Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Foodie PenPals Reveal!!!

     My May Foodie PenPal is Karen from Becoming a Healthy Nurse. She sent me a package of her favorite healthy treats which upon arrival I immediately tore into!!
My Treats! Yum!!!
     First of all, let me just say that somehow Karen must know me very well (even though we've never met & only exchanged a few emails!) because almost everything she sent me I already love and eat on a regular basis! Almonds, nut butters, honey and oh yes, chocolate! And not just any chocolate, mind you, but Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt! Oh yea!
     My totally new discoveries were Ginger Chews and dried mangoes from Trader Joe's. I've never been to a Trader Joe's but I have heard they are quite dreamy!! The mangoes are certainly a delight!
     The honey she sent me is pure, raw, un-messed-with honey! It's from Really Raw Honey. I would love to have this by the jar! It really is fabulous! It is really thick and spreads like peanut butter. I used it on my waffles with almond butter and found it delightful! The nut butters were little packets from Justin's - chocolate hazelnut butter (think Nutella but better for you!) and peanut butter with honey. My boyfriend is forever combining peanut butter (the bad-for-you jar kind) and honey as his sweet treat - maybe I can get him hooked on this instead! I've never tried Justin's even though I've seen them at my local Fresh Market. So excited to have something new locally!
     My almonds were "Tamari Almonds" - and if you are like me, you may have said "What's Tamari?" So I Googled it! And found this great little blog, Enlightened Cooking, that explained that Tamari is a Japanese soy sauce used in seasoning foods when cooking. It is different from the soy sauce we use on our food at the table. It also has surprising health benefits! Yea! Who knew? Plus my lovely little almonds taste so good! I eat almonds everyday. It's nice to have a new "flavor" to change it up!
     Thanks Karen for the lovely and yummy package of treats and thank you Lindsay for creating Foodie PenPals!!

And now it's time for some details about Foodie Penpals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:
-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal

-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)

-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 

-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
If you’re interested in participating for June, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 
You must submit your information by June 4th as pairings will be emailed on June 5th!

*If you're from somewhere besides the US, Canada or Europe and want to participate, send Lindsay an email and she'll see if we get enough interest this month!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Small Races

Big races can be a lot of fun! The atmosphere, the people, the music, the food! But make sure you run some small races. Races that are just starting out or just don't have a lot of attendance  - maybe only fifty to a hundred, max 200 people. A few weeks ago I was able to run one of these small races. One of our local beaches elementary schools has an annual "5K for Play" to raise money for their school. They also happen to be the health and fitness magnet school in our area. Hey, I need to work there! This is the first year that I had heard about the 5K and I decided to go ahead and run it. There were probably about 150 entrants total and not all of them ran the 5K as there was also a 2.5K fun run.

 It was hot and windy and all on the beach but it was a lot of fun. 

One of the great things about running a small race is there's not much competition and for slow people like me that helps a lot!! I actually placed third in my age group even though I finished 44th out of 97!!!
LOVE my handmade sanddollar medal!!!
 My boyfriend faired a lot better than me. In fact, he did AWESOME! He placed 4th overall AND 1st in his age group!!! Which means he also won homemade bread! Yum!!
Go Josh!!!
It was a really fun, family style race. I think I may have been the only stranger there! I highly recommend keeping your eyes and ears open for little races like this. Don't discount them! We still got race swag, a shirt and those of us who "placed" even got medals!! And the ego-boost of placing "high" can't be beat!
Yea Us!!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My First Day - "Group Leader"

To say that I was nervous about "my first day" trying to be a group leader would be an understatement! I really wasn't sure what to expect or what to do! Nothing felt very official. I had talked to the right people and emailed the right people but I hadn't signed up on a list or put pen to paper for anything. That made me feel like I was still not "real." But I was there, nice and early, and I was ready! It was a very smoky morning downtown but still a beautiful sight!

That would be smoke not fog clouding the buildings!
As everyone began showing up, I chatted with familiar faces and smiled at the new ones. One of the girls I ran with last season, Rachel, had just gotten back from running a marathon in China! It was fun to listen to her stories about running the Great Wall and climbing "steps" that were all different shapes and sizes! Certainly not a marathon for speed! And the Dennis showed up! He was my group leader last year and is who I hope to be group leadering with this season. I definitely felt more at ease knowing he was there - I'd just follow his lead and act like I knew what I was doing there!!!
The first day of "Getting Started for Beginners" in our local Jacksonville Galloway group was just as free flowing as my fist day with the marathon training group last summer! There are no set groups yet. The idea was to introduce the program and move for 15 minutes. We could all do that!! We broke into a few groups based on walking only, 20/40 run/walk (yes, which when some poor newbie chose me to ask a question of I called "20 minutes running and..." Of course I was promptly corrected! I didn't mean to!) and a 1/1 run/walk group. (That would be 20 seconds running, 40 seconds walking & one minute running, one minute walking.)
As I planned, I stayed with Dennis, which wasn't very hard since about half the people were in his group. I planted myself somewhere in the middle and we were off. We ran around the track at the YMCA. One minute running, one minute walking at a nice, slow pace. I chatted with those around me about the Diva races and the Disney races. We ran around and around and around...

I laughed out loud when I saw my "route" from my Garmin on the computer screen! It was even funnier to hit "play" and watch the little red marker go around and around...
It was a good run. We finished off and everyone drifted to wherever they were off to for the day. I decided to go for a longer run!
It was too pretty outside and the smoke seemed to have lessened, so I decided I might as well get in a few miles. I wanted to do a 10 mile training run this weekend but we have this silly tropical storm Beryl out there churning in the Atlantic! I thought hurricane season started June 1st?! Someone obviously has not told Beryl! So off I went for a little run. I love running in the Riverside/Avondale area because of all of the huge shade trees and beautiful neighborhoods. Even though it was 7:40am I knew with the shady route I would be ok in the heat department. I ran out towards one of my favorite places for brunch, Biscotti's in Avondale, which happened to be about three miles from the YMCA and then turned around. So I got in six miles - seven if you count the mile around the track. Not bad! We really do need the rain if this storm does hit. It would certainly help with all of the wildfires and resulting nasty smoke!
My month has been a good one. Getting back to my training. I'm nowhere near where I need to be but I will get there! So glad to be back with my Saturday running groups! There is nothing like a bunch of other people waiting on you - and now, soon, needing me to lead them - to bring back the motivation to be strong and be better! It's funny how my "season" is starting when the hottest months are also starting here in Florida. But again, that group thing - even when it's hot, we get out there and accomplish things, together!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Expedition Everest Challenge Part Two: The Clues

     Okay, so if you're looking to do the Expedition Everest Challenge next year you're going to need some help with the clues or at least you need to have a heads up on what kind of clues you're dealing with! When I first signed up for this race, I thought that all of the clues would be Disney related. That makes sense, right? I mean it's a Disney race! Thankfully, I looked for other people's blogs on their past Expedition Everest Challenge experiences. I soon noticed that none of the clues had anything to do with Disney! This helped me to get my brain wrapped around exactly what we were going to be facing on the scavenger hunt. I still wasn't real clear about the kind of clues, I just knew they had nothing to do with Disney!
     So here's an example of the first clue they mailed to us via email as a sample of what to expect during the actual race.
      I thought that I figured out what they wanted us to do to solve it. I tried my theory, but had no idea what the word was! I've only been rockclimbing once! ;-) So if you take the colors and match the letters in the color words with the number above each, you should be able to spell out what the answer is.
*All the answers will be listed down at the bottom of this post, so if you want to cheat right now go ahead and look. But for those of you who really want to try and figure this out, keep reading!!!
     When race weekend finally arrived, our next chance at a sample clue was given at the entrance to "base camp" during packet pickup.

     So as I told you in my last post about the entire event, after you run the 5K and complete the obstacles throughout the race, you get handed your first clue along with a Sharpie pen and flashlight (which comes in handy solving these in the dark!). So here's our first clue:
      All of the clues are centered around a person named Gary who supposedly has disappeared and we're trying to help find him. Or something like that! Anyway, the first clue happens outside Animal Kingdom park and you have to find the Cast Member standing under the sign that is marked with the word that comes after your location. So in the case of clue #1, "Oasis" is apparently the location outside of Animal Kingdom park before you get to the entrance gates. "Palms" is what we had to look for on the sign. There under that sign, was a Cast Member who would check our answer and hand us our next clue. I had possession of this card for maybe two minutes, gave up and handed it to Josh, who pretty quickly figured it out.
     Here's clue #2, which we had to run back into the park for, turn left into Camp Minnie Mickey and find the sign marked "Donald Duck." If you're not familiar with the Animal Kingdom park, you might want to study a map before you do this race!
      Clue #2 I actually was able to figure out! It's kind of easy. Pay very close attention to the directions above the scattered letters...
     Clue #3:
      As we left the most treacherous part of the scavenger hunt - getting out of Camp Minnie Mickey and running upstream again - we headed deeper into the park towards the Africa section. Clue #3 was definitely the toughest one yet! Each clue has a word or set of words that gives you a hint as to how to solve it. In this case the word is "period." So pay attention to what comes after each period ~ That's important!
     Clue #4:
     The next clue took us deep into Asia. This time it was a little harder to find the sign we needed. We kept running and running, but eventually we got there. I knew when I saw this clue card that the most important word in this sentence was "afraid" but not the scared afraid. Take away the "a" and then you have the word frayed. Get it?
     Once we solved this one, we received our final clue. We were way back in Asia, headed towards Mount Everest. She was absolutely beautiful in the moonlight. That was also the night of the "Super Moon" so it was pretty intense how big the moon looked.
     We tried desperately to solve this final clue. We kept tossing around ideas, talking back and forth. We literally stopped dead in our tracks to try and think this one through. We weren't getting very far at all. I figured that it had something to do with the number five because it was the fifth adventure. That made sense. But I didn't know how to use the five at all. We kept looking at our previous clues because it told us to. We used the first letter from every clue. Nope, that didn't work.
     We got all the way up to where they were checking our clues to head to the finish line and told them we didn't know what the answer was. I think one of the Cast Members felt sorry for us because she kept trying to help us out by giving us little tiny clues without telling us the real answer. Finally, we got it but not in the way we were supposed to! You're going to think I'm crazy but two weeks later, writing this post, I finally figured out exactly what it was telling us to do. This was a tricky clue but now it seems so simple. I guess all that brainpower we used solving the first four clues, not to mention all the running we had just done, really fried our brains!
     For most of these clues, there was something to do with hiking, trails, rockclimbing - outdoorsie type things. The email sample clue hint is rockclimbing - use the colors & numbers. For the sample clue at base camp, use the H2O - and then find a word with one H and two Os! Clue #1, use the letters on the compass like the numbers on a clock. Clue #2, start with the first letter and criss cross your way thru all of them to get the solution. Clue #3, after the sentence that says "what comes after the period" take the first letter of each word after each period to spell out the answer. Clue #4, use only the letters of the ropes that are NOT frayed to spell out the clue. And the final one - well, I was right about the five. In the clue it talks about hooking together - a number and a letter that look the same and can be used as a hook - S & 5!! Ok so that got me nowhere until today when I studied it AGAIN! Duh! Take the fifth letter from each of the first four clues and BOOM! Answer!

Answers: belay, behooves, clear, communicate, advance, impasse, runs

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Expedition Everest Challenge: Part One

This was definitely a race of firsts for me! My first obstacle race, my first scavenger hunt, my first team race, and my first race completely through Animal Kingdom but it was also my second runDisney race. I signed my boyfriend and I up back in January for the Expedition Everest Challenge 2012 at Disney's Animal Kingdom. I signed us up as a team: Team TravelRunEat of course! I started planning out everything and so did he! I planned our outfits (more on them later) and he planned us staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge! Love that!
So the big weekend finally arrived! It seemed like it took forever to get here. Who knew the distance from January 21 of May 5 could be so long?!? We left on the Friday before the race on Saturday might. We had a very full weekend planned! First a stop in St. Augustine for a concert with The Fray and then off to Disney on Saturday morning!
We arrived at ESPN Wide World of Sports complex to pick up our team packet for the Expedition Everest Challenge. We got in line to pick up our team packets and received the envelope with our race bibs with our team name on it and information about the race. We then proceeded to hop in line for a few pictures with the different little props that they had set up for race weekend. And of course I had to do some shopping! The Expedition Everest women's tech shirt was too cute!

Next we headed over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge to check in for our weekend stay. We made the reservations through runDisney (407-WDW-iRun) so they gave us a good rate for a deluxe resort and also were ready with any information about what we needed to know involving the race. I absolutely love this hotel and the first thing we did was wander around and look. It is simply spectacular! If you have never stayed here before, this is definitely one to check out. And a great hotel to stick with the "theme" of the Expedition Everest Challenge at Animal Kingdom!

So the race was going to start at 10 o'clock that night. It was May 5th. it was Cinco de Mayo and it was also Derby Day! So we had a few parties to hit up first before we hit the racecourse!
Off we went to Epcot through the international gateway attached to the Boardwalk Hotel and on into Mexico. We had been wanting to try the tequila bar inside of the Mexican pavillion, La Cava del Tequila. We stood in line only to find out that we couldn't order food from the bar. So I managed to grab us a quick table and we were able to order their trio of appetizers - guacamole, queso, salsa, and chips! Yum! We also tried a couple of their margaritas and one of their nice tequilas. I'll post more on that later!
La Cava del Tequila
We walked around for a little bit after and then headed over to the ESPN Club on the Boardwalk for the Kentucky Derby. We were able to grab a table there and promptly ordered two mint juleps. We watched the race and I cheered for my horse "I'll Have Another." And guess what?? He won!!! I've never had a Derby horse win. Too bad I didn't place any bets on him but then he probably wouldn't have won!
We returned to our hotel with a little more than an hour to get ready and rested for our race. We had to catch the bus over to Animal Kingdom and decided to do that by 8 o'clock that night. We got all checked in and checked our bag then wandered over to the main stage because I could hear Carissa and knew she was announcing the race and I really wanted to meet her! We got in line for a few pictures. Then I headed over to say hi to Carissa (follow her @CarissaAnneB on Twitter!) in between her announcing prior to the race. It is always so fun to meet the people you follow on Twitter and that write the blogs that you read!
Team TravelRunEat
Carissa & Me

Finally it was time for the race! We were in wave 3. I could've sworn I saw that the race started at 10 o'clock that night but they started people going before then. I was so glad we were already there! This is my second runDisney race. The first one was Wine and Dine last year, and I drove myself to that race and had to catch a bus to the start. This time we used Disney transportation the entire time thanks to staying at one of the race resorts. I highly recommend this! It makes for a much less stressful situation and it's just easy! Disney knows what they're doing!!
Photo from runDisney
 One of the other wonderful things about runDisney races is that they start with fireworks! Each and every wave is released with a fireworks show. It doesn't get any better than that! So we were off running through the Animal Kingdom parking lot headed towards the Animal Kingdom park. It was a little crowded but not too bad. It did get a little bottlenecked going into the actual park. There were a lot of walkers! I would have preferred if they lined us up in the waves by time or speed of running because it didn't seem like they did that. Unless all these people just suddenly decided they were going to walk this whole thing! Now don't get me wrong, I use the Galloway Run Walk Run method but these people were going very slow and they were kind of in the way. With the tightness of the paths that we were running it would've helped to have walkers out of the way or at least following some sort of running etiquette and not walking right in the middle of the course pathway!
Photo from runDisney
 The Animal Kingdom park is absolutely beautiful at night. I had seen part of it when I ran through for the Wine and Dine half marathon in October but this time we ran through the entire park. Along the way we were to encounter three obstacles. They were pretty evenly spaced. The first one we encountered was bales of hay to jump over. The next one was tires that we had to run through. I tried to run but then ended up just walking so I wouldn't hurt myself! The last obstacle came right before the end of the 5K race. It involved crawling underneath ropes kind of like you see in those boot camp military videos! The good thing was they had artificial grass laid out underneath so at least we weren't crawling through the dirt! We finished the race and somehow it registered our time. I don't recall going over any timing mats, but it was pretty accurate so there must've been something we ran over or through!
Working on our clues...

Now it was time for this scavenger hunt. We got our first clue and also a cute little flashlight/Sharpie combination so we could actually see and then answer each clue. I read the first one but didn't really understand it so I passed it off to Josh who figured it out almost immediately. Running and using my brain at the same time don't really mix! Now comes the really interesting part. Our first clue was handed to us at the end of the 5K and outside the park in the parking lot area. Our next clue said "Camp Minnie Mickey" and then "Donald Duck." Well I knew where Camp Minnie Mickey was. It's back inside Animal Kingdom! But there were people still being released in waves for the 5K race who were headed in the exact same direction we needed to go. It wasn't real clear what we were supposed to do. The only thing I could figure was we had to get in with the 5K runners and just join them until it was time to turn off to Camp Minnie Mickey. So that's exactly what we did! Talk about a tight fit!! Luckily, there were people at the Camp Minnie Mickey turn off yelling "5K this way" and "scavenger hunt that way."
Then it was time for more chaos. Have you ever felt like a salmon swimming upstream? Well that's how we felt except we felt like we were going to get run over too! We were running in and people were running out. There were no marks on the ground, no arrows, no cones to separate us, so we were dodging people and they were dodging us. It could've been very dangerous and may have been for some of the guests. A simple fix for next year would be to separate the path into two lanes, use tape to put an arrow on the ground showing which direction you could run into Camp Minnie Mickey, use cones to separate the path and then have an arrow showing the direction to run out. This would have made it flow much more easily and safely.
Once we arrived to Camp Minnie Mickey we had to find a sign that said Donald Duck. Thankfully we were able to figure out what that meant, but there were several people who kept showing up at the wrong sign because they didn't understand what it said on their clue card!
Now I know what you're thinking! Would you please show us these clues you keep talking about. That is going to be in a whole other post! Trust me, you're going to want details on the clues if you're going to do the Expedition Everest Challenge next year! They were not easy and if your brain doesn't work with running very well like mine, they're even harder. I definitely recommend the team approach.
So after we solved clue two, which actually I did figure out how to solve, we moved onto clue three which was located in Africa. Once we solved clue three, we ran to Asia for clue number four. It was then time for our final clue. This one literally stopped us dead in our tracks!! We actually had to get help solving this one from a runDisney cast member! Then it was off to the finish line where Carissa announced us in. That was the coolest ever!

Once we crossed the finish line, we grabbed some yummy snacks -  Dasani water, PowerAde and Clif bars. Another reason I love runDisney races ~ they're sponsored by Coke and other yummy people! The after party was in full swing by the time we reached it. We went to get our bag from the bag check which was kind of like organized chaos. The Wine and Dine half marathon bag check was a lot better organized. This bag check was also hidden! We had to ask three cast members before we actually found it! After we left the bag area we noticed that the sign was well off the pathway making it difficult to see in the crowd. Maybe that was another part of the scavenger hunt! Next we went to go get the traditional BLING pictures taken. They came out super cute!
Team TravelRunEat & our new bling!
We then headed straight for Expedition Everest! We had to ride the ride that was the namesake for the race. This had to be the coolest experience on a Disney ride ever. In fact, it might just be the main reason why you should definitely run the Expedition Everest Challenge next year! Riding Expedition Everest in the dark of night! It seems faster, wilder, funner than ever before! Too bad our pictures that they take during the ride didn't come out. Next, we decided to go to the Kali River Rapids. This was also very cool and quite beautiful at night. But since we got completely drenched, it was a little cold! I was absolutely freezing after riding this! I was very tempted to buy one of the cute Mickey jungle towels hanging at the little cart right outside the river rapid exit!! But instead we decided to head to the buses and back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was a very fun day and an extremely fun night. Our race times weren't half bad either. If we hadn't gotten stopped by that last clue, we might've even had a better overall time!
TravelRunEat 1338 - 5k time - 31:42 Scavenger Hunt - 23:11 Overall -  54:53