Featured in Publix GreenWise Magazine on doing yoga with kids!

I wanted to share exciting news that I’ve been featured in GreenWise Market Magazine for their feature on “Family Balance.” Check out the article on doing yoga with your family! I was interviewed for this article and shared tips on doing yoga with kids! I’d love to hear what you think!

7 tips for losing weight on your Disney World vacation (While eating whatever you want)

I lost five pounds while on my Walt Disney World vacation, where indulged in candy-covered rice Krispy treats, Dole Pineapple Floats, fudge, brownies, cookies, pizza, burgers, steak, mushroom risotto, butter beer and more! How did I lose five pounds while eating whatever I wanted you may ask? Read on for my top seven tips for losing weight while on vacation:


  1. 1.    Taste everything, finish nothing


My favorite part of visiting Walt Disney World is sampling their delicious food. Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches, Soft Pretzels, Mickey Mouse shaped Rice Krispy Treats, oh my! My tummy is rumbling just thinking about it! The key word is “sample.” I would order a meal or snack and spilt it with my hubby or kids. I would inhale the lovely scent of the huge chocolate chip filled brownie from Main Street Bakery, sit down with a mug of hot coffee, close my eyes and take a few mouth-watering bites, enjoying every second of my treat. Then I would share the rest with my family. This allowed me to eat whatever I wanted, just in smaller portions.

2.    Don’t eat salad


I heard so many people order Caesar Salad in the parks and explain that they are watching their calories. I know that it feels virtuous to order a salad instead of a burger, but the typical grilled chicken Caesar salad has more calories than a burger! The typical grilled chicken has 1,010 calories and 76 grams of fat! Compare that to the average fast-food hamburger, which has 250 calories and 9 grams of fat. Disney World doesn’t provide nutritional information on the food in their parks, but if you compare the average calories from fast-food equivalents, the answer is clear on which item to choose. Not only does a hamburger have fewer calories, but it also has hunger-satisfying protein to keep your hunger at bay. Most Disney quick-service locations will allow you to substitute apple slices or grapes for French fries, making your meal a well-rounded choice. My favorite place to get a burger at WDW is at Pecos Bills in the Magic Kingdom! I order the burger and only eat half of the bun and make my own salad with the lettuce shreds and salsa at the burger bar. I eat grapes instead of French fries and have yogurt for dessert. Yummy!


3.    Pay attention to your hunger scale


Visiting WDW requires a lot of walking, so make sure to match your eating to your hunger scale. You may try to cut calories by skipping meals or eating light, but then your hunger will attack, causing you to fill up on snacks and junk instead. You are burning a lot of calories by walking, so make sure to refuel your energy with healthy meals. However, on the flip side, don’t feel that you need to eat just because it’s mealtime. Some of the Disney portions are huge, so a big lunch may fill you up so much that you only need a light dinner. Just pay attention to your body and eat according to your hunger, not the clock.

4.    Pack healthy snacks


Disney allows you to bring snacks into the park, so take advantage of this benefit by packing apples, trail mix, nuts, dried fruit and protein bars. Having your own healthy snacks will help when hunger attacks and the only options around are high-calorie ice cream and pretzels. Not only does packing your own snacks save you calories, it saves you money and time also!

5.    Search for fruit


If you don’t like toting around a bag, don’t despair. Disney has several fruit carts with fresh apples, oranges and bananas around the park. You may have to hunt for them a bit, but healthy options are available. Here is a breakdown of where the fruit vendors are located:


Magic Kingdom: Liberty Square Market and Main Street Bakery (If you can avoid the allure of the decadent desserts in the display case)


Epcot: The Land Pavilion.


Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Sunset Ranch Market and ABC Commissary


Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Harambe Fruit Market

6.    Be a Camel


I use my Camelback to carry my water, keys and credit card. I fill it up with water before I hit the parks and refill it at the quick service stands. The quick service restaurants will provide you with a cup of ice water if you ask, so I keep my bag filled all day without spending a dime. This keeps me hydrated, which helps keep my hunger at bay.

7.    Stay active


Walking around at the parks burns a ton of calories, but don’t forget to continue with your exercise routine while you are on vacation. Staying consistent with exercise not only will prevent you from sliding in performance while you are on vacation, but it will help you burn those extra calories from indulgences as well. When visiting Epcot, it is not uncommon to walk up to 8 miles while touring World Showcase Lagoon! Partner all of that walking with your morning exercise routine, and you’ll be burning calories all day. We stayed at Coronado Springs Resort, which is perfect for those who want to stay active while on vacation. There is a 1-mile jogging trail that encircles Lago Dorado. I ran my 14-mile long run on that trail while watching the sunrise over the shimmering lake. There is also a lap pool, which I took advantage of for swimming laps. I also lifted weights, ran on the treadmill, biked and did the elliptical in their onsite Health Club, La Vida. Given that Disney hosts several marathons throughout the year, which can be found at runDisney. I the Walt Disney World Marathon last year and it was so much fun! If you are looking to run a marathon, I highly recommend the WDW Disney Marathon or Princess Half Marathon.


It can be hard to stay motivated, but staying active will give you the energy to tour the parks all-day and excuse to indulge in the pretzel at Biegarten guilt-free!


Do you have any tips for staying active while on vacation? Where is your favorite vacation destination? Do you usually lose or gain weight while on vacation? I’d love to hear from you!


TRI for Success

Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds. – Orison Swett Marden


We all face opposition to achieving our goals. If the road towards success were easy, everyone would have it, thereby making it not as sweet.


My road towards fitness has had many roadblocks, and I’m certain I’ll encounter many more challenges along the way.  Take for example the goal I set this summer to do a triathlon.


When I decided to do a triathlon I didn’t even know how to swim. I didn’t have a road bike, only a mountain bike with a baby seat strapped on the back.


I also have not had a successful history with sports. Being overweight my entire life, I was always picked last for team sports. As a chubby kid, I sat on the sidelines as my friends played softball. I begged my mom to write a note to excuse me from P.E. and the gym teacher let me walk laps while the other kids played basketball. In junior high, my mom’s note writing no longer worked, so I resorted to purposefully injuring myself so I could wear a wrist brace, excusing me from the embarrassment of playing volleyball.  I was an Honor Roll student, but the only D I received in my life was in P.E. class. Needless to say, my history with being active was severely lacking.


However, when my weight hit an all time high of 220 pounds, I knew I couldn’t achieve success through diet alone. I started slowly with walking, then running and taking classes. As I became more active, I discovered I loved to exercise. I began lifting weights, running more, taking Zumba, kickboxing, spinning and Cardio Funk.  I lost 80 pounds, I quit smoking and ran the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2011.


With each new goal I achieved, I decided to raise the bar. I decided my next challenge was a Triathlon.


And a challenge it was.


Again, opposition popped up at every corner as I had encountered a flat tire on my first TRI and panic attack in the water at my second. I also realized that most bikers have expensive road bikes with narrow tires, light frames and aero bars. My bike….well, let’s just say it isn’t on par with the “real” road bikes.


I trained with a triathlon group at my local YMCA and realized that the most amazing part of a triathlon is the camadarie and spirit of your teammates. My fellow triathletes cheered me on when I felt low and reassured me that I could meet my goal. At the end of a long bike ride, in which I felt completely inferior to their superb biking strength, they boost my spirit. On my first bike ride with the group, they were so fast that they almost lapped me on our long ride, but the amazing program director stayed with my the entire time and cheered me on. The group didn’t even make fun of me (too much) when I got lost repeatedly on our bike rides and runs (yes, I got lost more than once.)


While the triathlon group had a doctor, real estate agent, banker, writer, communications professional and stay-at-home parent……on the road, we leave those titles behind and we are all one thing……triathletes.


The best part of training for a sport, is that you can leave all of your other titles behind. You don’t have to be a mom searching for a juice box in the back of your car, or a busy executive making a tough decision about meeting the budget or a sales person trying to convince a couple to buy a car…..it is just you and the road.


My third triathlon, Tri! Ballantyne, was a success. I took it slow in the water to avoid having a panic attack. I reserved energy on the bike and killed it on the run. I finished in 1 hour and 24 minutes and came in second in my category.


If you are thinking of doing a triathlon, I highly recommend you give TRI! Ballantyne a TRI in 2012. It was the most organized race I’ve done to date. The swim times were seeded and organized so well that the swimmers were not on top of each other, making it a much more relaxing experience. Volunteers were on every corner during the bike ride and running, ensuring direction challenged participants (ahem…yes, I’m speaking about myself) didn’t get lost. And the celebration after the race was a lot of fun! There was even a marriage proposal at the finish line!


On to the next challenge: Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon on November 12. I’m sure I will encounter obstacles along the way, but I’m ready to jump those hurdles.


What are your fitness goals? How do you overcome obstacles to achieve success? I’d love to hear from you!

My 1st TRI – Keep TRIng, don’t give up!

I participated in my first Triathlon this Saturday, June 18, in Fort Mill, SC. After running my first marathon at Disney World in January, I was ready for a new challenge.


And boy, it was a challenge.


All triathlons are structured into three events: swimming, cycling and running, in that order. Unlike a marathon, which is always 26.2 miles, the distance of a triathlon is determined by its’ category. I participated in a sprint triathlon, which consisted of a 300-meter swim, 16-mile bike ride and 5K run.


Now get this, when I signed up for this TRI, I didn’t know how to swim. Sure, I could get across the pool with a glorified doggy paddle and my face above water the entire time, but I had forgotten everything I learned as a child. I signed up for swim lessons and had to learn how to breathe and swim with my head under water. Truly a beginner.


I joined a triathlon-training group five weeks ago to prepare for my first event. Unlike running, where you can focus and perfect your form in one particular sport, a triathlon requires strength and practice in three very different sports. If you are in the Charlotte area and thinking of signing up for a TRI, I highly recommend the Triathlon Training Group at the Morrison YMCA. The director of the program, Lisa, is wonderful. All of the coaches are certified USTA Level 2 Triathlon coaches and they work with people at all levels.



I quickly discovered on my first cycle ride with my TRI group, that I had a lot of work to do on the bike too. I had only biked in spinning class previously and the only outdoor biking I had ever done was on a mountain bike. My husband bought me a road bike for my birthday and I rode it for the first time during a group ride with my group.


I was the LAST one during the group ride, but the coach stayed with me the entire time and made sure I didn’t get left behind. I was so grateful to her because I knew she could kick butt on the bike and lead the pack, but instead she stayed with me the entire ride. She reassured me that I just needed to learn the gears and told me that the reason I was behind was because my bike was heavier than the rest of the members in my group. I felt deflated, but she raised my spirits and gave me confidence.


I faithfully trained with my TRI group three days a week and I worked out twice a day for five weeks to prepare for the event.


My training schedule looked like this:


Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
5:15 am: Run – 1 hour 7:00 am: Cycle 60 minutes 


7:00 am: Weight Training – 1 hour 7:00 am: Running – 1 hour 7:00 am: Weight Training – 1 hour 7:00 am: Brick – Cycle 1 hour then Run 30 minutes Rest
4:00 pm: Weight Training – 1 hour 


12:00: Swim – 1 hour 6:00 pm: Cycling – 1 hour 8:00 pm: Swim – 1 hour
6:00 pm: Yoga – 1 hour


The night before the race I was nervous and tossed and turned all night long. What if I forgot my goggles or helmet? Did I have everything I needed in my transition bag? What if I couldn’t finish the 300-meter swim? What if I got a flat tire?


Finally the day was here I woke up at 5:15 a.m. with plenty of time to get ready for the 7:30 a.m. start. I arrived early and set up all my gear in the transition area, which consisted of my bike, camelback, towel, helmet, running shoes, socks, hat, a bottle of water and my Garmin.


I picked up my chip and got my body marked with my number: 195. I bought a chip strap at TRYSports, which turned out to be a great purchase because I was able to comfortably wear my timing chip around my ankle and not use the terribly uncomfortable ones that they had.


They wrote 195 in black permanent pen on both my arms and leg. They even wrote my age on the back of my right calve: just what every woman wants!


The time passed so quickly that the next thing I knew it was 7:15: time to close the transition area and line up for the swim. The swim occurred in waves and the order was determined the participant’s number. I was one of the last people in line, which I originally thought was good, but later discovered put me at a disadvantage.


The race started at 7:30 and the line moved quickly. I watched my fellow triathletes glide through the water and snake the lanes with ease. I was nervous for the swim because I know it is my weakest sport. Hell, I didn’t even know how to swim a month ago.


At 7:50 I plunged in the water and took off, at first I felt at ease and remembered all of the advice my swim coach gave: head down, come up for air every three strokes, alternating sides, long arms. I didn’t even have to stop at the wall like I feared. I pushed off at the wall and snaked through the lanes. I felt good until the participant behind me started getting too close. I felt like I was going to kick him, so I waved him on ahead of me. Big mistake. He passed me, but then he started going REALLY slow. Not only did his passing me make me nervous and mess with my rhythm, but he was going so slow I had to stand up and wait for him to get enough ahead of me so I could swim again, several times. I didn’t feel confidant enough to pass him, especially since he was so anxious to pass me. But, this was ridiculous!


Finally the swim was over and I ran to the transition area to get ready for the bike ride. I was so flustered that I pulled on my socks on wet feet, slammed on my helmet and took off, forgetting my Garmin. I also tripped on my bike on the way out of the transition area and almost mounted ahead of the mount/dismount line.


I hopped on my bike and took off, feeling good. The weather was beautiful, a perfect day for a ride. I even passed several other bikers along the way, which was surprising to me because I ‘m not very strong on the bike. I was waving to volunteers and shouting out “Thank you for volunteering!” I was feeling good.


That was until I looked down and realized I had a flat tire.


My worst fear!


I didn’t know how to change a flat tire! I had prepared for almost everything, except changing a flat tire. I pulled over on the side road, unsure what to do. I didn’t have a cell phone, credit card, money or id.


Other racers were zooming past me, probably praying that they didn’t meet the same fate. Finally another racer stopped to help. He didn’t know how to change a flat tire, but he offered me his cell phone.


I bit my lip, fighting back tears. I couldn’t believe I had got this far and wasn’t going to finish. I was only a couple of miles into the bike ride. I couldn’t turn back. I couldn’t move forward. I was stranded on the side of the road.


I urged the other racer to go on and tell an official to come get me. I stood on the side of the road for twenty minutes, feeling deflated and sorry for myself.


But then, something came over me. I’m not going to let it end this way, I said to myself. I’m going to finish this race even it means coming in last and pushing my bike up the hill to finish this course.


Luckily I had an emergency bike pump strapped to the side of my bike. I pumped the tire up with as I could and figured that I would just stop and refill it as many times as possible to get me across that finish line.


The tire was still flat, but it had enough air to keep me moving.


Do you know how hard it is to bike up a hill with a flat tire?




But, I did it.

I biked my determined ass the entire 16 miles with a flat tire. After being stranded on the side of the road for 20 minutes, I came across the finish line with extreme relief that I had made it. I felt so much relief that I almost forgot that I still had to run 3.4 miles.


I quickly re-racked my bike and noticed that the majority of bikes were already back. I ran out of transition like a flash. The run course wasn’t well marked and another participant and I had a hard time understanding where to go. We finally spotted race officials, which reassured us we were on the right course. I picked up my speed steadily and began passing other runners. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t the last one in, considering how long I was stranded on the side of the road.


I rounded the corner for the finish and sprinted across the line. I couldn’t believe I actually finished. The feeling that washed over me wasn’t joy. It wasn’t pride. It wasn’t elation. It was pissed off determination. I’m glad I finished, but I was disappointed that my first TRI experience didn’t go as I expected.


The triathlon was the most challenging race I’ve ever done. Not physically, but mentally. The flat tire through me off completely and I was so deflated I was ready to throw in the towel, but I finished.


They say you learn more through you failures than your successes and I would certainly say that is true.


I learned a lot through this experience and I plan to apply those lessons learned to my two additional upcoming triathlons: Ramblin’ Rose on July 10 and TRI Ballantyne on July 16.


Lesson learned: Learn how to change a bike tire.


Have any of you ever participated in a triathlon? Any tips to share? I’d love to hear from you!


Motivating Lazy

I didn’t feel like running this morning.

After four months of not having my period, my friend finally came to visit and came back with a vengeance. I was tired, my muscles were sore, my lower back hurt and I had a headache. I really felt like sinking back under the covers with a hot mug of coffee and a piece of chocolate-walnut biscotti.

As tempting as that was, I knew I would feel much better after a run. So how did I motivate myself to get my ass out of bed and onto the pavement?

First, I told myself that I would get out of bed and put my running shorts on the count of 10. I slowly counted to ten and hoisted myself out of bed.

The lazy side of my brain had quite a debate with my active side. Lazy said, “I’m just getting dressed. I’m going to get back into bed after I put the running shorts on.”

Active responded, “Fine. At least get dressed.”

After I put on the shorts Active said, “Go ahead and get your Garmin, iPod and hat since you are already up. Lace up those running shoes and see how you feel.”

I figured since I had all of my gear together, I may as well head out for a run.

Lazy said, “We aren’t going out for a long, hard run today, Okay? We may only run for ten minutes. We are just doing a small run.”

“Fine,” said Active to pacify Lazy.

I started slow and my leg muscles were indeed sore. My glutes hurt and I couldn’t even remember working them out the day before. My legs felt like bricks and it was already hot.

“It’s okay to do an easier run today,” Active reassured Lazy.

“Good, because I am going to turn back around after I reach the end of the block.”

After about ten minutes my legs finally loosened up and began to feel better. My pace quickened and my headache cleared. I ran past the end of the block and kept going for my full run of six miles.

“See, I knew you could do it! You always feel better after a run,” Active told Lazy, but Lazy was already gone.

How do you motivate yourself when you don’t feel like working out? Any tips you can share? Check out Go Running Mom for great running tips, motivators and more!

Have Sex – Lose Weight


Research shows that having frequent sex (safe sex in a committed relationship of course) offers many health benefits including weight loss, improved mood and a closer relationship. Sex burns approximately 150-200 calories per half hour. Given the recent research that shows exercise is equally beneficial done in 15-20 minute bursts throughout the day, use sex as part of your overall daily exercise routine. Just think….you can shave 15-20 minutes off of your morning exercise routine if you plan a romp in the sack that night with your man.

Kerry McCloskey found the benefits of frequent sex first hand. When she was engaged and in the throws of newlywed passion, she was having sex three times a week and lost 23 pounds in six months! She wrote a book, The Ultimate Sex Diet, to help other women acheive the same success.

Frequent sex not only improves the waistline, but it does wonders for a marriage. The highly talented author, Alisa Bowman, wrote the BEST marriage advice book I’ve ever read: Project Happily Ever After available on Amazon. Alisa’s marriage was falling apart, to the point that she was fantasizing about her husband’s funeral. She made one last-ditch effort to save her marriage and called it Project: Happily Ever After. She made sex a priority, opened up the lines of communication and made her own happily ever after. I highly recommend this book! I read it in only two days on my Kindle and was laughing and crying right there with Alisa along her journey.

Even if your marriage doesn’t need repair, make sex with your spouse a priority and reap the rewards! If you need more convincing, a healthy sex life:

1. Relieves stress

2. Boosts immunity

3. Burns calories

4. Improves cardiovascular health

5. Boosts self-esteem

6. Creates feeling of closeness & genorosity

7. Reduces pain

8. Strengthens pelvic floor muscles

9. Results in improved sleep patterns

10. Reduces prostate cancer risk

What do you think? How do you balance making the time for sex with your spouse, while balancing the demands of work, kids, chores and hobbies? As always, would love to hear from you!

Check out my Working Mother magazine blog

I am happy to announce that I have a new blog column for Working Mother magazine called “Fit Family of Foodies.”  This blog will be all about food, family and fitness.

I will open up the dialogue about the challenges and solutions for staying fit, exercising and getting the entire family to eat healthy while balancing the demands of work and home.

Please visit the Fit Family of Foodies Blog on Working Mother magazine’s website and let me know what you think! Today is my premiere, so I’d love for you to leave a comment on the site.

As always, I will continue the Healthiest Foods on Earth blog, and I have a lot of cool topics coming up! Follow me on my Healthiest Foods on Earth Blog, Working Mother Fit Family of Foodies Blog and Modern Parent Blog to stay up-to-date on the latest news in health and nutrition. I’d love to hear what you think!



My Disney Marathon Experience

Six months of training. Over $1,000 spent between the event registration, hotel and Disney park tickets. The scare of an early morning stalker. Sacrifices made from my entire family enabling me to train, travel and attend this event.

All of that built up to this very moment. The time was finally here – The Walt Disney World Marathon on Sunday, January 9, 2011.

I was a nervous wreck the night before the marathon, worried that I would sleep through one of the three alarms that I set. Mickey Mouse called as my iPhone sang and the alarm on the nightstand beeped simultaneously at 2:30 in the morning. Yes, you read that right, 2:30am. Even though the race didn’t start until 5:35am, I had to make sure that I got on the bus by 3:00am, as was dictated in big bold letters in the marathon brochure “You must board the bus by 4:00am or you will not make it to the start line in time.”

I sat on the bright yellow touring bus with about fifty other nervous runners. Many of us sat in silence. Others chatted nervously. The woman next to me munched on her cinnamon raisin bagel and clutched her plastic runner’s bag. The girl across me from texted someone, who was also awake at 3:00am, with frantic speed. It was the first marathon for some of us, including myself. Others were seasoned marathoner’s hoping to PR. We all had one thing in common though: we were nervously awaiting our 26.2 mile run through Disney.

I downed two bottles of water and a protein bar while I waited for the bus to arrive at the Epcot Wonder lot. The race arrival area consisted of a concessions stand, merchandise booth, bag check area and hundreds of porta-pottys. As soon as I walked into the area, the DJ began playing “Ice, Ice Baby” and I knew that I was going to finish this race. I bought a coffee, but decided almost immediately that was a bad idea, so I tossed it in the nearest trash can. They urged us to begin walking towards our corrals because it was a twenty minute walk from the arrival area to the starting line. There were eight corrals, labeled A-H, which would start in four minute intervals beginning at 5:35am. At this point it was only 4:20am, but the DJ was not exaggerating, it was a full twenty minute walk to the starting corral. I was in corral C, so I headed that way and stretched while I waited. It was cold, but I brought along a pair of jogging pants that I planned to throw away before the start and I kept hand-warmers stuffed in my jacket pockets to keep me warm. I downed a GU about 15 minutes before the start and then tossed my jogging pants in the donation bin. The wheelchair race started first and they took off in a flash. I heard the countdown, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, with a flash of the fireworks and cheer of the crowd the race had begun. Before I knew it our corral was moving towards the start line and then took off across the start line.

The first mile was actually the toughest. My mean evil twin began whispering doubts in my ear, “You can’t do this.” “Why are you here?” “Do you really think you can do 26.2 miles?” But, I brushed her off and put one foot in front of the other. I also had to pee like crazy, even though I went four times before the race even started! The first porta-potty wasn’t until mile four, so I was a little distracted for the first four miles. I sprinted to the first porta-potty that I saw and waited in a five minute line. I hopped back in the race refocused and the first nine miles went by in a flash.

I already saw people over at the medic tents lying down on cots, injured. I wondered if they were done for the race or if the would be able to recover. I said a prayer for them and prayed that I wouldn’t meet that same fate.

Before I knew it, I was at mile ten, which was in the Magic Kingdom. I saw my two best friends, Christie and Stephen, wearing bright pink shirts and cheering me on from the sidelines. I scanned the crowd for my husband and kids, but didn’t see them. Seeing my friends gave me renewed energy and I sprinted towards the castle. I had to stop right before the castle for a picture with Rapunzel, since she is my daughter’s favorite Disney character. I hopped back in the crowd and enjoyed the pivotal moment of the race: running through Cinderella’s Castle. I scanned the crowd again for Shane, Joshua and Emily, but didn’t see them anywhere. They were there staring right at me and cheering me on, but I didn’t realize this until after the race when they told me. I felt a little down because I knew they were there for me, but I was really hoping to see them, so the next two miles were a little tough as I dealt with the disappointment of not seeing them.

I regained my composure quickly when I realized I was at mile 13, halfway through the race! I felt great knowing that I was halfway through and still felt wonderful. My IT band that had given me so much trouble while training was behaving and I felt great! My legs were strong, my lungs were strong and I felt like I could go forever. We ran past the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa Wedding Pavilion and a “wedding singer” was singing the “Humpty Dance.” I was laughing as I ran and enjoyed the scenery of the beautiful deluxe resorts, including Grand Floridian, Polynesian and Shades of Green. We also ran past the golf course and lake. We were headed to Animal Kingdom next, at around miles 15-16, and I was excited to arrive because some of the back roads and highways were pretty boring. We were greeted by llamas at the Animal Kingdom gate and I was excited to see that they had a Christmas tree in Animal Kingdom, as well as all of the Disney parks.

We ran up past Expedition Everest and across the bridge to enjoy the view of the iconic tree. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see any of the animals in Animal Kingdom, other than the few llamas that greeted us at the gate. At this point the park was opened and guests were milling around in the park. Some guests were cheering us on from the sidelines, but others were irritated that the runners were blocking their access to cross the road and hop on the rides.

We exited Animal Kingdom as quickly as we entered and we were back on the long road. This stretch was long and kind of boring. There were not a lot of sites and the road seemed to stretch out in front of us forever. I repeated to myself, “I feel strong.” “I could go forever.” “I feel great.” And I really did feel that way. I was pleasantly surprised that I felt so strong.

I made sure that I employed the run-walk method, even though I didn’t want to walk in the beginning, and I made myself walk for one minute at every mile. I also made myself drink water and PowerAde at every station to stay hydrated. They were giving out Clif Shots at some of the “food stations,” but I brought my own GU because I prefer that brand. I took at GU at hour 1, 2 and 3, but stopped after three hours because my mouth was too dry.

At mile 20 they gave out chocolate and we made a turnaround for the final 6.2 miles. I kept telling myself, “Don’t get too excited.” “You are at mile 20, but you still have an hour to go.” “It’s not over yet.” I felt great though because at mile 20, I was confident that I was going to finish.  At mile 21 I saw a guy rolled up in a blanket on the side of the road with a medic and two frantic runners by his side on their cell phones. I wondered if he was OK and I said a prayer for him. I was worried about him, but I saw the medics were taking care of him, so I kept running. I saw many fit people on the sidelines, unable to finish. I thought about how horrible it would be to come all of this way to be sidelined by an injury.

We entered Disney’s Hollywood Studios and we ran through the Backlot, which is my favorite part of Hollywood Studios. I love watching the cast members make the costumes. We ran past the iconic Mickey Sorcerer’s hat and we saw the Disney Pixar characters such as Sully and Mike from Monsters Inc, Mr. Incredible from Incredibles and Woody from Toy Story. I didn’t stop to take a picture with any of the characters because I was scared that if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to start again.

I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I felt great and I was ecstatic that my knee wasn’t acting up. I was a little disappointed in my time though because I realized that I wasn’t going to break the five hour mark that I was hoping for. I know they say not to set a time goal for your first marathon, but in the back of my mind I was hoping to finish in less than five hours.

We quickly went from Hollywood Studios to Epcot and ran back through the World Showcase. I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings because I was so focused on running as fast as I could for that final two miles. I tried to sprint to the end and went as fast as my tired legs would allow. There were hundreds of spectators lined up watching us make the final trek to the finish. I saw Shane, Joshua, Emily, Christie and Stephen right before the finish and I was ecstatic. I was so happy to see their faces, it gave me the extra energy to sprint across the finish. I crossed the finish at 5:07:47. A volunteer put the Mickey Mouse medal around my neck and like I could achieve anything. A medic tent was to my immediate right and I noticed a lot of runners with ice packs on their knees, shoulders and ankles. Some were lying down, some were sitting. I grabbed a Tylenol and a water bottle and kept moving towards the Epcot reception area to get to the most important part of the race: seeing my family!

We met in the reception area and I was so happy to see them. They lined up to show me their shirts, which spelled out STACY. They even had my ‘90s “popcorn hair” picture on the back and it said “2011 marathoner.” It was hilarious! I walked around the reception area to keep my legs moving and I even posed with Daisy Duck along with Emily and Joshua. I was so proud of myself for meeting my goal. Six months ago I set out to run in the Disney Marathon and it wasn’t an easy road. I had to give up many Saturdays for hours of training. I ran three days a week, giving up my other favorite cardio classes. I had a scary experience, in which a car followed me to my house on my early morning run, forcing me to finish my final long run on a treadmill. I had an IT band injury, bringing shooting pain up my left knee every time I ran. All of that led to this pivotal moment. Was it worth it? Yes. Will I do it again? Absolutely. I’m already looking for my next challenge. Triathlon? Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon? I’m not sure, but I do know that I’m not done challenging myself yet.