Thursday, May 30, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend Sanibel Trip 2013

Just a heads up, many pics in this post :-)

You may remember last year for Memorial Day weekend I headed over to Sanibel Island, FL for some beach time with my mom.  This year, did the same thing except my brother also joined us (due to various reasons none of our spouses could make the trip).  I got out of work early from my “day” job on Friday so I made sure my bags were already packed so I could just toss them in the car and go.  

Mom had gotten the same condo unit we were in last year at Sanibel Arms West again and my brother already had dinner going when I arrived (thanks Ran, it was yummy!).  Went for a walk on the beach after dinner and a little relaxing while the sun went down.  

Lots of people had been writing things in the person had even drawn a HUGE floorplan of a house (you could tell by the things he drew in the rooms like furniture and appliances).  It was low tide and there were plenty of shells, though I only wound up picking up one--tiny, but it’s a stunner:

I was exhausted after a busy week at work (prepping for our annual open enrollment for benefits) so once the sun went down I crashed on the couch to relax and catch up on email and other computer stuff.  I wound up sleeping about 9 hours straight that night so I missed the sunrise Saturday morning, but I really needed the rest.  We went off the island Saturday to do some outlet shopping and have lunch.  Once we came back we stopped at a popular ice cream shop on the island called Pinocchio’s (located of course inside Geppetto’s market) where I came across their totally YUMMY “Dirty Sand Dollar” flavor.  Couldn’t pass it up--caramel, malted milk balls and chocolate chunks in a vanilla-based ice cream, sooooo good!  Oh, and every creation they serve comes topped with an animal cracker :-)


Got to bed at a decent hour so was able to catch the sunrise Sunday morning:
Sunrise to the left

Moonset to the right

And got two fun pics of me and mom on the beach (sadly, my brother had to leave that morning since he had to get back to do prep work for his cafe for the following week):
With the sunrise behind us...

Came across some more fund sand stuff:

Highlight of the morning?  Dolphins!  They were swimming in really close to shore (probably for the little bait fish that swim close in), I took these pics without the zoom from right at the water line:

It was nice to see many people running/jogging/powerwalking on the beach.  Me?  No.  This mini-vacation was for me to relax, relax, relax.  No work, no exercise, no nothing-I even forgot to bring a book to read so just sat in my comfy chair under my canopy tent (which I put up all by myself) and watched the water and the people...and the dolphins of course.  No thinking, no stressing.  Perfect.

After seven hours on the beach (!) we relaxed in the condo before heading out to dinner at Jacaranda.  I had gotten a $25 certificate from before the trip so we had a really great meal for a great price:

Mmm...filet medallions...
The only downside to Sunday?  Since I had put my tent up and wasn’t planning on being out in the direct sun, I didn’t put any sunscreen on my legs.  Normally they almost never burn, never tan-really, even as pale as I am, don’t know why...I mean, it takes me ages to even get a sock tan when race training.  You can probably see where this is heading, right?  Well, my tent isn’t a heavy canvas, it’s a more airy, breathable fabric...and apparently doesn’t block the sun’s rays very well as this is what I wound up with:

No lectures necessary, I already know.  It’s much better now, though I’m dreading the peeling part.  And even though the pic of the tent I posted shows the sun getting under it, that pic was from early morning when the sun was coming from the side-didn't take long for it to get high enough so the tent was casting shade on my legs.  So remember folks, even if you’re going to be under a tent, PUT THE SUNSCREEN ON.  Seriously.

Anyway, Monday dawned a bit cloudy so that made leaving to go back home to reality a bit easier.  It was a nice weekend spending time with my mom and brother, something I don’t do very often.  I’ll leave you with my favorite sand writing from the weekend (which I also texted to DH the night I took the pic):

What did you do to relax over the holiday weekend?

PS-Don't forget to hop over to my other blog, The Disney World Files...I'm doing a fun giveaway for a Vinylmation figure!  Please also share with friends and family-the giveaway goes until June 28th so you have plenty of time to enter (and many ways to get entries) and help me spread the word for my WDW blog :-)  I'll be giving away a Vinylmation figure once a month for the next couple of months!  Good luck!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Time to relax...

Time for the long holiday weekend.  Me?  This is what I'll be doing all weekend.  :-)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Angry Birdies

The Angry Birdie
Can you see him?  Sitting up there at the top of the mostly-branches, barely-any-leaves tree?  Looks relatively innocuous, right?  Uh-huh, sure.

And then you realize there's a scrawny little nest in that scrawny little tree...and you start running for your life the moment Mr. I'm-just-a-little-birdie-don't-mind-me takes to the air...

...cuz this sucker is out for blood and will attack your head, arms and anywhere else he sees fit to keep you away from his tree.  That's right boys and girls, those frisky little birdies are laying their Spring eggs and heaven help you if you parked your car right next to one of their trees.  At my office, we get to play a unique form of Angry Birds every day trying to get into and out of the building every day.  Seriously.

Welcome to SoFla's "Spring" may want to carry an umbrella at all times.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Expedition Everest Challenge 2013 Race Report Part 2-The Race

After two days of volunteering and a mostly rained-out attempt at the Magic Kingdom Friday night, I decided to chill out in my room Saturday afternoon instead of heading to a park.  I thought I might take a nap, but I might have fallen asleep for maybe 20-30 minutes max...I spent most of the time eating lunch and then reading instead.

Headed to the start area not too early--this year it was a 10pm start.  The weather was pretty good for this time of the year-71 with a little breeze and not too humid (for's all relative anyway).  I arrived and just wandered around until I saw Steve, Katie and their daughter (Running of the Ears friends), then I hung out with them for a bit.  I didn’t see any other ROTErs (though I knew some were there), but some of my local friends arrived and we got a quick pic before heading over to the corrals (borrowed the pic from my friend Amy at The Point One Will Getcha! since mine had icky lighting, thanks Amy!).  

This year for the corrals, instead of the individuals going in the first corral and the teams coming after, we were assigned corrals by pace.  There were corrals A-H; I was in F...kind of a bummer after getting to start in the first corral the last two years.  The corrals themselves were not big enough to fit everyone so we were spilling out the back of it.  As each wave was sent off and we moved closer to the front, we were finally able to fit into the chute...also the closer to the front, they had “snow” falling onto us from high above.  Our wave wound up starting at 10:30pm.

One thing that bugged many of us-even though corrals were supposedly assigned by pace (you had to indicate your anticipated pace when you registered), as each corral was sent off, you could see that every single corral (even corral A) had people at the very back walking-and not necessarily a fast walk either.  I had been honest about my pace when I registered-I was thinking they’d still have individuals first, probably ordered by pace, then teams the same way so I figured I still wouldn’t be at the back, even indicating that I would be one of the slowest paces...I didn’t know they would put individuals and teams mixed into every corral based on pace.  While I wasn’t put in the last corral, I thought they may have moved me up based on my times (5K and scavenger hunt) from last year. 

Since I hadn’t done much running-mostly walking-in the months leading up to the race, I started off at a brisk walk and figured I’d add in running if I felt up to it.  The course started off like the last two years, around the parking lot until we came to the first obstacles-the hay bales to hurdle over.  I did run through this-it’s a lot easier to hurdle hay bales when you’re running than when you’re walking.

Then on into the park for a bit before heading backstage.  They changed up the course a bit so we saw some different backstage portions than before.  The second obstacle was the tires.  They had a long line of tires set up (like what you used to see football players go through) and by the time I got there, it was a sea of people one after the other in a big line going thru them.  There were about 7 or 8 people waiting to start the tires in each line, and since I’m a clumsy one, I skipped it and went off-road around them.  The final obstacle was the net to crawl under, but again this year I couldn’t fathom crawling down there with the dirt being kicked up--I have enough problems with my allergies as it is...and so I went around this one too.  I probably would’ve gotten through it faster if I crawled since the sand around it was soft and not conducive to any kind of fast pace at all.

After crossing the 5K finish which was back outside of the park (not my slowest 5K time ever, but still pretty slow for me at 54:40, a 17:35 pace...but I did walk almost the whole thing), I got my first clue.  I was only handed the clue card and flashlight, and asked about a marker, but was told I wouldn’t need one.  Here’s Clue #1:

“Zero in” told me to look for the zeroes and once I did, you could see they made the letters “NW” for Northwest.  Told the volunteer at the first station just outside the entrance to the park my answer and I was given Clue #2:

“Heads up”-start at the top, “high and low”, go up and get Northeast.  On to Camp Minnie-Mickey, gave my answer and got Clue #3:

This one I got immediately.  26--easy, that’s the number of letters in the alphabet, 19 and 23 are the letters S and W for Southwest.  Hurried to Africa, gave my answer and got Clue #4:

Okay, this one stumped me for a bit (and many other people).  I understood from the hints that I should start at the top line and look down the rows to get the answer but for the life of me I couldn’t see where in the top line to start.  Finally saw “nor” from normally, next line right below that was “the”, then right under that was the “ast” from “fast” which gives you Nor-the-ast...Northeast...and on to Asia for the Final Clue (#5).  When I got there, tons of runners were sitting all over the ground trying to figure out this clue:

So basically we had to put the other 4 clues together, turning them the correct way based on each clue’s answer to get this:

See the symbol in the middle?  We were supposed to point at the flag on our bib that had that symbol after we crossed the finish so the volunteer would know we solved it before we got our medal.  Me?  Yeah, I had no idea...just like all those other people who were sprawled everywhere trying to figure it out.  Since I knew we had to use the previous clues to solve the final one, I kept looking at them and the only thing that popped out at me was the colors the clues were printed on-blue for the first one, white for the second, red for the third and green for the fourth.  My not-so brilliant idea was, hey, we didn’t use yellow for those...and the final clue was on yellow, so I’ll just point to the yellow flag, right?  Yeah, not so much.  I headed to the finish line.

The volunteer I went to for my medal was one that I had worked with that morning at the refreshments table, and when I pointed to the yellow flag, she said, “ah,, rhymes with right...”.  Oh.  Okay.  So I pointed to the white flag with a silly grin and she draped my medal around my neck.  White? Huh?  I got my banana, Clif Bar and Powerade and hung out after the finish chute waiting for Amy and her hubby (our other friends are way faster than us and were already done and back in the park).  She explained how the last clue was supposed to work.  I wasn’t about to try to figure it out again then, so we headed on into the park for the After-Party.

In addition to the rides in Dino-Land being open, they also had Kali River Rapids and the headliner, Expedition Everest available to ride.  I had been looking forward to that all night!  And what’s even better than riding Expedition Everest at night (the absolute best time to ride it!)? Sitting in the front row of course!  We rode twice before I decided to call it a night.

Overall I had a great time-this is still my favorite Disney race and I’ll keep coming back every year if I’m able.  My overall time this year was slower, in part due to my much slower 5K portion (2011 I did 47:17 and 2012 I did 48:44 for the 5K part) but also due to the difficulty of this year’s clues.  My final overall time?  1:32:42.  Women, 355/608; 599/954 overall in the individuals.  The 5K portion was of course 3.1 miles; the scavenger hunt added another 1.73 miles for a total of 4.83 miles for the entire race.  And for those interested, here’s the crazy overall map from my Garmin:

Have you ever done a 5K “Adventure” race like this?  Would you ever want to try the Expedition Everest Challenge?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Expedition Everest Challenge Race Report part 1-Volunteer shifts

I’ve said before how the Expedition Everest Challenge is my all-time favorite Disney race (I have, right?), in fact it’s my favorite race anywhere so far.  Not because it’s “only” a 5K-I actually prefer the half marathon distance since the first 1.5 to 2 miles are always harder for me while I get into a groove.  It’s my favorite because it’s just that much fun.  You’ve got obstacles along the course...nothing really hard, after all-you are still at Disney; you’ve got characters on the course; you’ve got a cool scavenger hunt solving clues that take you all over Animal Kingdom; and then you’ve got the after-party once you’re done.  But this part 1 post is about my weekend activities before the race.

Back in January during Marathon Weekend I had volunteered at the expo and 5K (yes, I know I haven’t recapped that trip yet but I will soon...I promise!).  I’m kinda getting into the volunteering thing-it’s fun and a great way to give back to other runners.  And so I kept watch on Disney’s volunteer site until the day volunteer registration opened, then registered to work a shift on Friday at the expo from 10am-3pm as well as a shift at the Family Edition race.  I drove up early Friday morning, got checked in to Pop Century so I could drop off my bags, then headed over to Wide World of Sports (WWoS) for my expo shift.
Waiting for the crowds to be unleashed

Even the Yeti needs to pick up his race shirt
Once I got to WWoS, I checked in at the stadium’s 2nd level, got my t-shirt and snack box as well as my assignment.  They were trying something new by having queue lines set up at the tables where you picked up your bib and race shirts.  Apparently they wanted people to go in one way and come out another, and those of us assigned to the queue lines were supposed to guide people into the lines.  Um, yeah...that didn’t work.  No one wanted to listen to us.  Thankfully, it didn’t get too crazy.  A little busy when the expo first opened, but after a little bit it died down to a steady trickle and since the tables were pretty spread out those of us working the lines were just kind of standing around, directing people and answering questions.  Once my shift was over, I headed back to my room for a short nap before heading over to the Magic Kingdom for some evening park time-which wound up getting pretty much washed out as it was pouring almost all night (I had my umbrella so I just kept on going thru the park...good thing about the rain?  Lots of people leave the park so there’s short lines).

The following morning I was up early to head over to WWoS for my second shift as a volunteer.  I would be working the Family Edition race this time.  A group of us were led out to the track where the kids race area was set up.  Together we helped set up the rack holding all the medals for both the Kids’ Races and Family Edition race.  I would be working the refreshments table so those of us on that table went over to make sure everything was all set up.  It kept doing this misty-raining thing on and off so they gave us ponchos (I am now the proud owner of a Disney Parks poncho, I feel so touristy LOL).  Once the races started, I wound up handing out these little Toy Story gummy fruit snacks to all the participants.  It was so cute watching all the little kids running their miniature obstacle course.  
Medals prepped and ready for the finishers!
Once they were done, the Family Edition started.  We had a nice little break in between while we waited for the groups to get over to the track after solving their clues so they could race to the finish line.  Once all the teams were in, we were done for the day.  The rain did finally clear up towards the end of the shift.  I picked up some lunch and headed back to my room to rest until it was time to head to Animal Kingdom for my turn at a race.
You can see it was icky out, but the kids still had a blast
I have to say, volunteering at the runDisney races is pretty fun.  There’s always a great group of people to work with (both rD people and the other volunteers).  Several of the people I worked with Friday and Saturday volunteered Saturday night for the main race and I chatted with them for a little bit before the race started...they thought it was great that I was participating in the race and wished me luck.  If you ever get the opportunity to volunteer at a race, whether at an expo, water stop, finish line or any other station, I would highly recommend you try it-especially if you’re a runner/walker yourself.  Seeing the race from the other side is don’t really realize the scope of what is going on until you’ve been on both sides.  Oh, and if you volunteer for Disney races, your volunteer time accumulates and you earn a one day/one park admission ticket for every 16 hours you work (exception for marathon weekend in January--if you volunteer then for either the half or full marathon, that shift will earn you a ticket all by itself) you get the free shirt (or jacket for the half/full marathons in January).  It really is a great experience.
My station
I am hoping if I am unable to sign up for Tower of Terror (need my redemption, ya know?) this year, that I will at least be able to go up and volunteer.  And I’ll definitely be doing several shifts next January for Marathon Weekend again.  Hope to see some of you there!

Have you ever volunteered for a race (Disney or any other)?  What did you think about the experience?

PS-there was a cute little otter in the pond behind our refreshment station that kept popping up near the shore:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A new fuel source to try-PowerBar's Energy Blends

If you've been following my posts for a while, you know I'm signed up with BzzAgent, a social marketing site that promotes word-of-mouth advertising.  I was lucky enough to get signed up for a new campaign for PowerBar's Performance Energy Blends.  They're made with real fruit (and are gluten free for those that need that) with no artificial flavors and come in a neat resealable package.

Well, my BzzKit arrived today and I received two for free to try (banana blueberry and apple mango strawberry) plus 10 coupons to give to friends ($1.50 off of two).  Once I've tried them out, I'll post a review here for everyone.  Here's the nutrition info: 

Since I've kind of started getting yucked-out when I have too much Gu on really long runs and Chomps get stuck in my teeth (though they taste yummy), it would be cool if these work out for they'll fit in either the leg pockets or zippered pocket of my SparkleSkirt ;-)

I'll bring the coupons with me to Everest for anyone who'll be there and wants one, just let me know!