April 30, 2013

A week in Florence

I’m back from a week in Florence … South Carolina. It really is less exotic than it sounds.

It wasn’t a vacation, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t in a vacation spot. It was because I was working … OK, and it isn’t a vacation spot. It really isn’t.

Why the heck was I there? Good question. I keep asking myself that. My boyfriend is there doing contract work. So, I drove up to South Carolina with him (with a stop in St. Augustine, FL) to spend a week there before driving back home (with another stop in St. Augustine).

Somehow I started watching “Ghost Adventures,” and I kind of fell in love with the idea of hunting ghosts (not with tight T-shirts and cheesy spiked hair, thank goodness). So, we did a ghost tour each time we were in St. Augustine. Amazingly enough, a ghost was spotted.

Perhaps it's time to try some bronzer.
My official ghost hunting tool was reacting like crazy, trust me.

But, the coolest thing about St. Augustine.

Beachfront Avenue!

I could not stop singing “Ice, Ice Baby” for two weekends. I know my boyfriend appreciated it.

Speaking of music and the boyfriend, that is one of the really terrible things about road trips with him. We do not agree on any music. Well, except for Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Prince, Nirvana and the White Stripes. That’s it. No beautiful Bruno Mars, boy bands or ‘90s rap. Or if the beautiful music is involved, lots of complaining follows. Sigh.

In happier times (not in the car listening to music)

Thankfully, I’m not going to the Bruno Mars concert with him.

Speaking of Bruno, how adorable is this? 

I had no idea he was in “Honeymoon in Vegas” until last week. I am now certain he is my favorite singer, and we have so much in common. 

Theresa and I are just like Bruno.

Well, aside from the fact that he’s 5’5”, and I’m 5’10”. And many other things, really. But, we both wear Elvis suits and that counts for something.

Now that I’m back in town, and it’s confirmed that Bruno and I are best friends, it’s time to focus on a race this weekend.

Yes, a race. In May. In Florida.

I’m wondering why I decided to do this.

It’s a 10K-5K challenge. I’ve done anything like this, and I’m guessing it’s a good thing I decided to do it in May.

So, I run a 10K, and then I line up and run a 5K. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Now, I’m a little worried. Heat makes me nervous. So I definitely won’t be running it in an Elvis suit (those things are super hot; ask Bruno).

Have you visited Florence, South Carolina? St. Augustine, Florida? Have you worn an Elvis suit? Have you ever run a 10K-5K challenge? Do you like running in the heat?

April 16, 2013

This is why

I’m not a “run-a-marathon” type.

And, I’m definitely not a “qualify-for-Boston” type.

I may not choose to run farther than 13.1 miles, and I may be turtle-like in speed, but I am a runner.

And, as a runner, the bombings at the Boston Marathon hit home.

When I first heard about it through a text from a running group friend, my immediate thoughts went to the three women I knew running the marathon. These three women are (or were) coaches in my running group who inspire me and encourage me every day.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before I heard that all were OK.

But, I couldn’t shake the feelings of sadness, worry and anger.


Because I’m a runner.

Because I’ve trained months for one event.

Because I’ve crossed a finish line.

Because I’ve had friends and family waiting for me at the finish line or crossing the finish line with me.

Because I’ve made friends along a race course.

Because the running community is my community.

It's personal. That's why. 

April 15, 2013

Iron Girl Half Marathon, Clearwater, Florida, April 14, 2013: race recap

Oh, Iron Girl Half Marathon. You made me nervous from the beginning. I worried about your mid-April race date and the set of two bridges I'd need to go over twice. Yeah, you had the potential to be a sweaty, hard mess.

Guess what? You were.

This was the most difficult half marathon I've ever run. I ran an extremely similar course in January, but it was, oh, 15 degrees cooler or so.

Race day was Sunday. GAH!

When we arrived a little after 6 a.m., we could feel the heat (and the humidity).

Me (and my shiny, sunblock face) and my running buddy, Lori

I was already really nervous for some reason (well, I guess that reason was the heat and humidity), and I really, really wanted to drop to the 5K (I don't even know that I could at that point, but it was fun to think about). You know I had to be super-duper nervous if I wanted to switch to the 5K. That is definitely not my favorite distance.

My nerves hit hard. After running seven half marathons this race season, you'd think that would have gone away by now (my last of the season). I think I was more nervous for this half than almost any before (even after training for half marathons since August and doing bridge-specific training for this race). I'm an irrational girl.

But, shortly, I found myself lining up for the half marathon start.

Mile 1 was difficult. It includes running up a gigantic bridge, and I felt the sweat quickly after beginning. I am proud to say that we did run up this entire thing.

The downhill and following miles made things seem a little better. Still hot, but manageable.

When anyone asked about my goal for this race, I said: "Just survive." I wasn't going for a specific time (neither was Lori, thank goodness), so we just wanted to complete this thing and end on a positive note.

We stopped at every water stop. Not stopping was not an option.

We ran up that second monster bridge before mile 5, and I think it was worst than the first, but we ran up the entire way. Woo-hoo.

Around mile 5, Lori stopped for a restroom break (in a nice beach restroom — good move on her part). We kept moving along after, but we felt like something weird happened after that bathroom break. Our Garmin watches were showing us hitting miles a little bit ahead of the mile marker before that point (pretty typical with some dodging and weaving and not following the course exactly). After that break, our watches were way behind the mile markers (like 0.1 to 0.2 miles behind).

This made my head hurt. I could not figure it out. I assumed it had something to do with the restroom stop, but I couldn't figure out why. Then, I assumed it must be because it was cloudy, and our GPS must have lost the signal for a bit. But, for the rest of the race, we'd see a mile marker, and our watches wouldn't hit that mile mark for another 0.1 to 0.2 miles. Really strange.

We took a gel at mile 6, and honestly, I don't remember much after this point. We kept running, and we kept getting hotter.

Unfortunately, the course is an out-and-back, so we had to go back over the bridges on our way to the finish. The second time around, we walked up both of them. Having a bridge at mile 12 is incredibly cruel, but it was nice to have a downhill to the finish.

My finish time: 2:48:35. Yes, that is my worst finish by nine seconds.

But, I really wasn't upset about it. I didn't have a goal, and I wanted to end on a positive note, and I did. I had fun despite the heat and the big bridges.

The race atmosphere was incredible, and it was so well organized. The water stops were plentiful. And, despite the heat and bridges, I loved it.

My previous worst time was a bitter, bitter half marathon. I'm surprised I continued running after that disaster. And, I totally didn't feel that way after this race, thank goodness.

It was fun meeting up with and seeing so many friends at this race. I finally got to meet this awesome girl. And, we found some of our running group friends after the race for photo ops.

With Christine, who rocked out the 5K (Please excuse my hair.
It gets fluffy with the humidity and sweat.)
We have Iron Cores.

After the photo ops, we hit up the food.

Yes, pancakes with bananas and a few chocolate chips.

Then, realized we forgot a photo.

I had to get out of my sweaty, nasty shirt at this point.

Our running group all wore the same shirts: peace, love, run symbols on the front and "Sole Sistahs Rockin' Blistahs" on the back. (I avoided the butt photo by being a sweaty, nasty mess, thank goodness.)

After all of this sweatiness, I needed steaming hot coffee. Yum.

This half marathon was my worst time-wise, but not attitude-wise. I managed to have fun, and I felt pretty good for what I accomplished on this day.

Is attitude more important than time? How did you feel when you got your worst time at a race? Did anyone else who ran Iron Girl come up with a short course (or is that just me — my watched showed 12.9 miles at the finish)?

April 10, 2013

Keel & Curley Winery tour and tasting ... yum, wine

You may have gotten the idea that I love running. I also love wine (and dogs, baseball, purple, ‘90s rap, turtles, Elvis, Kansas State … but, let’s focus on the wine — those words are like ‘90s rap to my ears).

So when I got the opportunity to tour Keel & Curley Winery in Plant City, Florida, I said “YES” without hesitation.

Plant City is just east of Tampa and home to some serious agricultural production.

I met up with some other fabulous Tampa Bay blogging ladies (and guests) on Saturday afternoon. We hopped on a tractor-pulled tour wagon to check out the fields of blueberries and the winery. 


Blueberries?, you ask. Yep, blueberry wine.

Keel & Curley Winery began in spring 2003 when Joe Keel, a central Florida blueberry farmer wanted to find a use for his end-of-crop blueberries. When the market price reaches a price that is lower than harvest and sale commissions, farms stop harvesting their crops.
(Whoa. Seriously felt like I slipped back into my old job — editor of a Florida agriculture magazine — there.) Keel decided blueberry wine would be interesting to dabble in, and Keel & Curley wines were born. 
We got the inside scoop on the winery from our tour guide, Sam.


I thought it was pretty interesting that harvest to finished product takes only six weeks. No further aging is necessary for blueberry wine.

Yum, wine!
Chloe listened politely to the tour guide; Eric did not.
Just kidding.

After the tour, it was tasting time! We had the opportunity to try 12 wines.

Keel & Curley Winery produces three types of blueberry wines, all made from 100% blueberries. They also produce two blackberry wines, both made with 100% blackberries. In addition, Keel & Curley produces seven fusion wines (blended wines; part grape blended with fruit juices). 

I love the atmosphere at Keel & Curley. We sat out on a large patio area with a live band and an amazing view. 

My boyfriend and I came up with a rating system based on hearts (0 hearts = worst, 3 hearts = best) because wine is love.

Here are my verdicts. You may be able to determine my favorite.

Note: We did not try Wine Makers' Reserve. Apparently,
I was really enjoying the wine at this point, and I got
confused. I wrote "Entry error" and signed and dated it.
Apparently, this is the appropriate way to notate this,
according to my chemist boyfriend.

We all had a great time.

Me, Caroline, Caitlyn, Genna, Kat, Chrissy, Denise and Lisa

Here are the same folks, a little more contained.

Thanks for a more sophisticated photo, Caroline.

I loved visiting Keel & Curley. I love wine, but that's not all I loved. I love the atmosphere and that I can step into the country a few minutes from my city home.  

We had so much fun that we stayed into the night (Chloe insisted).

Keel & Curley has a Blueberry Festival each year to celebrate the blueberry harvest. This year it is April 27-28 on the Keel & Curley grounds. Come out to pick blueberries (while supplies last — an inside tip from our tour guide: arrive at 8 a.m. on April 27 to have a chance at the blueberries; they go fast), listen to entertainment, and check out more than 100 food and craft vendors. Oh, you can also try the wine ... my favorite part. 

Disclosure: I was invited to a complimentary tour and tasting at Keel & Curley Winery in exchange for helping to promote the Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival. All opinions are my own.

Are you a wine lover like me? Do you like dry or sweet wines? Have you ever been on a winery tour? Have you ever tried blueberry wine?

April 3, 2013

Ramblings of a fool

  • I now realize the poor timing of my 5K race recap. A turtle posting about a 3:11 personal best and an almost sub-30-minute 5K on April Fools' Day was probably not the best decision. But, every word is true. 
  • By the way, I'm really not a fan of April Fools' Day. I guess because I'm a fool. I'm just too darn gullible and naive, so I'll believe almost anything. Please don't remember this next April 1.
  • For the past week, I've had hip/hamstring/quad pain. I tried to run on Sunday (after not running the past week), and I just couldn't do it. It really felt like my hamstring was going to snap. Yikes. So, I started getting mopey and dramatic, assuming I'd miss my scheduled races, and knowing I'd have to write about an injury. Thankfully, I'm not doing that. Instead, I'm writing about the wonders of a massage therapist, stretching and foam rolling. I ran last night, and I felt fabulous! You should be quite thankful that you don't have to see me mopey and dramatic (even if you don't realize it). 
  • The girl who recently highlighted my hair said that Bruno Mars is "give-you-goosebumps good" in concert. I figured this, but it is nice to have it confirmed. Now I just have to wait until August 28 to see for myself. 
  • Want to see my recently highlighted hair?
It sprinkled for two minutes, and I kept my rain coat
on the entire game. I'm also a nerd that keeps score.
  • All of my recent photos are from spring training games, where I have to wear a hat to protect my Caspar-like skin from the sun. The other photos involve sweat-soaked, pulled back hair (thanks to running) that don't show it either. So, I have some lighter pieces of hair now. Take my word for it.
  • Back to Bruno, I'm still majorly obsessed with this song.
  • Radio stations don't play it nearly enough. If they could quit playing the "I Will Wait" song and play this instead, that would be fabulous (sorry to the many, many, many Mumford & Sons fans).
Do you like April Fools' Day? Ever work out a potential injury with massage, stretching or foam rolling (or all)? Bruno Mars or Mumford & Sons?

April 1, 2013

Honda Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg 5K, March 22, 2013: race recap

I may have a mentioned a time or 50 that I don't like 5Ks. So since I feel this way, I ran another one. I'm either a sucker for punishment or hope that one of these will change my mind.

Perhaps the latter happened. Shocking, I know.

This one did have a better chance since my dad was running it, too as his first-ever 5K (or race of any kind).

This race was on a Friday night at 6:15 p.m. I like the idea of a night race, but my first experience with an evening race wasn't great. 

This one wasn't shaping up to be either. My dad and I spent all day at a spring training game (in Dunedin, spring home of the Toronto Blue Jays). What? You say a baseball game is only about three hours? Yeah, they are. But, we get there when the gates open (10:30 a.m. in this case), watch batting practice (and try to get balls hit or thrown in the stands), watch the game, stay after the game to watch the players leave (and try to get autographs). That ends up being an all-day affair. In the sun. 

We did bring a cooler of water in the car, so we could hydrate on our drive home. It's hard to hydrate properly when you're at a place that charges $3.50 for a bottle of water.

By the time we got home, changed, watched the end of a disastrous Kansas State NCAA tournament game and left, we had 45 minutes before the race started (and about a 15-minute drive ... normally). Of course, we ran into traffic. We made it with about 20 minutes to spare and needed to pick up a timing chip and go to a port-a-potty.

The timing chip was a breeze. The port-a-potty, not so much.

Yes, there are four port-a-potties. That's it. For a race of 500+ people. Not cool.

We waited in line for 15 minutes, and basically walked out of the port-a-potty and started running. 
Port-a-potty line photo

My dad's plan: running and walking intervals.

My plan: see what I could do. I hadn't run a 5K since September, and I thought I was faster, but I wasn't sure.

I was worried I started off too fast. But, I kept it up for the first mile.

They turn downtown St. Petersburg into an Indy car track for a few days, and the 5K course is actually partially on the Honda Grand Prix track. 

I'm not into racing, but this was pretty cool. The cars had just stopped running for the day, so we saw cars, drivers and pit crews along the course. 

About halfway throughout the course, there was a water stop. At this point, I was still at the pace that I initially thought was too fast. Even though I was working hard, I felt like it was manageable for the rest of the race.

The course is an out-and back, and as I came up to the finish, I tried to push it to the end. I was flirting with a time I didn't even think was possible at this point in my running career.

I love this photo because I look like I'm really running (and I'm
wearing bunny ears).

As I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and looked at it, I was amazed.

 An under-30-minute 5K is a long-term running goal of mine. I had no idea I could be this close to it already.

Of course, I then wondered why I couldn't have been 11 seconds faster to meet that. And when I saw my official chip time of 30:09, I wondered why I couldn't have been 10 seconds faster.

But, it was still a 3:11 personal record. Not too shabby.

It was fun cheering my dad to the finish, and he met his goal of under 45 minutes.

As soon as he was done, he asked: "Why did I pay $25 to run 3.1 miles?" Shortly after, though, he said he'd do it again. He liked the camaraderie and how the course made the time fly by.

After the race, we grabbed pasta and meatballs and Sea Dog Brewery beer (yum) and met up with my running buddy, Lori and her husband, Chris, who came out to the race.

It was a really fun night (and yes, I'm saying this when a 5K was involved). And, you can bet I'll be running more 5Ks to get that under 30-minute time.