I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore

I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for!” Just kidding, I haven’t forgotten. The race is Sunday after all. So here I am, on the cusp of flying off to LA for my second marathon, and I have to admit that I am more nervous, anxious, and terrified for this race than I was my first. Maybe it’s because I have to travel for this race, rather than coming from the comfort of my own home. Maybe it’s because my first marathon went so well that I worry this one will never be able to live up to that experience. Maybe it’s because this week I haven’t been able to get the miles in that I wanted pre-race (um, Colorado, since when do you have freezing rain??). Maybe it’s just a whole barrel full of pre-race jitters, and I just need to get to California to finally settle in and get mentally prepared. If my life were a BuzzFeed quiz, I would select “all of the above.”

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I am more than ready to swap these mountain views for the Pacific Ocean…

I know it’s completely normal to get anxious before a big race. I know I have done all I can to prepare for this race, and now I just have to trust myself that I will be able to make it through.  I did run 141.5 miles in the month of January, so my anxiety is not due to lack of trying (and training).  I have definitely been reading up on the pre-race nerves, and the biggest key is to not overthink the race. If you know me, you know I overthink most things in my life, so this is a challenge.  My favorite Runner’s World article on the subject written by Susan Paul, an exercise physiologist and running coach, focuses on three main methods for calming those pesky nerves.

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How was I so calm before my first marathon???

 

First, rather than thinking about the entire 26.2 miles in its entirety, think about the race as three separate races, about 9 miles each.  The first 9 miles sets the stage, so go easy and figure out your rhythm.  It’s about relaxing and allowing your body a true warm up, getting your muscles find the right pace.  The second 9 miles can be used to potentially pick up the pace somewhat, but still remain comfortable. Finally, the last 9 miles are all about assessing and focus. It’s a good time to take inventory, see what feels good and find the determination to finish. For me personally those last 3 miles felt the longest, so it will be good if I can conserve enough energy and momentum to carry me through to the finish.

The second method is to make multiple goals for this race, not just one. Personally, a goal for me for every race is to simply finish, and sometimes that’s enough. This time, I am also hoping to finish in at least the same time as my first marathon, if not faster. However, if I am not feeling it, I also have no shame in not pushing it too much.  My number one goal for every race I run is for the run to feel good – to find the connection between strength, breathing, rhythm, pacing, and mentality.  It’s a hard balance, and my best races have achieved just that.

Her final method is to look beyond the race. I know one of the things I like to keep in mind is what I am going to eat after the race (tacos, anyone?). I love food, so it’s always fun to imagine my post-race meal.  I also love chocolate milk, especially after a long run, and knowing there will be a TruMoo station at the finish line might be the incentive I need to keep moving forward.  I also have an amazing mini-vacay to look forward to, including Disneyland.  Finishing this marathon will make the following few days that much more enjoyable.

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I really cannot wait to cross that finish line on Sunday!

I had one last shake out run yesterday, and now rest and stretching are in order between now and Sunday morning! “Here I go again on my own (how weird is this music video?)!”

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
1/23/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt 3.33 miles
1/24/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.11 miles
1/25/17 (Wednesday) N/A 3.33 miles
1/26/17 (Thursday) Yoga Sculpt 3.35 miles
1/27/17 (Friday) N/A 3.38 miles
1/28/17 (Saturday) N/A 3.4 miles
1/29/17 (Sunday) Yoga Sculpt, C2 Yoga N/A
1/30/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt 4.04 miles
1/31/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.31 miles
2/1/17 (Wednesday) Rest Day Rest Day
2/2/17 (Thursday) N/A 3.1 miles
TOTAL   30.35 miles

What do you do ward off pre-race jitters? Any recommendations when traveling for a marathon? What do you focus on to get you through those final miles of the race?

Sea, Sand and Surf: A Runner’s Dream Come True

Although I have been running for over three years, the first time I ran on a beach was this time last month.  I kid you not!  Granted, that probably isn’t terribly shocking given I live in a land-locked state surrounded by vast plains and towering mountains, but still.  It’s always been a dream of mine to run like a majestic horse across the coastline, the sea breeze a refreshing reminder of my seashore surroundings.  Or I imagine it’s like the final scene from “Chariots of Fire” and that epic run along the beach towards certain victory.

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How magnificent! Source

But in reality I imagine my shoreline stroll looks something more like this…

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I am as graceful as bird, I’m sure… Source

Just maybe I would look like the babes of “Baywatch,” albeit minus the flowing hair, sense of urgency, and incredibly tanned and toned body.

Jill-3
A girl can dream. Source

I am pretty certain everything looks better in slow motion.  And the perfect camera angle. But I digress.

Here’s what I do know, running on sand is challenging given the friction and lack of stability when you push-off.  It’s also supposed to be a really good work out. The looser the sand, the harder the workout.  According to a study conducted in 1998 by three Belgian scientists, “running on sand requires only 1.15 times more mechanical work than does running on a hard surface at the same speed,” and “running on sand requires 1.6 times more energy expenditure than does running on a hard surface” (Source).  My takeaway? Running on sand is super good for you!

During my trip to Maui this past September, I had grand ideas of spending my

The amazing view from the coastal trail, the Wailea Beach path, that stretched from Wailea's Andaz Resort to the Polo Beach Club. I would run between a 5K and 4 miles each morning.
The amazing view from the coastal trail, the Wailea Beach path, that stretched from Wailea’s Andaz Resort to the Polo Beach Club. I would run between a 5K and 4 miles each morning.

mornings running along the sand, basking in a gorgeous Maui sunrise over Haleakala, enjoying the feel of the whispering wind blowing through the palm trees, and gazing at early morning paddle boarders and surfers as I wander happily past.  The hubs and I have been really great about enjoying opportunities to workout on vacations, and love taking advantage of running in new places.  It was one of my favorite parts about our “routine” we built during our trips to London and Napa Valley, and it’s a great way to see a place as a local might.  The problem with the beaches in Maui, however, is that they aren’t consecutive.  Although incredibly beautiful, you can’t run for very long.  So that dream was somewhat dashed.  Instead, our resort offered sunrise beach yoga and boasted the perfect paved coastal path, the Wailea Beach path, which was supremely stunning and perfect for our morning run.

Sunrise yoga at its finest... it doesn't get much better than this.
Sunrise yoga at its finest… it doesn’t get much better than this. This, however, is the expanse of Wailea beach.
Feeling great after a 13.1 PR! Yay, oxygen and sea level!
Feeling great after a 13.1 PR! Yay, oxygen and sea level!

Thankfully last month I was finally able to make my dream a reality.  The hubs and I, and Rocco the Puppy (Rocco’s first flight!!), boarded a plane for Fort Myers, Florida.  We spent the week with his parents, who live just south in Naples, Florida.  To say I was excited for mid-winter sun and sand would be an understatement.  I am fairly certain that I may be better suited to sand and sun than I am to mountains, but I love Colorado just the same. And better still, a chance to run on the beach!  Florida was the second month of our 18 week training plan for the Colfax Marathon, and we had initially scheduled in a half marathon while we were there.  On Valentine’s Day we were planning to run the Paradise Coast Half Marathon, but due to heavy rains in January and early February, the race was delayed due to flooding along the planned course.  So while we couldn’t

Key lime coladas, besties, and a beach. Too good to be true!
Key lime coladas, besties, and a beach. Too good to be true!

run our intended race, we planned to fit in our own half marathon instead.  On the Tuesday morning during our trip, we ventured out along Vanderbilt Drive, and logged a wonderful (and PR-worthy) 13.1. Running at sea level after serious training has definitely paid off – we ran it in 2:07 and felt wonderful the whole way!  Later that day, one of my besties and fellow blogger, Ms. BakeNBurn and her hubby came to visit for a few days. They happened to be vacationing just a few hours away in Delray, so it was too good an opportunity to pass up!

Beautiful Vanderbilt Beach!
Beautiful Vanderbilt Beach!

With our half out of the way, the rest of the week had me excited for true beach

I could get SO used to this.
I could get SO used to this.

running. Vanderbilt beach is located in north Naples, and is a gorgeous expanse of sand and sea (well, technically it’s the Gulf of Mexico).  We were able to run about 4 miles: 1 mile to the beach, 2 miles along the beach, and one mile back.  After we returned, I was hooked.  Needless to say we repeated this run on Friday and Saturday morning. Running on the sand was great on the joints, but gives you a slightly better workout at the same time.  And better still, no music needed – the waves were our soundtrack.

Do I recommend beach running? YES! Whenever you have the chance, give it a try. It’s both relaxing and invigorating, challenging and easy.  Here are some amazing tips from Competitor.com to help you plan a great beach run during your next seaside escape, or for those of you lucky enough to live next to expansive stretches of beach:

  1. Find the right beach: As I mentioned, not all beaches are created equal.
    Wailea was nearly perfect, just not for beach running.
    Wailea was nearly perfect, just not for beach running.

    The more space you have to work with, the better. Also, take into consideration whether its likely to be a more crowded beach (public access) or not, and the time of day you want to run matters. Earlier is usually better.

  2. The type of sand is also important: Softer sand is harder to run in as there is less friction and resistance. Firmer sand can be easier but less of a challenge.  Find your happy medium, or maybe start on the firmer stuff and see how far from the surf you can handle.
  3. Check tide charts: If you’re seeking more firm sand, make sure you go at
    Take me back...
    Take me back…

    low tide so you have more of the firm sand to work with.

  4. To shoe or not to shoe? I am definitely someone who likes a little more support when I run, but keep in mind beach running can lend itself to either, especially if the sand is softer.  The choice is yours!
  5. Be careful and conscientious
    Sun, water and sand - heaven for the soul, tough on the skin.
    Sun, water and sand – heaven for the soul, tough on the skin.

    of your body: It can be quite a shock to the body to go from pavement to sand.  If you trail run, or run on groomed trails, it may not be too hugely different, but ease into it and try not to push too hard the first time out.

  6. Sun protection is vital: the ocean reflects the sun rays and beaches are usually light on trees, so make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, etc. to protect your skin and eyes!
  7. The last recommendation is my favorite: skip the music. As I mentioned, the ocean or tide makes for a sensational natural soundtrack. Give yourself a chance to listen and enjoy!

As an aside, here’s how last week stacked up for training – we made it to 17 miles!!

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 3/14/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday, 3/15/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.08 mile run
Wednesday, 3/16/16 N/A 4.02 mile run
Thursday, 3/17/16 Zumba N/A
Friday, 3/18/16 N/A 3.61 mile run
Saturday, 3/19/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Sunday, 3/20/16 N/A 17 mile run

Have you ever run along a beach? What are your beach run recommendations? What is your favorite running surface? Anyone else always wanted a Baywatch moment?

What Goes Around Comes Around

Everyone loves a comeback story.

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Source

What a difference a year makes.  Imagine all the possibilities and all the experiences that can occur within 365 days.  I guess even more considering we just had a leap day.  This past year was a personal challenge for me, and while we all face challenges on a daily (sometimes even hourly) basis, it was a year that really tested my values and my passions.  I spent much of this past calendar year working two positions at work, and although I am not in a position to complain about financial stability, the gift of employment, and colleagues who helped keep me sane, it was a real struggle.  I am a perfectionist, sometimes to a fault, so not being able to give 100% to either job upset my equilibrium, and ultimately forced me to realize that I had to prioritize.  Unfortunately that meant giving up something I love – writing.  My blogosphere wasn’t the only thing to be left by the wayside, but at that time it wasn’t adding to my life.  Rather, it became a burden, an additional obligation, and that’s never what this platform was meant to be for me.  I knew it wouldn’t be a permanent change, yet I had to reach a point where I had the time to dedicate and the satisfaction of writing and sharing my thoughts and experiences.  Long story short, I think I am back.

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The gorgeous estate at Robert Mondavi. My favorites, however, were Quintessa and Schramsberg!

Many things have changed over the last eight months since my abrupt absence.  I am no longer working two jobs (HOORAY!!!), the hubs and I travelled to Napa, Maui, Las Vegas, Vail, and Naples, Florida, we kept on running (my love of running returned full-force this past summer), I completed 16 races in 2015, and this past weekend I completed my 10th half marathon with That Dam Run Half Marathon (and had my best official time of 2:09:18!!).  I am finally sub 10-minute miles on a regular basis, and running has never felt so good.  The summer was a whirlwind of visitors, yoga, sunshine and celebrating engagements and weddings.  Fall settled in

There's nothing better than a Maui sunset. Absolutely nothing.
There’s nothing better than a Maui sunset. Absolutely nothing.

nicely, and the winter so far has been beautiful and mild.  I’ve been baking like crazy (shocker), and have taken up photography (still a lot to learn but I am loving it so far).  The biggest news, I think, is that I officially signed up for my first ever MARATHON! There, I said it, the “M” word.

It’s been three years since I began my running journey, and I don’t know if I ever thought to myself when I started, “Hey there self, let’s start running so we can eventually run a marathon.”  But what motivated runner doesn’t at least once consider the possibility?  After two of my running inspirations (including my best friend Ms. BakeNBurn) ran the Marine Corps Marathon this past October, I knew it was only a matter of time before I succumbed.  During the month of December I simply couldn’t stop thinking about it, and finally, by mid-January, I committed.  I will be running the Colfax Marathon, Denver’s (currently) only marathon, on May 15th!

Get ready Colfax! This year I am coming for you with full force!
Get ready Colfax! This year I am coming for you with full force!

 

So now comes the fun part, the training plan.  My initial plan was a bit, well, ambitious.  After consulting my experienced friends and reading as much as I could find, I am settled halfway into my 18 week training plan.  My typical week consists of three runs during the week (usually between 3 and 4 miles), three yoga sculpt classes for cross training and leg work, one Zumba class for funsies, and a long weekend run.  I have incorporated a number of races throughout this time to keep me on track and in race day mode.  At this point I have run 15 miles, with 16 planned for this upcoming weekend.  Below are my weekly totals for the first eight weeks of my training plan:

Date (Monday) Week Total Miles
1/11/2016 1 22.23
1/18/2016 2 22.61
1/25/2016 3 23.53
2/1/2016 4 19.19
2/8/2016 5 13.27
2/15/2016 6 36.32
2/22/2016 7 24.27
2/29/2016 8 27.91
Two of the amazing women and runners I met through Instagram - also both signed up for Colfax!
Two of the amazing women and runners I met through Instagram – also both signed up for Colfax!

Over the past few years I have connected with some amazing people through the blog, Instagram, Facebook, etc. and have been lucky enough to not only meet them, but also train with them.  I am constantly amazed with the connections you can make and how those connections are made.  Thankfully there are so many people with a world of experiences, suggestions, and incredible stories to help me along this journey.  My biggest supporter, however, has been my husband. He didn’t even hesitate when I told him I wanted to sign up. He simply looked at me and said, “Well then, sign me up too.”

This guy keeps me going. I am so blessed to have the best hubby and training partner!
This guy keeps me going. I am so blessed to have the best hubby and training partner! (The handsome one, not the beaver!)

So here’s my hope, for myself and for this blog: to keep writing, to chronicle these experiences, to take whatever inspiration I can find, and to keep this party going.  Who’s with me?

Disney and Harry Potter – Sans Race

Well that was a nice little reprieve from the blogosphere – but now I am back!  The month of March was an insanely busy one, and while I am glad it passed quickly, I am having a hard time keeping up.  This past October I was promoted within my office, but during the transition of the past six months, I have continued to do both my old and new jobs.  This has made balancing work and life rather more challenging when your work practically doubles.  Thankfully this week should mark the end of the search process for a candidate to fill my former position *finger crossed* at which point I will be able to gladly pass this torch of mine.  With that in mind, it’s relieved some of the stress of the piling work, but only marginally.  It’s not real until the newest employee of our office signs the paperwork and shows up!

It's been seriously gorgeous the end of March... when is the snow going to come in?
It’s been seriously gorgeous the end of March… when is the snow going to come in?

So beyond the incredible work load of the past months, March was incredibly fun and full of great memories.  The month started with my first half marathon of the season in chilling temperatures and snow covered trails, and is ending with beautiful, sunny 70 degree days!  Of course, living in Colorado, you know there could still easily be snow through May, but for the most part, the weather has made a delightful 180 turnaround for the awesome.

March is the month of Spring Break, and although I work at a university, the employees do not actually have off for the week.  My sister and sister-in-law work at the University of Maryland (GO TERPS!), and they both had a week off to enjoy the springtime, so my family decided to plan a trip to Disney World.  Needless to say, it is one of my favorite places to escape to, so I was on board all the way.  The hubs sat this one out, and I couldn’t stay the whole week with my family, but I did get to spend four amazing days in sunny, hot Orlando (yeah, it’s cheesy but I love it).

This was the first time I had been to Disney with most of my family since 2011,

The grounds are awesome, with golf courses all around.
The grounds are awesome, with golf courses all around.

so it was a fun time.  I left for Orlando on Friday, March 13th (I know, I was brave enough to fly on Friday the 13th! EEK!), and met up with my parents and sister at the airport.  Thankfully my dad’s 26 years of military service gets him access to the Disney military resort, Shades of Green.  We set off, made a few wrong turns on our way from the airport, but finally arrived at the resort in time for a little R ‘n’ R.  My folks relaxed in their room while I forced my sister to explore the grounds with me.  I knew I would want to get a few runs in while there, so I had to scope it out.  Afterwards, we gathered back up and made our way to Downtown Disney for dinner at the Wolfgang Puck Grand Café, shopping, and an impromptu viewing of the new “Cinderella” movie.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s truly phenomenal!

While I want that shoe, how in the world do you walk in it?
While I want that shoe, how in the world do you walk in it?
Mi hermana and I were SO EXCITED!
Mi hermana and I were SO EXCITED!

The next day, my dad and I went for a run around the Polynesian Resort, which was conveniently located across the street from our resort.  The trails and sidewalks weren’t all connected due to some major renovations, but it was otherwise a fun and easy run with my dad.  Afterwards, we got a delicious buffet breakfast and headed out to Universal Studios for, what else, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  So, lesson learned, apparently they have broken up the Wizarding World (Hogsmeade and Hogwarts) from Diagon Alley, which means you need a park hopper ticket to enter both.  We weren’t aware of this difference, and only realized it when I was trying to find my sorority sister (from Maryland) who also happened to be there the same day.  In order to go back and forth, you take the Hogwarts Express, but only with this ticket.

Otherwise, the Hogsmeade and Hogwarts section was awesome.  It looked like

Hogsmeade was so cute, I could have moved in.
Hogsmeade was so cute, I could have moved in.

it came out of the movie – snow covered, slighly leaning buidlings, wonky little shops, and the castle rising above it all.  Universal Studios does make me appreciate Disney World so much more, however, for the organization and attention to detail.  Although the park was fun, it was easily crowded and not very well laid out.  Once we made our way to Islands of Adventure, we headed through the world of Dr. Seuss (Seuss Landing) and the Lost Continent, until we passed through the gates of Hogsmeade!  First on the agenda?  Butterbeer, obviously!  And it did not disappoint.  This caramel, butterscotch concoction was so delicious, refreshing and sweet… I could have had several but limited myself to one.

Butterbeer with the fam!
Butterbeer with the fam!
How can you stop with just one??
How can you stop with just one??
It's the entrance to Dumbledore's office!
It’s the entrance to Dumbledore’s office!

Afterwards, we decided to check out the Hogwarts castle ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  The line was about 45 minutes, although it didn’t take that long.  Once we got a locker for our purses (which was kind of a hassle), we meandered through the greenhouses, past potted Mandrakes, and into the castle, complete with interactive paintings, disappearing stairwells, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.  When you arrive in Dumbledore’s office, he is there to greet you with his Pensieve and Fawkes the phoenix.  The castle was very well designed, and made the waiting all the more worthwhile.  Harry, Ron and Hermione are waiting for you in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and attempt to explain that you will be enchanted so you can fly on a broomstick like witches and wizards.  The ultimate goal was a little unclear, but then you make your way into the final passage, past the Singing Lady, and onto the ride.

The ride itself is INCREDIBLE.  I don’t say this lightly.  It’s a meaningful length and completely transformative.  The seats are the kind that strap you in over your head, allowing your feet to dangle.  There are 4 people in a row, and then you are off on your flying adventure.  The ride takes you through all of the scary, creepy, adventuresome moments in the books/movie.  You find yourself amidst a Quidditch game, launched into the forbidden forest surrounded by Aragog and his eight legged friends, being chased by Dementors and dragons, and so much more.  You truly feel transported into this magical world – I literally screeched a few times in surprise!

The castle, and the ride, are so on point!
The castle, and the ride, are so on point!

After the ride, we wandered into Honeydukes and purchased some goodies (Fizzing Wizzbees!  They exist!), and then took

Hagrid's hut was on point!
Hagrid’s hut was on point!

a gander at the wands available in Hogsmeade.  Finally we decided to hop on the Flight of the Hippogriff ride, which was easy and fun.  The life-size Buckbeak was really cool, nestled in his nest, occasionally peaking up to see what was going on.  All-in-all, it was so much fun.

It was a pretty toasty day, so we decided not to wait for the Dueling Dragons ride, and instead, in honor of my mama’s birthday, took her to Margaritaville for a few margs in the air conditioning.  I am admittedly not a huge Jimmy Buffet fan, but the margaritas at this place are awesome.  They don’t skimp, and they’re delicious.  Ironically, one of my sorority sisters and darling dear friends was also on a family vacay and happened to be at Universal that day!  They had spent much of the earlier part of the day in Diagon Alley so I couldn’t get over to see them, but after sipping our margaritas, she had popped over to the Islands of Adventure side of the park.  I went back in the park long enough to give her a big hug, snap a few photos (she was adorably adorned in HP gear), and quickly catch up.  Afterwards, we headed back to the resort to meet up with my brother and his wife, who had just arrived, and get a yummy birthday dinner for my mama.

Love you, Juliet!  So glad we found each other!
Love you, Juliet! So glad we found each other!
Um, how cute is she?
Um, how cute is she?
Happy birthday mamasita!
Happy birthday mamasita!

Be honest, how much am I missing from Diagon Alley?  Anyone else just love Harry Potter World?  It’s okay to still act like I am 8 years old as an adult, right?

2015: The Journey Unknown

The end of 2014 came and went, in a bittersweet and far too fast blur.  So many fantastically fun things happened and life got rather too much in the way to report on them!  I finished out my running year with 4 holiday themed races, 2 10K’s and 2 5K’s, and achieved my best 5K time yet: 30:21 at the ColderBolder (it wasn’t a high of 5 degrees this year like it was last year, so I was happy to run it this go around).  I’ll share more about these races later, as I think they’re worth posting about.

One of the most exciting things thus far: I was selected to be an Esprit de She Brand Ambassador!  I cannot wait to share the Esprit de She love and event information.  Although the Denver event won’t be until August, there are Esprit de She events throughout the US, which include running, duathlons and triathlons – something for everyone!  I participated in last year’s Esprit de She 10K in Westminster (there’s also a 5K!), Colorado and loved this race.  It is still my 10K PR, and I had a phenomenal experience throughout the entire process, from warming up with a workout dance instructor, to the cheering squad along the entire route, to the amazing after party at Lifetime Fitness.  It was an all-around awesome experience.  Besides, you end the night with a few glasses of bubbly, so what could be bad about that?  Check out upcoming races throughout the US – if interested, please use code EDS039 when you register!

Esprit de She take two in 2015!  This time as an Ambassador!
Esprit de She take two in 2015! This time as an Ambassador!

Another hugely exciting thing is that my darling friend, Danielle, asked me to be in her wedding.  Having moved from Maryland to Colorado three and half years

This gorgeous lady, and my ColderBolder buddy, will be saying "I do!" in October!
This gorgeous lady, and my ColderBolder buddy, will be saying “I do!” in October!

ago I never knew I could make such phenomenal friends to the point that I would be a part of their big day!  I have already been invited to a wedding in Colorado, which was a stunning and fantastic affair celebrating two of my favorite people, Peter and Ade, in October of 2013.  There is something different, though, about being asked to be a part of the entire experience!  I cannot wait for her and Scott’s wedding day this October in Vail, Colorado.  It’s sure to be a beautiful and memorable wedding.

This year the hubs and I are hoping to take a few more trips, including wine country in June, and a fabulous beach trip in September (this week we’re deciding

I miss Hawai'i!!  Maui is so stunning!
I miss Hawai’i!! Maui is so stunning!

between Hawai’i and Mexico… tough choices).  I realized I haven’t legitimately seen a beach, or really ocean, since Mrs. BakeNBurn’s wedding in March 2013!! That is ridiculous.  It needs to be remedied stat!  We have both been to Maui, and I have also visited Oahu and the Big Island, but know so little about Mexico, particularly the West Coast since it is easier to get to from Colorado.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Otherwise I will have a bachelorette party at an undisclosed location, a long weekend in Disney World with my family (I can’t stay away!), and potentially a conference in Vegas to look forward to!  I will also be attending my sister’s graduation in May, so I will be back in the DC area before long.

My last beach vacation - I miss large bodies of water!  Isn't Mrs. BakeNBurn beautiful?
My last beach vacation – I miss large bodies of water! Isn’t Mrs. BakeNBurn beautiful?

This past year was really a great year for me and the hubs.  I had a job I loved, we were both settled in our home in Denver, we have a fantastic set of friends

And this is only the beginning of our journey!
And this is only the beginning of our journey!

around us, and we had a ton of visitors throughout the year.  My own personal goal of showcasing my interior design initiative, very novice I admit, to the world was realized. Somehow a few of my Instagramable moments were regrammed by Pottery Barn, which is my home decor Mecca. Beyond that, the hubs and I were able to have 2 amazing vacations together, and worked on ourselves as a unit.  This was so successful that, and I have to brag here, the hubs lost 45 pounds!!  I had no idea he had that much to lose, but he looks and feels great, and I couldn’t be prouder.  Once he had shed somewhere around 35-40, we actually had my awesome friend, and photographer, Laura, take some family shots.  She’s the incredible owner and photographer of Red Mountain Studio, and if you’re in need of great shots around the north Denver area, definitely check her out!  It’s amazing to see the things we have accomplished, but even more so to have watched his transformation and how happy he is.

10854842_10103255472513838_2831095774162283244_o
Look at my happy, healthy hubby!

I know 2014 boasted so many great things, but 2015 is looking just as promising.  Here’s to the journey ahead and wherever it may lead!

Dining (and Wining) Around the World: The Epcot Food and Wine Festival

I finally got to tell you about the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, but I almost forgot the entire reason that race exists: the Epcot Showcase of Nations Food and Wine Festival!  Each fall, Disney hosts an expansive Food and Wine festival, in which the Showcase of Nations is transformed with additional food stands for numerous other countries.  In total, there are 36 countries/regions represented.  Given it is Friday and a time for favorites, I am going to list off my favorite items from the festival, and some items that were worth a bite, but not quite as memorable.  Thank goodness I took pictures of the menus, because we had so many good nibbles and sips it’d be hard to remember them all! 2014-FW-Festival-Guide-MAP-AND-MARKETPLACES-2014-page-0011.  The Spicy Hand Roll from Japan: Japan did not hold back in creating a delicious and rather large hand roll that took numerous bites to finish.  This roll included both tuna and salmon and a delicious, lick-your-fingers-when-it’s-done-it’s-so-tasty Kazan Volcano sauce.  Both Mrs. BakeNBurn and I ordered this and I could have had another and called it a meal.

2.  Given I am Greek and spent this past weekend making my Nicolau family baklava, I have to go with Greece’s spanakopita! My mother, I think, makes the best

Mmmm cheese, honey, fillo and spinach... I love my roots.
Mmmm cheese, honey, fillo and spinach… I love my roots.

version (she makes a spanakopita crustard, aka pie, which will knock your socks off), but these delicate triangles had just the right balance of cheesey gooeyness and spinach.

3.  Speaking of cheese, I have to follow-up number two with the griddled Greek cheese with pistachios and honey. It was the perfect blend of sweet and savory, and I really wanted to lick the paper tray when I was finished.

4.  Moving on to good ol’ America, and in keeping with my love of cheese, I have to say that the American lobster macaroni and cheese (or pasta alfredo as they attempted to market it) was delectable. The hubs and I savored every last bite of this mac ‘n’ cheese – because what’s better than pasta, cheese, butter and lobster?  I also had their carrot cake, which was tasty, but not overly exceptional.

Canada was pretty darn tasty!
Canada was pretty darn tasty!

5.  Canada did a great job with their “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce. Although the filet was a little overcooked and tough, the sauce was delicious and not overpowering.

6.  Je aime la France! As one should expect, I focused on some bubbly and dessert in France. It’s really what I most enjoy about French dining – Champagne, pastries, and all things dessert.  The sea salt caramel crème brulee was quite a tasty treat, although could have used more sea salt to balance the caramel.  The sparkling pomegranate Kir Royale, however, whet my palate with perfection!

Pomegranate Kir = Great Decision.
Pomegranate Kir = Great Decision.

7.  Having recently visited Scotland, which someday I will share with you, I had been craving a local dessert called Cranachan. This dessert is traditionally served

Where's my Scotch?
Where’s my Scotch?

as whisky (or Scotch to us Americans) soaked raspberries, layered with whipped cream and toasted oats.  It is DELICIOUS.  This version, sad to say, did not live up to my memories from Whiski, a fabulous whisky bar and eatery along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.  The raspberries weren’t soaked in whisky at all, so the hubs and I also ordered a sample of Scotch to pour into it.  Good, but still not quite right.

This about sums up Edinburgh...
This about sums up Edinburgh…
Two military brats and their beloved Deutschland!
Two military brats and their beloved Deutschland!

8.  Danke Deutschland! The Riesling samplers were awesome.  Both Samantha and I spent some time in Germany, being the military brats we are, so of course we had to pop over to Germany.  We were torn between the beer or the Riesling flight, but we went with the wine.  It was delicious.  We both liked number 2 the best, but I had a preference for the third, and Samantha for the first, so we split them perfectly and enjoyed each tasty sip!

It's appropriate to just drink in Germany...
It’s appropriate to just drink in Germany…

9.  The hubs loves himself some duck, so we stopped in China for the Beijing Roasted Duck in Hoisin Sauce, which was almost sticky bun style. I took a nibble and it was awesome, so this one I wish I had saved more room to eat in entirety.

10.  We stopped in Mexico, even though we would later dine at La Hacienda, so the hubs could get his tequila flight and I could try the mango-strawberry 2014-11-09 16.41.40margarita. The tequila flight was decent and the margarita too sweet.  If you go to the San Angel Inn restaurant in Epcot, you pick varying quality levels for your tequila flight, which is a much better option.

11.  Of course an offering of Prosecco in Italy was a delight, and really a tradition whenever in the World Showcase!

12.  And finally, who would I be, the Anglophile I am, if I didn’t get a hard cider from England?  Alas, it was not Bulmer’s, but I do enjoy the occasional Strongbow as well!

Ciders and beers in hand!
Ciders and beers in hand!

Sadly I wasn’t able to get to everything.  Our stomachs just wouldn’t allow it.  The next time I go, I would recommend either a true whole day in Epcot (starting at 11am when the booths open) and break it up with some of the other activities’ Epcot has to offer (maybe not Mission Space, unless you really do want to lose your lunch to fit in more food…).  We were able to see Captain EO (any Michael Jackson fan NEEDS to see this MJ meets Star Wars movie music spectacular – directed by George Lucas and everything!).  It’s one of the hubby’s favs, so of course we had to educate Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn.  We also rode Soarin’, Spaceship Earth (LOVE it, always a favorite thanks to the narration of Dame Judy Dench), and Living with the Land.  We, of course, closed the day with one of my favorite firework shows, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  I mean, I may have the CD soundtrack and know all the words to the song… You know… Overall, it was the perfect way to end our Disney trip with such incredible friends.

Can't wait to go back!
Can’t wait to go back!

Isn’t the Epcot Food and Wine Festival the best excuse an adult could have to drink around the world?  Which nation looks the best to you?  Aren’t you impressed we stayed awake to eat and drink that long?

Run Now, Wine Later: Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Recap

Thanks for bearing with me, fellow blogging world! Over the past three months I have made the transition into a new position at work, and it’s been quite a bit all-consuming.  I am still trying to figure out how to balance my work, personal, and social media lives, so I appreciate your patience as I have been so absent!  I know it isn’t yet the New Year but it’s never too early to make goals (see my thoughts on resolutions).  One of my goals is to make time to write – it makes me happy, I love to share fun experiences, and I appreciate the feedback I get from fellow bloggers and readers.  So on that note, I would like to (finally) present to you the race recap from the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon!

When Samantha and I initially began plotting what we wanted to do for the Wine and Dine, of course we naturally started with the costumes.  We went to many iterations, first trying to plan a group costume, and then deciding it might be easier to do couples’ costumes.  Finally we ended up with Mickey and Minnie Mouse (aka Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn) and the hubs and I ran as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl!  The hubs and I are huge fans of the Incredibles, so it was a perfect fit.  And knowing my hubby isn’t thrilled by running costumes, it made the outfit very easy (although we did see some Incredibles couples with the men wearing red tights… that’s dedication!).

The hubs and I as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, and Samantha and her hubby as Mickey and Minnie!
The hubs and I as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, and Samantha and her hubby as Mickey and Minnie!

The day of the race was pretty relaxed.  We’d stayed out in the Magic Kingdom until the end of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade, so we woke leisurely, grabbed some grub at the cafeteria and lounged by the pool.  The day was overcast, which was rather foreboding for the weather forecast that night.  It was predicted to rain starting around 10pm, just when the first wave of the race was set to start.  We figured at this point there was little we could do, but Samantha had the brilliant idea to look for ponchos at the resort gift shop.  Remember those $10 giftcards from the packet pickup?  Oh yeah, they came in handy, along with the visors we purchased the day before!  We each bought a poncho, ate a quick dinner, and went back to the room to change.

Oh yeah, we did a lot of posing.
Oh yeah, we did a lot of posing.
Pre-race photo ops, of course!
Pre-race photo ops, of course!

Having already done one Disney race, I knew it would not be beneficial to risk catching the last bus from the resort to the staging area.  We decided the second bus, which would pick us up just after 6pm.  Given our resort’s proximity to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which is where the race began, it was a quick ride.  We arrived just after 6:30pm and decided, what the hey, let’s get some pictures.  We found pre-race photographers, used the porta-potties, and stood in line for a Minnie Mouse photo-op (it was perfect for Mrs. BakeNBurn, although I think Minnie really preferred Mr. BakeNBurn!).  We sat down for a little while, but I decided one additional restroom break was in order, and by the time I returned, it was time to get ready for the race!

Two Minnies and Elastigirl!
Two Minnies and Elastigirl!

We donned our ponchos, because at this point it began to sprinkle.  We all decided to start together in corral H, but Samantha

We make ponchos look good.
We make ponchos look good.

and I would let the boys do their own thing once we started.  We didn’t realize at the time that Samantha was actually fighting a knee injury, but boy was she a CHAMP.  We waited about 20-25 minutes before our corral actually set off, and by this time it was just plain raining.  Given we didn’t really have a choice, we decided to make the most of it and just have fun.  And that is precisely what we did!

YAY Wine and Dine!
YAY Wine and Dine!

Once our wave was ready to set off, the boys went ahead to run to their hearts’ content.  Samantha and I frolicked along looking for fun photo ops.  There were many to be had, although a number of the characters weren’t available due to the rain.  The first photo op was with some random fairies, but knowing many other photo stations wouldn’t be operating, we jumped in!  At this point Samantha had ditched her poncho, somewhere around the 1st mile marker, but I decided to keep mine on for a while.  I hate being wet, and thankfully it was vented along the side so I could still feel cool.  Also, I get cold really easily, so I knew I didn’t want to be shivering through the next 12 miles.  Instead, I would turn my poncho into a cape (which I know is terribly wrong, considering Edna Mole’s comment on capes: “NO CAPES!”).  I mean, hey, when life gives you ponchos, you make capes!

Edna, I failed you...
Edna, I failed you…

Past the third mile marker we made our way into the Animal Kingdom.  I completely forgot how awesome the Animal Kingdom is,

The race course went through 3 parks, which really helped the miles fly!
The race course went through 3 parks, which really helped the miles fly!

and loved running through it.  With the rain it really felt like a jungle! Before entering the park we passed by a mini light parade and Rafiki! There were photographers scattered throughout, and running in DinoLand was pretty spectacular.  This portion of the race took up about 2 miles, so once we exited we were on our way to the 10K mark.  Miles 6 through 8 were all on roads in between the parks, and because of the rain, course entertainment was not to be found.  Thankfully we were finally making our way into Hollywood Studios!  This was by far my favorite park of the race.  We entered through a back lot into the middle of Hollywood Studios and quickly made our way past Mickey’s wizard hat.  It was pretty spectacular all lit up at night.  We meandered through Hollywood streets and then towards the back of the park where we ran through a psychedelic tunnel with windows into costume design studios.  We got to see the costumes and mock-ups for the princesses, which in my mind, was spectacular.

Look, a turtle! Go Terps!
Look, a turtle! Go Terps!
We were obviously THRILLED to see Rafiki!
We were obviously THRILLED to see Rafiki!
Goodbye wizard hat!
Goodbye wizard hat!
The costume design rooms were spectacular!
The costume design rooms were spectacular! Look, Prince Charming!!

I was wondering two things around this time: 1) when were we going to see the Incredibles, and 2) when were we going to run through the Osborn Family lights?  Thankfully my questions were soon answered.  Alas, the Incredibles characters were not available when I ran past, but I took the opportunity to pose enthusiastically in front of the Incredibles backdrop.  I was in character, after all.  I was positively joyous when the photographer shouted, “Elastigirl, you made it!”  It was nice to see the photographers cheery, because they, also, had to be stuck in the rain.  Shortly after passing my photo op, we looped back around in the backstage area of Hollywood Studios and quite literally emerged in the splendor of the Osborn Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights!

This was my moment to shine!
This was my moment to shine!
Behold the splendor of the Osborn Family Lights!
Behold the splendor of the Osborn Family Lights!
DSC03675
Beautiful!
So sparkly!
So sparkly!
Quite literally everything has a light on it.
Quite literally everything has a light on it.

If you’ve never seen this spectacle, it’s completely worth the visit.  I have never seen as many glorious lights in my life.  Disney took the idea from the Osborn family in Arkansas who initially started doing light shows coordinated to Christmas music.  It’s really phenomenal and had last seen the show in December of 2010.  It in every way encompasses the magic of the Christmas season!  During the section we didn’t even bother running because we wanted to take it all in and have chances for photos.  It’s just too beautiful to run right through!

This is my pose I stole from my friend Christine from the Princess half.
This is my pose I stole from my friend Christine from the Princess half.

Once we finally peeled ourselves away from the shimmering scene, we wound our way back through the park and passed once more by Mickey’s wizard hat.  It turns out this hat will be bidding a fond farewell to Disney World so I am happy I could see it one last time!  Once we exited the park, we were on our way to mile 11, with just the Boardwalk to go!  As we made our way from Hollywood Studios to the Boardwalk, we ran under a bridge.  The space underneath was PACKED with ChEAR squad participants, excited and encouraging in the wee hours of the morning!  These folks are truly phenomenal – they show up to the Disney races, which are either at 5:30 in the morning or 10:00 at night, and never fail to put a smile on a runner’s face.  It was the little boost we both needed to get through the last few miles.

Passing by all the Boardwalk resorts was also a lot of fun, although the boardwalk itself was rather treacherous while wet.  We trod carefully and worked our way up and into Epcot!  We entered in the back of the park through the entrance to the Showcase of Nations.  The after party was taking place, but I think we had already decided that hanging around later into the early morning hours in the rain didn’t sound overly enjoyable.  We weaved through the park and ran out of the entrance toward the finish line in the parking lot.  We made it, and boy did we work for it.  Samantha and I both held up pretty well given the conditions and the miles.  Our costumes remained intact and we were so thankful to be done.  We grabbed our mylar blankets, post-race snack packs, and of course, our gorgeous medals.  These babies were well worth the effort.  We found an open finisher’s photographer station then made our way out of the throng of runners to find our hubbies.  Rather than go to the party they were waiting for us after the finisher photos.  We were all pretty ready for hot showers and bed, so we worked our way to the bus stations, and thankfully made it on the available bus for Caribbean Beach.

WE DID IT!
WE DID IT!

All in all, it was a great race, and one I would definitely do again.  Sadly you cannot control the weather, and I would love to be able to experience it in better conditions, with all the characters out in action.  I was so thrilled to be able to run a second Disney race in 2014, and with another of my dearest friends.  The whole weekend was topped off by the Disney Food and Wine Festival in Epcot, so although we didn’t indulge in the after party, we still managed to get our fill!  Here’s to an amazing running year, and having completed now my 5th ever half marathon – all in 2014!

Have you ever run a half, or longer, in the rain – any other recommendations?  Would you run for wine (and food)?  Which Run Disney race is your favorite?  Who doesn’t love frolicking through sparkly Christmas lights?