Friday, August 27, 2010

C25k: W6D2 (Try#3) DONE

Went out to run at 5am this morning to attempt W6D2 again. It took a little bit to find my groove during the first mile even though I had my standard stretching and warm-up, probably b/c it was early in the morning and I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.

This time when I started the second mile I was sure I was going to be able to finish. My confidence and the ‘fun’ of the run persisted until a half mile into the second run and then it was getting hard and I wasn’t sure I could make it, although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. My heart rate stayed below 175 except for the last couple of minutes [which is fabulous, I’ve made more consistent gains in cardiovascular conditioning then any other part of my progress], so it’s not that I was running out of breath. And my legs were not aching or anything. I just felt tired-like my energy battery was drained. Still, I pushed through and I made it. I felt so good about the accomplishment that after I walked for a few minutes at the end I did a sprint to see how fast I could go. So far my best pace during the sprints I throw every now and then is 9.5mph. Granted I can only do that for a minute, but hey it’s something.

I averaged a 12:85min/mile on my first mile and 12:18min/mile my second mile.

I also reached a new weight loss goal mark this morning, so that is progress.

Here are my stats for the run: Garmin Stats

Having made the goal, I am taking a real rest day tomorrow- no swimming, no running, no strength training, no cross training, just a day of rest for my body as it’s been 5 days since I gave it a break.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

C25k: W6D2 (try#2)

Went out to tackle day 2 of week 6 today. I made it 1.5 miles total. The first mile was cake and I ran it on average faster than I ever averaged a mile before- 5mph. (I’ve run faster than that plenty of times  but not sustained for a full mile).  I felt great during that mile, spring in my step and very happy. I could do anything! The second mile was harder, and I only made it halfway before I needed to stop. My abs were screaming at me a lot during the second run b/c they are sore from swimming yesterday (I did 10 single laps x 25meter pool=250meters). Here’s the conversations I had with the two me’s:

critical me: Wow you are pathetic. People are out there running marathons everyday and you can’t even do two miles with a 3 min break in between.  You are never going to be able to run a 5k! Loser!

caring me: Hey you know what Jenni, you are now following distance instead of time, which explains why it seems so much harder. Instead of just running 20 minutes total (which would be about 1.6 miles for you and you nearly did that today), you are going to have to run at least 25 minutes total to make the 2 miles. That’s a big step over 20 minutes and you’ve got to give yourself time and encouragement to get there. And remember, the point of c25k is to get you moving, get you doing aerobic exercise and YOU ARE DOING IT.  And you were not just active today- you swam yesterday, you ran a mile the day before, you ran the day before that. You are doing great!

Sometimes I wish I could send the ‘critical me’ voice on a permanent vacation. ugh. At least I'm able to recognize the negativity as hurtful and counter it, but it would be nice if I reached the point where I didn't have this 'critical me' voice inside trying to bring me down all the time.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Trip Report: Kentucky Derby

The first weekend in May I fulfilled a longstanding desire to watch the Kentucky Derby in person, taking a few members of the NoVA Travelers group with me.

It had been a while since I’d put together a road trip and it seemed silly to do a simple out and back just for the Derby, so I created a three day tour itinerary featuring highlights of the state. Four of us made our way around the state via car, sharing meals, a hotel room and a lot of laughs along the trip.

Thursday evening we tackled the long (long!) drive to Kentucky and checked into our hotel.

Friday we visited the horse park in Lexington (which brought back a lot of memories for Literary Elly May since she used to frequent the park for to compete in horse shows when she was younger) in the morning and then spent the afternoon at the slugger factory in Louisville. I’m not a big sports fan but participating in the tour and listening to stories about baseball woven into American history made me feel a little more patriotic and nostalgic and likewise I’d recommend the tour for you even if you don’t care for sports. Dinner on this night was enjoyed at Varanese, an upscale establishment in an up and coming section of Louisville.

 

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one of the racehorses buried at the Horse Park (just the head and heart are buried I believe)

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Jenni poses before the giant bat at the Slugger Factory entrance

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clever ad for the glass shop next to the factory

 

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random Red Bull car we saw driving around Louisville

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Cat, Jenni, Dani pose for a pic after dinner

Saturday we spent the entire day at the derby. I lost every race I bet on, but still squeezed out as much fun as possible from the event. We spent most of the day in the paddock area with hundreds of others like us – 20s/30s+, well dressed, articulate folks with a jovial attitude. At one point we thought it would be entertaining to visit the infield and found it to be a conglomerate of thousands of rowdy, drunk and loud college students. We felt old (and dirty after the depths of the infield mud splashed against us) and hightailed it back to the paddock for the rest of the day. It was a great experience but I’d love to revisit the derby with actual seat tickets instead of general admission passes. I’m definitely getting old I guess.

 

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approaching Churchill Downs and its iconic steeples

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Literary Elly May, Marty, Jenni, Cat pose for before heading to the derby for the day

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my guess is that this bus of Derby attendees were guests of the infield

 

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the Derby hats get pretty wild

 

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checking the horses over before the race

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jockey leads his horse to the racetrack

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as you get closer to the infield, the antics of the guests get a little stranger…

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and by the time you make it onto the infield it’s descended into mayhem

 

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a parting shot from inside the paddock area, surrounded by flowers

 

Sunday we spent the morning at Mammoth Cave and had the luck of experiencing a twice-every-century torrential rainstorm that flooded into the caves (hence no pictures), creating a dramatic cave waterfall. Quite spectacular! That afternoon we made our way to Cumberland Falls to hike and take photographs of the falls and surrounding landscapes. We had a lovely dinner at Dino’s in Corbin, KY. If you find yourself passing through the area you owe it to yourself to stop by for a bite – authentic Italian cuisine and the service is exceptional.

Monday we made the return trek back to northern VA through southern KY. The roads are very scenic which made the ride go easy.

While I had a great time touring the sites and enjoying the open road, what I liked best about the trip were the friendships I strengthened over the course of the trip. I got to know Literary Elly May and Catherine even better than before and made a new friend in Marty. I’m very blessed to be married to a kind and understanding husband who gives me the space to enjoy a weekend ‘with the girls’ from time to time. I’ve made so many new friends on trips with the travel group and I think that’s one of the strongest draws of NoVA Travelers for our member community – a chance to not only travel affordably without the hassle of being responsible for handling reservations and planning itineraries but also to build friendships.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rest Day

This morning I woke up and felt the push to move even though it’s my running rest day. Not to meet any deadlines or tackle another running goal or anything, but just because my body wanted to be active. I didn’t really feel like biking and I don’t have a pool membership so I did what I’ve come to know lately- run. I figured perhaps I am at the point in my fitness regimen where I don’t have to take a rest day from running every other day anymore. After all, Jon runs 3 days in a row before he takes a rest day.

So I ran. My first mile was moderately easy- I really enjoyed the run and my heart rate was in a good place. Since I ran a mile I thought why not take the 3 min walk break and then try to run another. Then I could actually cross W6d2 off my list a day early. My mind was all “yes!” but my body (especially my right knee) was like “um, no thank you, not today”. When I realized it wasn’t going to happen (another mile I mean) I finished up with a 45 second all out sprint (6 min pace woo) then walked the rest of the way home.

By the time I got home I was really angry with myself but then I realized that’s all kinds of crazy and I need to stop that kind of reaction. I need to not be so hard on myself. It’s a freaking rest day! The fact that I went out and ran at all is good, even if I did only a mile. And what's with this “only” business anyway...a couple weeks ago I couldn’t even run a mile and now its not good enough on a rest day? See what I mean? Sometimes I don’t need my overly critical father in the room with me telling me how I’m not good enough because I seem to take the job on myself at times.

So instead I’m going to deliberately cultivate good feelings about the fact that I like being active. I am waking up with an urge to be active- that’s amazing and also very healthy. I listened to my body and responded: I went for a run. I ran further on a rest day then I used to be able to run on a run day. That’s fantastic! I.AM. FANTASTIC.

Monday, August 23, 2010

C25k: W6D1

Today was the first day I began following the distance goals for the program instead of the time goals. The goals only overlap perfectly if you run at a 6mph pace, which is not feasible for me at this time (I’m running anywhere from 4.7mph to 5.7mph depending on whether I’m running without walking breaks or with them). I’d been following the time goals (run 20 minutes for example) this whole program but hubby pointed out I would not actually be running a full 5k upon graduation unless I started following the distance goals instead. So I’ve switched over.

Today’s session consisted of 1/2 mile run, 3 min walk, 3/4 mile run, 3 min walk, 1/2 mile run. So 1.75 miles of running total and I had no problem completing it. As expected, I ran faster than when running without breaks between the intervals. I think also paying attention to the distance instead of time pushes me to run faster b/c I realize on some level that the faster I run the sooner I am finished. Also the distance represented a new total distance record for me. Yay!

Here are my run stats for the session: Garmin Stats

Friday, August 20, 2010

Trip Report: New Orleans

In mid-march NoVA Travelers descended on New Orleans. It was the first time I had visited the city and I arrived with great prejudice. For me, New Orleans represented a city chock full of stubborn or possibly ignorant residents who put themselves in grave danger by opting to live in a demonstrated flood basin. I’m a big believer in relocating geographically to better one’s life. If you’re not finding the resources you need to build a successful life in a community; if you’re not able to find work; you move to greener pastures. I did this (twice) in my own life and have little tolerance for folks that complain about their circumstances but refuse to move. How much more important to be mobile minded when your life is at risk in a deadly flood plain!

Still, New Orleans is the enclave of historic grand buildings and famed French culture, and as such demands at least one visit.

After our flight, we transferred to our hotel: Le Pavillon. Beautiful decor, friendly staff and a rooftop pool provided a friendly welcome.

 

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Le Pavillion

 

We made a quick lunch of Thai cusine at Singha Thai Cafe (best Thai food I’ve had outside of the DC metro region) before drifting down to Bourbon Street to tour the French Quarter. The quarter is awesome: like Freemont street in Vegas but planted in Savannah. During our daytime walk through the neighborhood we happened upon a jazz jam, several charming candy shops and a whole bunch of sports tourists (NCAA championship game was being held that weekend in the city) drinking all day long. Despite New Orleans strong Catholic leanings, the only thing the residents seemed to be giving up for lent were their sobriety and pants.

 

impromptu jazz jam

 

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nowhere else can you get pralines, dolls, and voodoo all in the same shop but New Orleans

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three scenes from the French Quarter

 

We had a relaxing dinner that evening at the Oceania Grill. They’re highly regarded for their Cajun cuisine and the group really enjoyed the food. Well, except for me, because I don’t like Cajun food, but I gave it a good try anyway thinking that perhaps if I tried *authentic* Cajun in the home of *authentic* Cajun it might be better. When I couldn’t stomach the taste I put the onus on me and my funky tastebuds.

 

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Tanja and Sarah relax at Oceania Grill

 

Walking back to our hotel through the French Quarter we were bombarded with flashy, brightly lit naked lady billboards advertising the Hustler peep show clubs. Probably at least six clubs in the span of four blocks. I suppose it adds to the ambiance. We also came across two young naked ladies that had fashioned body paint as impromptu pants. They had a gaggle of college aged men literally chasing them down the street. Sort of like the pied piper leading the rats out of town only we wondered aloud what their plan was for the rats when they tired and wanted to stop the game.

 

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Jenni poses with a fellow tourist on Bourbon street

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parade down Bourbon street. Notice the blue dog championed on multiple signs.

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a fellow tourist who must have gotten dressed in a hurry as she forgot her pants. err. um.

Our second day in the city began with a hot breakfast at Café Fleur-de-Lis. The place is well known for their southern cuisine and it did not disappoint. I ordered the biscuits and gravy which elevated the breakfast experience to a spiritual level.

The rest of our morning and afternoon were spent outside the city, touring plantations and the bayou with Cajun Pride Swamp Tours. We were picked up by a well meaning but slightly crazy bus driver with a snappy attitude who shared her opinions during the drive on the federal government (corrupt bastards that don’t care about New Orleans), the mayor (incompetent racist idiot that makes the whole city look bad), the storm (worse than anyone expected),  and the Russians (evil). She was quite entertaining. At one point I asked her to explain the blue dog we’d seen painted on buildings and signs all over the city. “He’s the ghost dog”, she advised. “Why is he the ghost dog?”, I asked. Her response: “DUH, because he’s dead”. As it turns out the dog was the beloved companion of a local artist who took to painting him all over the city.

The driver dropped us off at the Cajun Pride property. Here we were escorted via boat through a large swamp to observe the native wildlife. Our first encounter with the local wildlife were the swarm of feral cats wandering the property. Interesting, but not the species we came to see. As we progressed through the swamp we were met with several varieties of birds and a lot of alligators. The tour company has actually deeded their property over to the federal government because they (the company) could not adequately patrol and restrict trespassers who were vandalizing the property and disturbing the wildlife. Now that it belongs to the feds (with a lifetime lease for the company), law enforcement is Johnny-on-the-spot anytime trespassers show up and incidents of vandalism and mayhem are few and far between.

 

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birds of the swamp

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gator stare down

 

After the swamp tour, we transferred to Plantation lane where we toured the Laura plantation (directly across the street from the mighty Mississippi) and it was like nothing I’d ever seen in the United States before. Bright Caribbean colors with a tropical ambiance that reminded me of Caye Caulker in Belize. We learned the history of New Orleans; the differences in Creole versus American (of English descent) culture; the ramifications of a justice system sans common law. It was on this tour that I was able to make peace with the logic of those that call New Orleans home and would rather perish than leave their city. To be raised in New Orleans is to have a thirst for a unique cultural experience birthed by historical circumstances that cannot be quenched anywhere else in the world.

 

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Laura plantation

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Oak Alley plantation

 

Back in the city that evening we had a fabulous Italian dinner at Mona Lisa in the French Quarter and then went jazz bar hopping to round out the night. Jazz in New Orleans is not like the jazz I’ve heard anywhere else; it’s happier. We ended up in the audience of a 98 year old musician who hold the record as the longest performing jazz man in the United States. He was phenomenal (wish I could remember his name).

 

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98 yr old jazz legend

 

Passing along Bourbon street again on the way to our hotel our entertainment this evening was a stripper spanking a man on his balcony as part of his Bachelor’s party, festive crowds, sampling blow jobs (a cocktail) on the street and dipping into several of the bars to watch the karaoke action.

Once back at the hotel we took a dip in the rooftop pool and hot tub and then descended on the lobby to nibble on the famed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (served with hot cocoa).  The story goes that long ago an important businessman who was staying at the hotel requested the sandwiches and cocoa every evening because it was his tradition at home to enjoy such with his daughter and he missed her. The hotel has been serving it up every night ever since. Unfortunately for us, we arrived after they’d already stowed the goodies away, so I had to bribe the sweet hotel staffer with flattery and flirty smiles to sneak us some out of the kitchen. Tasty little treats and off to bed we went.

We began our final day in the city waiting in line for the delectable beignets at café du monde (so delicious- but my advice is to go to the location in the riverfront mall instead of the overhyped and overcrowded location in the French Quarter).

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beignets (yum yum!)

 

After breakfast we attended mass at St. Patrick’s Church. While none of us are Catholic, all of us were interested in participating in Latin mass. Based on my father’s description of the beauty of the Latin mass I expected to be immersed in a life-changing, spiritually-transforming experience, Really it was just like attending any other mass except I had trouble following along since it wasn’t in English (conclusion: Latin mass is overrated and while it provides a unifying experience for Catholics traveling worldwide it shuts out the newly converted who don’t know the routine).  We spent the rest of the day walking the garden district (so pretty), touring the city park (home of the dueling oak trees), and enjoying dinner at Chef Emeril Lagasse’s Nola.

While I can’t recommend New Orleans as a family friendly destination (a little bit too much licentiousness for that) it’s a fascinating study in culture and cuisine and every adult should experience it at least once.

Trip Report: Mt Rainier National Park

Just last month my husband Jonathan joined me in leading NoVA Travelers on a weekend escape to Seattle and Mount Rainier. One of our group’s assistant organizers (Leilani) provided excellent services as well in helping us manage the group activities and schedule as with a group of 11 it can get a bit hectic. I’d wanted to take the group to Mt. Rainier for a long time and last year I finally decided to put it on the calendar for one of our “National Park Series” trips of 2010.

The group flew into Seattle on a Thursday afternoon, with staggered arrival times based on differing flights. By the close of the evening, everyone was present at the hotel except for a few members whose plane had been delayed in Denver for a couple of hours (putting them into Seattle after one a.m.).

Friday morning we were up and on our way to  Mt Rainier (a couple of hours south of Seattle, the mountain is a dormant –not extinct mind you but dormant- volcano). Jonathan, Leilani and I each drove one of the cars in our motorcade. Then there was the matter of feeding the flock. Finding a quality epicurean experience in the middle of nowhere is difficult but I’m happy to report that with a little research on the front end months before the trip I was able to assemble a good list of restaurant choices. For lunch, we stopped at Chopstix (in Eatonville, WA) which served up fantastic Asian fare. Everyone was very pleased with their meal and energized for the day of outdoor adventure that was before us. Spirits were high and we were ready to get outdoors!

Once we arrived at the Paradise Lodge we checked in to our rooms to get settled in. The Inn is ancient and rustic (no tv, no phones, no internet) but we’d been expecting just that and it was kind of nice to ‘unplug’ for awhile. Our first jaunt outdoors was a hike on the scenic Bench & Snow Lake Trail to get a taste of the landscape.  With the elevation increase over Northern VA the hike was moderately challenging at times but well worth the views and exercise induced happiness. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying the grounds of the Inn. Dinner was onsite and the food was pretty good. Best bet on their whole menu is the crab macaroni and cheese. The one downside is that it took them 45 minutes or more to seat us.

 

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One of the many beautiful lakes in the park

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The photographers become the photograph

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First view of Mt Rainier

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The group poses at a scenic overlook. Lucky Jon: 1 man and 10 women

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Snow Lake

 

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Beautiful scenery, still ‘defrosting’ in July

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Tanja smiles as she poses before a river crossing

 

Our second day in the park was also spent outdoors. We started the morning off with a brisk  1.4 mile hike on the Nisqually Vista Loop Trail.  Because of the particular weather patterns this year, the trail was still covered with snow with just a few flowers peeking out from beneath. We tackled the  Alta Vista Summit Trail (1.4 miles) next which was pretty challenging for me due to the slope of the mountain and my just-below-the-surface fear of heights. At one point we had to get down on all fours and clutch the frozen icy snow in order to keep our balance. Invigorating but panic inducing. And it was a second example of a trail that is advertised as covered in wildflowers  by mid July that was decidedly scant on such. Can’t always get God to cooperate with my trip timing it seems.

 

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Waterfall near the inn

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Local resident out for a morning stroll

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Have you ever seen a glacier? This is what they look like. The dirty arch shaped structure in the middle of the valley with the small trail of snow and water running out of it is actually a frozen river covered in dirt and gravel. Somehow I expected them to be beautiful since environmentalists are always talking about their sad disappearance.

 

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Another local resident bids us good morning

 

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Jenni rests in a natural cubby

 

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Views from the trail

After lunch our final hike in the park was a route from Naranda Falls to Reflection Lake (3 miles). Part of the group passed on this hike, opting for a scenic drive through the park to view an old growth forest of strong reputation. Naranda Falls is a lovely waterfall just off the park road that attracts thousands of visitors daily. Very pretty, but you need to hike down at least to the base of the falls in order to get a good view of the falls and the rainbow that is typically present. When you’re there don’t expect any moments of solitude to ponder the wonder and beauty of it all as you’ll be fending off constant elbows in your personal space from the hoards of tourists. (At least the other trails we did over the weekend were much more isolated.)

 

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Naranda Falls

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Trail to Reflection lake

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Reflection lake

 

We waved goodbye to the park, satisfied with our explorations, and headed back to Seattle. Along the way we stopped at Casa Mia (in Puyallup, WA) to enjoy a leisurely Italian dinner (very delicious; highly recommended). We took up two tables in the restaurant and had a lively conversation on life and families, getting to know each other all a little better.

 

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Parting view of Mt Rainier from a distance of 40 miles

The members were divided among 3 hotels that evening (as more members sign up for any given trip, additional reservations are made to accommodate each additional block of 4 members and unfortunately the same hotel is not always available for the right price) and everyone settled in for a night of relaxation before our tour of Seattle the next day.

We met at the entrance to Pike Street Market next morning and before I released the crew into the wild of the market we set a rendezvous time to meet back up to transfer to Iver’s for brunch. The market is a fine mix of fish throwing fishmongers, gourmet meats, cheeses, preserves, wine, arts and crafts. Oh and the gum wall (ewww). The gum wall is a Pike Street market landmark- a random wall decorated with millions of pieces of tourists’ gum that they (the tourists) usually remove from their mouth in a long and dramatic flourish while friends/family snap their pictures just before sticking it to the wall.

Brunch was definitely one of the highlights of the day. Iver’s Salmon house is a Seattle institution serving an endless buffet of of fresh seafood including smoked salmon, chowders, three types of crab, and more. We laughed and celebrated and reveled in the joy that is to be stuffed and happy.

After lunch I gave everyone free time to explore more of Seattle on their own and provided some recommendations to get members started (such as the underground tour or the Space Needle). My hubby Jon ventured off with his brother’s family (they live in the Seattle suburbs) to get in some quality time with the nephews while I joined a couple of members to make our way slowly through the rest of Pike Street market and indulge in some wine tasting. It was really nice to have a chance to relax and have a mini-vacation in the middle of my job as organizer.

Our last group activity on the trip was a cruise I’d arranged from downtown Seattle to Lake Union. The ship provides fantastic views of the Seattle skyline and a little bit of something for everyone including glimpses of ‘Greatest Catch’ boats, the houseboat from ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and a pass through the locks that separate the sound from Lake Union. It was a great way to wrap up our entire experience in the Pacific northwest.

 

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View of Seattle skyline with boatplane on the horizon

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Space Needle at night

 

We did run into some unfortunate group dynamics at the end of the trip. I found out that some members were surprised and unhappy with the accommodations (not the hotel per se, but the quad occupancy and the fact that we had to check out and check back in to the hotel Sunday because Sat night and Sun night were separate reservations). The same subset of members were also upset to learn that my trip expenses as organizer are paid for out of the trip fees. Neither myself nor the assistant organizers turn a profit on the meetup group as a whole (I have a real full-time job in the IT industry for that)  but we do try to balance our trip expenses against the trip fees as compensation for the time we put into researching, putting together, and leading these great trips. Anyway, in summary, this is why its *very* important for *all* members to read the group’s policies – both the room arrangement policy (quad occupancy in the states; double overseas but members can request a single for an upcharge) and the trip fee policy (that a portion goes to cover organizer trip expenses) are well documented in the terms and conditions document. I wrestled with the decision on whether I would disband the travel group (you can’t please everyone so is it really worth the headache?) but after receiving feedback from many members that have enjoyed the trips and stressed to me that the experience of traveling with the group has changed their lives for the better I made a decision to stick with it. Hopefully we will continue to enjoy many great trips for many years together. And I’m realistic in my outlook knowing that over an average trip frequency count there will always be a statistical presence of unhappy campers. It’s the way life goes.

Our next group trips are:

Australia (early Sept)

Taste of Chicago (mid Sept)

Fall foliage (early Oct)

NYC culinary tour (mid Oct)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

C25K: W5D3 (try#6) DONE DONE DONE

I just ran 1.64 miles in 21 minutes without a stop, averaging 4.7 miles per hour. Not only did I finally make the goal, but I did it without a rest day (I ran yesterday).

I DID IT. Took me 6 tries, or two week, but I DID IT.

my running stats for the session: Garmin Stats

Now onto week 7!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

C25K: W5D3 (try#5)

Today I made it 16 minutes and 1.33 miles in my first run interval. I just did the one today; in retrospect it might have been useful to do a 2 or 3 minute walk interval and then do 4 more minutes of running for a total of 20 but I was pretty excited about adding 3 more minutes and 0.33 miles onto my run that I just lost the focus to do anything more. I know I could have done 1 more minute but it would have been at the expense of total muscle fatigue and I felt i didn’t need to prove anything to anyone so I let myself stop before the point of exhaustion. I enjoyed my run emotionally today which is good too.

I’m still running at a pace of 4.7mph pretty steadily and I’d like to improve that but I suppose i should focus on one thing at a time.  I just know that when I am finally able to run a 5k I don’t want to be in the bottom percentile. Today I looked at the results of more than thirty 5k runs across the country and in every one, running at my pace (about 12:50) would mark me slower than the top 100 and in the 36th percentile nationally). I think a good first goal (ok second goal after just being able to run a 5k) would be to crack the top 100 (ability to do so will vary based partially on how many men are in the race as they skew the top 100).

Here are my run stats for the session: garmin stats

Monday, August 16, 2010

Australia


As the days count down toward our trip to Sydney on Sept 1st, I am getting more and more excited. What a great way for Jon and I to celebrate 18 years together [since our first date]. We are crossing our fingers that Delta is oversold in coach giving us a chance at upgrade as Diamonds (well I am a Diamond; Jon is a platinum).

Trip Report: Outer Banks

Jonathan and I have been to the Outer Banks of North Carolina twice previously and in May we took a third go of it, this time with my in-laws.

In 2005 we drove to Corolla, NC with my good friend Tara, who was visiting us from Colorado. (Tara and I were childhood friends living across the street from each other.) Mapquest advised that it was a simple 5 hour drive to this northern section of the Outer Banks so we left on a Saturday morning at eight a.m. Our ignorance of mid-atlantic traffic was revealed with an arrival into Corolla after 5pm. Crazy! We had driven all that way and only had about an hour or two to enjoy the sand and sun before it was time to head back for VA. Despite the traffic and the disaster of locking our keys in the car (with USAA having to come out and rescue us), the beach was so beautiful that I knew I wanted to go back for a longer stay.

And go back I did. There was no way I could afford to rent a fabulous beach house in Corolla on my own (at $2k minimum a week, no way) so I assembled a group of interested parties to chip in together for the rental. This was summer 2006. We had a lovely yellow beach house in a beautiful area of Corolla for a full week over the 4th of July holiday and I was thrilled with the getaway.

Two years ago I received a book for Christmas entitled Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips. One section of the book is devoted to road trips, including a tour of the southern Outer Banks from Kill Devil Hills down to Ocracoke, NC. Reading over the suggested itinerary kindled my interest in visiting the southern section of the OB and I put together an itinerary patterned after the book.

My lucky ship came in when my in-laws announced they were dropping in for a visit last spring and my husband suggested we take them to the Outer Banks over the weekend. That gave me the perfect opportunity to bring my itinerary to life.

The second week in May we piled in the car for the ocean road trip. I was a bit tired of driving after the previous weekend’s road trip to Kentucky, but otherwise looked forward to the weekend. Friday we drove to Kill Devil Hills and checked in at the scenic Cypress House Inn. It’s a quaint bed and breakfast situated down the road from the ocean beach.

 

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coffee and tea service awaits upstairs at the Cypress House Inn

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fruit salad stars in the first course at breakfast (quiche, sausage and muffins followed)

 

We enjoyed a relaxing dinner at the Kill Devil Grill. I recall that I found the food appetizing but my strongest memory is how disappointed Jonathan was that the chef was out of the half-roasted chicken that he had been hoping to try. It was like taking a lollipop away from a 6 year old.

The next day we took a meandering drive down to Ocracoke, stopping at the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, Bodie Island Lighthouse (under renovation so we have no pictures), Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Ocracoke Lighthouse. This southern section of the Outer Banks holds a lot of history- land that Amerigo Vespucci stepped upon, land where the first airplane flight took place, land where American engineers proved their might by moving a cherished lighthouse lock, stock, and barrel 1/4 of a mile to protect it from the encroaching sea.

The WB memorial took up most of the morning as we stayed to not only walk the memorial grounds but also to take in a presentation on the Wright Brothers and the history of flight. Turns out that my husband and in-laws were really enthralled with this stop and so that was rewarding. At each lighthouse we stopped to take pictures and tour the gift shops. I’d originally planned to tour the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site  (the precursor to the Coast Guard) and had built up the experience as one of the highlights of our weekend when promoting the itinerary to my in-laws. So of course when we arrived at the site and found it was closed my father-in-law delighted in poking fun at my failure to deliver a promised gem of the trip. (He didn’t particularly have deep disappointment; he just likes to torment me because it’s so easy since I’m sensitive.)

 

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Wright brothers plane replica; WB museum

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WB Memorial, marking the spot where the first flight occurred

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Cape Hatteras light (l); Ocracoke light (r)

 

We had planned to save money by staying a cheap motel in Ocracoke but the proprietor of the Cypress House recommended another Bed and Breakfast (Thurston House) so after a quick vote (in which the ladies had veto power) we opted for the recommended B&B instead. They had a hammock; I was very happy.

 

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On Sunday we wove our way back to VA, detouring to Roanoke Island along the way (home of The Lost Colony). We learned a bit of history about the colonists and toured the Elizabethan Gardens before stopping for dinner at the Lone Cedar Café (delicious fresh seafood but very slow service) in Nags Head.

 

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roses (l) and the garden’s claim to fame: largest statue of Queen Elizabeth in the world (r)

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Mom Parks and I pose as ladies of the garden

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Italian sculpture donated to the garden

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butterfly at rest

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gateway to the sea

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garden centerpiece fountain

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garden resident

After dinner we did a final pit stop at Jockey's Ridge nearby to try and catch the final glimpses of the sunset from the top of the tallest sand dunes on the East coast over the ocean. From there it was a long sleepy drive back home.

 

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sunset over Jockey’s Ridge

Overall I count it as an excellent weekend. If you’re interested in following our itinerary, drop me an email and I’d be happy to forward it to you. In fact if you’re interested in mirroring any of the itineraries I’ve described in my previous trip reports I’m open to sharing them.