Holidays are over

Today was the last day of my holiday break which means that I have to go back to work tomorrow. I’m not crazy about that prospect, but I’ve had a paid vacation since December 23rd so I can’t really complain. If I didn’t accomplish as much as I wanted to that’s my own fault. Today didn’t really help me feel like my time off was well spent either. Unfortunately I spent most of the day trying to figure out what’s wrong with my stupid iPhone. A couple of days ago I noticed that the battery was draining very rapidly (losing 50% in about 15 minutes) even with very light phone usage. At first I thought it was due to my new Garmin watch that was connected via Bluetooth or some of the new running apps I added recently. However, reverting those changes didn’t fix the problem. I won’t bore you with the details, but as of this afternoon I’ve tried everything in my power to resolve the issue, including completely wiping the phone and restoring the factory settings. This is particularly because I need a reliable phone for my marathon and I’m leaving for Orlando on Friday morning. I have an appointment at Best Buy tomorrow to perhaps replace the battery. From what I’ve read in Apple forums this was the only thing that seemed to help at all, even though my battery passed a diagnostic test at a local repair shop. If my poor phone is still afflicted after that I’ll have to walk in to an Apple Store on Wednesday without an appointment and hope they have a solution. Let’s just hope the “solution” isn’t simply a brand new phone. I’m not really ready for that yet, but I may not have much of a choice. Kinda like my car buying experience last spring! I’ll let you know how it goes.

There was some good news today – Florida beat Iowa in the Outback Bowl! Go Gators! It was a lot of fun to watch them win a game after the disappointing end to the regular season. Let’s hope that this portends a promising 2017 season for Florida. I guess we’ll have to wait until the fall to find out. Right now I need to go to bed so I can get up on time for work tomorrow morning. My holiday break ended with a bit of a whimper, but I still had a relaxing and fairly productive week and a half. Now it’s time to put the holidays behind me and get started on 2017. My Christmas tree won’t come down until after I get home from Orlando, though. I didn’t put it up until December 18th this year so I’m going to enjoy it for a little longer. Happy January everyone!

Thanksgiving 2016 (Part 2)

On Friday we decided to honor REI’s Opt Outside campaign, which emphasizes outdoor activities over shopping on Black Friday. Our first stop was Mission San Luis, a living history museum of that shows the interaction between native Apalachee Indians and Spanish settlers in the Tallahassee area. It’s a fascinating place and I can’t believe I’ve never been there before. After that we drove down to Wakulla Springs, a favorite childhood summer getaway, in the hopes of seeing some manatees in the springs. Unfortunately all of the boat tours in the near future were full by the time we got there so we only walked around for about an hour, but it was still fun to visit. There was even some beautiful fall color in the trees (not something that usually happens in North Florida), as you can see in the above panorama I took. The reason we couldn’t stay at Wakulla Springs and take a later boat tour was because we had tickets to see “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” at 6 PM. I was skeptical of the movie when it started out slow, but once it hit its stride I really enjoyed the film. I’m excited for the other Harry Potter universe movies that are coming in the next few years.

On Saturday morning I got up early again (doesn’t everyone do that on vacation?) because I needed to run 12 miles. I slept later than I planned, and I was worried that it was going to be too warm for my run, but luckily the weather was lovely. I always forget that the tall pine trees in North Florida provide very accommodating shade! Once again we had McDonald’s Egg McMuffins as a post-run meal, which was perfect for me. My mom and I did a little shopping afterwards, but except for purchasing a few things at Old Navy we were less successful than on Wednesday. Our time was limited because we had to get home and prepare for the UF vs. FSU football game that night. We had some leftover spaghetti for an early dinner, and then I set up the Roku streaming stick that I bought my parents as an early Christmas present. Inexplicably, neither their smart TV nor Blu-ray player had the capability to connect to the Amazon Prime Video app so I covertly ordered the Roku streaming stick so we could watch “The Grand Tour” while I was in town. We only had enough time to watch half of the first episode before leaving for the football game, though. My dad got some amazing sky box tickets for the game so we got to watch in luxury with catered food and spacious seating. It was a fantastic experience except for the fact that the Gators lost badly. Florida lost both of the football games I attended this year – I guess I was a jinx! We managed to get out of the stadium a little early after realizing that the Seminoles were going to prevail, and we got home around midnight.

My alarm went off at 4 AM on Sunday morning so that I could get ready to go to the airport for my 6:12 AM flight. It was rough only getting a few hours of sleep, but the trade-off was arriving back in Los Angeles in the early afternoon. In spite of the serious sleep deprivation I would have survived the trip unscathed except for the fact that I caught a cold on my flight home. (Luckily it turned out to be fairly mild, and I am feeling 100% better now.) It was a rough end to my Thanksgiving trip to Florida, but I had a great time. Now it’s time to put up my Christmas tree and prepare for Christmas!

Doctor Strange 10K

The Doctor Strange 10K on Saturday was amazing! The 10K distance is definitely my preferred distance, and over the last three years the Avengers races have proven to be my hands-down favorites. That title was successfully defended this past weekend. I rolled out of bed in my hotel room at 4 AM on Saturday morning and got ready for the race. Taking into account my expected finish time and the time of sunrise for that day I decided not to wear sunscreen. Just call me a rebel! I probably should have, but putting it on would have taken time and effort that I wasn’t willing to spend. After walking to the start line I managed to maneuver myself to the front of my corral (C) in order to avoid a lot of dodging and weaving of slower runners and walkers once I got going. Because I’ve had some luck running races at a decent pace lately I had a fleeting idea to go for a 10K personal record. That usually doesn’t work too well at Disney races, but with almost front-row corral placement I was trying to keep the possibility alive. And it worked! Last Thanksgiving a friend paced me in order to get a 10K time of less than 1:10 (1:09:40, to be exact), but I finished the Doctor Strange 10K in 1:07:01! It felt amazing to get a PR of over 2 minutes! I was still in shock as I walked back to my hotel, with my medal around my neck and a stupid grin on my face. The weekend was starting off perfectly.

After a quick shower in my hotel room I drove to McDonald’s for breakfast. I was really hungry after the 10K and only my favorite breakfast would do – Egg McMuffin and a Diet Coke. The Florida vs. South Carolina football game was going to start at 9 AM and I decided to go home and watch it there where I could comfortably lounge on my own couch. I didn’t quite make it home before the game started, but luckily the XM radio in my car allowed me listen to the beginning of the first quarter as I was driving. Continuing the positive nature of the weekend the Gators beat the Gamecocks! This is a better outcome than the Arkansas game that I attended with my family last weekend. The offense actually showed up this week which was a nice change. Let’s hope Florida can keep it up for the rest of the season. After the game I drove back to my hotel in Anaheim and then walked over to Disneyland. It was crowded this weekend so I skipped most of the rides. I did make sure to catch the two movie previews in California Adventure, though – “Doctor Strange” and “Moana.” Both movies look really good and I can’t wait to see them. Before leaving the parks for the evening I had a big pasta dinner (lasagna, to be precise) at Wine Country Trattoria in preparation for the Avengers Superheroes Half Marathon the next morning. A good race starts with a good carb load meal the day before. And in order to set myself up for success on Sunday I walked back to my hotel after dinner and went to bed early. It was going to be a long 13.1 miles in the morning!

Gator apparel

Written at LAX this morning:

I’m at the airport getting ready to fly to Arkansas. Why Arkansas, you ask? For Florida football, of course! I have cousins who live there (Razorback fans, but that’s OK) and they offered tickets to the game tomorrow if I could make it. How could I possibly refuse? It was a lucky break that I wasn’t registered for a race this weekend otherwise I would have been stuck watching on TV from the West Coast again. But this weekend, which is sandwiched between the Rock N Roll Los Angeles half marathon last Sunday and the Avengers race weekend at Disneyland starting this Friday, was surprisingly open. So I’m thrilled to be heading to Fayetteville, AR for the weekend!

In an effort to make my trip preparations as smooth as possible, I laid out the clothes I planned to wear today before I went to bed last night. My brain has trouble picking an outfit in the morning. It’s like writer’s block, but with fashion. Not that I’m fashionable, but that’s another story. But when I was throwing on my clothes at 4 AM (when my alarm went off it took me a good 30 seconds to remember why I was getting up so darn early) I changed my mind about which shirt I wanted to wear. I was obviously going to wear Gator apparel for my flight (that’s basically my wardrobe for the entire weekend), but rather than the one I originally selected, I grabbed something different from my drawer. I think I bought this particular shirt in Tallahassee at Christmas in 2014, but I’ve never actually worn it. I can’t believe it’s been almost two years! After I hurt my knee in January 2015 I put on some weight and the shirt was too small. Since then it’s just been sitting in a drawer, along with a number of other too snug shirts, on the off chance that I lost enough weight to squeeze myself into it. Thanks to Nutrisystem and a strict workout plan (and losing about 12 lbs) I figured that time has finally arrived!

See, yesterday I optimistically slipped on an old pair of jeans that I used to wear when I was at my thinnest (i.e., before the knee injury) and they actually fit. It was a miracle! Knowing what my scale read that morning I would have never guessed that those jeans would be wearable because I’m still 9 or 10 lbs heavier than I was back in early 2015. It seems my body is about the same shape as when I was 120 lbs, though, because the jeans fit perfectly. That’s a win for my boot camp/strength training classes at the gym, for sure. So based on my success with those jeans yesterday, this morning I was brave enough to try on the Gator shirt that still had the tags attached. When I slipped on the Gator shirt this morning and it fit and looked great it I was so happy. I’ve definitely made a lot of progress since Labor Day when I started my diet. And my clothing options have expanded too! My next goal is to get into some jeans that are a size smaller than my current ones, but that will take some more work. For now I’ll be cheering on the Florida Gators in my favorite orange and blue apparel!

November 21st

I started this morning at the San Dimas Turkey Trot 10K. (Yes, I’m crazy enough to have signed up for a pre-Thanksgiving turkey trot in addition to the two races I’m running on Thursday. Don’t worry, I’ve already admitted that I have a problem.) This was the second in a three-part holiday series. The race was at Bonelli Regional Park where I’ve run a couple of other times in the past year. It’s a hilly course so I knew my time wasn’t going to be spectacular, and it turned out to be unseasonably warm so that didn’t help. Needless to say, it wasn’t my fastest 10K, but it wasn’t my slowest either so I was ok with that. No need to push myself too hard before Thanksgiving Day. That’s going to be tough enough! I also got to see a friend of mine and her two adorable kids at the race so was a lot of fun.

On my way home from the turkey trot I listened to the Florida vs. Florida Atlantic football game on the radio. I was still running when it started, but I got to listen to the end of the first half while I was driving. Gotta love satellite radio! Unfortunately the Gators struggled a lot more than they should have this week. At halftime neither team had put any points on the board. But then when Florida scored two touchdowns in the third quarter I thought I could finally relax. Not even close. Florida Atlantic answered with two touchdowns of their own to tie the game and force an overtime. Then things got really nuts. The Gators managed another touchdown in OT, but the extra point afterwards was blocked. This was potentially a disaster. The kicking game has been a thorn in Florida’s side this whole season. A missed extra point could be the only thing that separates victory from defeat. All Florida Atlantic needed to do was score a touchdown and not botch the extra point attempt to beat the #8 team in the country. Much to my delight, they were not able to pull off the upset. I was so relieved!

After the game was over I had to take my car to the Honda dealer for service. I’ve owned it for over six months and it just now needs its first oil change. Living in Seal Beach means that I put much fewer miles on my car every month. When I bought my car I was promised free oil changes for two years, and I did receive the service at no cost, but it took almost two hours. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, I guess. I did get a lot of reading done on my iPad while I was sitting at the dealer, though. That was a plus. The last thing I did today was go see “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.” I rarely go see movies at the theater any more, and almost never on opening weekend, but I made an exception this time. My weekends have been so busy so far this fall that I figured I’d better make the most of any free time I can scrounge up. I really enjoyed the movie. It was a fitting end to the franchise. The books are still better for anyone who’s wondering, though.

Now I just have to decide what to do tomorrow!

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!