Monday, March 30, 2020

Florida: The Last Week in February and the Skyway 10K

In the midst of the pandemic this all seems a lifetime ago, but its only been a month. Here's what the end of February and the beginning of March were like in Florida, the last bit of normality before everything turned upside down.

Tuesday February 25.

I ran 4 slow and easy miles this morning and then did laundry. Lee left on a business trip early in the morning. I take the dogs to the local dog park late in the morning. This is a good solution for the morning walk when Lee is out of town. The dogs get plenty of exercise and I can just sit and relax.

I eat leftovers for dinner. I finish the book I’m reading, When breath Becomes Air. Its a memoir by a neurosurgeon that got lung cancer and died. Its pretty depressing. I know it should be inspiring and it’s interesting in a clinical way. I don’t think I would have made the same choices he did, but who knows? Everyone wants to live but the suffering involved in trying to beat cancer just gives me pause. I would have done the first treatment he had, the targeted immunotherapy because it didn’t have bad side effects, and then I think would have said, let’s just get a lot of morphine and go to sleep, ok? But I’m not 37 years old watching my life just slip away....

Wednesday February 26

I did speed work this morning. It was warm, but it was a short workout so it didn't bother me. Afterwards the dogs get a very late jaunt to the dog park. It’s after noon when we get back. I feed them. They are full of stickers so I brush them too and then put them in the crate with chews and go get a sandwich from Sandwich on Main for lunch. 

I laze around a little and get very sleepy. Lay down and next thing I know it’s 3:30 and the rain has blown in. No walk for the dogs tonight, and I’m having carry out sushi for dinner.

Thursday February  27

Lee got back last night. It’s COLD today! We’ve become Florida wimps. We go out to dinner at Water Oak Grille, a new restaurant in town. I’ve read mixed reviews but we have a good experience. When we first walk in it’s super noisy, but soon the very drunk table next to us leaves and then it’s fine. I get an Old Fashioned, it’s good. We share some small plates, oysters from Virginia and Connecticut, and a salad. The steamed buns are good, although hardly authentic. The short rib fries are amazing, but a little salty. 

Friday February  28

4 chilly miles this morning. I wear gloves, it’s only 40F. I've finished pinning together my quilt tops, now it’s time to start quilting!

Sunday March 1st, Skyway 10K.

I had to get up at 2:45 AM (again!) for this race across the gorgeous skyway bridge in St. Pete. This is the third year they ran this race and it’s become so popular that they went to a lottery this year. I was lucky to get in. 8000 people are bused from Tropicana Field in St Pete south over the bridge and then you run back north. The race is run in 4 waves so the runners are spread out and it’s never crowded. I signed up for the second wave because I was worried that it would be warm but it was actually chilly and I changed my outfit to tights and a long sleeved shirt the night before.

It was such a well organized race. They told you exactly how to get to your assigned parking lot, and then I just followed the other runners to the staging area. I used the portapotties and then left my sweatshirt at bag check for after the race. I had kept my heat blanket from Princess so I wrapped that around me and got in line to get on my bus.

Everyone was cheerful and talkative on the bus, and it was warm! It took around 30 minutes to drive to the other side and park. It was still dark when we got off the bus but as we walked to the start we could see the beginnings of a beautiful sunrise. It wasn’t too long before the national anthem played and we were off.

The first 3 miles of this race were pretty flat, but you could see the bridge looming in the distance. The bridge meant that you climbed a huge 1 mile incline to get to the top, about 600 ft in elevation. The views were just spectacular! I wasn’t feeling very speedy, even before the hill, so I just tried to keep steady and do my best. I walked a little more to get to the top but really it wasn’t that bad, and then I ran all the way down.

It’s a funny thing about running down a long hill like that. You’d think you could really zoom down but it’s actually a little painful and hurts your quads so you can’t go as fast as you might like.

A neat thing about this race is that it was a no cup race. Instead of volunteers handing out paper cups there were portable water fountains where you could either fill a handheld bottle or drink like you would from a water fountain. I used them several times and it was quick and easy and no litter.

After the down hill you only have 3/4th of a mile to go. Right at the 6 mile mark however, there’s one more hill! It’s not as big as the bridge hill of course but still. I’m glad I was warned about it cause otherwise it would have been pretty discouraging.

As usual I tried to run the last 1/4 mile as hard as I could. I like to find someone to catch or pace with if I can. This time I saw a chubby guy ahead of me slow to a walk. I said, “come on, we’ve got this!” And he responded, “ok I’m coming!” And we’re off! I actually poured it on a little more and he was right behind me and finished only a few seconds after I did. I told him he did great and he actually thanked me! He said “ I was going to walk it in if you hadn’t challenged me!”

At the end they pretty much hustle you on to the buses. They hand you a water bottle as you get on the bus and everyone is happy and celebratory. They drive you back to Tropicana Field where you get your cool medal, a bag of chips and a banana. I gave away my free beer tickets and got a mini margarita instead. Once I got my sweatshirt I walked slowly back to the truck and drove home.

Lee and I went to brunch at Daydreamers. I got the waffle special, 4 mini waffles, 2 eggs, fruit and bacon. Oh and a mimosa. It was a lot of food but I ate every last bite and it was delicious!

When I got my results I was a little disappointed, 23rd out of 236 women 65-74 (strange Age Group). But then someone said, “hey you’re in the top 10%, that’s great! Lol, I guess that’s true.

I’m done racing now, for awhile anyway. I’m going to take it slow and easy for the next month and then start training for the San Francisco Marathon.

Friday, March 20, 2020


I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon with my friend Paula the weekend of February 23rd, back when the corona virus was something happening in a distant corner of China. Nice to remember happier times, when things were normal and the world had not been thrown into turmoil. 

Saturday morning I drive to Disney. I go straight to the expo, park, get my bib and race shirt. I walk around the expo but there’s nothing I want. There are zillions of little kids getting ready for the kid races in Prince Charming outfits, princess dresses. So cute. Back in the car, I drive to the hotel, stand in line to get a magic band, park the car, and find the room. I’m sharing a room with Paula and she came a few days ago to run the 10k.

Hi Paula! As soon as I’m settled we head straight to Disney Springs, the giant shopping area. We have lunch at Paddlefish. I have a Grouper sandwich, mmmm, and we both have cocktails. We spend the afternoon walking around looking at stuff. Lee likes my Mickey sweatshirt with the fleece lining but I can’t find one for him (turns out it’s only for girls, sorry Lee). I buy Leo a Mickey baby, but there’s nothing else I want. We have dinner at Terralinda where we split spaghetti and a salad.

Sunday at 2:30 am I’m up to get ready for the Princess Half. We’re on the bus by 4. The traffic is terrible but we’re not stressed since we’re in a later corral. It’s chilly but I’m wearing the giant throwaway sweatshirt I bought at Target and that keeps me toasty.

The race is really fun. We’re not really racing, mostly running at an easy pace because we’re just having fun and it’s so crowded we really can’t run all the time anyway. We stop for so many character pictures....mice from Cinderella,
wicked stepsisters,
Cinderella and Prince Charming. 

 We get our pictures taken in front of the castle, and even attempt a jump, definitely not my forte!
Just fun fun fun. It gets warmish and I wish I hadn’t worn tights. Only thing with stopping so much is getting stiff while standing in line. The line for Cinderella and Prince Charming is especially long, almost 20 minutes. We start talking to the people around us and I show them how to do the exercises that I’ve been doing for my back. They really do feel great!

Snow White!

I have to get over the anxiety that waiting in line in the middle of a race causes, however. The first few times we stopped I just tried not to look at all the people running by us. Part of me was going, “I’m faster than them!” For the most part I kept my ego under control. But in the line for Cinderella the women in front of us were tracking the balloon ladies (people that run with balloons at the back of the race to mark where the cutoff is and where people behind them are in danger of being pulled). “Balloon Ladies?” I thought. “I’ve NEVER had to worry about them!” But we were at least an hour ahead of them so that was never an issue.


My Garmin watch said that I actually spent about 2.5 hours running, but my race time was over 3.5 hours! That’s a lot time getting our pictures taken!

At the end I dash happily across the finish line, actually racing for a couple minutes.

 Then Paula tells me I have to get fairy dust sprinkled in my hair. The things that make a Disney race special! 

At the end there are lots of princesses with which to get your picture taken. I’m content to just sit down and eat snacks while Paula gets her picture with Aurora, Pocahontas and Jasmine (who?). Then she says I need to get my picture with Ana and Elsa from Frozen so yes I do, Ada will like it anyway. Then there’s Merida from Brave, the Scottish princess, and she has such great hair that I get one with her too.

It’s starting to get late and we need to get to our lunch reservation so it’s back to the hotel, a quick shower, and then we grab an Uber to Animal Kingdom for the afternoon. Lunch at Tusker House, an all you can eat buffet, with an African theme. We’re starving and it’s soooooo good. For my first round I have chicken, rice, root veggies, and various salads. For my second round I have salmon baked in banana leaves, Mac and cheese, and then dessert too, and a cocktail. Yeah not hungry anymore.

During the meal we are visited by Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. They are both very sweet, which surprised me a little since Donald is pretty cranky in a lot of the cartoons. But I guess you wouldn’t want to frighten the children!

After lunch it’s time for our safari. It really is very neat. We get in a big truck/bus that looks and rides like a big Jeep. The animals live on a big nature preserve in the middle of Animal Kingdom. There are all kinds of animals just going about their business, happy and unstressed, seemingly oblivious to the big vehicles bouncing in their midst. I especially enjoy the elephants and the lions. 

Then it’s time for Avatar. I’ve never seen the movie but I know the basic premise. Just walking through Pandora is so cool, it’s totally fake but very well done and beautiful. But Avatar, oh my God! It begins with a typical Disney setup with fake scientists setting the scene. Then we are ushered into a room, and told to sit on a  stationary motorcycle-like vehicle. We are strapped in, don 3D glasses and we’re off. We FLY! My rational brain knows it’s an illusion, but my primitive brain is going holy shit! Over the woods, through the trees, across the plain. Over thundering herds, through masses of vines, in between trees, over the water (which includes a light spray of water for the full effect). We even”surf” through a giant wave. When it’s over I stagger out in a daze.

Next up is Everest, which terrified me 3 years ago. Back then I was tired and cranky and didn’t really want to do it but I had FOMO so I did. Afterwards I felt bad about my childish behavior so I was determined to do it again with a positive attitude. Paula kept trying to tell me about it and reassure me but I kept saying I don’t want to talk about it or think about it I just want to do it.

As we got into our seats she said you should lift  your hands for the picture, but I said nope! She said come on, but no. I screamed, I opened my eyes briefly, closed them, screamed again. Soon enough it was over. Positive attitude yes, hands free no. Would I do it again? Noooo. I’m glad I did it one more time though!

Now it’s time for dinner at Tiffins, a fairly nice restaurant . We weren’t really that hungry after such a huge lunch, so we just had appetizers. My pumpkin soup was delicious, so was the middle eastern breads and the salad we shared. I didn’t like the lobster Mac and cheese that much but Paula thought it was ok.

We intended to go back to the hotel after dinner but we decided we wanted to walk around Pandora again in the dark. In the dark the weird fake flowers and plants are lit with black lights. It’s hard to explain how weirdly beautiful it was. 

One of the neat things about Pandora is walking into and out of the area. As you walk into it the sounds change to otherworldly insects and distant animals. As you leave Pandora the strange sounds dissipate. It’s a nice touch!

Then we decided we wanted to go on this river of lights thing and Paula managed to get us Fast passes for it.  However they weren’t for an hour so we walked to the other side of the park to get ice cream and just happened to run into the nightly light show on this lake. Wow it was beautiful and a total surprise! Then we walked back across the park once more to ride on the river of lights. It was basically more Pandora special effects only while gliding on an underground river with music.

Finally it was time to say goodbye to Animal Kingdom. On the bus back to the hotel we both dozed off. We were so tired from our long fun day. I had almost 50,000 steps on my Garmin! We were both in bed by 9pm

Monday morning we took it very slow. I woke up at 6:30 but we didn’t really get going until close to 8 when we were hungry. We went to the hotel restaurant where I had a Mickey bounty platter,  and lots of coffee. We took our coffee back to the pool and sat in the sunshine for awhile, until it was time to get on the road and go back to Safety Harbor.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

February in Florida

The following entries are notes I made about Florida during our second and third week there, up until when I left to go run the Disney Princess Half Marathon.

Monday February 10

This is a recovery day for me, after the 10k yesterday. I decide to take a Pilates class. Yikes! This class was core core core. I could keep up, but only to a point. My abs were burning! But it was good; a strong core helps everything, running, back pains etc. I’ll do it again but whew, that was hard.

Later in the afternoon I go back to the spa and do a mineral bath. Ahhhhh, it felt great. I get eucalyptus and lavender scented bubbles and relax for 30 minutes. Now that’s recovery!

Tuesday February 11

Speedwork today. 5x1000m @ 5k pace. It’s not hot, but wow is it humid. My heart rate climbs. I can’t go as fast as I did last time I did this workout, but I do pretty good, well within the pace ranges.

I run the cool down part of this workout along the bay. I see a roseate spoonbill and a heron on the boardwalk, and on a whim I decide to jog out to the end of the pier and I get to see a manatee! I stop and start making a video but he never reappears.

Later in the afternoon I go to the nail salon a couple blocks away on Main Street. It’s just a little Vietnamese salon, with the ladies chattering away in their language but they do great work and now my toes look more Floridian.

Wednesday February 12th

My eye is not better. I finished the antibiotic eye drops, but the lid is still red and bulging. So I went back to a Walk-in Medical Clinic. There was a long wait, but I didn’t have much choice so I played with my phone and tried to stay chill. When it was finally my turn the nurses aide was pretty funny. “Wash your hands and don’t touch anything. This place is full of sick people!” 

So I have something called a chalazion. It’s a plugged oil duct along the rim of the eyelid. Pretty sure this is what I had last time, when I ended up needing surgery. This time they gave me an oral antibiotic and instructions to massage the lid 3 times a day, use a warm compress 3 times a day, and use lid wipes. I’ll try to stay hopeful that I can get this to go away on its own.

Note: As of March 10th the lump is much better, but it’s still there. I stopped taking the antibiotics because they were making me nauseous and I wasn’t seeing any improvement from them. It’s not completely gone, however. I’ll probably go to our doctor when we get home.

We ride our bikes to Crooked Thumb for a late afternoon beer. Lee gets his usual ipa and I try something called $7 Milkshake. It DOES taste like a milkshake! Strange but I like it. Next week they have Girl Scout Cookie beers. Definitely need to go get some of those!

Thursday February 13th

I do a progression run. It’s terribly humid so I get up super early to get it done. I take a headlamp and decide to run on the Reim Wilson trail. It’s really really dark in spots. I’m not afraid of people but I am nervous that some wild animal is going to pop out of the bushes.

The progression run is hard. I warm up for 1 mile, then run 6 miles getting slightly faster each mile. The first 3 miles go well, with me changing the run/walk intervals each mile to include 15 more seconds of running. Mile 4 and 5 include hills, and I’m tiring so they kind of go to hell, but mile 6 redeems itself and it’s my fastest.

I’m kind of shot for the rest of the day though. I mostly sit around until it’s time to go out to eat at Parts of Paris. We’re doing our v-day dinner a day early because I waited too long to get a reservation on the 14th. This is actually good. The restaurant isn’t crowded or busy and we can sit wherever we want.

We choose to sit outside. It’s pleasant. We split a salad, then I get the mussels and Lee gets the duck confit. We both eat more than we thought we would and walk back satisfied.

Friday February 14th.

Happy Vday! Lee gets me a cool gift, pint glasses for the NYC, Marine Corp and Philly Marathons. Each glass has a map of the course, the date it started, and the gps coordinates of the finish line. I’m charmed. I got him a box that looks like it has chocolate in it but it’s really jerky. I think he likes it, although we were just talking about how he needs to reduce the meat, especially red meat, in his diet!

I run 6 miles but I start late and it’s still very humid. I’m still feeling it from yesterday. Later in the afternoon I go buy some Gatorade and guzzle a bunch of it. I think that helps.

Joanne is visiting this week. She got here yesterday and we ate out on the Lanai last night. Shrimp, rice and beans and a corn relish. 

Sunday February 16

This morning I went for a 10 mile run. Beautiful sunrise, nice weather but my right hip is bothering me so I don’t push it. Later we get Cuban sandwiches from the gas station on Phillippe Parkway and then go to the park to eat them. We watch the boats on the water, the people walking their dogs and playing with their kids, the old men fishing. 

Monday February 17

We eat a lot of leftovers today, trying to get rid of the glut of food we’ve accumulated. No running, just PT exercises and I go to the spa to lift weights.

Tuesday February 18

I head to the track for 1 mile repeats. It’s close to 70 and humid. I can feel it but I hang tough and stay very close to my goal pace.

We walk to Whistlestop for lunch. Joanne and Lee get burgers I get the egg roll of the day which is done like a middle eastern gyro. It’s good but a lot of fried food, especially since I eat most of Lee’s sweet potato fries!
Thursday February 20

Massage day! Joanne and I go to the spa for massages. I want a sports massage so they assign me to a guy who says he used to be the massage therapist for the Phoenix Suns! He’s tough but it’s not that bad. His technique is a little different from what I’ve done before. He does work on my poor glutes and I think it helps.

We were going to hang out at the pool after but the weather is cloudy and chilly so no. Joanne even went out and bought a swimsuit for it, oh well.

In the evening we walk over to Marker 39 for dinner. I like that restaurant, I always seem to enjoy whatever I end up getting. I got the jerk seared chicken confit and it was delicious.

Friday February 21

I spend the majority of my time packing for Disney. This seems to be a complicated process, with a race and a variety of weather possibilities to pack for. In the afternoon I go pick up my rental car. First I have to wait a little because it’s not ready. It’s freezing, 50’s and windy. When the car is ready we have to walk around and verify any existing damage (a few scratches). But she has trouble checking the car in to me, so I go back inside. She can finally do it by scanning the vin number and then I’m good. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

St. Pete Distance Classic 10k

I got up at 3 am to run the St. Pete Distance Classic 10k this morning. This is the second year of this race. There’s a 5k, half and full as well as the 10k, all run at the same. Because of the potential for warmth the races all start at 6:30 am, hence the early rising time.

My training has been going really well, and I ran a really good 10k back in January so I was optimistic about this race. The temps were perfect, mid 50’s at the start, not much wind. The course was almost perfectly flat.

I got to St. Pete around 5:50, had no trouble parking, and was soon in line at the porta potties as usual. Even though it was only a 10k my stomach was still tied up in knots and I was eating Pepto Bismol like crazy trying to calm it down, it was really in revolt this time. I was a little afraid that my string of luck was going to break and I would be searching for a bathroom mid race but as usual I was fine once the race started. Every time though, it’s crazy.

It was a really beautiful course, along the Tampa Bay waterfront in St. Pete. We started in total darkness with a full moon overhead, ran as the sun rise shone brilliant pinks across the water, and ended in blue skies and sun. For the 10k at least the temps stayed in the high 50’s throughout the race.

I wanted to try to PR this race. To do that I needed to run better than 10:36 mpm. I made one stupid mistake and that blew my shot. GPS watches are not 100% accurate on race courses even if the signal is always good, because it is impossible to run the perfect route if a course has any turns, which this one did. The solution to this is to not use automatic lapping, but instead hit the lap button as you pass the course mile markers. But I forgot and left my watch on automatic. This made me think I was doing better than I really was so at points where I would have otherwise pushed myself a little I relaxed. It’s such a dumb mistake, I know better! But that extra tenth of a mile meant that my time ended up being 1:06:45. Not a PR. I now have around 4 races close between 1:05:50 and 1:07. Sigh.

Toward the end of the race I catch up to an older guy. We run along side each other for a few strides. “Let’s pace each other,” I suggest. He says, “this is all I’ve got, I’m afraid.” “Me too,” I say kindly, but in a few more strides I blow past him. Boom! I’m so competitive sometimes!

Well at least I got 3rd place in my division. This race gives out awards in a little ceremony so I decided to stick around for that. But first they were running late, and then they started with the 5k awards. 3 deep, overall, masters, grandmaster, and 5 year age groups both men and women, starting with 9 and under and going up to 80+! I went to my car and got my sweatshirt, when I came back they were still doing 5k awards. I went to the bathroom, came back and they were just finishing up. Then they decided to take a little break. I got some food, I waited a little more, and then I left. That was just ridiculous. I generally like it when races actually recognize the winners, but this was going to go on all day. It took over an hour to announce all the 5k winners and I was tired, hungry and cold. I went home.

One thing that was a good reminder for me at this race. While waiting around for the 10k results I talked to a couple of older women. One woman was the winner in my age group. She ran it in 58 minutes, a time I can hardly even dream about. She was ok with her results but not particularly excited. I think it was a pretty average time for her. The other woman that I talked to for awhile was in the 55-59 year age group. She ran it in 1:15, a time that would have horrified and depressed me. But she was happy with her place and time; it was a good showing for her. 

It just drove home the point that we are all so very different. I sometimes feel like it’s just stupid of me to care so much about how I place in races. But there is no point in comparing myself to the younger women (and some older women too) that regularly beat me at any distance. I am only competing against myself, me at this particular time and place. If I am unhappy with my results it’s up to me to figure out what went wrong and set it straight if I can, and if I can’t, make my peace with whatever happened and perhaps reevaluate my goals.

So I can see I still have plenty of work to do in the 10k department. I like the distance but it’s never a major goal for me. I use it as a marker to see where my fitness is at and to see if my marathon goals seem reachable. In that respect it was a good race. My next 10k is the Skyway Bridge at the beginning of March. Doubt that there is any chance of a PR there, since it involves going up a ginormous hill before we get to the other side of the bridge and go back down. There will be some great views, however!


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