The RunDisney Castaway Cay Challenge

Yes hi, I am still talking about all the running that I did in January – I think its because I haven’t done any running since so I’m looking back on better times!

So many people thought that I was mad enough to run a FRICKIN’ MARATHON midway through my holiday in January, and most of these people were even more baffled to find out that only a few days after running the longest distance of my life AND while still on holiday, I ran a further 5K race, but here me out on the logic behind it.

You see, I wanted another medal.. Yep, that’s basically it.

Every January, following the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, the Disney Dream cruise ship sets sail from Port Canaveral for a 4 night cruise. Its the same route and same cruise that the Dream does from Port Canaveral all the time, but this one particular sailing is jam packed full of runners recovering from their weekend races, who have mostly all booked it for the RunDisney Castaway Cay Challenge.

The challenge is this: if you participate in any race during the WDW Marathon Weekend – so this could be as little as the 5K – you can sign up for the challenge, which means that on the morning that the Dream docks at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, you take part in a special RunDisney organised 5K on the island, and as well as receiving the standard Castaway Cay 5K, which any guest can earn on any cruise that stops at the island, challenge participants also receive this challenge medal to round off their collection.

As with all other WDW Marathon Weekend events, bib and t-shirt pickup was done at the RunDisney expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports, but t-shirt exchange and merchandise were only available on the ship itself. Merch itself seemed a little lacking to me, there was a pin, a hanging ornament and a tech t-shirt available in two different colours, and that was all – although you could also buy a normal Castaway Cay 5K t-shirt in the gift shop on the island itself.

The challenge 5K starts earlier than the usual race, and takes a slightly different course around the island, meaning that if anyone is mad enough to want to take place in both 5Ks that will happen that morning, there’s a bit of variety. We had to meet in the ship’s theatre at crazy o’clock in the morning, and there were some drinks and bananas available there. There was a brief introduction and then each corral was led off the ship and to the start line, which was quite a walk away from the boat and it was still pretty dark at the time, but the sun had started to rise before the race kicked off.

Mickey and Goofy led us through a pre-race warm-up, and each corral were set loose on the island. There was only A, B and C, about 700 people participating, so it felt tiny compared to the other races I had done the weekend before, but it felt a lot less pressured with fewer people about. We started and ended on the island’s disused runway, and along the way there a handful of characters including Stitch, Vacation Genie, Captain Hook and Max, which was a nice surprise as I wasn’t expecting any characters on the course.

Despite recovering from the marathon relatively well, I found the first 3k HARD work, but we took it nice and easy and many people were walking – it all felt very relaxed. By the last mile my legs had found their strength again and we ran most of the leg, nicknamed by the cast members as the Ring of Fire, probably because it felt like it went on FOREVER, and then all of a sudden we were at the finish line! The finish line was complete with the usual bottles of water, bananas and snacks – I swear I still can’t face bananas – but there was also a bar set up where guests could purchase champagne and cocktails etc.

Doing the 5K was a really great way to see the island a bit before the rest of the guests descended on it, and you can stay on the island from then onwards, but we were starving and in need of a Cabanas breakfast, so we went back to the ship to eat and shower before the day of fun ahead of us!

Another one off the RunDisney bucket list!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

The Walt Disney World Marathon

Sunday 13th January 2019

On the morning of the marathon I was up at 3am. Luckily, I’d actually slept pretty well that night, unlike most nights I have before races, so it didn’t feel too awful. As I was staying at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, I had to get the monorail to Epcot – there were no buses on for monorail loop resorts so it wasn’t as busy on the roads – but the building we were in, Moorea, was so close to the Ticket and Transportation Center that it was quicker for me to walk there and just get the direct monorail to Epcot than it was for me to get the monorail from Poly.

Getting the monorail meant I did arrive at Epcot earlier than I was used to and the corrals weren’t even open yet, so after I walked from the station to the RunDisney stage area, I sat down for a little bit so that I wasn’t on my feet for too long, then once the corrals were open I made my way to G and sat back down for the wait. To give you an idea of the scale of this event, by the time I’d got to the start line I’d already done 5,000 steps.

While the race officially started at 5:30am, my corral didn’t actually start until 6:10, by which time I was bursting for the loo having drank a bottle of water while waiting to begin, so I had to stop at the first portaloo on the course, which was about three-quarters of a mile in – although on a full bladder it felt A LOT longer than that!

The course took us straight up to Magic Kingdom, which we entered just after mile 5, and those first 5 miles flew by for me, with the highlight seeing Leah at mile 4 cheering me on. The sun was just rising so the castle looked totally beautiful while we were running down Main Street, and in every RunDisney event I’ve done in WDW, this is the moment I look forward to the most. The Magic Kingdom stretch always goes far too quickly as well – it was actually just about a mile – but just before leaving the park via a backstage area we reached the 10k mark.

For some reason in basically every marathon photo I am holding a banana (and no, they’re not all the same banana)

The next stretch of the route was the part I was looking forward to the least; it was a full 10k again before we’d reach Animal Kingdom. Despite dreading it, however, this part went almost as quickly as the first quarter of the race. It was all road with very little entertainment, and it was starting to get hotter as the sun had properly risen by then, but I was still in my stride and feeling good, so it didn’t seem like too long until the course took me into Animal Kingdom. We came in at the top of the park, running over the tracks for the train that normally runs guests to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, then down through Africa, into Asia and past Expedition Everest before leaving the park through the back of Dinoland USA. The park was open by this point, and some runners were making the dash off the route to ride Expedition Everest, for which the single rider queue was open exclusively for. The half marathon mark was also inside the park, and despite thinking I would have a little cry at that point, I was focusing all my energy on pushing forward – everything from this point onward would be the furthest I’d ever run before.

In my head, the next stretch of the race wouldn’t be so bad – it was less than 10K until we got to the next significant part of the course at ESPN Wide World of Sports. In reality, this was the hardest part for me. Between mile 16 and 17 my wireless headphones ran out of battery, meaning I no longer had the Hamilton soundtrack to distract me from the blazing sun and 25C+ temperature with no shade, or the fact that being back on the roads meant there was absolutely no shade. This was also about the time that my ankle gave out, and suddenly it felt like each mile had trebled in distance. When I finally did get to ESPN, I thought the time would go by a little faster, but my feet felt like they were dying and there were actually almost 3 miles to run around the grounds, and those 3 miles felt like 30.

From ESPN the course took us up towards Hollywood Studios, where we ran in through the top of the Fantasmic theatre, to the bottom of Tower of Terror and then along Sunset Boulevard and out of the park through the main entrance, and from there we ran along the path that links Hollywood Studios to Epcot via the Boardwalk Resort area. By this point I was so ready for the race to be over, but I was still plodding along as best I could, thinking that once the route took me into Epcot at the UK pavilion, I’d only have a short bit of the World Showcase to run before leaving the park for the finish line. I was wrong. Turns out, we were running around the World Showcase the long way..

Despite having very little of the route left and still running, albeit very slowly, I found the World Showcase incredibly irritating. Epcot guests were in full swing by this point, so only half of the width of the path was coned off for the runners, but guests were still cutting into the running course, and a lot of the other runners were walking by this point, so I was having to do a lot of weaving, which was the last thing I wanted to be doing as I was nearing 26 miles. The course continued to be super crowded and blocked up by walkers almost right up to the finish line, so I was having to dart into any available space until it finally opened up at the finish line stretch.

I’m not even sure if I can put into words how I felt crossing the finish line. I expected to burst into tears but it had been so hot I don’t think I had any water left in my body to cry out. The whole thing didn’t feel real, and I’m not sure it even does now, because running a marathon is not something that I ever imagined I would be capable of doing in my lifetime, let alone with the year I had leading up to it. But I did it.

The plan and motivation for this race was wanting to run a marathon before turning 25, which I will be in October. I’ve always said that it would be my only marathon and that I would definitely never put myself through it again, but now its over, I wonder if I’ve caught the bug..

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

My Advice for First Time Gym-Goers

I know we all joke about it, but its true – January will see more people heading into gyms than any other month of the year. Getting fitter, healthier or trying to lose weight is one of, if not the most popular New Year’s resolution, and although its something a lot of people poke fun at, I for one am here for it, each and every year, because I think its a fabulous resolution to have.

I also know that if you’re a first time gym member, or haven’t been to a gym for a long long time, it can be a kinda terrifying experience for you. Trust me, I’ve been there. And while I’m not a fitness professional, I have been a regular gym user for about the last 7 years, and so I’d like to share some advice for all of you who feel like you’re a little out of your comfort zone as you go into the gym this January (or any time, if you’re reading this in the future!).

Do a gym tour/introduction session

Most gyms will offer new members a tour of the facilities, which is a great way for you to get the lay of the land and ease yourself in slowly. It also gives you a chance to get to know the staff a little, and get the low-down on any rules of the gym, plus its a great chance for you to..

Ask the questions that you want answered

How do I use this piece of equipment? What exercises should I be doing to work on this area? Don’t be worried to ask gym staff as many questions as you need to because as well as it being part of their job to help you feel comfortable at the gym, they’d also rather you asked a question that you thought might be silly, than you not ask them and potentially hurt yourself, or even just not feel like you know what you’re doing.

Don’t assume other gym members dislike you

I see SO MANY people on Twitter at this time of year say things like ‘ugh everyone in the gym is so judgemental of us gym newbies’ and it really bothers me because most gym-goers aren’t focused on anything but their own workout. If anyone has said, or does say anything to you that makes you feel bad, I’m so sorry that you’ve had a bad experience but if nothing has been actually said to you then please don’t make the assumptions that people are that nasty because most of us aren’t like that, promise!

Start off slowly

It might go without saying, but don’t push yourself too hard straight off the bat. All good things take time and getting your workout routine right is no different!

Know the difference between ‘the burn’ and real pain

You’re going to want to feel ‘the burn’, and that means that what you’re doing is working, but that is something that should subside fairly swiftly after you finish that exercise. If you’re still in significant pain for some time after you stop whatever it is you were doing, that’s a sign that you may have done some actual damage, and if that’s the case then please don’t try to push through that.

Have fun with it

I personally love going to the gym, and that’s why I go, because if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t do it. The trick is finding something that you actually enjoy doing at the gym. If you hate what you’re doing, try something different, and keep trying until something sticks, but honestly you’ve got so many options to try so keep at it!

Remember, only you can make your fitness goals happen, so ignore everyone else who says otherwise and let’s do this!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

My First Time at BodyPump and Tips for First-Timers

After what for me feels like WAY too long, I am officially back in a gym! With going from living somewhere where I could walk to my gym in 25 minutes, to living somewhere where we don’t even have a proper gym in town, its taken me a while to find somewhere that meets my gym standards amongst settling into our new home and getting back into work.

But I’m back! I joined my nearest Total Fitness gym, and I’m determined to get my money’s worth out of this membership (because its so much more than my old gym!) and I’ve always liked doing classes because they push me both physically and a little out of my comfort zone. One class I’ve been super interested in trying for quite some time now is BodyPump, so I booked in for yesterday’s class, and here’s how it went..

Because I knew nothing about the class other than a general overview, I went straight to the class instructor to admit that I was a first timer and had no idea what was going on, and I would 100% recommend doing this if you are trying this class for the first time. She told me what equipment I needed to get and what weights to start off with and reassured me that I’d easily be able to follow along.

BodyPump is a weight based class, but its more of a light weight, high reps sorta workout. I grabbed a barbell and two of each of the weight plates, plus we also had a step box and a mat each. As the instructor told me to start off light, I put the lightest plates on first, which felt a little too light for me at first by I stuck with it anyway because I didn’t know what was going to happen so I figured it was the safest bet, plus because I’d been out of the gym for about 6 weeks, I thought it was best for me to start with mainly bodyweight anyway.

After a short warm-up consisting of mainly squats, we were given a little bit of time to adjust our weights for the next section of the workout, so I did change up the plates on my bar to go a little heavier, although not by much because I was still playing it safe. That said, I quickly worked up a sweat as we went into the main workout! We alternated a bit between the bar and using just plates, and also used the box as a sort of bench for doing chest work.

There was a lot of lower body work, lots of squats and lunges etc, but I was also happy when later in the class we did come round to upper stuff – primarily overhead which I didn’t mind because I’m good with overhead – and we actually finished the class on abs before going into a cool down and stretch.

Overall I really enjoyed the class. Yes, it took some getting used to and it’ll probably take me a few goes before I feel really confident in knowing what I’m doing in terms of the weights to use, but I definitely will be going back! It wasn’t as cardio as I had expected it to be, but I liked that about it, and even though I went quite light with the weights, I am feeling it a little bit today so that’s a great sign that its working!

If you’ve been considering the class for a while, or are looking for a new class to start, I would definitely recommend BodyPump, and here are some tips for when you do:

  • As I mentioned earlier, definitely speak to the instructor before the class starts and let them know you’re a newbie
  • If you can, find a spot right in front of the instructor, or at least where you can clearly see them so that you can properly copy the moves they’re doing
  • Start off light, even if you think you can do heavier – I’m a confident lifter and would normally lift a lot more than I used, but I’m so glad I went light because I did still feel the burn
  • Enjoy yourself!

I’m on the hunt for other classes to try out so if you’ve got any recommendations then hit me up!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

I Run, Therefore I Am A Runner

As I make my slow return to running, I’ve been thinking a lot about the term ‘runner’. You see, as I’ve been away from running since the start of April, and have to very carefully ease myself back in on my still-healing ankle, I’ve been feeling like a bit of a bad runner.

And then it hit me.

If I go out and run, that makes me a runner. It doesn’t matter if I go out every day, or once a week, or even less often than that, taking part in the activity of running makes me a runner. It doesn’t matter if I run for 1 minute and then walk for 1 minute. It doesn’t matter if I run for 1 mile or 10 miles. I have never been a fast runner, even at my peak, but d’you know what? A 15 minute mile is just as far as a 7 minute mile.

I’ve never taken running overly seriously. I’ve always written my own training plans, changed things up on the fly, and if I’m being perfectly honest, last year I didn’t really train for any of the half marathons that I ran. I guess I’ve always been lucky to be able to get away with it, but things are different now. I’m finding it hard being so set back from where I was before, and feeling the pressure of my upcoming marathon, but it is just that, a setback. Setbacks are made to be overcome.

But despite all this, I’m still a runner. I don’t have to run a 10K every day to call myself a runner, I don’t have to have a precise training and nutrition plan to call myself a runner, and I don’t have to be a fast runner to call myself a runner. Anyone who gets out and runs is a runner, and that’s what counts.

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

Starting Over With Fitness

During my physio session on Monday, I finally started my ‘return to running’ programme, yay! This isn’t an instant all clear for me to hit the pavement again, but its the biggest step in the right direction I’ve made since breaking my ankle back in April.

I’m excited, and also super nervous. I have less than 6 months until my first marathon, and now instead of building up from already being able to comfortably complete a half marathon, I’m now almost back to square one in that I haven’t really don’t any running since before my accident. The exception to that is a 5K fun run I did back in June (which my physio do not know about), and that was a huge shock to my little legs, so the thought of doing that 8 and a bit times over continuously is somewhat terrifying.

On top of returning to running, my fitness game has been somewhat weak of late. I’ve been having to adapt so many of my favourite workouts to not put too much pressure on my ankle, and quite honestly its just not been the same. Throw in stress eating from moving house, and the fact that now I don’t even have a gym to go to, I’ve gained quite a bit of weight recently, so its not even just getting back to my routine, I also need to shift the extra weight and get my fitness levels back to where they were.

So its time to get my butt back into gear, and first on the agenda is just getting active again. I want to start off with low impact workouts, and avoid going straight back into the sort of weights I’m used to using in the gym, so I’m going to start off with some of my favourite home workouts from YouTube – Tone It Up, Blogilates etc – as well as using Pinterest for inspiration, just to get my body back moving. I’d also love to get some swimming and cycling in for low impact cardio. Matthew and I are planning on turning our garage into a gym eventually, but as its currently jammed full of boxes and rubbish, it’ll be a bit of time before we’re able to do that, but once they’ll be no excuses to not go to ‘the gym’ in the morning!

Once I’ve got the all clear from physio, I’ve got a marathon training plan all ready to be put into action, although I’ve had to tweak it somewhat to account for the fact that I’m not able to knock out a quick 5K or 10K without much thought as I could at the start of the year. My physiotherapist will be starting me off on the anti-gravity treadmill (not quite as cool as it sounds, but a really useful bit of equipment) so I’ll get a little bit of a head start before I actually hit the roads myself.

It feels like I need to make so much progress in the next 5 and a bit months, but I’m ready to get started and push myself!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

My Current Favourite Workouts

So its been ages since I’ve blogged anything fitness related, and that’s been for multiple reasons. Firstly, I’ve been struggling a lot with talking about fitness for a number of reasons, which I talked about in this post, and secondly because at the start of April I broke my ankle and I’m still very much in recovery.

Even after the ankle situation happened while I was at the gym, I was itching to get back. I actually can’t imagine my life without being in the gym at least 3 times a week and it was torture being on crutches, then having to wear the ugly boot cast, and I got so desperate that I actually went to the gym in my boot several times. Problem is, I’m still not fully healed, and I’m still going to physiotherapy, so my marathon training has also been thrown really out of whack, and I’m even having to adjust my usual gym workouts so I don’t put too much pressure on my foot and cause any more damage to myself.

Its forced me to try some slightly different things, and in doing so I’m finding some new things that I love, and also seeing results I didn’t expect!

Sit down bike

I’m trying really hard to keep up some cardio activity while also keeping my body weight off my feet and keep any impact to a minimum, and cycling has been great for that. Its also got some strength back in my thighs (which are seeing some shape come back as a result as well btw!) and the movement is helping stretch out the ligaments in my foot that are healing at the moment.

Boxing

Little known fact about me is that I’m actually a black belt in Taekwondo, but I had to give that up when I was 18 because of hip problems (isn’t my body fab?), but it does mean that this girl knows how to throw a punch! I’ve been doing a lot of boxing with my PT lately, because it gets my heart rate up, works a lot of my body but also doesn’t have to involve moving around on my feet too much.

Lunges

I’ve never been that much of a fan of lunges, but for a long time after my accident I wasn’t able to squat, so I switched to lunges, and they’ve become a really important part of my physiotherapy exercises because of how much they stretch out the ligaments and are helping to increase my flexibility again

Battle ropes

I’ve always liked flinging battle ropes around the gym, but I’ve just found myself using them a lot more lately and loving it. I can also feel how much stronger I’ve got because I used to get tired with them so quickly!

The road to recovery isn’t easy, but I’ve been so much happier getting back into things, and even though I’m not where I want to be right now, its all about those baby steps!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram