Wow, I’m behind on posts in the weeks leading up to the races I have coming up. Trust me when I say…I’ve been busy!
When I left you about a month ago…I was getting back to running, easing my mileage back up, adding in some speed work and hills, etc. Right? Right. Not all at once, mind you. That would be Looney Tunes.
So…basically my easing back into things started with a race weekend. As you know from the previous blog, I ran (not raced) the Rodes City Run 10K with my friend Matthew. It was a good way to train, and I learned that small, climbing hills and even the 10K distance were a challenge for this now endurance-less distance runner. My endurance was shot. Gone. Kaput.
I knew this needed to change. I just wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it, especially on my own. That being said…I made a promise to not give up and to keep on going!
The following weekend, after Rodes, I was up to 7 miles for my long run (my PT wanted me to increase my long run each week by 1 mile). Not only was I the milk maid for the #KDFMarathon training run (this simply means I provide the bottles of TruMoo in coolers for those doing the training run. As we know, chocolate milk has been proven to be one of the most amazing recovery drinks around due to the protein:carb ratio). I’m lactose intolerant and don’t handle dairy well at all, so I can’t use this method…but a lot of these runners look forward to that little reward at the end. The run, however, was starting at SWAGS South. And this meant…we were running Iroquois. I guess I was about to test this hip flexor out against the hills of Iroquois Park. It was an all-female cast of characters for the KDF Race Ambassadors that day too!
Talk about trial-by-fire. My running partner, Matthew, joined me and while everyone else was going 10 that day…we were hitting up 7. It was nice to have company, because…once again…I had to do my own thing. I just hoped no one followed me as I did it, because that would really screw up the mileage. There were 2 options that day for those doing the entire 10. Run to the top of the park (recommended for the marathon runners) or run past that hill and go around the base to some other road. I didn’t pay that close of attention because Matthew and I were doing neither. We ended up running to the water stop at the base of the giant hill leading to the top of Iroquois. We grabbed some water…and then continued on around the base, turning the opposite way of the half marathon runners and going more toward the amphitheater. We didn’t quite make it there before needing to turn around, so we just sort of turned into a lot, found a path, and ended up way off where we needed to be to get back. Garmins paused and we crossed through the grass to the main road and got back to the run. The hills did slow me down, but it was probably the best way to get back to running on hills. There is no getting around them in Iroquois. I was tired as we finished up…but as I was the Milk Maid…I needed to wait around for the chocolate milk to be gone.
Which I ended up icing the last 5 bottles because it was after noon…and I had a 2:30 pm Louisville City FC match to get to. First kick. And it was a draw. No purple smoke that day. But we had gorgeous weather. And I got a sunburn. Life was good. Well, maybe not the sunburn part…
Well, that following weekend would be my first real test. And here’s why. I wasn’t allowed to jump from 7 miles up to 10 because…well…obviously injuries happen to me. A lot. And the whole point was to ease the mileage back up there. The challenge, however, was that there was no training run on tap. Why not? Well…two reasons…
Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Lexington, Ky, and the Papa John’s 10 Miler in Louisville, Ky. Most of my fellow local runners and ambassadors were taking part in either RTB (and my coach was providing the pacers), or doing the last leg of the Triple Crown of Running with the Papa John’s 10 Miler (aka: my favorite local race…and I couldn’t do it this year BOO!). My running partner, Matthew, was out of town on a family trip. So…there was me, myself, and I.
And on a morning in the low 40s…it was not easy for me to haul my butt out of my nice warm bed, do all my physical therapy exercises and stretching and get myself out the door to run by myself for 8 miles. I don’t mind running alone. I don’t. I do it all the time. I just prefer to run with people. It takes my mind off all the mental stuff. And it’s that mental stuff that tends to mess with me. So the sun was long up before I finished up the stretches and stuff and made myself get out on the road.
The first three miles were awful…and that was the flat part of the course I was running. All that being said, I found my stride when the hills came into play. And these are some pretty tough hills. I wasn’t worried about speed or time…just the miles…but I felt so amazing for those last five miles. And when all was said and done, I finished up in just over an hour. And I felt good at the end. I showered. My roommate made an great recovery breakfast for me. And the weekend was now officially on.
Did I happen to mention that a few other things happened that weekend that sort of altered the way my weekends as of late were rolling? As a side…I started prepping healthy and vegan meals for friends of mine. I love doing this stuff. The problem was, my little side business was growing faster than I could keep up with. I was spending Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday morning in my tiny little kitchen. And there was more stress than letting the cooking relax me like it had been. So, due to upcoming races and out-of-town trips, I cancelled service through May so that I could come up with a better way of doing this for people, that wouldn’t take up all of my spare time and still allow me the opportunity to help others. I’m still working on that. But for the first time in 2 months, I didn’t have to jump right into the kitchen to meal prep meals that I wasn’t going to even eat. That was also part of the issue. I was cooking for everyone else and letting my own food prep and nutrition slide. That wasn’t the point of this. So I needed to take a step back and figure it all out. It’s a work in progress.
My roommate and I did FINALLY get patio furniture for the balcony. She hung up some lights and now…I just want to have people over to kick back outside, eat some food, drink some wine, relax, and just talk.
Doesn’t it look amazing? I’m so happy with it. Since putting it all up, we’ve been dining al fresco pretty much every night for dinner. When it hasn’t been too chilly out. And I think that only happened once.
Let me fan-girl rave here, as well, about something I found and wanted to share with all you ice cream lovers.
That’s a coconut milk ice cream. It’s completely dairy free. And it is made from real ingredients. None of that low calorie, low nutrition, chemical-laden crap (Halo Top and Arctic Zero, I’m looking at you) that people actually buy. If you’re worried about calories to that extent, maybe you just shouldn’t eat ice cream. If you’ve found a happy, balanced lifestyle…a serving (1/2 cup) of Nada Moo will astound you. It’s the creamiest, most amazing non-dairy ice cream I have ever had. And I’ve pretty much had them all. Locally, I’ve only been able to find a few of the flavors. Vanilla…Ahhh is the only one I can find that I have yet to try. Otherwise I have indulged in, and enjoyed, Gotta Do Chocolate, Lotta Mint Chip, Cookies and Crème, That Snickerdoodle Dough, and Mmm…Maple Pecan. If you live in the Louisville area and spot any other flavor…please alert me!
Which now brings us to this past week. I got up to meet at Senaca Park for the training run for the half marathon. I was supposed to do 9. The group for th half was doing 10. I figured, if I felt good, and the hills didn’t kill me, I could do my first double-digit run since the Disneyland Light Side Half Marathon (which I did injured, as you recall). The running gods were with me. Matthew and I took on the hills of Cherokee Park and did, for me, the entire route as it was mapped out ahead of time for the training run. And these runs have been going on since Rebel Challenge weekend when I was in California. I walked around for most of these runs, showing up in the cold just to suffer longer than most as I was not allowed to run. This run felt so good and gave me the mental boost I needed. Double digits. And now…taper.
It was an all-female cast of KDF Ambassador characters that morning too. And I also ended up being overdressed, despite the 39° start. When I finished about an hour and a half later…I was dying in the sunlight. It heated up quickly. I was wishing I had gone with shorts at that point.
And this past month, I’ve gotten back into a training plan using my coach, incorporated strides after my easy paces, stuck to my assigned paces, and yes…have done 1 round of fartleks, and 2 rounds of 4x400s as far as my speed work goes. So, yes…I am incorporating it. Speed work and I are still…not friends. In fact, I normally wake up those days not feeling well because it does just wind me up. And I have yet to have speed work day go smoothly. But, at least I’m out there getting it done, right?
Oh…and with the free time I have at the moment…I also snuck in a bit more “ME TIME” by going to the movie theater to see Beauty & The Beast. And it was a beautiful, amazing movie. And I’m glad, after putting it on the back burner and never having a moment to just go see it…that I finally made time.
Tapering because I have 2 weekends in a row of half marathons coming up. I think I’m running 8 with the group this weekend. And that’s it. That’s what I’ve been up to. Pretty boring, right?
Stay tuned…I’m sure there is more to come. But I need to foam roll and get some sleep…because it’s another wake up at the ass crack of dawn morning with body pump and some cardio after. But, hey, I’m getting stronger and faster and better…and that’s only for the better.
Oh yes…you know what?? It was only a matter of time before Disney lured me back to the other coast. So often, for convenience, you see my Run Disney posts from Disney World. Let’s face it…Florida is a lot easier to get to than California. But…I have a goal. An achievable goal. And that is to run ALL the Disney Races. So, you know, eventually I had to return to Disneyland. I hadn’t been here in over 3 years (I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2013).
It was good to be back. The whole thing, however, was unraveling from the very start. Let me start at the beginning…
After getting back from my trip to Birmingham to visit my family over Christmas, I realized my OTHER…note that I say…OTHER hip was starting to twinge at me. I had to run a lot of hills in my parents’ neighborhood…there is no avoiding them…so I chalked it up to that and went about my training…with very little slowing me down. Over the New Year, I did my last training run of 14 miles ahead of my taper for the Star Wars Light Side Half while in Columbus, Ohio. It was after this run that the hip really started to get angry at me. In fact, that day, I was hobbling around and this started to concern me. I felt better the next morning though, a Monday, and went out for my speed work. I did that fine, just slightly missing my assigned pace. Drove back to Indiana, did grocery shopping, and felt okay. Got up on Tuesday and went for a run. The hip twinged a few times, but I slowed down and got it done. I felt fine afterwards. And then…on Wednesday, I got up to do my run and stretches ahead of my spin class and…I couldn’t get through my one legged squats without cringing. I went out and started my dynamic warmups and had to stop. I sat outside and cried. The left hip was not happy. I went to spin…and it did fine there…but running wasn’t happening. It was rough from there on out.
I contacted my former physical therapist, and asked her opionion on what the issue might be. She gave me a few stretches to do…and Cathy researched, figuring it had to be my hip flexor and not the labrum as the pain was presenting itself differently. I wasn’t so sure, but went with it, adding some hip flexor stretches to my routine, in lieu of the dynamic stretches and plyometrics. I went to spin 2 more times…but other than that, I rested this hip.
I even put in a call to my orthopedic doctor, but he was booked solid through after I was already leaving for this race series. I was told he would call and go over things I could do. When I didn’t hear from him Friday or Monday, my panic mode kicked in. I called Tuesday, leaving a message that I was leaving on Thursday morning. No word.
But this craziness doesn’t stop there. Wednesday night rolls around and the third on this trip, my friend and Cathy’s sister, Amanda, comes over. You see, we paid for her to come on this adventure with us. She always wanted to see California, and figured this would be a fun way to do it. Girl’s trip…WOOHOO!! She was pretty excited leading up to it…and we stayed up a bit that night discussing what we would be doing, while I prepped breakfast for the morning before the early airport journey. Then, we crashed out.
Apparently, around 1 am, Cathy said her sister knocked on her door and said that she was sick. Cathy got up and got her some of my tea…it’s SO good on the stomach…and that didn’t help her stomach issues. At about 3:30 am, Cathy heard me watching my Instagram story…and knocked on my door. She asked if I had anything that could help Amanda out. All I had were Rolaids, so we tried that.
No go. When I got up with my alarm at 5 am to stretch and then get breakfast ready, it was apparent that Amanda was not coming with us. So…Cathy and I made breakfast, and Amanda called her husband to take her home. He said this was probably brought on by anxiety…which is weird, because Amanda has traveled further than California with us before with no issues. I’ve never seen her as a nervous traveler. So…who knows.
Cathy and I packed up our stuff and her mom picked us up to go to the airport. We checked in and walked the terminals until it was time to line up for boarding. We got settled on our flight out of Louisville to Phoenix, Arizona. Cathy, thankfully, slept for about 3 of those hours. When we landed, I called my orthopedic doctor’s office and talked to the receptionist. I explained that I was told he would call before I left, and here I was, on my way to a race weekend with 2 distances on tap, a sore hip, and no answers. She actually went and got him out of a room to talk to me. After listening to the symptoms, he said it sounded like a hip flexor strain and that a cocktail of Tylenol and Ibuprofen would help with that. I thanked him and said that, more than likely, I’d be making an appointment with him after this weekend. But now I at least had a plan.
The flight from Phoenix to Burbank, California was short and sweet. We disembarked in the rain and chilly weather. It was warmer in Louisville than it was in Los Angeles that day. Go figure. We got our rental car and headed out to grab lunch at In-N-Out Burger (their fries are gluten free…so my lunch was fries. Healthy, I know!). And then, it was onto the hotel to check in and then…yep…head over to Downtown Disney and enter into the Disneyland Hotel for the expo. This did involve going through security to get into Downtown Disney, and then a downhill descent into a parking garage to get my race bib. I was in the first corral and one of the lower numbers, so it was pretty easy-going. With that, we walked back up and into the hotel proper to duck into the Exhibition Hall and to take in the rest of the expo…as well as pick up my t-shirts. I was determined not to spend a fortune at the expo, so Cathy kept me away from the Garmin table. HA! But, as it was, I was already needing to spend over $100 on compression shorts, a recommendation from my former physical therapist after seeing my post about the hip flexor strain on Facebook. So…that happened. I went to get in line for the official merchandise, but was told it was over a 2 hour wait. I had other things to do, so I texted my friend, Melissa, who was coming in for the races the following day to see if she could pick them up if the line wasn’t crazy. She agreed to do just that. So, with my new compression shorts and a couple of new (and needed) BondiBands for my running costumes, we left the expo and went to return things to the hotel room. The rest of that night is a blur. I don’t even think we ate dinner. I stretched, iced, foam rolled and went to bed.
Friday was all about Los Angeles…and we hit it hard! We woke up early and prepared a
breakfast from the stuff I had on hand. We had brought some of Annie May’s Sweet Cafe’s sandwich buns with us…so I loaded them up with some peanut butter I brought and placed some sliced banana on top. It was SO good. And it was just the right way to start off the day. We hauled down to the car, grabbed some coffee at a local place called Coffee Code, then we were making our way down to the California Science Center. We alotted plenty of time to get through morning traffic and it paid off, but we still arrived about 30 minutes before the place actually opened. That was okay, though, because what we were not aware of at the time was that the California Science Center was right next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which, for you runners out there, you will know as the place where Joan Benoit Samuelson crossed the finish line to win the very first Olympic Women’s Marathon! I was all about standing around and taking pictures (and doing videos) of this place. And that was a good way to kill some time. After a little stroll here and there, we entered the California Science Center and got ready to go see the Space Shuttle Endeavour. I think Cathy was determined to be the first there…and while we were the first on the escalator, we were definitely not first over to the shuttle…but they weren’t too busy at the time. We pretty much skipped much of the exhibit to jump right to the good part…the space shuttle. Although, we did pause to touch one of the wheels in the exhibit, because when you have the opportunity to touch something that has been in space, you touch it!! Space shuttles look fake to me, when I see them in person. It’s bizarre. That being said, Endeavour is beautiful…and the lengths that had to be taken to get her to California is still a fantastic story. We stayed and shopped and then went to seek out more of the center, taking a wrong turn, then turning around and discovering that in addition to the space shuttle, they had an Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini capsule as well. Three more points of interest…and we went and took in each and every one of them.
From there…we made another long drive (seriously…how do those of you who live/work in LA survive…it takes hours to get places!) to make our lunch stop…Erin McKenna’s Bakery in LA. This is her third shop and I have, proudly, been to all 3. Love her stuff. We each got bagels for lunch with vegan cream cheese…and then a box of goodies to bring back to the hotel to have during the time we were staying. This included 2 scones, a doughnut and a cinnamon roll – all gluten free and vegan. And, yes, delicious! Our next stop was supposed to be Pressed Juicery in the same area for one of their Freezes…but the Pressed Juicery there was not a Freeze shop. So, with a little Google-fu…I found one that wasn’t too far away and we drove down there. We parked in a parking garage and went to go get our treats. I wish we had this in Louisville…it’s ice cream made simply from real juice and topped off with healthy goods. Seriously…we need this. We walked around while we ate and then went back to the car. Turns out the parking garage where we parked was for customers of a grocery store only. And we needed a receipt to get out. So, we had to go inside and buy some stuff, which worked out. I picked up some AMAZING kombucha (I am obsessed, but when you have tummy problems…it helps!), some water, and a few other goods. With receipt in hand, we were out and back on the road. This time, back to Burbank to hit up a boutique store called Pin-Up Girl Boutique. I
have friends in California who rave about it and my good friend Tawn actually sent suggestions of what she’d like to see Cathy and I try on. I was a bit more into this than Cathy was, but we tried it all on, and the sales people were lovely, and I really wanted to buy it all…but…it was only my first full day in California and I couldn’t drop $150 on a dress at that moment. I will be shopping there though! It took 2.5 hours to get from Burbank back to the hotel near Disneyland. It was late…and I had a race in the morning…so…dinner was an orange and a Glutino gluten-free toaster pastry. Not what I would usually have for dinner before a race…but it was all we had at the time and really all we had time for.
In the morning…it was time to do the…
Star Wars Light Side 10K
Race: Star Wars Light Side 10K
Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Date: January 14, 2017
Compression shorts…KT Tape…and ACE Bandages.
Welcome to my morning. I got up about 30 minutes before Cathy’s alarm was to go off, just to get myself ready. This meant doing my hip stretches that I found for hip flexor issues and the others I’d been doing for awhile. I also took my Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail my orthopedic doctor had mentioned…both the night before and that morning. Normally, it is not recommended to medicate before a race, but, dammit, I needed to get through 2 in 2 days…I was willing to do just about anything at this rate.
Cathy got up with the alarm and we ate a light breakfast, as we had extra large bananas (Walgreens only had King Kong sized bananas when we went there for ACE Bandages) to split on race mornings…so it was a basic nosh on dry cereal with some water. I went to change into my outfit for the day. Not the normal running gear as I was costuming as Rey, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I wore my compression shorts though, and Cathy wrapped the ACE Bandages around my torso and left thigh, just as the video my former physical therapist sent to me. She secured it with the clips and put tape over those. My right foot (the one that the plantar flared up on a month or so prior) was taped and I put on the capris and the costume top I was using. My hair went into the standard pigtails and my new BondiBand I picked up at the expo went on my head. No compression for this one. The costume didn’t allow for it. But…despite the hip issues, this was the shorter of the races. I figured, while it would feel weird not to have compression sleeves on my legs, I could handle it for 1 race.
I got pinned up and we were out the door, stepping into the unseasonably cool California morning air, joining the myriad of other runners that morning at the crosswalk to step onto Disneyland property and enter into Downtown Disney. There was a security checkpoint to go through first. They searched bags if you had them and, some people, randomly, were sent through the metal detectors. I had no bags, so I was an easy pass. Cathy’s backpack is clear…and the security people LOVE that. Makes her journey through the checkpoints easier.
We strolled past a very crowded Starbucks and continued on toward the staging area. As we got to the other security checkpoint, my friend Melissa texted me and asked where I was. I told her I had just passed through Downtown Disney. She and her husband had just gotten into Downtown Disney…so they were on their way. I told her that Cathy and I would wait just past the checkpoint…and that’s what we did. We saw a LOT of BB-8 costumes…and a few Star Trek costumes too. HAHA!! Ah, the Trekkies are hillarious! Melissa arrived, dressed as Maz (also from Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Paul (that’s her husband) was Boba Fett. We hugged and both she and I limped (her hip/knee had been a problem since her first marathon the weekend before…can you say BEAST MODE?!) over to the staging area. Of course…more pictures had to happen…last minute bathroom breaks…I had half a banana to eat…that sort of stuff. We did have to start thinking about heading to our corrals, though…so we walked together until I had to break off to head to Corral A. Melissa gave me a tight hug…told me not to even worry about my time and to just have some fun. And if she and Paul caught up to me if I had to walk it…they would join me. I love my friends. Seriously. I love them.
I got to my corral in time for some of the morning banter with our race emcees that morning. They were actually quite funny. And Disney spares no expense, for sure. I LOVED that so much of Corral A was in costume!! There were LOTS of Princess Leia’s…for obvious reasons. In fact, the first woman to finish was dressed as Princess Leia…which seems fitting, for sure. I was trying not to have a meltdown or panic attack due to my hip. I knew one of two things would happen. I would get to that start line and take a few steps and be able to go…or I would have to walk the 6.2 miles to the finish. Whichever it was, I was going to get to that finish line.
After the National Anthem was sang by a Disney cast member, the wheelchair race was sent off first. Only a few minutes later, the corral was discarding any mylar blankets or other clothing they brought to keep warm. No baked potatoes allowed across that start line…it would screw with the timing. The countdown was given…the fireworks went off…and Corral A was underway. I walked up to the start mat, then took a few tentative steps at a jog…then kept it conservative at the jog, realizing that while the hip twinged a few times, I could run. Not all out fast or anything…but I wasn’t struggling either. And so…the race was on.
That being said, my intention to stop and use the photo ops along the way…went to the wayside. Once I got moving, I was afraid that if I stopped, the pain would settle and I wouldn’t get started again. So, I just ran…and prayed a little…that my ACE Bandage would hold…that my hip wouldn’t do something awful. Let’s remember…I had a half marathon looming the next morning. The goal was to just run this and still be able to walk around at the end of it. My friend Melissa had warned me about the one and only hill (you get sent through this tunnel thing…so down a hill…then through…then back up, but the rest of the course is flat. F-L-A-T. Which is infuriating to me, as I ROCK flat courses, and if the hip had been behaving…I probably would have kicked this course’s ass. UGH! Seriously, it feels like I can’t catch a break.
That being said…I almost broke the don’t stop rule when I saw the life-size, moving around, BB-8 on the course for photo ops!! BB-8 is my FAVORITE…and I was SO tempted…but I knew stopping probably would have been worse…so I kept going, with very little pain at all. I ran the streets…through the parks…pushing on past the water stops. For a 10K, I don’t run with a fuel belt, but the cold air and my slower than usual pace meant I wasn’t really dehydrating myself. My first mile of this race was the slowest…my third…the fastest. I slowed it down between miles 4 and 5…but picked it up when I knew the last mile was ahead. I’m not talking breaking any speed records. I never got faster than a 7:38 pace (and that was mile 3)…but I wanted to finish strong. And I saw that finish line and just went for it. I could hear Cathy screaming at me from the cheer squad seats (she got in there somehow…I never know how she pulls these things off)…and powered over that finish line.
What really kept me going…the fact that I knew the medal for this race was BB-8. I
walked through the finisher’s area, getting my medal…a mylar blanket…a box of goodies and some water. And then…I made my way out to the staging area, where Cathy met me. She was going on-and-on about my time and how she was checking the tracking and going, “Well…she’s running…that’s good!” HA! They had some fun photo ops out, so while the lines were still short, we took advantage of those. Then…it was time to head back to the hotel. Our friend Tawn was coming in from Fresno that morning (she left SUPER early to get down there around 9 am)…and I was ready to shower and eat some real food. The problem was, the exit was blocked by racers. Okay…turned around…and tried to go through one of the hotels, but instead of asking someone, Cathy just kept turning corners out of the lobby, and then put us in an Emergency Exit area…where we got trapped. TRAPPED! Insert me starting to bitch about being cold and wanting a shower…and now being stuck. We finally got out, thanks to the help of some of the Disneyland employees…and after asking if we were okay or needed water, we were now on the road back to the hotel.
I showered. And then I rested a little while we awaited Tawn’s arrival. We had a reservation for a breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen. And Tawn arrived in time to change, do her makeup and for us to get to the restaurant, get pictures with Goofy, and get seated. It was the best way to kick off Day #1 of Disneyland adventures for sure.
We spent the entire day at California Adventure…and that night, my friend Alison and her family drove down to meet us at the Pizza Press for my traditional gluten-free pizza before a race. She and her family are amazing, awesome, and just all around good people. It was a blast…and I’m glad I FINALLY got to meet her in person. And her son, Evan, who we nicknamed Mr. Incredible a few years ago. He really is incredible! We sadly did have to say our goodbyes though, because Sunday’s 3:00 am wake-up for a 5:30 am race
Oh…so my official results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K are that I finished in 50:13. Not too bad given the circumstances!! I mean…FOR REAL! I was 296/11,606 finishers overall. I was the 33/6816 female to cross the finish line. And I was 5/1216 runners in my age division. This hips issue is driving me nuts. I can’t even fathom how much better I could have done had I been able to just go for it. Seriously…these results are both amazing…and frustrating at the same time! Given the circumstances…I will take it!!
The rest of the day was fun at Disneyland…but at the end of the day, the hip was done and my limp was starting to return. We turned in after the pizza stop and I took my last round of the Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and turned in for the night. The following morning…did not go as smoothly…
Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon
Race: Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon
Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Date: January 15, 2017
My alarm went off at 3 am. My friend Tawn was up and in the shower. She’s a Run Disney vet and is AWESOME at the routine. Wake up early…get out the door…do race…do the parks. She’s not a runner, but she comes out to cheer and to just…be there at the finish line. So, while she was in the bathroom, I got up to take that Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and to stretch. I took a few steps toward the table I had things set out on…and knew that today I was in a whole heap of trouble. I was limping. I was limping bad. I was sore…and I had a 13.1 mile race ahead of me.
THIS. WAS. BAD.
I might have cried as I did my hip stretches and foam rolled. Cathy got up just before the alarm that morning, and we started to just roll through race morning prep. While Tawn did her makeup and hair, I got dressed and Cathy prepped some KT Tape to put across my hip flexor. We did that…and I pulled the compression shorts on over that…then she did the ACE Bandage wrap. Over that went my running shorts and then…the BB-8 running sparkle skirt I purchased SO long ago. Seriously…my hip was being held together with tape, bandages, and a lot of prayer. I was not in a good place, physically or mentally, on half marathon morning. Not one bit. But, I finished getting ready, having to modify the bra top costume due to the low 40 degree weather in Los Angeles that morning. I was NOT expecting these temps there. Luckily, I had a bright orange shirt with me and it became the base layer. I was layered everywhere…sports bra, t-shirt, BB-8 bra top on top…KT tape, compression shorts, ACE Bandages, shorts, and a skirt on the bottom half. And every step…a challenge. I ate my cereal to put something in my stomach and filled up my water bottles on my fuel belt with my nuun and water. I grabbed one of the Godzilla-sized bananas for pre-race eats and the three of us were out the door, pretty much right on time. I was not nervous like I was before the 10K. Walking was a challenge…so I was downright freaking out. I think I cried a few times on the way to the crosswalk to get over to Disneyland property and through security. I branched off to the NO LINE group and held my cell phone up over my head as we went through the metal detectors. Tawn and Cathy got through bag check quickly and we were making our way past the overrun Starbucks on the corner. There was another one further in that was never as busy…so we did joke about that a little. We got to the staging area, and I hadn’t heard from Melissa and Paul yet…so we just moved out of the way and listened to some of the music.
At this point…I think I had an all-out meltdown. Both Tawn and Cathy were quick to give me hugs and reassurance. The thing was…I was hurting. And a half marathon is NO JOKE!! Cathy said that it was possible that this race would be just like the last one…where I take a few steps and it’s all good. I hoped she was right. I dried my eyes…got more hugs…and they sent me off to get into my corral.
Same system as before. No Melissa or Paul to hug. I wasn’t sure if they’d pass me or if I’d see them that day…but I stepped up to Corral A and got inside. And I felt, very much, like I honestly didn’t belong there that morning. The race emcees were back for more fun this morning, and they kept the mood light. I was shivering, not completely from the cold…but my nerves were creeping in. I never get nervous before a race…but I knew that I was going into this at about 50%…and it scared the shit out of me.
The National Anthem was played beautifully by a band and soon the wheelchair racers were off. My corral ditched the mylar blankets or clothing keeping them warm and we all started to move up a bit more at the start line. When the countdown happened, the fireworks went off, I walked toward that start line and took a few tentative steps at a jog.
PAIN!! It was unpleasant pain from the start, but I was in the flow of runners, so I just pressed on, without pushing too much. I thought so hard about ducking to the side and just walking…but I didn’t. I kept my pace easy…and I just did what I could. Once again, though, my plan to stop for photos went out the window. Any stopping today would be the worst thing possible…because as I learned at the Boston Marathon…it hurts SO much worse to start back up. I hit the underpass hills again…and managed to navigate those and started through some of the parks. I paid no attention to time clocks…I was focusing in on my form as best as I could. I had to pass up the BB-8 photo op again…which sucked, since I was dressed as BB-8…but it was the only decision that made sense to me. Running this didn’t make sense…but I paid a HELL of a lot for this race challenge…it was happening even if I had to slow to a walk.
But then…something fantastic happened. As we came out of the park around Mile 4…I hear and see Cathy and Tawn, just screaming at me from the side of the route. It was amazing. Tawn recorded it and you can hear Cathy talking about how my form looked good and all that. I was hurting…but it wasn’t bad at this point. I could manage…even though I was wondering when I would have to drop to the side and take it to a walk.
We exited Disneyland soon after and hit the road. As I rounded the corner, I heard someone yell, “HEY! IT’S R2-D2.” Wrong droid!!! I am in orange…BB-8 is orange. R2-D2 is blue. SHEESH!! The cheerleaders that lined this portion of the course was uplifting and it did make me move a little bit faster as I went past them. Miles 5 & 6 ended up being my fastest, and also put me at a 10K time faster than the 10K I ran the morning before. Cathy had been tracking me as she and Tawn went to get coffee and explore some of Downtown Disney and this fact impressed her for sure.
But it started to get rough soon after this. Much of the crowds disappear at this point. But, there are plenty of people running with you. But…Mile 9 going into Mile 10…was the best. The 501st is out in all their gear. You have just this long line of Star Wars characters and it is just…fantastic. I mean, I’m running through and everyone is in character. There was a phenomenal Obi-Wan Kenobi on the corner…with an accent and all…and that was SO amazing to me. It was uplifting. But after I was past them…that was when the pain really started to rear it’s ugly head. My pace slowed way down for the last three miles…but at this point, I knew I was only 30 minutes at most away from a finish line. I gritted my teeth…cried…a little. Maybe a lot. And knew my right foot was blistering, which never happens, but I was now changing my stride to accommodate my hip. UGH. I started to really focus on each step, trying to to baby the hip, but trying to to push it too much either.
I thought I had picked it up for the final mile, but that ended up being my slowest mile of the day. Go figure. I could hear that finish line, and when I saw it, determination and stubbornness took over and I ran it as hard as I dared and could manage. The announcer said, “It looks like we have a BB-8 coming in…Karen Brady!” That made me at least smile, so at least my finish picture isn’t ugly crying or something. I heard Cathy and Tawn just ahead of me as I limped past the photographers. Cathy called me over for a picture at the finish line which hobbled over for. They said that they would see me on the other side…and I went to get my finisher’s medal for the half marathon, my mylar blanket…and then my extra medal for completing the Star Wars Rebel Challenge! After that, the snack box and water were handed over and I exited the finish area to re-enter the staging area…and Tawn and Cathy were there to hug me and greet me. And I cried…again.
We didn’t hang around much after this. I was hurting and we had Disneyland to properly explore that day. We decided to head back to the hotel so I could shower, we could eat breakfast (Cathy split the last of the sandwich buns and we split the donut 3 ways) before heading out for the rest of the day. We had a big day ahead of us…and while it was hard to move…I wanted to get the most out of my time with Tawn and my time at Disneyland. We even did a thing…by getting the names of the Schulyer Sisters from the musical Hamilton on our Mickey ears and posing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!! We are theater NERDS! Honestly, in order to even be able to move that day, I put on a pair of leggins, and had Cathy do the ACE Bandage wrap I wore during the races, and I put my BB-8 skirt back on…because…I needed to cover the ACE wrap.
That being said, this pretty much meant I couldn’t pee all day. Luckily…I never really had to. And I managed a full day at the park…had a blast…and ate an incredible dinner that night at Cafe Orleans. Seriously…worth every painful step.
I guess some results are in order. The official race results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:47:53. I was expecting 3 hours, so this was amazing to me. Seriously, even I can’t figure out how I pulled off that time. I was 422/12434 finishers overall. I was 57/7028 women to cross the finish line. And, I was 14/1253 in my age division. Not too bad under these very hostile circumstances. For real! It still pisses me off because this was SO FLAT…and I want to run it as hard and best as I can. Flat courses and I are BFFs. But my body has let me down again.
My orthopedic doctor was unable to see me until February 1. My hip is still…not good. All running is off…I’m walking, spinning, and just trying out other non-impact means of just keeping my endurance and fitness up until I can get some answers.
The mileage is totally going up as my race in early September creeps closer and closer. And as there weren’t any running plans being tossed around with the normal group I run with…I made plans to run with a couple of speedy guys in Frankfort, Kentucky on Saturday. We were doing 18 miles. And for the first 13 miles…we were running the Kentucky History Half Marathon course (which is hilly hell)…and then we were going to run to their neighborhood for the additional 5 miles.
This started off really well, and the first 13 miles went great. After that…it all came apart and went to hell. We started off this massive hill and it was just like…my legs didn’t want to move anymore. They were feeling fantastic up until that point. And this…this just killed me. Nothing messes with your head more than having a great run go bad. I felt bad, slowing down the speediest of the group, as he wanted to do the 18 miles at his MP, and I was running at least a minute slower than he needed to be running. When I hit the hill…it was even worse. The struggle…was more than real. It occurred to me that my September race was going to be way harder than this, and the fact that this course completely shattered my confidence I had been building up.
It was brutal and after I sent one of the runners on, and the other one never got past the 13 mile mark because he stopped to talk… got myself a bit lost and turned around in a city I really know nothing about. I might have cried a little. And ugly crying and a bad run make everything worse. SO…I ended up turning around, heading back toward downtown, and rounding off the mileage on my own. I got there, but it wasn’t pretty and I felt pretty defeated the rest of the day. But, on the plus side, I did get the mileage in and I stepped a bit outside of my comfort zone to do it too.
So, when I went on my little shakeout this morning, I had a little heart-to-heart with myself as I ticked off a couple of easy miles. And that is…my new focus…and I leave it to The Doctor to share it with you…
I get so down on myself and hard on myself regarding the paces I can hold, maintain, or even run at different points of the week. Right now, I need to just focus on the whole…running thing…and less on how much or little time it takes me. Let’s face it. A 7 mile hill climb at the start of a marathon is going to SUCK…and right now, I should focus on just prepping myself mentally as well as physically by simply setting the numbers and data aside…and basically…just running.
And with all that being said…the best thing ever happened this past week as plans for my September race started falling into place. One thing that is going to be entirely necessary is having people around to get me through what will likely be a challenging and…humbling race. And all the ladies that are traveling with me are on board. And I feel a LOT better about at least my post-race stuff thanks to that simple fact.
The gang is getting back together. It’s been way too long since the four of us have gone on an adventure. And I promise not to get my purse stolen this time…
Anyone else watching the Tour de France? I was watching it yesterday and was just blown away by the way these cyclists command that course. They are amazing and inspiring. Seriously, it does make me want to get back on my road bike…but ever since taking that spill and having so much trouble unclipping…I just haven’t felt like risking my bones and body in another potential fall. So, I’m watching all these athletes cycling like mad on the roads of France and they’re just…FLYING!
And I get on a bike and I feel like…
True story! Well, the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, practice. I am going to look at getting my clips loosened…or possibly new pedals. We’ll see what happens after that. Fact of the matter is…I want to get back on my bike.
My other favorite thing this week…going over to Bryan & Michelle’s house on Friday night, eating Daiya pizza, watching Kung Fu Panda 3, drinking a little wine (Reggae Red Wine), and just having more laughs than I’ve had all week. Seriously…it was just the unwinding that I needed at the right time. And I love these two. Two of the best friends I’ve made since moving to the area.
And…SHE. BOUGHT. PIZZA. I. CAN. EAT! So much love! I was eagerly eyeing them in the oven ready to devour. We all know…pizza is my favorite!
I made Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores for dessert. I think Michelle now wants a kitchen torch (which is how I toasted said marshmallows)!
They were a hit!
Pizza party, Panda, and discussion of what a Chi Biscuit would include. HA!! God, I love my friends.
And that was pretty much my weekend! It was a decent week leading into the weekend. And when my Saturday night finishes up with dinner at Shalimar (mmm…Indian food!), it’s a good time.
Speaking of movies…last night I watched the movie Chef. It had been on my list for awhile, and all my friends kept telling me I had to see it. They were right. I loved it. It made me really want to go to culinary school. Maybe not to run a food truck…or…perhaps…to run a food truck. HA! If you haven’t seen it…get on Netflix and watch it. You will thank me for it.
So, that was pretty much my week. Sort of a bumpy ride…but more ups (mentally and physically, HA!) than downs.
How do you overcome challenges? Ever have a run fall apart on you? How do you mentally and physically recover? I want to know!!
Oh…it’s National Ice Cream Day…so…scoop up some goodness today!!
In the midst of everyday stresses and stressors, it’s always nice to have a little break from the things that are just…making you feel so BLAH about life and what you are doing with your life.
For me, this week, it was having my beautiful sister, Karla, drive up from Birmingham, Alabama, with her eldest son, my nephew, Landon. I didn’t know how much I needed her and the distraction of having her and Landon here to really just allow me to relax, smile, and be me again!
Family, especially my sister, is, apparently, the cure to what ails, troubles, and bothers you. I’ve been having…a not so amazing time these past few weeks…and, unfortunately, it’s something I am not really allowed to discuss. Censorship sucks, yes? YES! But…just trust me…the type of personality I have and the person I am…it’s been bothering me on a fundamental level, which, has added a lot of added stress to my already chaotic life.
But this weekend…was amazing. I love spending time with my sister…and it doesn’t happen often enough. So, her texts and calls that ask what I’m doing on certain weekends means…she’s coming to visit. And I LOVE when she comes to visit. She and I are best friends and sisters and just…have always been close. So, me living this far away for 11 years (YES…11 years as of Friday)…has not been easy on either of us. But here is some of the mischief that we got into this weekend, helping me to not even think about the bad and sucky things that have made a certain portion of a time of my day…a thing I have resented and even loathed at times over the past couple of weeks.
Here’s to sisters…and nephews…and family…and general FUN! They make the world right again.
1. Fish in the Water
One thing Karla and I had discussed for Landon to do while here was to go to the new water park in New Albany. Unfortunately, Friday left us with thunderstorm warnings and the threat of pop-up storms. So, at around 3:30…when she arrived and we left the office…the lifeguards were being sent home and the park was closing. So, Plan B…go to the YMCA and let him swim. He was swim tested and given permission to go to the life guard chair in the lap pool and to go down the slide in the kids pool. So, for a good portion of the afternoon…about an hour and change, that’s what he did. Cathy, Karla, and I all sweltered to death in the humidity of the pool area of the YMCA while he played and cooled off in the pools. It was worth it to see the smile on his face!
2. SUSHI TIME!
My sister commented a week or so ago about how delicious my vegetarian sushi looked when I Instagram-ed it and posted it to Facebook. And then…I had a brilliant moment of brilliance. My nephew, Landon, is a very, very, very picky eater. BUT…he does love cheese things. Cheese quesadillas, cheese sandwiches, mac & cheese….ALL THE CHEESE! With the excitement over sushi on my post, I thought of the perfect place for us all to grab dinner, that even Landon couldn’t turn his nose up and refuse to order anything. Dragon King’s Daughter to the rescue! For those of you who are not local, Dragon King’s Daughter is an Asian-fusion restaurant with two locations…one in New Albany, Indiana, and one in Louisville, Kentucky. The menu includes traditional fare from the Far East, as well as contemporary fare with a unique twist. They offer classics of Japanese dining such as lemongrass miso, vegetable, and sushi rolls, as well as a multitude of new creations including a mixture of East and West forms and flavors. On the kids menu…a cheese quesadilla…and for the adults…we all went sushi. My sister and I figured we could get a roll each and split one…so I got the Vegetable Roll, she got the Buffaroll, and we split the Green Acres Roll. Cathy went for the fishies…and got the Shrimp Tempura Roll and the Dragon King’s Daughter Roll. And after that…a trip over to the Comfy Cow for an ice cream dessert. What a great first few hours.
3. Playtime at the County Fair
It just so happens that the Floyd County Fair happens across the street from where I life. Convenient, yes? After dinner and dessert, we came home and walked over to the fairgrounds to scope out some rides and the barns with Landon. He went on three rides (he had 4 tickets, but he wanted his mom to ride with him on one he wasn’t sure about). He loved going to see the animals. And one of the highlights for me was seeing my sister crack up every time the goats bleating. Her laugh is so contagious. We all shared lemon shakeups and just walked around. After that…it was time for showers and then we were all down on the couch to watch Zootopia and then…they took over my room and went to bed and I crashed out on the couch so I could get up early and head out for my 12 mile run and get it done before too much of the morning was passed.
4. It Runs in the Family
One of the best things we decided to do, was to go for a short run together. After my 12 miler, I got home and Karla and Landon put on their running clothes. We hiked up to Sam Peden Park and ran a loop. It was hard for Karla, as she hasn’t run in a long while…and she’s not used to the crappy air quality of the Ohio River Valley, but she was a trooper and pressed on. I ran right there with her to encourage her…and Landon…he was busy chasing down the Army men who were running there. He beat quite a few. It was awesome. Landon has amazing speed and gorgeous running form. He’s a natural and I love watching him run. Needless to say, it was a great way to start the day as a family.
5. Wild Eggs
Breakfast was the next most important stop on Saturday. We stopped off at Highland Coffee for some coffee first…and then took the drive over to Westport Road to go to Wild Eggs. Landon already knew he wanted pancakes and BACON. He made sure to tell me that if I got an omlette, he wanted my BLUEBERRY muffin. Since I can’t eat the muffin, I was totally cool with this. It had been forever since I went to Wild Eggs for breakfast…but it was a nice return. They even have gluten-free bread and a gluten-free menu now. LOVE that. Yes…it even includes gluten-free pancakes, French toast and the like. That was exciting. But after 13 miles of running and a hike to and from the park…I wanted some protein. So I ordered the Surfer Girl Omlette (fresh spinach, wild mushrooms, tomato, cream cheese and onion and topped with diced fresh avocado, pico de gallo, sour cream and fresh alfalfa sprouts. Served with skillet potatoes). I got mine without the cream cheese and sour cream. My sister got the same thing, just without the mushrooms (she hates mushrooms). And Cathy got the Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict (green chili cheddar corn cakes,topped with chorizo, two poached eggs and queso fundido, pico de gallo, sour cream, green onions and avocado. Served with skillet potatoes and an Everything Muffin). And, yes, I got a blueberry muffin for Landon. He was pretty full after eating the two pancakes that were as big as his face and the bacon he ordered…but he took a few bites. The rest…came home with us and then went home with them today.
6. Pierced Ears
Okay, here is something that I didn’t expect to happen this weekend. My sister and I got to talking about earrings…and she brought up how her daughter (she’s 16 months) had her earrings work out perfectly…and how my mom (whose holes closed because she stopped wearing earrings) had just gotten her ears pierced a few weeks ago. I said that I keep saying I need to get it done but just haven’t pulled the trigger. I think a part of me thinks it will fail again. As a kid, I gave the pierced ears a try about 5 times, but always and an allergic reaction to them. My sister was the same way, but it worked for her as an adult. So, she told Cathy to pull into somewhere that could pierce my ears. We did. And now I sit here with beautiful 4mm white gold studs in my ears. Karla taught me how to clean and turn the earrings every day (3 times a day)…and the rest is history. So here is hoping that they work out this time around…because I have wanted to have pierced ears for a long, long time. Leave it to my sister to get me to do something like this on a short weekend visit. HA!
A shopping trip to a few of our favorite stores followed up that little adventure.
Because you can’t just spend the day shopping when you have a 9-year-old boy with you, we took Landon to the Renaissance Fun Park. We had discussed Go Karts…but opted, instead, for putt-putt. It had been ages since my sister and I went putt-putting. It was a lot of fun. The easy holes on the course they put together there are actually quite challenging. But we had a blast. Afterwards, Landon and I took on some air hockey…which he won…and then he played a few more games after that…until the money on his card ran out. It was worth every moment to see him out there laughing and being a competitive little boy.
One of the main reasons my sister aimed for this weekend was that the local professional soccer team, Louisville City FC, was playing on Saturday night. And, since Landon is a HUGE soccer fan, and soccer player himself, we thought it would be fun to take him to a match. I said I wanted to get him a replica jersey for him to wear during the match and she picked him up a hat and then got a t-shirt for Chace. I made sure Karla wore the logo t-shirt I owned to the match as well. They got some pizza for dinner and we settled into our seats at midfield to enjoy. I have never seen Landon so into an event as that soccer game. Seriously, he was shouting at the players and the refs…and it was just magical and fun and amazing. I bought him ice cream at half time because…it’s my job as Auntie…to spoil him and get him hyped up on sugar. HAHA! In the end, after a horrible call by a ref, we ended in a draw of 1-1…and Landon had hoped that some of the players would come over to the midfield (they usually do) so he could get pictures and some autographs, but they all returned to the locker room without coming over. He was bummed, but he still had a fantastic time, and I loved seeing him light up the way he did when Louisville City scored the first goal of the match!
9. Home-Cooked Breakfast
I gave my sister and Landon the option of grabbing breakfast out at a restaurant before they hit the road…or having me cook breakfast for them. Landon really wanted waffles (with powdered sugar, which he now LOVES thanks to Wild Eggs putting it on his pancakes), scrambled eggs…and bacon. So, my sister and I hit the grocery store for bacon (this vegetarian does not have bacon on hand), eggs, and a gluten-free waffle/pancake mix. And then, this morning, I got to cooking. I started the waffles first, knowing that would take the most time. He wanted the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles…so I made that happen for him. And, because we adults weren’t too sure we wanted waffles, we had gluten-free avocado toast with our eggs. I started cooking the bacon before Karla emerged from the bedroom, but she took over that so I could focus on toasting the bread, doing the waffles, and scrambling the eggs. It all finished up at the right time…everything done when it should be. Breakfast was served. And I didn’t take a picture of it, but Karla and I cook epic breakfasts together. And Cathy now has lots of bacon in the fridge for this coming week. Which makes her happy.
After that…they had to hit the road and get home…
It was hard to let them go, but I know Karla’s husband and other two kids were missing her and Landon like crazy. I just was having such a good time and all the time together went by way too fast.
They got home late this afternoon…and she said that they missed me as well.
It was a long, holiday weekend. YAY!! And, as is usual for me over the 4th of July…I was out of town. At a convention. In Indianapolis. Now, normally when I am up in Indy for this convention, my Saturday morning is spent running the Monon Trail. It’s gorgeous. Seriously. I always look forward to it. The past few years (last year I wasn’t able to run at all at this point), I have managed to get out there for my long run of 10-12 or so miles.
But, this past weekend, Saturday’s Monon Trail run wasn’t happening…
SO…on Saturday morning, I was down in the fitness center at 6 am…and on a treadmill to do 12 miles that morning. I started easy and worked up a ladder to a comfortable speed and then took it back down. It was mind numbing, despite the music (and to think, I almost left my iPod in my room). But, my training run was done.
And if that wasn’t enough punishment, I got up on Sunday morning to do my shakeout run. I decided to do an easy run for an hour…getting 7.36 miles in during that time.
I was feeling it Saturday and I really felt it Sunday. I hate running on treadmills. They seem to do more damage to me than road running does. I was sore through Wednesday, honestly. I don’t know how people do long distances on these things on a regular basis. My body couldn’t handle it!
My runs have been suffering since those treadmill runs. The hip was not mad…but not happy either. MEH. Not enough foam rolling in the world. Of course…the epic humidity with air so thick you could cut it with a knife…isn’t helping either.
But, despite the humidity and the fatigue from late nights, I’ve been keeping up with my training runs. Which…is impressive for me. It’s not been easy to get out of bed to just go outside and melt…but…
…I’ve been getting it done. It hasn’t been pretty…and I’m not always happy with the results on my Garmin, but I’m doing what my body is currently capable of…so, there is that.
OH…and this past week, I got to play around with recipes that I created. I made 6 different recipes…2 pasta dishes, a fusion pizza, a rice dish, a sandwich, and a dessert. I was quite proud of the results…all based off of Peter Cincotti’s recently released EP, Exit 105. Check out these images of the completed dishes…
Top (L-R): Island Spell Pizza (song: Palermo) – Jerk seasoned tofu, topped with onion, bell pepper, pineapple, cheddar cheese, and a Jamaican jerk coleslaw; Missing Sara Sammie (song: What’s Sara Doing?) – sammie layered with sweet potato, hummus, avocado (or guacamole), and kale; Unexpected Beat Tagliatelle (song: Long Way From Home) – tagliatelle pasta in a bechemel sauce and topped with shredded beets, goat cheese, parsley, toasted pine nuts, and toasted bread crumbs
Botton (L-R): Roamin’ Skies Pasta (song: Roman Skies) – my take on the traditional Roman dish – Cacio e Pepe – pasta mixed with butter, black pepper, Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses; Exit 105 Rice-A-Roni (Album Title: Exit 105) – my version of the San Francisco Treat (after all, Exit 105 takes you to the Golden Gate Bridge)…and it has been dubbed my “best rice dish in the history of ever”; Sexy on the Beach Ice Cream (song: Sexy) – a vegan ice cream made from coconut cream, pureed raspberries, pureed pineapple, chambord and vodka…just like the drink Sex on the Beach…
I love getting chefy.
So, aside from a little bit of work stress…that’s what’s going on thus far. Stay tuned as this weekend is going to be amazing. I can tell.
Sometimes the hardest things in life to do is to branch out of the norm and try something new. However, the only way to grow, to experience, and to become…is to step outside of your comfort zone. I certainly did that a couple of times this week…and it’s not easy…it’s quite scary…but it’s helping me more than I can even see at the moment.
As the holiday weekend is shifting into gear, and I have an extra day off from work, I’m trying not to focus on everything I’ll have to attempt to do to stay caught up at work the four days I’ll be there, and instead focusing on a few things that I get to enjoy while not working on Monday.
So…with that sort of attitude in mind…here are a few things that have made this week amazing.
1. Clipping Into A Road Bike
I made huge progress this week with riding my road bike. BB-8 has been sitting against the wall of my room in the apartment…but I wasn’t able to ride him until I had him properly fitted. And I had that done last week…and was eager to get on the bike and ride. It’s scary, using clipless pedals on a bike outside. But, my first attempt was twice around the parking lot without any issues. I was feeling confident on Friday night. And then on Saturday afternoon, I headed back out…deciding I’d still keep to the parking lot, but aim for mileage. So I did 5 miles. In my last mile…I was making a turn, and a car came out…and I panicked. I attempted to brake and forgot that I was clipped in, so I tried to put my foot down, was stuck, tried to unclip, but was now off-balance and BOOM…down I went. Totally crashed down on my right hip and side. The right hip is the injured hip, but, I thankfully have some nice padding there and just came out of it with a bit of road rash on my elbow and lower arm, a scraped up right knee, and a bit of a bruised ankle. I was fine…more embarassed than anything. The driver, a young 20-something, stopped and hopped out of his car, asking me if I needed help, but I was already unclipped and pulling myself back up. I told him I was fine and I took a few deep breaths, clipped back in, and finished my ride. After that, I had enough for the night.
2. Finishing up the Disney Animated Movies In Order Movie Marathon It took two (2) years, but last night, Cathy and I finished up our attempt to watch every single Disney Animated Movie (available on DVD or Blu-Ray, or for purchase to view on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon) in order from their theater release date. We started with Snow White over two years ago and last night wrapped it up with The Good Dinosaur. Zootopia comes out in a couple of weeks, and we will watch that after I purchase it, but as of last night…we completed our bucket list goal of watching every single Disney (and later Pixar) animated feature, including a few hybrids like Mary Poppins, Tron, and Tron: Legacy. It was a lot of fun revisiting some films…and realizing they were either better than I remembered (Oliver & Company)…or worse than I remembered (The Sword & The Stone)…and some I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised I liked (Planes and Planes: Fire & Rescue). Next up, after we view a few movies we have been meaning to watch, but had Disney taking over our lives…Spielberg movies. YAY!
3. Strawberries…Strawberries For Days…
On Sunday morning, I ran in the Run For The Berries 5K up in Starlight, Indiana. I love this race, and hadn’t run it since 2013 due to other commitments (2014 Buffalo Marathon) and injury (all of 2015). One of my favorite things about this race is the big bowl of strawberries I purchase after running. This year, I turned in an amazing time (not a PR), clocked a new fastest mile (6:48) and conquered some hills. I came in first in my age division as well…which was exciting. But one of my favorite things to do after the 5K and scoping out the festival is to drive over to Huber’s Family Farm and buy a LOT of strawberries. I got enough to use with my yogurt bowls, my PB&J Breakfast Bowls, and to make some homemade strawberry jam. YUMMY!! I do love my berries!!
4. The Most Perfect Soft Pretzel Wednesday
When you are a Celiac, simple pleasures like soft pretzels don’t happen every day. In fact, they happen very infrequently. Unless, you live near my local allergen-free bakery here in Louisville, Kentucky. Every Wednesday, Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, on Frankfort Avenue, host Soft Pretzel Wednesday, offering three varieties of pretzels each week: Salt, Cinnamon-Sugar, and Everything. And, every week they are amazing. But there was something so delicious about this past week’s pretzels. They were the perfect size. They had that perfect crust on the outside and chewy center in each bite. Serious pretzel perfection. I was one happy lady!
5. The Monkees So, it’s Memorial Day. And after my morning run and a little bit of final grocery shopping for stuff I realized I needed but forgot to put on the list, didn’t realize needed to be on the list, or just didn’t buy enough of something. So, while working in the kitchen and around the apartment, Cathy and I threw on the DVDs of The Monkees. I can still recite the episodes from memory…that’s how much I watched these. HAHA!! Seriously, you don’t get nicknamed Monkeegirl in school without having The Monkees to thank for it. It’s been amusing to revisit these episodes and just…relax and enjoy the holiday off of work. Their latest album was released on Friday…I haven’t gotten out to FYE to purchase it.
6. Outlets & Lunch with Amanda, Richie, and Cathy
On Sunday morning, Cathy & I met up with Amanda & Richie (that’s Cathy’s sister and brother-in-law) at the Outlets of the Bluegrass in Simpsonville, Kentucky for some shopping and hanging out and just escaping real life for a moment. Amanda said she needed help finding shoes for her maxi dress and I found her a cute, strappy pair. I finally replaced the Sketchers that I use as my airport shoes/spin class shoes (they slip on and off), I purchased a new sports bra, Amanda found some shorts, Richie got some shoes and shirts…it was a successful day. And then…we went to one of my favorite places to eat…Tazikis Mediterranean Grill in Louisville, on Shelbyville Road. LOVE their food. And they do a good job with food allergies…when they remember to prepare the dish properly. The past two times, they have had to remake my dish…but it gets fixed. They are normally much better than that. If you haven’t eaten there yet…you need to. Check to see if there is one in your area! Healthy, amazing food. I love their Dolmades Plate (the vegetarian stuffed grape leaves done gluten-free) and Cathy, Amanda and Richie got their favorites…the Lamb Gyro. I love good times and good eats with good friends!
7. Sweet ‘N Savory Food Truck & Steel City Pops
On Saturday, after the Strawberry Festival and before heading to Annie May’s for treats for that evening and the following morning, Cathy and I stopped by the Fleur de Flea at Waterfront Park. The main reason…Sweet ‘N Savory Food Truck. It’s under new ownership, but the crepes are still being done 100% gluten-free. And they are using all of Richard & Ashley’s recipes. The new owner, Brandon, knows the importance of keeping things gluten free as his wife is a Celiac. So the truck and recipes are in good hands. Brandon was on his own when we arrived, only one of his crepe stones functioning, and his help not having shown up yet. Service was slow, but as always, worth the wait. He was doing the best he could with what he had, for sure. I got one of my favorites…The Eccentric. OM NOM NOM!! And afterwards, while we normally would get the gelato, I had heard so much about Steel City Pops, we decided to try them out. Cathy got the Strawberry Lemonade popsicle and I went with the Pineapple. OMG…I’m stopping by the store on Bardstown Road and buying a bunch of flavors…these were phenomenal. All natural…gluten-free…vegan…and amazing. LOVE helping out local businesses!
I hope everyone has been enjoying their long weekend, spending time with people that mean the world to them, and eating amazing things!! And I hope everyone took some time to remember those who fought and died for this country that we live in and the freedoms we enjoy!
One of the best parts about receiving a monthly subscription box is the products I never would have tried and/or heard of without it. After Cuisine Cube…I needed a change. So, I opted to get a subscription to Conscious Box, which has become Bestowed. I love my little monthly treats and this one is affordable, and often has a blend of samples and full-size products.
I received the April box a few days ago…
And I’ve already delved into it.
This morning, I was prepping for a 6 mile run, and per the instructions of my sports nutritionist, I needed to get some fuel in my body before heading out. So, I went to the pantry and pulled down a package of one of the products I received a full-size sample of. It is like a granola (and we all know I love granola) and from a company called WholeMe.
WholeMe was created in 2003 by Krista Steinbach and Mary Kosir, two women who were dedicated to developing nutrient-dense, delicious, convenient foods. Like so many of us, they were leading busy and chaotic lives. But one thing they both took into consideration was that food has power over everyone’s daily lives and they really wanted to make eating real food delicious and convenient. In early 2014, they launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised over $40,000 to begin WholeMe. Their products offer a real alternative to the preservative-filled, sugar-laden snacks that infiltrate the grocery store, and then inevitably…our pantries. They like to say, “Real food should have a limited shelf life. Remember, food is perishable. ours is. And that’s why the only preservative we use is the fridge.”
So, thanks to my Bestowed Box, I now was the owner of a package of one of WholeMe’s three variety of clusters. Their granola clusters are available in Almond Coconut, Lemon Berry Chia, and Cinnamon Banana Chip. As luck of the draw (or in this case…box) had it, I received the Cinnamon Banana Chip. And this morning…with 6 miles needed at 3:30 a.m…I needed to get some fuel before heading out. Without any extra sugars, I thought this might be a nice thing to munch on while I got dressed and ready to stretch and warm up.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when I opened it up and reached inside, snagging a few crumbly clusters of the chocolate-y looking snack, I wasn’t expecting to see real banana chips scattered throughout the blend. I love banana chips. Always have. So, yeah, this made me so happy! The only real chocolate in this, by the way, is the smattering of cocoa nibs inside the mix. I figured to give it a go, and I popped the handful in my mouth…
…and was immediately hooked.
In fact, I went back for some more and then went and finished getting ready for my run. It’s sweet, without being overly sweet. It tastes mostly of banana. The cinnamon is nice for the flavor, but it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the product. In a word…these clusters are freakin’ amazing. Out of this world. And GOOD FOR YOU!! They are soft and have great texture. Especially if you get a bit with a banana chip in it. Yummy! The bits of chocolate add just enough sweetness to keep the flavor interesting. And everything inside these clusters…is made from real food. Real food! I love eating real food. With a blend of nuts, seeds, natural sweeteners, and an appropriate hit of salt, cinnamon, and maca…this snack blend is a real treat…no guilt.
It is perfect for…as the back of the bag reads:
“What’s in it for Me? The watch-what-I-eat Me. The work-out-addict Me. The grain-free Me. The paleo Me. The give-me-something-good-to-eat Me. The diabetic Me. The gluten-free Me. No matter which Me you happen to be, WholeMe is determined to provide genuine, delicious, convenient foods. Food that makes all of Me (you) happy.”
So, if it’s so good for you, let’s take a look at these natural and real ingredients that go into a package of WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters, shall we? This granola mix is made from banana chips (bananas, coconut oil), honey, pecans, coconut, almonds, dried bananas, coconut oil, sunflower seeds, pure maple syrup, cocoa nibs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, and maca. This blend is grain-free, gluten-free, naturally sweetened, paleo, nutrient-dense, preservative-free, soy-free, and non-GMO. It is all natural goodness, for sure!
So, with that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the nutrition facts for the WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters. A serving size of the clusters is 1/3 cup (28 grams). There are 8 servings per package. A serving will serve you up 133 calories, 10 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 1 gram polyunsaturated fat, 2 grams monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 67 mg sodium, 11 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 2 grams protein. Not too bad for something that you can eat as cereal, by the handful, or as a topping to yogurt or ice cream. Seriously…options are endless.
I haven’t seen this in stores anywhere in my area, and it looks like it is mostly available in Minnesota (where WholeMe is based out of). That being said, there is an online store…which I will definitely be hitting up in the near future. With real food that is really good…why wouldn’t I? This is right in my wheelhouse…and definitely gave me adequate and perfect fueling for my run.
One of my favorite, favorite, favorite things to have to eat before heading out to my morning spin class (like 5:30 a.m. start time for class) is something as simple as yogurt, fruit, and a little granola. It isn’t too heavy to make me feel…BLEH (technical term, yes!)…while spinning out to awesome music and getting my sweat on, but it does give me enough fuel in the tank to not pass out or run out of gas during the workout itself. And…it’s refreshing…and delicious.
So, when I randomly bought strawberries this past week at the grocery store (they looked good and I really wanted them), I randomly needed to get granola to go with it. I have an abundance of yogurts (vegan and otherwise) in my fridge for my roomie and I at all times. But granola…not so much anymore. I’ve just been trying other breakfast stuff…like Gluten Free NY-Style Bagels and all that.
That being said, this was necessary this week, for sure. And while out and about on Saturday doing our very random grocery shopping at at least 5 different stores (NO JOKE!), I was on the hunt for a granola that wasn’t too high in sugars and that would pair nicely with strawberries. I opted for one brand, and then quickly changed my mind when I spotted the Van’s Foods granola in the gluten-free section of said store.
I’ve only had one other version of the Van’s Gluten Free Granola Clusters, but what I loved about it was the soft and chewy nature of it. So, back went the original brand I had scooped up…hello to one of the newest additions to the Van’s Gluten Free Granola Clusters lineup. The flavor…Banana Nut.
I am a runner…a marathon runner. This means I have this special place in my heart for banana. Banana bread (gluten-free of course), banana cookies, bananas with peanut butter, banana chips…and yes…straight up banana. Banana is my pre-long run eats. So, anything banana makes me one happy girl. No question about it…I wanted to try this granola.
And I have been totally devouring it and enjoying it all weekend. Like the other granola clusters that they sell, Van’s Gluten Free Banana Nut Granola Clusters are…really more one large mass of granola, rather than individual clusters. But that’s fine. The massive chunk of granola does break apart easily, making for easy sprinkling over yogurt or whatever. It also makes for good pinching material for stealing snacks between meals, before eating, or just…because. I love the soft and chewy texture of this granola, because while I do love granola with a crunch, this texture just pairs well with…everything. And I can eat it quietly and not feel like I might wake up my roommate simply by chewing. What I do love about this granola is how the banana flavoring doesn’t overwhelm or overpower the actual granola itself. This makes it perfect for pairing with anything…oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, smoothies, ice cream, etc. Oh yeah…it’s amazing. There are bits of nuts included in the clusters as well. It’s a delicious way to start your day…or end your day…or to have throughout the day. And I don’t feel bad about snacking on this…because Van’s takes pride in the ingredients they use and the nutritional worth of their products. It’s a win either way. Definitely a win when banana is involved.
So, let’s take a look at the ingredients that are used in put together the Van’s Gluten Free Banana Nut Granola Clusters, shall we? As I stated, Van’s uses ingredients that they are proud of. For this variety of their Granola Clusters, Van’s includes gluten free whole oats, brown rice syrup, invert cane syrup, cane sugar, non-GMO expeller pressed canola oil, unsweetened coconut, pecans, honey, flax seed, gluten free oat bran, almonds, natural flavors, salt, walnuts, vitamin E tocopherols (for freshness). Gluten-free, vegan, and made with whole grains. Gotta love that.
Now let’s look at the nutritional information of the Van’s Gluten Free Banana Nut Granola Clusters. A serving of this granola is 1/3 cup (30 grams). This serving will provide you with 120 calories, 5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 1 gram polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 25 mg sodium, 19 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 6 grams sugars, and 2 grams protein. Deliciously well-rounded, balanced, and not too bad on the nutrition. I like that this brand keeps added sugar levels low. Some granola has double digit sugars in a serving.
Van’s Gluten Free products have always impressed me and been amazing. I love the soft and chewy texture of their granola clusters. And the Van’s Gluten Free Banana Nut Clusters is definitely a new favorite. This package is almost empty…so I think another trek out to purchase more is a must.
If you haven’t tried Van’s Gluten Free Granola Clusters…make a point to do so. It will change your granola-loving mind forever!!
When I go into a race without any expectations or goals…I seem to do better than anticipated. While I had a semi-goal of being able to do my first half marathon distance after injury (for a year) in sub-2 hours, I wasn’t going to be too hard on myself if it didn’t happen.
Especially since the weather changed drastically the week of the race.
The weekend before the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon…the weather was gorgeous. Not just in Louisville (where I ran my first official race back…the Rodes City Run 10K), but up in New York too. I was hoping it would hold. I do better in nicer temperatures. But as the week went on…the gorgeous weather started to go away.
For much of the week, the forecast was calling for rain…cold…wind. Then snow…cold…wind. And then, on Friday night, it changed to just really flippin cold and really flippin’ windy.
UGH!! Now I was in a crisis. I had my outfit planned out for weeks…but the 30 degree temps and the strong winds (and the wind chill it would bring), meant I needed to reevaluate my wardrobe. With much reluctance, the running skirt went back into the closet and a pair of my (albeit bright) compression tights came out. Any of you who regularly read my running blog know…I…HATE…PANTS. So this frustrated me. I also packed a big turtleneck lined top and a windbreaker…and at the last minute, just before walking out the door early Saturday…I tossed in a long sleeve shirt…just in case, because I never ran in a windbreaker and I was nervous it would annoy me or just not work out…in which case, I’d rather brace against the cold in layers than anything.
So, Saturday morning was an early morning for me. I was up at 2 am to do all my physical therapy exercises. The stretches, the dynamic stuff outside, the plyometrics. I knew once I touched down in NYC…I was on the move…and these stretches were more important than anything else.
I admit, a little voice in my head said, “Go on…go do an easy mile or two for a shakeout before getting on the plane.” But, as tempting as it was, I quieted that voice. I knew I’d be on the go both at the airports and once I touched down in the city, the shakeout wasn’t important, and I didn’t need to do it. I’d be doing ample time on my feet just moving about NYC.
See what I have learned??!!
So, we (my roommate and I) walked out the door right at 5 am (giving us time to get a light breakfast in our stomachs and (SO VERY MUCH NEEDED) coffee into our system. We got to the Louisville airport in record time…parked…had to take a roundabout way to the Southwest Airlines counter due to renovations that are going on, and which I hope they finish up before Derby, or that airport is going to be a mess. Security was quick, although I ended up being randomly chosen for the hand swab, and my laptop (as always) had to be examined more closely…but it was quick, painless, and we were off and heading to our gate (which was behind a bunch of renovation boards). Like I said, the airport was sort of a mess.
Deciding that we weren’t ready to settle in yet, we took a little walk, as usual, through the airport crowds, and Cathy and I grabbed a Cool Lime Refresher at Starbucks (and she got a breakfast sammie as well) and we went back to the gate. I downed one of the new LUNA Bars (the Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond, which has only 5 grams of sugar and tasted like an amazing caffe mocha) and then…it was time to board. We were at the end of the A group…so it worked out perfectly.
Our flight had a small layover at Chicago Midway before we went on to NYC. So, we took the time to stretch our legs and walk the terminal. I was really craving something sweet, so we went on the “Great Fruit Cup Hunt of Midway,” finding that everywhere that normally had fruit cups were sold out. With 5 minutes to boarding, we finally found something at one of the food court restaurants. It was a large fruit cup with honeydew melon, pineapple, grapes and strawberries in it. I carried it onto our flight into Laguardia Airport and ate it while still sitting on the runway.
The flight into Laguardia was uneventful, save for the funny flight crew. The lead flight
attendant was in her 50s and just…SO funny. Love that. It also helps calm my nerves when the flight crew is loosey-goosey like that. I was drinking my water to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and we landed in Laguardia early. Taxied to the jetway…disembarked…and went to baggage claim. My bag was the 2nd one off the belt. Cathy’s wasn’t too far behind. With bags in hand, we called the hired car company and they had a car out to fetch us in about 5 or so minutes. Luggage went into the trunk and we were now on our way into Manhattan…staying at a different hotel this time (which was totally our fault because we originally had the race pegged for the weekend before this one and it wasn’t until about a month before that I realized the date of the race was for the week after…in my defense, it ran a week earlier last year!)…but the traffic situation wasn’t bad and our driver was really aggressive once he got into the city blocks, LOL! We were dropped off at the door of The Distrikt Hotel on W 40th Street and went to check in.
We were much earlier than anticipated, so our room wasn’t ready yet. We did go ahead and leave our bags and went to go buy a Metrocard and take the subway to get to the United Airlines NYC Half Experience (the expo), which was taking place at the Metropolitan Pavilion. We headed into the Expo, which was a madhouse! Seriously…at some points, I felt like salmon swimming upstream. I had the registration sheet with me so I went over to where my numbers were to pick up my bib. From there, it was through the store and over to get my official bag with my t-shirt and stuff in it. I haven’t really looked through what else was in there. I made one circuit of the expo before returning to the official store. There was a great t-shirt in there, pink and purple, that I had my eye on. But, to no surprise, my size was gone. Disappointing for sure. Ah well. Except, Cathy and I realized almost all official merchandise for women had nothing left in small. Now I remember why I order things online ahead of this. She did manage to find me an official finisher’s t-shirt and I grabbed a Sparkly Soul headband that had the event name on it. Purchases made. Back into the expo.
I actually thought there would be more vendors there and more to see and lots more places to shop. But, for the best, there wasn’t. I walked through the line of charities…I got in line to have my picture taken in front of the logo…Cathy made a couple signs (which never got used due to the 21 mph gusts of wind on race morning)…and we settled in for a moment at a table where I could charge my phone and we could catch our breath.
My friend, Ellen, who got in on lottery this year (I deferred last year so had automatic entry…except I had to repay the $127 registration fee), turned up to meet up with me, and brought me a nice salad to boot. YAY for friends. YAY for food! We discussed what we were planning on wearing, food, and…all the crazy shit (hehehe…get it Ellen?) that runners rely on and need to have happen prior to a run. It was fun. I even did a Snapchat video for her giving a running tip. She calls me her inspiration…but I think she’s mine. She needed to get back to the charity event she was attending, and I needed to get back to the hotel to get into the room. The travel capris I was wearing weren’t very warm against the already chilly wind of NYC. So, we returned to the hotel, got our room, gathered our bags, and went upstairs. We flopped for a moment before changing into jeans and heading back out…this time just to explore. We didn’t want to stop in for dinner until at least 5 p.m. So, we had a couple of hours to just explore. That’s what we did, too.
With no plan, we just wandered through some of the area, stopping into shops that drew our attention. We went and got our chocolate from Teuscher (I got a mini champagne, dark mocha, and dark salted caramel…and Cathy got a limoncello, almond, and chocolate orange truffle), which is a requirement, and ducked into the Hard Rock Café for a shotglass and a pin. Back out and seeing the city until we decided to hike over to our pre-race dinner spot of choice, Don Antonio by Starita on W 50th Street. They have a fantastic gluten-free pizza menu, and while they have a couple of GF and Vegan options, I stuck with the one I knew I loved and wouldn’t give me too much. The Marinara Pizza Senza Glutine. OMG…this is my 2nd favorite gluten-free pizza crust in the world (the first being Annie May’s Sweet Café). I love when there is a real and actual crust on a gluten-free pizza, and not just a cracker crust. We devoured dinner and then hiked back to the hotel to cycle through showers, giving me time to foam roll, and to eat some chocolate. HA! It was an early to bed night…and by 9 pm…we were turning out the lights.
I set the alarm on my phone for the first one to wake me up at 4 a.m. It went off and I got up to use the bathroom, take my medicine, and then crawled back into bed for another 50 minutes. The second alarm was the 5 a.m. one, and I got up and started to get changed into my running gear for the race. Cathy was up at 5:15 to get dressed and ready. And while I felt good all day prior to this morning, I felt tired, but in good shape for the actual race. I was not happy that I had to wear pants to run a half marathon, but the windchill was a factor and I under-dressed once before for a full and have been nervous about doing that again ever since (hypothermia is NOT fun, my friends). I decided to wear a long sleeve tech shirt under my warmer top with the big turtleneck top, figuring it would be good against the wind, without me trying to get used to running in a windbreaker on the fly. I got my number pinned on, threw on the hoodie I was going to leave behind, filled up my water bottles and we were off.
We took the subway to Columbus Circle and disembarked, climbing the stairs and being
greeted with some of the coldest wind. I don’t know how the dude in front of us was handling being in short running shorts, because I would have been dying. I think he was. But…to each their own, right?! We walked over to the checkpoint at Central Park where Cathy had to go her own way and I had to show my bib number and enter. We took a picture of me with Times Square behind me and then I went in. I walked with a bunch of runners who were just talking about some of the most random stuff. One was talking about Scott Jurek on Instagram and it was kind of amusing to me. We went through the medal detectors and then continued on the path to the corrals. There was a line of port-o-potties without lines and many of the people I was walking with went to take advantage of them…and I kept on trekking. I made my way to the line of corrals, working my way up to the one for 10000-10999. I did a few of my dynamic warm-up moves from physical therapy, but the air temperature was enough to make me not want to do it anymore. I did one set of each, then hunkered down and shivered for a good half hour more. It was really, really cold. When the corrals opened for the start of the wheelchair race, I stepped inside and did a few static stretches just to loosen up. From the onslaught of the cold wind, my hip was already not loving me. It began to ache during the easy walk from security to the corals. Seriously, my body and cold weather never got along, but it really doesn’t get along with it these days.
The wheelchair racers, hand crank racers, and elite women were all sent off by 7:15 a.m. It was awesome standing in the corral and being able to see each group take off. When the elite women took up, I cheered loudly for Molly Huddle, who is from Elmira, NY…my hometown area. She’s amazing. She’s fast. She set a new course record that morning and it came down to an eighth of a second…it was THAT close. The elite men went off with Wave 1 at 7:30 a.m.. Then my wave…Wave 2…were shuffled forward for our 7:45 a.m. start. It was really exciting. When the airhorn blew to send us off, I began the walk toward the official start, and started my Garmin as I crossed. The first step already had my hip screaming at me. I struggled through the final mile of a 10K the weekend prior…and I just started a half marathon. I really just made a point go focus on my form and my breathing, and just finding a comfortable pace to run at. As I said, I had no goals or expectations…just to have fun and to finish what I start. Well…I started. I now had to finish.
The 6 miles through Central Park are beautiful and quiet. There were pockets of spectators out there, but mostly it was runners, our feet, and our breathing. Being the start of the race, I would catch snatches of conversations people were having as they ran the race with friends or running partners. It keeps me amused. Some people were tucked into their earbuds, their music propelling them forward. There was a couple running together, and on the back of his shirt was a sign that said “Baby on Board” and an arrow pointing to his wife who was running right next to him. The people inside the park were loud and awesome and the little loop we do outside the park to turn around and head back in…was packed, crowded and loud. I love a good crowd. The hills of Central Park are respectable, but my hill repeats have been more intense than those, so while they slowed me down slightly, they didn’t have me huffing and puffing. I’m learning to love to hate to love those hill repeat sessions more and more. I didn’t check my pace on my watch at any point, but I hit the 5K mark and felt like I was coming along well for someone who was fighting hip pain twinges since the start. With the hills now behind us, the runners exit Central Park onto 7th Avenue. Cathy said she’d be outside the park to see me there, so I got to the left per her instructions and headed up 7th Avenue. She was tucked into the pocket of the turn, but I heard her shouting and screaming and I gave a wave at her as I ran past. It lifted my spirits, for sure. And it was on to run down 7th Avenue and into Times Square.
I think Times Square was my favorite part of this race. The crowd was intense. There was so much noise. All the screens were lit up. The Kids Mile was running through there. There was so much energy there…that it just pulsed through you. I loved every stretch of this portion of the race. And it is the part I remember the most. I love a good crowd.
And with the extreme winds we were getting, it was a great way to start off the last stretch of the race. This portion is pretty flat, save for just after the 20K mark. So, it was nice to easily pick up the pace a little here. Miles 8-12 really just have you fighting the windtunnels that are 42nd Street. Here you make a U-Turn and head down the West Side Highway. Wind. Lots of wind. Thankfully there was music blasting at various stages throughout this stretch of the run. The crowds were sparse, but there were some spectators out there to cheer. But without the bands, this might have been a tough slog through these 4 miles. However, as the miles tick down, One World Trade Center/Freedom Tower keep getting closer and closer. It’s gorgeous. I can’t tell you how long I just kept my eyes on that building, minding each time I drew up my right leg, making sure I wasn’t overcompensating due to the hip pain. This was…uplifting.
Mile 12 takes runners through the Battery Park Underpass. This…was fun. Seriously. You are underground for a long while. Runners scream and shout and let out whoops as they run through the dark, spooky tunnel. I loved it. I even left my sunglasses on. Just powered on through. Running through tunnels is fun. For some reason, I always smile more in them. The 20K mark was just as we were let out to run up a hill.
This is where Cathy was situated to see me before I hit the finish line. LOVED this little uplift right at the end. I waived and smiled as she shouted, “YOU REALLY ARE ALMOST THERE!” And so, I burst up the hill and got hit by one hell of a headwind. NYC has this way of always being super windy when I run there. So…I battled the headwind and just ran…ran…ran…rounding a corner…passing up a pace group….rounding another turn and seeing that finish line. As I ran this race rather conservatively, I still had some go in the tank and so…I powered up, powered through, and crossed that finish line.
I stopped my Garmin…and the tears just started going. I didn’t know my official time. I didn’t check the Garmin. I competed and finished my first half marathon since my hip labrum tear over a year ago. And I could still move. No limping. Just a small ache. I had done what I thought I wouldn’t be able to do…and it turns out I did it well.
We were filtered through the finisher’s area where we had medals hung around our necks and mylar sheets wrapped around us to keep us warm. We were given these nice bags filled with snacks, Gatorade and water, and then shuttled out toward Battery Park. At the exit, Cathy was waiting. I hurried over and got a hug and she said, “YOU KILLED IT!! Do you want to know your time?” Of course I did. She told me…and I started crying. Not only was it better than I anticipated, it was better than I could have dreamed of doing, given the circumstances.
Our bodies find ways of surprising us. And I think not having a specific goal or pace I wanted to hit helped.
So, the official results of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:43:53. I was 3318/20,149 finishers overall. I was 786/10,556 female finishers. And I was 132/1706 finishers in my division. I, honestly, couldn’t have run this any better. Since the cold weather made me sore from just shivering at the start, I just took this race one step at a time…one mile at a time. And I LOVED it. I loved this race. It was…probably….one of my favorite half marathons I have ever run. Even in the cold…and the wind…and the suck…it was just…fun. And I had fun running it. It was a struggle at times…but I finished it and I felt good at the end.
Afterwards, we hopped the subway back to the hotel where I showered and changed.
Cathy and I went to Empire Coffee & Tea House where I got a Pumpkin Spice Latte (dairy free…made with almond milk…and YUMMY!). Then we ended up hiking around NYC the rest of the day with Cathy and my friend Marisa, who I have known since high school. We stopped in at bakeries (I bought 3 cookies from By The Way (BTW) Bakery) and a tea shop (where I had the Energitea…an amazing green blend). We settled in for a bit at the hotel before getting ready to head to dinner at Red Rooster Harlem. You might recall, Red Rooster is where I celebrated my NYC Marathon finish…so I wanted to go back for this. And it was amazing. Once again, the chef created a dish to fit my dietary needs…and I was SO impressed. I even had dessert. And fun. We sat and talked over mint tea and listened to the live jazz music in the bar before calling it a night and making the trek back from Harlem to Midtown. We said goodbye to Marisa and settled in for the night.
Overall…I’m already ready to come back to NYC…even if I don’t have a race. There is always so much to see and do. But…this time…for me…the highlight was getting through the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon…after having to defer it last year. It was just the boost I needed.
So, last week, for a wonderful week, I was fortunate enough to spend some time on the two of the Hawaiian islands. The original purpose – to run the Kauai Marathon.
But then…I fractured my ankle.
Yep. Fractured my freakin’ ankle three days before leaving for Hawaii. SUCK!! I tried to put a positive spin on things…I really did. At least I was still going to Hawaii. Yeah…it didn’t really work for me then either…but I was trying. To help make this painful adjustment, I started a Twitter account for Bootsie (the boot I’m forced to wear for 6-8 weeks) to document traveling adventures. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason…so there better be a damn good reason for this. That’s all I’m saying.
The first leg of the trip was flying out to San Diego. This gave us pretty much a full day to adjust to a bit of the time change (West Coast = 3 hours behind EST; Hawaii = 6 hours behind EST) and break up what was already a long ass flight to the islands. We’d depart San Diego before it was bright and early to get to Kauai by mid-morning. It was a plan. The ankle just meant we had to depart from the hotel sooner because I wasn’t moving anywhere very fast. So…my traveling companions, Cathy & Jenn, were both very helpful and very, very patient with me. And, I didn’t complain much. I mean, complaining won’t change the situation. I just apologized…a lot…for being slow.
The first order of business after getting to San Diego and checking into the hotel to drop off luggage was…lunch. Not having prepared for lunch, I ate a protein bar, while my fellow travelers ate tacos from a local taco stand. SO cool. But after that, I required my morning cup of coffee…so we sought out and found a great local establishment called…
Lestat’s Coffee House, San Diego, California
Lestat’s is one of those places that is open 24/7, 365 days of the year. YES…it is always open! Holiday? No worries…they’re open! Lestat’s Coffee House has a few signature drinks on their menu…and as it was pretty toasty in San Diego, I wasn’t feeling the hot coffee that day. Neither were my traveling friends. So, they each got coffee freezes (think blended drinks!) while I opted for one of Lestat’s Signature Drinks done up all refreshing and cold. Jenn got the Winter Raspberry Freeze ($5.25), which is a ice blended raspberry mocha. I took one little sip. WINNING! Cathy had me pick for her, and I choose the Arctic Squirrel Freeze ($5.25) for her, which is an ice blended hazelnut mocha (similar to the Hazelnut Turtle drink she loves at our local cafe…just…blended and cold). As for me…I went with the Iced Arctic Joey ($4.55)…which is coconut, almond and chocolate. I had mine made with coconut milk as well (+$1.00). In essence, it was a liquid almond joy. And it was delicious. There were bits of coconut floating in it. I think I was just starting to get in the Aloha spirit by getting something with coconut. Needless to say…smooth, creamy, delicious. Nothing overwhelmed the drink, and it wasn’t heavy. It was pure liquid gold. And refreshing. And tasty. And in the end, coffee should always be tasty. I was beyond happy with this decision.
Upon arriving in Hawaii…after the rental car debacle…wherein we learned…convertible is fun…but not when you have a fractured ankle. We got it sorted…and switched out the fun and stylish convertible for…a Ford Fusion. Yeah…definitely not the way we had envisioned traveling, but it gave us more leg room and some more storage space for our big-ass luggage. LOL! After checking into Pono Kai Resort in Kauai…coffee was needed.
It’s always coffee with me. LOL!
So, we scoped out and fell in love with a local café called Ha Coffee Bar. And we went back every day we were on the island of Kauai…save for Sunday, because they are closed.
Ha Coffee Bar, Lihue, Hawaii
It was love at first “Aloha” when it came to Ha Coffee Bar. I have nothing but warm fuzzies when I think back to every stop at Ha Coffee Bar, each morning, first thing, while on Kauai. It was a bit of a drive from the resort, but always worth it. I tried three different things on the three days we were there that they were open. And, not once, was I ever disappointed in my choice. Ha Coffee Bar is a café that is built to resemble an old-school bar. No joke. Their iced drinks are even mixed in martini shakers. LOVE. This set-up allows them to showcase and sell products and items, such as pour-overs, that might not typically be served at a café. Ha Coffee Bar primarily serves espresso coffee, cold brewed coffee, pour-over and French press coffee. The variety in the types of coffee they serve allows for different origins and price points, which also helps minimize waste as they don’t have coffee sitting and going stale…high quality coffee and flexibility that allows customers to explore different blends, flavor profiles and methods of making coffee. Coffee love. And boy…did I LOVE this. On the first day there, I stayed pretty basic. I got a Salted Caramel French Pressed Cafe Au Lait with Almond Milk. I loved that they added the flavor to the steamed milk itself, and then gave me the pitcher of leftover almond milk in case I needed more of it in the drink. But it was perfect the way they gave it to me. And the French pressed coffee…OMG…so good. Jenn got a simple Iced Hazelnut Latte and Cathy got an Iced Peppermint Mocha. So, on the next morning, I noticed they had signature drinks hanging up near the register…so I decided to give one of those a try. I had it narrowed down to two…but opted for their drink the Bee Sting. The Bee Sting is simply Espresso, Coconut Milk, Honey and Cinnamon. I got it iced…as the humidity was killer that morning. Cathy got their take on an Iced Black & White Mocha (Zebra). And it was, absolutely, hands down, my favorite coffee drink of the trip. I wish I could have had it again. I would have gotten it again. The coconut milk gave it this rich flavor, the honey sweetened it, the cinnamon lent a hint of spice…and espresso…got me moving for sure. Simple…yet SO good. SO very good. In fact, on our last day there, this is the drink that Jenn opted to get after trying mine. With Ha closed on Sunday, we had to go elsewhere, but on our last day on Kauai…we were there in the morning and I was getting another signature drink…Liquid Sunshine, which was cold brew coffee, coconut syrup, and coconut milk. DELICIOUS!! Not Bee Sting delicious…but delicious. I was quite happy with it. Not something I can get here…anywhere…so that was most of the draw for this drink in particular. The last morning there, Cathy got the Iced Hazelnut Mocha and a Pineapple Cream Cheese Scone to enjoy for breakfast. I still say it today…back in Louisville, Kentucky…that I miss Ha Coffee Bar. It made that much of an impression.
Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream, Lihue, Hawaii
I have KONG Radio to thank for the discovery of Skinny Mike’s. As we were driving the island of Kauai on Saturday, just enjoying beaches and the like…an advertisement for Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream came on. And it advertised ice cream, sorbets, and vegan ice cream. They had my attention, and the attention of both Jenn and Cathy too. I looked them up…and took note of where it was located. And we vowed to go there and check them out. At least once, yes?
And so, Saturday evening, after splitting a gluten-free pizza at a local chain…we headed over to Harbor Mall, where Skinny Mike’s is located. We parked and marched up the stairs to the little shop. Online I had taken a peak at the flavors, and sort of had my heart set on the Pineapple Cream. However…they didn’t have that flavor. So…I was left to look over the offered flavors while Jenn & Cathy made their choices. We each got regular scoops ($3.49) of our flavor choices. Cathy went with the Mint Chocolate Chip as it is one of her favorites…anywhere. Jenn won with their signature flavor…a local classic…Macadamia Nut. Hers was so good, we went back the last night there and each got a scoop of the Macademia Nut. That’s how good that was. For my first trip there, without the Pineapple flavor being available…I went with the suggestion of Coconut Cream. The Coconut Cream ice cream was the perfect level of coconut flavor. No bits of raw coconut…just the flavor infused in a creamy scoop of ice cream goodness. It was delicious. Smooth. And melted fast. Ah…coconut based things…I didn’t mind though. Not one bit. I eat frozen desserts rather quickly regardless. LOL! We were so impressed with the ice cream there that, as I said, we all went back to get the signature Macadamia Nut flavor on our last night on Kauai. Worth it. That was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Just…delicious. I miss it. I want some more of the Macadamia Nut flavor…it’s a craving that hits now. Now that I know it exists…but can’t get it anywhere else…but there.
Java Kai, Kapaa, Hawaii
What happens when your favorite Hawaiian coffee stop on Kauai is closed on Sunday? You have to find a new place to get that caffeine hit. And this was what we were left to do on Sunday morning. Sunday. When I should have been running a marathon. When, instead, I was hobbling around Kapaa in search of coffee. The stop at the little food truck-like coffee place was…not going to work for everyone. No one was really happy with the menu options…so…we backtracked to a spot that Jenn spotted and had looked up online. It wasn’t far from the resort. It was a worthwhile stop in the end. And, in the end, we all ended up with a bit of breakfast with our coffee as well. How? Because this place had some gluten-free options on the menu and in the bakery case. SCORE! This meant we could have something a little more substantial at the start of the day, instead of the meager protein bars or yogurts back at the resort. It would mean eating better now and not making poor choices later. And so…Jenn got one of the bars from the bakery case…the Aloha Bar ($3.75), I think. For her caffeinated goodness that morning, she got the Iced Macanut Latte ($4.50). Cathy went for the Breakfast Burrito ($10.50), which includes eggs, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese, which she got with the mango-chipotle salsa. For her drink, she got the Iced Hazelnut Mocha ($4.70). She at hers there at the café as she was the driver. As for me…they had gluten-free English muffins. HELLO! So I ended up getting the Gluten Free English Muffin with Cream Cheese ($3.95), which they kindly toasted for me…looks like in a pan…no cross-contamination. And for the drink, I got the Iced Macanut Latte ($4.50) with Almond Milk (+$0.75). Jenn and I had ours to go and I happily noshed away on a Glutino English Muffin with a light spread of cream cheese. The Macanut Latte…macadamia nut flavor…espresso…nutty goodness. And it was just the perfect drink that morning. It was supposed to be marathon morning…and I needed a distraction. This food, while simple and basic…was just what I needed. The drive along the coast helped too!
Hanalei Bay, Hanalei, Hawaii
We visited a lot of beaches while visiting Hawaii. I mean, that’s part of the point when you visit an island, right? But, I think, above all others, my favorite one we stopped at, and spent the most time at, was Hanalei Bay. This beach is stunning. A beautiful 2-mile long crescent of white sand, nestled beneath a breathtaking range of mountains. The water was relatively calm that day, with some small waves crashing against the shore. Despite my new friend…Bootsie…being on, we were determined to get away and enjoy the day. Anything to keep my mind off the fact that I should have been running. Hanalei Bay is a great beach for walking and body surfing. Calm waves, lifeguards, and a great coast line. I managed a few solo ventures along the waterline of the beach, just needing to at least move a little…minus the boot. I took it off for beach time. Strange tan lines were not on the agenda. I was very careful of where I stepped and the movement of the sand…and would pause if a wave came up and rolled over my legs…because that undertow could be a bit strong and throw me off balance. It was here that I realized my surf lessons the following day were not going to happen, as much as I wanted to give it a try. It was just not going to be physically possible for me to get up on a surf board. I was brokenhearted over this…but shrugged it off as no big deal. These were the cards I was dealt. Suck it up, cupcake…you’re in Hawaii!
After some walking and some laying on the beach…we got dressed and headed off for the next venture. Which tunred out to be a good thing. Heavy rains started soon after we had changed…and soon, Jenn and I realized just how sunburned we had gotten. I don’t think Jenn slapped on any sunscreen. I had…but the burn was in those places where clothes met skin or that strings were located. I was trying to avoid strange tan lines…and yet…that is what I ended up with in the end.
That being said…for a moment, I forgot about the ankle…and the boot…and I just enjoyed the perfect afternoon at the perfect beach.
JoJo’s Shave Ice, Hanalei, Hawaii
I have my good friend Harry Cooke to thank for the journey, while in Hanalei, to JoJo’s Shave Ice. He had mentioned it to me in a message on Facebook…and we were right there!! And with the rain pouring down now, it gave us a good excuse to not sit in a car and try to avoid the flooding roads. It gave us some time to hope the rain would pass and we could do more exploring. The rain didn’t pass. It was with us the rest of the time on the North Shore. However, after a bit of a short (hobbling, for me) spring from the rental car to the little storefront that the Hanalei JoJo’s Shave Ice operates out of…we knew we were in for a treat. The original JoJo’s began in Waimea in 1992, the same year that Hurricane Iniki landed on Kauai. That store is stil there today and still has the original JoJo’s sign. The goal of JoJo’s…to offer the ultimate in Shave Ice on Kauai…which is a true Hawaiian treat. When they expanded into Hanalei, they took the JoJo’s traditions and secret recipes along…and introduced the smaller “junior size,” which closely matches the normal serving size of other shave ice venues throughout Hawaii. JoJo’s doesn’t use commercially made syrups. They, instead, carefully make up their own syrups, with a lot less sugar and more flavor than the commercially used ones by other shave ice businesses. And…no corn syrups either. They also have upgraded all their locations with the best ice machines on Kauai, making for an unmatched, fluffy shave. LOVE. The three of us each got the Junior Sizes ($4.50). And they let you choose up to 4-5 flavors. I don’t remember what Jenn got…but it had cherry…and perhaps lime? I can’t recall. Cathy got Root Beer, Lemon and Grape Shave Ice. And I opted for two of my favorite flavors…Watermelon and Strawberry Shave Ice. Of course, now looking back, I wish I opted for something more…local…like mango or something. Next time. But the shave ice at JoJo’s was huge…filling…and amazingly packed with flavor. I can see why it’s been open for 23 years.
Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café, Kalaheo, Hawaii
I know that technically Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café should have gotten a full review, as it was our place to catch a bite for lunch…on Monday afternoon. However, it was a hot day…and the humidity was really doing a number on me. And while there were a few options for a gluten-free vegetarian on the menu, what sounded really, really good was the Spinach and Kauai Greens Salad ($10.95). And the reason that this didn’t warrant a Restaurant Review post was…it was a salad I could have made at home. Honestly. But this was what I wanted. The Spinach and Kauai Greens Salad is a blend of fresh grown Kailani Farm greens, served with crisp spinach and topped off with strawberries and candied pecans. I kept the feta cheese and held the side of warm flat bread for obvious reasons. It came with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. And it was delicious. Light, but filling. And cooling. And just flat-out what I was really wanting that miserably humid day. But…it was a salad I could make…and therefore…it garners a mention here…but the restaurant itself is cozy and has a lot of great, fresh-made, delicious sandwiches, salads, soups, etc, to choose from. And I loved sitting in there, listening to runners who had run the day before discuss the marathon and half marathon…looking at the different food items coming out of the kitchen to each table. Beautiful setting, beautiful food…and tasty too. For the record, Cathy got the Hot Pastrami Sandwich, which contained grilled onions, mushrooms, and melted Swiss cheese on toasted bread. She got it with the much raved about Garlic Cilantro Fries…which after seeing her and Jenn devour…made me really wish I could have had those. Not safe though…not for me. Darn it.
USS Arizona Memorial – Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii
This was one ONE place that I had to visit while in Hawaii, and the main and primary reason we even island hopped over to O’ahu instead of just hanging tight on the beautiful island of Kauai. Honolulu is definitely a hopping city and much more urban…think LA and NYC. But this…this stop was…important. To all three of us. The USS Arizona Memorial is the number one visitor destination in Hawaii, drawing millions of people from all over the world to see where World War II began for the United States on December 7, 1941. Visitors are free to explore the grounds of the Pearl Harbor Visitor’s Center, which was recently expanded from the original 3 acres to 17 acres, and is now operated by the National Park Service. Admission and parking is free to all visitors. Over 2000 tickets are given out free per day on a first come, first serve basis. We had to check our bags before entering the historic site, so Jenn and I did that while Cathy went to get the tickets she reserved online for us. We were set for the final shuttle out, at 2:45 pm. It was the hottest day in Honolulu…and with all the metal and concrete, we were literally melting out in the sun while walking around the ground. We ducked into the museum, but it was even hotter in there. Bottles of water were purchased and Cathy and I downed ours before we were put on an earlier shuttle, the 2:30 pm, to head out to the memorial. A US Navy boat taxied us out to the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the remains of the sunken battleship, the final resting place of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941, when their ship was bombed by the Japanese Naval Forces. The memorial itself was relatively quiet upon disembarking and walking over to it. You can still see the oil leaking out of the actual ship that is buried beneath the waters of Pearl Harbor. It is moving and touching. And the memorial is beautiful and humbling. And I am so glad that we went.
Dole Plantation, Wahiawa, Hawaii
DOLE FREAKIN’ WHIP!! That was the primary reason to venture out to the Dole Plantation in Wahaiwa. It was a bit of a journey…a long drive, but well worth it. The Dole Plantation originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, before opening up to the public as “Hawaii’s ‘Pineapple Experience'” in 1989. Another one of O’ahu’s most popular visitor attractions, the Dole Plantation provides activities for the entire family, including the Pineapple Express ($8.25/adult), the Plantation Garden Tour ($5.00/adult), and the Pineapple Garden Maze ($6.00/adult). None of which we did…due to the cost that was associated with each one and the warm, humid weather that made us want to stick to the air conditioning. What we did do, however, was shop at the HUGE gift shop, which carries a wide variety of Dole Plantation Gifts, local favorites, foods, and refreshments…including DOLE WHIP!! You can even purchase a fresh pineapple to take home. I wish I had. The pineapple in Hawaii is freakin’ incredible. I did some shopping, buying a few minor things like Dole Pineapple hard candy and a magnet. Easy to transport and all. And then, we went over to The Plantation Grille to purchase a bowl each of the world famous Dole Whip ($5.25). It was a large serving, which I loved, and devoured enthusiastically. Better than Disney, which is one of the few places Dole Whip is available. This was…amazing and I wish I had gone back for seconds. Dole Whip, by the way, is vegan and gluten free. LOVE!! It’s just pure frozen treat love.
Panalu’u Beach Park and the Random Pineapple Roadside Stand, Hauula, Hawaii
Welcome to two of the most random stops we made on our trek around the North Shore of O’ahu. Panalu’u Beach Park is located on O’ahu’s windward coast and has this strip of narrow, sandy beach. The nearshore ocean bottom is shallow and has a reef, so swimming conditions here are poor. This was a clam day at this particular beach when we pulled over to check it out. Cathy went wading…and the water looked so refreshing (another humid and hot day!), that I took off Bootsie and kicked off my flip-flop to go wading in the surf myself. My friend Jenn snapped my favorite picture of me on this entire trip here…with the gorgeous blue water and the white sand on the beach. As I said on my Instagram…”Make only memories…Leave only footprints…Kill only time…”
From there, we went hunting for a shrimp place, Romey’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp, that the lady at Enterprise told Cathy about after we first arrived in Honolulu, when she mentioned we would be heading up to the North Shore. Along the way, I had been hunting for mangos and we found a stand that advertised them. We pulled into this dodgy little roadside stand, only to learn that they were out of mangos. The weather had ended the season early. I was bummed. BUT…we did purchase a fresh pineapple there, so we purchased one for $5.00, and watched as this little old lady had it peeled and sliced in less that 2 minutes…bagged…and ready for us to take away. We wasted no time, after climbing into the car, trying it out. So fresh…so juicy…so amazing. Hands down, the best pineapple I have eaten in my life. Anywhere. And I’ve had a lot of pineapple. We did find Romy’s…and Jenn and Cathy split a plate of the Garlic and Butter Shrimp. They ate that and I ate a good 2/3 (if not more) of the pineapple. They helped a little after they were done with their fresh seafood.
Best. Pineapple. Purchase. EVER!
Chief’s Luau, Waimanalo, Hawaii
Okay, again, this would generally get a blog of its own, despite not being a restaurant. I couldn’t go to Hawaii and not do a luau, even if it is one that is so tourist-y…it’s funny. We chose Chief’s Luau ($82.00+) due to the fact that it is the best ranked luau on O’auh AND that it had an allergen menu on their Web site. And, yeah, it’s tourist-y, but I actually had a lot of fun at the luau. I finally got a lei (made of shells as we had the cheapest package), had my picture taken with Chief…learned how to hula dance, watched Cathy throw a spear (rather poorly), watched Cathy make a coconut leaf headband (which she left behind), listened to great music, enjoyed the history of the dances that are native to Hawaii…and just…kicked back, laughed, and enjoyed my final night in Hawaii…with a Mai Tai and everything. Aside from the free drink…the luau package also included dinner…and as a gluten-free vegetarian, this left only a few things for me to pick from. Cathy was there for the meat…the pork…cooked in the ground with banana leaves…but for someone like me…I got the food that was catered in. And that’s fine…but because it was catered, I didn’t review it. I was left with the Seasonal Fruit Salad (more pineapple!), the Poi (GROSS…it looked like Barney’s (the purple dinosaur) snot…kind of gelatinous and goopy and YUCK. I didn’t want to try it, but peer pressure had me at least take a taste. NEVER AGAIN!), the Steamed White Rice and (my personal favorite) the Sweet Potatoes. My first plate of food was not really full, and as this was all you can eat, I ventured back for more of the DELICIOUS sweet potatoes and the fruit. Because…fruit and sweet potatoes are actually two of my favorite foods in life. For real. The Mai Tai’s were delicious…and I had a great time at the luau. If you are in O’ahu and want to go to a luau…go to Chief’s. They are #1 for a reason!
Barista, Portland, Oregon
The flight we took back to the mainland went through Portland, where we disembarked and stayed an entire day, so we could explore. Cathy and Jenn had Voodoo Doughnuts for breakfast. We hit up the food pods for lunch, we did a gastropub for dinner. But after the stop for doughnuts, it was vital that we got caffeine. And I chose Barista, out of all the different coffee shops in Portland. I chose wisely…of this I am certain. Being a former barista, myself, I not only liked the name, I liked everything I read about them. Barista was established by coffee legend, Billy Wilson, who now has four (4) Barista cafés open in the Portland area. Let me tell you, this cofee delivers!! Barista is one of the first multi-roaster shops in the Portland area, showcasing Heart, Coava, and another roaster on bar for espresso or drip. Barista is known for serving exceptional coffees from the world’s finest roasters, prepared by the most skilled baristas in the Portland area. No joke. Jenn skipped out on this amazing experience, but both Cathy and I partook of the opportunity to try the coffee at the Downtown Barista location. Cathy ordered the Semi-Sweet Valrohna Mocha ($4.50). I went for the Bittersweet Valrohna Mocha ($4.50) with Almond Milk (+$0.75). It was delicious. Strong…but smooth. There was this perfect balance of chocolate and espresso that just…melted together. The milk softened up the bite of the espresso itself, cutting through the dark chocolate. OH MY GOD…one of the best coffees I have ever had. If you are in Portland and love coffee…you are missing out if you don’t swing by one of the Barista locations. For real. I loved every sip. Even better…finally a coffeeshop that gives me an 8 ounce cup of coffee for a small!! THANK YOU!
And that was it. It was Portland to Vegas to Louisville from there. And my 10 day vacation came to an end. Back in Louisville, it’s hard for me to ignore Bootsie. It’s a depressing reminder of everything I’ve had to cancel for the upcoming weeks leading into November. I tried not to fuss much over it on the trip. And, I ate whatever I wanted…whenever I wanted…as long as it fit into my dietary restrictions. And despite limited mobility and really lack of much movement at all…while continuing to stuff my face with local eats…I lost 3 pounds. I’ve put it back on since coming home though…so no worries. LOL!
It was a beautiful trip to paradise…and I’m already dreaming about my return. Next time…to actually run the Kauai Marathon!!