Walt Disney World Marathon: Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge Part II

IMG_3556I’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:

 

  1. You’re getting weaker and slower and your stamina is deteriorating despite regular exercising
  2. You are losing leanness despite increased exercise
  3. You feel tired, drained, sluggish and have a lack of energy
  4. You’re unable to sleep
  5. You have pain in your muscles and joints
  6. Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  7. Headaches

 

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?

Goofy Challenge Part I

stacythunderroadBeing a fat kid is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Sure, I endured teasing as a child. It wasn’t uncommon for me to hear chants of “Boom bada boom,” when I walked by or have endearing messages written in my yearbook like the one from Beth Sloan that said, “Ha, ha, you’re fat and have red hair.”

See, the thing is that if I would have been a thin, cute and popular child, I may not have developed the drive improve myself and take on new challenges as an adult. I see plenty of formerly knobby kneed kids from my old ‘hood (courtesy of Facebook) who are now overweight and miserable.

The best thing about childhood is that it’s fleeting and sets the tone for how you live the rest of your life.

I had to learn how to lose weight and stay in shape the hard way. Those kids who grew up saying things like, “I can eat whatever I want and I just don’t gain weight” are now experiencing the harsh reality of aging.

I lost 80 pounds and have maintained it for about ten years now, with the exception of having to lose the baby weight after two pregnancies. I’m sorry I don’t have a sexy story about how I lost the weight through raspberry ketones, a gluten-free diet or a magic pill. I lost the weight the old-fashioned way thorugh exercise and diet. Through the process I’ve challenged myself with new goals to stay motivated and keep the weight off. That brings me to my most recent challenge, The Goofy Challenge in the most magical place on earth: Walt Disney World.

The Goofy Challenge includes running a marathon and half marathon through all four Walt Disney World parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports and race track over the course of two days, totally 39.3 magical miles. I ran my first marathon in Disney in January 2011, completed three triathlons the summer of 2012, so I was ready for my next challenge for 2013. What could be more crazy than running not just one, but two marathon events in one weekend? Being a Walt Disney World Moms Panelist, there is no place on earth I’d rather be than Walt Disney World. And combining my two favorite things: Disney and running? Priceless!

I started training in July for this ultimate endurance test. Every weekend I committed to increasing my distance from 5 miles, up to 26.2 and back down again to taper prior to the big event. Training involved running four days a week, weight training two days a week, aqua jogging, yoga for athletes and long runs every Saturday. The toughest part of the Goofy Challenge was the training. Since I wasn’t just training for one event, but two, I partnered two long runs back to back each week to prepare for running on tired legs. Training for an event such as this requires a great commitment. Every weekend, through rain, cold temperatures, fatigue and boredom, I hit the road to prepare for the big day. There were days when I would much prefer to lay in my warm bed, cuddle with my kids and linger with my cup of coffee, but I would make myself lace up and run.

The peak of my training came the week of November 17. My running coach had advised that I run the ThunderRoad Marathon in Charlotte on November 17 as a training run. This means I was running a marathon to prepare for a marathon. This was absolutely the worst experience of my running career. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. I had to travel for work that week to Dallas, Texas and it was a horrible trip. My flight was delayed, I got lost driving to the hotel and again driving to the office. The days were long and draining. I had to switch hotels mid-trip. I was on a long flight the night prior to my marathon. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I shouldn’t have run the marathon at all, but I was stubborn and when I commit to something I feel obligated to complete the task at hand. I prayed to God that morning to get me through. I knew I wasn’t feeling up to the challenge when I arrived, but I forged ahead.

Everything that you SHOULDN’T do during a marathon run I did during this race, including:

  1. I was already physically and mentally exhausted when I started
  2. I didn’t have adequate rest the entire week prior to the race
  3. I tried a new food the morning of the race
  4. I tried new nutrition during the run
  5. I started off too fast

 

At first I felt great and I started off quickly. I was hoping to PR with a new time of under four hours. Given that my previous full marathon time was 5 hours and 7 minutes, this wasn’t a realistic goal. By mile 10 my stomach began to feel a bit sick. I ignored it and pressed on. I saw the half marathon spilt off and was tempted to go off on that track, but I was stubborn and pressed on. That is when things really went downhill. I tried to eat the Cliff Gels that I brought to calm my stomach and give me energy, but that just made me feel more sick. At mile 18 I thew up. The first time. I felt miserable, but at this point there was no turning back. I pressed on. I threw up again at mile 20, 22, 24 and 26. Yes, a marathon is 26.2 miles so I threw up with the finish line in sight. I was miserable. I tried to drink my PowerAde, I tried to eat the gels, I tried to have an orange, but everything made me sick all over again. I thought I was going to pass out. I was fully prepared to go straight to the medical tent, and probably should have, but when I saw my wonderful husband and beautiful kids at the finish line, I instantly felt better. I gave them a huge hug and collapsed on the curb.

At that point I said that I would NEVER run another marathon. But what would I do with the Goofy Challenge?  I was already committed to run in January. I not only was mentally commited, but financially as well. I had paid money for the race, hotel and my entire family to go with me. There was no backing out now.

I didn’t know how I would move forward. After that marathon I was completed depleted: mentally, physically and spiritually. I didn’t know how I could possibly move on. My motivation was gone. I didn’t even feel like running anymore. I felt like I had overeaten my favorite food. I couldn’t stand to think about running, look at anyone run, hear the word “run” and definitely couldn’t stomach a run. I would try to run a few miles and my legs felt like cement. How would I recover from this? My Goofy Challenge was only two months away! How could I possibly complete this challenge when I couldn’t run a mile without feeling like I had sandbags attached to my legs?

Stay tuned to find out. I will post part II of the Goofy Challenge tomorrow to let you know how I overcame this all time low and completed the Goofy Challenge.

In the meantime, do you have any questions about mistakes I made during this run? Have you ever bonked a race? 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 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.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly About Raisins

I ran a half-marathon last weekend in preparation for my full Disney Marathon in January. As my reward, I baked a homemade loaf of raisin bread. The bread was delicious, but it was a little too good. I fell into the trap that I was warned about, but swore I would never do: I justified my eating three-quarters the entire loaf because I ran 13.1 miles.

Fact: I burned 1,548 calories while running the half marathon (according to my Garmin.)

Fact: I ate approximately 1,800 calories in ¾ of a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.

I completely negated my run by eating that cinnamon raisin bread. There are a couple of lessons here:

  1. Know your trigger foods and don’t have them in the house
  2. We often overestimate the calories we burn through exercise and underestimate the calories in the foods we eat.
  3. Don’t justify eating whatever you want because you exercised.
  4. Don’t bake a fresh loaf of cinnamon raisin bread when you are hungry.

First of all, while raisins did make the top 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth list, the news about raisins isn’t all good. I’m going to break down the good, the bad and the ugly on raisins.

The Good

Raisins are high in phenols, which have high antioxidant activity and can prevent damage to the cells in the body from free radicals. Raisins are also high in boron, .which can promote bone and joint health. Also, I hope you read my recent article about Five Ways to Combat Alzheimer’s and I’m excited to read about yet another discovery in Alzheimer’s prevention: myricetin, found in raisins, has been found to inhibit beta-amyloid fibril formation, which is a key problem in Alzheimers disease. So now you have six ways you can prevent Alzheimer’s through lifestyle changes – add raisins to your diet!

The Bad

When I was researching the health benefits of raisins, I came across an article that touted one of the “benefits” was gaining weight because “raisins, like all dried fruit, are very good for gaining weight, as they are full of fructose and glucose and give a lot of energy.” OK, that is wonderful if you are one of the very few naturally thin people on this earth, but personally, I don’t need a food that will “help me gain weight.” I have enough “weight gain” tricks up my sleeve, it is the weight loss that I need help with.

 

However, my dietician did recommend that I bring raisins with me on my long runs instead of the GU or energy gels. Maybe I’ll do that on Saturday when I run 23 miles.

The Ugly

Raisins are concentrated grapes, so they have the highest pesticide residue of any fruit – not good. For that reason, try to buy organic raisins, even if they cost a little bit more.

 

I made the cinnamon raisin bread from a recipe in the The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. If you love bread, you must have this book. This is absolutely the best loaf of bread I’ve ever had in my life and I’m not an experienced bread baker.

I’m not going to lie, it is VERY time consuming, but it is worth it. Do you like raisins? Did you know that they had the highest pesticide rating of any fruit? I’d love to hear from you!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Sponge

  • 2 ¼ cup plus 2 ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cup water, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¾ teaspoon instant yeast

Flour mixture

  • 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup dry milk
  • ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 ¼ teaspoon salt

 

Spiral Filling

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten

1. Make the sponge by whisking flour, water, honey and instant yeast in a large bowl for 2 minutes. Set it aside and cover it with plastic wrap.

2. Make the flour mixture by mixing the flour (reserve ¼ cup if mixing by hand), dry milk and instant yeast in a separate bowl. Gently place the flour mixture on top of the sponge, cover with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment 1 to 4 hours. The yeast mixture will bubble up through the flour mixture, don’t worry, that is supposed to happen.

3. Add the salt and cut up butter to the mixture. I mixed this all up in my KitchenAid mixture and blended until it all came together, about 10 minutes.

4. Cover it with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

5.  Knead the dough for another 5 minutes until it’s very smooth. Add some additional flour if the dough is sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to relax for 10 minutes.

6. Add the raisins and mix on low speed or about 2 minutes to incorporate them.

7. Place the dough in a lightly greased 4-quart bowl and turn the dough over once to completely coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 ½ hours to 2 hours.

8. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and the cinnamon. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl.

9. Scrape the dough out on a floured surface and divide it in two equal pieces. Cover one piece of dough with plastic wrap and work with the other. Roll out on piece of dough to a rectangle 7 ½ inches wide by 14 inches long and about ¼ inch thick. Gently dimple the dough all over with your fingers to deflate air bubbles. Brush the dough with the beaten egg, leaving a 3/4 –inch margin on the edges. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar evenly on the dough. Start rolling the dough together, squeezing it gently along the length of the roll. Close the ends up and pinch the seams together. Place the roll in an oiled 8 ½-by 4 ½-inch loaf pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and repeat for the second loaf. Allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours.

10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees 45 min before baking. Place a baking sheet in the oven while it is pre-heating so you can place the loaf pan directly on the heated pan after 45 minutes.
11. Set the loaf pans on the baking sheet and shut the door immediately. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the bread is golden brown.

12. Once the breads are done, remove them from the oven and unmold them. Set on a wire rack and let cool completely.