For the first time in forever, Louisville, Ky. served up perfect temperatures for a Hot Chocolate race. While this year was virtual, again, it didn’t make the experience any less fun. While some people are going through “virtual race burnout,” I am quite the opposite. I was a fan of virtual races before they became the norm. And one of the biggest pluses of signing up for the AllState Hot Chocolate Louisville Virtual 15K/5K race is…that since that it is part of Louisville’s very own Triple Crown of Running…you got three races for the price of one. As a bargain shopper…this was winning.
So, in the weeks leading up to the April 3 race day, I also ran the 5K Fitness Classic and the City Run 10K. Any virtual race that I participate in is normally treated like a training run…and these were no different. However, when the 15K rolled around yesterday morning, my coach decided to let me run the first 10K however I wanted to…but that last 5K he wanted me to push the pace a little bit and speed up. He’s been on a “run faster at the end” kick. I don’t know if I like that or not. HA!
A few weeks before the big day, I received my race packet in the mail. This contained my Triple Crown of Running t-shirt, hat and medal…along with the amazing swag that the AllState Hot Chocolate races provide. This year…a nice jacket (with a removable hood and LOTS of zippered pockets), a medal, a Nuun tablet, race bib, chocolate, and the ever-important double chocolate hot chocolate packets. If you have never had this hot chocolate, you’re missing out. The race fee is worth it just for those little packets of chocolatey goodness. Trust me. It’s my absolute favorite. And with a starting temperature of 28 degrees…the perfect weather for a hot chocolate finish line treat.
My race morning went well. After spending some time with the foam roller and a pre-run warm up, I laced up my shoes, donned my hydration pack, and headed out the door with no route in mind. This worked out great to start with. Since I was just making it up as I went, I enjoyed the peaceful, cold morning weaving through the streets of my neighborhood. But, because I went into this without having mapped out a course, my fast finish 5K at the end of the 15K run…were on hills. Whoops. But, for having to navigate some steep climbs, I was pretty pleased with my overall performance for this virtual race.
Once I was done, back home, I popped a piece of chocolate and made myself a hot cup of that hot chocolate (and added some vegan marshmallows for good measure). This was a pretty big training week for me since getting back with my coach. I didn’t mind it. By breaking up the race, it really helped me have a fun and enjoyable time…even if I was in my own neck of the woods, and not downtown Louisville. Next year!
Never count a virtual race out. The AllState Hot Chocolate 15K/5K people really know how to give you an experience without it being the full experience. I can’t wait to be able to safely race with large groups of people again…and really test these legs for some speed and endurance. I’m very proud of the work I put in yesterday though to earn my hot chocolate medal…and the actual hot chocolate, of course.
Will run for chocolate. Always. Forever. Even virtually.
Thanks for another great year of virtually racing this series! I’ll be hitting those Louisville streets next year for sure!
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Fourth of July means one thing. The annual 4th of July race. And for the third year in a row, I decided to make the trip down to Lexington, Kentucky for the Bluegrass 10,000. This year it was a bit different. We didn’t ride down with Melissa and Paul this year. Melissa had a baby back in February, so I knew they would have a bit more of a stressful ride down (especially if they were bringing the baby…which they did…and her mom to watch the baby…so full car as it was) trying to juggle everything with a newborn around.
I got in touch with Linda, my former coach and one of my favorite people (she’s an amazing friend) in this world, to see if she could pick up my packet if I registered, and since she’s in charge of the pacers…she said she already was picking up all of those so she would add to mine. I greatly appreciated that. There was no way that I could get to Lexington during a workweek for a Thursday race so I am thankful for people who can help me out.
The night before the race I made tacos. Not weird. I love tacos. And I ended up going to bed relatively early that night, knowing that a very early alarm had to be set for me to get up, hydrate, drink coffee, stretch, change, put on sunscreen, and get on the road by 5 am. The race in Lexington starts at 7:30 am. We managed to have breakfast, get ready, and get on the road right on time. So, that was a definite win.
It was a warm morning, and I dressed appropriately this time. As Wonder Woman. With a bra top instead of a tank top. I’m over the fact that my stomach isn’t flat. Whatever. Comfort is way more important and I wasn’t going to overheat this year.
This year, I was opting to give a go at racing this thing again. I wasn’t sure how I would do. My body isn’t reacting well to the heat/humidity this summer. I’ve never crashed so hard on hot runs (yep…even before the sun comes up) as much as I have this year. Its frustrating. And it does mentally wear you down, but I decided I would just see what I had this particular day. My training was relatively easy leading into a Thursday race. I admit, I might have hit some miles a bit harder than intended…but I felt pretty good on the drive into Lexington.
As we were arriving to our designated spot to park, I got a text from Linda saying where she was parked so we could meet up. We pulled in moments later, and I got out to get a hug and get my race shirt and bib. Cathy pinned me up and Linda and I talked for a bit. Her 8 minute pacer hadn’t shown up yet so she said I might have to hop in and pace. I was willing to do that if necessary. We both took the opportunity to use the bathroom before heading toward the start line. Her 8 minute pacer did show up at this point, so I was reprieved of that duty. Melissa and Paul weren’t here yet…but did arrive after the pacer photo and with about 5 minutes to the start. I wanted to hug Melissa before the start, but she was feeding her baby and Paul was grabbing her stuff. I had to head to the start…and that was that this year.
I lined up near the 8 minute pacer, just as I did last year. But then I saw people who were, once again, talking about how they wouldn’t be able to do that pace…or were definitely not dressed to hold that pace (is that judgey?)…so I moved up. And then moved up some more. The National Anthem was sung. The wheelchair racers were sent off. And we all moved up to wait for our prompt 7:30 am start. We were sent off by a rifle. It was pretty frickin amazing!
Here is where I am changing my plan of action for this race next time I run it. Despite having moved up, I was still blocked by a lot of walkers who were up near the front of the race. I wish this could be monitored a bit more, but it seems that next year, I am just lining up MUCH closer to the start line. I was slowed down considerably here, but the start line is pretty chaotic as it is.
The street is really crowded in that first mile, so I bobbed and weaved as much as I could. We made a turn right before the finish line and headed out to make a loop around some streets. We make a turn around Mile 2 and start up a big hill. It’s not a steep hill, but one of those ongoing hills. It wears you down. I was also making a point to hydrate early and often. So, if there was a water stop…you best believe I was taking a cup and drinking some of it before pouring the rest over my head. Keeping that core temperature down this year. YES! Oh…and they had some cooling stations on some of the miles…so I used those too.
I hit the turn around point and got a bit of a downhill. And this is where I got a lot of Wonder Woman shout outs from people spectating. And I got a lot of call-outs by Linda and her pacers as they came up the other side of the road. Man, that was a booster, even when I started to walk the water stops. No shame in that on a hot day. I enjoyed the downhill portions and really appreciated the guy at Mile 5 with a hose who just sprayed me down as I ran past. It steamed up my sunglasses, but damn…I needed that refreshing hit of cold water.
As I ran past the start line of the race, I could hear the race announcer up the way and was getting pretty excited to finish. I wasn’t looking for a PR today…and I didn’t get one. But I gave it all I could at that finish line. I could hear Cathy screaming at me from the bleachers nearby as I ran past and just got myself across the line. I stopped my Garmin and took a moment to catch my breath.
I made my way over to a table with water and snagged a bottle before heading to the sideline to talk with Cathy, who was heading my way. Shortly after, Linda came across and I went to chat with her for a little bit. I stuck around for a few of the pacers to make their way in, but I knew that we had an important date with lunch and then Season 3 of Stranger Things (which had dropped at midnight). So, I gave Linda a hug and we headed out to get back to our car.
On the way back, we did get to see Melissa and Paul. Melissa switched with the 15 minute pacer and was getting her group to the finish line in good form. Cathy tried to take pictures, but they weren’t prepared. I was happy to have caught them before we left.
We went to Target to kill off some time. Cathy got us some more coffee and a bit of a
snack before we walked around, killing off time before Bella Notte opened for lunch. There was SO much Stranger Things stuff. How I didn’t buy it all…I will never know. We polished off the coffee and headed over to the mall to walk a little more. Ducked into a few stores, then finally went to Bella Notte to grab lunch. I had my usual. Cathy went with something new and different. And as our entrees were arriving, Melissa, Paul, Deb and baby arrived. Melissa came over to chat with us before they ordered, and we stopped by as we were about to head out. We finished eating. We stopped in at Half Price Books. And we mad the drive back home to get through as much of the new season of Stranger Things as we could…because we were working a half day on Friday and gone all weekend.
And we got 6/8 episodes in before we had to call it. Not bad.
I’m not sure if I am more proud of that or how I did in the race this year. I beat last year’s time by 1 minute, but no distance or course PR this year. It eludes me again.
My official results of the Bluegrass 10,000 are that I finished in 47:40…in the best weather (still humid and hot) that I have had in the 3 years I have run it. And that’s with walk/water stops. I was 294/2969 finishers overall. I was 41/1491 female finishers. And I was 6/244 in my age division. I actually was better placed this year (with more finishers in each category)…except for my age group. I need to get out of my head a bit more and just learn to be a bit more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Well friends…much to everyone’s dismay as a new Team Challenge kicked in for the MRTT/SRTT group…I had a down week this week. And it might have been just what I needed considering I raced on Thursday and was out of town over the weekend. Training when a race is on a weird day works for me…but going out of town never makes training easy. Especially when you are somewhere that isn’t easy to run without venturing out for a ways to a place with sidewalks and safe paths or trails. It was what it had to be this week. And, honestly, I never know where I stand on those challenges because I just do what my coach tells me to do. I never want to overtrain and/or bring about injury because of these fun challenges. So…I just stay my course and do my thing. As training hadn’t officially started, my coach let me split the total accumulated mileage between Saturday and Sunday into two mid-distance runs as opposed to a short run followed by a long run…as I was limited only to a treadmill. You tweak things as you need and just do the best you can with what life is offering at the time.
Let’s dive into this week, shall we?
Monday: This was my typical Monday morning run. 6 miles. Easy pace. SLOW!! He assigns me Mondays as a recovery run from any weekend runs that he puts me through. And with the past week’s Sunday run being rough…it was a good morning to just take it easy, move the legs, and not put much effort into anything. I survived another humid morning. I drank a lot of water, trying to stay ahead on hydration this week. I also met with my personal trainer. And then…I returned to my Monday evening spin class with Deana. It was her sing-along class and it was a lot of fun. Since it was a down week, I did throw in a few extra things as I figured it wouldn’t mess with my training. Today I also did one of the two days a week I throw in my hip strengthening exercises to my morning PT stretching routine.
Tuesday: No speed work this week. My Tuesday run kept it simple. 6 more miles, this time at base pace. Another humid morning, and this time I had to deal with some stomach issues. UGH. It happens sometimes when you have Celiac. But, I got through it and managed to keep a slightly faster pace than Monday. I followed that up with a round of 10 strides, which I actually managed to do quickly while focusing on form.
Wednesday: Short and easy run this morning. 3 recovery miles. He told me to run them SLOW…and I did…for the first one. And somehow that turned into negative splits without me focusing on it. So…yeah…this one was probably too fast and should have been done slower. I wasn’t looking at my watch for each mile…I just ran by feel and it DID feel easy. No personal training because I was racing the following day, but I did do my second day of additional hip strengthening exercises to my morning PT stretching routine.
Thursday: Early morning. I needed to stretch, drink some coffee, lather up in my sunscreen, get dressed, and head down to Lexington, Kentucky, for my July 4th race. I have made it a tradition to go to the Bluegrass 10,000 race there. My former coach is in charge of the pacers. Just a bonus fact. She was kind enough to pick up my packet for me on Wednesday because there was NO way I could make it down there to get it…and there is no race day packet pickup. Let’s hear it for amazing friends in our lives. The race starts at 7:30. It was warm, clammy, and humid. BUT…honestly, it is the best weather this race has had for the 3 years I have run it. I dressed appropriately for the weather, wearing my very patriotic Wonder Woman outfit. Because…I am Wonder Woman. I raced as hard as I could that day. I did take short walk breaks through three of the water stops. And I had a guy at Mile 5 spray me with his hose. It was a good way to keep my body from overdoing it on a hot day. No shame in that. I felt strong at the end thanks to that and put in a time that beat out last year’s time. Even without a course PR or a distance PR…I was proud of my effort that day. July 4th 10K in the books…and then a pasta lunch and a 6 hour Stranger Things marathon for Season 3. I had wanted to finish it…but I had to work the following morning, so I needed sleep more than to get an entire season into one day.
Friday: REST DAY! That being said, because this was a down week and my long runs weren’t really going to be out in the heat, or far for that matter…I decided to drop into my old Friday spin class. It was a class of 2, but Brittney (the instructor), had taken a training class on the bikes our gym has and gave us a new, challenging, and fun way to use the screens on the bike and really get into a good training mode on it. I was impressed with how my numbers improved.
Saturday: Welcome to the wonderful world of traveling. I was up in Indianapolis for a convention. This hotel isn’t near the Monon Trail. It’s not even in a good area with plenty of sidewalks and areas to go for a run outside. I knew going into this weekend that I would be on a treadmill and told my coach. He had me down for 18-20 miles over the entire weekend, with Sunday being a 15 miler. He was a bit concerned that would be a bit far to run on a treadmill and we discussed, since training wasn’t really starting yet with my change of venue for my fall marathon…we decided that I could break up the distance over the 2 days I was out of town. I split the difference…starting with 10 miles on Saturday at an easy pace. I stopped the treadmill at 6 and restarted it because they only would run for an hour at a time. The fitness center was crowded (very unusual), and I re-fueled and hit go again…this time messing with some speeds, though still keeping the run easy. Afterwards…a shower, breakfast, and off to some panels at the convention. Gluten-free pizza that night for supper. YUM! I also stayed up WAY too late on Saturday night, so I knew Sunday might be rough.
Sunday: I had an alarm set for 6 am…but I woke up at 5:30 am so I got up and got dressed and hauled down to the fitness center to fit in the second half of my distance for the weekend. Same run as yesterday, another 10 miles…which this time I started doing varying, but easy, speeds on the treadmill just so I didn’t sleepwalk through the first 6 miles, which felt like what I did on Saturday. I was very conscious of the extra fatigue due to the late night and not getting my ideal amount of rest, foam rolling, or stretching while out of town. I try to make time for it, but I literally just didn’t have the time this trip. I feel like I normally would, but there was a lot going on. Got it done before anyone else came into the fitness center. After my shower and a protein bar for breakfast, I came down and saw the fitness center packed. Just packed. So I was good to get it done when I did. Left the convention just after 11:30 and went up to Carmel, Indiana for lunch at Woody’s Library Restaurant. And then, the long drive home. My roommate when to buy all the groceries while I meal prepped, unpacked. I was supposed to stretch and do my PT exercises…but just didn’t have the time with trying to multitask everything else. I did fit it in ahead of finishing up the final two episodes of Stranger Things Season 3. I foam rolled for the first 20 minutes and then it was on the couch and not moving until it was done.
So, this week was lower on mileage and definitely a much needed reprieve from the endless (it seems) marathon training I have been pushing through for almost 2 years now. My roommate and I calculated it, and I have been training for and running marathons mostly exclusively, for 20 months now. Thankfully, they have been continuous and have also had PROPER recovery (okay…maybe not the Chicago to Monumental 2018 stretch…but I felt like I was still in good shape and really wanted some form of redemption from the hot mess that was my Chicago Marathon). So, I am really ready to get the job done this time, and I’m working very hard in my training to do what I need to to reach those goals, while also listening to any cues my body gives me and helps. If I need extra recovery…I take it. And it’s fine. It’s okay to reset. Never forget that. Marathon training, or any sort of training, really asks a lot of you. So nourish your body, get enough sleep, recover like a champ…and you might be amazed with how far you can go and what you can accomplish.
Back to the norm starting this coming week…and now I feel ready for it.
One more thing…running on a treadmill is NOT my favorite thing in the world. Treadmills hurt my hips and my body so if I can avoid them, I will. I’m hurting after 2 days of it…but it had to be done. But, trust me, I will keep that in mind on my recovery run. Don’t ever get uncomfortable to the point where it can cause you to sustain an injury. It’s not worth it, friends.
It was nice to not have to die in the humidity for a weekend though. Bright side!
Well, there is definitely nothing more satisfying than beating a previous year’s time. Still no 10K PR, but I did way better at this local 10K than the one I attempted to really race in hot, humid Florida a couple of weeks before. Go figure.
I also waited until the very last week to sign up for this race. I had it on my radar, as usual, as it is one of the best races here in Louisville, BUT…that being said, I am also in the heat of marathon training and wasn’t sure I was actually going to race it. My coach, however, said I was. (For the record, he also raced it and averaged a 5:57 average pace). So, I was going into this with expectations of a better performance than my previous 5K. And that was the goal. Run hard…the entire 6.2 miles.
That being said, I headed down to Slugger Field on the Friday before the race to pick up my race packet. It was here that I discovered that I was a seeded runner this year and had a low number bib. Oh. Awesome. No pressure then, right? HA! So, I was directed over to the proper table to get my race bib and then went to snag a t-shirt as well. I loved that the shirts this year were purple (GO LouCity), and had a bit of a Mardi Gras flair to them. So, that was awesome.
Headed home to make a one of the cauliflower pizza’s I have in my freezer (Califlour Pizza Crusts, which I top with Trader Joes Greek Yogurt Kale & Spinach Dip, some mushrooms, spinach, and garlic). Friday Pizza Night has sort of become a thing. And these cauliflower crusts are the best out there (and naturally, I can’t get them in any store around here and have to order them online). Totally worth it. It was a late dinner, but perfect. I did my evening stretches, foam rolled, and went to bed early.
Because I had to wake up early enough on race morning to figure out my clothes, stretch, foam roll, and eat prior to race time. It was around 39 degrees at the start of the race, but I didn’t take into account the wind chill, which made it feel like it was in the high 20s. So, the running skirt and tank top with arm warmers was, for the first time in a long time, me being underdressed for a run. Needless to say, I had layers on over my race outfit until close to start time.
Please note, that SOMETHING in all of my race outfits this year will be pink, to honor my mom as she goes through her treatments for breast cancer. You’re going to see me in a lot of pink.
I was pretty fresh off of busted up knees from a fall I took on some frozen mud near my apartment complex. I mentioned this a lot on Facebook, but not on here, because I’ve been horrible about blogging and need to really get back into the swing of that. My apologies, friends. So, I took a hard belly-flop fall one morning while doing my run. We have had some new construction and roofing going on at my apartment complex and with the weather winging between hot and cold, a pile of mud that is normally not in my path was in my path, and froze solid from the below freezing temps. My left foot caught it one morning and I was DOWN. Just laid out with holes torn into my favorite pair of winter running tights, blood and bruising. It wasn’t pretty. So, that sucked. And now you know the tale of the Legend of the Fall (non-Brad Pitt division). So, I had some twingy, pain every now and again during my runs, but nothing that I was too concerned about. I had this before after I fell in the 5K of Dopey, and it eventually just got better on its own. Just took awhile. And, cold air and banged up knees are not a good combo.
Just prior to starting, Harry and Jo wandered by and got to say HI and wish me luck. Harry said, “Low number! WOW.” He asked about my knees and said that they looked a little bit better than the photo I had posted on Facebook. I think he was being kind. We wished each other luck and I shed my outer layers, even though I didn’t want to yet. My training partner and friend, Christine, found me at this point. She was aiming for a really fast 10K…and I wasn’t sure I could keep up with her…but we gathered together at the start, wished each other luck and awaited go-time.
The elites and seeded were set to go after the wheelchairs, so after the wheelchair racers went, we all crowded together and prepared for our turn. The horn blew and we were off. I felt good in that first mile, comfortable, but running hard down East Broadway. I wasn’t going to check my watch or the clocks on the mile markers the entire race, I was running by feel, and it was supposed to feel hard. My first mile ended up being a 6:51 pace. Fast.
But the hill at the beginning of Mile 2 really took me down a peg. Like…majorly. Hills. I need to get more comfortable with them, I just don’t run them enough or often. But I’ll change that eventually. Christine has had some hilly portions in our long runs together, so that at least helped with that. She passed me on the hill (everyone passes me on the uphill) and stayed ahead of me for the rest of the race. I could always JUST see her.
It’s the tilty roads that got me next, but my pace picked back up. There were some rollers in here as far as hills went, but nothing substantial. I just focused on pushing myself hard again. Mile 3 we are on the far side of Cave Hill Cemetery. I was pretty cold, but moving as fast as I could move at that moment. Miles 3 and 4 were in the low 7’s (7:10 and 7:14). Mile 5 was back to feeling really slow and challenging. I don’t think hills were involved, I think my legs were just tired. I can’t say for sure. It’s been a few weeks. But I pressed on, knowing how close I was to the finish. I wasn’t going to give up on myself yet. Squeaked out a 7:26 mile. And then…the final mile was upon us. I made the turn back onto East Broadway and headed back toward where we started (this race now is a loop and not a point-to-point, like it had been for years). I remembered hearing someone behind me say, “Is the start the finish?” It made me smile, but honestly, I could see it and it still felt so far away. And no matter how much I was pushing, I just couldn’t seem to get there. It felt like it never got closer. The final .2 was just me giving my best, and I crossed the finish line, just happy to be done. And knowing I did better than the previous year (which was windy, rainy, and cold AF, to be fair). I got past the photographers and hunched over for a moment to catch my breath. My coach had said to push hard and not focus on the hard miles I was going to have to do the next day…so I did as he said. And it paid off. My final miles were 7:29 and 7:16). New PR? Nope. Not this time. But now I only need to shave an additional 1:30 off to tie it. PROGRESS!
We had planned on meeting up with Christine post-race for coffee, and we stared to wander our way towards the coffee shop. She found us as we were walking that way, and we eventually ended up at a different coffee shop. A Starbucks. I was fine with it. It was warm inside and the drinks were caffeinated. YAY! We sat around the table and talked and then she and her husband gave us a ride back to our car at Slugger Field (we had made quite the hike to the start line that morning, mind you).
The following day, I knocked out my long run with 2×5 miles in the middle at marathon pace. I was shocked, but happy my body could do it.
So, the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 45:33. I am chipping away at my times, getting closer to matching or beating that PR time. SO CLOSE! I was 246/2964 finishers overall. I was the 58/1596 women finishers. And I was 12/225 in my age division. Last year I was also 12/225 in my age division. HA! There were over 400 more runners this year though than last year. I’ll take that as a win. And while this wasn’t a distance PR, it was a race PR and a course PR…so that’s also exciting when you think about it!
It had been over a year since my last trip to Disney World. It felt like so much longer. And a few things were changing this time around. After the bathroom incident during the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge, we actually decided to move our “Disney home” from Port Orleans Riverside to…The Art of Animation Resort. It is a “step down” from the resort level of Port Orleans, which, this princess was fussing over, but it wasn’t bad. And, honestly, I’m only in the room to sleep. But still…I sort of did miss the extra space, especially when I was trying to foam roll at night AND watch Food Network at the same time (priorities).
The trip to Orlando meant an early morning to catch the first non-stop flight out of Louisville. This just happened to be on a very wet, rainy, cold morning. Hauling luggage out to the car was not fun, but we got everything loaded in and hit the road. We parked the car (we couldn’t find someone to give us a ride, so we had to pay to leave the car there while we were away) and went in to check our bags (one of the perks of flying Southwest is the free checked bags) and get through security. It didn’t take long to get through that at all, and nothing flagged for the first time in the history of ever. Not even the laptop. I don’t know why I bring my laptop with me. I have good intentions of using it…and then I rarely do. What I didn’t realize was, bringing it this time would be a blessing. More on that later.
The flight was uneventful, and we landed in beautiful Orlando to temps in the 70s. LOVE! Our first stop was a nearby Whole Foods. We were going to grab snacks for the resort, and ended up grabbing lunch there as well. I found a Summer Veggie Roll that had a Gluten Free Peanut Sauce with it…so I was quite happy with that selection. I grabbed a tub of watermelon and a Sumo orange as well (which I saved for later). And, of course, water…because I needed to stay hydrated. Cathy snagged a small cup of the Lobster Chowder (she has missed that selection in Louisville), some small cornbread muffins, and a small helping of fried rice and Vietnamese-style chicken.
After we ate, we decided that since we still had no word of our room at the resort being ready, we would use the bathroom at the Whole Foods and change into our sundresses and lather up with the sunscreen so we could head over to the parks. We had Animal Kingdom on the schedule. This turned out to be more of a hassle than it was worth, honestly. Cathy had to make multiple trips out to the car to get things out of suitcases and we were taking turns running into the bathroom to change and then slather on the sunscreen. It took way longer than it should have.
BUT…we finally considered ourselves ready for the parks and hopped back into the car and drove to the resort to drop off luggage. We made sure we had our necessary items and headed to the bus stop to get over to Animal Kingdom.
I was so happy to be back at Disney…and the weather was truly stunning!! Our first stop is our favorite place to get Iced Coffee. There was definitely more of a line there than we were used to…especially on a Wednesday, but we waited, placed our order, wasn’t sure which one was mocha and which was vanilla…but we got that sorted ourselves. We drank them as we killed time ducking into shops and the like…before we hit up our FastPass for the Kilimanjaro Safari. I love doing the safari, and our guide was awesome (they are, but she was really fantastic) and the animals…they were really active and on the move. It was probably the most animals and the most activity from the animals I have seen on any trip on the Safari. As we exited, we branched off to the Gorilla walk. I wasn’t happy when we had to walk through the birds. I. Do. Not. Like. Birds.
We went to grab a quick snack to tide us over to our later dinner reservation…Cathy’s traditional fries. I ate my Sumo orange. And then, as we wandered around, we came across Scrooge McDuck. His line handler, Caitlyn, was amazing. She was so much fun to talk to while we were standing in line. And this was my first time meeting any of the Duck Tales characters. Scrooge was a lot of fun, and Cathy kept trying to get him to go out for an alcoholic drink, but he was strict about his tea. And then we hopped on over to meet Launchpad McQuack next. I told him that I was really good at crashing too. HA! It was fun and we had some great photo ops!
But then we saw the most amazing addition to Animal Kingdom…KEVIN. Kevin from UP. If you haven’t seen this in person, get to Animal Kingdom NOW. Just book your flight and do it! Kevin is phenomenal. And fun. And SO animated. This encounter spurred an early purchase for Cathy’s traditional Disney plushie purchase – Kevin!
We took a stroll through Pandora and then spent a good chunk of the afternoon wandering and exploring. But our time for our traditional first day at Disney meal was growing near and we hopped a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge to enjoy some food at Sanaa. We didn’t have to wait long to be seated and we already had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to eat. Our server was a trainee and he did an awesome job. We both got something to drink with our water, Cathy got the Savannah Cider and I got the lemonade that came with a wildberry foam of some sort. I don’t remember the really cool name that it had…but it was delicious.
We started with the bread service, of which I got three pieces of the gluten-free bread and Cathy got two of the regular naan. We split one of the GF ones and we were off to the races with the different sauces, Cathy being very careful when she would spoon her sauce to not contaminate anything. This is one of my favorite things at Sanaa. For our meals, I went with the Chickpea Wat and Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables, which is served with scented Basmati Rice. It’s my go-to every time I am there. Cathy stayed with her favorite offering in the entrees, the Traditional Sosatie, which is Braai Lamb with Apricots, Pap, Spinach, Cashews, and Goat Cheese. It was all very filling and delicious.
Gluten Free Bread Service at Sanaa
Chickpea Wat, Rice, and Cilantro Coconut Vegetables
After eating, we hopped on a bus to head back to Animal Kingdom to catch the bus back to the Art of Animation. We had our room number now and went there to find our bags already in there and ready for us to settle in for the night. I took a quick shower, went to foam roll and we settled in for the night. I set an alarm for me to wake up to because I had a training run to get through before we started our morning.
And that’s what I did. I forgot how hard it is to run in humidity, which would be a theme for this half marathon weekend for sure. The resort had a great running path around a lake, which was perfect for me to train on. Keeping an easy pace wasn’t hard in the heat/humidity. I finished that off with some strides, returned to the resort, showered, and we went to the dining area at the resort to find something for breakfast. That was a high anxiety and high stress situation and we vowed that would be the ONLY time we did that. Cathy went to order me a gluten free and dairy free omlette, with mushrooms, jalapenos and spinach for me. And since I couldn’t have the biscuit, the chef tossed some fresh fruit onto my plate. It was perfect. We ate and then headed out to the car to head to the Wide World of Sports for…the race expo. It was on the ride over there that my Garmin flashed me a “Sensor Error.” Not sure what it meant, I started to try to figure it out. It was that the sensor…the thing that actually reads elevation and heart rate and all that stuff, was no longer working. I figured I could, hopefully, talk to the Garmin reps at the expo and maybe get it sorted.
After all these years, we finally figured out the key to getting official merchandise…turn up at the expo on the first day, go straight to official merch and wait in line. The wait wasn’t that bad and we made friends with the people around us. The line moved pretty swiftly once they started letting us all in…even if at one point it was like all lines went out the window and there was this huge surge toward the front of the line. But we got in and started to shop. I bought WAY MORE than I intended to, but they had Disney Princess Weekend ears that both Cathy and I snagged, plus I needed pins for each race. I fell in love with a wine glass (of course I did) and then all the cute clothes. I had a lot of things I LOVED…but ended up getting the official challenge zip-up. And then Cathy found a cute dress thing that is actually a cover-up for before/after races. Love that. So…over $260 later, I was ready to head over to get my race bibs and then hit up the actual expo.
The bibs were easy. This was Cathy’s first time obtaining a Disney race bib. Did I mention that she was doing her first Disney 5K?! Pretty exciting. Our numbers were a good distance apart, so I left her to get hers while I went over to pick up mine. She found me there and the guy was commenting on how I was one of the fast ones…and I said I was dropping back to Cathy’s corral, and he asked her if she was offended by me saying that I was “dropping back” and Cathy said, “NO. Not at all. Because she is definitely not going at her normal speed with me.” From there, we headed over to the actual race expo to get our race shirts and then do some shopping. Which, we didn’t really do. I was upset that there was no Garmin booth there (I mean…HELLO) but remembered that Misfit was the official activity tracker of Disney races. So…I was stuck with a broken watch for my races. Joy and happiness. UGH. That really got me riled up and I didn’t want to spend any time there…but we did make the traditional stop by Bondi Band, where we found two headbands that would work for me. One for my 10K costume…and one for training (for the record…it says “The Before Breakfast Club.” HA!) It was as we were leaving the expo that our friend, Melissa, texted us to let us know that Peter Tork (if you know me, you know of my obsession with The Monkees) had died. And I legit cried right there in the expo. After a few deep breaths, we headed out to start our day at…Magic Kingdom (aka: my favorite park).
We had FastPasses for Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and the Seven Dwarves Mine Train spread out throughout the day. But Haunted Mansion was our first stop, and the FastPass line was INSANE. But it thankfully moved quickly. This is Cathy’s favorite ride by far. We hit up Space Mountain soon after that. And then got Dole Whip (required). We shopped. We walked around. We made our way through the Mine Train queue (also INSANE) and were put in the very back of the coaster. And then…dinner. We went to Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen, which our friends Melissa & Paul introduced us to a year ago during Dopey, and we fell in love with the food and the atmosphere. I already knew what I was getting and told Cathy she had to have it too. But first…an appetizer. We split the Falls Family Falafel. And then…for our entrees…the Perkins Thai Noodles (gluten-free and minus the chicken to make it vegan), which is THE BEST thing I have ever eaten on Disney property. For real. Cathy now understood because when she got this last time, she had the flu and couldn’t taste any flavors. We had leftovers, so we boxed those up and headed out, back to the resort, stored those in the fridge and decided they would be post-10K breakfast in a couple days.
Gluten Free Falls Family Falafel
Gluten Free Perkins Thai Noodles
Showers and foam rolling commenced and we turned it in, with me setting an early 2:20 am alarm for us to get up and get dressed and ready for the first race of the weekend: the Disney Princess 5K.
Disney Princess 5K
Race: Disney Princess 5K
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: February 22, 2018
The most difficult part of any Disney race weekend is those early morning wake-up calls. Today was probably the least stressful of the three, but instead of just me getting ready, Cathy had to get costumed up as well. Sadly, my original costume, Iron Man, didn’t get assembled in time (I ordered a shirt from I Am A Superhero Fitness Apparel, DO NOT EVER DO THIS…their customer service is the worst, and it wasn’t a match with the leggings, so I contacted them to send it back and get a replacement in time for the race, and never heard from them…at all…after getting the info to return everything…and never received the replacement in time), so I had to break out my Wonder Woman costume for this one. Iron Man, part of the Marvel Universe, owned by Disney, would have worked better…but it is what it is. Cathy, however, was ready to rock her Captain America outfit. And she rocked it. Trust me. She even had light-up Captain America Mickey Mouse ears that our friends, Melissa & Paul, brought back from Disneyland Paris. We finished getting ready and headed out of the room to get to the bus that would take us to the parking lot of Epcot, where the staging area is prior to the race.
We disembarked and walked through security (no bag line…WOOT) and went to see what characters we could get our photos taken with. We managed to hit up Tiana (one of my personal favorite princesses) and Merida. Then we opted to head into the corral area and get to Corral C. We had a long wait being in that corral, so we took a seat and watched the different videos running on the big screen and the earlier corrals parading over to the start line. Cathy pointed out that there were plenty of “overly optimistic” people in those earlier corrals. While the Disney 5K is officially untimed, we both made sure we had our Garmin watches primed and ready for our start. Before we knew it, it was our turn to make the march toward the start line…and it took a few waves, but we got our fireworks and we were off.
Except I was off at my speed and Cathy immediately said, “I don’t go that fast.” HA!! So, I fell back and got moving with Cathy, who proved to be a pro at the Disney cuts through the crowds. I also don’t know how she wasn’t dying in long sleeves and long leggings, but she was holding her own. I did get ahead of her a few times, but immediately would fall back to her side. The morning was humid and warm…the low 70s with humidity in the 90s. MEH. So, honestly, how she wasn’t dying, I will never know. That being said, in that sort of humidity, she did get a bit of a side-stich so we switched to the Galloway Method (run/walk) so that she could have some recovery time. This proved to be a fantastic option, as she walks faster than she runs. Honestly. When we hit the construction workers, she even heckled them right back. Because, that’s Cathy for you.
I would give her little pep-talks, and we ducked into the World Showcase, which now meant we were tackling some hills. It was crowded, but it wasn’t phasing her. I let her choose her walk segments, where it was hard for ME to keep up with her at times. But I made her run the downhills because downhills are my favorite speed. We ducked out of the Showcase and then back in and started to make our way toward Spaceship Earth…which meant we were getting close to the finish. We do have to make this strange turn around thing before heading to the exit. We rounded the corner, and I could see our finish line. I reached back to her to take her hand and we headed toward the finish line. She kept reminding me that my go was a different speed from hers. But, we crossed the finish line! It was awesome. And our official 5K distance was a new PR for Cathy, where she clocked in at 46:26, beating her previous PR by well over a minute. We received our medals and made our way out to get official photos and then get the snack boxes and head back to the resort. We took our turns showering, changing, and snacking before we headed out to spend the rest of the day at Epcot!
We did lots of character stops that day, Pluto, Baymax, Ralph & Vanellope, Elsa, Ana. The Festival of the Arts was going on, so there were plenty of food booths happening. And Cathy decided to forgo her beloved schwarma once again and eat around the world. I already knew my big meal of the day was going to be a Beyond Meat Burger at the Liberty Inn with Celiac-safe fries. I was really looking forward to that.
Cathy & Me with Baymax
Ralph, Cathy, Me & Vanellope
Cathy & Me with Elsa
Me & Cathy with Ana
After we completed our time at Epcot, we headed to Disney Springs and hiked over to Erin McKenna’s to get some gluten-free and vegan goodies. We ended up with a box of delicious baked goodies and then headed back to the Art of Animation to clean up, get things prepped for another early morning, let me foam roll, watch Food Network, and get some rest.
Disney Princess Enchanted 10K
Race: Disney Princess Enchanted 10K
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: February 23, 2019
Once again, another race this trip where I didn’t get to wear the outfit I originally intended to wear. My original plan was to dress up like Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6. I couldn’t find the material to have my friend or my mom work up an actual costume for me (everything was either the wrong type of fabric or not close to the correct color). So…I put it up for a vote on my social media as to which costume I should revisit for the 10K…Vanellope von Schweetz (Wreck it Ralph) or Judy Hopps (Zootopia). Between Instagram and Facebook…Judy Hopps won it going away.
This just happened to also be the race that my coach, Daniel, wanted me to really push myself on and race. No problem. Save for the 74 degree morning temperature and the 95% humidity. I knew in this costume I would die racing, but, dammit, that was what I was there to do. So, with a bunch of layers on top, a carrot recorder, a ZPD badge, and a full hair extension piece over the top of my head to make the “bunny ears”…I was as ready as I could be to race this 10K.
Once again, we headed out of the room to get to the bus and settle in for the drive over to the staging area again. We didn’t spend time getting Princess pictures ahead of time this time around. Instead, we went to scope out the spectator area for Cathy. We were stopped by some volunteers and told that it wasn’t open yet. Apparently, according to Cathy, it’s very much like rope drop at one of the parks…pure stampede and elbows thrown to get a spot. She didn’t want to end up not able to see me on the 10K start so, I went to stand in the group waiting to get into the corrals…and soon were let in. I immediately went over to the tables and got some water to attempt to get ahead on hydration. This was one of the few times I raced a 10K with a hydration belt, mostly because I needed it as Judy’s utility belt, but with the heat, I was happy to have a steady source of water if needed.
I was in Corral A for the rest of the challenge weekend, so I wasn’t going to be waiting around for long. I did get into the corral early and moved toward the front before carefully taking a seat (my costume involves a bunny tail…so…yeah). I wasn’t going to waste any energy standing up though. NOPE. I wanted to really give my best to the race itself. And before you knew it…I was heading out of the corral and lining up for the 10K. I was in the second wave to go off…and Cathy actually did manage to catch me as I headed out.
The first part of the 10K is pretty dull. It’s a lot of road. As I started out hard, I passed a group of runners that were staying together and heard one of them say, “I guess she’s not stopping for photo ops.” It made me laugh. Not today. Not this race. This was the one I was supposed to give my all in. At about the second mile, we get sent up a ramp, the biggest hill we face in this race, but I felt strong as I powered up it, giving a mental thanks to my friend Christine, who has been training with me and having us do more hills than I like on our runs. I wasn’t going to look at my splits, but I felt like I was moving fast and strong.
At about Mile 3.5, we duck into the World Showcase (FINALLY) and run around about half of it. This is where it gets fun, because they really do up the park nicely with employees out their cheering, music blaring, and the atmosphere is just different from the road miles. I got a few shout-outs from the employees with “GO JUDY.” I pumped my arm in the air in response. We are directed out of the showcase and are directed toward the Boardwalk. I hate running on the Boardwalk because it can be slippery at times (they actually have an announcement about this as you approach the actual boardwalk). I traversed it safely, yet cautiously, and transitioned back to the pavement, feeling like I was picking it back up.
Runners take the roads back into Epcot, hitting the actual park this time. I got a few more Judy Hopps shout outs and was loving it. I poured a cup of water over my head at one of the water stops and learned that that was a HUGE mistake…because my long hair extensions were now sticking to my arms and driving me crazy. How people who have really long hair and keep it down when they run manage it, I will never know.
I love every race that ends in Epcot because you get to run the light-up path around Spaceship Earth. It’s beautiful when it’s still dark out. I pushed up and around, and worked my way to the park exit, where they send you past some blaring music and toward that finish line.
I was so happy to see the finish and as I was running toward it, heard my name announced and everything. As I got closer, I could hear someone approaching from behind, and used my best Kelsie kick (she is WAY better at it than me) to stay ahead of that person and cross with my hands up in the air for victory. I stopped my watch and was SHOCKED when I saw a 48 at the front of my time. I really pushed hard in that race…and didn’t want to feel disappointed by my time…but I felt disappointed by my time and that I really probably could have pushed it a little more and much harder. But I had given my all in the end…the heat and humidity had just taken its toll.
I met up with Cathy at the runner’s reunion area, after having her shout “Hey Fluffbutt” over the wall at me after I got my medal, my snack box, my water, and my official photo taken. I actually did this twice and was glad I did, because the first one was awful. Sometimes you just know. Lines for the princesses weren’t long, so we hopped in to get photos with Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Elena, and Cinderella. Cinderella said that she bet Judy Hopps could teach her mice a little more discipline. God, I love meeting Disney characters.
Post-10K race with Sleeping Beauty
Post-10K race with Elena
Post 10K race with Cinderella
We hopped on the bus to head back to the Art of Animation resort where I showered, changed, and then ate cold leftover noodles from Skippers and split one of the GF and Vegan Donuts we got from Erin McKenna’s with Cathy. And then…we were off to spend the day at Hollywood Studios, where I rode Tower of Terror twice, got on Star Tours twice (one time I was FINALLY the spy), checked out the new Toy Story Land, I had my best game ever on the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Rangers Spin (I came CLOSE to Cathy’s score. Usually I suck). And then, we departed Hollywood Studios to head out of the Disney World bubble and hit up Toasted, a gourmet Toasted Cheese place in Orlando. They have Celiac-safe options, vegan options, and safe Rosemary & Truffle Fries. HELLO!! This seemed to be the best pre-half marathon option for me and it was worth the drive (even though then we were informed that they now had a location very close to Disney World). Then…back to the hotel to rotate through showers, foam rolling, Food Network (you know the drill). And then…rest. The half marathon was all that was left.
Oh, but let’s not forget…my official results of the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K were that I finished in 48:49. I was 97/12,274 finishers overall. I was 44/10,466 female finishers. And I was 8/1549 people in my age division. So, I mean, it was a really good finish…but I knew I could do better. I wasn’t going to let it disappoint me. I felt like I gave my all that morning.
Disney Pincess Half Marathon
Race: Disney Princess Half Marathon
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: February 24, 2019
Final day of early morning 2:20 am wake-up alarms. When you get to the last race in the race series, you are pretty much ready for said series to be over. I was pretty excited about the half marathon because I was given no pace goals, simply to treat it as a training run. My race was the prior day…on the 10K. I love having a no stress race, especially at Disney.
My costume was much easier to get into, so getting ready was a breeze. My nieces (Kaytlynn & Baileigh), decided that I should dress up like Snow White for the half marathon. And thus, my mom created a new top (my old Snow White top was pretty much dead after the Dopey Marathon in 2014), and Snow White was running again. It was another hot and humid morning, but there was a bit of a breeze this time. And that was helpful for sure. Cathy and I headed out to catch the bus right on time, and made it to Epcot without any issues. YAY!! And I had plenty of time to meet up with people I was hoping to meet up with. BONUS!
The problem was, I was the only person from my local MRTT/SRTT group that was in Corral A. The rest were in Corral F and starting later. Meaning…they weren’t going to arrive until later. Stephanie, a friend I met through Instagram, was running as well, but she was in traffic and Corral A was needing to get loaded in. My friend Janelle attempted to find me, but apparently I had already made it to the corral. She was in A…but we never did find each other. BUT…all that being said, I did manage to get hugs, greetings, photos, and some catch-up talk time with a friend of mine from my Elementary/Middle/High School days…who was on my softball team and everything – Tarra. So that was amazing. She and her husband were running the half and we had hoped we would be able to catch up with each other prior to the race. It was the only meet-up that happened for me.
We eventually parted ways and I knew I needed to start making that spectacularly long hike from the staging area to the corrals. It’s a great warm-up and…I didn’t need to sprint it like I did for the marathon during Dopey 2018. Corral A is a bit of a bear to get to though…all the way up and a bit of off-roading. But I got there, got inside, moved up to where I wanted to be, and took a seat. I had a bit of time before things kicked off and I didn’t want to be standing the entire time.
But, soon they were preparing to send the wheelchair racers off. And then…the waves for Corral A. I was in the 2nd wave to take off. The fireworks went off and we were on our way, taking on the dark highway of Disney World, making our way toward Magic Kingdom. It’s a lot of road, a lot of screens and character stops, and a lot of just knowing what awaits you on Main Street inside Magic Kingdom. I didn’t make characters tops, although the lines are never long for me. I wanted to really treat this as a true training run, my only caveat being that I would walk every water stop. I wanted to stay on top of my hydration as the race went on because I hadn’t been running in heat and humidity. It was 20 and below back in Indiana. Around Mile 3-ish, I think, I saw the monorail wing by. I actually wondered if Cathy was on that one, as she skipped the race start to hopefully catch me on Main Street in Magic Kingdom. She has attempted to do this twice before, and I have always beat her to the castle. She said that is the one downside to cheering on a “fast” runner.
I ticked off those highway miles and made it to Magic Kingdom. This is, by far, the best part of this race. You duck inside and make the turn onto Main Street. The crowd is amazing. This is the best part of any Disney race that sends you through Magic Kingdom. And, wouldn’t you know it, in the screaming and waving crowd, there was Cathy! She had a sign, a cowbell, and was filming me as I made my way up Main Street. I gave a wave as I went by and then made the turn to go into Tomorrowland. From there, runners cruise through Fantastyland, then through the castle, before exiting through Liberty Square and out through Frontierland. It’s the best part of the race. I always look forward to the dash through the castle itself and the photographers stationed on the winding path down towards Liberty Square. It’s amazing. But then the cheers and lights fade and you find yourself back out on the roads, making your way back toward Epcot.
There is a lot of highway on this course, but Disney does it’s best with characters and DJs and music. And every mile marker has a different character and a theme song on it, so it is something to look forward to. After Magic Kingdom, you’re halfway through the race.
The best part, for me, after that is the Green Army Guy, the ones from Toy Story, that is stationed on a hill around Mile 10. You often here him shouting at the runners to get up the hill and other motivation. As I was nearing him, he shouted, “I want to hear you make some noise.” And none of the runners around me did anything. But I’m a good group exercise veteran and I went, “WOOOOOOOOOOO!” And he ran with it. I got a whole call-out just for me. “That’s right Snow White! That’s right, Snow. You’re going to find your finish line. You’re not going to be Grumpy or Sleepy. You won’t feel Dopey. You’ll feel Happy when you cross that finish line. Go get it, Snow! Don’t be Bashful.” It was amazing!!
At Mile 11, I spotted the infamous Balloon Ladies on the opposite side of the course. There were a lot of people darting back and forth over the road as there were port-o-potties on our side of the course. I noticed, later, that these runners were just at Mile 1 at this point. And I was 2 miles away from being done. Crazy!
At Mile 12, we were directed back into Epcot to make the dash through to get to Spaceship Earth. I love this part of the race. Right as I was coming up toward it, one of the volunteers closed one side and directed me and another woman the opposite way. They do this to help with the flow of traffic. The woman I was running with was like, “Why did they do that?” So I tried to explain while running with her. We made another turn and she said, “We have to be close to being done.” I told her we were going to round a corner, run past a gospel choir, then make another turn and she should see the finish line. And then I said, “Go get it!”
My favorite part of any half at Disney World is that gospel choir before the finish line. It is just such a mood lifter. You just feel good. I mad the turn and started down the path toward the finish line. And I crossed it, feeling really relieved to be done. Another hot Florida race complete. I spotted Cathy up in the stands and waved as I walked to go get my medal. As I made my way through the line, I had to veer off to pick up the challenge medal as well. They take a picture of you with your bib at the expo…so they have volunteers who check every challenge participant before letting them through to get the challenge medal. I snagged a snack box from the guy on the very end who said “We have the best bananas over here.” HA! And then I went to get my official photo done.
Afterwards, I exited through bag check and found Cathy. She said that lines weren’t too bad for characters, so we decided to get in line for some. On the way, I spotted Heather Shultz, and had to go say HI to her. She ended up coming to stand in line for some princess shots with us. It was nice to get to talk to someone I cheer on through social media so much. We had gotten in line to meet Pocahontas, but right when we got up there, they switched her out for Merida. Oh well. We took the photo op anyway. We also got photos with Mulan and with Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) before we decided to hop on a bus back to the resort so I could get cleaned up and we could head out to Port Orleans French Quarter to get some celebratory Gluten Free Beignets (they took over an hour and that’s another long and rambling story that I won’t get into here, but I was PISSED).
Me with Merida
Me & Cathy with Mulan
Me with Aurora
Anyway, my official time for the Disney Princess Half Marathon was that I finished in 1:45:24. Not bad for walking those water stops (and I walked EVERY one). I was 176/20,088 finishers overall. I was 89/17,099 female finishers. And I was 14/2665 people in my age division. Not half bad for a training run, eh?! I was quite happy with it.
So, another Disney race weekend and challenge in the books. I hadn’t done the Disney Princess Half Marathon since 2013, so it was nice to return to it. And, with the water stop walks I made myself take, I almost tied my time from 2013 (it was 1:45:06). So…yeah. I love coming to Disney to run and while Disney Princess seems to be one of the more popular races of the ones offered, I was so happy that I came back to it. Next time, I hopefully won’t wait 6 years to come back.