It’s been almost a month since I landed in Little Rock and yet it feels like it was just last weekend. I still can’t believe I finished my first marathon. After months of training and years of dreaming, it’s over. But before too much time passes, I wanted to write out my “race report” of the 2016 Little Rock Marathon because this blog has been my place to record my struggles and success and this was a lot of both. However, I am warning you, this post is LONG and I didn’t want to break it into parts.
I spent almost the entire training season in physical therapy working on a muscle imbalance in my left hip/glute area. And I was definitely getting stronger as time went on. My training runs were going great and I was feeling better every time I laced up my shoes.
About six weeks before the marathon, I drove to Los Angeles for a half marathon I was helping at. It was a drop-down week in terms of miles, so after running 18 the weekend before, I would be running 10 to 13 miles, with some intermittent stops during the race. I had a great time that weekend, but what I hadn’t predicted was how driving solo 6+ hours each direction plus running a half marathon would do to my right calf/Achilles. My right calf was where I had injured myself in 2009 the week after the Los Vegas half (in a Zumba class!) – due in part to the tightness and shortness of the muscle. And while I had been caring for it ever since, I didn’t think about how tight it would get driving so far.
After the weekend in Los Angeles, I spent the next four weeks struggling with ankle pain – my Achilles was giving my trouble whenever it was cool. However, as soon as it warned up, it was totally fine! So I worked on stretching and rolling and increasing the flexibility of the region while icing the Achilles and heel whenever I had the opportunity. And then I ceased all exercise a week before the marathon to allow it to rest.
But the damage was already there, and in order to ensure I could finish the race, I told my sister (who I would be running side-by-side with) that I would need to run the race at our training pace instead of a faster pace. We had been training on opposite coasts but had kept a similar training pace in anticipation of running together. She had started experiencing shin pain in the last few weeks of training and was happy to drop our pace back.
Flying into Little Rock, I saw at least a half dozen passengers with various race shirts. I was pumped! Landing in Little Rock, I was excited to see even more runners in the small airport. My sister and I united in the baggage claim area and headed straight to our hotel, which also happened to be the location of the race expo (and finish area!). The expo had opened just a few hours earlier and was one of the larger expos I have been to. While not attracting any major sponsors like a Disney or Rock’n’Roll series expo, it was quite large. I’d venture to say somewhere between the San Francisco Marathon and Disneyland Half expos. Lots of regional races and running stores had booths, and the official race store had all sorts of adorable gear. But we wouldn’t allow ourselves to purchase a finisher’s shirt until we had passed that finish line. I refused to jinx anything less than 48 hours before the race.
A couple of days of light play and lots of rest and on race morning I was pumped and ready to run. We walked from our hotel to the starting line (by the way, after early morning race calls, this California girl was excited to wake up at a semi-reasonable hour for what I considered to be a late start).
The corrals were crowded if you stayed up near the front, so we lingered in the back and chatted with runners around us. Lots of half marathoners in the mix and tons of people who had run the race before surrounded us. After the wheelchair athletes started, there was a couple of minutes and then everyone else started to cross the starting line. There wasn’t a staggered start, which was surprising and meant we were off a lot quicker than I had anticipated.
The first few miles were incredibly crowded as we headed over the bridge into North Little Rock. Lots of people were along the streets cheering and a brewery was handing our beer less than two miles in! My sister grabbed a sip, but I was definitely not taking anything in other than my planned race fuel. We kept our planned pace, sometimes getting a little quicker to get ahead of a crowd. Because it’s a popular local race, there were a lot of groups running together who unfortunately would run four and five people wide. But we had run Disney races together and had our own way of communicating to each other to maneuver through the crowds. I was feeling awesome, like we couldn’t be stopped!
The weather started out cooler, so we were both bundled up. But by mile 7 or so, all the layers were off. It was heating up quickly and we were beginning to feel it.
We were still in the first half, so the hills were small and just rolled together. We were conservative in our pacing, but with stops and walk breaks were averaging about a 5:35-5:40 finish time. However, as the heat and hills picked up, we struggled a bit, and decided playing leapfrog with the 5:45 pacers was in our best interest since we were beginning to learn that we had some differences in our training programs and terrains that meant some irregularities in our planned pacing. So we would run our pace and if one of us needed a quick break to fuel, etc then we would use the 5:45 pacers passing us as an indication to get back to our pace (where we would pass them again since we were slightly faster in our training pace).
We continued to chatter as we approached the split between the half and the full. I had been at this split many races prior and for the first time, I would be taking the less populated route – we split off from the half marathoners (and the audible finish line somewhere in the opposite direction) and headed up the hill to the state capitol building. At this point we were ahead of the 5:45 pacers by a few minutes. Only after leaving the Capitol Hill and seeing the balloon arch ahead up us indicating the halfway point did we see what we were truly up against. Instead of small rolling hills, we were looking up at the incline the “What Hills?” training shirts had warned us about.
The inclines were hurting my sister’s legs and so we slowed our pace and waved at the 5:45 pacers as they passed us for the final time. She wasn’t feeling well and we kept hearing that the first big climb was brutal but short. While it wasn’t as brutal as some of the training I had been doing in anticipation, it also wasn’t over quickly and it seemed to stretch on forever. And it was heating up. By mile 15 I was dumping water over my head instead of in my mouth.
We would start to hit our pace again in the flats but just as we would get in a groove, there was another incline and we would need to slow again. All of the slowing would cool my Achilles and I found myself in a lot of pain by the time we began the downhill segment. We were less than 17 miles in and both struggling with our respective injuries. But a flat stretch was in site and we started to pick up the pace again. Although damage had already been done to our bodies, and some of it I wasn’t even aware of yet.
Passing the mile 19 marker, I started to feel a little funny. My body started cramping up in a way I hadn’t felt before and I started to feel nauseous. We slowed our pace to a jog and kept moving forward (up the barely visible but definitely existent incline). As we approached the mile 20 marker, I started to feel dizzy and my body felt like it was locking up. I bent over, holding my knees, trying to assess what was going on. I was hot, tired, and a little disoriented. I thought maybe some stretching would help and so we moved to the side of the road where I spent a significant amount of time stretching everything on a metal railing. I told my sister that I needed to make it to the next aid station to figure out what was going on, but by this point I was beginning to realize that I had been so focused on her injuries and on my Achilles that I had probably not been following my hydration and fueling plan. So something was off with my blood sugar or hydration or electrolytes. Something I could fix at the aid station.
Bless the biking groups who had a party going at the next aid station. They were handing out towels in ice-cold water, they had Cocacola, cookies, pretzels and trail mix. And water. I am sure they had other items as well, but I had a bite of a cookie, a couple pretzels and peanuts, and a couple of swigs of cola along with water. After signing their “Wall” and waiting for my sister to use the loo, I felt a thousand times better. I felt like I could run the last six miles at our planned race pace – I wasn’t going to attempt it but that’s how good I felt!
Unfortunately, after we tried to pick it up and get back to our planned pace, we discovered that in the two miles I pretty much brought us to a halt, my sister’s legs had all but seized up and even fast walking was hurting her. But she pushed through and would run when she could and would walk as quickly as she could bear the rest of the time. We made lots of friends in those last six miles from all over the country. We were told we were “crazy” for picking this race as our first, learned where all the “flat” races are and I started making a mental list of all of the races I wanted to run. We cheered on other runners and had a lot of time to connect with each other because we weren’t worried about pace at all at this point (aside from staying ahead of the 7 hour pacers which we managed to avoid). I was frustrated and upset with myself for allowing my body to break down, but I also realized that this was my first marathon and things don’t always go as planned and it wasn’t just about the race but the entire journey to get to this point that was important.
Somewhere in the last six miles, I saw something that made me mad. A woman, who must have passed us during my two miles of hell, had something on the back of her shirt:
“If you are behind me then you didn’t train either.”
My sister was my rock at this point. I could rationalize that this runner was probably being self-deprecating. But in the process she was diminishing all of the hard work everyone behind her had put into preparing for this race. Including me. So I looked at my sister and told her that if I wasn’t allowed to give this woman a piece of my mind for making me feel like shit, then we weren’t going to allow her to run in front of us. And despite the pain she was feeling, my sister picked up the pace and I did everything I could to hold my tongue and to try to shake off the negativity I was holding toward this woman and her evil shirt because all I wanted to do was run next to her and tell her ALL about the hours of training my sister and I had put in to prepare for this race.
With less than two miles left, I grabbed a cold beer from a spectator and gulped the Dixie cup down. Best. Beer. Ever. It was cold and carbonated and perfect as the sun beat down on us. It was the best thing ever… for the next couple blocks at least. Then the stomach revolted and I thanked the race gods that we had less than a mile to go. And in that last mile my sister and I talked about our finish. We had super cute finishing photos from our two half marathons we had run together but we had always run it in strong. My sister said she would let me know how she was feeling but she wanted to try to run it in again. And as we rounded the corner, with the finish line in sight, she gave me the signal and we began to run toward the finish.
The finish line and everything after is still a bit of a blur. I was crying and laughing all at once. I wanted to be inside in a chair but I also wanted to stay and savor the finish. We rang the PR bell and accepted our gigantic medals (which after the race we had, the medals almost tipped us off balance). Posed for a photo with water still in our hands and then hobbled toward the finish area to get that finisher gear we could finally don.
By the time we made it to the merchandise booth (we totally missed the free beer and food, not sure where it was), everything was 50% off! Score! So we shopped a bit while my legs seized up and by the time my sister was done, I was laying on the floor with my legs elevated trying to convince my body it could make it upstairs to our hotel room.
We found the finisher food area where we were rushed through and dragged our tired and beaten bodies up for our first ever ice baths. I had never felt more tortured and relieved in a 15 second bath (because that’s about all I could stand). And after a real shower and some stretching and rolling (and wine), it hit me. The marathon was over. I had done it.
It wasn’t how I planned my race when I dreamt about my first marathon. I knew it would be hard. I knew I would hurt. But I had trained for a much better finish time. I knew I wasn’t supposed to have a “goal time” for my first full, but I never anticipated taking almost seven hours to finish the race. But then I remember everything I learned during my experience. Lessons that will make me stronger. And everything I fought through. Struggles where I might not have had the cleanest victory over but where I still succeeded.
Upon seeing the medal in my classroom, a student asked me if I won the race. I laughed and then realized I really had won. Maybe I didn’t come in first, qualify to Boston, or even run close to my planned finish. But there was a lesson I could share with my students. That you can practice and train and work your absolute hardest and not have the conclusion you want. But it is still a finish you can and should be proud of. Less than 48 hours after finishing my first marathon, I was paying for my second. New York City, I am coming for you in November. And I am bringing all my newfound lessons with me!
Apologies on the delay! The race was fabulous and then it was back home to teach all week followed by another weekend of races. But more on those later.
First the spoiler… I FINISHED THE RACE! And I finished in under two hours and twenty-seven minutes!
That’s the short version. Below is a much longer accounting of my experience of the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon weekend.
I spent a lot of time anticipating this race. I signed up for it in January, before I could even run a mile. And then spent seven long months learning to love running.
For those of you who may not know, I attempted this whole “running” thing in 2009. I made it a goal to finish a half-marathon. I worked a little but never really committed to training. I did intervals, which was necessary for my body at the time. I was about 60 pounds heavier than I was for this race when I set my personal best in December of 2009. My time to beat would become 3:19:50 and it would stay that way until August 2014. Shortly after the half in 2009, I injured myself. And spent most of 2010 recovering from multiple injuries which spiraled into never really getting into running again.
Until I signed up for this race.
The race was at 5:30am on the Sunday morning of Labor Day Weekend. I had been preparing for the early start by going to bed earlier and waking up earlier all week. I even continued the trend by waking up early on Saturday and cheering on the 10k runners as they ran past my hotel!
We spent the Saturday in the park. I had read you should try to stay off your feet the day before a long race but I wanted to enjoy all the weekend had to offer. Which included riding Cars for the first time and doing multiple trips on California Screamin!
As the sun rose overhead and things started to get extra hot in the park, we headed back to our hotel where I enjoyed some HMR Chicken Pasta Parm and bananas. I ate a LOT of bananas over the weekend and not just the free ones in the concierge lounge! Then I took a nap. Which ended up happening until about 8pm when I woke up, laid out everything for race morning, and went back to sleep!
It’s a good thing I went to bed early because I was awake before my 2am alarm even sounded! I got dressed in my finery and ate my HMR oatmeal and drank 8 ounces of Via coffee at room temp because, well, the water in my water bottle was room temp?
After nervously dancing quietly around the room and making sure I had everything I needed, I woke up my husband to drive over to the Disneyland Hotel where we would park the car and head to the start. It was 3:15am and parking opened at 3:30 and I am never one to be late! My husband had not gone to bed early so he was probably a bit cranky but I don’t think I even noticed!
We got to the hotel, hit up the lobby bathrooms, and then wandered around near the finish line. I met up with some Team #runDisney folks for a group photo and at about 4:40am, headed to my starting corral (with a quick portapotty stop on the way!).
Once I got to corral H, I knew I was in for a wait. We had about 30 minutes at that point until the sent the first corral off, but my corral wouldn’t start until 33 minutes later. I was a bit cranky with my corral placement going into the race because all of the earlier corrals had finishing times no greater than 15 minutes apart. Corral H had finishing times from 2:30 to 3:15 and of course my 10k in late May had me finishing right at 2:31. The secret I learned is that everyone pushes to the front of the corral, especially if you are anticipating being slower, so you can stop for photos without being swept. I had no desire to stop for photos (they have professionals!) and I could do character stops at some of my later Disney races — my goal was to stay strong and give the race my best, and I was worried I would spend forever dodging folks (I would later make peace with the dodging as I started at the front of corral H only to catch up to and dodge folks from earlier corrals).
While waiting in the corral, I got my last bit of pre-race fuel in! That’s right. I stayed in the Healthy Solutions box all weekend, including my race fuel!
The start was less thrilling than I imagined. I had read so much about Disney races where they set fireworks off for each corral. But that didn’t happen at Disneyland. And there was so much chatter from the hosts, I didn’t have time to get excited. Instead I just wanted the host to stop talking and let me run already!
Finally my corral started and I was off! I kept repeating “go out slow, you have a long way to go. start strong but slow.” and while I was slower than my 10k pace is now, I was still faster than my planned pace by over a minute! I was one of the leaders coming out of our corral and quickly caught up with corral G within the first mile. Oh and speaking of that first mile, there were TONS of spectators. It was super cool to see so many people supporting the runners. Except for maybe the guy who yelled “you’re almost there!” in mile one. I didn’t like him so much ;o)
The course itself ran outside the perimeter of California Adventure before turning into the back driveway of the park. It was there I saw the mile 12 sign. I joked out loud that we only had one more mile. Yeah that went over really well. I blame the “almost there” guy hehe.
There were bands all along the course, including in the back lots of California Adventure. I love the live music – never needed my headphones (which stayed tucked away for the whole race) between the attractions, spectators, and live music!
From the back road we entered the park. I expected it to be crowded through the whole race and I was not let down by that expectation. I have no photos from California Adventure because runners without manners were running crazy diagonals and hopping in front of all of the cameras. Literally jumping. Like stopping suddenly and jumping in the air. Next time I am just running into them. I saw someone else run into people stopping suddenly to pose for cameras. It’s not safe! I am all about walkers and I am all about people having fun. I get it. But it’s absolutely inconsiderate and UNSAFE to stop suddenly without looking around or to dart in front of people just to mug for the camera.
We ran through most of California Adventure which was super cool since I had been there with my husband the day before. My arms were starting to get warm as the sun rose and I knew my husband would be cheering along Main Street USA, so I took of my arm sleeves which were dripping wet at that point.
The area between the two parks was a super narrow path and both sides were slammed with spectators. It was crazy! I remembered reading the pacer guide which warned runners to not speed up from the thrill of the experience in those first miles and so I kept reminding myself to SLOW DOWN, enjoy the experience, run negative splits later when the course opened up more.
Seeing my husband along the course gave me a whole new shot of energy. I ran over, gave him a kiss, and handed off my dripping arm sleeves to a confused yet amused husband who would wander around after I passed and pick up a couple thousand steps during the race.
Disneyland itself was a neat experience. Although I had run through it for the 5k in 2009, it was still a fun experience. This is the part most people enjoy the most. However there weren’t many spectators outside of the employees (who were very very sweet) and I didn’t feel the same energy I feel running the city streets or along nature trails. It was a little weird but not in a bad way. I also think I still had a bad taste in my mouth from the negative experiences running in California Adventure which I tried to shake off for the next couple of miles.
Once we hit the streets of Anaheim, I felt myself getting my groove back. The streets opened up and there were still so many people along the course. It was super cool to see locals and tourists turn out with signs both for specific people but also for runners-at-large!
One of the highlights for me was running through the stadium where the Anaheim Angels play. I had been there for a game with my husband a few years ago, so I was somewhat familiar with the park. But it was a whole new experience to get to run the field and even cooler that the stands were filled with cheering spectators!
I purchase videos from MarathonFoto which included one of my running past the first base dugout. However I wish it included the audio when I was exiting. The announcer was saying that when we exited the stadium we only had… and then the entire audience in the stadium yelled “THREE MORE MILES!!!!!” I WAS PUMPED!
The last three miles were probably the hardest. I had stuck to my pacing and fueling plans and was on target to beat my practice half time which was slightly over 2:28. I hadn’t gone into this race with the intention of beating the practice time because I knew the course would be crowded and I just wanted to enjoy the race. But with three miles left and open streets ahead, I knew I no longer had an excuse. But those last few miles is where the crowds thinned and my energy wained. I took my third banana-squash Gerber (fourth for the day if you count the one in the corral) and allowed myself to walk the water stations a little longer than before.
That last mile seemed to go on forever. Part of it was a repeat of the back lot of California Adventure and then through Downtown Disney. The crowds picked up again and my energy picked up as well.
When I could finally see the finish line, I picked up my pace. I lengthen my stride and really pushed that finishing kick. I knew I could beat my goal and now there was an incentive to get that time as low as I could. The crowds were cheering and apparently I still had fuel in the tank!
Remember how I mentioned people should look behind them? Well I crossed that finish line pushing my legs as hard and as fast as I could. Except now I needed room to slow down… so I shot for the opening I saw along the finish.
Except the two people in red shirts did not need time to slow down. The young boy walked in front of me and I had a choice of hitting the boy, the photographer taking this picture or applying the brakes as I went the opposite way. Where the woman in the red shirt would slow immediately to a walk. So I tripped over her and apologized. She didn’t seem happy with me touching her but I had no choice. I stumbled between them and managed to regain control without falling on the pavement. I laugh about it now but one of us could have gotten really hurt. But it’s funny in hindsight. And since I bought the videos…
In the end, I finished. I finished faster and stronger than I ever dreamed. I am a runner. I am strong. I am healthy. And I have never been more grateful in my life of all of those who have supported me through this journey.
My husband and I volunteered to teach at a debate camp in New Orleans this past month. We flew in on a Friday night red-eye and I decided right before we hopped on the shuttle to see if there were any fun running events to keep me motivated. What I discovered was the Happy’s Running Club NOLA 5k which was happening that Saturday evening. So we arrived early Saturday morning, I took a nap, and then we were off to downtown New Orleans to sign up for the race!
First, let me just say that running in New Orleans in the middle of July in the early evening is a LOT different than running in San Jose early in the morning! Luckily, I had been running in Charlotte and Boston the previous week and spent a week in Florida the week before that, so my body was only mildly annoyed with the humid heat.
I was nervous upon arrival because I didn’t know much about the race other than it involved running in downtown New Orleans and it was affordable to register the day of. When we arrived I discovered this relatively small race had a fabulously festive atmosphere and there was clearly a tight knit running community in the area.
The registration and pre/post festival area was a parking lot off the main street where the race would occur. Just down the street in one direction was Harrah’s casino and in the other direction was the Superdome. The course itself was two loops up and down the main street with a small detour off the main drag. The course was relabeled a 3 mile race as they had issues securing the street needed to make the course a 5-k. However my GPS told me I still ran a 5k after weaving and zagging down three lane roads!
I wasn’t expecting to PR or even finish sub-30 because of the condition I was in after traveling and being out in the Louisiana summer. However, I wasn’t expecting that when I slowed for a walk at the 2-mile mark I would be taunted and “coached” by drunk pedestrians! I picked back up my pace and kept running until I was past the intoxicated crowd.
There is something really cool about exploring a new place via a race. From running through streets I wouldn’t have ever been able to run down, to meeting members of the running community, I got an opportunity to see the city from a local point of view!
The volunteers were fabulous, the course was solid, the random cheering groups that sprung up outside of bars was hilarious, and the other participants were all very supportive and friendly. A bonus was my husband standing outside one of the pubs cheering for me!
At the end of the race we got an opportunity to experience real Southern hospitality! Several restaurants provided free post-race food to participants, there was a beer truck, a local company offering samples of a low-calorie frozen electrolyte popsicle, and a live band. It was like a street party with everyone in running gear!
I am now motivated to try to find races on future trips. I probably won’t be able to do it when traveling for work but that won’t stop me from looking for other opportunities. And if we return to New Orleans around the same time next year, I will be back to run another NOLA 5k (3-miler)!
During my 34 weeks on the HMR Decision Free diet, I have traveled more than the average American. And while some of it has been for fun, the majority has been work related and thus relatively regimented. So when I decided to visit my sister for a week in Florida and we decided to spend three of those days in the land of Disney, I got a little anxious about staying in the box.
First, a spoiler, I survived! However I thought it would be helpful to write about my experience for others and also as a reminder to myself for future trips.
According to the WDW Web site:
“Guests with food allergies or intolerances are allowed to bring food into Walt Disney World theme parks and dining locations. When entering a park, simply inform the Security at bag check that someone in the party has a food allergy or intolerance.
Refrigerating and Heating Personal Food Items
Guests staying at a Disney Resort hotel who have items that need to be refrigerated should ask the Front Desk to have a refrigerator placed in the room, subject to availability. An additional charge may apply.
Please note that Cast Members are prohibited from storing, preparing, cooking or reheating any food brought into our Resorts or theme parks by Guests.”
I had no issues with Security and didn’t even need to inform them about the food I was bringing in, they must see a lot of things come through.
Before we left, I baked both savory and sweet HMR mini muffins using the oatmeals, soups and 70 shakes. You can find some of my recipes here. I portioned them out into individual servings that were equivalent of a half a shake for me and a full shake for my Healthy Solutions at Home sister.
I also packed a shaker bottle with two 800 shakes, a 70 shake, and a Benefit Bar. As pictured here:
We also each packed an entree that could be enjoyed cold (Five Bean casserole!), several types of sugar free gum, and a sandwich baggie full of various water flavor squeeze-ins like Crystal Light Liquid (mmmm Sangria and Strawberry Lemonade!) and Dasani Drops (Cherry Pomegranate FTW). The gum and water flavorings allowed us to change up flavors we were experiencing without increasing our caloric intake.
Next, we each packed an empty water bottle to refill throughout the park. We quickly learned you could walk up to vendors who had fountain drink machines and request cups of ice water for free! We would fill up our water bottles with refreshing cold water and play with flavorings. We also purchased various diet sodas and unsweetened iced teas when we wanted a special treat.
The secrets for me were front-loading and keeping myself occupied. I ate an entree before we left in the morning and drank a giant bottle of water. Then I made sure to always have a low calorie beverage in my hand (yay iced water!) so that I could drink whenever I was tempted with food. And I won’t lie… I was tempted! I never craved a turkey leg before (I have never had one) and it was all I could think about for an hour or so after walking past a booth selling them. But we moved away from that part of the park, I enjoyed a couple of flavored waters and bites of a benefit bar, and I stayed in the box.
I think it is easy to give up your diet when you are on vacation. Your schedule is switched up and you are relaxing. You can justify things because you “deserve” them or it’s a special treat. But what I asked myself was if I were never going to return to Disney World, could I live without ever trying X or Y? And the answer I figured out was that I would be fine.
And I am planning my return. My sister and I are all signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February! So if that turkey leg still sounds good after running 13.1 miles, I may let myself have a bite. But I will be in control of the food rather than allowing it to control me. I will plan for the food. I will also be in a place by then where I have not only transitioned into Phase Two but I will have lived in Phase Two for several months.
I am proud of my success of staying in the box but I also realize my vacation wasn’t ruined by not eating Gap foods. I didn’t need a turkey leg or margarita or mouse-shaped pretzel to complete my experience. This realization has helped me further separate food from my day to day life. Food is fuel and it can be a delicious experience but it is not the whole experience.
Now to remember this all as I head into two weeks of travel into major “foodie” cities like New Orleans!
Stepping away from weight-loss for a post and addressing an issue pertinent to some of the other themes of my blog. Something that has been bothering me for awhile but was magnified in recent months by an issue that occurred at the Walnut Creek Marriott in February as well as the response from the parties involved.
Before I begin, I should probably disclose that I am a white woman in my early to mid-thirties. My husband is black. Honestly, being part of a mixed race couple was never something that seemed out of place to me growing up in California. Maybe I am just lucky to have awesome parents who took every opportunity they could to educate me about racial, gender, and cultural sensitivity. Obviously it’s also because I am not a minority, but I never realized just how much microracism existed in our society until I started dating my husband.
When I first learned about the female Marriott employee ignoring the black high school students and educators on the elevator, I was frustrated and upset. I was angry that someone had made my husband and colleagues as well as high school students feel like they were second class citizens. That they were not worthy of a friendly smile and greeting by a member of the hospitality industry.
Here’s how this situation SHOULD have worked out. The woman, when faced with what happened and how it made people feel, should have acknowledged that what she did excluded people of a racial minority. She should have verbally acknowledged that her actions were hurtful. She should have sincerely apologized for the action and the emotional response it caused. What I have learned over nine years is that micro racism isn’t always intentional and even someone with good intentions most of the time can still be a perpetrator of micro racism. I am willing to admit that I too have at some point committed an act of micro aggression and may not have even realized it at the time. This “more subtle, casual form of bigotry” occurs daily and is sometimes so subverted that neither party is aware until the damage is done.
The problem is that the employee didn’t seem to think what she did was wrong. Based on the reactions from management, neither did they. My husband was stopped in an open lobby when it was convenient for management but then not allowed to have the conversation where he had been stopped. He felt confronted publicly but then could not react publicly per management. And in other moves, rather than attempting to arrange an actual meeting about the situation with the black coaches and students, management went to the white organizers to arrange a meeting, bringing another act of micro aggression into the mix.
The problem is escalated and the entire process drawn out, each step another reminder of the otherization committed by this employee. However at every step, no one at Marriott appears to acknowledge how the actions of the employee left their guests feeling.
The denial of racism by Marriott is racism. It is the refusal to recognize the feelings of customers. It is ignorance of how microracism is just as racist and perhaps more damaging than overt racism. And it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of all who learn that the customer isn’t always right if the customer has dark skin.
Because education is important to me, let’s examine some responses that Marriott could have made in addition to the individual employee. First is by going back to corporate roots. According to a letter sent to my husband, Marriott has a long history in dealing with diversity. It sounds like this individual employee (and then the management) should get some retraining. If the member of management had apologized, offered his contact information for follow up, and then acknowledged the stresses and emotional otherization along with arranging for follow-up training for the employee, I am certain in speaking to victims that this would have served as a more appropriate reaction.
When management failed, corporate could have taken similar steps to examine the incident and rather than dismiss the customers, examine the training being given at a corporate level regarding microracism. If employees and management don’t think it’s a “big deal” then there is something more that is wrong that just the initial incident. And then let the customers know that you are following up on the review of the training.
A hospitality company that fails to recognize the emotional harm inflicted by an employee is one that does not care about it’s guests. That’s not the message Marriott probably wants to send to it’s customer base. But when micro aggression goes unchecked and otherization of guests occurs by all levels of the organization, it is unfortunately the one we are left with.
As I have worked to increase my physical activity, I have found myself needing to fuel on-the-go. This combined with the travel demands of the job have left me playing with ways to increase the portability of the HMR shakes and cereals. This is one of my go-to recipes. It’s important to remember that these would be a low volume food — I make sure to have at least 8 ounces of water with each serving in order to help with the volume of the meal.
Spiced Rum Muffins
3 HMR Oatmeal packets
3 HMR 70 shakes – vanilla
1/4 cup DaVinci Sugar-Free Chai syrup
1/2 cup DaVinci Sugar-Free Butter Rum syrup
1 and 1/2 cups water
2 tsp baking power
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Use nonstick cooking spray quickly over mini muffin tins (I find the silicone mini muffin tins to be the easiest).
Begin by mixing the oatmeal, syrups and water in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat for two minutes. Stir and let cool for about five minutes. At this point the oatmeal will have cooked and soaked up much of the liquid but will still be warm. Add the shakes and baking powder by folding them in. The heat from the oatmeal will begin to activate the rising agents and over stirring will deflate the batter. You want those air bubbles being created in order to have fluffier muffins!
Gently spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven calibration – you want a nice brown color on top and a slight firmness to the muffin when you gently touch the top. After removing the pan from the oven, you will want to work to release the muffins from the pan relatively soon after baking or you risk the temperature issues between the heat of the pan and the cool air above causing the muffins to collapse. I like to use a butter knife if I have trouble just popping them out and then I put them on a rack to cool.
After muffins have cooled, I divide the muffins into 9 equal servings. Depending on which pan I use, I either get three or four mini-muffins per serving. I am on HMR Decision Free 3/2 with the 180 shakes, so 1/9 of this recipe counts as half of a shake for me (1/9 of the recipe is like a half an oatmeal or one 70 shake calorically). I then put the servings into snack bags and put them in either the fridge or freezer depending on when I plan on consuming them.
If you haven’t read my blog before, you may be unaware that I am always on the go. Which means I don’t always have the luxury to make shakes in the comfort of my kitchen.
That said, I love fancy coffees and giving up those special treats was difficult. Luckily, with the help of my travel milk frother, I have been coming up with some on-the-go specialties!
This one is the easiest and is a favorite staple in my current rotation. Order a medium black coffee in a large coffee cup (in Sbux speak that’s a grande in an venti cup!). That gives you room to add an HMR chocolate shake packet and optional sweetener (none for me). Then froth that baby up! The travel milk frother breaks down the shake powder and blends inside the coffee cup while adding a light froth on top. Enjoy!