Recap: 2015 Best Damn Race Marathon - Cape Coral

Since I have never run a marathon in my hometown, I decided it was about time to run a race in my old stomping grounds. Fortunately for me, Best Damn Race holds a race about 2 miles from my parent's house.  Can't get too much closer to home than that.   Cape Coral is in South Florida, about 7 hours south from where I currently live.  The race was a good excuse to take a weekend drive down and visit the family. 


The expo was held in a field adjacent to what would be the starting line.  Thankfully, the weather was nice.  Otherwise, it may have made packet pick-up difficult. On the upside, I was able to bring the dogs to packet pick-up.  With my packet in hand, I headed back to my parents house to relax. 

Race Day - 12/13/15

Well rested and ready to run!

It was very nice only having a 3 minute drive to the starting area.  (Yes I could have walked the few miles, but I wanted to stay fresh for the race.) I hung around race village for a few minutes, then  made my way to the corrals. The marathon and half marathon course are the same, with the marathoners enjoying a second loop.  Since I had just finished Space Coast a couple of weeks previous and the weather was going to be brutal again, I planned to run/walk an easy pace and enjoy the day.

                                                 And we're off!

Most of the race ran through neighborhoods I was very familiar with.

 Best Damn Cheerleader!

My lovely DisneyBride brought me cold Gatorade, ice, and snacks along the course. Magnus offered me enthusiastic barks and slobbery kisses.  

Mission accomplished!  The weather turned out to be even more brutal than I had expected.  My Garmin recorded temps at 93 degrees.  Following the race, I wanted nothing more than to get back to my parents house and jump into the pool to cool off.  

Pretty solid finish line pic.

I did manage to finish within about 2 minutes of my PR.  Eventually, I want to have an opportunity to run a marathon with close to ideal temps.  My luck, it will be at Disney, when I just want to take pictures with characters and hop on rides! Ha!

                                        I am hot!  Really, I am very hot! It was 90+ degrees.

  • The aid stations were well manned.  Special recognition to the volunteers from Cape Coral High School!  Once a Seahawk, always a Seahawk.
  • Flat course.
  • Well marked course.
  • Ice on the second lap. This was great to help keep the beverage in my polar bottles cold. 
  • The finish line had plenty of food and beer. Pollo Tropical is a South Florida chain of cuban style food. Beans, rice, plantains, roasted chicken. They had much so that my Wife,  Mother, and Grandmother were all offered food to take home.
  • Finish line beer.  Cold and delicious, the perfect finish line beverage.  They also had a hard root beer, I tried a couple of sips.  It was just too sweet for me.   
  • I'm going to call her the 'tutu volunteer'.  A woman with a boa and a colorful tutu was cheering on runners at about the 1.5 mile mark.  She was beyond upbeat, not only first thing in the morning, but just as excited and cheerful at the completion of my second lap.  Thank you awesome volunteer!
  • Free race photos.  Yep, no paying extra for photos.  

  • Super Hot.  Not the race's fault, just an observation.
  • Not enough volunteers to manage traffic from side streets. Too many drivers going far too fast, far too close to runners.
  • Nuun.   This is more a preference issue.  I don't think Nuun has enough calories for me.  I also seem to remember that the website advertised a different beverage (Note: I can't find this now. Perhaps, I remembered wrong.) 

This might be my favorite pic of the day. Ben and Magnus rode with DisneyBride in the car and were my furry cheerleaders. They had air conditioning. I didn't. Life ain't fair.
To continue with my fairly aggressive race schedule - I have a half marathon on Jan 3 - my last longer distance race before Dopey Challenge.

Recap: 2015 Space Coast Marathon & Half Marathon: PR or ER

DG:  My training has been going pretty well this season.  So a couple of months ago, I decide to make the Space Coast Marathon my A race.  The course is flat, the weather in late November is typically good, and I didn't have any big races before Space Coast. 


DB: We followed our traditional pre-Space Coast Routine again this year.  After waking up early, dropping off the dogs at the vet's office, and picking up the rental car we got on the road to Cape Canaveral.  It's a bit over 4 hours and we arrived just in time for lunch.  I used to live in Brevard County in the late 90s, and I had a favorite falafel spot. A very tiny little - blink and you miss it place:  Sinbad's.  

Yep, the logo on their sign looks like Aladdin.  Maybe this was what originally piqued my interest in this place. I do love me some Aladdin.  But I love falafel even more.  And theirs is FANTASTIC. They add pickled red cabbage - and it is heaven.  Really.  This is the third year in a row that we've been coming down for this race, and the falafel meal  at Sinbad's has now  officially become a pre-race tradition.  

DG: Arriving later to the expo is not without some advantages. The lines are not bad to pick up your packet.  In just a couple of seconds DisneyBride and I both had our bibs.  The only long queues were in the Space Coast Marathon merchandise tent.  I am so glad that a friend of mine picked up my Tervis tumblers that morning.  It has become my tradition to collect them when they are available for races. These sell out quickly and were already gone when we made our way through the booth.  

I love my Tervis Tumblers! 
  On the way out, we took the astronaut photo (up top) and headed to meet some friends.  I really wish they would move the statues somewhere else.  It makes it confusing on the way into the Expo with everyone crowding around for photos.  It just seems to keep people from being able to leave and prevents people from entering. 

Race Day (Sunday -
November 29, 2015)

Yikes - what a scary photo!!! 
 Pre-race - Yep - we woke up at 4am!

DG: With the goal of setting a PR, I left the big hydration pack and mobile phone behind.  Yep - except for my Garmin, I ran 'naked'. After a quick shower, a PB and J, and some Mountain Dew we were off for the start line.  With a bathroom break and some catching up with friends, DisneyBride was off for her race.  The half marathon starts 30 minutes before the full. A kiss and wishing each other luck, she headed for the corral. 

First Half

After the countdown start, we were off!  The weather at the start was perfect.  Nice and cool (relatively) and the humidity was manageable.  However, the crowding on the course seemed to be far worse than in past years.  Not only on the first half of the course, but the entire course.  My 1:1 intervals felt great, and I was right on pace for what my training runs had shown was possible.  As I approached the half way point, a very light rain started to fall.  I crossed the the mid-point right on time!

 Second Half

How quickly things change.  The temperature quickly rose, according to my watch topping out at 88 degrees.  My pace plummeted and just finishing the race became the goal.  I felt like I slowed to a crawl.  I was not alone, it seemed like the heat was really hurting runners all around.  The heat was brutal and my goal time was thrown out the window. 

Fortunately, the second half of the course features far more on-course support from spectators and entertainment.  The cool/wet towels from the Parrot Heads were amazing.  It amazing how a little heat can change what you want on the course. 

I did manage to cross the finish line with a PR.  The mission was accomplished, however, I had hope to cross it sooner.  I think it will be a while before I try to PR a marathon again, it did take quite a bit out of me. 

DB: Some of you may know, I have been focused more on cycling lately, and my running has taken a backburner.  I followed a training plan but I didn't really have high hopes for this race.  

But I got lucky. There were pace groups for all paces! Yep - even for me! I've never run with a pace group before, because well - they usually don't have them beyond a 16 min/mile pace.  You know - for the 'all-the-way-in-back-of-the-back-of-the-pack'. Which is where I live.  But at Space Coast this year - there was a 4 hour run/walk pace group. I know - 4 hours is slow by most standards. But since this course is open for 7.5 hours, I've always known I had a lot of time. So for the past few years, I've walked this race, made a lot of stops, took a lot of photos, etc - making my already slow pace... even slower. This year, I wanted to stay on track.  And I found this guy here carrying a Jeff Galloway run/walk pacer flag.  So I joined in - had a lot of laughs along the way, and instead of goofing around, I stuck with the group and got a PR.
My wonderful pacer,Mel!

Since this was Year 3 of the 5 year Big Bang Series, DG, myself, and our friends we traveled with, all walked away with the Milky Way Challenge medal for completing 3 consecutive years.

2 big medals each. Not bad.

Final Thoughts

DG: We'll be back again next year.  The rest of my running crew have sworn off the marathon and vow to only run the half.  The race is perfectly placed as a great Dopey warm-up, I guess I'll see if I give into peer pressure.

The second half of the course needs more (more visible) medical support.  It was scary the number of times I was asked about where the medical tents were.  The weather never seems to cooperate with this race, it gets very hot. This is my third year running, and I have still seen no improvement in medical support.

DB: I was thinking after 3 consecutive years I was done with this race. There are just SO many other races I want to do on or near this date. But take a look at this view.  This is what you are looking at on the course. A beautiful waterfront.  

My one suggestion for improvement: Vegan options. This race is known for having an excellent after partyBeyond the typical water and bagels - there are beer trucks, icy cold Coke products, cold OJ, and for food: hot pizza, freshly made pancakes, and scrambled eggs. The drinks are fine - but as vegans - our food options were limited to eating a banana.  Yes, - that is all we had to eat at the party. 

 It is very easy to make regular pizza vegan - they can just leave off the cheese and pepperoni - and leave the bread, sauce, and veggies.  You can make pancakes vegan too, don't use eggs or milk in the batter.  (Bisquick is vegan. Just add water!) I ran into blogger, Shannon, a vegan we've met through runDisney events - and she has been writing the Space Coast RD and asking for vegan options also.  So if you would like to see plant-based options in 2016, send an email to the race director. I will be doing that myself.
So yes, I'll be back next year. I do hope there are still pace groups for the back of the pack. It made all the difference for me that day - and for many other runners in that group.  Thankfully DG and I each got the PR and did not have to go to the ER! After the race, we showered and made the 1 hour drive to our happy place. 

You guessed it! 


Not sure where we got the energy after waking up at 3:30 am and then running - IN THE HEAT, but we managed to hit all four Disney parks that evening.  

Then after the parks closed - we made the 4.5 hour drive home.  

Yep - it was a very long day - but a very memorable one.

Note: If you plan to do this race, keep in mind the half marathon usually sells out the first day registration opens. One good thing, if you have run the previous year - you get first crack at an early registration.

Pumpkin Bars #fromSkratch

It seems like the holidays are all about baking and enjoying treats.And if you have a sweet tooth, well - it can get out of control.  DisneyGroom and I are on a continuing mission to make better choices about what we eat.  But I know my hubby all too well, and I know he misses my baking cookies, brownies, cakes, and pies. Even I miss it!  And I didn't eat the things - I just enjoyed baking them.

So, enter Skratch Labs cookie mix.   

Here is their nutritional info

Cookie Mix - Serving Size: 22g
Amount Per Serving (as prepared but without mix-in): Calories 120, Calories from Fat 50, Total Fat 0g (8% DV), Saturated Fat 0g (18% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg (8% DV), Sodium 180mg (8% DV), Total Carbohydrate 18g (6% DV), Fiber 0g (0% DV), Sugars 8g, Protein 1g, Vitamin A (4% DV), Vitamin C (0% DV), Calcium (0% DV), Iron (2% DV). Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

IngredientsWheat FlourBrown Cane SugarCane SugarOatsLeavening(Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda), Vanilla ExtractCinnamon.
Allergens: Contains Wheat

The Skratch Labs webpage contains a recipe here, but I had to make it healthier (and vegan) of course, so these are my substitutions:

Instead of eggs and butter - I used pumpkin puree (15 oz.) make sure it is puree and not pie filling - the cans look similar
Instead of chocolate chips - I used carob chips 1/4 cup
Instead of nuts - I used shredded coconut 1/4 cup & 1/4 cup oatmeal

Mix dry ingredients first in a large bowl, then stir in your pumpkin puree until you get a smooth thick consistency.  The mixture should be thicker than cake batter, but still be able to pour into a pan.

I used an 11 x 7 pyrex baking dish. 
The mixture will look pretty flat at first, but it will rise as it bakes.
Bake for 30 min at 350 degrees. You can poke center with toothpick to check when done.

Allow it to cool.  
Your bars will have a moist, banana bread-like consistency.

You can even try using cookie cutters to make fun shapes

I should probably add that I do not have a sweet tooth. And I don't even like the taste of pumpkin. (Nope - not even the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte --- yuck).  But, I actually like these!  They are not  very sweet  and they don't taste overwhelmingly of pumpkin, at least not to me. The coconut and oatmeal added a nice texture, and the carob was sweet in a mild way.

Paired with a nice cold glass of almond milk, it was a great evening treat.  But you could stash a few in a ziploc bag and have them in place of your usual nutrition bar before or after a run. 

Where do you get this fabulous and very customizable 'cookie mix'?  I found mine at my local bike shop, right next to the energy gels and powdered drink mixes.  But if your running or bike shop doesn't carry Skratch products, you can always find it online.  

note: I was not compensated in any way by Skratch Labs. I just really enjoy their products. These turned out so well, I felt compelled to share. I hope you enjoy them.

Run Happy!

Recap: 2015 #runDisney #WineDineHalf Weekend: Splash & Dash

It's been a few weeks since Wine & Dine weekend, and at last I've got my recap complete.

Friday: Expo

Driving from Tallahassee that morning, we missed the mad rush that is the opening of the expo.  Upon our arrival, I quickly grabbed my bib, waited in line for my pin, and headed to the runDisney booth.  The only thing I purchased was my magnet.  

 Jeff is always willing to help with last minute advice.

[My filing cabinet at the office holds my race magnet collection. Side note: my colleagues are starting to think I have a running problem.]

Following the expo we headed to EPCOT and Magic Kingdom to enjoy some park time.

 Carb loading is important!

Buzz wants to be just like me.

We stayed until the fireworks and then called it a night.  I had an early wakeup for the morning 5K.

Saturday: Jingle Jungle 5k

I've run this race twice. It was actually our first runDisney event, way back in 2011.  But this time, I decided to volunteer instead. I enjoy volunteering at the races almost as much as I enjoy running them.  My assignment: I spent my morning moving people from the finish line to the medal volunteers.  "Move along folks, nothing to see here."  Yeah - that was me!  I saw many of my runDisney friends cross the finish line.  Great job everyone!  Also, if you haven't volunteered for a race or the expo, I can't recommend it enough.  So much fun. Do it!

Saturday: Baptism (The Splash)

Now for the "splash" in the splash and dash.  My two little nephews were scheduled to be Baptized at midday, between the 5k and the half marathon.  So, following my volunteer shift,  I grabbed DisneyBride and headed for Tampa.  We dashed to the church, rejected Satan, splashed holy water, and enjoyed dessert with the nephews before heading back to Orlando to relax for a few minutes before the race.  


Saturday Night: Half of a Half (The Dash)

I decided to go with a costume that paid homage to my favorite chef. The Swedish Chef from the Muppets is legendary in the Running Happily Ever After household. The costume started off intact as you see here, but the humid evening quickly made a casualty of my mustache adhesive.  So I  ran 'sans mustache'.
I arrived at EPCOT before 7:00 to make a quick trip into park.  With a kiss from DisneyBride and some soda from the Cool Club, I headed for the buses to ESPN Wide World of Sports.  Boarding a bus a few minutes after 7:00 I assumed it would be smooth sailing. I was WRONG.  The traffic was horrendous and it took the better part of 35 minutes to get to our destination.  Upon arriving, the Wine and Dine atmosphere is very different from other runDisney events.  The promise of beer and wine at the finish makes it more adult themed than family-themed.  Not bad just different.  

I worked my way around the crowd, running into friends and making some new ones.  Eventually, I decided I needed some caffeine.  I headed to the vendors to buy a soda.  A few minutes later, the wind kicks up and then everyone is making a mad dash for the baseball stadium.  

I will skip the details of the weather delay and just say that I am a little disappointed that runDisney/Wide World of Sports didn't seem to have a better communication plan.  Depending on where the runner was pre-race, he or she may not have had any information.  The floor of the expo hall was the only place where I could hear announcements.  I assume that WWOS has more communication equipment, as I imagine that evacuation of the fields is a normal occurrence during the summer.  I do not fault the race organizers for the decision to shorten the race or to evacuate us (apparently due to lightning), please just do a better job with communication in the future.  Also note, that not all runners carry their phone during a race, so more frequent announcements to everyone would have been appreciated.

With the all-clear given, it was another mad dash to the start line.  It may have just been the quickest start of any runDisney race I have ever participated in.  Here is where I would like to give the volunteers a shout out.  They were evacuated as well, and still managed to get all their tasks done.  Everything from having the water stops setup and manned, to guiding runners back to the corrals. 

The course was shortened with the out and back to Animal Kingdom being removed.  The short course lead to pretty long waits at all the character stops.  My longest wait was almost 20 minutes for Buzz and Woody.  Everyone along the course seemed upbeat, despite confusion over the shortened course.  This is my third runDisney night race (after the final Tower of Terror 2014 and the final Expedition Everest 2015) and I really enjoyed them all. Looking forward to running the complete 13.1 course in a future year.  

This is the final year of the Osbourne Family Festival of Dancing Lights in Disney Hollywood Studios, so I was excited and nostalgic getting to run through there.

The Muppet Theater!

After Party

With the course being cut short, it appears EPCOT was unprepared for more people staying for the after party.  The lines for food, beer, and wine were crazy.  I would say that they were as bad as any weekend day I have spent at Food and Wine.  Again, the night races being accommodated by an after party is great.   The crowd never really seemed to thin, even when we left at 3:30. I was also impressed with the amount of characters, especially the ones you don't see too often, that were out meeting fans during the party.   

I just ran a Half Marathon of undetermined distance and all I got was LIGHT beer. 


Final Thoughts 

Even with the shortened course, I had a great time.  Sure, I'm disappointed that it wasn't a half marathon, but any run through Disney Parks is fun.  I also enjoyed the party-like atmosphere that the Wine and Dine Half race weekend is famous for.  The after party, while packed, was still fun.  I will do this race again, with the hopes of enjoying the full course and a less crowded after party.

And DisneyBride picked up my souvenir race banner above to add to the other collection in my office.  Now you see why my colleagues think I might be obsessed. 

Next up is the Space Coast Marathon. The theme for that race is PR or ER. Yep - you heard right, I'm going for a marathon PR this coming Sunday. See you on the course soon!


Who is your favorite Muppet?

Do you enjoy running or racing at night?