Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: The Year in Review

I was 2 seconds away from naming this post "The Year of the Knee" because that's exactly what it turned out to be. But then my other "Year in Review" posts wouldn't match with this one so I resisted the urge. Just remember the unofficial title.

It was promising...

Back in January, I called 2015 the year of the athlete. After completely crushing all expectations in 2014 by both running my first marathon that January(Disney) and a positively huge Half Marathon PR in November (Philadelphia) you could say I was riding pretty high. You know how people say that you shouldn't go grocery shopping while hungry? Maybe it applies to planning future goals while being in a "runner's high" as well.
The Machine
I decided that it was time to aim high and finally try a tri. I have triathlon in the brain folks. I've had it for a long time now. This was gonna be the year and to prove it I bought The Machine and started cycling. I also talked about cross-training and to crown the Year of the Athlete, I would start 2016 by running The Goofy Challenge, which I signed up for.
First "big" ride


In all this goal planning (which included some lofty mileage goals) I seemed to have forgotten that I had gotten into some serious trouble with my right knee and that even though the doctor cleared me to run Philly, it was essentially a patch job and I would have to return and deal with it. I didn't.

During the race in Philly, the knee was a total non-issue. Hardly felt a thing. So I guess I just thought I was gonna be OK but...

In March, I ran the Puerto Rico Half Marathon and while the knee did not give me much trouble, the bonk during the final 2 miles as the Sun (and heat) reared it's head let me know there was some work to be done.
We need more Half Marathons in Puerto Rico

It wasn't all bad

After the Half, things were looking pretty good. My wife and I both started to make changes in our eating habits that have been very positive and I finally started cross-training by doing P90X3. The short, but tough workouts are a good complement to a runner. I also found out that I enjoy cycling as much as I enjoy running. Even did a 40 mile charity ride that included the steepest hill ever and survived. I felt I was on the right track and finding balance. I even PR'ed at the 5K distance even though I hardly raced this year.
5K PR... those are hard to come by
Trying to do P90X3...
The past starts to creep up on you

By the summer though the wheels started coming off. I noticed my knee wasn't recovering after my runs and the pain became more prevalent more often. Afraid to put the Goofy Challenge in jeopardy, I decided to stop cycling and focus on running so I parked The Machine for the rest of the year. Then, I went on a mini vacation to take our girls to the Frozen Summer of Fun in Disney World and the 2 long walking days took a toll on the knee. It swelled for the first time through all this and that's when I really felt like it was serious. Obviously, any possibility of a tri this year went out the window as well.

I got to see 2 awesome friends while at Disney World
By this time, it was do or die with the Goofy Challenge so I have been training as best I can but it's been slow and painful. I missed some crucial long runs and fell short on others so I will go and just do my very best.

I know all this sounds a bit grim but overall, I have to say that I'm quite happy with my year. Things didn't exactly go as planned for sure but think about this: Here I am, trying to figure out how to pull off the Goofy Challenge. Here I am, thinking about the steps I have to take so I can continue running and hopefully cycling and swimming and accomplishing the goals I have set for myself.

Here I am realizing that this has truly become important to me.

What can be better then that? At any other time in my life, this could have been an excuse to stop. "I got bad knees. Can't do it." The old me would have said. Just seeing it written like that makes me shiver. I want to keep going. So I'm going to tentatively call 2016 the Year of Recovery. I want to do what I can to deal with this and if it means surgery or even an extended resting period so be it. I'll come back even better than before then. 

So here's to a good year and hoping for an even better one in 2016. Hope your 2015 was good as well and that you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Magical Miles: The Runner's Guide to Walt Disney World 2016 Giveaway!

Back when I decided to run the 2014 WDW Marathon, I had so many questions about what to do and how and when to do it. I remember looking at the runDisney site and thinking that this race was truly different from others so planning for it was going to be different as well. When should I register with such high demand? Should I stay on site or off? What's the pick-up process like? What time to get up? Are the Challenges worth the money? What about all those extras that they offer? Are they worth it? That is just the very tip of the iceberg regarding the questions I had.

Thankfully, I met many friends through this blog who pointed me in the right direction. For example Team Run Disney, which I have talked about here before. A group of great people that are Disney fans and can (and will) help you answering the questions you may have and supporting you every step of the way. If you think this Run Disney "thing" is something you will be doing, I highly recommend you join them on Facebook.

The other resource I found extremely helpful was the book we are talking about today, Magical Miles: The Runner's Guide to Walt Disney World, written by Megan Biller and with contributions by Krista Albrecht. I bought a copy of this book back in 2013 and I can say without hesitation that running shoes aside, this is the most important investment I made for Marathon Weekend.

I'm gonna try really hard to not sound like I was paid to say this (and I wasn't by the way, this is my honest opinion) but objectively, there is no other guide like this one out there and it covers every possible question you could ever conceive regarding any of the races held at Disney World or Disneyland (and Paris is coming in the near future I hear...) Accommodations (both on-site and off), meals, where to eat (runner focused), registration, what to bring, what happens on race day, what happens if you can't make it... it's all covered in an easy to understand way. It is also a great reference. If you are totally new to the world of Run Disney, you can pick up this book and read it cover to cover or if you have a little more experience or simply want some information on a particular matter, you can jump straight to that section with no problem.

Without going into the details -I would rather you get those straight from Megan and Krista- I will tell you the two things that I appreciate the most from this guide:

1. It is truly objective. This is not an "Official" Disney guide and the research for this book was done by going to these races and paying for them just like anybody else. When they give you the rundown on why something is worth it for you or not, it's because they tried it and are giving you first hand knowledge. Megan in fact is a Dopey Challenge finisher along with her many, many other pieces of Disney bling.

2. They work hard. Every year. Back when I bought my first copy, there was no Dopey Challenge. No Star Wars or Avengers Half Marathon. Therefore the guide didn't include it. Well, now it does. As Run Disney continues to grow, so does the guide. You can bet that if you get the most recent edition, you will have the most up to date information (at the time of publishing) in your hands. 

So there you have it. A complete guide to the oftentimes crazy world of RunDisney written by runners who are Disney fans. What else could you ask for?

Oh, you could ask for more huh? What, you want it free? You do? Well ask and you shall receive!

To celebrate my return to Marathon Weekend in January and to pay it forward since this guide helped me so much, I'm hoping it can help others I'm going to give away two copies of this guide's latest edition (2016). All you gotta do is this:

1. Leave a comment here. Come on, don't be shy. You can just let me know how bad you want this book or say hi but leave a comment

2. Follow this link to enter:  

3. Once there it will ask you to follow me on Twitter so if you have not already done so...

And that's it! Easy. The entry deadline is December 7th so an entire week but don't wait. Enter and win. If you don't win, I still recommend this book so head on over to and grab a copy. All your questions will be answered. At least those regarding runDisney.