Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

Day 1 in Orlando:

My mom and I left for Orlando very, very early on Thursday morning.  We were sleepy but very excited and chatted for most of the trip to the airport and the flight.  We got our rental car with no problem and then we were ready to head to Harry Potter World!!!

The drive to Universal Studios was very easy and we got very excited when we spotted the turrets of Hogwarts from the interstate!  When we parked, we quickly changed into some shorts because it was very hot and muggy down in Florida.  After some confusion at the entrance lines, we finally made it into Islands of Adventure and hightailed our way through all the Dr. Seuss rides, The Lost Continent, until finally...we could see the gates of Hogsmeade!

We were both starving so we decided the Three Broomsticks would be our first stop.  It was very well designed, but I was expecting it to be more sit-down restaurant and it turned out to be cafeteria style.  They had several things on the menu including shepherd's pie and cornish pasties that looked very good, but we decided to keep it simple and go with fish and chips...and butterbeer, of course!

Inside the Three Broomsticks

Butterbeer with fish & chips

Butterbeer is actually served hot, cold, and frozen, and we went with the cold version since it was so hot outside.  Well, we were a bit disappointed.  The butterbeer was not so tasty.  I have always imagined butterbeer as something like apple cider, but with a butterscotch flavor.  This butterbeer was carbonated, and they found a way to make a layer of foam on the top similar to beer, but the foam never went away and was just weird.  It was like...buttery soda with a thick layer of foam.  In all fairness, we were really thirsty and probably should have ordered waters along with our butterbeers.  Since they were all we had on an almost 90 degree day with our salty fried food, they just weren't satisfying.  We ended up dumping half of them out in the restroom sinks and keeping our souvenir cups.

After our meal, we wandered around the shops in Hogsmeade - Dervish & Banges, Honeydukes, and the Post Office.  These were full of some neat souvenirs, but the stores were TINY.  You literally could not move because people were packed inside them like sardines.  Also, everything was outrageously priced.  I was looking forward to having a chocolate frog, but there was no way I was paying $10.95 for one.

Finally, we decided we had to ride The Forbidden Journey, even though the sign said there was a 75 minute wait.  I had read lots about the ride, it was supposed to be state of the art and there was a lot of publicity about how the ride designers tried to make waiting in line part of the experience.  Well, the last 15 minutes of waiting was part of the experience - the first 75 minutes (yes, the wait ended up being 90 minutes) were just winding through endless lines that wrapped around the outside of the castle with nothing particularly special to look at.  Once you got inside the castle you got to see the cool holographic movies with the characters and see interesting rooms like Dumbledore's office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.  We were very fed up but still excited when we finally got to the ride...and, thankfully, it was fantastic!!!

The premise of the ride is that Muggles are being allowed to tour Hogwarts for the very first time and a lecture by Professor Binns, the ghost teacher of History of Magic, is being offered.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione, not wanting the guests to be bored to tears, decide to sneak the guests out.  Hermione finds a way to enchant four-person benches so that they fly, allowing the Muggles to fly around the Quidditch field with Harry and Ron.  You board your bench, Hermione casts the spell, and you're off!  The ride is a combination of your typical virtual reality ride - you watch a movie screen and you're moved in ways that feel like you're falling, spinning around, etc., to mimic the movie - and actual real life!  One second you're watching a highly realistic virtual reality movie, and suddenly you spin around and you are actually in the Forbidden Forest and giant spiders are popping up in front of you!  A dragon head even pops out and blows steam in your face!  It was absolutely amazing and one of the most fun and well done rides I've ever been on!

Some scenes from Hogwarts...

Hourglasses showing house points inside Hogwarts

Hall of portraits inside Hogwarts

The Sorting Hat

Winged boars at the entrance to the castle



The Hogwarts Express

The flying Ford Anglia

After the long wait in line, we were exhausted and decided to check into our hotel, Disney's All Star Sports Resort.  It's one of the cheaper Disney hotels that was offering transportation to the race.  We were greeted in our room by a Mickey made from towels!  The hotel was really nice - small, but perfect for what we needed.  The beds were comfortable, the rooms were clean, and we really enjoyed our stay there.

We also got to enjoy this wonderful view as we drove into the Disney area...

Where dreams come true!

After showering and resting a bit, we headed to Panera Bread for an easy, healthy, and tasty dinner, and then browsed the outlets.  We were exhausted so it was a short trip before we were ready to head back to the hotel and crash for the night!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Surprise people

In the days leading up to my half marathon, people are starting to express their thoughts that they were surprised that I ever became a runner.

Early in my training, while we were out on a long run of 6 miles my husband told me that if someone told him when we started dating that one day I'd be making him go out and run 6 miles with me, he'd have told them they were crazy.  Saturday night at dinner my grandma told that if someone had told her a few years ago that I would become a runner she'd have told them they were crazy.  Yesterday my mom told me that her mother said that if someone ever said I'd be a runner, she'd have told them they were crazy.

What I've deduced from all this is that no one expected me to actually run this half marathon, but now that it's days away and it's clear that I'm going to do it, they feel more comfortable expressing those opinions.

I was amused when my husband said it, but I did start to get slightly offended the more often I heard it.  Just how lazy do these people think I am??  I was thinking, though, I shouldn't be offended by it--I should be proud.  Proud that I did something of which no one really thought me capable.  Proud that I set a goal and followed through with it.  Proud that I am going to accomplish something that the majority of people never even attempt.  Proud that I can now say with confidence, no matter how surprised people are by it, I AM A RUNNER.

I want to continue to surprise people in other areas of my life by constantly challenging myself to do things that others, and maybe even myself, might not think me capable of doing.

A really excellent evening

Does something ever happen to you late at night that has you so bursting with excitement it's impossible to go to sleep?  That was me last night!  :D

There are several items of clothing in my closet that I love and adore, but haven't worn in over a year because they don't fit.  For the last year my wardrobe has revolved around the same loose-fitting clothing and I've been left feeling frumpy and un-stylish.  Last night before bed as I was trying to figure out what to wear to work in the morning, I decided to try on some of my old "skinny" work clothes just to see how they fit...and they fit GREAT!!!  Not perfect yet, because I like all my clothing to be a loose enough to feel comfortable in since I am sitting all day at work, but I got everything on and zipped up just right and I didn't look like a sausage in a casing!  I started trying on outfit after outfit, leaping around the room, and hugging my husband!

It was such a wonderful feeling--real, tangible progress in my fitness journey.  It's been a very long time since I've felt good about the way I look, but I really do now, and it's all thanks to running.

Speaking of running, the half marathon is in SIX days!!!!!  I can't believe it!  I'm so excited but a little nervous as well.  I can't believe the goal I've been working towards all these months is right around the corner!  I'm already starting to look for new races in the spring and summer so that I'm motivated to keep making myself better.

In the last week or so I've only run twice.  Two 3 mile runs that were full of leg cramps and made me angry.  Ever since my 8K race I've been feeling like a slowpoke and wanting to get a little faster, but the leg cramps really derail any kind of training I'm doing--they are so comfortable that I can't go fast or go long distances.  If I'm doing a long run they tend to go away somewhere between mile 3 and 4, but they are so discouraging and disruptive.  I've been trying to take it a little easy and do some cross training in hopes that the cramps won't bother me on Sunday!

One night last week I did an Insanity workout.  Haven't done one of those since the summer!  I wasn't really sure what to expect from myself since my fitness routine has consisted of nothing but running and yoga since August, but I was shocked when it was noticeably easier than it used to be!  It was another token of my progress that made me feel great!  I'm planning on doing another Insanity workout tonight.

My favorite thing about Insanity is that whether my last workout was yesterday or months ago, it always delivers an excellent, butt-kicking, sweat drenched, can-I-please-collapse-on-the-floor-now workout!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

Oh, Kelly Clarkson, thank you for lifting my spirits.  I've felt supremely awful today, but laying in bed with a heating pad on my back and blasting Kelly's latest single, I feel better.

I was planning on resting today to give my legs some more time to recover from my shin issues, but after crying the entire one-hour drive home I felt like the only thing that would make me feel better was a good, hard run.  For some reason, my leg cramps don't bother me when I'm running faster than a comfortable pace, so I decided to try some speed intervals.  For 3 miles, I ran quarter- to half-mile intervals at about an 8:30 pace, with quarter-mile walk breaks in between.  The last mile I did two quarter-mile intervals and one half-mile, but I didn't record my walk breaks on Toby.  I ended up spending 34:00 exactly out there and I was pleasantly winded at the end.

The cause of my bad day has been the cause of every bad day since December 23 - my ectopic pregnancy.  It's not officially over until my hormone levels are below 5 and I have to get blood drawn every Wednesday to check them.  When I got the methotrexate shot on January 11 my levels were in the 300s, but I don't know the exact number.  Two weeks later they were at 255.  Another week and they were at 69 - I was really excited at this point thinking this ordeal was nearly over!  I was really hoping that today's blood draw would be my last.  I waited anxiously the entire day to hear from the doctor, but not until my husband called them at 4:45 did I find out my results - 20.

20 is really not a bad number and still a decent decrease, but I wanted this to be the end so badly.  When the nurse was taking my blood sample this morning she looked at my arm and said, "Goodness, it looks like you've been stuck a lot lately.  I hope you're not sore."  My arm is not sore, but my heart sure feels like it's been through the ringer.  So now I'm hoping and praying and crossing every single finger and toe that next Wednesday my levels will finally be below 5 so I can be done with all of this.

Even if my levels aren't low enough next week, I feel comfortable saying they will definitely be low enough the following week, which will be the week before the half marathon.  The race has come to represent a lot more to me than just achieving the goal I set months ago and a dream I've had for years - it feels like the culmination of this awful pregnancy experience, a positive event to mark the end of it and the beginning of the next chapter of my life.  I know I'll emerge from all this stronger than I was before.  I can't wait to run through that finish line.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

California Love

After everything we’ve been through in the last several weeks, hubby and I were more than ready for our trip to California earlier this month.  The trip had been planned since July, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.  We went with my dad and ESM (evil stepmother – she’s really one of the nicest people in the world), who go to northern California twice a year.  I’ve been in the past but it’s been about six years, so it was fun to go back and to bring my hubby! 

We flew into San Francisco very late on a Saturday night and spent the night in a little airport hotel.  Sunday morning we got up early and started the drive down Highway 1 to Monterey.  We made a little stop at the Maverick’s big surf spot in Half Moon Bay because my dad had been reading about how it’s the site of the largest waves in North America.  Gerard Butler is actually starring in a movie about the area soon called Of Men and Maverick’s.  Unfortunately, it was a very flat day so saw teeny tiny non-impressive waves!  But it was still fun making the journey out to the bay.

{Pete and I at Maverick's}

Once we reached Moss Landing, we stopped at a favorite restaurant of my parent’s called The Whole Enchilada. 

Our hotel rooms weren’t quite ready when we reached Monterey, so we walked around Cannery Row and along the coast.  It’s so much fun climbing on the rocks right by the ocean!


Then we headed to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of my favorite spots since the first time I visited at age 10.  It was crazy crowded, but we still got a great view of my favorite ocean animal!

Dinner that night was at The Forge in the Forest in Carmel, which I’d never been to but was delicious!  I had a vegetarian pizza, hubby had a pulled pork sandwich, and my parents split the spicy pepperoni pizza.  But the very best part was dessert…a giant chocolate chip cookie baked fresh and served in a cast-iron skillet, covered with ice cream and whipped cream…

It was absolutely heavenly.  After stuffing ourselves, we went back to the aquarium for Member Night.  Member Nights are when the aquarium is open to members only after hours and they usually have special events and programs.  This Member Night was focused on gray whales so we saw an interesting presentation on their lives and habits.  It was great getting to see all the exhibits without screaming children running around everywhere!

The next morning all I could think about was running.  We had plans to go out to breakfast and then needed to be on a boat at Fisherman’s Wharf for whale watching by 10am.  I was so ready to get out on the beautiful trial by the bay that I decided I’d run the half mile to our breakfast place, First Awakenings, while everyone else walked.  I was having such a great time that I went a little further so that I could loop back and get in a full mile!  But who wouldn’t want to just keep running when this is what you have to look at??

I was feeling great after my run and met up with everyone at First Awakenings!  They already had a table and hot coffee waiting, which was wonderful.  First Awakenings was definitely my favorite restaurant we visited on the trip.  That morning hubby and I were trying to be healthy so we had oatmeal, which wasn’t wonderful.  I am spoiled by my own masterful oatmeal-making skills!  But it was still great, and I tasted some of what my dad ordered and decide that would be my meal every other time we went there!

Then it was off to whale watching, and once again I decided to run to Fisherman’s Wharf while everyone else walked!  I was so happy and having such a good time that I actually ran my fastest 3 miles ever, in under 32 minutes.  It wasn’t consecutive, as I had a break for breakfast and then another short break, but it was still an accomplishment! 

The whale watching trip was great!  We saw more whales than I’ve ever seen on a trip out there!  They were all gray whales making their migration south to Baja.  We pretty much followed the same couple of whales the whole morning and saw them engage in some…romantic…behavior.  It was interesting, to say the least! 

We were all starving after the boat ride so we ducked into Old Fisherman’s Grotto right on the wharf to warm up and have some good food!  I enjoyed my absolute favorite California meal…clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl!

It was so warm, so creamy, and just the right amount of spicy! 

Since we were all wiped out from the whale watching trip, we decided to take it easy the rest of the day and ride along the 17-mile drive.  We saw tons of beautiful sights, including the Lone Cypress, the Ghost Tree, Seal Rock, and Pebble Beach. 

{Pete and I along the coast of the 17-Mile Drive}

{Lone Cypress}

{At the Lone Cypress}

{Pebble Beach Lodge}

{Pete and the US Open trophy at Pebble Beach}

{Hubs and I at Pebble Beach}

The next morning hubby and I headed out for a run together!  We did just 3 miles because we're not used to being early morning runners and we were tired, but again we had some great views and really enjoyed being out there.

{Lover's Point as seen from the running path}

The next day we headed to Big Sur for lunch at Nepenthe and hiking in the general area.  We got to see some really nice sights on the drive, like the famous Bixby Bridge.

{Bixby Bridge}

The first place we went was Pfeiffer Park and we hiked up to their little summit.  I’ve never really hiked before, and boy, my butt was sore!  I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, though.  The only downside was the fact that mountain lions lived in this particular area and I was nervous the whole time one was going to show up and eat us!  But no mountain lions showed up and we were rewarded with a really nice view at the summit.

{View from the summit}

Then we took another trail over to a waterfall.  You were suppose to observe it from a distance, but Hubby and I MAY have snuck around a tree to get right up next to the waterfall!  It wasn’t a huge one and there was a very safe and dry area right up next to it, so this wasn’t some crazy dangerous feat!  Just bending the rules a little.  There were also some very impressive redwood trees at the entrance to the park, so we had fun playing around in those.

{My dad and I inside the redwood}

We were all pretty beat after those hikes but we headed over to Point Lobos National Park for more.  The trails there are mostly flat so it was more casual strolling than hiking.  The views there are pretty amazing though!

{Dad & ESM hiking at Point Lobos}

{Hubs and I at Point Lobos}

{Hiking at Point Lobos}

And we got to watch the sunset over the water…just beautiful.

{Hubs and I, beautiful sunset}

We had Mexican for dinner that night and then we were all ready to crash.  The next morning it was First Awakenings for breakfast again and this time I got the fresh fruit crepes!  They were so delicious.  I'm working on recreating them at home - they are 2 crepes filled with fresh fruit and strawberry yogurt, topped with bananas, blackberries, strawberries, kiwi, more yogurt, granola, and powdered sugar.  I could do without the sugar, the fruit makes it sweet enough for me!  Pete had the Triple Bogey - pancakes topped with fresh fruit, bacon, and eggs.  ESM had Eggs Benedict, and my dad had the same thing as me.

{Fresh fruit crepes}

{Triple Bogey}

{Eggs Benedict}

The rest of the day consisted of more hiking in Point Lobos, followed by strolling through downtown Carmel and having dinner at The Forge in the Forest again.  We had some onion rings for everyone to share, then hubby and I split a spicy sausage pizza and, of course, another cookie!

{Pete at Whaler's Cove at Point Lobos}

{Me at Point Lobos, there is a deer behind me}

{Onion rings}

{Spicy sausage pizza at The Forge}

{Cookie #2}

On our last day in Monterey, we had breakfast at First Awakenings one last time.  I strongly considered getting something different just to try new things, but I couldn't say no to the Fresh Fruit Crepes one last time!

{Fresh fruit crepes}

{Pete's skillet bowl}

{ESM's country fried steak with home fries}

{Dad's Crepegg}

After breakfast we took a trip to Carmel, to which I had been looking forward all week!  We went to the Lululemon there, which is just a showroom, so it was only open Thursday - Saturday.  It was tiny but pretty well stocked, and I left with a brand new Scuba Hoodie and a pair of Run: Inspire Crop IIs!  Since then I've worn my scuba pretty much every day and I've worn my new crops on 3 different runs! After leaving the store, we stopped at the Earthbound Farms which was nearby, and had lunch there.  We all had the organic turkey chili, which was amazing!  I can't wait to tinker with my turkey chili recipe to make it more like this!  It had black beans, dark and light red beans, tomatoes, and garlic.

We headed back over to Monterey stopped at the aquarium again and watched a really cute otter training demonstration!  We also saw a feeding at the Deep Sea exhibit and got to watch a school of thousands of sardines swarm all over as they ate...it was pretty amazing!  

{Otter at the aquarium}

We tooled around the city some, and then had dinner at the Fish Hopper where we all had clam chowder in a bread bowl.  It was yummy, but not quite as yummy as the chowder at the Grotto!  Along with our meal, ESM and I shared a 60 ounce margarita!  It was yummy, but quite a bit overpriced.  My dad and Pete picked on us the rest of the night about it!  

{The 60 oz. margarita}

{Pete at Bubba Gump's}

After dinner it was time to head to San Francisco because my parents were catching their flight at midnight that night.  Hubby and I dropped them off at the airport and then headed to our hotel to rest up for the rest of weekend in San Francisco!  When we woke up, we went for a run even though it was pretty rainy.  There is a path there that actually stretches about 500 miles across the bay through several different towns, but we only covered about 5 miles.  It goes through some pretty industrial areas and the fog was so thick we couldn't see the bay very well, so it wasn't quite as scenic as Monterey, but still lots of fun.

After showering, we headed into town and decided our first stop would be Lombard Street, the crookedest street in America!  We had both been there before but it was fun driving down together.

{View from the top of Lombard Street}

We went to Fisherman's Wharf and had a somewhat disappointing lunch and then ducked in a little place to pick up some maps.  The place ended up being a company that arranged bus tours, so we bought tickets to go on a city tour where there were 20 different stops and you could get off at any of them and get on another bus when you were ready.  The tour buses were open top, but we stayed nice and cozy on the inside.  The rain kept getting progressively worse, and we didn't even get out of the bus to see the Golden Gate Bridge.  This is the best photo we got of it.

Our tour guide was great and we learned some great things about the city.  We saw the Golden Gate Park, the Painted Ladies, City Hall, and lots of other places.  And then, miraculously, bus stop number 16 was right here.

Lululemon San Francisco!  I wasn't going to get off the bus because of the damage I'd done back in Carmel, but my super sweet husband said we should.  So we picked up some Starbucks next door and then popped in the store.  It was a really big store and they had a great selection!  I actually picked up a Flow Y Bra and a Run: Stay On Course Tank, both on sale!  

{Notice the shopping bag!}

After that we took the tour bus back to Fisherman's Wharf.  The man who sold us the tour tickets gave us a coupon for a free wine tasting near Ghirardelli Square, so even thought it was raining we decided to try to make it over there.  We could not find the place, though, and it was just getting colder and rainier, so finally we ducked in Ghirardelli, where this happened.

So yummy!  Demonstrating even more incredible sweetness, Pete then walked back to our car at the wharf and let me wait in Ghirardelli for him to come pick me up.  We went back to the hotel to regroup for a bit, and then decided to head over to Sausalito.  I'd never been there and Pete said I would really like it, so I did some googling and found a nice sounding Mexican restaurant called Saylor's.  It seemed casual, reasonably priced, but still with quality food.  We were not disappointed!  I had a yummy cranberry margarita to start.

Then I had a delicious cajun pasta dish with fettucine, Andouille sausage, shrimp, grilled chicken, and peppers.  It was so good!  I was surprised to find a Cajun dish at a Mexican restaurant, but no complaints!  Pete had a steak burrito, which was there Burrito of the Day.  It was ENORMOUS and he loved it!

After dinner we were both pleasantly stuffed and sleepy, so we went back to the hotel, resting up for a big day in Napa Valley!  I was so excited to go to Napa!  I love wine, and I haven't been to California since before I was 21.  I googled wineries so we could put in an address in our GPS, so we headed off to Black Stallion Winery.  Their tastings were $10, very reasonable for Napa.  We walked in and the place was beautiful!  Huge room with stone walls and floors and a roaring fireplace, with the tasting bar in the center.  We were greeted with a taste of Pinot Grigio, walked around a little, and then sidled up to the bar for our tasting.  We went with the all white option and got to try a Sauvignon Blanc, two Chardonnays, and a Rose.  They were all yummy, but the Sauvignon was my favorite!  The winery had a lunch special where you could get a flatbread pizza with a glass of wine, so we each did that because we were starving and didn't want to drink too much on an empty stomach.

{I had a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc}

{Hubby had the grilled chicken pizza, I had tomato basil}

The ob/gyn who gave me the methotrexate injection (not my ob because she was out of the office that afternoon) had recommended a winery to us.  He said it was very small but was the best wine he had ever had.  It was right next to Black Stallion, so we headed over to Van Der Heyden Vineyards.  It was small!  The tasting room could only accommodate 3 or 4 people at a time and we were the only ones there.  We immediately told the person there that we were mostly white drinkers, to which he responded that he only had one white for us to taste!  But we dived right in and were absolutely AMAZED!  We loved every single wine he gave us to taste, even a Syrah which he pointed out would taste great with steak, and I could actually tell that it would.  It reminded me of the bite you get with blue cheese, which I love with steak.  

After a great tasting, we got a recommendation to try Mustard's Grill for lunch and a pass for 2 free tastings at Cosentino Winery.  We went to Cosentino first, where I had even more red wines that I enjoyed (maybe I'm actually becoming a red drinker), and then over to Mustard's.  I had yet another (!!) glass of wine, Riesling this time, and then I enjoyed a delicious veggie burger while Pete had a Niman Ranch beef burger.

{Veggie burger}

{Niman Ranch Burger}

After lunch, we tried a couple other wineries, but the tastings were outrageously priced.  One was actually $40 per person for a tasting of 5 wines!  Needless to say, we left there without any tastes.  After debating for awhile, we decided to just go back to Van Der Heyden and enjoy a bottle of their Rose.

We sat outside at their winery talking and enjoying the sunshine for about 2 hours.  It was so nice and so relaxing!  After that, I had had way too much wine for one day though.  We drove to a nearby restaurant we had been told had great steaks, but I actually passed out in the backseat of the car and would not budge!  I certainly overindulged, but I love wine and I had a really great time with my husband.  It's always nice to drink when you know you're with someone who you know will take great care of you and who stays sober to drive.  

The next morning we headed home.  Luckily we had a direct flight back to Charlotte, and we were both really glad to get back!  How can you not be glad when you get to come home to this cuteness? :)