Month: March 2016

Real Florida Continues


Our hike includes the beach

It’s spring break and we’re discovering the real Florida, the affordable Florida.  Today we’re hitting A1A Northbound to Little Talbot Island State Park for a family hike.  It is $5 per vehicle to get in, you park at the front near the entrance to get to the hiking trail.  Last time we hiked, the mosquitos were horrendous, so definitely wear bug spray and light clothing.  The park ranger told us it was high tide and therefore the beach would be impassable.  We opted for walking on the pedestrian/bike path that runs along the main road.  There is plenty of parking.  Half of our group went north towards the boardwalk(my son’s Eagle Scout project) and the other half went  south towards the beach and the boundary of the park.  We hiked along the path and saw dunes and coastal flora and fauna.  2 miles later, we were at the picnic pavilions and the bathrooms.  Then we began our way back using the beach.  We spent time searching for shells and sand dollars.  Currents are strong so swimming and even wading are discouraged, but we saw some fishermen on shore.
Driftwood is plentiful
Our trail

The beach was pristine.  It was gorgeous!  No trash at all.  Sand was like snow.  We met up with our other hiking companions and saw a marsh rabbit as an added bonus, but no gopher tortoise this time.  Definitely worth the entrance fee!   And the adventure continues, see why we love our state in the upcoming posts…hope you can come out and pay us a visit. 

Remember it’s about the journey and not just the destination,



Spring Break and Real Florida

Eleven days of no school and the family is dying for a road trip, the biggest issue for a family of six?  How much without breaking the bank?  Orlando attractions…mucho expensivo, Tampa attractions…just as bad.  And I want real Florida as opposed to man made interpretations.  We decided on Gainesville where there is a hidden natural treasure in amongst the college town of UF Gators, Devil’s Millhopper  State Park.


Native American Legend

We drove from The Florida Mueseum of Natural History to the State Park about 4 miles away and it was $2 a car to get in using the honor system.  There is a small visitor center with information about the history, plants, and animals of the park.  There are also bathrooms.  Picnic tables too.  Then you walk along the path until you reach a fork in the road; right is the nature trail and left is the sinkhole.  


National Landmark since 1976
When we visited, there were a lot of visitors.  There are 232 steps to the bottom of this wooden Boardwalk, it is not wheelchair accessible.  Climbing down was a breeze.  We saw old trails from the 1930’s, rocks, waterfalls(small ones), lots of greenery, and a huge pool of water at the bottom.  Bugs were not bad but I would suggest bug spray anyway.  Going up was a workout and since stairs are one way up and down, it’s tight.  Patience is a virtue so please be patient with slower walkers.  It’s beautiful and worth a visit if you enjoy natural beauty.


Going down?

Waterfall in FL? Find several here.


We made it down!

We love the real Florida!  Stay tuned for more adventures and why we love our state. 

Remember it’s not about the destination but about the journey,


Race Recap of St Paddy’s Day 10k/5k


People run for bling

This is one of my favorite runs and place to run.  I ran this race with my younger son Ethan back in 2009(the 5k) , and since then I try to run it every year depending on my race schedule or training schedule.  It is run at Evergreen Cementary on Main St.  The route is shady with lots of turns and interesting sights.  I know some people are creeped out at the thought of running through a Cementary, but I find it interesting and fun.  There is so much Jacksonville history here and since I’m a history buff, I’m fascinated.

Back to the race…

This race is one of the Grand Prix races for the 10k, so  even though you may not win an award for the top 3, you can score points toward the Grand Prix standing in your age group.  I always aim for the top ten in these races.  I am a new member of the JTC racing team but since I haven’t gotten my race tank/shirt, I decided to represent Team Donna Jax Galloway.  It had been raining all night long, so I expected cooler weather, yeah no(66 humid degrees at the start).  Chris came with me and was my official photographer.  I saw a couple of familiar faces but not many.  This particular race nearly sold out due to the promised medal at the finish line, so it was going to be a crowded course.  I did not sign up for the medal, so I could care less about it.  My goal, to redeem myself after a disastrous Gate River Run, was to finish at 1:00:00 or better.  I started with the 8:00/9:00 per mile folks crossing my fingers.

Cannon fire…we’re off!


So fast I outrun the picture
Tight, lots of people, leaves, pavement uneven, railroad tracks, turn left.  Mile 1-8:44!  Oh boy, I’m going to implode.  I can see the fasties going the other way.  People running up on the grass, St Paddy’s Day shamrock markers, more leaves, uneven pavement due to tree roots, turn right, straight ahead, graves(did that really say 1849?!).  Mile 2-17:10!  Water stop-yay!  Back over the train tracks, right, around, left, finish line…5k on the right 10k on the left(fork in the road).  Brief moment of -cross that finish(26:15), nah.  Keep going and then water stop!  And then do the loop again.

Less people this time.  I can stretch out and run without stepping on anyone-always a plus.  4 mile-31:00?!  I must be delirious.  Now I hear people around me…wheezing, coughing, breathing hard but perservering.  No way am I stopping!  I have a goal!  Mile 6 before I know it 57:35, I can do this-I have .2 to go!  I cross the finish at 58:03!  Yes!!  Water, medal, and banana and see my results#5 in my AG!  Not bad.  


Keep going, you’re not almost there
10k Done!

Look for another run at the lovely and serene Evergreen Cementary in October, The Pumpkin Run 5 mile/10 mile.  You won’t be disappointed.
Remember it’s about the journey not just the destination, 



Inspirational Women I’ve personally met

March is National Women’s Month , which started off as National Women’s Week back in 1978 and because it became so popular, a whole month was dedicated to promoting women and their role in History starting in 1988.  As a college student and then a teacher I learned that not only the founding fathers had a hand in U.S. History , but a lot of ladies also were involved in government, science and medicine, and sports.    However, I didn’t know any of these ladies.  How can I get inspired  when I have no connections with them?  It’s like asking my students to get inspired by Martin Luther King Jr or Paul Revere.  Great influential people, but very removed from their lives.

Who Inspires…famous, everyday people?

I tend to gravitate towards  everyday people who due to circumstances do great things.  Not for glory or riches but to help others.  I know of two such women, Dr. Edith Perez and Donna  Deegan.

  I met Dr. Perez about  5 years ago when I was training for my first marathon.  I was in a running group, Jax Galloway, and she was in the group ahead of me because she was a faster runner.  I knew that she was a doctor at Mayo Clinic and her speciality was breast cancer.  As I became more involved with Jax Galloway and the Breast Cancer Marathon, I got to meet with her and listen to her speak about her research to find a cure.  She inspired me with her down to earth attitude and humble demeanor.  She was and is doing great things for all cancer patients.  Dr. Perez inspires me to think of others first.


Yes, I am starstruck


Donna Deegan was a local channel news anchor and I had been watching her on channel 12 since the mid 1990’s.  I remembered she had had breast cancer and had beat it(not once but 3 times).  I had no idea she would change my life for the better.  I had begun running and had heard of a race that was a marathon that was local.  We all went to the expo and although I didn’t run, I was inspired to start training for my first marathon in that same year in May.  I met the Olympian Jeff Galloway and this tiny ball of energy, who had started the only marathon against Breast Cancer-26.2 with Donna-Donna Deegan.  Imagine going through cancer and running the inguaral Breast Cancer Marathon…she did it!  She works tirelessly with the Donna Foundation to help women and their families with financial difficulties.  Funds raised also go back to Mayo Clinic for research, so that future generations may not have to suffer through the disease.  She is an inspiration because this is not about her receiving recognition for her work, but about helping others.  Donna Deegan inspires me to think of the greater good and anything is possible.

These are just two of the many women who directly inspire me through their selfless good works. Who inspires you?  Look around you, they are your neighbors, your friends, the teacher at your child’s school, your local police officer, a volunteer at a local soup kitchen…inspirational women aspire and inspire everyday.

Remember it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey,


Gate River Run Recap Part II


I really worked hard for this one
Done…or am I?

I make my way back to WJCT after checking out the post race party because I have another race.  Yep, my youngest has the Junior River Run 1 miler at 11:30.  I can’t miss running with him.  Changed my wet tank and changed into a dry one-yuck!  Then back out into the heat.  The boys in his age group were suppose to run at 11:30, but the heat was so oppressive, we opted for the 11:15 start with the girls.  We did intervals (1:00/:30).  And for once, he stayed with me and didn’t run ahead.  12:13 later, he collected his medal and finisher shirt.  Great job Jesse!

Nice swag

Then the walk.   The parking lot goes on forever.  Finally back into the welcoming a/c of WJCT and GOTR Solemates VIP experience.  Here was the menu:  hamburgers with the fixings, salad, chips, fruit, and Sweet by Holly minis.  I was rungry so I gladly sampled it all.  Then raffles with garmins and race entries to the Cupcake Run 5k(that’s how I got my Garmin last year), gift boxes with a cool jacket and other goodies, our special hydration requests(mine was Natalie’s Strawberry Lemonade), and a candy station.  So worth the walk from the finish.


Gifts?! Wow!
If you want the best…

   Carrot Cake mini-mmm!
Queen for a day

Then, the clock struck twelve and my glass slippers disappeared.  Another Gate River Run done until next year.  And yes, I will be back!

Remember it’s about the journey, not just about the destination,


Race Recap of Gate River Run

Wave 1

March is here.  What does that mean to me?  Spring, lose an hour of sleep springing forward, Spring Break, and The Gate River Run.   A tiny bit of history about the iconic River Run, the race began in 1978 with a couple hundred and now has over 16,000 runners.  Streakers are the runners who have run all 39 River Runs and they have seen plenty of changes through the years.  I have been running the race since 2009 where I walked more than I ran with my 11 year son , Ethan.  My husband Chris has been running this race since the early 1990’s including the famous “Storm of the Century” River Run, where I was very pregnant with my first son Daniel(he was born less than a week later).  Neither cold, heat, illness, or a nervous stomach will keep a runner from running in this 15k.

All week I’ve been watching the weather forecast; 40% chance of rain, 20% chance, and then heat(77-80 degrees by 10:00a m)-oh bother. 

I picked up everyone’s race packet on Thursday at the Fairgrounds.  Three of us were running this year:Aaron, Jesse, and me.  Ethan had a broken ankle and Chris and David were going camping.  Nice bag with goodies including a RR magnet & flashlight and of course the wicking shirt(red this year).

Saturday came and I was up early-fuel and coffee.  Plus I drank a glass of water to keep hydrated.  We all packed into the van and made our way to Everbank & WJCT.  Traffic was not bad & it was foggy-please stay that way powers that be.   We had to be at WJCT by 7:00 for the VIP solemates experience- our own parking lot, indoor plumbing, a/c, and food.  Yes my boys were in heaven.

Have to keep them entertained while we run

8:10 a m it was time to leave the comforts and line up in wave 1.  I was in orange so I was further back but I had still gotten into the wave that started at 8 :30.  Getting into my corral was another story.  Finally in and met up with some familiar runners; Ardis, Michel, and Marcia!  They had a goal-to finish, I had a goal-to do better than last year’s 1:30.  National anthem…and away we go.

Running down Bay Street past Maxwell House, turn(mile 1).  Up the Main Street Bridge towards San Marco.  I am feeling bad(head cold-sinus infection), so I get to mile 3(27:00 something) and decide it’s time to try a different strategy before I die.  3:00/:30 intervals, stop at the water stops, and pour water on my head.  That’s what I continue doing through the rest of the race.  River Road strawberries-yes!  Donut holes-heck no!  Mile 5…sausage and beer?!  I feel nauseous after smelling that but keep going.  Atlantic Blvd.  I hate this part-full sun.  San Nicholas neighborhood & the 10k(59:00), still happy.  Popsicles-yay!  Orange Alley.  Lots of people out cheering us on, we look tired.  I see two friends, Martha and Donna. Just seeing them keeps me going.  Back on Atlantic Blvd-ugh!  I am wearing a tank, oh boy am I going to have a painful sunburn!

I am on the ramp to the Green Monster AKA the Hart Bridge.  Still doing my intervals and the music is keeping me going.  It’s a beautiful view and usually I would appreciate it but not right now.  One foot in front of the other, I want this run done!  At the top, now downhill from here.  Turn left, there is the finish!  I got nothing left, Martha is there and coaxes me to finish strong(guardian running angel) so that’s what I do.  1:37.  


Made it over the Monster

Collected my medal,water, and ice pack(nice).  Now to go back to WJCT-longest walk ever!

This day isn’t over yet.
Remember it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey,


I am fascinated with sunrise and sunsets. AKA My fascination with storytelling through photographs


Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly flow the days….

(lyrics courtesy of Fiddler on the Roof)

I take a lot of photos; group pictures, selfies, even food pics, but the most I notice that I take over and over are sunrise and sunset pictures.  I have looked at old Polaroids and I can’t find a single one.  Why?  I didn’t possess the right tool to document instaneous stories of my days.  Now I do.

  I have an obsession.   

iPhones are the greatest invention for photo bugs, you can snap a pic at any time and it’s small and portable enough to not be a bother.  Plus you can see the results instaneously. And you can take more than one.  When I had a real camera(snap & shoot), I had to be careful with my picture taking since I had film that would only take up to 24 pictures.  And I prayed that I got the shot-there was no way to check it until you got your prints back. 

Remember these? Negatives


Sunrise? Sunset? The shot that got away

I have a lot of photographs that look like this-too dark.  It might have been a great shot but since I didn’t use a 35mm camera, I got these pics instead.  Or worse, the flash didn’t go off.  Oh the good old days!  With iPhones, you can edit those too dark pics.



Now to digress…

I miss photographs and before scrap booking, albums.  Each page had a theme or even better each album had a theme.  One album was my NY times with pictures of my summers in Sheepshead Bay, one album was Newlyweds, one album was Chris’ family.  I love old photographs!  Those are prized possessions.  My grandmother on my Dad’s side gave me her old photos and I wouldn’t trade those for a million dollars.  My uncle Fyord took a lot of landscape pictures too.  Black and white and sadly out of focus.  Sunrises?  Sunsets?  I don’t know he died when I was three years old.

Digital photos get lost forever(unless you back up your files) when your old PC dies.  Just another reason why I miss real photos.  A little part of your life and memories die too.  I look at those photographs and wonder what was I thinking, feeling, hoping…I get nostalgic for people not in my life anymore either because of circumstances or just choices.  Or people who lived before me and I never knew.  What were they like?  What made them happy, sad, angry, pensive…


Sunrise? Sunset? B/W can’t tell
Okay now back to your regularly scheduled program…

So why the fascination with sunrises and sunsets?  I don’t know.  It could be a combination of things, but I know I feel hopeful and blessed everytime I see one.

It’s not about the destination but the journey,




Why Being a Girls on the Run Coach is Awesome

Ever since Title IX enacted in 1972, no persons due to their sex will be denied or excluded in participation of a federally assisted program.  What does that mean?   Women have been able to participate in Sports program in schools.  It’s a great step forward and I’m so proud of all those women who paved my way , so I could run in races without feeling a social stigma.  Great strides…

In 2011, I heard of a program for girls who were in 3rd-5th, which would help girls run a 5k.  I was excited since there are no sports programs in elementary school and I thought it would be a great way to get girls moving since childhood obesity was a real concern.  The program was Girls on the Run.  My principal said no.


Thank you Katherine Switzer!

Fast forward a couple of years and we had had principal changes and our new principal decided to give Girls on the Run a try.  There were 5 Coaches, who would be willing to give of their time and encouragement:  Coach Kim, Coach Shelly, Coach Morehouse, Coach Becksmith, & me(Coach Smith).  We met on a Saturday at GOTR headquarters for new coaches and were introduced to the curriculum(we’re not just running?!).  The curriculum is about encouraging, self esteem, having girls find their voice, and healthy habits among other topics along with workouts(fun games to help them get moving forward).  This is fun!  Now to sell it to the girls.

Our first Fall season started off with 6 girls.  That’s a coach per girl! We met Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It was a fun beginning season.  Then as word got out, more girls started signing up.  There were new girls but suprisingly our alumni kept signing up again and again(as long as other extracurricular activities didn’t interfere).  That’s saying something!  

Love the girls’ attitude

Now for two seasons we’ve had two teams because our 3rd-5th girls are so excited to be part of a program that not only helps them run 3.1 miles but also helps them feel loved, safe, and able to express themselves freely.  I love watching the girls grow and blossom ,encouraging each other, becoming strong and confident young women.  There is nothing they can’t do!  Now GOTR is also making its way into middle school(Girls on Track), and hopefully the program will continue to grow for those 6th-8th girls, who need an outlet for exercise but may not want to go out for a sports team.



If you don’t have a GOTR program at you elementary school, I would definitely encourage you to talk to your administration to get started.  It is a rewarding venture to be a coach, the lessons are fun and easy to do, you will have a hand in shaping the girls in your care to become confident and healthy young women.  Don’t  be surprised when you look forward to your GOTR days and really miss it when the season is over. 
  Here’s how we always end our time together…

Girls on the Run is so much fun

Girls on the Run is #1

Girls on the Run is what we do

Girls on the Run is good for you!

(Wild cheers!!!)
Remember it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey,