Latest reviews by Dianna

(2014)
"1742 mile journey from Chicago to Disneyland"
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You traveled how far for a race?

1742 miles!

Did you win prize money? Nope!

Then, why would someone travel that far to “just” run in a race? Easy! For the unbelievable, magical experience to run thru Disneyland. It’s where dreams come true. It’s where you can be a kid again.

And, you truly can.

The Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland was my 1st of 3 Disney races that I am running in 2014. As this was also my 1st Disney race, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In speaking to runner friends who have ran Disney races in the past, I heard nothing but high praise.

I was not disappointed.

In general, Disney races begin very early in the morning. My guess is to give the runners the full experience of their parks without competing with the fellow park goers. As a Disney runner, you are able to run throughout the park on a beautiful course past rides and have the opportunity to stop and take pictures with the characters. I had heard that I would have the opportunity for photo ops, but quite honestly, the competitive part of me could not imagine wanting to stop and snap a quick pic.

With the Tinkerbell Half Marathon beginning bright and early at 5am, I had set several alarms to make sure I would pop out of bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. OK, hmmm….let’s just say, with sleep still clouding my eyes, I did luckily roll out of bed at 2:30am. Given this was my 3rd destination race, I have learned that despite the very early hour, I need to make sure I give my body the proper fuel. There is nothing worse than running a race knowing you might just have a PR and your body totally running out of fuel in the last quarter of the race. Oatmeal and peanut butter at 3am…YUM! (not really!!)

By 4:15am, I was out the door ready to walk over to the start line. Yikes, it’s really dark!

But despite this early hour, many other runners were doing the same and the walk to Disneyland was a nice warm-up.

With the arrival at Disneyland, the park was buzzing with excitement, crowds along the route were forming and the runners were getting to their corrals. With this mass amount of people, one would think that they were visiting during normal park hours, not 4:30am! In general, most runners were dressed in some type of outfit to commemorate the race. Costumes & tutu’s galore! Not to be outdone, there were many, many men running in tutu’s as well!

As I had submitted a prior race time, I had the good fortune to begin in Corral A! Holy cow, what the heck? Are they sure they didn’t make a mistake? I don’t think of myself as particularly fast, so, Shhhh! Starting at the front of the pack as opposed to waiting for your turn many, many, many minutes later is great!!!!

To begin the race in true Disney style, FIREWORKS!!! (cue in Katy Perry’s song)

Then the runners were off to begin their magical journey with smiles on their faces, pixie dust carried along their sides and the belief that the Tinkerbell Half Marathon adventure would make memories to last a lifetime.

For some of you, you may be curious what a runner should do when running the race long before sunrise. Must you bring a head lamp? No, you do not. Disney does a great job of making sure the course is well lit and very well marked.

For the Tinkerbell Half Marathon, the journey began close to the resorts where we proceeded to run along the area hotels before winding back through to the California Adventure Park.

As I ran past the Tower of Terror, I had my 1st encounter with the Disney characters being available to the runners for photo ops.

What to do? What to do?

Here were the characters from The Incredibles! Such indecision! However, as I ran past them, I found myself stopping along the side and took a quick pic.

Stopping for no other reason than to capture the moment was all it took for me to do as they say, “When in Rome…..” From then on, I was hooked! This is fun! This is really, really fun! And, that is why I traveled 1742 miles from Chicago to Disneyland. For the fun!

Sure, I could have dug deep, ran “like the wind Bullseye from Toy Story” and captured a PR from this very flat, fast course. But, then I would have missed out on running up to the characters, getting my picture taken or chatting with another runner while we ran side by side.

It is definitely the type of race that you would run with family or friends. However, even if you run it alone, there is much joy and camaraderie to be shared with the runners around you. The running community has such a big heart. In the various races that I have ran, runners will help each other out no matter their personal goals.

Huge thanks goes out to the Ariel who realized I was running alone and stopped mid race to offer her help in taking my picture. What a treasured memory!

As we wound our way through the California Adventure Park and then through the original Disneyland Park, the miles went by quite quickly. Before we realized it, 6 miles had been completed. As we were leaving the Park, 3 blocks of ladies from the Red Hat Society were lined up along the course encouraging us all to go, go, go! Little did I realize at the time, but these 416 Hatters had arrived at the 6 mile mark as early 2:45 a.m. to secure their spots and cheer us on.

As the race continued on through the neighborhoods surrounding Disneyland, signs were posted reminding us of the sleeping neighbors. Unlike Disneyworld, this park which dates back to 1955 is nestled within the Anaheim community.

Along the routes, if you found yourself in need, there was an abundance of port-a-potties. (Thanks, Disney!!) The water/Gatorade stops were well spaced and the volunteers were helpful, smiling and always encouraging. I cannot express enough gratitude to the volunteers that take their personal time to help.

As I was running into downtown Anaheim, I witnessed a beautiful California sunrise. Stunning! Big thanks to the folks around Mile 9 who had orange slices ready. #Love! It was just what I needed.

Throughout the course, high school bands played and cheerleaders cheered. These kids were awesome!

As with most races, you tend to develop a rhythm when running in step with those around you. I paced a majority of the race with a lovely runner dressed up as Pocahontas. It must have been something about that feather that grabbed my attention and propelled me along my run.

As Mile 12 came in sight, you once again found yourself entering the California Adventure Park. But, this time, instead of heading into the park, you run along the outer perimeter on your way to the finish line. After a few twists and turns, there it is! A huge amount of people were lined up along the course screaming and cheering every runner that ran by.

And before I knew it, my Disney adventure was complete. I crossed the Finish Line.

With a huge smile on my face, I was given the Tinkerbell Half Marathon medal.

Simply awesome!

But the fun did not end there.

Disney was not done providing a wonderful experience. Top notch nutrition was handed out.

And best of all, the post race band was incredible. It was a military band that was belting out No Doubt songs and I could have sworn it was Gwen Stefani singing…yes, they were that good!

As I reflect back, a week has past. I left Disneyland with a smile on my face, a sense of accomplishment and memories that will indeed last a lifetime. I flew home that same day. A 4 hour flight with muscles beginning to stiffen up may not be ideal, but it brought me home sooner to my family. While I wished with all my heart they could have been there in those crowds cheering me on, I knew that they were thinking of me during the race and waiting to receive my text with “DONE!”

If you have ever thought about running a Disney race, do it. It is one of the most wonderful running experiences I have had.

For those of you who love an extra challenge like me, keep this in mind, Disney offers a Coast to Coast Challenge. If you run at least a Half Marathon on each coast within 1 year, you receive a special medal to congratulate you on your performance. For those of us that run, it is so hard to pass up a challenge!

Guess that’s why you will see me at DisneyWorld in February 2014 running the 10K followed by the Princess Half Marathon (aka Glass Slipper Challenge).

Can’t wait!

(To see my complete review with pictures, please visit http://diannaseda.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/tinkerbell-half-marathon-2014/)

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(2014)
"Chicago Race in January? Are you completely Whack-a-Doodle?"
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It’s January in Chicago!

Who the heck runs outside along the Chicago Lakefront in January?

Well, many it seems!

No longer is running outside in Chicago in January just for the die-hard runners.

It’s a time to get together with friends who happen to be just as nutty as yourself and who perhaps think “Why not?! I’m up for a challenge, but most importantly some fun!”

And, that is the common theme when joining the many other runners at the Polar Dash Chicago 5K/10K/14 Miler.

It’s a time for fun, camaraderie, and the feeling of accomplishment.

Do not look at this as an opportunity for a PR.

Winters in Chicago can be brutal. Mother Nature can, at times, be a very unforgiving wench. A mere week before the race, we saw wind chills at -45F and snow (lots & lots of snow!!). Fortunately, during the Polar Dash Chicago, we were rewarded with temps of 36F at the start of the race. Downright balmy, but not without challenges.

The course itself was sidewalks and the Lakefront bike path.

With the warm up of temps during the preceding days and cool down at night, the course was icy in patches as well puddles as deep as Lake Michigan or so it seemed. Was this unexpected? No. Again, you must bear in mind that you are here for the fun and come with the expectation that you will encounter this.

Team Ortho put on a fun race. This was my 3rd race with this organization. The swag was great! Love the jacket, but the penguin hat, while very cute, fit extremely snug. Even my 6 year old said “Mommy, it’s kind of tight!” However, I jammed that penguin on my head to keep in spirit with the fun of the day.

The course was similar to previous races and the turnaround for us 10K’ers was well directed.

Race volunteers were out cheering on the runners and provided us all with a little extra motivation to get our rear in gear to make it to the finish line. While all 3 races finished at the same point and could potentially pose some frustration given the different levels of runners, no issues to report. Remember…it’s all about the fun!

For some of us, especially myself (I am not embarrassed to admit), getting the medal at the finish line is a great motivator. A little bling is always great!

I would be remiss if I did not give a Huge Shout-out to all the volunteers who took their personal time to help us out!! Any race I run, I am always very thankful.

2014 race season is off to a great start! What better way to begin the New Year than with my friends doing something good for us and laughing about it the entire time.

To see my complete blog post, just click here: http://diannaseda.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/youre-doing-what-chicago-race-in-january-are-you-completely-whack-a-doodle/

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(2013)
"Running Down a Mountain"
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Saturday, September 14, 2013 stands as the day that I embarked upon my latest running adventure.

Say Hello to the Big Cottonwood Marathon & Half Marathon in Salt Lake City, Utah!

It was just a race, right? Not exactly! This race would be my 1st Half Marathon running down a mountain. Sound easy? Well…. the race website announces that this may be the fastest half marathon course you’ll ever get the opportunity to run. Many of the runners have reported achieving significant PR’s in the half marathon on this course. The reality that one should keep in mind is that this is nothing less than an intense course. Do not underestimate it!

This was the 2nd year for the Big Cottonwood Marathon & Half. Last year brought out 1000 runners. However, this year, the amount of runners quadrupled! 4000 runners strong!

Given that this is a rather young race, it definitely does not come off as an inexperienced organization. It is quite the opposite. From their website, email notifications, expo to the actual race and post-race celebration, it speaks of a well-organized, running machine.

Race day began for me at 2:15am! This now holds the dubious distinction of being “THE EARLIEST” I have ever gotten up for a race. Knowing that I had to begin boarding a bus starting at 4am, I wanted to make sure that I went thru my normal race routine especially having some type of breakfast to fuel the 13.1 miles that would start 9 miles up the Big Cottonwood Canyon at 6:40am.

Despite this predawn hour, the bus ride up the mountain was a party-like atmosphere. If you didn’t know anyone, you surely would be by the time you disembarked at your destination.

It definitely can give someone a brief pause while sitting on a tour bus as it twists and turns on the winding mountain road in complete darkness!

Once the ride to our destination was reached, out you went to wait until race time! Hello, dark and spooky forest in a place I have never been!

Never fear, given the running community that it is, there is always someone you can strike up a conversation with while you wait.

Was it cold? Oh yes! But thanks to the organizers behind this race, part of our swag bag came with a pair of gloves and Mylar blanket.

As race time approached we chucked our gear bags into the back of the truck where they would be waiting for us at the finish line. As I looked around, you could see the anticipation and smiles as our adventure was set to begin.

And then we were off!

Despite making my journey from Illinois which is relatively flat, I did attempt to train the best I could with a lot of hill work. But, to be honest, while it did help, it still did not prepare me for the steepness of the road we were thundering down on with all our might! Gravity was indeed pulling us down and your first instinct is to lean backwards to slow your descent, but I soon learned to just let myself go. The race course was indeed one of the most scenic places that I have had the good fortune to run on. While I could hear the Big Cottonwood River flowing off to my left, I had to keep focus on the roads twists and turns. Is this course fast as promised? Oh, yes! But with this comes a level of difficulty given the steepness of the road.

For us Half Marathoners, it was 9 miles down the canyon before it leveled off somewhat until our final destination.

Was I exhausted as I was approaching those last 4 miles? Extremely so!

Low on fuel? Definitely.

Legs felt like noodles? You better believe it!

But I was almost there!

With a quarter of the race left to run, I was starting to hit a wall of exhaustion. A few steps, I had to walk and focus on that next point where I picked up my run again. I thought going from Mile 11 to 12 would never end, but here came pretty ol’ Number 12 and I knew I was almost done.

Lots of folks were out cheering and it really does give you that extra mental push.

And, then, there coming up at me was the Finish Line!

The decision that I had made over 3 months prior had finally been realized!

I had to come here to run this.

And then I did.

Yes, I even PR’d it too. My 1st Big CottonWood Half Marathon finish came in at 2:06.

With that finish came a great deal of satisfaction and one of these biggest, gosh darn medals that I have earned! The motto of the race is Go Big and they certainly did not hold back.

Post-celebration was great. Runners were well fed. I even stuck around to see a friend from LA finish his fastest marathon ever.

As I reflect back on this journey, it has now been 4 days post-race. I can finally walk without shuffling forward. I have been sore in places that I have never been sore before. When folks ask me if I would run this again, I would have to say, yes. As many races I have run, this indeed was one of the most enjoyable and beautiful. However, that mountain has my respect and I hope to be even better prepared next year.

*For my Full Blog Post: http://diannaseda.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/running-down-a-mountain/

**Yes, I am returning to this race in September 2014! Join me!

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(2013)
"Lessons Learned in extreme heat at Chicago Women's Half Marathon"
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Lessons Learned and Thoughts along the way Today at: Chicago Women’s Half Marathon
June 23, 2013

The heat was tough and saw a few ladies going down at the race needing emergency help. In the many races that I have ran, the Running community has always stopped to help no matter what their personal goals may have been. Given this, here are some thoughts that came to mind:

*If you receive an email from the race the day before stating conditions are RED, pay attention. You can sometimes overlook the impact of heat on your body even at 6:30am.
*Run with a friend if possible. No matter how conditioned and well trained you are, everyone always needs someone looking after them.
*Running a race in the heat at a long distance is not the same as in cooler weather. Logically you get this, the competitive side sometimes tries to overrule the logic.
*1.5 miles into the race, I had a brief moment where my eyes started to unfocus & thought I was going to fall backwards. Luckily my head cleared and I was ok. Pulled my running pace back.
*Stop at every aid station. Hydrate and walk. Be smart.
*Walk if you need to. No shame ever. Listen to your body. Hard lesson for me. In a race, I don’t walk, but did today a few times.
*Somewhere between Mile 7 & 8, just had to stop & take a quick pic of the Chicago skyline…simply beautiful!
*After Mile 10, had a moment where I went from very hot to chilled with goose bumps. Gave me a scare and slowed down. Kind of freaked me out a bit, never had happened before.
*After Mile 11, thought woo-hoo, just 2 more! Cursed like a sailor (in my head of course!) until Mile 12 as it took FOREVER! To borrow my friend, Jenny’s phrase, felt like I was running in quick sand.
*Never felt so good to see that finish line! Had a thrill watching Jenny crossing the finish line right after me. Wish I had my cell out, what a photo op that would have been!
*Very thankful for those ice cold water towels at the end!
*To the company that provided popsicles, every woman at that race was in love with you!
*Even though I had to walk a few times, my time was less than a minute off from my 1st Half last September. Running program & cross training has made me a better & faster runner. (Thank you FITT-RX & Fleet Feet Sports Elmhurst)

Huge thanks to my family! They are so supportive of all my races and the many, many hours of training. Their encouragement means the world to me.

Super happy that I was able to run this race with my cousin! While we don’t live near each other, I am so thankful that both of us keep rockin’ these races together when we can.

Very appreciative of my friend, Jenny! She is such a joy to run with, great conversations & is willing to get up at 5am to run with me!

Or, read my blog post here:
http://diannaseda.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/thoughts-from-running-in-extreme-heat-at-chicago-womens-half-marathon/

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(2013)
"A Trail WHAT??"
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Yes, sometimes the best surprises come in small packages!

What started off today as an ordinary Monday quickly turned into not just a pleasant surprise but signified a moment that quite literally has changed my life……….I received my medal from my very 1st trail race, the Bernheim Half Marathon Trail Race in Louisville which I ran/walked/climbed/cursed and loved on June 1st.

What’s a city girl like me doing driving 5 hours from Chicago to Louisville to run in the woods?

It was about the adventure of the spirit, the belief in myself and the challenge of a lifetime for this runner girl.

Trail running? Oh yeah…there is nothing like it! Cannot compare to road racing! Apple & oranges, my friends!

To tackle a mountain by this girl from (flat!) Illinois, no less! Oh yes, yes I did!

Ever ran or at least walked up a mountain? No.

Ever ran on a trail? No.

But I have now!

The serenity of trail running is like no other. Relying on your instincts to pull yourself up that incredibly steep incline while your quads & calves are screaming is hard to describe. Never giving up & pushing yourself forward gives you a sense of accomplishment. It gives you the confidence to tackle your next big running adventure.

Quite simply, the hardest thing I have ever done.

I would do it again.

Or, read on my blog post: http://diannaseda.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/trail-what/

**Note: This race was not only a Half Marathon, but a Full Marathon as well. Try it if you dare!!!

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