This year was my third Shamrock Shuffle 8K and I at the current moment have no intention of missing this race any year soon. This race in 2015 was the reason I started running. I was convinced by friends it was a fun run, and it really was. The crowds and spectators are all along the course, and the runners are all out there having a great time like it is one big party. I love the course so much, and it amazes me every year the parts of the city I get to see running by on the streets. The Willis Tower, State Street, Financial District , and the river. I also love that the race starts a little later in the am then the marathon and hot chocolate and the road closures are not as bad as those races. So it is easier to get to.

If you are looking for a Chicago race without a huge distance commitment, do this one. The race is 8k which is 4.97 miles. It flies by because you are so preoccupied with the sites and spectators.

This race was especially special for me because the kids were there. In the past, it seemed like a hassle to bring them down for the marathon or Hot Chocolate. Plus it is a lot of walking and waiting. This race is perfect time wise and close enough to find a good spot and hang out. It meant so much to have them there and see that at any age you can start something new and have big dreams and goals.

I ran this race for time.My goal was anything faster than my 2016 time of 41:54 (2015 time was over 50 minutes) and keep about the  pace of what I hope to run the marathon in October.  I am starting to realize I have a thing with having to beat my last race time. I am going to have to eventually get over this, lol. I have decided though, due to my mentality, not to sign up for any more races until the Chicago Marathon. I need to focus on that and only that for here on out.

Flat Gina ready the night before. I never sleep well before a race.

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I felt great at the start. I had friends running as well. So it was motivating to now after we were going to have some fun.

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The Spectators! P I N this to pinterest

I love that the kids, Tom, Parker and Marisa were at mile four. It was needed for that last push. I ended up running this entire race with a side cramp. One of my worst case scenarios. I never seem to be able recover when I get one on a practice run. I kept telling myself to push through and it was not that long, I could handle the pain and it would be over as soon as I finish. The start of the race was more crowded then I remember and I felt like I was dodging in and out of other runners for a while. Maybe why I got the cramp since I did not get a good breathing rhythm to start?

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Here are two pro photos that I liked the best. The left I obviously noticed the camera and the right I must have been trying to breath through the cramp. How funny is it that I am pretty sure that photo on the left is right at the end during that horrible hill on Roosevelt. The image on the right was most likely before that. I was keeping an eye on my pace and I know how wacky a GPS can get in the city so I kept my pace on my Garmin around 7:30 and would not let myself go slower than 8:20. Again, I knew this was not accurate but at least I was going faster than what my goal was according to my  Garmin.

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Jackie,Kevin and Pat passing mile 4 for high fives! Jackie is a true running BA. She has ran Boston and coaches cross country.

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I learned quickly to grab as many water bottles and snacks as I can after a race. Especially when you have hangry kids waiting at the end.

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After I was done, Tom and the kids were still cheering and my friend Laura and I met up. She took me into the VIP Bank of America tent. You guys! This place was heated, with a bar, and a buffet! At that point could not think of eating sadly, but I happily chatted with Laura and had a class of pinot. (Laura…didn’t some guy take a picture of us there? I was hoping it would be in the race photos, next time we need to take our own 😉 )

We did it!The sun was out and it was a gorgeous day.

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Champagne and pizza at Parlor  (Cheesus, Mary, and Joseph, and Brussel Shuffle, yum!) with friends was a must. Not only did a beat my time from 2016, I was sub 40. That is an 8:01 average pace which if you told me in 2014 I was going to start running and someday run an 8 minute mile during an 8k I would have laughed at you so hard.

Sadly the kids were overtired and over hungry at this point so after we were all ready to head back. But not without…P I N this to pinterestDESSERT! Kevin and I have been dying to get here ever since we discovered it on IG. And it was worth the wait. Delicious rich hot chocolate covered with marshmallow fluff, caramel and chocolate sauce, sprinkles of yumminess and a donut. Because. Bombobar is a Chicago must for their hotter chocolate.  P I N this to pinterest

Do you love the Shamrock Shuffle? Tell me your favorite parts of the race or memories.

This race completed week 3/30 for the Chicago Marathon training.

This week I missed a run on both Monday and Tuesday. I did run Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with a weekly milage of 21 miles including the Shuffle. I ran hills on the treadmill Wednesday, 4 quarter mile hills, and speed trained Friday doing a half a mile at a 9:13 pace then half a mile at 7:53 alternating for six miles on the treadmill. I am following Hal Higdon’s 30 week plan and this week should have had a milage of 22 ish so I was close to my total, just crammed it into 4 days instead of six. I felt good but know it is time to incorporate more weight training. I do yoga at least five times a week. I love Yoga with Adrienne. She has a video for every time, feeling, physical need, emotional need…she has something for whatever you need.

For those of you who do not know, I am training for the Chicago Marathon to Boston qualify. Hopefully. This means I need to shave more than 45 minutes off last years marathon time. Judging by my February half marathon time and the pace from the Shuffle, it is possible. With hard work and focus, but possible. I am so grateful for all of you who ask and are supportive of my little hobby. I am going to try to do a weekly recap on the blog of my training. I know how annoying it is to see every run or workout someone does for some people on social media, so I will promise not to do that. Those who want to see can check the blog for my weekly recap. I do love nothing more than this running community, so please share your blog or social media handle so I can follow and cheer you on. Support  and cheerleaders are so important with running and any kind of training/goal achieving.


Mr. L got to be out first one year old to celebrate his first birthday with a cake smash photo session styled by Sweet Lulu in Frankfort and a cake baked by Whipped and Frosted! We love this exciting new collaboration with businesses in the area to make birthday photo sessions so much less stressful. You just have to show up! No stressing over buying decor, picking up a cake,  and pinning ideas. We take care of it all 🙂 Book your cake smash styled session by emailing Amy@GinaCristinePhotography.Com

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Although my time in Walt Disney World was short (I honestly don’t ever leave without wishing I had more time), I was excited for what the second part of this trip had in store for me.   I was at a Universal Studios Orlando Training with co workers I had I never met.  Crazy, I know! As most of you may already know, besides being the one to schedule your beloved family sessions I started on another path.  I have been working with Mouse Made Simple for a year now and it has truly been amazing.  It is based out of Ohio with agents all over making it tricky to get together.
Again, these pictures were taken with my phone so they may not be the greatest.
I am an avid Disney fan and always have been.  I think having two girls brought it out even more in me (and Pete).  Working with this company for a trip was awesome and I instantly knew it was something I wanted to and could do…and the journey began.
Fast forward a bit and after countless hours of online training, reading and researching, I am a certified Disney vacation planner.  I don’t just plan all things Disney but have decided to expand into cruises, all inclusive, Universal and much more.  So when the opportunity came about to go to a training and learn as much as I possibly could about Universal Orlando, it was a no brainer for me.  What was even better is that it piggy backed onto a trip I already had planned and I could tell my kids I was going for work.  😉

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Day one of training was a Sunday afternoon that I arrived at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.  BEAUTIFUL!  We had a meet and greet going over what the next few days had in store for us, toured our resort, followed by some park time.  Then we headed off to get ready to participate in the Mardi Gras Parade at Universal Park.  What a fun experience!  Did you know that anyone can participate?  It was a blast and totally recommend it.  I may have hit a few people with some beads (sorry Stacey) but by the end I was a pro. P I N this to pinterest

Day 2 of training was some classroom time where we learned so much.  Information overload to say the least.  Great information about the packages and all the different things that Universal Studios Park and Isles of Adventure have to offer, and not to mention the new Volcano Bay water park opening up the end of May.  And City Walk is amazing with so many great places to eat or hang out at.
That afternoon we headed out for resort tours.  We got to see all that the different resorts offer, rooms, pools and much more.
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P I N this to pinterestLoews Royal Pacific –  has an amazing tropical feel.

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P I N this to pinterestHard Rock Hotel – an awesome mix of fun and rock n’ roll.

P I N this to pinterestLoews Portofino Bay Hotel – makes you feel like you are in Italy when on the property.  The Minions family suite could not be cooler!

P I N this to pinterestP I N this to pinterestThe resort tours were so beneficial.  It gave me a great understanding of what would be a great match when talking with clients about what they are looking for.
Resort tours were finished off with an amazing dinner at Universal’s City Walk.  P I N this to pinterestDay 3 was a busy and fun day.  We started out having breakfast at Three Broomsticks, followed by a VIP tour of Universal Park and Isles of Adventure.  If you are wanting to get to do almost all that the parks have to offer, the VIP tour is outstanding!  Not only do you completely skip the lines, but having a fantastic tour guide to tell you all kinds of information that you otherwise would not have known was great too. We got to experience just about everything the parks have to offer.  All of you Harry Potter fans would be amazed.  The details are spot on from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts Express.  It is truly amazing and is really something to see.  The realness of everything is so magical.  Another benefit of the VIP tour…not having to stop at the lockers before going on the ride.  😉

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It truly was an amazing experience and I am beyond grateful to be able to learn so much.  I feel like I have such a great understanding of Universal Studios, Isles of Adventure, City Walk and coming soon Volcano Bay along with the beautiful resorts.  Finish off a day at the park at one of the great dining options and a show at the Hard Rock or even Blue Man Group.  It truly has something for everyone and I am happy to assist or answer any questions you may have.

P I N this to pinterestP I N this to pinterestI feel truly blessed to have such amazing family and friends to support and promote this path.  Special thanks to my best friend Gina.  She is the amazingly talented owner/photographer of Gina Cristine Photography that I also work for.  I would not be where I am today without them all, especially my super supportive husband.  I am also blessed to have made some new friendships and I am looking forward to the adventures ahead.
If you have any travel questions, I am happy to assist.  Wanting to go away but not sure where to begin with the planning???  Contact me at  I have already had the pleasure of planning some amazing trips for some pretty awesome GCP clients and brides and look forward to working with more of you that I have been scheduling sessions for.

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Part one of our Disney trip and Gina’s recap of the Disney Princess Half Marathon can be found here.

Back in February Amy and I snuck (literally snuck, did not tell the kids 😳 exactly where we went) away to Florida. I was there for a little over 48 hours and Amy was there a few extra days for a Universal Studio training. Today we are doing a joint post on our trip. I am going to give a recap on the Disney Princess Half Marathon 2017, and Amy is going to talk about the training she attended so stay tuned.

Literally moms (and a dad) on the run.

Disney Princess Half Marathon 2017 Recap:

First of all, all the photos we took were with our phones. I was there such a short time, I did not want to carry gear. I did end up purchasing the Disney photos that were taken by the course photographers. I honestly never love my race photos and they can be crazy pricey BUT when they capture you running through the castle and spaceship earth, you kind of have to. 😉 I also made it a point to smile at every photographer I saw, I wanted to at least try to have some great photos around the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Not sure why I had jazz hands too 😂.

Unfortunately my spectator photos did not turn out great.  I was so bummed because I was able to get a few good ones in the 2016 Chicago marathon.  The jazz hands make up for it though. 

I was lucky enough to be joined by an amazing cheer squad of Amy’s mom, Aunt, and my Mom and Dad. We had a blast day one at Magic Kingdom despite the crowds. It was nice being there without kids and an agenda. We just walked around, ate dole whips, and went on the rides with the shortest lines. Peter Pan, Pirates, It’s A Small World, and Seven Dwarfs were our highlights.  Not really sure Seven Dwarfs was a highlight for Gina but oh was it ever for me!  🙂 I HATE roller coasters but suck it up at Disney. Oh, and did I mention the Dole Whips.  DOLE WHIPS are a must!  Night one I crashed at the Wilderness Lodge with Amy and her family. Love it there and the new outside bar/restaurant area, Geyser Point. You sit ourside at a beautiful bar and seating area with a cozy fireplace, TVs, and beautiful views of the resort and lake.


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The next day Amy and I headed early to the expo. It was fun, but we wanted to get to the parks instead of linger around. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie, so I had to get the photo by the rose.  I still can not express how fun it was to do all this with my bestie by my side.  Just recapping this makes me appreciate the time with my bestie even more.  The rest of the day we met up with my parents and Amy’s mom and aunt at Epcot. We carb loaded (literally, we must have thought we were running a race too) in France Les Halles Boulangerie and Mexico at the La Hacienda de San Angel.  I can not recommend that restaurant enough! Delicious food and margaritas, plus the ambiance is relaxed inside compared to the hustle and bustle of the park.  Night two I stayed at the Dolphin with my parents. Being a good neighbor resort, it is close to Epcot, the Boardwalk and one of my family’s favorite places to stay. P I N this to pinterestP I N this to pinterestP I N this to pinterestP I N this to pinterest

Race morning: First of all you have to be on the bus no later than 4am. Shuttles start at 3 or 3:30. I do not remember, I was delirious. All I know is that I think I got on the first bus close to 3 am. When I got to the drop off near Epcot, I wished I had someone with me. It was dark and not many people were there yet. I could not tell where the start line was and saw people lining up by the stage and DJ. I got in line. After some time I stepped out of line to see what this line was for (I assumed to go to the corrals). No, it was to take a pictures with Belle. I got out of line and started stretching out of the way of the crowds coming in. Let me tell you the people watching is amazing. The costumes and outfits people wear for this race is outstanding. I wore a tank Amy had made for me that I loved. I did not want to wear anything that may irritate me like a tiara or tutu while I run. I feel I would rip it off within mile two.

As spectators, some of us weren’t sure what to expect.  Luckily Aunt Judi had done it before and mom and I followed along.  Although we didn’t have to get up quite as early as Gina, we were on the boat to Magic Kingdom by 5:30.  We were the only 3 on the boat and the first mate was a real comedian that early.  Walking into the Magic Kingdom is so magical but the anticipation and excitement of waiting for Gina to turn down Main Street was really something.  I kept thinking over and over what an amazing experience.

Eventually it was time to start walking to the corrals. I am happy to say that Disney races have a surplus of port-a-potties and they are CLEAN. It was so nice to know I was the first in the ones I went into. There was plenty on the walk to the corrals. The walk to the corrals had to be a half a mile…through a forest. It was weird and unexpected and the random d.j. with a joker hat did not help the situation. When we got to the corrals on the highway there was a ton of entertainment and excitement. I was in corral C.

Side note: I was prepared for this race in terms of training to what I thought. My goal was to run sub 2 hours. The first half marathon I ran in 2015 my time was 2:02. For those of you who do not know, I am currently training for the 2017 Chicago Marathon to hopefully get a Boston qualifying time. I was running for time on this race which I learned quickly was not a race to run for time, it is to run for fun. There was more hills then I trained for and even though I saw the course map, I was not mentally prepared for all the time on the highway.

When the fireworks go off you are pumped and ready. Quickly after running after a little bit you realize you have A LOT of highway to run in the dark before you get to the Magic Kingdom. Along the way there will be random D.J.s, large posters to take pictures by, and characters to take photos with. I did not stop to take photos, although it did look like fun. The lines were nothing when I started but on my loop back to Epcot the lines were very long.

I did want to grab a shot while I was running under the gates. I love and have so many amazing memories of driving through every time we went to Disney.

Not going to lie, my motivation was not as high as I wanted a couple times during the run to Magic Kingdom. I had a lot of dark road to think and get into my head about how I expected it to be a little different. As I got to the transportation station, the crowds were showing up. The energy level was getting higher and the sun was starting to rise. I knew my way and that we were getting close to the Magic Kingdom. We ran in through a side entrance and popped out onto Main Street and OMG!!!  The crowds, the street lit up, the cow bells and then running towards the castle. This made it worth every dark highway mile prior. Amy, her mom and aunt were to my left right before they stopped letting crowds go any further. I saw them and tears. Yes, there were tears, but if you know me…it happens.   All these years of going to Disney and I was running through it after hours. You make a right and go through Tomorrowland. The ground is no even, the course narrows, and gets curvy here. So your pace has to slow and this is the only time I felt close to any other runner. Up until now we were pretty spaced out. Before you know it you run through the castle. I tried to soak up every second of it, though I did not want to slow my pace much more than I had to to get through the park. We entered the park after mile five and exited around mile six. This is where my head space got a little goofy again and I realized now I was running that same highway back to Epcot for sixish miles.

Once Gina passed us at the Magic Kingdom, we high tailed it to the monorail and quickly made it to Epcot.  The sights of all of the runners was truly unbelievable.  P I N this to pinterest

The sun was coming up and I was able to take in the spectators now (even though they were volunteers on the highway and not family and friends of runners) There were the DJs and characters. I was able to see the other later corrals as I ran the other direction. So I tried to focus elsewhere. As I approached mile 11.5 I could see Epcot, and the blinding sun in my eyes ( I need to get sport sunglasses) My motivation re appeared. When you enter Epcot there are no spectators allowed so the workers were there to cheer you on. You run in by Space Ship Earth then straight back to World Showcase Lagoon, switchback towards Space Ship Earth then out a side exit you go to the finish line which seems to come out of no where.

I did not realize my parents and Amy were at the finish line. Chicago races have a pretty tight security at races and no one is usually at the finish line. I did not look for anyone and sprinted in. I was fairly confident I ran sub two by checking my pace throughout the race. I checked it right after and I was right 1:54 was my time.

I was yelling and walked along where I thought Gina would be coming out.  I didn’t want her to come out and nobody be there.  We hugged and waited until the others made there way to the family area.  

All in all, would I recommend this race???  Heck yes! Especially if you are a Disney fan. I immediately said after that I have to do the marathon now. I was told you run through all four parks for the full marathon. What I will do different though is run it for fun, maybe even stop and see a character or two or take photos by the rides and landmarks) and run with friends. I know I had the best cheerleaders there, but at times I wish they were with me on the course. I watched all these groups of girls laughing and running together and it just looked so fun to have your girls there with you.

Maybe some day….at a 5k or 8k, for fun!

After we met up and I was so happy to see my Mom, Dad, Amy, Carrie, and Judi. I know spectating and navigating a race is hard, plus the early morning. I can not say thank you enough to them all for all the support for all my crazy races.

Amy had to take off quickly after to head to her training at Universal and I wanted to grab lunch (and a celebratory cocktail)  before flying back home. My parents and Amy’s mom and aunt had lunch at the Wilderness’s fun and comfort food restaurant Whispering Canyon Cafe, which was delish and that sangria was to die for.

Anyone have any tips or comments about running a Disney race?

Stay tuned for time at Universal.

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Stay tuned for Part Two where Amy gives you all the details of her Universal Training!

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As many as you know, I took up running in 2015 and it has quickly become a passion of mine. My next goal is to get a Boston Qualifying time at the 2017 Chicago Marathon, to hopefully qualify and be accepted to the 2019 Boston Marathon (TWO YEARS FROM TODAY!)

I started Hal Higdon’s 30 week training program this time, to make sure I am doing all I can to be stronger for the Chicago Marathon and faster. I appreciate everyone who has been asking and the constant support. Instead of posting on social media every time I run, I figured a weekly recap would be less annoying for those who did not care.

I know I have to add some strength training this year  so I found something for now that works with my time constraints, I can do at home, and they are free. Tone It Up has a daily workout page with five moves and a video. I have been loving them! I also found Yoga With Adrienne‘s free yoga YouTube channel a year ago and can not get enough. She has videos for every mood, body need, time limit,whatever! I use her videos as my cool down and stretching since I am no good doing it on my own.

WEEK 5 #BostonBound2019

Monday: 3 mile easy run at 8:36 average pace, TIU daily workout, 20min yoga with Adrienne

Tuesday: 5 mile run 8:55 average  pace (extremely windy and not feeling it), TIU daily workout, 20min yoga with Adrienne

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Wednesday: 5xHills (any hill .25 of a mile at any incline five times) 4.26 miles 8:47 average pace and 232 feet gain, TIU Daily Workout, 14 min yoga with Adrienne

Thursday: Treadmill 3 mile easy run 8:34 average pace, TIU Daily Workout, 31min Yoga With Adrienne

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Friday: Long Run 8 miles 8:57 average pace, Yoga with Adrienne (runner cool down video) 18:00

Saturday: 35min Farlek 4.13 miles 8:29 average pace. I would alternate sprint around 7 min mile and then a slow jog 9 min mile in between fire hydrant/mail boxes, telephone poles  just depending on how I felt.

Some friends I found on my run. They were so cute and would walk up to the fence as I ran by.  Ironic since I found out this week that I am having issues with lactose….specifically ice cream, WHAT?! Sucks since a chocolate milkshake is my go to long run treat, but explains a lot about stomach pain I have been dealing with off and on for years that seems to be getting worse as of recent. Anyone have any dairy alternative ice cream they love?

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Easter Sunday. REST and eat all the food!

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Here is to week six, which looks like less miles and two rest days, yay!