the run intervals even more, I thought.  Runkeeper gave me a random pace check while I was running. 8:20 pace!  GAH!  Still too fast, even though it didn’t feel that fast or that I was working all that hard.  (the silver lining I guess is that the training I’ve been doing is making my run intervals faster overall, I just walk slow!)

Finally, at a run 90 sec and walk 60 sec interval pattern, and a whole lot of checking of my HR, I found the secret sauce.  Until the big hill, when I switched to 30:30 intervals just to keep my HR in check.

My overall pace went from around 11 min/mile (my previous “easy” run ave pace using RWR) to about 13 min/mile.  It was also quite humid, so I fear what perfect running weather would do to my pace when I tried to go it slow.

I’m going to try to stick with this running more frequently (instead of two short runs and one long, I’ll add two shorter really easy 1-2 mile runs in to the mix), but fewer miles each time, and applying the 80/20 philosophy (there are training plans in the back of the book or you can buy them online) with one day dedicated to speed work and one run with a tempo middle section.  Long runs are supposed to be slow!  I’m already out there forever!  It’s gonna be really hard to dial that back!

The motivation to complete this marathon training and that Dopey challenge uninjured, and with a relatively decent for me pace (not counting the photo and bathroom stops that are likely with 5+ hours on a course) is a powerful one, so I’m going to give it a go.

slow runners make fast runners look good

Have you tried 80/20 running?

Do you want to go fast, far, or with a friend?

if you want to go fast or far

Running is an interesting sport.  It’s an individual sport, not a team sport.  Even if you are part of a running team or club, you probably do most of your running, if not all of it, solo.  Yet as you develop your skills and habits as a runner, you evolve, and hopefully, you learn something new now and then.

Even when you are among thousands of fellow runners at a race, it’s typically all about you and the road.  You may run next to them, but not really with them.  Everyone runs their own race.  Or at least, they should.  That’s the beautiful thing about running, your greatest competition is not another runner, it’s who you see when you look in the mirror. That said, unless you are in it to win it, you can run your own race with someone else who is running their own race, who just happens to run at the same pace as you do.  It could be the birth of a friendship or a running epiphany!

Challenges and Benefits

I’ve been running for about 8 years.  I’ve always done training runs alone.  Whether they are short or long, I run solo.  In part, because I’m not terribly consistent with day and time, in part because I tend to run from my house for short runs, and in part because it’s challenging to find people I feel comfortable sharing runs with who is also running at the same pace and using the same run-walk-run intervals as I am.  I am not fast.  I am not super- slow, but in most local races I am solidly a back of the pack runner, even running a 10:30 race pace. That’s a tall order to fill, especially the pace and RWR part.

I have friends who run, and we support each other in a myriad of ways, largely on social media, when we get together outside of running, or via phone or email, yet we do not run with each other.  It’s also a challenge for me since my time is really quite limited and I can’t afford an hour or more round trip to drive to meet folks to run.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to running alone.  Most runners enjoy the solitude. Whether they are in their heads thinking or resolving issues, lost in their music or podcast, or simply enjoying the meditative rhythm of running, focusing on their breathing, and being one with nature and the world around them.  Runners tend to gravitate toward running instead of other more team oriented sports for a reason. It suits their personality and physical, mental, and emotional needs.

Of course as a woman who runs alone, there is always a concern for safety in the back of my mind, even though I run with pepper spray.  I’m a distance runner (and not a speedy one at all), not a sprinter.  If someone comes after me, especially 10 miles into a long run, I’m not going to be able to out run them.  There was a runner murdered last year in the next town over.  It shook the running community to it’s core and brought us together in ways I could not have imagined.  It made us all more alert and aware on our runs.  It made many of us change our routes and take measures to make sure we were safer. Everyone was encouraged to find someone to run with.

I live in an average small town, but there are long stretches of road with no houses, beautiful rail trails no one else is on at 6 am, and lots of wooded areas, ponds and lakes, and fields.  Wild animals are probably more likely to surprise me on a run off (or even on) the side and main roads than a malicious person, but I have to be attentive at all times.  Especially since I tend to run very early in the morning, so even if there are houses, most folks are probably still sleeping. Not to mention the general hazards of running on busier roads, with inattentive drivers!

Wait, what?

Recently, a friend started running.  She signed up for her first half-marathon in September, which I am also running.  She asked if she could do some long runs with me. I told her what my pace was and that I did RWR and at what interval and she agreed to join me.  She was used to just running, but self-admittedly, was not great at pacing herself, fueling/hydrating, or listening to and understanding what her body was telling her before, during and after runs.  She also had not ever gone much beyond a 10K distance.  She runs a pretty decent pace, faster than I do, but she would go out hard and fast and was high risk for injury and burn out.

Our first long run together was 8 miles a few months ago.  Today, we ran 14 together.  I have discovered something amazing.  The long runs seem so much easier and shorter when you have someone to chat with!  Runkeeper told me we’d been running for two hours today and we both said, “Really? It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.”  What a gift!

I treat long runs slower than short runs.  I’m training for my first marathon, which will also be part of the Dopey challenge at Disney. My goal is to finish upright, uninjured, and ahead of the balloon ladies (hopefully by a few hours).  I also intend to have fun, stopping for photos, riding a ride or two, and probably slowing down the second half of the race.  Thus, my long runs are all about building endurance, not speed over a greater distance.  I deliberately run them slower, and being that it’s summer and I don’t deal well with heat or humidity, the weather slows me even more.  Oh, and the hills.  The hills also slow me down a bit.

Of course this all means I’ll kill it on a flat course in the fall, right?

Running with a friend passes the time.  It adds a layer of safety.  It allows one to pace the other, be it to slow down or go faster.  It gives the other runner some frame of reference and feedback, help interpreting what they are feeling, and reminders to take hydration/nutrition and bathroom breaks as needed.  It gives you someone to talk to and share the experience with.  It is enhancing our friendship, and that’s a lovely thing.  We would never have had the conversations we do if we didn’t make the time to run together. It’s also nice to spend those long runs with someone else who understands the runner crazy and is willing to get up at O’dark thirty to get the run in and still have time to do things with your family the rest of the day!  It also motivates you to get your ass out of bed to do those long runs early!

I now look forward to our long runs together.  Of course she’s not training for a marathon, and really has no reason to run any longer than we did today, but she is welcome to join me for part or all of my long runs.  I must admit, I was dreading the long runs that will go on past 3 and 4 hours and approach 5 hours, especially if I end up doing training runs up to or close to the full 26.2.  I’ve come to really enjoy and look forward to those long runs together, and adjusting back to going it solo is probably going to be mentally painful.  Not to mention I’ll have to adjust my routes because there are some places I won’t run by myself that we have and can run together.

I think the take home message is to know your running personality, but even if you really love running solo, once in a while, try running with someone else.  It’s easier if you don’t do RWR and run a bit faster than I do, but if you join a few running groups, you will probably find someone who runs about your pace and is willing to adjust theirs to run together.  Runners, after all, are pretty nice folks!  You never know if you don’t ask!  You might make some new friends!

running and people in my life

What about race day?

I am looking forward to running with new friends at Disney who I know through social media, but have not actually met yet.  Those are more social races in general, and you literally make new friends on the course and end up running together, be it for a little while or for the whole race.

Even though my friend and I will be running the RNR Philly half together, we probably won’t actually run together, at least not the whole race. She naturally runs a bit faster than I do (though that may help me) and I am running it with the hopes of a PR, though I will stick to my intervals, I’m not sure what her plan is, but it’s her first half-marathon and her family will be there to cheer her on, which is wonderful.

For “serious” races I am doing for time, I much prefer to run my own race, with my headphones on and in the zone.  For races I’m not doing for time, it’s super fun to run with someone else or a group of folks.  The mid and back of the pack is a pretty fun and relaxed place to be!

Do you like to run by yourself or with someone else?  Does it change depending on circumstances or training runs vs. races?

Disney Racecation Planning – Phase 2

Planning a racecation is a different animal, especially when it’s a Disney racecation.  I’ve found that it works best in phases, and Disney sort of sets the framework for that with their windows for ADR’s (dining reservations) and Fast Passes for their resort guests.
racecation definition
Phase 1
Phase 1 of Disney racecation planning is choosing what race weekend you wish to attend and being sure that you register for them!  Once you have your registration secured, booking your hotel is a really good idea, especially if you want to stay at a Disney resort. I have written about this phase of planning a few times before.
I highly recommend using the expert Disney vacation planners at MEI-Mouse Fan Travel. to book your resorts at a minimum. They get great rates at select resorts, and if you are sharing the cost with friends or family, the price is right!  Their prices are significantly less than the Disney rack rates.
Important Note:
If you purchase your race bib through a travel agent, Disney requires that you also purchase a minimum # of days at a resort and # of days of park tickets. These are their full standard prices for that time of year, and race weekends are all pretty much peak rates.  There is no special savings or rate doing it this way, but it does guarantee you a race bib(s) for your desired races.
If you must do this, book the minimum through that TA and then switch to a room booked through MEI. That’s what I did this time around as I’m running Dopey.  I’m staying at Pop Century then moving to Port Orleans (Only Pop and All Star were available through the race bib deal).  The concierge will move your luggage for you, so you don’t have to worry about that!  You can read more about it here: My post about Disney race registration
Now, phase 2!  
If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve lost my mind and am registered for the Dopey Challenge at the January 2018 WDW Marathon weekend.  My mom and aunt will be running the 5K with me, my sister will be running the 10K with me, and I will run the half and full with Team Shenanigans and Mickey Miler friends.  I use the term “run” loosely.  It’s Disney, and my goal is to finish the challenge and my first marathon, have fun doing it, and not race to the finish.
My sister, who is crazy about Disney and could be a Disney travel planner with her vast experience and knowledge, deemed it time for phase 2.  So all the parties involved got together to make a plan.
The importance of having a plan and making it early
Why do you need a plan? Because if you don’t put some thought into parks, predicted crowd levels (they will be super high), where you want to eat, and what rides are most important for you to ride, you will most likely walk more than you want to or should, wait in lines a lot more than you’d like, and not be able to get those reservations or fast passes closer to your stay.
In addition, when you are coordinating multiple people, running different races, at different paces, coordinating cheering/race support of and for family and friends, and considering resting and fueling for 4 consecutive days of running, it is prudent to plan ahead! Trust me, we learned the hard way!
Know that it is very challenging to both run and experience Walt Disney World at it’s fullest potential, especially if you are participating in multiple races.  Those 2:30 and 3 am wake ups will be more challenging than you think!
Expert planning tips
So, my sister is a teacher. She arrived with supplies. Lots of supplies.  12 x 12 inch post it sheets, different colored regular sized post it notes, and 4 different colored sharpies.  Of course,  a laptop or tablet was also required for information gathering/research.
The timing of this planning is not random. It is in preparation for our ADR (Advanced Dining Reservations) window which opens on July 7th based on our first night at the resort, and our dining reservations will be made that day so we can get the days/times we want at the restaurants we want.
Remember, there will be around 50,000 people there just to run and support the runners that week, and 20,000 of them half and full marathoners who need to eat well before, during and after their races.  This does not include the poor unsuspecting people who thought it would be a great time to go to Disney who have no clue the biggest race weekend of the year is happening that week and weekend.  This will make for busy parks and hard to come by dining reservations at “good” times and at the most popular restaurants, especially if you wait until closer to January.
To assist you, especially if this is your first time planning a Disney racecation, we strongly recommend visiting the website Touring Plans.   It is a wealth of information about estimated crowd levels at each park, which order to see attractions in, and awesome planning tools to make the most of your time at WDW.
Her method is actually quite effective.
One giant post it was used for each day.  On it she wrote the date and what the important details of the day were that were written in stone. So for Wednesday, we all must go to the Expo.  Thursday is the 5K, and so on.  Flights/arrivals and departures could also be written here.
The smaller stickies were color coded for dining, fast passes we wanted, and parks we wanted to go to.  This allowed us to move them around as our plan evolved. We discussed what days breakfast was important to us, and where our celebratory meal would be when I, God willing, cross that marathon finish line and am officially Dopey.
Dining
We also discussed where we would like to eat or new places we’d like to try and for which meal of the day.  We thought about counter service in the parks, restaurants and bars both in the parks and at the resorts, and the potential to go off property (we will have a car available to us).
The easiest day to plan was the day of the half marathon. Only I am running, and I am not going to a park that day.  We will do breakfast right after the race, then go back to the hotel. It will be a day of resting my legs, using the pool and hot tub, hydrating, and just enjoying the resort.  We will eat dinner right there.  Most resorts have runner’s specials for meals (pasta) in addition to their regular fare.  I will go to bed early, they all can go to the bar or Disney Springs!  🙂
The second easiest day to plan was the day of the full marathon. Again, only I am running. They will split up to cheer, and take in the parks if they wish, given I won’t finish until 12:30 ish.  I will return to the hotel after the full, to shower and recover and maybe nap, and we will have an ADR for an early celebratory dinner at Trattoria Il Forno!!  From there, a celebratory drink at the Abracadabar, and then, Jellyrolls!  I don’t know who is carrying me back to the hotel yet though.  🙂
Park Time
We don’t yet know which parks will have magic hours or what their regular hours will be, but based on past history and experience, we made a plan for which parks we’d visit on which days.  This helped us plan our ADR’s for restaurants that were inside the parks.
After some discussion, we opted to manage our park time to include the Animal Kingdom (primarily to see Pandora and Rivers of Light since we’ve not seen them yet and we know the lines will be long and it will be mobbed), as well as our old favorites there, the Magic Kingdom to see Happily Ever After for the first time as well, and EPCOT.   Once we decided which parks we will do and when, we worked in the rest of our ADR’s.  Breakfast at Kona Cafe (in the Polynesian) and Whispering Canyon (at Wilderness Lodge) were musts!  We pretty much opted for big breakfasts and dinners and light lunches at the parks with one exception, that being lunch at the Rose and Crown in EPCOT.
Attraction fast pass planning
Then we chose which rides we wanted to fast pass and approximate times.  The Fastpass window is not until 60 days before our trip, so we have time, but it made sense to do all the planning at once.  We now know what day we will visit which park.  We know which attractions we want to see in those parks.  We also know the fast pass tier system.  You can only initially reserve 3 fast passes, and they are grouped so that you can only reserve one for the most popular attractions (like Test Track OR Soarin’ but not both) forcing you to go stand by and wait in line for others.
This was all translated into a spreadsheet/document and shared with all the involved parties.
And now, phase 2 is done.  My sister is in charge of making the ADR’s when the window opens.  She is kinda a Disney control freak about such things.  She is also the most experienced and the Disney Website can be slow and challenging to navigate at times.
We already have our hotel and park tickets figured out and purchased.  My parents are AP holders as they live in Florida.  I get a 2 day park hopper with my bib package so I just need to purchase an additional 2 day pass.  My sister will purchase from Undercover Tourist which is a fantastic site to purchase discounted tickets or just purchase ahead of time to avoid lines at the parks.  You can link these tickets to your Magic Band if you are a resort guest so you don’t have to carry the tickets with you, however I do recommend if you do that, keep the ticket with you until you use the Magic Band the first day to make sure it worked!
Phase 3?
Are you wondering what could possibly be left for phase 3?   Wonder no more!
Phase 3 is costumes and race support planning!  If you’ve never been to a Disney race before, you need to know that most people run in some sort of Disney themed costume. Some are VERY intricate and authentic to the character, most are simple and fun.  It’s not required of course, but it’s fun and we recommend you consider it!
Sometimes the costumes people choose are related to the specific race theme, sometimes not.  The half marathon in January is always Donald Duck’s race. The 10K is alwyas Minnie.  The full is always Mickey.  The 5k changes each year, and until the medal is released, usually a few months prior, no one knows what that race theme will be.  So for the 10K, you will probably see a lot of Minnie Mouse costumes. But you might also see runners with Star Wars, Avengers, or other Disney character costumes.
We tossed around a few ideas for costumes, both individual and group, but nothing is really decided yet.  I’ve been Tinker Bell a few times now, so no Tink for me this time. Even though I already have the costume. That I know.
Coordinating meeting up that first day is also part of phase 3, as we are all arriving at different times and we all must go to the Expo to pick up our race packets.  Run Disney does not release any of the details of the race weekend or Expo until about a month prior to the race, so it will be early December before we know for sure what he hours will be. We’ve done this before though, so we have a pretty good idea.
It’s about 6 months away now.  It seems like a long time, but it’s really not.  If you are running Marathon weekend and you’ve not begun planning or reserved your room yet, make it a priority!  If you want to dine in the parks or at the popular resort restaurants, know your ADR window (180 days before your first resort night stay) and where you want to dine so you can make them ASAP.  Do your research before that day!!
What are your racecation planning tips?