Accomplishments

Triathlon Before Thirty - My First and Last Triathlon

8:00 PM

Goals are different for everyone, but they are so important.




Setting a goal gives you something positive to aim for amid the crazy and busy lives we all lead. I read once that a goal without a plan is just a dream and I think that is true. Creating goals means picking an end game and focusing on how you will get there. 

Some people have goals to save up enough money to buy a house or go on a big trip. Others are writing a novel or recording music in hopes of making it big. There are people who have a million tiny goals that all lead to just having a more content and happy life. No matter what the actual goal may be, it gives us something to look forward to. 

I had a goal to finish a triathlon before I turned 30, and what do you know. I completed it. But let me tell you... it was not easy. 

After finishing my first few half marathons I toyed with the idea of a triathlon but honestly the whole thing seemed very overwhelming to me. To run in a race, you need a pair of sneakers and maybe a good sports bra. Everything else is just extra and you can finish the race with or without it. 

For a triathlon, you need a LOT of different stuff. For the swim you need a pair of goggles at the least. Then you can choose what you swim in - a bathing suit, a wet suit, a trisuit, tri shorts and a sports bra, the list goes on and on. Once you're out of the water and onto the biking portion of the race you need a towels to dry off, quick moisture wicking socks, a bike, a helmet, your biking shoes (or sneakers!), a change of clothes depending on what you wore in the swim. After biking you need to leave your bike (and change your shoes if necessary), take off your helmet and get running. 

Completely. Over. Whelming. 

However, after years of thinking about doing it, I received an email saying there was a Tri "great for first timers" and it was exactly one month out from my 30th birthday. So, I threw caution to the wind and I signed up for the damn thing because, guess what?

If you don't put yourself out there and try things that scare you and overcome your fears and push your limits what is the point of even having 30 years on this planet? I understand that everyone has different goals in life, but this was one of mine. So I knew I had to sign up or I'd kick myself for not at least giving it a try. 

Well, I gave it my best and I completed it but I have no intention of doing another triathlon again! While I know I am partly to blame for doing a very bare minimum of training, I think I also underestimated just how intense the triathlon is on your body. 

This sprint triathlon consisted of the following:
  1. .35 Mile Swim
  2. 9 Mile Bike
  3. 3.2 Mile Run
My training consisted of going to spin class for a few months, followed by one 10 mile bike ride, and a few 2-4 mile bike rides here and there. For swimming, I floated around my pool and did a few laps here and there and got winded pretty easily and just kinda gave up and hoped I wouldn't need to be saved during the swim. Running I wrote off as being "only a 5k" even though the event is advertised as "Conquer the Hill" because there was apparently a pretty rough hill at the start of the race. I my usual few miles here and there and thought I'd easily be able to finish up the 5k at the end of the event. 

LOL

This was physically and mentally one of the hardest things I've had to push through to finish. When I'm running a long distance race and I get tired I can take a breather and walk it out, stretch my calves and then do a slow jog again til the finish. Do you know what you can't do in the middle of a pond? TAKE A BREATHER. 

I'll break the whole day down for you. 







PRE RACE
I got all my equipment in order, and wow was there a lot. After checking many pinterest pins, websites and blogs regarding triathlons, I had a pretty good idea of everything I was going to need. This included NUUN for energy and electrolytes, a few water bottles, my goggles, a swim cap,  Tri Shorts, sports bra, a top for the swim, a different top for the bike/run, my sneakers, socks, plastic bags for the transition area, sunglasses, a hat, and a peanut butter sandwich. I was also armed with a 15 year old men's mountain bike and my little brother's bike helmet. 

The day before, my husband and father-in-law hooked a bike rack to one of our cars so I was set in the morning. The race started at 7 and the transition areas opened at 5, so I planned to leave my house around 4:30AM since I live about an hour away. I showered and braided my hair before I went to sleep and hoped for the best for the next day. 

I woke up at 3:50am and got changed into my swim outfit. Once I triple checked that everything I needed on my list was packed and loaded into the car, I headed out. After reaching the race destination and parking my car, I went to get out of the car and noticed one of my water bottles, the one I was to use to wash my feet before getting on my socks and sneakers for the bike portion, hadn't been closed all the way and leaked all over my other gear. Luckily, my hat was the only casualty, The rest of the items I had put into plastic bags for safety because it was forecasted to rain and thunderstorm. I got all my gear out, checked in, and set up my transition area. Then the nerves set in. As people began arriving I settled myself and began talking to others who were amateurs just like me! I felt much better and was ready for the race to just begin already. 

SWIM
The sky held out from rain which was great. The pond water was very warm which was also great! However, I highly underestimated the swim. Once I got about half way around the pond, I couldn't catch a full breath which totally put me into panic mode. There were plenty of lifeguards on kayaks should I become distressed, but being the hard-headed person that I am, I kept telling them I was fine and just going slowly. I ended up doing a sort of doggy paddle/frog swim hybrid that took me back to sure after being passed by many, many people. But ya know what? I finished. I didn't hang on to any kayaks (except one to remove my foggy goggles) and I left the pond feeling exhausted but ready to tackle the bike. 

I headed over to the transition area where I fought for a full 5 minutes to change my gear, put on my socks and shoes, and tighten my helmet. Most people spent less than 2 minutes in this transition, and here I was at over 5!!!! What a rookie.

BIKE
Weeks before the tri, I emailed the organizers of the event to ensure I could in fact use a 15 year old men's mountain bike for this portion of the race. Yes, they told me, it will just be a slower time. Perfect! I thought. I'm not in this for the glory of the win, I'm in it to finish. 

Welp. Let me tell you a little something about using a 15 year old mountain bike in an event where most everyone else has the thinnest, sleekest road bikes. I swear I was peddling 15x harder and faster than the 100 people (I'm estimating here lol) that passed me as I rode the 9 mile course. It was like a cartoon. If I wasn't so tired, I would have found it hysterically funny. Though I practiced changing gears on my training rides, getting out there on the course just threw me for a bit of a loop. Having people continuously pass me while I was working SO HARD to get this bike to move quickly was a downer. By the end of the bike portion, I felt pretty defeated. But I made it around the second loop and back to the transition space and hopped off the bike. 

And almost fell. 

Thank God the bike was there to support me because my legs were completely jelly. 

RUN
But I felt slightly confident because my event was next. I know I can run a 5k easily, so I told myself to take a deep breath, walk a bit to get my legs feeling stronger, and take it easy. I took off my helmet, put on my favorite Monsters University hat (which had mostly dried from early said spill) and headed to "Conquer the Hill". 

And then I broke. 

I immediately started to wonder what the fuck I had gotten myself into. My eyes welled up with tears. Luckily, since I'd done everything else so slowly, I was virtually all alone at this point. I thought about stopping and going back to get my stuff and just leaving. I felt like throwing myself to the pavement and sobbing because my legs were jelly and my knee hurt and my arms were tired and I was soggy and I was - nope. I was stronger than this. I've been through worse things than a little triathlon that would be over soon enough as I put my big girl pants back on, sucked it up, and pushed through this temporary pain to finish. I pulled my tears back in and stood up straight and came upon a great volunteer who told me to walk as much as I needed, I'd finish it one way or another. And he was right. 

The first full mile of this 5k was basically up a very steep hill. I didn't have my phone on me (SHOCKER!) so I wasn't able to take pictures, but yeah, it was steep. Every corner I turned for a fill mile was another steep hill after another steep hill. But, what goes up must come down! After the first brutal mile, the descent began. There was a water stop so I hydrated and then shuffled on my merry way. I ran most of the last two miles at a slow and steady pace. There were a few places where people had gathered to cheer the racers on and I couldn't have been more thankful for their enthusiasm. It was much needed. 

FIN
I finally made it to the finish line and could not have been more proud of myself. There were so many unknowns coming into this event - from the gear to each portion itself, I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into. But no matter what happened, I pushed myself to keep it together and push to the end. 



This will be an event I'll not soon forget. If you have ever thought of doing a triathlon, I say DO IT but make sure you realize it will test your limits! I also encourage you to train better than I did and perhaps see if you can borrow or invest in a good bike. 

I'm glad to cross this goal off my list and say I am a Triathlete - but never have to do another Tri again!

Adventures Through Disney Springs

7:00 AM

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On my last trip to WDW, I was able to explore the recently updated Downtown Disney area which is now known as Disney Springs. The last time I was in Florida, the area was still under heavy construction. This time around, I was able to experience many of the new shops as well as dining options.



I fell in love with the upscale feel that the renovations gave Disney Springs. Not only does it have a high-end look but many shops that have opened, such as Zara and Anthropologie, bring a higher sense of fashion to the whole place. Still, I have to say I did most of my own Disney Springs shopping at Uniqlo which had a ton of awesome products for the affordable prices!



Must Stop Shopping:

D-LIVING
For such a small shop, it was jam packed with some of the coolest merch in all of Disney Springs (in my opinion!). I loved the homey-feel of the whole store and longed to purchase and ship it all back to my home in New Jersey. If you're looking for unique gifts or items to decorate your living space and backyard, D-LIVING is the place to check out.








MARKETPLACE CO-OP
While this place has been here for a while, it completely surpassed my previous experience with the many amazing corners to explore and merch to buy. If you've never been before, the Co-Op  is home to many different sections and sell a range of items from phone cases to suitcases, unique art pieces, mugs and teapots, even handbags, jewelry and dresses!

All shops are conveniently homed within a central location so even if it is raining outside, you are nice and dry while you shop for any Disney merch item you can dream up. Some of my favorite sections included Cherry Tree Lane (The Dress Shop) and Wonderland Gallery (Art).










MELISSA SHOES
Attention shoe lovers: you must stop in here!!! I've never seen quite as magical a collection of footwear as I did within Melissa's Shoes. I've also heard the shoes are very comfy - perfect for long walks in the Disney Parks!




ALEX AND ANI
Because, well, it is an entire store filled with Alex and Ani... so it is a no brainer.





Must Stop Munchies:

THE DAILY POUTINE
Yum. If you're looking for a quick bite before heading into The World of Disney, this is the place for you! As a vegetarian, I was really looking forward to the poutine with mushroom cream sauce instead of gravy, only to find out it was made with animal stock! However, the nice girl at taking my order gave me some other options. I ended up going with the special: Cheeseburger Poutine (but obviously, I didn't get the meat). It was so delicious and really hit the spot! I'd love to go back and try some of the other options as well. I also love the container it came in - perfect for eating and walking at the same time.






MARKETPLACE SNACKS
One Dole Whip with rum, please! Yes, you read that correctly. At Marketplace Snacks, located near Marketplace Co-Op, you can order a Dole Whip. If you're in the mood, add some Malibu to make it just that extra special. Even though it was raining, I pretended I was on a tropical island vacation with my Dole Whip and rum in my hand.






FRONTERA COCINA
This was one of two dinner reservations I was able to make while visiting Disney Springs. The drinks were amazing while the food was just a little eh. I've definitely had better Mexican food, but it was still very good and the atmosphere was great as well. I'd consider going back but just for drinks and small bites.





BONGOS
Fun, loud atmosphere + great drinks + yummy food = a great time! The upbeat atmosphere at this restaurant is not good for a quiet date night, but if you're looking to have some fun make your way to Bongos. I had the vegetarian stew and it was so filling and delicious!







What are your favorite places to visit in Disney Springs? I'll need to know for my next adventure!



Adventure

32 Magic Packed Hours in Walt Disney World

5:00 AM

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Walt Disney World is huge. Packed into 40 square miles of magic you will find perfectly themed hotels, highly rated restaurants, theme parks bustling with vacationers and Disney characters alike, shops brimming with the Disney merch of your dreams, and so much more. Seriously - you could spend weeks exploring the many facets that create the wonderful world of Disney.

But what if you're short on time?

This past June, I was in such a dilemma. A work trip brought me to Orlando and I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a few hours of magic in. Originally, I had planned to spend only a few hours there by myself on the day I was to fly home. However, my friends Sam & Lisa decided to join me and it made for one of the most action packed Disney adventures I've experienced to date!

Note: Sam is from California (AP at Disneyland!) and has only been to WDW one time previously, so I wanted to make sure she had a great experience!

Here is how we spent 36 Magic Packed Hours in Walt Disney World! 

Planning is Key
One of the great features of WDW vacations is that you are able to pre-plan so much in advance. From online check-in at your hotel, to dining reservations 180 days in advance and FastPass+ selections at 60 days in advance (when staying on Disney property), the skeleton of your days is mapped out well before your feet arrive at the resort.

Because we had only a short amount of time in the parks, we skipped making too many dining reservations. Knowing there are treats galore to be eaten, we knew we'd be well fed. The one reservation I made sure to make was for Be Our Guest. I felt this was an important reservation as it is the only way to see Beast's Castle (which is a must see!). Time in the parks was more important to us so we did not have any other reservations.



FastPasses were a bit of a challenge. With the FastPass+ system, you can only make selections in one park. I chose to make them at Magic Kingdom, since I figured it would be the most packed. Peter Pan's Flight, Haunted Mansion, and Seven Dwarves Mine Train were our selections. We ended up skipping Mine Train to head to a different park.


Hour One - Magic Kingdom
We arrived at our resort, Disney's Old Key West, bright and early at 6:30AM and were lucky enough
to be able to check in! Once we got sorted we headed over to the bus stop to board our bus for Magic Kingdom where we'd be taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours from 8AM-9AM.

Caffeine was DEFINITELY needed, so once we went through security, bag check and ticket check, we headed straight to Starbucks. Giant, sweet caffeinated drinks were purchases as well as a cupcake because, well, where else can you have a cupcake for breakfast if not at Magic Kingdom?









After dancing down Main Street USA and stopping for pictures at Cinderella's Castle and The Purple Wall, we went to our first ride in Tomorrowland: The People Mover (it was my first time!).

Lisa then went over to Space Mountain because of the short 10 minute wait time, but Sam and I skipped it. It gives me a headache! We did some shopping, got some mystery pin packs, and headed into New Fantasyland. Here we rode Peter Pan's flight, checked out the Tangled Bathrooms area, and then made our way to The Haunted Mansion for our FastPass.

After enjoying that ghostly retreat in our Doom Buggies, we went back to New Fantasyland enjoy our  reservation at Be Our Guest.





It was great to enjoy the air conditioned castle as June is hot, hot, hot in Orlando! We chose to sit in the West Wing room directly in front of the enchanted rose and enjoyed our delicious breakfast. I have to say, Be Our Guest really knocks it out of the park (sorry) when it comes to their food. A large portion of fruit along with a very savory quiche was my meal of choice for the day. They even bring out a tray of breakfast pastries! Yum!



Feeling very full, we explored the rest of New Fantasyland and then made our way to Adventureland and Frontierland. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean, I ate a Mickey Pretzel, and we did a little perusing of the merch that all these shops have to offer. We were nearing early afternoon at this point and decided we'd seen all we wanted to see in MK.

Hour 7 - Epcot
From MK, we headed to the monorail to go to Epcot however, it had been closed for what looked like a medical emergency. We were forced to reroute and eventually made it to Epcot by bus.

After getting through security, bags and ticket check again, we took the classic pics in front of the entrance with that grand and miraculous Space Ship Earth behind us. It is one of my most favorite sights in all of WDW!


Because we bypassed our Mine Train FastPass, I was able to secure us a ride on Soarin'. I sadly decided to skip my favorite ride, Mission: Space, because of the long wait time. We really wanted to enjoy our experience traveling the World Showcase so I was okay with that decision.

First we stopped at Mexico Pavilion where we shared one of my favorite foods in Epcot - cheese empanadas! I also had a marg (obvs). Our other stops included Germany Pavilion for their Grapefruit Beer, Morocco for the Vegetarian Platter, and a stop in France where I had a macaron ice cream sandwich and Sam and Lisa got crepes. We checked out the many worldly sites in each Pavilion as well as their unique merch before Soarin' Over the World.



On our way out of Epcot, we grabbed some more caffeine via Joffrey's and got on a bus to our last stop of the day - Animal Kingdom!



Hour 12 - Animal Kingdom
Again, we wanted to take advantage of the Magic Hours at AK from 11pm-1am. However - we didn't even end up staying at the park that long. We were able to secure FastPass for Expedition Everest later in the evening, so once we got to Animal Kingdom we headed straight to Pandora: World of Avatar.



It was a first visit for all of us and we spent a good amount of time exploring this new and amazing world. Luckily, the wait time for Flights of Passage was only 90 minutes which we took as a positive. The wait for the ride, though long, was filled with great detail and helped make the time go by a littttttle more quickly. Though long, the wait was SO WORTH IT. This ride is an incredible feat of creative vision and execution. I don't want to spoil it for those who have not yet had a chance to experience it - but WOW. Prepare to be amazing.



After Flights of Passage we LITERALLY RAN to Expedition Everest in order to make our FastPass. We ran right past Rivers of Light, which looked awesome at high speeds (just kidding we were probably very slow) but we made it! I love seeing Mr. Yeti on that coaster and we even got to sit front row. There was a group of rowdy teen boys that slightly tarnished our experience - they even had middle fingers in the PhotoPass Photo. It was super disappointing. But the cast member gave us another FastPass to ride again when we explained the situation. We ended up giving them away but it was still a good gesture.

Afterwards, we were hungry and tired and our feet hurt super bad. It must have been around 9:30pm and we decided to get some food in Pandora before returning to our hotel. I have written a post on my thoughts of the Pandora food which you can read here. (Spoiler alert: it was so very good.)

Hour 17 - Beauty Rest
Back at Old Key West, Lisa and Sam went on a hunt for water bottles and a hot tub to rest their aching feet. I chose to take a nice hot shower and get myself into bed. Getting rest and hydrating so SO IMPORTANT for quick trips when you're trying to make every moment of the day count. This is why we chose to not make early breakfast reservations - a little extra sleep and time to pack was important and we knew we'd be well fed either way.


Hour 24 - Back to Animal Kingdom
Up and at 'em! We awoke early to pack, check-out of the hotel, check our bags for our return, and get back to Animal Kingdom. Their Extra Magic Hours began at 8AM and we hadn't gotten a chance to ride Na'vi River Journey the day before in Pandora as it had been temporarily closed. Once in Animal Kingdom, we got some bright, sunshiny pics over at the Tree of Life before heading to Starbucks for, you guessed it, COFFEE. I got the most epic Mickey Shaped Cinnamon Bun and a cold brew. It was delish and I highly recommend you try one next time you need a sweet breakfast!

Sadly Na'Vi River Journey was still down and we never had a chance to ride it. We did, however, get to see the Pandora store (which there was a line to get into), I had a Night Blossom (SO GOOD), and we rode Dinosaur.



Hour 28 - Hollywood Studios
Our last hours were spent seeking the glitz and the glamour of a bustling movie town over in Hollywood Studios. We were able to see the Stormtroopers march down Hollywood Boulevard before heading to our FastPasses at Tower of Terror and then going to Star Tours.



Hollywood Studios is a park filled with so many great shops and unique pieces of memorabilia. It is another park that is great to just walk around and take in all the sights. Plus, all the palm trees really make you feel like you're on the West Coast even in Orlando! We dined on Churros and french fries and then had our last ride on Rockin' Rollercoaster where I ended up losing my ears. :(
















Hour 32 - All Good Things Must Come to an End
At this point we were ready to get out of the sun and head back to the hotel to grab our bags and get to the airport. Little did we know, our flights would be delayed over and over again... but that is another story for another day.



Here are my pointers for getting as much in as possible in a quick trip to Walt Disney World:


  1. Plan ahead as much as possible. Disney gives you so many tools to plan ahead! Use these wisely to make a great outlay for your days to ensure you have loose schedule to follow. This enables you to make educated decisions as to what you can and cannot fit into the hours you have allotted. Also, it will ensure you get to ride your favorites with the FastPass option.
  2. Understand that not everything will go as planned. We never got a ride on the monorail because of it being shut down and that is okay. We also had to miss a few rides we would have liked to ride, but those decisions sometimes have to be made on the fly in order to make the most of the trip.
  3. Don't spend a lot of times on dining reservations during a short trip. There are plenty of delicious food and drink options in the park that you can eat on the go to ensure you get in all the rides and sights in that you want to see. However, if there is a special dining experience you'd like to experience, like we did for Be Our Guest, it is worth it to make the reservation! 
  4. Make sure you get enough rest and water, and take short breaks during the day. You can't enjoy anything Walt Disney World has to offer if you're not feeling good, and that is why it is so important to make sure you get sleep and are constantly drinking water. Know which rides are good to take a rest on - like The Peoplemover! Stay hydrated in those hot temps and make sure your body is well rested because...
  5. Your feet are gonna hurt and you are going to be tired. It doesn't matter if you wear the most comfy shoes in the world and if you get 15 hours of sleep the night before. Spending that many hours on your feet is going to be painful and being in the sun all day is going to take a lot out of you. 
  6. Soak it all in and enjoy every moment because it will fly by!




Here are a few more pics from that amazing, whirlwind trip. Enjoy!