Monday, March 5, 2018

The Dopiest One of All

Going the [Indoor] Distance

If you've been following me on this blog or Instagram for awhile, you may noticed that each January, I take part in a 4-day treadmill challenge based on the actual Run Disney event, the Dopey Challenge. For those of you not familiar with this endurance event, the Dopey Challenge requires participants to complete a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon for a total of 48.6 miles over four consecutive days. After completing the official challenge in 2015, I decided to run it on the treadmill the following year. For accountability purposes, I shared my completion of each distance on Instagram, using the hashtag #IndoorDopeyChallenge. Over the course of those four days, I noticed a steady increase in the attention and support this challenge was receiving, especially after I completed the marathon on the fourth day. Best of all, some people even commented that they wanted to join me the following year!

In 2017, I stepped on the treadmill for my second #IndoorDopeyChallenge. This time, I wasn't participating alone; at least two others joined me for the challenge on their own treadmills, while some people told me that they wouldn't be able to complete all of the distances, but they would attempt to at least run on their treadmills each day. One runner who took part in the challenge did not have access to a treadmill, so he ran each of the distances outdoors. That's one of the best things about this challenge; it motivates people join in and get moving, even if they are not able to complete the total distance, or adhere to the "indoor" part.

I personally was not sure if I would be able to complete both the half marathon and marathon that year. About two months prior, I had a very upsetting experience at the Marine Corps Marathon, and had to walk much of the second half. I took some time off of distance running after that to allow my body to recover, but I was very determined to complete my second Indoor Dopey. The 5k and 10k were a breeze, as expected, but I struggled through the half marathon, and had to slow my pace way down. I had to keep reminding myself that Dopey is about distance, not speed. The following day, I completed the marathon, and had to either jog or walk the last few miles. When I finally hit 26.2 miles, I was so proud of myself for sticking it out.

A Dopey Deferral?

The struggles with running I had experienced leading up to and during the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon took a major toll on my monthly mileage, and there were some months where I only ran one time. Time spent on my feet greatly decreased, and I struggled to even perform other exercises, including strength training. Some time in September 2017, however, I decided to post on Instagram that there was less than 100 days until the third annual #IndoorDopeyChallenge, and indicated that I would be participating. I realized that my mind was set on doing it, even though my body was not prepared. In the weeks leading up to the third annual event, I found myself wondering how I could ever manage to pull off the 48.6 miles when I was hardly even running. In over four years of competing, I never missed a race. Last Thanksgiving, I skipped a local 5-mile turkey trot and ran one slow mile on the treadmill instead. A few weeks later, I slept in on the morning of a local half marathon, and did not even care that I missed the race. I worried that I would lack the motivation to complete the Indoor Dopey, too.

Three days prior to the start of the 2018 #IndoorDopeyChallenge, I announced on Instagram that I had made the decision to sit this year out. At the time, I figured I would run the 5k, run/walk the 10k, and then run 1.31 miles for the half marathon, and 2.62 miles for the marathon (just moved the decimal). It sounded pathetic, but to me, it seemed better than only doing the first two events. Causing further damage to my body didn't seem worth the risk or disappointment, but I was happy to "host" the event for those who did want to participate. In addition to announcing the event on Instagram, I also posted about it on Facebook, in both the PRO Ambassadors group and the Team Run Disney group, in hopes of inspiring others to participate. Some wished me good luck, some told me I was insane, but some agreed to run at least some of the distances. Throughout all of this, I messaging Kristen (returning for her second year!) about why I chose not to participate, how I hoped to find motivation and enjoyment of running again, and for ideas about the Indoor Dopey itself. She did an awesome job taking the lead on sock coordination, and also supporting me in my decision to sit out and giving me advice for getting back in the game on my own time.

It's Off to Work I Go

One of my biggest struggles with running leading up to the Indoor Dopey was just making the time to do it. I used to run at 4:30am before work, or immediately after work, around 3:30pm. Luckily, work was closed the day of the 5k for a snow day, so ran as soon as I woke up that morning. The miles were slow, but I made it all 3 miles -- my longest run since October.

On Friday, I went home immediately after work to run the 10k. I used the treadmill in the fitness center of my apartment building, which was FREEZING. To complete the 10k, I ran 2 miles and walked 4.2 miles. It took me so long that as soon as I hit the "stop" button and began to prepare to take my photos for Instagram, a woman rushed over to me asked if I was done yet. There were two other treadmills that were occupied at the time, but she must have noticed that I spent a pretty good amount of time running/walking. I took my photos quickly and hopped off.

I spent the majority of the night after the 10k trying to decide what to do about the half marathon and marathon. Running 1.31 miles and 2.62 miles sounded pretty lame, but there was no way I could run either of the distances. I thought back to a conversation I had with a colleague a few months prior, when he asked me if I was still running. I paused for a moment before responding, and then literally burst into tears while standing in his office. He listened to me talk (cry) about how running had become such a struggle, and how when I tried to do it, my legs just wanted to give up. He asked me, "well why do you have to run?" I looked at him like he had ten heads, and he went on to explain how the night before he had eaten a Snickers bar, and to help him feel better about his snack choice, he walked a mile on the treadmill. He knew a measly one mile walk wouldn't make much of a difference, but it was better than doing nothing. I texted a few friends that night to ask what they thought about me walking the remaining 39.3 miles of the Indoor Dopey. Some were super supportive. Others indicated that it probably wasn't a good idea. Regardless of their responses, I knew I had already made up my mind.

Early the next morning, I woke up to prepare for the half marathon. I decided to complete it in the fitness center of my sister's building, because they have LifeFitness treadmills, which are my absolute favorite. I brought my iPad with me so that I could watch movies, because I had no clue how long the "race" was going to take me. I hit the treadmill before 7am, and walked the first three miles. The treadmill maxes out at 60 minutes, which is about the amount of time it took me to walk those first few miles. When I restarted the treadmill, I decided to start running and see how far I could go. After one mile, I decided to continue walking. When the treadmill maxed out for a second time, I was already at 7 miles. I decided to walk the remaining 6.1 miles, having to stop the treadmill just one more time when it maxed out. The third leg of the Indoor Dopey Challenge took me just under four hours; more than double my half marathon PR, but I reminded myself to focus on distance, not speed.

The next morning, I drove to my sister's apartment complex again to utilize their treadmills. On the way, I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts and bought the largest size iced coffee to keep in the cup holder of the treadmill for fuel throughout the marathon. I hit the treadmill just before 7am, accompanied by my iPad so I could watch the digital copies of my Disney movies, math worksheets to grade, and my phone for texting and sharing updates on Instagram as I walked. By 9am, I had already walked 6 miles and watched Saving Mr. Banks on my iPad. People were beginning to wake up, so my support system through texts and social media started to reach out to me to see how I was doing. 

The first half of the marathon took me about four-and-a-half hours, as I had been keeping a steady pace of three miles per hour. During that time, both my sister and Madeline who also lives in the building came to check on me, bringing me body glide and snacks, as I had forgotten my own at home. My spirits were still high at 13.1 miles, and my body felt totally fine. Surprisingly, it would remain that way over the next twelve-ish miles.

By mile 23 (about 8 hours in), boredom began to sink in. I was tired of watching movies, had no papers left to grade, and had no visitors for several hours. My legs were starting to feel very tired, and I could tell with each step that my feet had swelled up a ton. I started getting really pumped at mile 24, knowing I had just two miles left. I was talking to several friends either on Instagram or via texts, letting them know how far I was, and relying on their encouraging comments to keep me going. At mile 25, I felt an incredible urge to run, but was worried about getting injured since my legs were hurting so badly at that point. Instead, I turned the treadmill up to 4mph, and slowly jogged. About a half mile from the "finish," Madeline showed up again and joined me on the neighboring treadmill. She stuck with me through the last few tenths of a mile, until I finally hit 26.2 miles and hit the "stop" button on the treadmill.

Nine hours later, I had officially completed both the #IndoorWDWMarathon and my third #IndoorDopeyChallenge.

Out of 48.6 total treadmill miles, I had walked about 42 of them. 

Early on in the marathon, Kristen reminded me that I had initially stated that I would only be participating in the 5k and 10k. I was trying to be kind to my body, something that I hadn't done in years, and felt the best it was in my own best interest to sit this year out. And yet here I was, walking the marathon at 7am on a Sunday.

When I hit the "stop" button on that fourth day of the challenge, I realized I had just completed one of the most difficult things in my entire life. Running my sub-4 hour marathon in 2016 was easy. Two laps around Birmingham, Alabama and I was done before noon. Walking an entire marathon on the treadmill at a speed of 3 mph is freaking HARD, both mentally and physically. I knew ahead of time that this was going to be a challenge for me, because historically, I've always been in a rush to finish line. This time, however, I knew I would never make it to the finish if I didn't slow down.

For the remainder of January, I continued to walk. About two weeks after the Indoor Dopey, I flew to Baton Rouge for the Louisiana Half Marathon. I ran as far as I could on the course, and walked the rest. When I added up my total miles for the month, I had completed a total of 76.8 miles; more than half of those were walking. Early on in February, I set out for a short run, and was surprised when I was able to run the entire time. Each week, I set out for short runs with no goal in mind, and found that not only was I able to run the entire way, but I could run almost at my old pace. Toward the end of the month, I headed out to Arizona for the Phoenix Marathon. I figured I'd run as far as I could since I had only trained up to 7 miles at that point, and walk the rest. When I crossed the finish line just after 8am, I had surprised myself by running the whole way and coming in at a time of 2:08:23 (my chip time was longer because I stood in line at a McDonald's restroom and paused my watch).

I know this post is long. I apologize for that. What I hope you take away from this post, however, is that struggle is inevitable in life, but you should never lose hope. Take a step back, assess what is going on, and develop a plan moving forward, even if it includes doing things that you don't exactly enjoy, but you know will be helpful in your recovery. I know what it's like to feel stuck. To feel like you're not making progress when you've been working so hard. To want to give up every day, but something inside won't let you. Just remember that you are never stuck. You might not reach your goals in the timeframe that you imagined you would, but with the right mindset, you will get there when the time is right.

As I mentioned earlier, I do have a preference of treadmills. A great treadmill could make all the difference in completing a challenge like this. If you are interested in participating in the #IndoorDopeyChallenge next year, or are in the market for a new treadmill, please see the treadmill guide by here to find one that's right for you.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Why I Love Running + Race Registration Giveaway!

While training for my first half marathon back in 2013, I didn't feel inspiring. I registered for the race to help cope with a difficult time in my life, when I didn't feel very successful at all. Long story short, I was working my tail off in grad school and at work, but it felt like I was going nowhere. Training for the half marathon helped take my mind off of the struggles I was going through in my post-undergrad life. And that gave me hope.

I've told this story millions of times, but for those of who haven't heard it before, I crossed the finish line of my first half a different person than when I started. Despite struggling during the last three miles of the race, I stepped over that final Chrono-Track overwhelmed with emotion. I felt incredible. And powerful. And most importantly...successfulI ran six more half marathons that year, each one proving that I was getting stronger and faster. I kept competing because after struggling for so long, I had finally found something that provided me with a sense of achievement. 

And that's what I love about running. No matter what you're going through, no matter how hard things get, running has the power to almost instantly make any situation feel a million times better. It won't earn you a 4.0 in grad school or land you your dream job, but it will help you develop the confidence you need to succeed in every day life. This is why I have spent nearly every day since my first half marathon sharing my passion for running, in hopes of inspiring others to recognize their potential, to challenge themselves, and to accomplish things they never thought possible. 

So as part of my effort to get more people running and challenging themselves, I'm giving away one free race registration to the 2017 Divas Half Marathon in DC's Wine Country! The race takes place on September 16th, and registration includes personalized race bibs, participant tees, a pink tutu, and a drawstring bag. After running 13.1 miles alongside hundreds of other women (and a few good men!), you'll be rewarded with a pink feather boa, tiara, an incredible finisher's medal (see below), and some bubbly!

Want to earn your tiara?

Enter the giveaway by leaving me a comment and tell me what you love about running -- that's it! The winner will be announced Wednesday, March 8th, and will notified by e-mail. Best of luck!

Not interested in testing your luck? No problem! You can register for the event yourself here. Promo code RCDIVADC17 saves you 10% on either distance. Hope to see you there!

Come run with me!

What do you love about running?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Why None of My Goals Are Running-Related This Year

In 2013, I ran my first half marathon, the Disney Princess Half Marathon, in 2:12:42. I was aiming for a sub-2:10, but considering the heat and humidity that morning (and considering I had trained in 17*F), I was happy just to have finished. Three weeks later, after I ran the New York City Half Marathon in 2:06:33, I knew a sub-2 was within reach.

My goal for 2014 was that sub-2 hour half marathon. I had run a total of seven half marathons in 2013, and the closest I had come to that goal was a 2:04:12 at the Trenton Half Marathon in New Jersey. Just over two weeks into 2014, my dream came true. I completed the Tinker Bell Half in 1:59:25.

The goal for 2015 was to break 1:55 in the half marathon. I met this goal late in the year, in October, at the Monster Mash Half Marathon in Dover, DE. I completed the course in 1:54:16. This was my strongest year in running, although you wouldn't think that if you saw how drastically my race photos changed from January to November. Let's take a look:

January 2015: This will always be one of my favorite race photos. It was taken at mile 23 of the Walt Disney World Marathon, which I completed as part of the Dopey Challenge. Here I am, over 45 miles into the 4-day event, looking strong and happy.

May 2015: Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT. I was nervous for this race, because it took place just over one month after I moved to Virginia, so my training schedule was a little chaotic and I missed a lot of long runs. However, this is when I learned how important proper nutrition is in athletic performance. When I moved to Virginia, I fully committed to a vegan diet, and consumed little to no gluten. So despite feeling totally undertrained for the race, I was able to set a personal best by about 14 minutes. I attribute this to the dietary changes I had made in the weeks leading up to the race. I didn't realize until I saw this image on the MarathonFoto site, but this was the strongest and leanest I had ever been in my life.

November 2015: This photo was taken at the New York City Marathon, I believe somewhere in Central Park. I didn't realize how truly terrible I look here until about two weeks ago, when I put the photo side-by-side with the one from Vermont. Muscles, gone. Body fat, zero. I made it from Staten Island to Central Park in 4:16:50, and I'm still not entirely sure how I pulled that off. This body was the result of months of stress, poor nutrition, exhaustion, mental fog. I remember not wanting to register for this bucket list race because I felt so terrible, but it had always been a dream of mine, so I went for it. That's the thing about us runners. We can be so stubborn. So many of us would rather run a dream race than take the time to take care of ourselves.

Despite my physical deterioration, I was able to start 2016 off really strong. During the first week of January, I completed my first Indoor Dopey Challenge. Two weeks later, a major snow storm hit the DC metro area, and the school district I work for closed for seven consecutive school days. Including weekends, I had eleven days off of work, so I used the unexpected free time to log some extra miles on the treadmill. I ran 155 miles that January, my highest monthly mileage ever. Two weeks later, I set off for Birmingham, Alabama to run the Mercedes-Benz Marathon. While waiting in the corrals before the race, I told my friend Jenn that I really wanted to run a sub-4 hour marathon. For some reason, as I said those words, I really believed it could happen.

I ran a 3:57:10.

In the weeks following Alabama, I continued to run 25-35 miles per week. I wasn't training for anything, but I wanted to keep my endurance up so that I could eventually attempt to qualify for Boston (I was just over 20 minutes away from doing so). I thought maybe registering for more races would help keep me motivated, so I spent the rest of the year competing, competing, competing. Let's take a look at how that went:

  • March: Ran the Rock 'n' Roll DC Marathon.
  • April: Ran the Oshkosh Marathon in Wisconsin. Registered for my first Olympic triathlon.
  • May: Little to no training. Exhausted. 
  • June: Began training for the triathlon. Still exhausted. 
  • July: Ran the Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, ME. 
  • August: Starting stressing out because the triathlon was over a month away and I was not prepared at all. 
  • September: Accepted a transfer bib for the Marine Corps Marathon. Competed in the Nation's Tri (made it by the skin of my teeth) and the Divas Half Marathon.
  • October: Competed in the Newport Half Marathon (RI), Hershey Half Marathon (PA), and Marine Corps Marathon, which took me almost 6 hours.
  • December: Ran the Jingle All The Way 15k (DC).

In addition to the triathlon training I did over the summer, I worked three jobs. I spent the majority of 2016 complaining to others how tired I felt, and how frustrated I was about becoming so out of shape. I was stressed all the time, had trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and my apartment was always a mess because I had no energy to clean. The most frustrating part was that because I was still competing all the time, no one believed any of this when I told it to them. "How could you say you're out of shape? You ran a sub 4-hour marathon this year." "You can't be that tired. You ran a half marathon over the weekend." I decided that as soon as Marine Corps was over, I was going to spend more time taking care of myself.

I should have known better than to attempt to start any sort of new health regime during the holiday season, but it was a good time to start thinking about what I needed to work on in 2017. The weekend after completing the Indoor Dopey Challenge in January, I didn't answer any phone calls or texts. I didn't set an alarm to wake up each morning, or stress over getting to the gym minutes after it opened. I allowed myself to stay in sweatpants all day, watch crappy TV, and just relax. It was my first weekend "off" in almost a year. Just over a week later, I met with both a chiropractor and a nutritionist, accepting the fact that crying out for help to whomever would listen was not going to solve any of my problems.

So this is why none of my goals this year are running related. I have spent the last four years of my life racing non-stop, on top of all of life's other responsibilities, and have exhausted myself both mentally and physically. I will continue to race this year, but will focus less on my times and how "in shape" I look and feel. This year, I've fully committed to being kind to myself and my body. My goals are to get back into the habit of eating well, spend more time on stretching and recovery from exercise, engage in activities that are beneficial to my mind and soul, and to stop committing to so many things. Do I hope to get back into my top running shape again? Absolutely. But I know it's not going to happen overnight. My body has been through so much, and has already proven to me that is capable of so many great things. Recovery will be slow, but I will get there when the time is right.

What are your non-running related goals this year?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Even Dopier Than Dopey: The #IndoorDopeyChallenge

Treadmill Running: A History

When I tell others that the majority of my marathon training is completed on a treadmill, they're almost always shocked. "How can you run for so long on a treadmill?" "Do you watch Netflix or listen to music?" "The most I stand is like 2 miles!" These are just some of the responses I get. The truth is, I used to enjoy running outside. A lot. But after experiencing several months of never-ending snow in New York, I had to bring my running indoors. Initially, I started out with 3-6 milers, which eventually grew to 10 milers. So the jump to completing all long runs (12 miles, 16 miles, 18 miles, etc.) was pretty easy.

The Creation of a 48.6 Mile Treadmill Challenge

Back in 2015, I had the opportunity to compete in the Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World, which had been a dream of mine since the inaugural event in 2014. I even quit a previous job to do it, because my employer would not allow me to take the days off of work, even though I had registered before I was hired. For those of you not familiar with the Dopey Challenge, it is a four-day event in which you complete a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon around all four parks.  I spent five days in WDW, and it was easily the best extended weekend of my life.

Embrace the clank!

Last year, I wasn't able to compete in Dopey. It was my first year at my current job, and I had already taken a day off for the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland. About two weeks before the event took place, I was running a 7-miler on the treadmill when I had an idea; why not complete Dopey on the treadmill?

I knew the this was going to be challenging, mostly because of the 26.2 miles on the fourth day. Most people compete in Disney events because running through the parks before they even open is incredible. The race courses are scattered with character stops, friendly volunteers, and enthusiastic spectators. Not to mention that the parks look stunning all lit up, and running through Cinderella's castle at 6AM is an experience I can't even describe. The closest I would get to Disney World that weekend would be by running in the Run Disney long-sleeved participant shirts I got a year prior.

Two days before the actual Dopey Challenge kicked off, I announced on both Instagram and the #TeamRunDisney Facebook group that I would be attempting the challenge on the treadmills at my gym. I received a ton of messages from people stating that I was either "awesome" or "crazy," as well as a decent handful of "good lucks!"

On January 7, 2016, I completed a 5k on the treadmill after work. The easiest "race" of Dopey was complete, and I was actually excited to run the remaining 45.5 miles. The next day, I ran the 10k on the treadmill again after work. I remember being upset that I didn't go before work, because there would only be about a 12-hour difference between the 10k and the half marathon the following morning. I slept in some PRO Compression over-the-calf Marathon socks, and felt fine the next day.

The half marathon felt effortless, and I even impressed myself with my sub-2 hour time. I couldn't help but feeling nervous for the marathon the following day, since the most I had ever run on a treadmill was 18 miles. I also hadn't completed a ton of long runs since finishing the New York City Marathon the previous November. But with enough determination, fueling, hydration, and Pandora, I ran 26.2 miles on a treadmill and loved every second of it.

Inaugural #IndoorDopeyChallenge complete!

Two Years Running

In the months following last year's challenge, I didn't think about whether or not I would run it again this year. Training-wise, 2016 was a rough year for me, and by November I was still working on getting my speed and endurance back. Just over a month before the challenge would start, I decided to post on Instagram that I would be running it again. By sharing this decision with my friends and followers, I would feel a huge sense of accountability, which would help me run all 48.6 treadmill miles whether I was ready to or not.

In the weeks leading up to this year's Indoor Dopey Challenge, two friends who I met on Instagram years ago told me that they would be joining me. I was surprised that others were signing up to do it, but also so stoked to have both Kristen and Elle complete the challenge! Coincidently, we had all just been selected as PRO Compression 2017 Ambassadors, so Kristen and I coordinated socks since we had a few in common, and Elle joined us on the days that she could. Kristen also had the idea to create "character stops" by attaching mile marker signs featuring Mickey, Dopey, and others to wooden rods. I totally mimicked her idea, and created six of my own, one for each distance and challenge (the Goofy Challenge is completed as part of Dopey by running both the half and full marathons for a total of 39.3 miles). Having these ladies share their ideas and enthusiasm with me definitely helped me get excited to run!

The 5k - The 5k was the easiest run to complete, as expected, and I finished in 27 minutes flat. I headed to Gold's Gym after work so that I could complete the distance in their Cardio Cinema. The Cardio Cinema is exactly what it sounds like; three rows of cardio equipment, including ellipticals, treadmills, and stationary bikes, facing a large projector that displays a different movie every day. My favorite thing about the cinema is that it's totally dark, and there's an industrial fan mounted in the corner of the room that keeps it super cool.

The 10k - Not much to report here. Again, I headed to the Cardio Cinema after work. Running felt effortless, and I completed the 10k in 54:11. Similar to last year, I was worried that running later in the day would effect the half marathon that I would be running the following morning. When I got home, I put on different compression socks and foam rolled to help my legs feel fresh for the next day.

The Half Marathon - I had to get my 13.1 miles in early, because I would be working an event for Vega later that day. Gold's doesn't open until 7am on Saturdays, so I went to my sister's apartment complex around 6:30am to start running. I drank Vega Sugar-Free Energizer before I left my apartment, and kept both water and Vega Hydrator with me on the treadmill. Unfortunately, my extra socks and foam rolling the night before didn't help too much. My legs felt heavy, and I had to switch to a run/walk several times. Knowing that Kristen and Elle were running that day, and that I had a huge audience on social media, definitely helped me persevere. I finished in a time of 2:09:33.

The Marathon - I was so nervous for this. My legs felt like rocks during the previous day's half marathon, and I had worked a 7-hour event for Vega the night before. The main thing that kept me going was the knowledge that Kristen and Elle would be running that day (Kristen started about an hour before I did), and I had people on Instagram cheering me on. I didn't set an alarm for that morning to allow my body get the full amount of rest it needed (I also had nothing else planned for that day, so it didn't matter what time I finished running). For breakfast, I had vegan "nice" cream and iced coffee, and packed my bag of necessities. This included three full water bottles, a bottle of Vega Hydrator, and spare clothes (to prevent from nearly drowning in my own sweat). I arrived at Gold's just after it opened, put my extra stuff in a locker, and headed right into the cinema.

My plan was to break up the 26.2 miles into the following distances (since the treadmill maxes out at 60 minutes): 6.2 miles, 6 miles, 6 miles, 6 miles, 2 miles. I completed the 6.2 miles, followed by the first 6-miler, but I could feel my legs starting to get tired around 14 miles. I ended up running the following: 6.2 miles, 6 miles, 5 miles, 3 miles, 2.48 miles, 3.52 miles. There was some walking toward the end, but I focused on completing the distance, and not on speed. As I ran, I watched "X-Men: The Last Stand" about 4.5 times, and listened to New Found Glory Radio on Pandora. I didn't set a new personal best in the marathon, but I did beat the previous year's treadmill marathon time by about 4 minutes. I finished the Indoor Walt Disney World Marathon in a time of 4:27:04!

Dopey Aftermath

As many of you know, the #IndoorDopeyChallenge isn't an "official" event. You don't have to register or pay any fee to do it. There are no bibs, participant shirts, finisher medals, post-race awards ceremonies...nothing. All you have to do is run a on a treadmill, and share your completion of each distance on Instagram using the above hashtag. That's it. People often ask me "why do you do this if you don't get anything out of it?" To me, this is such a ridiculous question, because I get so much out of this event. I get other people inspired and motivated to try difficult tasks. I build relationships with others who either support me in what I'm doing, or are willing to join me. Most importantly, I feel GOOD about myself, which is a feeling no medal could ever provide me with.

When I compete in a marathon, I almost always cry at the finish line, not when a medal is being placed around my neck. The moment you cross the finish is when you are overwhelmed with emotion. You feel powerful. You feel accomplished. You feel INCREDIBLE. To me, the medals are just evidence that I finished the race. Runners often joke about "doing it for the bling" or "running all the miles, earning all the medals," but in most cases, there's only a little bit of truth to that. We run for the excitement. We run to prove that we can do difficult things. We run to feel ALIVE.

So for the past two years, I completed the Dopey Challenge not expecting anything at the finish. In 2016, I shared on the #TeamRunDisney Facebook page that I had completed my first Indoor Dopey. The post received over 1000 likes, and over 200 comments. One comment came from a woman named Terri Akins, owner of Virtual Run World. She congratulated me on my finish, and stated that she was overwhelmed (in a good way) by the amount of motivation and positive energy that I created in the group. As a result, she wanted to reward me for what I had done. I got to choose any medal I wanted from her website, so I chose this one:
How appropriate!

This year I set off for my indoor challenge, again not expecting anything for completing it. About four days after the marathon, I got an e-mail from the concierge in my building, stating that I had a package. I headed downstairs to retrieve it, and was almost speechless when I saw what was inside:

My friend VK, who I met on Instagram years ago and then in person at the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon, sent me, Kristen, and Elle each a customized Starbucks cup to congratulate us on completing Dopey on treadmills! Both Terri's and VK's gifts at the end of each of my indoor Dopeys are more than just evidence that I finished. They're reminders that as a runner, I have the ability to inspire others with what I accomplish. In a society that distributes participant trophies at children's soccer tournaments, I can serve as a reminder to others the power of intrinsic rewards, and doing things because they are challenging, not because you expect something when you're done. They're also reminders of the incredible friends and community that I have discovered just by running. And all of that is so much more than I could have ever hoped for.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Gaia Herbs: Review & Recipe

I've been thinking about this blog a lot recently. My last post was back in February! Life has gotten away from me lately, and I've been neglecting a lot of my old hobbies. I promise that changes this week!

Last month, I was selected to participate in a campaign with Fitfluential and Gaia Herbs. Those of you who have been following me on social media or know me personally know that I've been following a plant-based diet for just under two years. My nutrition has been pretty off lately, and I've been working hard to incorporate more whole foods and supplements into my diet again. So I was pretty excited when this showed up at my door:

Three tubs of Gaia Herbs Organic Maca Powder and a shaker bottle. All for me!

Not sure what maca powder is? Here's what you need to know!

Maca has been used as a caffeine-free, plant-based performance enhancer since the Inca Empire, as it supports energy and stamina. It's an adaptogen, meaning it supports a healthy response to stress. Sounds perfect for endurance athletes!

So what can you do with it? Maca powder can be blended into smoothies and juices, or mixed in to oatmeal, yogurt, or chia pudding.

I personally have used maca powder in my smoothie bowls, which I regularly eat for breakfast. I'm not the type of girl who swings by the local coffee shops for pumpkin spice lattes or maple-glazed pumpkin scones, so I find ways to enjoy those irresistible fall flavors in my favorite plant-based recipes. Because when it's fall and you're a twentysomething-year-old female, pumpkin spice is a must!

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Bowl
(inspired by Simple Green Smoothies)
Serves 1

-1 cup fresh or frozen kale (to be honest, I never measure this...I just stuff in as much as I can!)
-1 cup (8oz) almond milk, unsweetened
-1 tablespoon chia seeds or flaxseeds
-1 teaspoon Gaia's Organic Maca Powder
-1 frozen banana, sliced
-1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
-1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

What to do!
Add kale and almond milk to a high-speed blender; blend until smooth (doing this first helps eliminate the chunks of kale). Then, add the chia, maca, and banana slices.

The star of today's show: organic maca powder!

Blend until most of the banana has been chopped up. Next, add the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice, and blend until smooth.

So basic, it hurts.

I almost forgot this little guy!

Finally, pour into a cup or bowl (depending if you want a smoothie or smoothie bowl) and enjoy! I'm not one for toppings but feel free to top with chopped nuts, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), granola, more pumpkin pie spice...whatever!

What's your favorite smoothie recipe? Share in the comments!