Running: The WDW Second Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

IMG_2071eAs soon as I crossed the finish line of my first half-marathon, I knew that I wanted to do another.

Life got pretty crazy after my first half-marathon. I flew back to Virginia and started a new full-time job. I took a few months off from running, but I still signed up for the second The Dark Half-Marathon when registration opened in August. I started my training back at square one doing Couch to 10K to get me eased into the walk/run intervals. I did pretty well in Fall but definitely didn’t train as much as I wanted in the Winter. I thought it was hard to run with a baby in a jogger stroller, but it is even more difficult running with an active toddler who does not want to stay in the stroller.

My main running time would be on the weekends when my husband Darin and I would take turns watching Layla while the other ran. I would try to do lunch time or after work walks, but it didn’t always happen. I underestimated how hard it can be to make time for myself while working a full-time job and having a toddler.


I was pretty nervous on race day. We hadn’t done any races since the first The Dark Side Half-Marathon, and we were in the last corral. We were actually in the second to last corral during the first Half-Marathon, so the pressure was definitely on this time to stay ahead of the balloon ladies. I had only seen them from a far distance last time, but this time we started in a mini-wave only minutes in front of them. I looked at Darin and said, “I am one with the force, and the force is with me.”


The race started, and even though I had used the bathroom three times before going to the corrals, I drank a lot of water (later I would realize I actually drank too much water) and knew that I wouldn’t be able to comfortably run until I used the bathroom again. Thank goodness we at least had a mini-wave in front of us because that allowed me to take a much-needed bathroom break at mile 2. The balloon ladies caught up thanks to the long bathroom line, and I took off running as soon as I jumped out of that porter potty. I accidentally left my husband behind because he was being sweet and waiting for me. Oops. The balloon ladies passed him, and a couple people around him were already quitting. I called him to let him know I had started running right away out of fear of that Death Star balloon getting too close, and he easily got back to me.

The race went really well the next few miles. My muscles were warmed up, and I was fully completing my runs and walks at an excellent pace. Every mile, the pace keepers would announce how far ahead of the balloon ladies we were running. We were getting farther and farther ahead. Running through Animal Kingdom was an amazing experience, and Darin and I high-fived as we reached the half-way point several minutes ahead of the balloon ladies.

And then things quickly started going downhill for me. My hands were throbbing and becoming very swollen. My legs and body felt great, so I pushed through. Once the sun was fully out, the heat and humidity took its toll on me. At the water stations, I would pour water on myself. I started occasionally feeling dizzy and nauseous. Thankfully, Darin and I bought running pouches so I had a granola bar and energy chews to snack on. Those helped, but not enough. Eventually, I could no longer run and just maintained a power walk. Darin was fantastic and kept track of our pace and the looming balloon ladies.

Finally, we reached Hollywood Studios. I knew that if I could make it to Hollywood Studios, then the excitement and cheering should push me to the finish line. Seeing the 10-mile marker made me smile even though I was in pain and feeling incredibly ill. Our time in Hollywood Studios was brief, but the cast members on Hollywood Blvd were in costume and cheering us on. Running through The Boardwalk is kind of a blur, but I loved all the people out with signs and encouragement. I high-fived many costumed 501st Legion members. I wanted to cry when we reached Epcot because I was so close but yet so far away. I actually started doubting my ability to finish the race. Darin tried to make jokes and keep me motivated, but I couldn’t even talk. I did enjoy seeing all the cast members in front of the countries, waving flags, and cheering. When I finally reached Spaceship Earth, I breathed the slightest sigh of relief, and it wasn’t long before I had the finish line in my sights.


Darin and I held hands as we crossed the finish line. And after getting my medal, I went straight to the medical tent. I had heat exhaustion and salt depletion. My hands were so swollen that it hurt to move them at all. They gave me cool rags, ice packs, Gatorade, and chips. They had me lay down and told me to try not to drink water for a while because I needed to retain salt. Everyone was amazing, and now I know what to do and not do to prevent salt depletion in the future.

Overall, the race was harder for me than my first Half-Marathon because of the heat exhaustion and salt depletion that I endured. But, at least I didn’t fall down and hurt myself like last year. I am incredibly thankful that I completed the race. I don’t think I would have been able to finish without the love and support of my husband who practically dragged me through Epcot.


I still have two bruised purple toenails and some tightness in my shins, but I am eager to get back into running again once I am all healed up. Eventually, I will be able to complete a Half-Marathon without collapsing at the finish line. We plan on signing up for The Light Side Half-Marathon (January 2018) as soon as registration opens, as well as doing The Dark Side (April 2018) again so we can receive The Kessel Run medals. Darin even wants to do the challenge (where you complete the 10k on Saturday and the Half-Marathon on Sunday), but I will just stick to conquering the Half-Marathon for now. He wants to be able to actually RUN during his 10ks and then be the supportive husband doing slow walk/run intervals with me during the Half-Marathons.

Thank you, Nola Nerd Couple for letting me tell my story about this year’s The Dark Side Half-Marathon. Hopefully, I can report again from California and give my take on The Light Side. And maybe one of these days I will be able to complete a race without complications or Death Star balloons haunting looming behind me…


Exercising: So We Joined Planet Fitness

Ok. Ok. If you are an exercise guru, and especially if you are a bodybuilder, you probably have issues with Planet Fitness.  The no judgment policy is, in fact, a judgment policy. I don’t have a problem people grunting during weight lifting.  I do have issues with grunting after they have lifted…I know you are happy, but the self-congratulating grant I never understood.  I have lifted for muscle before and I’m too tired after to do that.  Plus, weightlifting is a deep concentration sport and I’ve always thought it was rude to do that when other people are concentrating on the work at hand. However, it is hard for a fitness center to tell the difference and making a blanket no-grunt policy is silly.

Now, I do agree with the dropping the weights at this gym.  They don’t have the equipment to do huge lifting, so there really isn’t a reason for it. In fact, it’s not really a gym in the traditional sense of the word…it’s a fitness center.  It’s designed for fitness. This means it’s designed for our goals.

Now that I have palindromic rheumatism, I can’t put huge pressure on my joints.  I don’t have a destructive form, so there is no reason to aid it.  However, the more I way the more pressure I am putting on my joints. Weight machines and low weight dumbells (they go up to 60 or 80 at most Planet Fitnesses) are perfect for my needs.  Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple is working out to help her with her running.  South Louisiana during the summer has oppressive heat and humidity.  A large number of treadmills will be a huge help during this time. And remember summer starts four days after spring begins.

We just joined last week, so we have done a couple of workouts already.  The 30-minute circuit training is perfect for me in that it raises my heart rate and keeps it there.  It’s a timing circuit (red light green light) that is separate from all the other machines.  This is fantastic because every personal trainer has told me to do circuit training, but each gym has people resting on the machines I need to do my circuit.  If people follow the rules, then you don’t have this problem.

The machines, cardio and weights, are the same brands at our local gym.  Also, it’s not in the community we live which is great for us, because we will run into fewer students.  Not that we have a problem with running into them but when we are at a gym we don’t want to talk.  Plus, in true Nola Nerd Couple fashion, the one we go to is next to one of the prime Pokemon Go hunting spots!

It’s too early to give a real review of the place, but what we have seen so far we have liked. Hopefully, it keeps us on our journey to getting better, fitter, stronger.


Healing: Getting Better All the Time (It Can’t Get Much Worse)

I was just going to title this Getting Better, but the Beatles song came into my head.  Let me be clear, I am doing well with my health journey.  I’m down two pounds from last week’s check in, but I’ve been having trouble in my hip.

Last week, I had a bad hip flare in the acetabulum joint.  The pain was bad, but it only lasted about 8 hours.  However, the tendons and muscles around it haven’t stopped being inflamed.  The pain there comes and goes. It isn’t debilitating. I have been able to run and do yoga.

Let me be upfront and clear right here, I’M NOT A BEACHBODY COACH. I like their workouts but I think that a lot of their supplements are way over priced and have no interest in buying most of them.  Most of the reviews of Beachbody videos online seem to be from coaches.  I can still say unequivocally that 3 Week Yoga Retreat, so far, has been a great program for me.  My back feels better when I do it.  I’m two weeks into it and I already feel some differences. I feel like I’m sitting with better posture.  The first sessions, I could barely do downward dog.  Now, I can do it for quite a few breaths and in the proper position. There are a lot of moves I obviously can’t do yet, but that’s why this needs to be an ongoing process.  I plan on doing it every day until April.  Then I might scale it back to a few days a week.  There are also plenty of different other yoga programs on Beachbody, so I plan on having this as part of my regular exercise repertoire.

We also have been doing our Easy 5K with Joey Galloway.  Since we are just starting we have chosen a walk 45 seconds/run 30 seconds ratio for our runs.  This gives us a lot of time for our muscles to recover.  Once we feel really comfortable with this ratio, we will change the ratio. However, this program works us hard without wearing us out.  We also have been taking advantage of the running trails near us. Running in the neighborhood is fine, but sometimes you need a change of scenery. 


Healing: New Year, New Me

I know, the title of this post is as cliched as they come. I don’t care.

For me, it has become a mantra.

I have palindromic rheumatism.  Basically, my white blood cells attack joints and the muscles and tendons connecting them even though they are health.  I don’t have arthritis; I have an autoimmune disease. The joint pain are symptoms.  The joints aren’t the cause. You can read more about my condition here and  here

One of the tings that I have neglected to mention in the previous posts is the depression that comes with this disease.  Pain causes depression.  Chronic fatigue causes depression.  Helplessness causes depression. Now, the medication for me has worked well and my flares are few and far between.  However, the fatigue hasn’t really gone away.

This has led me to not doing much over the last three years.  This in turn has led me to  gaining weight.  Lots of it.  The highest I have been was 242 lbs. At Christmas, I was 239.  I’m on the short side of 5’6″. Most of my weight is around my waist.  If I stay on this path, I’m on the way to having more health problems.

So, I’ve decided new year, new me. I have to clear my mind of can’t.

Step 1:  Diet.  I’m not going to do any weird diet.  Not paleo, low-carb, low-fat diet for me.  I’m going to restrict calories by counting them. I’m going to eat smaller meals and more often.  You can follow my diary on My Fitness Pal. I am making better healthier choices, but not telling myself I can’t have this or that.  I just need to make adjustments for those treats.

Step 2: Yoga.  I’m not one of those people that are very flexible. That’s why I want to do yoga!  Also, it’s not heavy on resistance so It is not hard on the joints.  Any resistance comes from my own advancement into each pose so this allows me to do only those poses that I can. I’m using the yoga programs on Beach Body on Demand, which leads me to…

Step 3: BeachBody on  Demand.  We decided to subscribe to this streaming service.  $99 for the whole year is better than both of us joining a gym from a financial point of view.  Besides the yoga, they have P90X and Insanity as part of it’s lineup. We probably won’t get to them this year.  More our speed is 10 minute workout and T25.  The great thing about it is that they have different aerobic activities for each level.

Step 4: Cycling.  I won a trek hybrid bicycle from our insurance company’s wellness program.  I love it. Living close to the Mississippi River, I’m fortunate that there is a paved path on top the levee next to it.  It’s a tough ride because the winds off the levee can be extremely difficult.  Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple also got a hybrid so hopefully she will join me on a few rides.

Step 5:  Running.  We started doing Jeff Galloway’s run walk program. It’s great on the knees and he has designed it for every speed out there.

Now for the goals:

Main goal:  I’m 229 lbs right now.  I want to be 190 by Christmas.  I want to lose the weight slowly but surely.  If I lose more, that would be fantastic.

Level Up goal:  I do the above and will be able to run a 5K easily. By easily, I mean a sub 40 minute 5k.

+5 experience goal: To do next year’s Star Wars Half-Marathon – Light Side  at Disneyland.

+100 experience goal: To do next year’s Star Wars Half-Marathon – Dark Side at Disney World four months later. This would mean I would have completed the Kessel Run which is a Disney coast to coast challenge.

I’m going to write posts time to time giving updates of how I’m doing, both successes and failures.

Now excuse me while I go work on a new me.




Running: Varsity Sports, NOTC, and the Galloway method.

Ms. Nola Nerd Couple loves to run, but sometimes unavoidable obstacles get in her way.  I love to run, but palindromic rheumatism often gets in the way.

However, if at first you don’t succeed, try again.

We recently remade a commitment to running. We got a secondhand treadmill from my sister, which allows us to run when it’s oppressively hot outside.  We both made a visit to Varsity Sports, our favorite running store.  Seriously, I can say enough good things about this store.  They have world class public service.  Like any good running store, they match the shoe to your walking/running style instead of having you pick out the shoe base on appearance which is what you basically do at a big box store. They don’t let you leave with a bad shoe.  The last time I went they almost had me walk out empty handed instead of giving me a shoe that wouldn’t work for me.  Luckily, they had one left that was perfect for me.  When we took my mother in law, they didn’t have her size in women’s so they fit her for a men’s shoe and it worked perfectly (the only difference between shoes for genders is that men’s tend to be larger).  Ms. Nola Nerd Couple loved the first shoe she tried on, but they took her through seven other pairs to make sure. They never pressure you. Also, because we don’t look like runners, they aren’t snobby to us either.  This is a store for anyone who wants to walk or run.  They will help the overweight novice, like me, to the experienced marathon runner with the same quality service.

To help motivate us to continue running, we joined the New Orleans Track Club. According to their website, they want anyone who is interested in running to join.  Members get discounts to races and provide discounts to some local running stores.  We already signed up for two races.  This weekend we are running the two mile  NOLA Blue Doo Run at Tulane University which helps raises awareness for prostate cancer.  Next weekend we will do 2 miles at Oktoberfest in Kenner. However, that second race might be more hurtful to my waistline if I don’t pace myself. And I’m not talking about during the race.

Well, we won’t run…not without walking. During our trip to Disney for the Star Wars run in April we met Jeff and Barbara Galloway. They developed the Galloway method that recommends walk/run intervals at very specific ratios.  The walk/run method is supposed to be great for people who are just getting into running and is designed to help protect knees and other joints.  This is perfect for someone who has rheumatism issues. Cristina struck a very long conversation with Barbara at the Run Disney Expo and came away motivated to do this.  We both downloaded the app.  I haven’t had an issues with flares in my knees doing this method.  Even though I work and work hard (as evident by my heart rate when I do a workout), I never feel drained and exhausted after one.  Cristina feels the same way.  I plan on stopping at 5Ks because I don’t want to push my luck with my joints, but I can see Cristina going further to a 10k and maybe even a half marathon.

But first we have to conquer those two milers. Happy running!

Running: WDW Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Welcome our new guest blogger, Cristina’s sister, Cara!  You can read about Cristina’s inaugural WDW Star Wars 10K race here.

For a long time, I had a dream of doing a half marathon in Disney World.  When they announced the first Star Wars half marathon in Disneyland, I really wanted to do it.  But then I got pregnant and only wanted to lay on the couch eating McDonald’s.

I had my beautiful baby girl in June 2015.  I did not have an easy pregnancy and was barely active.  I was even on bed rest the last month of pregnancy.  I also ate A LOT of McDonald’s because it strangely was the only thing that didn’t make me nauseous.  I had a lot of work to do afterwards to get back on to a healthy lifestyle.  When the Star Wars half marathon was announced in September, it was just the motivation I needed.  My husband said he would do it too, and on September 29th we officially registered.

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Running: WDW Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K

One of the top things I nerd out about is Star Wars. If you’ve read this blog for long, I think that becomes apparent very quickly. So when Walt Disney World said that they were starting a Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon, I was stoked. Star Wars and Disney and running, three things I love! When tickets went on sale in September 2015, I immediately purchased a half marathon bib. I figured that I had all the way until April 2016 to train and that there was no way I was missing the inaugural run. My sister and her husband decided to buy half marathon bibs as well and my other sister and her boyfriend bought 10Ks. My mom, stepdad, and grandparents decided that since all of us kids were going, that they were going to come as well. Now we had a full on family reunion coming up in April!

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