Thor 10K (NaBloPoMo day 29)

How do you follow a post like the last one? I’m still in shock over the loss of my friend and I hardly know what to think. My first idea was to share a funny story from work yesterday, but I jotted it down on a sheet of paper and then forgot to bring the write-up home with me, so that lighthearted interaction will have to wait until tomorrow. It will have the honor of closing out NaBloPoMo. Until then I’ll share something else that’s upbeat. Especially since I need to finish my Disney race recaps before they completely disappear from my mind.

The Thor 10K took place at Disneyland on November 11th. The theme of the Avengers 10K changed each year depending on which Marvel movie has most recently been released or is up next in theaters. In 2015 when the 10K was born it was the Captain America 10K (the race was held between “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War.”), and then in 2016 it was the Doctor Strange 10K (“Doctor Strange” was released about a week before the race). This year we got the Thor 10K due to its proximity to “Thor: Ragnarok.” (I actually went to see it in the theater on opening day when I was in Orlando and I really enjoyed it. More humor than your average Marvel film. I’m already looking forward to the 2018 releases.) I do like the rotating theme because it gives us some variety on our race shirts. I woke up at 3 AM the morning of the race, quickly got dressed, and walked from my hotel to the start line. Our course I selected my Thor running shirt for the occasion, and I paired it with a red skirt. It was another opportunity for me to run without having to apply sunscreen since the race started at 5 AM. Perfect! I didn’t break any speed records during the 10K, but I was happy with my pace and I thoroughly enjoyed the 6.2 miles through the Disneyland and California Adventure parks. At the finish line I quickly grabbed by medal and started walking back to my hotel to avoid the rapidly rising sun! I originally intended to have breakfast at LaBrea Bakery at Downtown Disney after a quick shower, but instead I stumbled into the much more conveniently located breakfast buffet at my hotel. Fortunately the food was delicious, especially the exceptionally crispy bacon. I ate more than my fair share. After that I took a lovely nap. Later in the afternoon I walked over to the resort area because I had a dinner reservation that evening. I spent some time in Disneyland taking in the first days of the Christmas decorations before heading over to California Adventure for dinner at Wine Country Trattoria. I had some lasagna in preparation for the Avengers half marathon the next morning. On my way back to my hotel I bought some cupcakes from Sprinkles at Downtown Disney. Their seasonal pumpkin cupcake is one of the best bits of baked goods that I’ve ever tasted. It was the perfect dessert. I was exhausted that night so I actually went to bed at 8 PM, hoping to be well rested when my alarm went off super early the next morning, only to be woken up at 9:30 PM by the nightly Disneyland fireworks. That was annoying, but I still managed to get a good amount of sleep before getting up to run 13.1 miles the next morning.

Be on the lookout for the final installment of my 2017 runDisney adventures sometime next week.

Turkey Day 2017 (NaBloPoMo day 25)

Thanksgiving was two days ago and I’m just now sitting down to write about it. Holidays are always busier than I imagine. But today I’m resting in preparation for a 20 mile run (or attempt, at least) tomorrow morning so I finally have time to finish this recap while I’m sitting on the couch watching Star Wars movies.

On Thursday I woke up at 4 AM so that I could get ready for the Oceanside Turkey Trot. Of course I picked one an hour away so I had a bit of a drive to get drive down there, but luckily the traffic was nonexistent that early in the morning. I was even able to use cruise control. I took advantage of that time to listen to my “Hamilton” soundtrack because I want to be adequately prepared for the show at the Pantages next month. The Oceanside 10K started at 6:55 AM. This was the race I ran with a friend two years ago in order to earn a new personal record. It was tough, but she helped me reach that goal. This year I had an idea in the back of my mind that I wanted to try for a new PR, and without too much effort I was actually doing well for a majority of the race. But then my mile 5 was a full minute slower than it needed to be due to a couple of hills and running on the uneven planks of the Oceanside Pier. That pretty much ruined my PR attempt because I didn’t have enough buffer to make up for the slow down. In the end I finished faster than I did in 2015 (1:08:05), but about 1 minute slower than my current 10K PR from the Avengers 10K last year. It was a valiant effort, but I just couldn’t keep up the right pace for the full 6.2 miles. After getting good and tired during the 10K, it was time to walk back to the start line and run the 5K! It was basically my cool-down and I ran much slower than usual to recover. After that race was over I picked up my shirt, walked back to my car, and started driving home. Much to my surprise the traffic going north wasn’t bad at 9 AM, and I had enough time to finish the “Hamilton” soundtrack.

The second half of my day was dedicated to Thanksgiving dinner. Before I left for Oceanside I put a block of cream cheese out on the counter to warm up so that it would be at room temperature a few hours later. The plan worked perfectly and I was able to mix up my pumpkin dip appetizer shortly after I got home. (It’s basically cream cheese frosting with some added pumpkin and spices. Not exactly healthy, but it’s definitely seasonal and everyone loves it. Even the kids. My goddaughter ate a whole bunch of ginger snaps with pumpkin dip before we even sat down to dinner.) I watched some of the Mystery Science Theater annual Turkey Day Marathon online while making my final Thanksgiving preparations (i.e., slicing apples and pears for the pumpkin dip and throwing everything in a bag for transport.) It was a scorching hot day for late November (95 deg at Natalie’s house) so I decided to wear a dress to dinner. Pretty fancy for a work holiday! I had another long drive to get to Pasadena, but I must have made offerings to the right gods that day because I had very little trouble with traffic once again. Folks driving south on the 605 weren’t as lucky, though. Poor souls. Thanksgiving dinner with Natalie and her family was amazing. I ate a whole plate full of the traditional dishes (turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes, etc.) as well as a lot of delicious extras. Baked brie with cranberries, roasted Brussels sprouts, and even some bread pudding for dinner. I was completely stuffed afterwards. It was a great time, even with the ensuing food coma. Eventually I had to drive home (my fourth and final extended journey of the day) and go to sleep after such a long and eventful day. Thanksgiving 2017 was quite the success. Now it’s time for the Christmas season to officially begin!

Giving thanks (NaBloPoMo day 23)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Continuing the trend this week, I’m sitting down to write this blog post much later than I wanted to and I’m completely exhausted. It’s been a really busy day. But in spite of its hectic nature, Thanksgiving 2017 has been fantastic. I ran the Oceanside Turkey Trot this morning and then spent the afternoon and evening at Natalie’s house for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Come to think of it, a lot of my time was spent driving today. I guess it wouldn’t be a real holiday without a lot of travel! I’ll share more details tomorrow when I have a little more time and a hopefully a lot more energy. But right now I can’t stop yawning! Goodnight, Thanksgiving 2017!

A Seal Beach Christmas (NaBloPoMo day 20)

I don’t have a lot of time to write today because I just barely got out of work in time to grab a snack, change clothes, and hustle to boot camp. Then on my way home I made one last Thanksgiving grocery shopping trip to get cranberries, apples, and pears. The store was basically empty tonight so assuming I didn’t forget anything I shouldn’t have to deal with the Turkey Day food rush. Too bad I still need to get another pie dish at Target tomorrow. That might not be as pleasant. I just finished scarfing down a bowl of chili for dinner, but now I need to wash a bunch of dishes and get ready for bed as quickly as possible. The next two days before Thanksgiving are going to be really busy and I need to get to work early both days. I’m trying to get as much prep done before Thursday as possible so I can relish the holiday. Isn’t that my goal every year? This time of year always goes by too quickly and I want it to be as enjoyable as possible!

Spider-Man 5K (NaBloPoMo day 17)

Last Friday was the beginning of the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. Not only did it take place only a few days after I got back from the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend in Orlando, but it was the last Disneyland race weekend for an unspecified period of time. (Smart money is on the West Coast runDisney races returning no earlier than 2020, but it could be later due to all the resort construction.) I was really glad that I’d signed up for all three distances (5K, 10K, and half marathon) so I could bid a proper farewell to the Disneyland races. However, when my alarm went off at 3 AM that Friday morning I seriously questioned that decision. Having to wake up hours before dawn has a way of dampening your enthusiasm, even for things you love! I quickly got dressed (no sunscreen required for such an early race) and drove to Disneyland. Continuing my superhero apparel theme from the weekend before, I picked my Black Widow shirt and a red skirt for the Spider-Man 5K. The shirt appropriately said “spider” on it and everything! And since it was 10 deg cooler in Anaheim that it had been in Orlando the week before I was able to wear my favorite running capris rather than needing shorts. Fall in Southern California is the best. The 5K snaked through both Disneyland and California Adventure parks and it was a lot of fun. There were multiple Spider-Man sightings in both parks. If I’d been smart I would have stopped for some pictures with characters on the course, but I didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. When I finished the race I got my medal, grabbed a banana, and headed back to my car in the parking structure. It was a weekday and I needed to go to work – after a shower, of course. The Avengers Half Marathon Weekend was off to a good start and I still had the 10K and half marathon to look forward to.

One week ’til Thanksgiving (NaBloPoMo day 16)

Thanksgiving is one week away and I can’t wait! I’m spending the holiday with my dear friend Natalie and her family (including my beloved goddaughter) so I don’t have to do the lion’s share of the cooking, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to arrive empty-handed. What kind of a friend would I be if I did that? So far I’m planning to make my favorite pumpkin dip with fruit as an appetizer, some scrumptious homemade cranberry sauce to go with the rest of the main meal, and Food Network’s Ginger Coconut Pumpkin Pie which is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted. Even though these are three relatively small items, I’m still a little worried about getting them all done and ready for Thanksgiving dinner, especially since I need to transport everything to Natalie’s house. Fortunately I think I can make all three on Wednesday so that I won’t be too stressed on Thursday. However, the only time I’ve made the pumpkin pie was in Tallahassee and I had my mom to help me! I’m concerned about getting it right on my own, especially I’m no expert at making my own crust, but I’ll do my best. And I’m going to attempt to make a gluten-free version just for Natalie. I stocked up on gluten-free gingersnaps at Whole Foods for the crust yesterday. Fingers crossed that they work just as well as the wheat-filled ones. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (NaBloPoMo day 15)

On November 1st I flew to Orlando for my Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend adventure, but back in August a surprising opportunity presented itself. I was looking at the Disney World website and realized that the very last Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party of the season was being held at the Magic Kingdom the day I arrived. I was willing to move heaven and earth to be able to attend, but would it be enough? The party was starting at 7 PM which was the same time my flight was scheduled to land. However, the celebration lasted until midnight so even if I got there a couple of hours late I would still have plenty of time to enjoy the festivities. There was hope! So I optimistically purchased a Halloween party ticket and prepared myself as much as possible for my busy November 1st schedule. First of all, I tagged my suitcase so that Mickey’s Magical Express bus service would pick it up from baggage claim rather than waiting for it myself. That saved me a little time. Second, I checked in to my hotel online so I could skip the front desk. And third, I slept quite a bit on the plane so I could more easily stay up late and savor every minute of the Halloween party.

I ended up walking through the Magic Kingdom gates a little after 9 PM. As much as I love Disney World, the main reason I wanted to go to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party was to see the seasonal fireworks, parade, and Hocus Pocus live show. Before picking a spot to watch the HalloWishes Fireworks I did a little trick or treating. There were several spots around the park where cast members dole out handfuls of candy so it didn’t take long for my little bag to be completely full. It took me the rest of my trip to finish all of it! I grabbed a salad for dinner to counteract the sugar rush, and then I made my way back to Cinderella’s Castle for the fireworks t 10:15 PM. Disney World sure knows how to put on a show. As a Disneyland native I wasn’t expecting the fireworks to come from so many different locations! It was really amazing. Next everyone crowded around the castle for the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular at 10:45 PM. This show was worth the (relatively high) price of admission. The actresses were great, there were a lot of laughs, and the music gave me goosebumps, especially “I Put A Spell On You.” It was incredible There were a lot of reasons that going to the Halloween party was impractical for me, but when I saw the Hocus Pocus show I knew I had made the right decision. Take a look at a short video I took of the finale to see what I mean. The last Boo-to-You Halloween Parade of the night took place at 11:15 PM so I hung around the castle for that after Hocus Pocus was over. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to the Halloween season. Before leaving Magic Kingdom I walked around the park some more (and I’ll confess to gathering some more candy) to drink it all in. I finally got on the bus back to my hotel around 12:30 AM very happy with my decision to go to the Halloween party and make my November 1st as insane as possible. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Halloween 2017 (NaBloPoMo day 10)

Halloween is always a busy holiday, but this year it was even crazier than usual. Not only did I have the annual chili cook-off at work, but was I leaving to go on vacation the next morning. I didn’t have a free minute all day. I got to work really early that morning to start warming up my chili which had been in my fridge since I cooked it a couple of days before. In addition to my own I was in charge of heating up a co-worker’s chili as well because he was out of town, but still wanted to be in the competition. I also wanted to be able to get some actual work done before the duties of the chili cook-off coordinator got too overwhelming. My chili this year was called Three Little Piggies chili, as named by my friend Anjanette, because it contained pork in three forms – bacon (maple bacon, even, which made it Whole30 non-compliant), ground pork, and carnitas. I didn’t get a chance to taste it until just before the chili cook-off judges started their deliberations, but I thought it was delicious. And thanks to my Whole30(-ish) experience ending the day before, I took advantage of no food restrictions and ate a lot of chips between breakfast and lunch.

The chili judges I recruited (actually, two of then volunteered for the job a year ago!) made their rounds at 11 AM and used a very systematic, math-based method to choose their favorites. Then at 11:30 AM I opened up the buffet of 15 chili entries and all of the other food that people brought to the general public for lunch. The chili cook-off seems to grow in size every year so I was running around like crazy making sure that everything was going smoothly. I got in line for food pretty late and most of the Crockpots had already been practically licked clean, including mine. I still got to try a couple of chilis that weren’t too spicy and they were both delicious. I also sampled a piece of the pumpkin sheet cake that I made and it was scrumptious. The white glaze on the pumpkin cake worked out really well. I will remember that for next time, but I’ll make sure to get some higher quality sprinkles! After everyone had eaten and voted for their favorite chili I announced the winners of the popular vote as well as the judge’s vote. Surprisingly, my chili managed to bring in 2nd place on the judge’s list! It just goes to show that adding bacon to a dish makes it infinitely more popular. I also tied with two others for 3rd place in the popular vote. Not bad for a mild chili since the top prizes usually go to the spicy entries.

I wanted to go home at 5 PM in order to watch Game 6 of the World Series to see if the Dodgers could win and keep their season alive, but my workload had other ideas. I ended up staying until 7 PM while periodically checking in on the baseball game on ESPN GameCast. By the time I got home and turned on the TV to finish watching the game I knew there was no way I’d have time to go for a run that night. It was already late and I still had a lot to do. First of all, I washed all of the dishes from the chili cook-off as well as everything left over from making the pumpkin sheet cake the night before. That was a lot of work, but I didn’t want to leave them sitting in my sink for a week! And then I had to pack my suitcase for my trip to Orlando. I hadn’t done a very good job preparing for my vacation ahead of time so I had my work cut out for me, but at least all of the clothes I needed to take with me were clean. The Dodgers did manage to win the baseball game and force a World Series Game 7 so that was good, but I didn’t get to bed until bed around midnight. Phew! It was quite a Halloween this year!

Wine & Dine half marathon (NaBloPoMo day 8)

On Sunday morning my alarm didn’t go off at 3 AM like the two previous days, but at 2:45 AM instead! I figured I needed an extra 15 minutes to apply all of the necessary sunscreen before catching the bus to the start line. Daylight saving time ended shortly before I woke up, rolling the clocks back one hour, so the sun would be rising earlier as far as the clock was concerned. I’d definitely be running part of the half marathon in the sunlight and I had to be prepared. The upside of DST ending was that I fell asleep at 8:30 PM the night before, which was equivalent to 7:30 PM, so I got 7 full hours of sleep! That’s hard for me to do when my schedule is so out of whack on vacation. I picked my Wonder Woman shirt and white sparkle skirt to wear for 13.1 miles. The last time I wore those items was for the Long Beach marathon a few weeks earlier and it was such a miserable experience that I wanted to have a more positive memory associated with that outfit. Spoiler alert – it worked! It was very humid on Sunday morning so I was sweating like a pig, but the temperature was as low as I could have hoped for central Florida in November. Similar to the 10K, the half marathon started in the Magic Kingdom parking lot and went south, so the first three plus miles were on boring access roads. But after that we ran through Animal Kingdom, and this time I got to see the new Pandora area in the daylight. It’s absolutely amazing! After leaving Animal Kingdom we had another few boring miles before getting to Hollywood Studios, but that was quickly followed by the Boardwalk resort hotel area and Epcot. I actually enjoyed the last 5K of this half marathon, which is usually the hardest part of the race for me, due to the clustered entertainment along those miles. It was a lot of fun. My time wasn’t amazing, but it was better than I initially expected after my slower than average summer and fall running so I was happy. I was even happier to pick up my half marathon and Two Course Challenge (10K + half marathon) medals after crossing the finish line. Afterwards I hopped on the bus back to my hotel so I could shower, scarf down some Mickey waffles for breakfast, and take a nap! I needed some rest before going to Animal Kingdom later that afternoon for an amazing dinner at Tiffins (pea fritters, venison tenderloin, and sorbet) – seriously, everyone needs to eat there – and the Rivers of Light evening show. I skipped the Wine & Dine post-race party at Epcot that night because it didn’t start until 10 PM and I was dead tired much earlier than that. Repacking my suitcase to fly home the next day and getting a good night’s sleep were more important. than staying up late for the party!

Wine & Dine 10K (NaBloPoMo day 6)

The theme of this vacation was doubling the number of miles I had to run each morning. (My January trip will have a similar theme, but it will be a startling four mornings, rather than just three. Doesn’t that sound like fun?) So on Saturday morning, much to my chagrin, my alarm again went off at 3 AM so I could get ready for the Wine & Dine 10K. This is what I signed up for on this vacation! Fortunately my pre-race preparations were minimal because the entirety of the race would take place before sunrise, same as the 5K. No sunscreen required! For someone who takes sun protection extremely seriously, bordering on obsessively, not having to slather greasy lotion all over my exposed skin at 3 AM is a huge convenience. (One of the reasons I love winter is having more hours to run in darkness. I cannot wait to get back to Los Angeles to enjoy the earlier sunsets and lovely fall weather.) To continue the Avengers trend I started the day before, that morning I selected my Hawkeye shirt and a black skirt. I don’t get to wear black running shirts often because they get so darn hot in the sun, but luckily that wasn’t a factor this time! I jumped on the bus to the 10K start line at 3:30 AM. It was just chilly enough for me to use a mylar blanket to keep warm while waiting for the race to start at 5:30 AM. Usually I get annoyed at the DJs who “entertain” the crowds that early in the morning, but this one conducted a lip sync battle between the corrals of runners and it turned out to be surprisingly delightful. It was certainly more fun that sitting there doing nothing for hours. I always read a book on my Kindle app since there is so much time spent waiting around, but singing a bunch of great songs was a much more engaging way to pass the time. Once the race began I didn’t cross the start line for about 15 minutes since I was in corral C. The 10K started in the Magic Kingdom parking lot, but didn’t actually run through that park. (It’s a shame because it’s my favorite.) Instead we made our way south for a little more than three miles before briefly entering Hollywood Studios. The Christmas decorations and music there are fantastic. After that we headed to the Boardwalk resort hotel area, and then to through a portion of Epcot before finally hitting 6.2 miles in the Epcot parking lot. The weather was beautiful that morning, the second half of the course was lovely, and I got back to my hotel in plenty of time to take a nap before I needed to be at Epcot for my first Fast Pass. A decisively successful morning!