Avengers 10K

Yet again I’ve missed a couple more days of my NaBloPoMo commitment. As with the last time, I was away from home, although just in Anaheim for the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend rather than Orlando. A Disney race was still to blame for my lapse. I was just too busy and too tired to post anything on Friday and Saturday. Sorry about that. Luckily the weekend gave me a lot to write about so I’ll recap it this week.

I woke up at 3:30 AM yesterday morning for the Captain America 10K. When I’m staying at a hotel near Disneyland I usually don’t get up quite that early, but there were some additional security checks in place for the races after the terrorist attacks in Paris the night before. So I dragged myself out of bed and into the cold morning 45 minutes earlier than I had originally planned. Luckily I’d saved a couple of mylar thermal blankets from previous races so I could keep warm with one of those wrapped around myself until right before crossing the start line. It worked remarkably well. However, the extra security precautions turned out to be pretty simple so I spent about an hour and a half sitting around in the chilly pre-dawn air before I could start running. Without that blanket I would have been really uncomfortable. (What a difference two months makes! In September I was melting at the Disneyland races. November is a huge improvement.) I was in the third corral of runners so I started the Avengers 10K around 5:45 AM. The weather was perfect for running so I pushed myself to go a bit faster than usual and it paid off! It was my second fastest 10K at 1:12:27 (only 42 seconds slower than my personal record). I might have beaten my PR, but I stopped for a photo in California Adventure about halfway through the race. The delay might not have been worth it, but I’ll withhold judgment until I see the picture. After I’d collected my 10K medal (and a new mylar blanket) I stuck around to watch a friend’s daughter run the 100M kids race. It was so adorable!

The Florida vs. South Carolina football game started at 9 AM that morning. I missed most of the first quarter while I was watching the Avengers Kids Races, but it was worth it. As a loyal fan I wore a new Gator tank top (my parents gave it to me in Florida last week) during the 10K, as well as a Captain America pin to honor the race’s namesake. Superhero-themed races are no excuse to not support your team! I actually cancelled a brunch reservation at Carnation Cafe in Disneyland to stay in my hotel room and watch Florida’s last SEC conference game of the season, but the whole scenario kind of went awry, much to my dismay. First of all, ESPN was out of commission on the TV in my room. The whole entertainment system was a little finicky, but all of the ESPN channels were completely frozen. This annoyed me greatly, and I gave some poor guy at the front desk an earful on the subject. Luckily the hotel wifi was fast enough for me to stream the game on the WatchESPN app on my iPad. (Last weekend I watched part of the Florida vs. Vanderbilt game on the same app on my iPhone while in line for a ride at EPCOT. The wifi at Disney World is outstanding!) The Gators ended up winning the game, but not without a bit of an exciting fourth quarter where South Carolina scored two unanswered touchdowns and at one point Florida only had a three-point lead. A win is a win, but this one was much too close for my taste! Luckily the Gators clinched the SEC East last weekend so they already had a spot in the championship game in December. The rest of my Saturday was pretty quiet – I took a nap after the game, walked to Disneyland in the afternoon, had a large bowl of spaghetti for dinner (mediocre, but good pre-race fuel), and finished the evening with a Ghirardelli’s salted caramel hot chocolate. Delicious. I went to bed as early as possible in order to be rested and ready for the race the next morning.

Come back tomorrow for my recap of the Avengers half marathon!

Hoodie weather

Fall finally arrived in Southern California last Monday. November 2nd. (I guess this has been consistent over the last few years, but it’s way too late for my taste. Halloween should never be 90 deg like it was this year.) Towards the end of October the nights had been getting cooler, but the highs were still in the upper 80s. It was not pleasant. But shortly after November started the highs were in the lower 70s and it was glorious! I had forgotten what it was like to not have to change into shorts and a tank top immediately after getting home to avoid sweating in my work clothes. I even took a hoodie with me to Disneyland last night, and I’m so glad I did! It was actually chilly, especially after the sun went down. I met some friends for dinner in the park. Two of them are local, but the others are here from Oregon on vacation. (I first met the three ladies with me in the above photo on Craigslist many years ago. They are the best. How did I get so lucky to find such amazing friends online?) I couldn’t miss work since I just got back from Orlando on Monday night, but I left early and drove to Disneyland around 3 PM. We had so much fun. Dancing like idiots in the Tiki Room, scarfing down three baskets of fries at dinner, trying on stupid hats in the shops, and singing along with all the songs during the fireworks. I need more evenings like that. After such a scorching summer it felt incredible to be outside in long pants and a jacket and be comfortable. Actually, I was a little cold! It was 59 deg when I got back to my car to drive home. Hoodie weather is back! And I’m going to enjoy it as long as it lasts.

An unearned medal

On Saturday night I was supposed to run the Wine & Dine Half Marathon at Disney World. I’ve been looking forward to this since I registered way back in March. A night race through three Disney parks was going to be amazing. So at 7 PM on Saturday night I hopped on a bus from the Polynesian Village Resort where I was staying to go to the start line at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. I got there two hours before the race started and it was hot and muggy. Not the best running weather, but I was more worried about rain. I couldn’t imagine how uncomfortable 13.1 miles would be in the rain. I’ve run shorter distances in the rain before and it’s not pleasant. Once your clothes and shoes get saturated things go downhill fast. Based on the radar before I left my hotel I thought that we would stay dry that night, but when a cool breeze started blowing as I sat on the ground waiting for the race to start I knew trouble was brewing. At 9 PM the crowd of runners and spectators started moving in the general direction of the corrals, but instead we were herded inside the ESPN complex due to lightning in the area. It looked like a storm had developed out of nowhere and it was coming our way. At that point I thought the race would be called off completely. I found a place to sit inside and tried to get my phone to connect to Facebook for information, but the wifi and cell networks were both completely saturated with about fifteen thousand other runners trying to do the same thing. After about an hour of impatiently waiting we got the all clear to finally make our way to the corrals. We were informed that the course was being shortened due to the late start and some potential storms that might still affect us. We weren’t going to run through the Animal Kingdom Park after all, removing 6 miles from the race. The “half marathon” was going to be just 7.1 miles. But we were going to run, which is more than I expected, and we were going to get our medals at the end. I’m not sure I really earned that Wine & Dine Half Marathon medal that I was given at the finish line, but I took it anyway. I’m already considering running it again in 2016 for redemption!

P.S. Despite the anticlimactic nature of the whole experience, the highlight of the evening was seeing the Osborne Family Christmas lights in the Hollywood Studios park. I swear as soon as the runners turned the corner and saw the lights they all stopped and stared. Everything on that street was covered with lights. And I mean everything. It was incredible. I didn’t take any pictures with my phone because I knew they wouldn’t turn out very well, but I walked that entire street so I could spend as much time as possible admiring the lights. And it was a welcome respite from running in the oppressive humidity, even that late at night. Maybe I’ll get a professional photo to share when my race pictures are available. All the discomfort during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon was worth it just to see those lights!

Less than a week

Less than a week is all that it took for me to be a NaBloPoMo failure this year. Oh well. I was on vacation so I knew it would be a challenge. November seems to be a generally crazy month every year. On Friday I simply posted a picture (although my mom and I look amazing in it!), and on Saturday and Sunday I was far to busy and far too tired to devote precious time to writing anything. I will endeavor to do better for the rest of the month! Right now I’m sitting in the Austin airport waiting for my flight to Long Beach. Although I had a wonderful time at Disney World I am looking forward to getting home this evening. Orlando was unseasonably hot this week, and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon was delayed and then shortened due to inclement weather. It was a bit of a mess! More on that in another post. But we still had fun. Even so, I can’t wait to get back to the fall weather that has finally started in Southern California. I might actually need to use my space heater tonight. After our scorching summer that will be a welcome change. I have so much going on this week. Besides trying to make up a few extra hours at work, I’m meeting friends at Disneyland for dinner tomorrow night, and then the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland will be here a few days afterwards. It might have been a blessing in disguise that the Wine & Dine Half Marathon was shortened because I’ll be running both a 10K and half marathon this weekend at Disneyland. Yikes! Even with all of these activities on my calendar, I still want to write as much as possible so I can document this Disney World vacation before it gets lost in my memories. (This will be New Year’s Resolution #4 in action!) I will probably get started on that during my flight to Long Beach. Free inflight wifi is great!

Goodbye Schlotzsky’s

I am at Disney World for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon on Saturday, so I might have difficulty updating my webpage everyday while I’m on vacation. But I’m going to do my best for the sake of NaBloPoMo! I started this post on my flight from Austin to Orlando yesterday, but I didn’t finish it before we landed. You’ll see that I was unhappy with the meal I got in the Austin airport!

Schlotzsky’s Deli used to be my favorite place to eat when I was in college. I’d go there every Friday night for a turkey sandwich or a pepperoni pizza and a Cherry Coke to celebrate the impending weekend. It was delicious. So when I went Los Angeles for my first Boeing internship I was happy to discover a Schlotzsky’s not to far from work in Huntington Beach. I didn’t go there nearly as often as when I lived in Gainesville (there were other restaurants to sample instead), but I still liked being able to get a familiar meal from time to time. But then one day I drove over there, anticipating a tasty sandwich for lunch, only to discover that Schlotzsky’s was out of business. How upsetting! So when I arrived at the Austin airport last January on my way to Orlando for the Disney World 10K and half marathon I was so excited to see that there was a Schlotzsky’s in the airport! I was really looking forward to having one of their sandwiches for old time’s sake. The menu was understandably small (no pizzas!) and I can’t remember what I ordered, but it was awful. It was incredibly bland! Not at all what I remember from my college days. What a disappointment. Since then I’ve tried the Austin airport Schlotzsky’s two more times (including yesterday when I was on my way to Orlando) and the quality of the fare hasn’t improved at all. My sandwiches were dry and had very little flavor. How does that even happen? Three strikes and you’re out, Schlotzsky’s. On my way back to Los Angeles next week I will patronize another airport food spot during my stopover. We had a good run, but I’m afraid our love affair is over. Goodbye, Schlotzsky’s!

Second Halloween weekend

The second weekend of Halloween celebrations actually included Halloween, but it started a few days before. On Wednesday the 28th I made my batch of chili for the cook-off at work on Friday. Not only would the chili taste better after spending some time in the fridge, but I had signed up to bring a cake to the cook-off as well and I didn’t want to have to scramble to make both items Thursday night. (I posted this year’s chili cook-off recipe over the weekend if you’re interested.) On Thursday the 29th I started setting up for the annual chili cook-off at work the next day. One of my co-workers helped me put festive tablecloths on all of the tables so that we wouldn’t make as much of a mess. Also, we had to procure some extra power strips so that all of the Crockpots could be plugged in to keep the chili warm. We had a record thirteen entries this year so we actually reserved a second conference room just to accommodate that many Crockpots. Then when I got home that night I whipped up my favorite chocolate sheet cake after I got home from work. I added some Halloween sprinkles to match the occasion because otherwise it would have been just a boring (but delicious) brown cake. Friday the 30th was the chili cook-off which is always a really busy day for me. Every year I think, “I’ll be able to get some work done before lunch.” But that never happens. Between organizing all of the items everyone brings in, fielding questions from participants, and fending off hungry vultures before the cook-off actually starts, I’m always swamped. And after lunch I’m exhausted! But it’s worth it.

By the time the weekend rolled around I desperately wanted a break, but I had a lot of events planned. On Halloween morning I drove to Laguna Niguel for the Grab the Swag 10K (my second of three Halloween-themed races). According to my car it was only 52 deg when I got there so I was excited to run in some pleasant weather for a change! The race was in Laguna Niguel Regional Park and it was mostly on dirty paths. My poor running shoes got really dirty, but I enjoyed the race. When I got home I turned on the Rugby World Cup finals that I DVRed that morning. It was New Zealand vs. Australia and I was rooting for the All Blacks, of course. And they won! That was fun to watch. Then at 12:30 the Florida vs. Georgia game came on. This season has been a bit of a surprise for Gator fans. We didn’t expect much, but the results have been much better than anyone predicted. Besides a loss to LSU (by only a touchdown) a couple of weeks earlier, every other game has been a win. Go Gators! I was pretty nervous watching them play Georgia because the Bulldogs were very highly ranked at the beginning of the season. But it turns out that they are underperforming as much as the Gators are exceeding expectations this year. Despite the Florida quarterback not being that great (Our first string QB was suspended for a year after he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Oops.), the Gators won 27-3. That was really exciting. There are two more conference games this year so the SEC East championship is in sight. Let’s hope they can keep it up! I have to admit that I spent the rest of Halloween being pretty lazy. I was invited to go trick or treating with some friends and their kids that night, but I was just too exhausted by the time dusk rolled around. So instead I stayed on my couch and watched “The Simpsons” Treehouse of Horror episodes, Wholloween (scary “Doctor Who” episodes), and “Game of Thrones.” An enjoyable holiday evening.

On Sunday November 1st I had another race. Ever since October started my brain somehow thinks that two days in a weekend equals two chances to run races. I am completely nuts. When I first found out about the Dinosaur Dash in Tustin the day after Halloween I thought it was a great idea. They had a 5K and 10K, and I figured a 5K would be enjoyable after the 10K on Halloween. However, after doing some more research I discovered that the 10K started at 7:15 AM and the 5K started at 8:30 AM. Then I remembered that Daylight Savings Time started overnight and that meant the sun would be coming up around 6 AM rather than 7 AM. The 7:15 AM 10K was going to be much more pleasant so I registered for it instead. Two 10Ks in one weekend. Didn’t I tell you I was nuts? I’m glad I did it, though. Due to a variety of factors (weather, work, holidays, etc.) I haven’t been running much during the week so these weekend races are helping me maintain some semblance of an exercise routine. Getting 12.4 miles of running in over the weekend was definitely beneficial. I will dedicate a post to my myriad of fall races soon. Let’s just say there are a lot of them. The rest of November 1st was spent doing things around the house. I made a lasagna to feed my co-workers on Tuesday (more on that later), roasted vegetables for my lunches, and did as many chores as possible in preparation for my Disney World vacation this week. I should have gone to work to make up a few of the hours I’m going to miss while I’m gone, but that didn’t happen. I was lazy instead. I needed the rest for more crazy days to come!

Early November

I went to the grocery store after a long day at work yesterday and discovered that all of the Halloween merchandise had already been replaced with Christmas items. Halloween was only two days before! This seemed strange, somehow. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is my favorite holiday, but I wasn’t expecting it to arrive quite so soon! Funny enough, I was telling a friend on Sunday how happy I was that Halloween was over. I’d had two weekends of celebration, with the chili cook-off in between, and I was a little burned out. I didn’t even go trick or treating with my friends and their kids because I was exhausted on Saturday night. I hate feeling like I’m wishing away any fall holiday because I love everything about this time of year, but I was ready to move on. (The saddest part is that I never got around to putting out my Halloween decorations this year! Every weekend in October had been packed with activities so my poor ceramic pumpkins are still packed up in the closet with the rest of my holiday paraphernalia. I will make sure to pull them out of storage as soon as I get back from Orlando next week. Pumpkins still work for Thanksgiving, right? I’ll create a new crossover holiday, Hallo-giving, just to emphasize my laziness.) But when I was in the grocery store last night I just wasn’t quite ready to be bombarded by Christmas quite yet. I left without a second glance at the shelves of red and green M&Ms and themed Tupperware. Fast forward 24 hours and the first thing I saw when I walked into CVS was an aisle of Christmas cards. Much to my surprise I seemed to have completely gotten over my humbug attitude from the previous day because I couldn’t stop myself from buying some Snoopy Christmas stickers! So adorable. Bring on Thanksgiving and Christmas! I’m ready!

First Halloween weekend

Halloween was an extended event this year. In the eight days leading up to 10/31 I had several celebratory activities planned. On Friday the 23rd I went to Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland with some friends and their kids. It’s a special event at the park that includes costumes, rides, and lots and lots of candy. My friends all had elaborate costumes, but all I could muster was my Rapunzel running t-shirt and a flowered headband (also for running). Lazy, but effective! The first thing we did was go through three of the “treat trails” in Toontown, which basically consisted of walking through a few of the buildings and getting giant handfuls of candy along the way. I couldn’t believe how much we got! Trick or treating at Disneyland is lucrative (and fattening)! After getting candy my friend’s daughter insisted I go on Gadget’s Go Coaster with her. It’s a small-scale roller coaster in Toontown that the kids love. It was so much fun to ride with a three year-old. By the time we exited Toontown we decided it would be a good idea to stake out a prime spot to watch the parade in a couple of hours. So we made out way to Main Street and spread a large blanket down on the sidewalk to save space for all of us. We took turns staying on the blanket and seeing more Halloween sights before the parade. Earlier this year I attempted to watch the Paint the Night parade, which is new this year, but my view was obstructed by a bunch of rude people. This time I had a front row seat. And it was amazing! I think I enjoyed it more than the kids! Shortly after the parade there was the Halloween-themed fireworks. Disneyland sure knows how to do fireworks right. They were incredible. The families left after the fireworks, but I wandered around for a little bit longer since it was a Friday night and I didn’t need to get up early the next morning. I wanted to ride Space Mountain, but Tomorrowland was packed so I settled for buying one last Halloween pin instead. (Is there a recovery group for Disney pin addicts? I bought about eight Halloween pins this year which is ridiculous.) I got home late that night, but going to Mickey’s Halloween Party was worth it.

The first thing I had to do on Saturday the 24th was pick up a race packet for Surf City 10. I’d signed up for the 10-mile race back in 2014, but then decided to run another race on 10/25 instead. To keep my registration from going to waste I sold my bib to a co-worker. (Yes, I know it’s against the rules. I did it anyway.) I dropped the race bib and shirt (I did a little fast talking and was about to exchange my small women’s shirt for a men’s large) off at his house after picking it up. The rest of the day was more Halloween activities. I had been invited to a Halloween party at a friend’s house that evening. Trying to be helpful and ease the burden on the hosts I promised to provide chili (meat and vegetarian options) for the dinner spread, but I hadn’t gotten around to making it during the week. So that morning I made a quick grocery store run and whipped up two batches of chili as quickly as I could. For the party I threw on my old Emperor Palpatine robe since one of my friends and her family were dressed as Star Wars characters. It was another lazy costume choice, and not a very practical one because it was 90 deg that day. In late October. Would fall ever arrive? In spite of the heat I had a great time at the party, eating delicious food, playing with the kids, and chatting with friends. My beef chili quickly disappeared, but the vegetarian version wasn’t as popular. Next time I’ll remember that my friends are carnivores! The next morning I had my second of three Halloween themed races. This one was a 10-miler down in Dana Point, taking the place of Surf City 10. The reason I chose it was because it’s part of a holiday race series and I’m a sucker for extra medals. (I probably need an intervention for this particular addiction as well. In addition to the Disney pins. I’m a mess!) I wasn’t really looking forward to it since the first half was basically all uphill. And it was just as tough as I imagined, and the mostly downhill second half didn’t really make up for the uphill portion. I was pretty relieved to cross that finish line! The rest of that Sunday was spent resting after the race and being lazy. I watched the obligatory fall classics “Hocus Pocus” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and loved them, as always. What better way to start off my 2015 Halloween celebrations?