Month: November 2017

Big Bang Series: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

It’s all laughs now…

2013…we signed up for a race in a town where the tv show I Dream of Jeannie took place, Cocoa Beach. It was not a new race, but it had something cool that sold it for us NASA/ Kennedy Space Center junkies-a different Space Shuttle medal for every year(5 total). Plus an extra 3 year medal if you completed 3 races in a row, and a medal for completing all 5 races. We were hooked.

Back to 2013…we (me and Chris) were signed up for the half marathon. I wanted to break 1:45, Chris wanted to finish under 3:00. Humble pie? Hmm. Neither one of us were able to make a PB, but the Challenger medal was sweet!

2014…signed up for the full marathon. Then was lucky enough to be a 4:45 pacer! I was pacing a lot of my friends that day, but GI issues sidelined me, and I ended up walking for 6.2 miles. My finish line photos were less than stellar. The medal, worth it!

2015…broken right foot. I walked the half with my husband. 4:00 hours-could it get worse?! That year, my 3 year Milky Way medal! Nice.

2016…I am overcoming my marathon fiasco. It’s a redeemer race. 4:54. Not a PB but the course did not defeat me. I ran with friends and made it fun.

2017.

What a beautiful sunrise! The views never disappoint.

Saturday and we’re off to the expo for packet pickup. Easy. Then a little bit of Shop Small Saturday. After an early dinner with friends (16 of us) at Olive Garden, time for shut eye. 3:15 a.m comes early, and after a pre race breakfast, it’s time to catch the shuttle bus. We see a lot of friends, and then at 5:45 we head to the start(or the herding of runners). I line up with the 2:00 hour pacer, Chris heads back to the 4:00. Countdown. And we’re off!

Run as fast as you can, but I lose sight of the 2:00 pacer, then the 2:05 but I keep ahead of the 2:10. Running strong, feeling good. Checking out the sights and sounds, then the turnaround(the cross country portion of the race); back I go. 2:10:36 is my official time! I collect my shuttle medal, my finisher towel, and the intergalactic medal. Now breakfast and wait.

Yes! We are Big Bang finishers!

So would I recommend this iconic race?

The Good.

The bling, if you’re all about medals.

What race gives out finisher towels? Space Coast! And I love all 5 of mine.

The course runs along the Banana River and the historical neighborhood established in 1868. It is beautiful! The views on either side can’t be beat.

Themed water stops! I love the volunteers decked out in Star Wars theme, I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, costumes you name it!

Spectators are out in full force! Bacon? Yep. M&M’s? You bet. Alcohol? Get your carbs! I did not indulge but I know a lot of people did. Fun for runners that’s for sure.

Breakfast. The Finish Festival is wonderful! Pancakes, chocolate milk, pizza, muffins, fruit, and beer. Delicious. I always opt for pancakes. Hits the spot.

The bad.

The expo has outgrown its space. The first Expo was at Kennedy Space Center-I like it. Then the RD switched it to the Raddison Convention Center-too small and parking is a bear.

Pizza…awful. That is all.

Trip hazard in the last 200 yards of a race?! I saw at least 12 people fall and twist ankles or scrape their knees/elbows. Not cool. Why was this portion added? It wasn’t there before. I tripped but luckily recovered.

Flat and fast course? Florida has hills. Get ready for a couple of dips and hills. Don’t be fooled. Still beautiful.

The ugly.

Marathoners trying to scoot around half marathoners or spectators-I felt sorry for those people trying to BQ or PB and the Finish chute was tight. People are so inconsiderate.

Closed host hotels who never informed guests they were closed due to Hurricane Irma. Luckily I called a couple of days before because I didn’t see a confirmation email. Not cool Country Inn and Suites.

The next series registration opens February 2018, guess who will be on her computer? This girl! I think next year will be a marathon Mercury year.

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

Mercedes

Holiday Traditions(what we do to create memories).

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and now gearing up for Chanukah or Christmas. Every year I’m excited for the holiday season, and then it’s a blur…and then gone. So as I reflect on 2017 and the holidays, I’m remembering what are some things I have done to make them special for me and my family.

Holiday Themed Races.

Seriously I didn’t start this tradition until 2008 when my younger son Ethan asked me to “run” The Festival of Lights 5k with him. Since then, we run this race every December as a family. I use to race it but after I busted my bum tripping over other runners or uneven sidewalks, I opted to run/walk it with my youngest sons and just enjoy the holiday luminaries and holiday decorations in San Marco. Plus at the end, JTC has their annual Christmas social at 1st Place Sports-can’t beat that!

There’s also the Amelia Island Runners Reindeer Run in Fernandina (I was a streaker until this year) with cookies and chocolate milk at the finish-the best! The Vystar New Year’s Eve 5k in Downtown Jax along the riverfront-pretty!

Aaron is looking festive.

The tree lighting and Jax Boat Parade.

We have been attending this event since before I had my first son Daniel. It’s been super cold and we’ve brought blankets and hot chocolate, and the other extreme …very warm and we end up watching it in shorts and flip flops. We stopped going to the Jax Landing and just watch it at Friendship Fountain. Parking and crowds are much better. We’ve missed the Jax Boat Parade because of a little race down in Cocoa Beach( The Space Coast Marathon) for about 5 years. This year the Taxslayer Bowl is the new sponsor so they’ve moved it to December 30th! Yay! I love how creative and festive these various boats can be(motorboats, sailboats,etc).

The Mandarin Winter Celebration.

All I have to say is “time to see Amos…” and Jesse knows what that means. Always held the first Saturday of December at the Walter Jones Historical Park, this is a truly special event in Mandarin. Hay rides, re enactors, s’mores station, visits with Santa, and crafts for kids. There use to be a train ride too but that hasn’t happened in awhile. So much fun!

Looking at lights.

We’ve been doing this since the boys were little. Since they’ve gotten older it’s a little hard to coax them but sometimes they’re cooperative. The best neighborhoods in our opinion is Fairway Forest(the corner house with the deer are beautiful), Beauclerc around Scott Mill Rd, Atlantic Beach, Riverside, Ortega, and San Marco to name a few of our favorites. We bribe the boys with holiday cookies and hot chocolate…hey, it works!

The Nutcracker Ballet.

I use to love to attend this every year, but unfortunately we just never have the time. I’m so thankful my younger sons have gone to school field trips to see the Times Union performance. I think it would be wonderful to do this as a family again.

Our family enjoys the holiday season.

The Riverside/Avondale Luminaries.

Another great tradition! We use to attend this when the boys were little and people would throw candy. They don’t do that anymore. We still like to go and see the decorated houses, the luminaries, and the live manager scene at one of the churches on St John’s Avenue. There are carolers and now they even have a lighted bike tour/ride. Just once I’d love to just walk around, but parking can be difficult so we tour by car. Highly recommend it.

Deck the Chairs.

This is a relatively new tradition started a couple of years ago by a good running friend Kurtis L. at the Seawalk Pavilion in Jax Beach. A theme revolves around a lifeguard chair: there are Star Wars theme chairs, a jellyfish chair, a breast cancer marathon running ribbon chair, and so on. It is really cool! We love going down there.

Deck the Chairs, creativity at its best.

Advent Trees.

Part of the holidays that I’ve always emphasized to my boys is that “it is better to give than to receive”. I truly believe in that. So at our church we have advent trees, and I make sure everyone in our family picks an ornament and make someone’s Christmas wish come true. If your church doesn’t do this, a lot of department stores do this too. I know when I was a member of the Y, there was a giving tree. It’s a good lesson to teach your kids about thinking of others.

Baking.

Enough said…my boys love to cook, so why not let them help. Daniel is known for his Mac n cheese, David for his almond flan, and the rest of the gang helps as needed. David looks at cooking as just a big science experiment. Chris has been cooking with his Nana since he was little, so he loves trying new recipes in the kitchen. Always fun!

Gingerbread House making.

I can’t take credit for this, my teacher friend Lanette first introduced this to our grade level, and we’ve been doing this fun activity ever since. Since my first graders love it, why not try it out at home? The boys love being creative.

These are the Smith family traditions,which is quite a list. What traditions does your family engage in? Yule logs? The feast of the Three Kings? Caroling? Whatever you do, have fun with it. It’s something your family will treasure.

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

Mercedes

A little tale of Turkey Trotting and Pies

This was a wet half

This was a wet half, but look at my cute turkey medal.

Thanksgiving has always been a tough holiday for me. I lost my grandmother around Thanksgiving(we were going up to visit her and she died before we left), my husband’s aunt died around this holiday, and I lost my twin girls on Thanksgiving(thank goodness for my two older boys). I dread November, but life goes on. I am learning that sometimes bad things happen. November is also a great time for fundraising. I bake Coffeecakes in October, and pies in November/December. Kentucky Bourbon pecan pie is my bestseller. I bake them with love, and people know it. This year I had a special request-an apple pie-bring on the stress. Here’s hoping it tastes delicious. So school, running, family, getting our home ready for pictures, and baking. It’s a full plate. Am I up for the challenge? Of course!

This year I’m also participating in the Zooma Holiday Challenge. Strength 3x’s a week, and Cardio with 1 day of rest. I need to get strong as a runner. My plate runneth over.

Oh, one more thing to add to my very full week. It’s the annual Thanksgiving Distance Classic 13.1. I first did this race back in 2009 and I had no idea about fuel or glycogen. I did it because my son Ethan wanted this race to be his first half. He did great. Me? Bonk! Bonk, hard. I was one of the last people to finish. It gave me great respect for back of the packers. This year I am representing the JTC race team. I picked up my race packet and dropped off some cans for the Mandarin food bank. The weather forecast looks cool but some light rain. First of the week…40%, by Wednesday-90%! Oh bother.

Days before it’s a baking frenzy

12 pies to bake…and deliver by Wednesday(well except one-Amy got her pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving). So appreciative. All money raised goes to the Donna Foundation. So happy to do this each year plus it makes the house smell wonderful!

Thanksgiving Day, and it’s pouring. Not light rain, pouring! We are late but find a parking space at the old Kmart. 7:01:53 a.m. and I’m at the back of the pack. Oh bother! What to do? Run like a wild woman. I pass the 3:30 pacer(hi Don!), 3:15 pacer, 2:45 pacers( hi Leslie! hi Angela!), and 2:30 pacer(hi Sheena!)-I need a porta potty but don’t pass one until 2 miles in. Yay! I run straight for 3 miles, and then begin intervals(90/30). I have a hat on luckily because the rain is relentless. Light rain, then wind and heavy rain. Still I trudge on with all the other runners. We are a hardy group. Running in the rain makes you feel like a badass anyway. And the Mandarin neighborhoods we run through are so pretty.

There were people who came out and cheered us runners on, and of course the volunteers at the water stops were wonderful. The miles ticked off quickly until that last neighborhood where it seemed like 1.1 miles went on for 3 or 4 miles. Then around the corner and finish at Pickwick Plaza(2:22:51! Not stellar but I’ll take it).

Glows:

  • Volunteers were awesome!

  • Bling was really nice this year along with the shirt. I would not wear it on race day though.

  • The race course is a nice tour of South Mandarin from San Jose Blvd, Scott Mill Rd, and around Flynn Rd. I love the canopy trees and historic homes.

  • Pace Groups provided by Jax Galloway is always nice.

  • Police presence kept us safe from impatient drivers.

Grows:

  • Some areas are tight, so passing people can be tricky.

  • Signage for 5k was confusing and some runners got lost-oops!

Now I don’t feel guilty about stuffing my face.

All in all this Thanksgiving Half does not disappoint. If you’ve never trained for a half, give it a try next year-it is so worth it. Now turkey and pie-we’ve earned it.

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

Mercedes

Race Recap of the Mandarin Run 10k

As you know, my Fall marathon hopes were put on hold due to home prep and just life in general. What do you do when life gives you rock salt? You make ice cream! In a manner of speaking that what I chose to do. I signed up for a Saturday race, The Mandarin Run. Before it became sponsored by Bailey’s Health and Fitness Centers, I knew it as the Native Sun Mandarin Run. I had never run this particular race before, but since I knew it was in Mandarin, I knew it would be pretty. Mandarin is a favorite place to run and race in Jax because of the canopied roads with large majestic oak trees. So I was already running 7 miles for training, why not 6.2.

I woke up and got ready, but no breakfast or coffee. Anything less than 13 miles, I opt out of breakfast until after. I took the scenic route to San Jose Blvd, and nearly went to the wrong Bailey’s gym. South Mandarin shopping center with a new Earthfare on Losco Rd. I parked across the street and waited for the race to start at 8:00 a m. The weather was perfect. Just a hint of cool with some wind. It was also Veteran’s Day so I had on Chris’ Marine Corps Marathon hat to salute our veterans.

The National Anthem was played and away we went. The 5k was suppose to start 10 minutes earlier, but the race crowd was not huge, so the 5k and 10k racers started together. Through the parking lot and left on Losco Rd and a sharp left onto Flynn Rd . My first mile was 8:34! I knew better. I was fighting off a cold, and trying not to hack a lung. 1.5 miles was a water stop and the turnaround for the 5k. We kept going straight down to Mandarin Park. One loop around the park with the 5k timing mat(27:53), and right to San Jose Blvd and loop back. Flynn Road went on and on forever. People were passing me but I kept battling. My legs were going nowhere fast. I had slowed down to 9:09 per mile. I stopped at all water stops and thanked volunteers and drank water as needed. Then we were turning right to Losco Rd again. I saw some 5k runners still out there and shouted out encouragement. All of us have been there, and it doesn’t cost anything to be positive and not condescending. Woohoo! At the parking lot, and then…still a loop to get there! Ugh! Finish! 57:11! Not a PB, but still happy. 6th in my AG! And bonus…part of the Grand Prix! That means points-yay me!

Glows:

The medal was bright and colorful.

There was food from Earthfare at the end.

Mandarin beauty did not disappoint.

2 water stops with very nice volunteers.

Well marked.

Lots of Porta Potties.

Grows:

The shirt is nice, but kind of blah. At least the women’s was a nice blue. The guy’s shirt were olive green-eww!

Mandarin neighbors were not out at all-I guess they get tired of so many races in their neighborhood.

The loop in the parking lot is not fun. I get it, it starts and finishes at Bailey’s Gym, but…

All in all, a run I would do again and recommend for the longer distance. Who knew I’d discover a gem.

New listing soon!

What makes me more stressed? Being chased by a dinosaur or trying to sell my house?

I can see the finish line, but I never reach it.  That’s my recurring nightmare whenever I am crazy stressed.  I have that dream when I have an observation by my principal, the night before a race, and now about selling my house.  We have been getting ready for months.  New carpet, new tile, new a/c, new paint, new exhaust fans, new light in our shower…new, new, new!   Then when my agent comes over, more things to do!  Arrrgh!  Will this house ever be listed?  I keep throwing money in it, and it’s not enough.   Yes, I’m frustrated.  It doesn’t help when your spouse says “…we’re never moving…”.  Wanna bet?!

So today, we met the couple who will be doing a deep cleaning and yard work.  What does deep cleaning mean exactly?  We do surface cleaning each week( bathroom, kitchen, dusting, sweeping, vacuuming).  Deep cleaning includes washing baseboards, cabinets, scrubbing floors, making tile showers gleam…  After talking to them, I’m feeling like    we’ll finally cross that finish line; I have hope.  A weight is being lifted off my shoulders.  We will get there, and some family will fall in love with our house and see all the good things that I saw in 1999.

So many memories…

Some of our many pics in our home
 

Ready to move on to a new adventure.  I’m crossing my fingers that things go well and we can mark our house sold!  Stay tuned.

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

Mercedes

What happens when your plans go array 

You might see a road closed sign…I see an opportunity.

I made a tough decision last week.  It wasn’t easy and I’m still sad, but  I know it was the right call right now. I decided not to travel and run my Fall marathon.  What?!  I know, all my summer training with my BRF’s, heat, miles and miles, and just other  struggles.  It was hard and I didn’t feel that I rose to the occasion.  I never made it past 22 miles, which is a first.   

This week I was paying bills, and realized how selfish I was being with this upcoming runcation.  2 kids in college, 1 kid getting braces, and other countless expenses related to getting our house ready to be listed.  Did I really need to prove that I could do another out of state marathon?  Nope.  So that’s it.  Cancel.   

Now depression and disappointment have set in, but since I’m a half full glass kind of person…here’s my list of what can you do when life(or common sense) throws you a curveball.

  1. I still have a four day weekend.  Oh the possibilities!  Probably a day hike but my better half wants to go camping.
  2. Find another hometown race to drown your sorrows.  I’m still chasing the Grand Prix(I’m #9 in my AG), so I’m trying out the Bailey’s health and fitness Mandarin 10k.  Representing JTC race team too.  I love that neighborhood.
    Representing at the Pumpkin Run 10miler
  3. Time to redeem myself for the upcoming 50k.  Yeah that’s coming up in early December, and since I’ve only run 22 miles, I need to try to run over that distance.  Failure is not an option.
  4. Christmas will happen!  Enough said.  As well as our anniversary.
  5. No long as hell road trip with the boys.  Trust me you do not want to be in a car for 8+ hours with 2 adolescents and an angry young adult brother.  It is not pretty to hear or watch.
  6. We’re listing our house, and trying to find a new one.  Not solving that issue if we’re not here.  It’s getting real.
  7. Kids won’t miss school.  I know that’s breaking their hears.
  8. Saving my legs for 2 half marathons in November.  That is no joke.
  9. Get a leg up on my fundraising baking.  Thank you friends for helping me reach my goal.
  10. More time to save money for a real vacation.  My goal is Atlanta and the start of the Appalachian Trail.

There is a reason for everything.  The journey is not done, just delayed.  I will try again(goodness I hate Summer marathon training) in 2018.

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

Mercedes