presented without comment

photo-2

one year ago.

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race report: the flavor run

This is a sponsored post. I received a complimentary Flavor Run race entry for myself, and several others to giveaway on this blog for promotional purposes. All opinions are my own.

Two of the inadvertent benefits of running are getting to try new things and explore new places – both of which came into play when I got the opportunity to participate in the brand-new Flavor Run in Nocatee on the first weekend of April.

Having never run in the Nocatee area, I was pretty pumped. The neighborhood is beautiful (and flat) with lots of lovely homes and paths to see along the way. And the idea of a color run where the dyed powder actually tastes (and smells) of fruit (which is what The Flavor Run is all about) was definitely intriguing.

Packet pickup took place at the Nocatee amenity center the Friday before the run. It was very small and very easy. The volunteers manning the booth were extremely friendly and helpful. They loaded me up with a (women’s cut) event t-shirt, a very pretty customized bib, temporary tattoo and a flavor/color packet of my choosing (I went with grape). The pre-run email had asked that participants bring their own bags to help keep the event as green as possible, and so I loaded everything up into my big purse (paper bags were available upon request.)

I then moved over to the merchandise table where I was able to pick up a white logo tank for the morning. For some reason, I was having the worst luck finding a decent white top at a reasonable price (I didn’t want to spend a lot just in case all the color didn’t come out). Problem solved. They were also selling shades, shirts, water bottle and tutus.

While browsing, I met John, who had been my contact for The Flavor Run. It was great getting to put a face to the emails and I was pretty impressed that he was rocking a tutu. I got the little final details about the start line and parking (I’m a lunatic about parking) and headed out.

I finished making my last tutu of the season and got my things ready to go.

For some reason, I was up and and on the road super early on Saturday morning. I excepted it to take me about 20 minutes longer to get to the race start, but it didn’t, so I camped out in my car in the parking lot across from the run set up. I was thinking about getting out of my car to take some pictures, but an incredibly dense fog rolled in, pretty much obscuring most of the visibility. I stretched my legs with a walk to the nearby Publix to use the restroom and then started to keep an eye out for Kristin, and L and A, who would also be participating.

As luck would have it, L and A were parked two spots away from me! A had brought her parents and her little one and we had fun just chatting and catching up as we waited. When Kristin arrived, we started posing for our pre-run pictures.

Morning-of packet pickup was available, but they had run out of bibs, which is why Kristin is wearing a flower lei – the provided alternative.

Thanks to A paying attention, we heard that the start time was delayed from 9:00 AM to about 9:30. I’m not sure if there were some glitches in set up or if it was to let some of the fog burn off, but it was fine. I was worried that it was going to get a little hot at that hour of the morning, but not much to be done but enjoy the music and the people watching.

In the field where the start/finish line was positioned, there was face painting and a shaved ice truck, and people, both participating and not, were hanging out with their families, and in some cases, pups. It was a really nice, local vibe. And it smelled fantastic! People were already tossing their fruit-flavored packets to get colored up, and it was like being in a Skittles factory.

Before too long (and definitely not as late as 9:30) we  were ready to get started.

John was up on one of those towers, emceeing the event. He thanked everyone for their patience, briefly described the course (I was going on the plan of “follow the people ahead of you” since I was completely unfamiliar with the area) and let us know that this was actually the second ever Flavor Run to go down. Kind of like history in the making. And then we were off.

We ran all through the Nocatee area: main roads, around the pool, along the outskirts of some of the subdivisions. There were flavor stations situated along the way, manned by very enthusiastic volunteers. Color was kept off the main roadways, so to get our share, we had to cut through grassy areas. I remember that orange was first, but not sure about the order thereafter. I will say that someone had done some landscaping and fertilizing in the community so it was nice to have the fruit smells to help cover up the less pleasant odors.

Kristin and I ran ahead for a bit, but then we fell back and L and A caught up to us, and we continued on that way for the duration. It was nice to walk a bit, run a bit and chat a lot.

At one point, we cut into the woods, via the paved walking/biking paths in the community. I am calling this the closest thing to trail running I ever need to get.  There were trees, and spooky sounds in the woods and a little wooden bridge.

And a four foot long black snake, just hanging out near the foliage. I did not take a picture because I was too busy sprinting for my life. Like Indiana Jones, I hate snakes.

After more color, a nicely stocked water stop and (blessedly) houses instead of woods), we finally saw where the road would wrap around to the finish line and we picked up speed so we could cross through the last color station and hit the finish line!

We collected our medals and headed to the tents in the middle of the field, where volunteers were cutting up and plating delicious fresh fruit.

I don’t think anything tasted quite as good as those two chunks of watermelon I scarfed down. I really wish I could manage oranges, because they looked delicious, too.

We hung around for a little bit, enjoying the music, before deciding to go back to the cars to clean up.

Where we got a very special treat from A’s parents. They had offered to grab donuts for us while we were running and A turned them down. Halfway through the course, when it was just really sticky and hot, I was joking with her about how it would be really nice to have not only donuts, but some beer to help cool down.

I have now learned that A does not mess around when it comes to beer. She pulled off the course immediately, called her mom, and made it happen. And yes. The combination was divine. (Thank you for being so sweet!)

This was a really nice event. I loved that it was a little smaller than other fun runs I’ve done – it made for a comfortable, neighborhood feel. This was very family-oriented and perfect for kids. We have saw some adorable pooches getting in on the flavor fun.

The idea of the flavored powder was excellent. I didn’t get any in my mouth so I can’t vouch for the taste, but as mentioned earlier, the smell was great. The “flavor fairies” weren’t quite as aggressive as volunteers at other color runs I have done, so we didn’t walk away with every inch of skin covered – but this wasn’t a bad thing. I liked how they were pretty careful not to nail runners in the face and head. It’s also hard to hit everyone thoroughly in wide open spaces. If the volunteers close ranks a little bit in the future, they will have a better chance of getting more flavored color on everyone.  Also on the note of color, it would be nice to have an organized flavor toss post-race, like they do at other events. We ran with our flavor bags, but never came upon an opportunity to make use of them.

Packets were great. I love my t-shirt (not tech, but very soft and comfortable), and I thought giving a medal was a nice touch, especially for some of the younger participants. I like bling in any form, so even though this wasn’t a competitive race, I appreciate having a medal to commemorate the occasion. I also really love the bib that accompanied this race.

Event communication was great – lots of pre-race emails with full details and even the late start was announced and participants were kept in the loop as to what was going on. There seemed to be plenty of water and post-race refreshment available. It was definitely hot and it would have been nice to start at 8:30 instead of the planned 9:00, but it was manageable.

Thanks to the volunteers and organizers for an active and fun Saturday morning. It was great running in a scenic location with some friends and getting to experience something a little new and different.

Is The Flavor Run coming to your area? 

Have you ever run an event that was brand new? 

the need for speed

Between the Gate and this week, my longest distance has been about three miles and I have been completely forgoing my speed work. It’s been a good break, and probably much-needed, even if it was frustrating to feel like I had lost all the ground gained over the last year.

I had a good weekend and my foot was feeling decent, so on Monday, I told myself I could go for four miles if my foot was holding up well. It was. So I did.

And I was a happy, happy girl.

It was definitely tough but it felt so fabulous to prove to myself that I was making actual, real-live progress.

Wednesday came, and I wasn’t really sure how I wanted my running session to go. I need another week before I move up to five miles, but reverting to three didn’t excite me. I remembered that my speed work had been in a state of neglect and wondered if it would be worth an attempt?

As I’ve described before, I run a 6:00 stretch at what is supposed to be half-marathon pace, do a recovery walk of 3:00, then a 5:00 run at a faster pace, with a 2:30 recovery, all the way down to a 1:00 sprint. It’s a pretty draining exercise, so I thought maybe I could cheat a little and start at 5:00, before working my way down, just to see how my foot tolerated it.

On the one hand, I felt exceptionally guilty about not doing it the right way. On the other, it felt really good to run my heart out. To make up for losing the extra 6:00, I pushed myself a bit harder on the 5:00 stretch than I would have normally.

Here’s how it went down:

  • 5:00 – .47 miles (10:38 pace)
  • 4:00 – .41 miles (9:45 pace)
  • 3:00 – .32 miles (9:23 pace)
  • 2:00 – .23 miles (8:47 pace)
  • 1:00 – .13 miles (7:42 pace)

That last minute was brutal, but nothing good comes without effort. Hence the big ol’ grin.

Another week down!

My foot is feeling ok. It’s actually virtually pain free when I’m running (at least, so far), but takes a few minutes to get going the following morning. Nothing a little stretching and rolling can’t fix.

As promised, I haven’t registered for anything through about the next month or so, but I am starting to look at filling in some races this summer to get me back on track. We shall see how it goes.

How has your week of workouts been?

How is your summer race calendar looking so far?

rest day

Resting is not my thing. I’m not good at it. I don’t like it. It makes me feel guilty and unproductive.

However, sometimes, like today, it’s a necessary evil.

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. Between school and baseball and getting back into training and other obligations, I’m flat out tired. I had a project on the calendar that was going to take a few days of work, but I found out last night that it was canceled, freeing me up for other things. This morning, when I woke up, I took one look at the torrential downpour outside and realized that I would not be getting out of my pajamas unless absolutely necessary.

I feel awful about it. There are tons of things and can and should be doing. I have to work on plans for little man’s upcoming birthday, do some serious spring cleaning, run some errands and organize closets. And yet, I’m sitting on a couch, watching Man of Steel, and not really making much of an effort to do anything more than that.

Ok. I did build the raised garden box for our backyard, but I am emphatically not going to pick up soil or trellises for the tomatoes. Maybe tomorrow.

We all need a break from time to time. I’ll be back on track tomorrow, but for today, I’m just going to try to enjoy a little bit of doing nothing.

Do you have days where you just can’t get yourself going?
Does bad weather completely suck away your motivation?

race report: color me rad 5k jacksonville (2014)

This is a sponsored post. I was given a complimentary entry to the local 2014 Color Me Rad event in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.

After participating in (and loving) the 2013 Color Me Rad 5K event in Jacksonville, I was really excited to be able to have the chance to do it again, this year.

Last year, Color Me Rad took place in October, but had returned to the area in March of 2014. I don’t think this was much of an issue as the weather is pretty temperate in both months.

Another change for 2014 was the course. Last year, the run would through the parking lots of Everbank Field, before diverting into the concourse of the stadium and around the actual football field. It was a neat way to finish up a fun run, but due to the massive construction going on, a change of route was necessary. This year, the run began in Metropolitan Park, right across the street from Everbank Field.

Packet pickup was also located in Metropolitan Park, and was held on Friday before the race from 2:00-7:00 PM. I was planning to be there on the earlier side, but due to a change in errand schedule and a bad accident on I95, I arrived close to 5:00PM. There were two lines: one to either register on-site or to get your bib number, and then a second to pick up the rest of your bag: gender-specific event shirt, RAD tattoo and sticker and sunglasses.

The lines were both pretty long, but there were a lot of volunteers working and it moved rather quickly. The biggest hiccup was that the server seemed to keep going out, probably because of the weather and high traffic. It happens.

I had to pick up packets for myself and my three friends, and that was easy enough – they had given me their signed waivers beforehand, so no problems there.

I didn’t stop to really check out the merchandise. I already had a bandana and a tank, and I didn’t need anything else. There were plenty of cute shirts and accessories, though, both for the actual run and for souvenirs.

I went home, dropped off the packets to my teammates and prepped my things, praying for no rain.

We were up nice and early. My friend K was picking me and other friend S up at 7:15 so we could be there by 8:00, in time to find parking and take pictures. (It was both of their first official, organized run, and they had to experience all of it to the fullest). I had also discovered that I had been given the wrong size event shirt, and when I asked for help on the Color Me Rad Facebook page, they told me to just bring it back to registration in the morning and they would happily switch me to the correct shirt. (Yay!)

This year, parking at Everbank Field was $7 per car. Plenty of advance notice was given and while it was annoying, sometimes it happens, especially when using a sports venue. As long as we had a spot within reasonable distance of the start line, I was happy.

We finished getting ready in the parking lot and then walked over to where the crowds were gearing up for the run. We had to scramble to get our pre-RAD photos – volunteers with color bombs and the new color blasters were stalking through the crowd, trying to give preliminary hits of brilliant hued powder to participants. This was another change from last year, where all color was reserved for the finish line to ensure that everyone started out as close to a “blank canvas” as possible.

There were plenty of backdrops and inflatables set up for photo opps. We promptly took advantage of as many as we could.

The weather was holding, but threatening. I suggested that after we used the restrooms (in a real building!), we move to the start line. Color runs usually let a certain number of people go at a time, to ensure that there isn’t any overcrowding at the color stations along the way. Since we would be walking and running, my hope was that we could at least get finished and enjoy the post-run festivities before the storms hit for real.

It was a good plan.

As the 9:00 AM start approached, more people crowded in at the start line and the music pumped louder. A few volunteers came to the start, armed with fire extinguishers, full of what we could only assume was color. One of the volunteers spotted me, still all in white, and pointed. As the air horn sounded, he ran up to me and blasted me full on with purple.

Epic. S said I looked like a purple minion. She wasn’t wrong.

The course was nice. It was flat and wound through the streets surrounding the stadium. The color stations were evenly spaced and well manned, and the volunteers in charge of throwing color were enthusiastic and fun. After our initial burst of purple, we were doused with yellow, orange and green, and then we came upon a station where liquid blue was sprayed on runners (I circumvented that one. It was drizzly and I just didn’t want to be even more wet).

We ran some and we walked some. There was an excellent crowd and the participants all seemed to be having loads of fun, despite the less than pleasant weather. There was a lot of great music along the way and it kept the party atmosphere going, and a water stop at about the halfway mark, where volunteers handed out mini bottles of H2O.

This year, we were handed our included-with-registration color bombs before we crossed the official finish line, rather than after. It definitely cleared up the congestion the finisher’s chute faced in 2013. We ran throughout the last color station, smiled for the photographers and then navigated the color-splattered crowds to find S’s daughter and mom, who had come to the finish line to celebrate her first 5K.

The after party was a little bit smaller than I remember, but still lots of fun. I noticed an absence of food trucks, but we did get bottles of water and protein/granola bars upon completion. There was music and dancing, and plenty of color tosses.

I ran into my good buddy – the one who had blasted me with purple from the fire extinguisher as the run began – and got him to pose for a picture with me.

You can tell he took great pride in his work that day.

We were all absolutely drenched in color.

You can tell by our faces that we had the best time. And even better than a fun day? S and K absolutely LOVED their experience.

I’m so proud of both of them for completing their first 5K, and I hope to see them out there again at other events in the future.

Once again, Color Me Rad put on a wonderful event. I loved seeing so many people out there, even with the threat of storms, running, walking, pushing strollers and breaking a sweat with smiles on their faces. I remember a time when I used to get together with friends at night, have a few drinks, and sleep in the next day. Now, we get up before the sun, load up on water, and run for fun. It’s quite a change, but it’s an awesome one.

A special thank you to all the volunteers, police officers, and organizers for another great year!

Do you find that your social time is more based on entertainment or on physical activity?

What are your favorite runs to do with friends?

the solution to my shoelace problem

One thing I have noticed about myself, since I started running, is that I am very particular about the things on my person when I head out for a training session.

The toes of my socks have to be positioned just-so. My ponytail can’t be too high or too low or too tight or too loose. my Armpocket has to be in one certain position, and my Garmin band must be precisely buckled on the right notch.

If any of the above are incorrect, I find myself struggling to get into my groove until I’ve fixed the situation.

It’s a rare kind of amusing and annoying.

The biggest thing I have struggled with, though, has been my shoelaces. For whatever reason, I had the hardest time getting them laced right the first time. There always seemed to be some form of discomfort over my arches, which would lead to me stopping, adjusting, tugging, fixing and fiddling with my shoes. Some days were better than others, but the issue was always there.

I had been researching different ways of lacing to help give me some relief, and planned to try some new techniques after the Gate, when I came upon something very interesting at the expo of the same race.

In the back corner of the room, a tall gentleman was holding a sign that read “shoelacessuck.com”. Of course, sharing that exact sentiment, I made my way over and found myself at the Riplaces display.

I was very interested as one of the men at the booth explained the concept to me: my $15 purchase would include 60 “bands” (high-quality, continuous, bungee-like elastics – 12 each of five different sizes) and seven “core” pieces (plastic pieces to which the bands would attach). It was up to me to choose the size of Band to thread through each set of opposing eyelets in my running shoes to create a comfortable tension at each point of my foot. And of course, once all the Bands were in place, there would be no need for tying or untying anything.

It sounded like the answer to my shoelace problems.

I wanted to mull it over so I wandered off to look at other booths. I had seen other systems that involve elastic-y laces and gadgets that keep bows from untying, but nothing so individualized as how Riplaces were explained to me. At $15, I certainly had nothing to lose, so I returned and picked out my colors: teal Bands and gray Cores.

I had to wait to get my new inserts before I gave my new purchase a try. The inserts would change the way my feet sit in my shoes, and it was important to make sure I had the right fit.

There is a really fabulous YouTube video that explains how to “riplace” your old shoelaces with this new system, using the bagties that hold the different sizes of bands together as a sort of needle to thread the elastic through eyelets. I will admit that I skipped this step and managed the whole thing with a safety pin.

Whatever works, right? I was impatient and wanted to get the job done stat.

The end result was heaven.

I took them for a test run and it was wonderful. I loved not having to tie my shoes. I loved that I finally had that extra bit of give over my cranky arches. I loved that I could feel the extra freedom of movement from the elasticity of the bands. And not once did I have to stop to adjust anything to do with my feet.

I do have feet on the larger side (I wear a size 10 in my Mizuno Wave Inspire 10s), and I used the three largest sizes of bands in my lacing. I do wonder if one larger option might become available – I can see them being a bit too snug for someone with a bigger, wider or higher foot than me.

In the meantime, though, I am enjoying the fact that I have one less thing about which to be particular when I am running.

Do you have any things that cause you annoyance when you’re running? 

Do you use any kind of nontraditional laces in your running shoes?

back at it. again.

Today was the day.

After resting for a solid two weeks (and then for 10 days prior to running the Gate), I really couldn’t wait anymore.

I can admit that taking off a few days, even a week, can be a healthy and refreshing change, but I was getting edgy and antsy. Fortunately, I had a few things working in my favor to keep me from heading back early to the pavement.  We were on vacation and our schedule was way too packed for me to think about getting out, and when were home, the weather was pretty miserable with cold temperatures and nasty downpours.

My foot had been feeling better. I’ve been pretty good about stretching my calves and rolling my arch and heel over a variety of spherical and cylindrical items, and it’s been ok. Uncomfortable, but not necessarily painful. When I had talked to the people at the running store, they advised to come back for inserts if things didn’t dramatically improve, and so I did.

I spent about 30 minutes in the store last week, discussing what inserts would do to help (provide much needed arch support) and trying on several different pairs. I could feel a difference immediately, and decided on the Superfeet High-Impact Performance & Comfort insert. I liked the additional cushioning in the toes that the other inserts seemed to be lacking. (Also of note, this product is, according to the website, “vegan and free of latex, nickel sulfate, formaldehyde and preservatives”). I headed out with my purchase, and instructions to start out slow, be aware that things would feel a little unusual for a while and to bring them back in 30 days if nothing was getting better.

Yesterday was the moment of truth. Depsite that fact that I was nervous and really quite happy lounging on the couch and watching Iron Man 2, I pulled on my running clothes, laced up, and headed out. I figured I would give myself a very easy three miles and see how it went.

The truth is, it was discouraging. I think, had it just been some discomfort in my foot (which, inserts or no, would have still been there), I would have been ok. But my legs felt dead, my stamina was shot, and I had made the mistake of putting on a long-sleeved shirt, which ended up being a little too warm.

Of course, all of these irritations opened the door for a flood of negative thoughts. I felt like I was starting from scratch again, and I hated it. It’s disheartening to feel like all the hard work I’ve done to this point has to begin all over again.

What’s worse is that I’m supposed to sign up for my first marathon in two weeks. I had been hoping to register with strength on my side, nailing my long runs and feeling great. Instead, I’m back down at sluggish 5K distances, and having to rebuild from there.

It’s frustrating, and I wonder if I’m doing the right thing by committing to this race. I want to do it, but… Well, there are so many “buts”.

All I can do is press onward. I’m not the first person to struggle with an injury or setback and I won’t be the last. And this isn’t the first time I’ve been sidelined, and I came back from before (although I had much less of a base last year than I do right now, so less was lost). A lot is going to depend on my attitude and positivity and I just have to focus on the big picture: the marathon.

So, here’s a big post-run smile.

Each time out will get better, just as it has done before. My plan is to sign up for a local 5K towards the end of May and then use the summer to start my training and participate in some fun events if I feel like it. My fall and winter is pretty full and I am excited to get to that point on my calendar.

In the meantime, spring seems pretty much here.

If you signed up for a marathon, were you full of doubts leading up to registration? And/or up to the very day of the race?

Are there any signs of spring where you are?

islands of adventure

Read about little man’s first day at Universal Studios here.

We all enjoyed a great night’s sleep, and were dressed and checked out by 8:15 AM. It took us about ten minutes to leave the hotel and pull into a spot in Universal’s parking garage (I opted for regular parking today, which was fine). We had a  long morning to tour, as Mr PugRunner and T’s father were driving up to meet us for lunch at Hard Rock Cafe at 12:40, before they would take T and head back to the airport and I would head home with little man.

For breakfast, we grabbed pastries at the Starbucks in CityWalk and pushed through the turnstiles a little after 9:00 AM.

I had but a few goals for the day: to have little man ride The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, and to have him meet Captain America. If I could possibly squeeze in a butter beer in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, well, so much the better.

The first attraction we came across was The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster. No one seemed anywhere near it, and I peeked quickly to see the wait time. Only five minutes! I looked at T and then marched all three of us up to the employee to ask if they offered any kind of rider swap. T was sent up the regular queue and I was sent around to the exit, where I simply explained to the worker at the gate that we were swapping out, and after T’s train unloaded, he sat with little man at the exit while I got my turn.

Hulk is, hands down, one of my favorite roller coasters. I was so happy for a chance to ride it.

Little man wanted a turn, too. Fortunately, he was quite satisfied to try out the test seats.

For some bizarre reason, I agreed to go with them on the Storm Force Acceletron. I don’t love rides that spin, and this was no exception. By the time it was over, I felt like I was walking sideways. Little man wanted to go again, but we managed to distract him by pointing out The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. This was probably his favorite ride of the whole day.

Upon leaving the attraction, we saw a sign advertising photos with Spidey, himself. We guided little man to the queue, and five minutes later, he was enjoying some awesome interactions with the famous web-slinger.

We bypassed Toon Lagoon (little man didn’t recognize any of the characters and there were a lot of water rides) and headed to the next land: Jurassic Park. Little man loves dinosaurs, in theory, but he wasn’t really enjoying the spooky sounds coming from the lush jungle landscaping. He went on the Pteranodon Flyers ride with T, and then they chased each other around the slides and bridges of Camp Jurassic right across from the entrance. Somehow, T convinced little man to go on the Jurassic Park River Adventure with him (think log flume with some pretty intense dinosaur animatronics), and while I didn’t think he would like it, I didn’t want to influence him negatively. I mouthed to T to cover his eyes at the end (when the big T-rex leans down before the drop) and went to the exit to wait. They found me minutes later – apparently, the riders coming off the boats were SOAKED and neither one wanted to get quite that wet. Crisis averted.

I would have liked to stop in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, but the noises were really starting to get to little man, so we pushed onward towards Hogsmeade. Right before we got there, however, we saw the most incredible sight. A “zookeeper” holding a (fully functioning, breathing, blinking, moving) baby triceratops!

Spectators gathered around, petting the baby and asking questions. The zookeeper responded with answers and explanations, completely in line with John Hammond’s protocols. Little man was enthralled and I thought it was one of the more creative things I’ve seen in a long time.

And then we were in Hogsmeade.

This was my first time visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I had zero delusions about actually getting to DO anything in this area. We were well past rope drop, the crowds which had been nonexistent in other parts of the park were clearly all collected here and the line for the kiddie coaster was 60 minutes long. I wasn’t interested in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (I am 110% sure it will make me sick), but I did want to look around and soak in all the details and ambiance. All the people stressed me out a bit – I wanted to take my time, but I wanted to keep the two kids happy, too. I noticed that the line for Dragon Challenge was only 15 minutes, so we decided that T would ride one of the coasters, and I would take little man to Honeydukes for a snack. We would meet at the Hogwarts Express station.

I loved all the details. It was like JK Rowling’s series had come to life in the middle of Orlando and I was enthralled.

I tried to talk little man into a chocolate frog or cauldron cake, but he insisted on a big lollipop. I got a box of fudge flies.

Since the line for butter beer was painfully long (next time, I’ll treat myself), we said hello to the conductor of the Hogwarts Express, instead.

When T was finished with his ride, we continued on through The Lost Continent and into Seuss Landing. I wanted to be back to Marvel Super-Hero Island by noon for a meet & greet with Captain America, so we chose one ride. Little man wanted to try the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley ride, and so we did. It was really cute, and provided a birds-eye view of the Landing and nearby areas.

And then we hustled back to our original location in the park, just in time to meet one of little man’s favorite guys.

We were the second or third to last people to meet him, so we really were in the nick of time. Whew.

And then, it was time to exit the park.

For lunch, we had priority seating at the Hard Rock Cafe in City Walk, where we would be meeting Mr PugRunner and T’s dad. We got seated immediately and ordered appetizers while we waited. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten at a Hard Rock, and I was at that point of too hungry to want to eat. We shared a huge platter of nachos and then I got a chicken tender appetizer, which I couldn’t even really finish, though it was pretty tasty.

As we dined, Mr PugRunner and I discussed upgrading to annual passes. If we did it that day, we only had to pay the difference between our two day ticket and the Florida resident pass. We had had such a brilliant time and little mans was so enthusiastic about our trip that it didn’t make sense not to go ahead with it. I headed to the guest services windows to make it happen and we all met up to head into the parking garage and take our leave.

All in all, it was an exceptional trip. We saw and did a lot in a limited period of time, and there is still a lot more we need to do. I was really surprised by the lack of crowds. The longest queue over two days’ time was 20 minutes, which was nothing short of miraculous during peak season and spring break. The only thing that I can figure is that all the people gravitated towards the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the ones not in the park were at the Megacon event in Orlando at the same time. I’m not complaining.

The parks were clean and well-maintained, employees were courteous and engaged. What we saw as far as food seemed varied and reasonably priced (for theme park fare).The characters and their handlers were awesome with the little ones. There are some rides that are still too intense or unsafe for the younger set, but little man is at a good age – he can do a lot of things, and has room to grow into others. I also like that older rides are retrofitted or revamped on an ongoing basis to keep up with movie trends.

And I think the best part of the whole thing, besides spending time with family and loved ones in a really cool place, is that little man developed a new interest. He doesn’t have much knowledge of Harry Potter and I tried to explain something to him while we were waiting in Hogsmeade. He decided he wanted a magic wand, but we didn’t have time to go hunting for one, and I told him that we would when he was a little older and understood more about Harry and his adventures. In the car ride home, I went into more detail and asked him if he thought he might like me to read the Harry Potter books to him. He said no.

That night, after his shower, he climbed into bed with me for his bedtime story. I asked him if he had selected a book. He looked at me and said “Harry Potter, mom.”

Best. Day. Ever.

Are you a Harry Potter lover?

Who’s your favorite superhero?

Did you own one (or many) Hard Rock logo t-shirts at any time in your life?

on bandits, tutus & being a decent human being

By now, I think we’ve all heard about the disappointing stories that have come from the running community this week.

First up? The Georgia Half Marathon bandit, who not only thought it would be awesome to copy Kelly Robert’s marathon selfie idea, but also thought she would be better served spending the $100 registration fee on “brunch and booze.” Of course, she later edited to state that woe is her, she tried to get her hands on a bib, but could not do so, hence, alas, sigh, causing her to just leap into a corral and run a race for which she did not pay.

To add insult to injury, Miss Georgia Half Bandit documented her shenanigans on her blog (not linking) via a series of 14 selfies. In the captions of the photos, she made disparaging comments about fellow (registered) runners and law enforcement officers and attempted to crack a rape joke.

We all make mistakes, right?

The running community responded, calling her out on her bad behavior. Rather than taking a moment to reflect, realizing that not only had she done something dishonest by taking resources and aid to which she was not entitled, but also that she had acted pretty immature and horribly about the whole thing, and issuing a mea culpa, Miss Georgia Half Bandit stood by her actions. She blew off constructive criticism, labeling dissenters as trolls and thanking everyone, rather sarcastically, for her page views. She went on to say that she had paid for the same event in the past, and that everyone needed something better to do with their time. No remorse, no shame, no humility. Rumor has it that she has legitimately registered for next year’s event, but that doesn’t do much for her actions this year.

In the wake of this, I’ve been reading several pieces about banditing races, something I wouldn’t have conceived of doing. Interestingly enough, banditing doesn’t just cover people who take an illegal position in a corral, run a race, use course resources and partake of a medal and post-race swag and treats. It covers people who pop in to a race after the start line and pop out again  before the finish when the race covers an area on their pre-planned routes. It can also cover family members and friends who jump in to help pace a struggling runner in those final miles. I’m not so sure I agree with the last category, because what’s more awesome than getting that last surge of support when you may be hurting or running on fumes? I never really thought of that as “theft” but it’s something to consider in the future.

Probably even more upsetting was the case of Monika Allen and SELF Magazine. At SELF’s request, Monika sent this lovely photo of her and a friend running the LA Marathon. In adorable superhero running costumes. While Monika was fighting brain cancer.

Of course, like any reasonable person, Monika thought that SELF Magazine would be using the photo to illustrate triumph in the face of all odds, and maybe to also highlight Glam Runner*, the company Monika started with her friend “to bring more fun and GLAM to running while raising money for Girls on the Run of San Diego.” Needless to say, she was shocked and hurt to see that her picture had made SELF’s BS meter feature, where runners in tutus are mocked and put down.

After hours of being slammed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, phone calls, and probably carrier pigeon. SELF Magazine issued a rather insincere public apology.

I’m not really sure how Ms. Danzinger can call this “inadvertent insensitivity.” Rather than buying stock images or creating a quick photo shoot to capture what SELF deems to be an abhorrent trend of running in tutus, SELF reached out to Monika for permission to use her photo for derogatory ends. Sounds rather deliberate to me.

I don’t have a subscription to SELF (nor have I bought an issue any time in my memory), and I certainly have no intention of starting, especially in light of that non-apology. I’m appalled that a magazine that touts itself as promoting healthy lifestyles for women would dare to mock anyone doing something as kick-ass as running a marathon (with or without cancer), no matter what he or she is wearing. Additionally, I think tutus are a lot of fun. I have only worn them twice, for awareness runs, and not only have I felt great, but I’ve gotten lots of compliments, high-fives and questions about them. I will continue to do so, regardless of what anyone thinks.

Which brings me to my point of the week. How hard is it to be a decent human being? I mean, we all screw up and we all make bad choices. We are, after all, human. However, it takes nothing to be kind to others. To not take things that don’t belong to us. To treat others with respect and goodwill. To be supportive and encouraging to those in need.

The bright spots in all of this disappointment are the fast and furious responses to Miss Georgia Half Bandit and SELF Magazine. Members of the running community, friends, horrified casual readers… they all banded together to say, emphatically and in one voice, that these kind of behaviors will not be tolerated. I can only hope that we will all learn something from the things that happened this week.

What do you think of the race bandit issue? Are your feelings black and white or are there gray areas?

Have you ever run in a tutu? What do you think of SELF’s BS Meter?

 

*I have been making my own tutus, but I am planning to purchase one for an upcoming race. Glam Runner’s proceeds support Girls on the Run San Diego, which is one chapter in an incredible organization. I have several friends who are GOTR coaches in our area, and I am proud to support their cause.

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