Looking for a way to eat your greens that not only pleases your palate, but satisfies even the pickiest of eaters? Look no further than this delish ragout that is chock full of healthy vegetables, tasty sausage and creamy fiber-filled beans.
I recently signed up for Backyard Produce, which is a weekly service that delivers fresh, local, organic produce straight to your door. You can either customize your basket by selecting each food your receive or select the variety basket which is full of that week’s best selections.
This week I chose kale, tomatoes, zucchini because I’m trying to eat more organic produce. When I came home and saw my box of fresh veggies on my porch, I was as excited as if it was my birthday! But then I quickly began racking my brain at how I could use up this produce in a way that was tasty and would lure my kids into eating it too.
Imagine my elation when I saw this recipe on Cooking Light for a Kale, white bean, zucchini, tomato and apple sausage ragout. It was chock-full of veggies and I had every ingredient in my pantry – score!
It was super simple to make and the flavors married beautifully. I was concerned because my past experiences with kale haven’t been great. Aside from kale chips, I don’t really like the flavor of kale. It is a bit too tough for a salad, too bitter to eat raw and doesn’t blend well in pasta or casseroles.
But kale is truly a super food and definitely worth giving another try. Kale is low in calories, high in fiber and has 0 grams of fat. It is high in iron, vitamin K, A, C and calcium. It’s also brimming with antioxidants. I tweaked the Cooking Light recipe a bit to meet my needs, such as using minced garlic instead of whole, eliminating the olive oil and onion and adding fresh tomato instead of canned.
Kale, White Bean, Apple Sausage and Zucchini Ragout
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 (4-ounce) links chicken sausage, cut into (1/2-inch) slices – I used Thin n Trim Apple Cinnamon Sausage
- 1 zucchini, quartered and cut into (1/2-inch) slices (about 2 cups)
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 6 cups chopped trimmed kale (about 1/2 pound)
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 (16-ounce) cans cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 tomatoes, cut into chunks
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Brown sausage in a large saute pan and add garlic. Add zucchini and kale; cook 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans and water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve immediately.
I wish that my nephew had a visible disability.
I know that sounds terrible and many of you will disagree with me. But, if he were in a wheelchair, wore leg braces or required a feeding tube, others would be able to see his disability. Cullen’s disability isn’t obvious. When you look at him you can’t tell anything is wrong at all.
Cullen is a smiling, happy, beautiful boy with blond hair and brown eyes. He loves Mickey Mouse more than anything in the world. He loves cookies, splashing in the water and running freely through the Pisgah Forest.
He also has autism.
This weekend I had the privilege of spending time with my mom, sister and nephews in Pisgah Forest, NC. I was utterly shocked and appalled at the way people treated my nephew.
We stayed at a hotel in Pisgah Forest, NC. We stay there every time we visit, which is about four times a year.
This hotel offers a complimentary continental breakfast for all guests. Except for those with autism apparently.
We all were excited to eat breakfast together and plan the day ahead of us. While we were enjoying our Belgian waffle and yogurt the manager approached our table and asked us to take Cullen outside of the hotel because his voice was too loud and he may disturb other guests.
Did I mention it was sleeting?
So while I ran back up to the room to gather our belongings, my sister sat outside of the hotel in the freezing rain, crying and holding her little boy while trying to corral four other children to sit and be as quiet as possible until we could leave.
I find this completely unacceptable. Would you tell someone in a wheelchair that they had to leave the restaurant because their wheelchair took up too much room? Would you tell a parent of a child with a feeding tube that you have to feed him outside because it will disturb other guests?
Cullen is 3 ½ but because of his disability he can’t communicate like other 3 year olds. He communicates with sign language, gestures, vocalizing (making sounds with different tones) and speaking a few words. His communication challenges are two-way, so not only does he struggle with telling us what he needs, he also can’t understand us. He doesn’t understand two-step directions and definitely doesn’t understand behavior expectations. As you can imagine, he gets frustrated when others don’t understand him. When he gets frustrated, he cries. He is extremely smart, but it’s as if he’s trapped in a world in which we processes and communicates differently from us, so he can’t let us know what he thinks and feels.
I wish I could say that the experience at the hotel was isolated, but it wasn’t. Everywhere we went that weekend we experienced discrimination based on his disability. The teenager who worked in the bakery asked us to leave. The guys who worked at the deli whispered criticisms of him to each other and rolled their eyes when I asked if there was room to dine-in. The owner of the chocolate shop said, “oh great,” when we walked in and said to her employee, “is he wearing a diaper? I think I can smell him from here.” Even the elderly lady in the children’s consignment shop said to a co-worker, “can she not control her child?” Everywhere we went others rolled their eyes, whispered to each other as we walked by and were disrespectful.
Yes, his voice is loud. Yes, the vocalizing can be distracting. But he has a disability. Do we have no tolerance in this country for others who have special needs?
Autism is a spectrum disorder. This means that there is a wide range of what autism looks like. Just because someone doesn’t fit into a stereotypical box of what a disability should look or sound like doesn’t mean that they don’t have a disability. Since autism is a spectrum disorder, it varies greatly from person to person.
Chances are that you or your child will encounter someone with autism as the rate of autism has grown significantly over the past twenty years. Autism affects 1 in 88 children and is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
Those with autism have the right to be respected and receive equal treatment. Autistic children shouldn’t have to grow up in an environment constantly being told that their instinctive behaviors are wrong and feel that they can’t be accepted for who they are.
In honor of autism awareness month I’d like to ask you to please take a moment before criticizing the behavior of a child or perceived lack of discipline of a parent. The little girl in the grocery store may be experiencing sensory overload. The boy in the toy store may have been triggered by too bright of lights. The child in the hotel may have been trying to communicate his joy at spending time with his cousins. Please help do your part to make every child feel respected and accepted.
For more information on autism, visit:
Light it up Blue
Organization for Autism Research
Looking for a fun, healthy way to trick your kids on April Fool’s Day? Look no further than these “cupcakes” you can serve for dinner! Fool your kids not only by serving “dessert” for dinner, but hide veggies inside this delicious meat loaf for a trick that’s a real treat!
I’m typically not a fan of hiding veggies in my kids food because I want them to grow to love the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables, but I make an excpetion with meatloaf. Meatloaf is the perfect dish to enhance the nutrition, taste and moistness by adding pureed carrots, grated zucchini and wheat germ.
This is the best meatloaf you’ve ever sink your teeth into. The grated zucchini adds moisture without added fat and the wheat germ is a perfectsubstitute for breadcrumbs, which typically contain enriched wheat flour and salt.
April Fool’s Day Meatloaf Cupcakes
- 1 lb. Extra Lean Beef
- 1 small zucchini, grated
- 1/2 cup carrots, cooked and pureed
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/2 cup whole wheat panko
- 1/2 cup sugar-free ketchup (available at Earth Fare)
- 2 Tbsp Worchestire Sauce
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350
Put ground beef in a big bowl. Add grated zucchini, pureed carrots, ketchup, worchestire, garlic and egg in the bowl and mix with your hands. Add wheat germ, whole-wheat panko, garlic, salt and pepper, mix until combined being careful not to overmix. Use an ice cream scoop to help you fill the meat into a muffin tin. Each cupcake tin should hold 1/2 cup of meat mixture. Top each meatloaf with a spoonful of ketchup on top. Bake 20 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the mashed potatoes:
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
salt and pepper
India Tree Natuaral Decorating Colors
Boil potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and mash by hand with milk using a potato masher (don’t use a food processor or they get too gluey.) Add Greek yogurt and stir gently. Add the all-natural food decorating color. India Tree makes a great all natural food decorating set that doesn’t contain any harmful dyes. Check out this great article on the safety of food coloring for children for more information on all-natural food coloring.
Dollop the mashed potatoes onto of the meatloaf cupcake and swirl to make it look like a cupcake. I even added an edible “My Love” heart, which I got from Williams-Sonoma.
My daughter took a big bite of the faux cupcake and then got a big smile on her face when she saw it was ac
tually meatloaf. She loved it and had no idea it was actually filled with veggies. Double April Fools!
Do you do anything fun for April Fools Day? Do you hide veggies in your kids food?
I can’t believe Easter is this Sunday! I feel completely unprepared, as the month of March has flown by!
The typical Easter treats are filled with artificial food coloring, artificial flavorings, sugar and fat. While I’ll let my kids indulge in some of these treats in moderation (what’s Easter without Bunny Big Ears?) I also like to make healthier alternatives that taste just as good as they look.
Yesterday I made my own trail mix bars shaped like Easter bunnies, which was a special surprise for my kids as they celebrated their last day of school before Spring Break!
These bars contain a variety of ingredients I found in my pantry, including whole-grain oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins and dried apples. You can vary the ingredients based on what you have lying around. These bars are a great way to use up the leftover bits and pieces of ingredients you have to clean out your
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup raisins
- handful dried apples, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup Better ‘n Peanut Butter
1. Preheat the oven to 350
2. Mix together all of the dry ingredients.
3. Melt the honey and Better ‘n Peanut Butter in a bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds.
4. Pour honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well. Add egg and vanilla extract.
5. Pour mixture into 15X10X1 jelly roll pan or into a Bunny Whoopie Pie Pan (available via Wilton)
6. Bake for 20 minutes (if jelly roll pan) less if you are using a smaller whoopie pie pan
7. Cut into bars and freeze.
8. Decorate the frozen bars if you’d like or just serve plain! You can make your own healthy cool whip. There is a great recipe on Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures. Simply combine 1 cup milk, 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp xanthan gum. Mix in a mixer on high for two minutes. Spread over the bars and decorate as you’d like.
This is a much healthier alternative to store-bought bars or the typical Easter treats!
Just one serving of jelly beans (35 pieces) has 140 calories and 28 grams of sugar, which is more than the entire Recommended Daily Value of sugar. Peeps may be fat-free, but one serving has a whopping 34 grams of sugar! More disturbing than the sugar is the ingredients in Starburst Jely Beans (obrained from www.foodfacts.com) includes: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Food Starch Modified Apple(s) Juice from Concentrate, Citric Acid, Confectioner’s Glaze, Acacia Gum, Natural and Artificial Coloring (Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1)
Do you make your own healthier Easter treats? What are your favorite Easter indulgences?
I love ice cream. I could literally eat an entire half gallon of Edy’s Girl Scout Cookie Samoas Ice Cream. Ice cream is one of my “trigger foods” and I can’t keep it in the house because it will call my name until it’s gone.
Luckily I’ve created a healthier alternative using only four ingredients! Bananas, real maple syrup, vanilla extract and unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
I was happy to see that Oxygen Magazineactually featured a banana ice cream in the March edition. They actually have a Mocha Banana Ice Cream which I’m also going to try. I made my roasted banana ice cream last week and was pleasantly surprised at the creamy, rich flavor. The bonus is that this recipe is dairy, gluten and fat free! Give it a try and let me know what you think!
- 3 medium-sized bananas
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Peel and slice the bananas. I actually peel, slice and freeze my bananas in advance because I love to have frozen banans on hand (they are a delicious snack on their own).
- Throw the bananas in a glass baking dish, pour maple syrup on top and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool (i can neither confirm nor deny eating a few bananas covered in maple syrup straight from the pan)
- Scoop the roasted bananas, almond milk and vanilla extract into a food processort and pulse until combined. Chill for at least two hours.
- Dump into your ice cream maker and make per manufacturer’s instructions.
Let me know if you try it and like it!
I’m excited to annouce that I’m offering my book, Guilt-Free Cupcakes, for only .99 for a limited time! This book is 9.99, but I’m offering this discount in honor of my birthday! I wanted to pass along a birthday gift from me to all of you!
The book is filled with light, lucious and low-calorie cupcakes recipes.
If you have a Kindle and are looking more more cheap reads, check out Good Reads for the top cheap books (that are worth reading.) Amazon also has a daily listing of the “Deals of the Day.”
I love my Kindle and especially love finding good, inexpensive books! In Charlotte, today is the perfect day to stay inside, curl up by the fire and read a good book. It’s also a great day to bake some cupcakes while watching the rain hit the window pane.
Do you have a Kindle? What are your favorite books? I’d love to hear from you!
Blood, sweat and tears had led to this day. Months of training. Thousands of dollars spent. Injuries, pain, elation and joy; this was the moment I had been waiting for: The 2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge and a Half Marthon. 39.3 miles in two days.
As the alarm sounded at 2:45 a.m. the first thought that went through my head was “Second verse, same as the first, a little bit longer and a little bit worse.” It felt like deja vu, since I had ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon the previous day.
I got dressed silently in the dark, brewed my cup of coffee, pinned my number to my shirt and double checked my gear bag. I walked in silence to the bus stop at the Wilderness Cabins trying to gauge the soreness in my legs. Did I have DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) or was this typical early morning fatigue?
The practice of the previous day made getting out the door a breeze and I was on the bust by 3:15 a.m. and at Epcot’s Wonder Lot by 3:45. I had more time to kill before the race this time, so I sat down at the bench, ate my banana, protein bar and water. I decided to head over to my corral when they actually told me to this time since there was so much congestion the day before. I checked my gear bag and decided I most definitely didn’t need my coat or even my light, long-sleeved running shirt that I brought in case it was chilly while I waited. It was already 60 degrees and still the middle of the night!
I was in my corral by 4:45, so I had about an hour of waiting before my corral left the gate. This gave me time to observe the runners around me. Many of them had come with a partner and it was interesting to watch the interactions. I saw best friends, dressed like Minnie Mouse helping each other stretch. I saw a couple with matching shirts that announced they were running together to celebrate their anniversary. There were some first timers, some seasoned runners and everything in between. We all had one thing in common: We were embarking on a 26.2 mile journey at the most magical place on earth.
I looked around and saw that there were many other Goofy Challengers. This put me at ease because I realized I wasn’t the only one “goofy” enough to take on that challenge.
The fireworks burst overhead and we were off. My last thought before starting was, “Why am I doing this?” I reassured myself that I was going to take it easy and I could walk if I wanted to. Given that this was the second leg of my journey and I had just run 13.1 miles the day previous, I was cutting myself some slack.
This first mile is always the most rough. I slowly increased my speed, keeping a close watch in my Garmin. I had never kept tabs on my Garmin more closely than I did during the two-day Goofy Challenge. I made sure I didn’t go any faster than an 11 minute mile during the first five miles.
I decided that I would take a picture with the characters that were meaningful and dedicate each of them to a loved on, posting it on Facebook. At mile three I took a picture with Jack Skellington at mile 3 for my nephew Cody.
At mile five I clocked in at 1:03:04 with a 12:37 min/Mile. I had a bit of sticker shock when I saw this time, as it’s a lot slower than I normally run, but I told myself that was the goal. Take it easy and just finish.
I saw Buzz LIghtyear, my son’s absolute favorite character, who he has loved since he was two.
I took a picture with Belle for Emily because that is her favorite princess.
At mile six I ran through Cinderella Castle, which is the absolute most magical moment of the race. It is the moment that everyone who runs is waiting for and the reason why many of us participate in Disney races.
After the jaunt through Cinderella Castle, I took a picture with Bullseye for my Mom because of our inside joke.
At this point we exited Magic Kingdom and head on a long stretch of backroads past Grand Floridian and Polynesian.
I mentally chunked the race into the first 10K, 1/2 marathon mark (13.1), mile 20 and then the last 10K. The mental component of a marathon is huge. Breaking down the 26.2 miles into manageable chunks is huge. I had gotten through the first 10K and only had three more legs to go.
I downed a GU because a lesson that I learned the hard way during the ThunderRoad Marathon (as I posted about on my everything you SHOULDN’T do before a marathon) was not taking in nutrition during the race.
The chocolate outrage GU has always worked for me in the past, so I decided not to change anything on race day (check out my post on my favorite products for marathon running for more of my tried and true methods of what works for me.)
At mile 8 1/2 we approached one of the most awesome parts of the race: running around the Walt Disney World Speedway! I LOVE cars and so does my husband, so I dedicated this round to him. I took pictures of all of the amazing cars that were around the speedway. It was like a car show and a run at the same time. I’m from Charlotte, NC, home of NASCAR, so I guess that explains why I was so hyped up about this part. Runners around me seemed to ignore the beauty of the cars while they slogged their way around the track, but I took it all in and took tons of pictures.
But, all of that picture taking took its toll. My iPhone buzzed that it only had 20 percent battery at mile 12 1/2 and I turned it off so I could reserve battery to find my family after the race. This was a total bummer though because it meant that I couldn’t listen to music, post on Facebook or take pictures with the characters during the race!
At mile 10 I clocked in at 2:06:48 with a 12:41 min/Mile pace. We ran through more backroads and we ran past a sewer plant, which made me sick to my stomach. Not the best landmark to pass when you’re running.
They gave out bananas around this point and I gobbled it up happily. I typically don’t eat while I’m running (except for GU) and I normally don’t get hungry while I’m running or for hours afterwards, but I think because I was going slow and taking pictures with characters, my body wasn’t experiencing the effects of intense exercise.
We approached Animal Kingdom right at the 1/2 marathon mark. They had animals greet us at the entrance, which was cute, but also a bit smelly. I noticed at this point that there were not a
ny Christmas Decorations up at the parks. When I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2011 they still had Christmas Decorations up throughout the parks and resorts. I made a mental note of this so I could advise guests who asked me about how long the Christmas decorations remain up on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. My half spilt time was 2:48:36 with a 12:52 min/Mile.
Miles 14, 15 and 16 went across the Osceloa Parkway and was an uneventful leg of the journey. At mile 16 we could see other runners coming back from the loop around ESPN Wide World of Sports. It was great seeing them come off of that part of the loop and realize that we were entering it. The only thing is that when I ran the race in 2011, the loop was a quick little loop that led us to our mile 20 mark. Even though I knew we were at mile 16, mentally I felt like I only had a quick jaunt before reaching mile 20. The mind plays tricks on you when you are running. That is why they say that running a marathon is all mental – because it really is. I kept thinking that I would be turning around any moment, so it made for a long run to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which was actually at miles 18 and 19. Also, when you are running 26.2 miles or 39.3 over two days, four miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but it still is about 45 minutes of running (given the pace I was at.)
They had a jumbotron up at the complex and we ran around the track and were able to see ourselves on the screen. It was an awesome part of the race! I was feeling awesome and decided to pick up my pace. I picked it up to about a 10 minute mile, which is what I typically run my LSDs (Long Slow Distance) runs at. I even found a pace group behind me that was aiming to complete the race in 5:00 and I tagged along with them to try to aim for a time goal.
As we turned around and approached mile 20, I saw the energy of those around me dipping. Mile 20 is one of the toughest parts of the race. Again, with the mental component, mentally you think you are almost finished, but you still have a 10K to go. This typically takes about an hour, so even though you feel done, you still have an hour more to run.
Eminem articulates it perfectly in his song “Till I Collapse”
Cause sometimes you just feel tired.
You feel weak and when you feel weak you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
and just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
and not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.
On a similar note, I find that Eminem always has the right words of wisdom or advice for any occasion. He is a lyrical genius – I absolutely love him!
I had to use the restroom right before mile 20 and I was so pissed because there was a line, which kept me away from the pace group I was trying to follow. I literally waited ten minutes and I was going to just go on, but, when you have to go, you have to go. This is when being a man would come in handy. I just had to pee, but decided to wait it out. However, I had a great conversation with a couple who was waiting in line with me. I discovered that they were actually celebrating the “Perfect 20” which means that they’ve run ALL 20 Walt Disney World Marathons!! Can you believe it? There were about 90 runners who had completed all 20 WDW Marathons. That is an amazing accomplishment and I was honored to meet them!
I hit the road again and reached the 20 mile spilt at 4:06:18 with a 12:25 min/mile. I was hoping to make up for lost time and complete the marathon in 5 hours, so I tried to pick up the pace. At this point we reached quite a steady climb at the only hill I noticed on the course. In front of me was a couple with shirts that read “Tweedle Dee” (with an arrow pointing right) and “Tweedle Dum” (with an arrow pointing left.) As they struggled to get up the hill someone passed them and said, “Your arrows are pointing the wrong way.” because they had shifted and flipped sides. You should have seen the look they gave that runner. At 21 miles into a marathon, there is no joking. This is when shit gets real.
Finally we were approaching Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is a fun part of the race. They gave out chocolate at mile 22, which I gobbled up. Luckily it wasn’t melted when I ran through, although I heard that for some runners who came through after me it was all melted and gooey. We were able to run through the Studio Backlot Tours area, which is one of my favorite attractions.
We left Hollywood Studios as quickly as we entered and then headed over to the Boardwalk area to enter the back entrance of Epcot. I was getting excited becaues wee were at mile 24 and I knew I only had a couple of miles to go, but it was also getting very hot around this time and my energy was melting. I felt sunburn on my back and it was about 80 degrees. I had stayed hydrated, but the sun was starting to take it’s toll on my energy levels. We entered the back area of Epcot and I swear I was tempted to get a pretzel from the Germany Pavilion! I was actually feeling hungry (again.)
The World Showcase never felt so long as I ran that last 1.2 miles through Epcot and into the Wonder Lot. I appraoched the finish line and saw my awesome husband and two beautfiful kids and I felt elated! As I crossed the finish line and the volunteer put the Mickey Mouse Medal around my neck I felt like a million bucks! I headed over to the Goofy Tent and got my Goofy Medal and I stared at them in awe! Two days – Three Medals – Priceless! I finished in 5:25:28 at a 12:25 min/mile pace, which was almost an hour slower than the Charlotte ThunderRoad Marathon, but boy did I feel MUCH better! I consider ThunderRoad a failure, while I consider Disney a success. It’s not about the time, it’s about how you feel and the experience throughout the race.
I took a picture at the finish line with my two medals and beamed as brightly as I could.
I picked up my runDisney box of treats, which included a pack of crackers, trail mix, chocolate square, chocoalte candy, Clif bar, cheese dip and a wet wipe.
I grabbed a few extra bags of fruit snacks for my kiddos and silently thanked myself for not using the last twenty percent of my battery so I could text Shane and ask where they were. They ran over to meet me in the Family Reunion area. I gave them a huge hug and was so happy to see them.
I actually felt great and didn’t feel like a ran 39.3 miles, 60K, in two days. The first thing I wanted to do after I gave my family a big hug was buy the Goofy “I did it!” T-shirt to celebrate my achievement! I didn’t want to buy it before I ran, because I’m superstitious and didn’t want to jinx it! I also bought the Mickey Mouse runDisney Vinylmation with Mickey, Donald and Goofy medals.
I got my bag and then sat down with the family as we waited for my friends, Christie and Tracy, to cross the finish line. It was their first marathon and I was so happy for them.
I followed Christie and Tracy’s journey, subscribing to their alerts as they crossed over the key mile makers in the race, and I was cheering them on the entire time. Tracy finished in 6:19:41 and Christie finished in 6:53:52. I was so incredibly proud of them!!! Seeing them experience their first marathon touched me deeply and I was honored to be with them at such an occasion. My Disney Moms Panel friends also crossed the finish line that day with amazing times! I was so proud of all of my friends who completed the event!
After the race, Christie and I headed over to Senses, the spa at Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, for our massage. WOW is all I have to say! The spa was incredible! We were able to shower at the spa and we changed into fluffy robes. I sank into the whirlpool and relaxed in the sauna while waiting for my appointment. I was even able to lay on the heated lounge chair in the waiting room. After our massages, we ate dinner at my FAVORITE Walt Disney World restaurant: Ohana! Christie, and her husband Stephen, joined Shane, the kids and I at this delicious meal, celebrating Christie’s first marathon and my first Goofy Challenge.
In the weeks leading up to the Goofy Challenge I swore I would never do a marathon again. The last thing I said before I crossed the start line was, “Why am I doing this?” But the first thing I thought after I crossed that finish line was, “When can I do this again?”
I am a runner. But sometimes I don’t feel like one because I don’t run everyday. I would be bored out of my mind if all I did was run. I like to lift weights, do yoga, dance in Zumba, work my core in pilates and I even did some kickboxing today at 9 Round. I have a love-hate relationship with running. Some days I don’t feel like running. Hell, some days I don’t feel like doing anything except for sitting on the couch and watching 30 rock while surfing the Internet on my iPad. But I’m a runner and I can’t deny it. There is nothing like hitting the pavement and logging miles. There is nothing like crossing the finish line and feeling a medal around your neck.
I’ve already signed up for my next challenge, which is the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in D.C. My goal is to complete at least two Rock n Roll Marathon’s this year so I can get the Encore Medal. I also want to compete in triathlon’s again this summer. Have you done the Goofy Challenge? Are you a runner? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences!
If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
As I mentioned in my previous post on the Goofy Challenge, I bonked the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte, over-trained and suffered from a serious case of Plantar Fasciitis leading up to the big event. I was experiencing an all-time low just weeks from the Walt Disney World Marathon and I was concerned that my months of training, not to mention time and money invested, were all going to go to waste. My travel was booked, the marathon was paid for, my kids were excited about going to the most magical place on earth…..there was no backing out now. Luckily as I began to taper my running in preparation for the big event, I began to feel better.
We arrived in Disney the Thursday prior to the big day. We headed straight for the ESPN Wide World of Sports to pick up my packet. My amazing husband kept trying to buy me anything that said “Goofy Challenge” on it, including a shirt, Mickey Mouse Vinylmation with the three iconic medals and Disney running Mickey ears. As we walked around the expo I reassured myself that as much as I wanted to try out some of the “new” products, I didn’t need the new compression pants with ice packs built into the legs, gel chews for fuel during the long runs and Disney designed New Balance running shoes. I learned my lesson from Thunder Road to not try anything new before the race.
I discovered what worked for me through months of training and I wasn’t going to let the shiny new packaging throw me off my plan. People often ask me about the gear and products I use for running, so I’ll tell you what works best for me. But the most important thing to note is that you should find what works for you and don’t change anything on race day. Find your ideal product early in your training and be loyal!
Shoes: Asics Gel Nimbus
Hydration: Camelback Hydration Pack (I like my hydration pack much better than the Fuel Belt.)
Fuel: GU Chocolate Outrage
Recovery: Sugoi Compression Pants
Pre-race fuel: Think Thin White Chocolate Protein Bar
Running clothes: Luluemon
Gadget: Garmin Forerunner and Nike Running App on my iPhone
After the expo we arrived at our Cabin at the Fort Wilderness Lodge. The kids bound out of the car and ran into the cabin, heading straight for the bunk beds. This was our favorite resort we’ve stayed at, and we’ve stayed at almost every Walt Disney World Resort, including Grand Floridian in November. More on that later…
The night prior to the half marathon we enjoyed a delicious dinner with great friends at the Team in Training L&LS Inspire Dinner. My friend, Christie, was running her first marathon and had trained with TNT. This dinner was truly inspiring. The keynote speaker shared his journey with leukemia and how we continued with running and marathon training through his treatments. With each story shared, I felt my spirit rise, I was ready for this.
After dinner my amazing husband took the kids out around Disney while I prepared for the race. I checked the weather and realized that all of the cold weather gear I packed would not be necessary. The forecasted high was 80 degrees, so I wouldn’t need my fleece, gloves or hat. I carefully pinned my number to my race shirt, laid out my clothes and packed my race bag, which included my pre-race meal, water, Garmin, SPI Belt, iPhone, headphones and magazine to read while I waited for the race to begin. I hit the sack early and wrote a little poem to clear my mind:
‘Twas the night before Goofy, only eight hours to go
For some reason this seemed like a good idea six months ago
My gear is laid out in advance with care
From my shirt to my shoes to rubber bands for my hair
The kids were out playing with Mickey Mouse and Tink
While I lay in bed, unable to sleep a wink
I’m ready for the challenge, the time is now here
I repeat my positive mantras to calm my fear
The alarm went off at 2:45 a.m. Well, I should clarify. Three alarms went off at 2:45 a.m. Mickey Mouse cheerfully greeted me on the phone, my iPad beeped and the alarm next to the bed shrilled. I didn’t want to risk oversleeping on the big day! I got ready and headed out to the race bus that would transport us runners to the start line.
I observed my fellow runners on the bus. Some chatted nervously with their seatmate. Some posted status updates to Facebook notifying others of the journey they were about to embark. While others silently focused inwards on the challenge that lie ahead. But we all had one thing in common – we were runners.
We arrived at Epcot around 3:30 a.m. and walked to the Wonder Lot area. You would never know it was the middle of the night by the music blaring and activity of thousands of runners. Hundreds of green porta pottys lined the Wonder Lot area, along with refreshment stands, merchandise tents and tables. At 4:30 a.m. the DJ began encouraging runners to make their way to the start line. I ignored the plea until about 5:00 a.m. when I checked my gear bag and made the trek to the start line. There was literally a 20 minute walk from the Wonder Lot area to the start line and it was jam-packed with people. There were times that we were at a standstill and couldn’t move an inch. I started to get nervous that I wouldn’t make it to the start line in time. There were 8 corrals, A-H, and I was in corral B. I finally made it to my corral with minutes before the wheelchair start, which was at 5:30 am.
Before I knew it the National Anthem was being sung and fireworks lit the sky for the start of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. I wasn’t nervous because I knew that this was only the start of my 39.3 mile journey. I repeated to myself that this was only the beginning and no matter how good I felt, I needed to take it easy.
We inched up as Corral A took off (after another round of fireworks.) Now it was our time. At 5:40 a.m. the fireworks for Corral B splayed overhead and we began our journey through the parks.
Some runners took off like they were being chased by a cheetah. This happens every race and inevitably I’ll see that same runner miles ahead sidelined with injury or exhaustion. The rest of us took off slowly and found our rhythm and groove after the first several miles. The first mile of a race is always the most difficult. Thoughts come in my mind such as, “why am I doing this,” “I don’t think I can make it,” “I’m already tired, how will I make it through 13 miles?”
Getting through those first couple of miles can be difficult. The key to success in a long-distance race is to not think about all of the miles you have to complete. Think about how far you’ve come, or about the next mile, but don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking of the total distance.
I already had to use the porta potty at mile 1. After a quick stop I was back on the road. Music filled the air, characters lined the sides of the road and entertainment was abound. Disney races are the absolute best because there is so much to do and see. I saw Jack Skellington at mile 4, which is my nephew’s favorite character, but I decided to run straight through the race and visit the characters during the full marathon instead.
The best part of the race was Mile 5 when we approached Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom. When I ran the marathon in 2011 we didn’t run through Cinderella Castle until Mile 10, so this part of the race came upon me quickly. We hit mile 6 after we exited Magic Kingdom and Miles 7 and 8 brought us past Grand Floridian and down to the speedway. I was super excited when we hit the speedway because I saw a racecar sitting by the entrance. I made a mental note to get a picture with it during the marathon. As the mileage increased I felt my pace increase as well, but I kept close tabs on my Garmin to make sure my pace didn’t get higher than a 10 minute mile. I wanted to make sure I was conserving energy for the next day. I felt great and definitely felt as if I could have gone longer and faster, but I reassured myself that was the goal. I wanted to finish feeling strong, not depleted.
As we approached mile 9, they were giving away Cliff Gel Shots, but I reminded myself of my bad experie3nce with the Cliff Gels during ThunderRoad and I bypassed the fuel. Instead I grabbed a cup of water and continued on to Epcot. We entered Epcot through the back entrance, ran around the World Showcase and on to the finish line. I finished in 2:17: 41, which wasn’t by best time, but I wasn’t aiming for a time goal. The finish was actually anti-climatic, as I knew it wasn’t the end, but only the beginning. I was 1/3 of the way through the Goofy Challenge.
I held my Donald Duck medal in my hand and felt proud of my accomplishment, but also concerned about doing double the mileage the following day. Could I do it all again? Did I reserve enough energy to complete a marathon the following day? Would I be sore?
My husband and kids brought me a beautiful Mickey Mouse Rose to celebrate my acheivement. The best part was seeing their beautiful faces at the finish. Check back tomorrow when I post the fourth and final post in the Goofy Challenge series. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever run a marathon and half marathon in quick succession? Have you heard of the Goofy Challenge? How about the Dumbo Challenge in Disneyland? I want to hear from you!
I’m glad I bonked the Thunder Road Marathon in November.
The wise words of Anthony D’Angelo say it all:
“In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do next time.”
As I mentioned in my previous post on the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: Goofy Challenge Part I,I did everything wrong during this marathon. As I drug my dehydrated, defeated body over that finish line I didn’t know if I could ever run again, much less run not one, but two marathon events only one month away.
I was physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. I felt as if I ate too much chocolate cake. I overdosed on something I once loved and I didn’t know if I could ever look at running in the same way again.
My training plan had me hitting the pavement again for a six mile run after one day of rest, so I dutifully headed out for my run. It felt like I had cement blocks tied to my legs. I trudged forward, feeling as if I was running in quick sand, getting slower and more entrenched with every step.
I stuck with my plan, but with each successive run, I became slower and less motivated. Sure, I’ve had days in the past that I didn’t feel like running or I had to force myself out of my warm bed and lace up my running shoes, but nothing like this. The following Saturday I had a 18 mile run, which wasn’t the longest run in my plan and it certainly was less than the previous weeks’ 26.2, but that was my worst training run. I ran from Leroy Springs Recreation Complex in Fort Mill to the Gold Hill YMCA, which is 9 miles, and back. A simple out and back run should have been enjoyable, but instead I was miserable. I became slower with each mile. As I sat in the hot tub after my run I reflected on my journey and realized I couldn’t continue like this. The Goofy Challenge was only a month and a half away and I was regressing. All signs pointed to overtraining. There is a fine line between adequately training for an event and overtraining. I wasn’t letting my body repair itself in between workouts and I had overtrained. I hope others can learn through my mistakes. Please look out for the following signs:
- You’re getting weaker and slower and your stamina is deteriorating despite regular exercising
- You are losing leanness despite increased exercise
- You feel tired, drained, sluggish and have a lack of energy
- You’re unable to sleep
- You have pain in your muscles and joints
- Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
I consulted with my running coach, Deb, who was amazing through this process. She advised me to take some time off from running to recuperate. So I did yoga, lifted weights, continued with my aqua jogging class and cut back my mileage on my weekly long run. The following week we were on vacation in Walt Disney World, so I was really able to relax, spend time with my family and not worry about my training or running. This worked wonders. I came back the following week completely refreshed and feeling great.
I hopped back on my training plan upon my return. I began doing all of my long runs at the Greenway by my house for a change of scenery. I downloaded The Nutrition Diva Podcasts to have something interesting to listen to during my runs. I watched my favorite show, 30 Rock, while I ran on the treadmill. My amazing husband who supported me through this entire process and listened to my running ailments ad nauseam bought me new running gear from my favorite store, Lululemon. In short, I gave myself new motivation to go out and run.
The Walt Disney World Marathon and Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge was only one month away at this point and the words of Eminem rang in my mind: “Success is my only m$#@* option, failure’s not.”
I had invested time, energy and money to complete this challenge and I would not fail. I had announced to everyone that I was doing the challenge. My kids were excited about their upcoming trip. I had everything on the line. But, would I be able to complete the challenge? Was I trained enough since I had to scale back the plan? What if I got down to Disney and bonked this race? There was much more at stake this time. Check back tomorrow for Part III of the Goofy Challenge where I’ll let you know how it turned out and the top running and training tips that you’ve haven’t heard before! In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Do you agree that you learn more from failure that success? Have you ever felt like just giving up?