Disney Marathon 2020

It’s been over a week since I’ve run 26.2 magical (or not so) miles at the Walt Disney World Marathon. I’ve got lots of thoughts surrounding this race. Feel free to keep reading to learn what they all are. But reader beware: it’s lengthy.

If you’ve run with me at all in the last year, then you’ve listened to my gripes about how I had zero exceptions for this race. Here’s why:

  1. Baby #2 (whom I’m still nursing) turned one the weekend of the race. That’s barely enough time for my abs to come back together, let alone run a marathon properly.
  2. While my husband and I (but mostly my husband) taking on extra jobs has afforded me the opportunity to “stay home” to raise these kids, it hasn’t given me time to train the way one SHOULD train to run a marathon- the way I coach my runners to run marathons.
  3. I am not a marathoner. This isn’t the Olympics, folks. I’ve run a few of them. I am still not a marathoner. I’ll be sticking with shorter, faster races from now on, thanks.
  4. My knee. There is something up with it and it needs to be fixed. That is all on that for now.

Then WHY in the world did I run this thing in the first place? Because cancer sucks. And it doesn’t stop, so neither will I. Combined, Jeff and I raised over $5,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma and American Cancer Societies in this one event alone. During this cycle, I hit the milestone of $20,000 over the last 6 years raised for blood cancer research. If that helps even one family somewhere down the road, then bearing this burden has been worth it. So thank you for supporting us, whether financially with your generous donations, or just listening to my negative rants…or both. We couldn’t have done it without you!

With minimal training and no real-expectations, my race plan was to run a strong first half, then re-assess and go from there. I’d planned to cross the finish line on my own two feet at the very least. Though my overall feeling about the race was that it was a disaster, my plan was successful. Let’s recap the day:

1:50 am: Baby wakes up. Mental head-slap, silent groan. Feed baby, lay down for 10 more minutes.

2:15 am: Alarm goes off. Make coffee, eat oatmeal, pee, get dressed, wet hair, drink coffee, pee, etc.

2:45am: Leave Treehouse Villa to catch bus to Saratoga Springs.

3:10 am: Hop on bus to Epcot (roughly 6 miles).

4:10 am: Get off bus at Epcot. Re-read those times. This day was not off to a great start. At least there were no lines at the porta-potties. I pee again.

4:20 am: Hit Team in Training tent to see the lovely, Laura G., drop bags, go pee. Then we continued our trek to the starting line.

4:45 am: Pee again in the porta-potties at the corral…which was 2 miles from the bus. I clocked it.

So, to review, while you were sleeping soundly last Sunday morning, I had already fed a baby, been on 2 buses, one of which I sat on for an hour, walked 2 miles, and peed 5 times- all before 5am. And I still had a marathon to run. I haven’t even described the weather yet…

5:00 am: The race was supposed to start. It’s 81 degrees with 95% humidity. I can’t breathe. I feel like there’s an elephant on my chest. Anxiety? Barometric pressure? More pee? I don’t know. All anyone could talk about in the weeks leading up to the race was how we should be prepared w/ a dozen layers b/c “40 degrees is cold and it’s January, blah blah blah.” LIES! It was freakin gross out. And the start being delayed by 25 minutes didn’t help…

5:25 am: I finally see some fireworks. Let’s gooooo!

I’d had some pain under my knee caps during my 18 and 20 milers a few weeks back that I was nervous about (an indirect result of having 2 babies in the last 3 years), but felt strong going through the first batch of miles. From here, I’ll go to a mile-by-mile timeline as I take you on my journey to the finish line.

Miles 1- 8:

The first 5 miles were just loops around the outside of Epcot. Snoozefest…until mile 4-ish where my wet, messy bun fell out. I had 2 industrial-strength hair ties in b/c that’s what it takes to hold up this heavy mess. I pulled off to the side to put it back up but found only ONE TIE around my wrist. Potential catastrophe. Holding my hair on top of my head with one hand, I got close to the ground and after a momentary panic, I found the missing tie. Hair went back up; crisis averted. As I got back on course, I hear a bunch of people yelling, “Already?” “No, don’t come back, it’ll only get worse!”…Uhhh…were they talking to me?! They were! THEY THOUGHT I WAS BARFING! Lol. Different kind of crisis, folks. But one of them struck up a conversation. Her name was Holly (that’s my niece’s name!) and she was a total doppelganger of my friend, Mary (who is also a runner and a Disney fan and I wish she were there with us). Holly was an instant buddy with whom I covered the next 4 super-sweaty miles with relatively quickly. I left her around mile 8 when she stopped to wait in line for a photo with someone I don’t even recall. I might have said, “Goodbye Mary.” Oops.

Miles 9-13.1:

I felt okay. My knee didn’t bother me (yet) and though it was humid as heck, the temperature actually dropped a little. Just before the transportation and ticket center, I saw Mater and Lightning McQueen. There was no line. At all. So I popped in for a photo, figuring Georgie would get a kick out of it (big Cars fans over here!). As soon as I stopped, though, I realized how soaking wet my shirt was and how the humidity was affecting my body’s ability to cool itself down. I decided I’d stop for as many pictures as I could…and take in fluids at every water stop, which runDisney added extras of due to the weather. I was also set on riding Everest once I got to Animal Kingdom, which sat around mile 17 or so- when else would I have an opportunity to do something like that!? I hoped I wouldn’t ACTUALLY barf…But more on that later. I picked up the pace going downhill under one of the world-famous water bridges as the sun was coming up and ran into Laura G. on the other side, with a whole Team in Training cheer station. That put even more pep in my step as I approached the happiest place on earth. By now, I was sitting pretty around mile 10 and was excited to FINALLY get inside a park.

Turning down Main Street USA was kind of awesome. Goosebumps, even. Though, I couldn’t tell if they were from the nostalgia or a touch of heat exhaustion. So I slowed down a little to take it all in and save myself from fainting before I hit the Mad Tea Party. Parts of the course here were SO NARROW with a million sharp turns that it was almost uncomfortable. I felt so crowded that I couldn’t even enjoy my surroundings- and I was only in Corral C…there was NO ONE online when I hit the front of the castle. I stopped at a row of porta-potties as we exited the park backstage near Splash Mountain. (Side note: I did not like all of the backstage areas we had to run through. I don’t think Walt would have approved, either. I offer no solution. Just didn’t like it.)… My watch read 11.6. Stopping to pee was my downfall.

Mile 10. Woohoo!

As I stood up from my crouching hover inside the porta-potty, I knew my best miles were behind me. Something was funky with my knee. A different kind of funky than I felt on my last long training runs, though. I now felt a ripping pain along the outside of my right knee and saw a bruise forming where the IT band inserts. Weird. I haven’t had IT band issues in a decade. As I made my way back to the course, the pain would not allow me to keep the same pace I’d been going. Luckily, there were distractions here to interrupt my running, like water stops, tables with Biofreeze and wild turkeys (What? Noooo!) in front of Shades of Green. As I watched the turkeys curiously (yes, TURKEYS), I thought of my friend Erik (Mary’s husband, bigger Disney nerd than I), who is in the military and stays at SOG often. Again, I curse the fact that they couldn’t join us on this trip. When I saw the 13.1 flag, marking the halfway point in the race, I was satisfied with how I’d run up to that point and decided to convert to a 4:1 run/ walk.

Miles 13.1-18.5:

My running was still pretty quick for the next few miles and the walking portion gave my knee enough rest to sustain the pace. Out on the highway, though, it was hot. And the pain was increasing. I was not a happy camper by the time I entered the Animal Kingdom. My saving grace was the notion of riding Everest in the middle of a marathon. I was still doing a 4:1 when I approached the Yeti-filled mountain. I saw a few people veer off and head to an open bar for a drink. My chuckle quickly turned into a low groan when I saw that the ride WAS NOT OPEN YET! Wind out of my sails. I wished I’d had cash on me to go back and grab a drink at the bar! On one of my walking breaks, I got distracted looking around (angrily) and must have somehow veered off course, because by the time we wound our way back out of AK, my shoes were full of sand. Um, what?! It was so annoying that at mile 18.5, I sat down, took my shoes and socks off (not the first time I’ve done so in the middle of a marathon), and brushed them clear of the sand and dirt. Here is where I mailed it in. I was in pain, I was hot, I had to pee again, and I was angry I didn’t get to go on a ride (what am I, like FIVE?!). I decided to walk a little extra to see if I could find Jeff, who was a few corrals behind me, making his way into the park. It took longer than I’d expected, but I saw him. He wasn’t looking pretty, either. The rest of my race was “run” with the purpose of letting him catch up to me so we could cross the finish line together. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t work).

Miles 19-22:

My 4:1 run/walk had completely fallen apart by now. I ran as much as I could but walked more than I ran. At all intersecting points, I stopped and waited a little while for a Jeff that never showed up. Coach Les from Team in Training found me near Blizzard Beach and dragged me along for a few miles of a 1:1 run/walk with a pair of nice girls from another chapter. It sounded like nobody was having a great day, but I was grateful for the friendly face. At another intersection around mile 22, I could see oncoming runners and stopped one last time. I was confident something was wrong when Jeff was nowhere to be found and multiple pace groups he was previously in front of had gone by. But I had a finish line to cross and only 4ish miles to go, so on I went. He’d cross it too, eventually.

Miles 22-26.2:

Enter zombie-ville, because I felt like the walking dead going into the Studios…but everyone around me looked the same-if not worse. There was plenty of water and medic tents every mile or 2. I was drinking a lot and my fueling was totally on point, but I was worried. Worried I was going to pee my pants. Worried I was going to poison the baby I’m still nursing with the gallons of BioFreeze I’ve been slathering on my knee, absorbing into my bloodstream. Worried my boobs were going to explode, being an hour (or more) behind schedule. Oddly, I was too delirious to be worried about the heat. In hindsight, it probably was affecting me more than I recall because I don’t even remember running through some of the parks. I just remember feeling like someone had a blow torch to my face (which was covered w/ a duck-bill visor and sunblock from little packets I was able to stash in my pockets- serious lifesavers)! I’m sure I peed again, but I couldn’t tell you where or when. I walked an awful lot in those last few miles, really only running when I saw photographers. I even debated walking across the finish line, but my ego got the better of me. I crossed the finish line in a trot, wanting nothing more than to step right onto a bus to take me home. Instead, I downed a bottle of warm Powerade, had my knee wrapped in ice by a medic and found that a wet towel had been placed around my neck (the medal was in my hand, too heavy to wear). I hobbled over to my team tent and ate all the cookies as the ice melted, soaking my socks and shoes. It actually felt good.

Mile 25. Not okay.

The take away:

After the race, I thought to myself, again, “This was a dumb idea.” It’s a sentiment I’d muttered hundreds of times over the last 12 months. It was not my best moment as a runner. Maybe my worst, even. But there isn’t anything I regret about how the race played out under the circumstances:

Do I wish I’d trained better? Of course. But any amount of training in 25-50 degree weather wouldn’t have helped on a day like last Sunday in Florida. I thought of Roberta Groner- a nurse and mother from NJ who placed 6th in the World Marathon Championship in Doha, Qatar in 90+ degrees a few months ago. I wished I’d remembered her ice-in-a-bandana headband trick for this race.

Do I wish my knee didn’t mysteriously blow up? Of course. I have other goals on my list this year that require my legs to function properly, so it will need to be taken care of asap. The good news is, it didn’t hurt while walking. Other good news regarding potential problems I’d anticipated: I did not actually pee (or poop) myself, my wonky hip and my chronically bad foot were both fine. I was well hydrated before and during the race and my fueling strategy worked well. Small victories.

I have no idea what I actually would have been capable of if there were ideal circumstances on race day. That’s the unfortunate risk you take when you roll the marathon dice. But I don’t regret slowing down, or taking pictures, or waiting for Jeff. I’m glad I have those pictures for my kids to see and giggle at. If Jeff had actually caught up to me, crossing the finish line together would have been a fun memory (turns out, by the way, he spent some time in a few medic tents with heat exhaustion. But he’s got that medal, just like everyone else who made it to the end that day, regardless of how long it took them to get there). I’m also proud of the fact that we had a greater cause to run for than just ourselves. When you run for a charity, you’re running for the people who will one day benefit from the money you’ve helped raise. Go Team!

Special thanks to my parents, bother and sister-in-law, for taking care of Georgie and Johnny while we ran. This race was a good excuse to travel as an extended family again. However… I don’t see another runDisney event nor a full marathon in the near future. At least not while the kids are little. I have more important things to do with my time than run for 4 hours on a Sunday. I respect other mothers who make the choice to do it, but my priorities at this stage of life are quite different. Instead, I’ll be focusing on teaching my kids the importance of staying active and healthy by keeping them involved in my shenanigans, fixing whatever imbalances are causing this knee pain, and training for shorter races, like the Rutgers 8K, the inaugural Rock-n- Roll AC half, a Spartan Sprint, and a spattering of local 5Ks between now and the summer.

If you’ve run any runDisney events or had a crap marathon experience, share your thoughts in the comments! I’d love to hear what your goals are for the spring road racing season, too!

Disclaimer: While I have and sincerely LOVE everything I’ve posted about here, I am also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This means I may earn a small fee when you click on the links and use them to make your purchases. This supports my work in sharing information and quality products that work for me and my family with you and the runners in your family .

Sunday Runday: The Church of the Sunday Long Run

It’s Sunday. Have you logged your miles yet?!?

Screenshot_20171126-124201Georgie and I running today along the marina

Your 2017 NYC Marathon Champion, Shalane Flanagan sometimes mentions attending the Church of the Sunday Long Run. Other pro runners, like Nick Symmonds, and myriads of Average Joes and Jills post pictures of themselves running miles in meditation, honoring the same practice (b/c if you don’t post about it, it never happened, right?!). Blogs have been written on the topic with taglines such as “conversational etiquette” during said exercise, t-shirts have references to it splayed across their fronts. The “Church” has its own hashtag on social media, its own Facebook page, its own Twitter account (go ahead, check it- I’ll be waiting right here). It’s on the internet- that means it’s real (right?!?!). Please don’t mistake this for heresy. Real Church is still a thing- and an important one to many of us. It’s just that runners can easily compare the experience of a good long run with attending a worship service, regardless of what day it actually falls on (I typically run long on Saturdays, for instance, and try to get to church on Sundays). Running gear company, Tracksmith, has the following to say about the Church of the Sunday Long Run:

“The Sunday long run is often conflated with spirituality. It’s an easy comparison: like church, the long run is a Sunday ritual. And like any religion, it encourages us to reflect on our shortcomings and appreciate what we have. The fact that it’s the one run of the week where we push for distance, not speed, only encourages that – done correctly, it’s an introspective, centering experience. We don’t all share the same religion, but as runners, we’re all parishioners at the Church of the Long Run.” (http://churchofthelongrun.tracksmith.com/)

Whichever faith you practice, it feels good to know there are other people- near and far- believing in the same ideas and values you do. As humans, we have a basic, instinctual need for belonging to a group and practicing religion can offer us that security. The running community- whether in your own neighborhood or worldwide- offers the same sense of “family” and the Church of the Sunday Long Run is one way of showing solidarity and feeling connected. Despite the intensity of your training plan, the length of your goal race, your years of experience, level of achievement, age, gender, or your ACTUAL religion, the weekend ritual of slowing down for a nice, long run and having a chance to think, reflect, and appreciate brings us all together. So whether you’re a seasoned vet or lacing up for the very first time today, welcome. As we enter this Christmas season, may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be at your back, and may all your miles be merry from here on out. Amen.

Poncho Baby!!! And 5 Fitness Tips for New Moms

Georgie is allergic to polyester. It’s an annoying allergy. SO MUCH STUFF has polyester in it. SO MUCH STUFF gives her rash. A sometimes really ugly rash, making her look slightly neglected, dirty, and/or sick (I promise you, she’s none of those things).

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Do you have any idea how hard it is to find something like a simple little square of fabric (aka a”lovey”) made of 100% cotton…that doesn’t rattle? In my house, we tend to be so low maintenance that it’s high maintenance. I was SO STOKED when I stumbled upon Poncho Baby. Hailing from the west coast, Poncho Baby was the answer to some of my material frustrations. Georgie loooooves their little green lovey, made from 100% organic (bonus!) cotton. They’ve also got nursing covers, blankets, onesies, and more. Be sure to follow them on Instagram and grab some of their organic cotton baby gear for your favorite moms, babies, and moms-to-be! And more importantly, check out this article I wrote for their blog:

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https://ponchobaby.com/

5 Fitness Rules for New Moms

Congratulations! You’ve just incubated and evacuated an actual human being from your very own lady parts. As you well know, growing and squeezing a bowling-ball-sized object out of a dime-sized hole takes a major toll on one’s body. The good news, however, is that the postpartum body is really quite trainable and can return not only to its previous state, but a stronger, more stable one- IF you train it properly. Professional runners, Kara Goucher, Stephanie Bruce, and Alysia Montano all returned strong to qualify for the US Olympic trials in their respective distances after having babies (I’m waiting on you, Adi Nelson!!!). If you’re reading this, you’re PROBABLY not a professional athlete (though if you are, I’d love a shout out!), but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn lessons from them. Take a look at these guidelines that will help you lose weight and rebuild the necessary muscle tone, functional strength, and mobility to carry out the new demands of “momlife”:

1. Restore That Core!!!

This is, perhaps, the MOST important thing you can do to achieve your fitness goals safely and effectively. Pregnancy and childbirth stretch and weaken the muscles and connective tissue of much of the core, including the deep core and pelvic floor muscles (such as the transverse abdominis). Most women also have some degree of diastasis recti- the separation between your rectus abdominals that leaves a gap, making your belly “pooch” out after birth. A weak inner core is also why you might pee every time you sneeze, jump, or laugh (SO annoying, amiright?!) and Kegels are just not enough. Your first inclination might be to jump back into popular “ab exercises” like sit-ups/crunches, planks, and leg lifts, but you’d likely be doing more harm than good. Instead, focus on your breathing, engaging the appropriate muscles, and using small movements to progressively re-train your deep core and pelvic floor. Rebuilding these muscles will ensure proper function and the stability necessary to carry out more intense movements later on. Exercises done while laying down, like “drawing in,” pelvic tilts, bent knee marches, and glute bridges are sure to help.

2. WALK.

Anywhere and everywhere. Walking will increase blood flow, which is important to the healing process while the movement boosts your endorphins (happy hormones), making you feel good. Fresh air doesn’t hurt, either! We are fortunate enough to live in a place where I can do most of my errands on foot and our primary mode of transportation has 2 wheels. So we walk (and bike). A lot. In all kinds of weather. If you have a safe place to walk near you (i.e. sidewalks, a path, a promenade, a boardwalk, etc.) and proper attire, then get your tushies out the door and walk. It provides time to bond with your little one, teaching him or her about your surroundings, and is good for your heart, soul, and leg muscles. You’ll kick-start your metabolism, making it easier to lose weight, while showing baby that healthy activity is valuable and important to you (bonus points if you have a dog and bring Fido with you!). Don’t live in a place conducive to a walk? Look for opportunities to do so in other ways. Park far away from the entrance to the grocery store, head to the mall and walk the corridors, grab your carrier and drive to a safe wooded trail at a state, county, or local park to walk with a friend. Just move as much as possible, as often as you can. With all the time we spend sitting (resting/healing, feeding, cuddling, etc.), your body will thank you for any kind of activity. The more you try to make it a habit, the easier it becomes to get out the door.

3. Drink a LOT of water.

Seriously. Giving birth depletes us of a LOT of liquid that if not replaced, can leave you feeling dehydrated for days (weeks? Months?!). This is especially important if you are nursing. While drinking more water probably won’t have any affect on your milk supply, it’s essential to keeping YOU feeling good. Your brain, muscles, skin, and other organs all need water to perform at their best and now they have to compete with a suckling infant for access. Recovery (from birth and a hard workout) is much easier when your body is well hydrated. You don’t need to overdo it, either. Adding just a few extra 8-ounce servings of H2O to your regular routine can do the trick (drink more if you’re not typically a conscious water-drinker).

4. Start slowly.

The shortest gestation period of any mammal belongs to a species of opossum and is less than 2 weeks. By contrast, an elephant’s gestation period is 95 weeks. Well….thank goodness we are not elephants. And 2 weeks sounds cool until I think about the fact that I didn’t know I was pregnant until roughly week 6, so I guess I’m also glad I’m not a rodent-like marsupial (opossums are GROSS). That being said, as a human, you just spent approximately 40 weeks- FORTY WEEKS (!!!!)- gaining weight, turning your flesh and blood and everything you ate into a baby. Then you delivered it and had to heal from that delivery while taking care of said baby. Your body probably does not look nor behave the same way it did before conception. AND THAT’S OKAY (I repeat…40 weeks)! My best advice here is to get back into the groove slowly. Your full recovery and your baby are more important right now than how you look. How quickly you return to your exercise-of-choice will depend on your fitness level pre-baby. Most physicians recommend waiting until 6-week check-up to resume or begin any kind of fitness regimen. Any sooner and you run the risk of injury or delaying your body’s ability to heal. Walking and a few minutes of core exercises each day until you’ve regained a little strength and stability are sufficient at first. Don’t overdo it and be sure to progress at a safe rate. I refer you back to rule #1 with retraining your core properly before you move on to anything more intense. When you are ready, add a few reps of new, simple exercises, like squats, deadlifts or bicep curls. You can quicken the pace while lengthening the distance you walk as you feel things returning to normal. Some gentle/restorative yoga is a good idea around this time, too. If you do things right up to this point, you’ll be able to kick it up a notch with some running or other cardio and more intense upper body and core training with little to no problem (aside from, ya know, time and energy). If you suspect any issues, such as a pelvic floor injury or high degree of diastasis recti, speak to your healthcare provider asap.

5. Get baby involved.

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So about that time and energy thing…I can’t be the only mom who struggles with finding time to get a good workout in. What I find is that it’s not really finding the time itself, but prioritizing effectively. Based on the schedules in my house, I am very limited in my opportunities to work out solo. However, if I’m willing to change my expectations of the workout, I can get baby involved. Squats, lunges, shoulder presses, planks (when you’re strong and ready for them!), and some stretches are moves that can be done while holding or engaging a baby. Hello resistance training! It’s convenient that they grow and gain weight as you get stronger and want to progress (or are you getting stronger BECAUSE they’re gaining

weight?!). If you’ve got a set of TRX or similar bodyweight straps safely anchored in your home, strap baby into your preferred carrier (the Boba 4G is my fave!!!) and bring him or her along for the ride. If you need external motivation, almost every city and suburban area has some sort of Mommy & Me or stroller fitness classes. They are usually not free, but they get you out of the house to interact with adult humans, provide socialization for baby, and get you your workout. So how much is your sanity worth? A simple

 Google or hashtag search on social media (i.e. fit4mom or stroller fitness and your city or town) will set you in the right direction on finding a local group. If you live in an area too far from one, start your own! Grab a group of like-minded friends and find a place to put the work in. Your future self, your baby, and probably your significant other will thank you for it.

Patience and consistency are key when upping your fitness game after having a baby. Start small and remember to think about function and stability before any intense training. With some careful planning, you can and will restore your strength and, in turn, your body confidence. Maybe you, too, can qualify for the Olympics Trials. Hey…an old girl can dream, can’t she?

Erica Coviello is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, an ACSM Certified Group Fitness Instructor, a Road Runners Club of America Certified Running Coach, and is currently on maternity leave from teaching middle school science in NJ. Check out @runnercov on Instagram.

Sweat&Milk: Fit Mom One-on-One

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Are you an active mom who is also nursing (or planning to be in the future)?!? Then you HAVE to check out Sweat & Milk and their awesome nursing sports bras. You can also check out their interview with me and other #fitmoms here:

Sweat & Milk: Fit Mom One-On-One

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