Southern Shores, North Carolina

Duck tree

“Never lose your sense of wander”.

(TheWanderlust.com)

Southern Shores is a small town located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  I heard of the Outer Banks but did not know it was comprised of several small coastal towns.

My introduction to Southern Shores came about because one of my best friends visited the area last summer and shared how nice it was there.  Decided to explore the area as part of my ongoing quest to Walk into the Future.

Southern Shores is a quick and easy drive from the Virginia Beach and Norfolk area.  Made my way over to explore the area and take in a few sights.

Discovered a nice Air Bed and Breakfast (AirBNB) for my visit that was centrally located to the main areas.  It was a short walk or drive to Duck, North Carolina which I had never heard of prior to my trip.  Turns out one of my work friends has a family vacation home in Duck and she was excited to learn I was heading there.  She also gave me suggestions on places to visit and eat while in the area.

Aqua Restaurant & Spa was recommended as a great spot for food, music, and views of the bay.  Aqua lived up to the hype and more.  The service and food were great and the sunset bouncing off the water was a great way to end a day. 

https://aquaobx.com/

Tullio’s Bakery was the recommended breakfast spot.  They have pastries, donuts and breakfast sandwiches made to order.  Grabbed a bacon and egg croissant and coffee before heading over to the beach for the day.  The sandwich was a very simple selection, but the fresh croissant really made it stand out.  Wish I had grabbed a second one before I hit the beach. 😊

https://www.tulliosbakery.com/

The Outer Banks beach scene is a lot different than the beaches in Florida.  The main attraction for the beach goers is the ability to drive on the beaches.  There are ‘air down’ stations where people lower the air pressure in their tires so they can get better traction on the beach.  I had never heard of this process for driving on the beach.  It appears less air in the tires allows vehicles to not get stuck and spin out while driving on the beach.  I just assumed a 4-wheel drive vehicle would be fine in the sand, but big truck drivers dropped air pressure too.

Got a chance to sit on the main beach in Duck and caught a nap while enjoying the weather and watching people drive by.  There are wild horses on the Outer Banks but did not get a chance to see them wandering around.  Spent about 30 minutes searching but decided to just relax and enjoy the sound of the North Carolina waves.

Turns out the North Carolina waves sound like my regular Florida waves.  Went over to the pedestrian side of the beach so I could walk without worrying about cars driving by.  Decided to walk and enjoy the sun and relax. 

Ventured to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse to explore more while in Duck.  There was a lot of activity at the lighthouse with tourists looking for adventure.  Took one turn around the area and then headed back to the AirBNB to rest up. 

Discovered the HULU show Only Murders in the Building while back in the AirBNB.  Binged watched multiple episodes and really got into the characters and plot of the show.  Highly recommend checking this show out on HULU if you have not watched it.  Got a free trial on HULU so I could watch the final episodes when I returned home.  Looking forward to Season #2 in September—love clever shows!

https://www.outerbanks.com/currituck-beach-lighthouse.html

Duck light house

Happy I made the trek to Southern Shores to explore a new area during my Walk into the Future.  Don’t know if I will make it back there but it was a great adventure and I’m happy I made time to get there.  Always looking for new places to visit and the adventures that come with travel. 

No regrets, ever! 😊 😊 😊

Where are you planning to visit this year?

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”.

(Pinterest.com)

Running into 2022

Bridge Buster 5k

“I run so my goals in life will continue to get bigger instead of my belly”.

(teepublic.com)

Started my 2022 running program with the Bridge Buster 5k in Fort Pierce, Florida.

I ran this same 5k back in 2021 and decided it would be a great way to jump start my 2022 running odyssey and get me back to competing with other runners.

My 2022 run goals are slightly different from what I established for 2021.  The 2021 goal was to get in 1,110 training/running miles for the year.  I was able to exceed this goal but felt like I was always chasing the number.  Yes, I put the work in to get to that number but the closer I got to 1,110 miles the more I started pressing to ensure I got there.  Seems counterintuitive but chasing the number was not as fun as just going out to run.

My written 2022 run goal is simply to ensure I get in 3 quality runs each week.  I created an aggressive race calendar for 2022 by registering for 8 races on December 30, 2021, with an eye towards additional races.  The race dates range from January 8 to May 14 to go along with the 2022 Clearwater Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  Plan to add September, November, and December races to the schedule to provide a full year of races.  Still contemplating a full marathon this year but that will happen in the fall if I decide it is time to take on that challenge.

The Bridge Buster 5k is a smaller race but this was the 39th running of the race.  The race proceeds go to local educational programs so this was a great way to give back to the Fort Pierce community.

I did not have to get up super early since this was a hometown race and I live about 10 minutes away from the start/finish line.  I got up with plenty of time to prep with beet juice, drink water and get coffee to take on my drive over to the race starting point.  I added a new wrinkle to my preparation by leveraging a 10-minute yoga stretching YouTube session by Adrienne Mishler.  I discovered her free yoga classes through the Runner’s World magazine.  The session was short but very effective to get me ready to run my race.

Arrived at packet pickup to get my race bib, t-shirt, and instructions for the 5k.  Again, this is a small race, so packet pickup took a full 10-minutes start to finish.  Went back to my vehicle to attach my bib and complete my last-minute stretching routine.

Toed the line towards the middle of the start corral to ensure I did not go out to fast and to allow me to avoid runners who may not know how to control their initial race pace.  The start line can be dangerous when trying to avoid other runners—crashes do occur.

I did not have a specific finish time in mind when the race started—always like to get a feel for the course and then see how much I can push myself towards the start line.  This was the first race of the 2022 season so wanted to gauge my fitness levels during this race to see how much training work I need to put in.

Happy to report, I am not too far off with my fitness, and this should be a great running season. 😊

I covered the 5k distance in 28:36 which averages out to 9:12 per mile.  My splits were:  Mile 1 (8:38) / Mile 2 (9:37) / Mile 3 (9:29) / Mile .1 (.52). 

Mile 1 is completely flat as we made our way through downtown Fort Pierce.  This may be my favorite portion of this race because it is flat and there are no bridges in sight.  The Mile 1 marker sits at the beginning of the Seaway Drive Bridge.  The next half mile of the race is on an incline as we made our way over the bridge towards Hutchinson Island.  This half mile portion of the race is where most runners must decide how they want to complete the race.  I decided to slow my pace at this point to ensure I had enough gas in the tank to finish as strong as I wanted.  The bridge descent was welcomed by all runners as we made up time coming down off the bridge and continued towards Hutchinson Island and the turnaround point.

The course flattens once off the bridge, and we made our way to the turnaround point.  The turnaround was just short of the 2-mile point of the race, and I tried to make up some time here knowing the bridge was looming in the distance.  Yes, we had to get back over the same bridge to complete this 5k.  Therefore, the race is called the Bridge Buster 5K. 😊

The second bridge crossing was just as taxing as the first portion, but runners were spaced out more coming back towards downtown Fort Pierce.  I pressed myself to not give up too much time running up the bridge and pressed the gas coming down the other side for the descent.  I had to crank my music on this portion to keep me churning towards the finish line.

I picked off a few runners with my finishing kick and crossed the line with a smile on my face.  Turns out I finish second in my age group but did not hang around for the awards ceremony.

Why not you ask?  I have a lot of races scheduled for 2022 and leveraged the cool morning to get a 5-mile training run in.  Yes, I went for a 5-mile training run after I completed the Bridge Buster 5K.

Got my 5-miles in on Ocean Drive which is one of my normal routes close to the beach.  This allowed me to train and then get a few minutes to sit on the beach for a bit.

Bridge Buster 5k b

Not a bad way to start my 2022 running program. 😊

What are you excited for in 2022?

Irie!

“Running keeps me busy until it’ acceptable to drink wine”.

(Etsy.com)

The Return to Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville Honky Tonk

“I love Nashville.   It seems like everywhere you walk, there’s great music coming out of every wall”.

(Imedla May)

I am always looking for a clever quote to help me get started with the writing process.

My friends and family know I love Tennessee and Nashville is one of my favorite places to visit.  I did not realize it has been almost 3 years since my last visit to the Music City.

The 2019 Rock N Roll Half Marathon and NFL draft weekend was the last time I was in Nashville. 

https://walkintothefuture.blog/2019/05/23/nashville-and-the-wild-horse-saloon/

The 2020 Rock N Roll Half Marathon was cancelled due to COVID-19.  The 2021 Rock N Roll Half Marathon was moved to the week before Thanksgiving.  I thought about using my race credit and running the fall version of the race, but it would have kept me from exploring the Smoky Mountains.  Got to have priorities in life! 😊

It looks like I will be able to run Nashville again in April 2022 with the Rock N Roll crew again.

Back to present day Nashville.

I decided to visit Nashville prior to Christmas for a trip to explore the city in a different way than I normally do.  Most times I am in Nashville for an event (race/football game) and get focused on the task at hand.  I have a regimented eating pattern when I am in town for a race.  I also must keep track of how much I am on my feet prior to a race so I can conserve energy to compete.

 I went full tourist mode for this trip so I could explore different areas and venues without worrying about how much time I spent walking or standing up.

Booked a convenient downtown hotel which was only half a mile from Broadway which is the main entertainment center in Nashville.

This easy walk made Nashville more accessible to me since I did not have to worry about finding a place to park.  Nashville is like most big cities where parking is a premium and of course you pay a premium to park.  I simply left my rental car in the hotel parking lot and got my steps in while enjoying everything Nashville had to offer.

Ryman Auditorium

I have been to Nashville 10 times over the years but never visited the Ryman Auditorium.  I have walked by this historic music venue multiple times but for some reason never tried to go in. 

The Ryman Auditorium is steeped in musical history and transcends multiple genres.  It is the original home of the Grand Old Opry and music fans from all over the world converged there to see their favorite artists.  The Ryman Auditorium started as a house of worship but expanded to host political rallies, plays, conventions and musical acts.  I was surprised to see how many rock, pop and R&B acts played at the Ryman Auditorium.  The Grand Old Opry moved out of the Ryman in 1975 to the current location in Opryland.  The Grand Old Opry show returns to the Ryman Auditorium on a regular basis, and they continue to attract national headliners.  Josh Turner was playing the same day I took the Ryman Auditorium tour.  Highly recommend adding this tour to your Nashville travel plans.

https://ryman.com/

Country Music Hall of Fame

The Rock N Roll Race EXPO is right next to the Country Music Hall of Fame.  I have walked by the building a thousand times but never made my way up the stairs to see the exhibits. ☹

This trip was designed to be a true tourist, so I made my way up the stairs and entered the Country Music Hall of Fame.  It did not have the same nostalgic feel of the Ryman Auditorium, but it was a great place to see and relive the history of country music.  The exhibits included subtexts to ensure everyone knew what they were seeing to include instruments and clothing country music stars wore in their videos and on tour.

A surprising aspect of the exhibits was how small most of the country artists are.  A lot of artists look bigger than life on TV but most of the female artists based on their outfits are 5’ 4” or shorter.  Even the BIG country guys are not as big as they appear on TV based on the outfit that were on display.  My favorite artist is George Strait and I thought he was 6’ 3” or 6’ 4”.  He is 5’ 10”—never would have guessed that before seeing his exhibit in the Country Music Hall of Fame.  I made my way into the Hall of Fame Rotunda to view the plaques for everyone who has been elected to the Hall of Fame.  Got to see all the legends in the rotunda but made sure to get a shot of George Strait’s plaque.  Highly recommend a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

https://countrymusichalloffame.org/

Nashville Strait

Wildhorse Saloon

The Wildhorse Saloon is one of my favorite places to visit when I am in Nashville.  The food, atmosphere and music venue are all first rate.  One of my targeted activities at the Wildhorse Saloon is the chance to get in some line dancing.  The staff at the Wildhorse teach multiple dances throughout the day and then get everyone on the dance floor.  I have learned quite a few new dances over the years.  Sadly, the Wildhorse Saloon was closed while I was in Nashville.  They decided to give the staff some time off before Christmas and I respect that.  The gift shop was open, and I was able to pick up a few souvenirs before heading back over to Broadway for music.

Broadway

Broadway is the main drag in downtown Nashville if you are looking for entertainment.  I have covered almost every inch of Broadway over the years and still discover new places to listen to music.

There is no cover to enter the Honky Tonks so there is freedom to roam and change venues.  I love this aspect because I move around depending on the bands playing and how good they sound.

I hit most of the Honky Tonks on this trip but found myself gravitating to The Stage, Whiskey Row, Jason Aldean’s Rooftop Bar and Tequila Cowboy.   The sound stage in these spots were better quality and I enjoyed the bands playing.  The food at Jason Aldean’s was good so why I kept going back. 😊

https://dierkswhiskeyrow.com/nashville-tn/

Nashville is a great place to visit if you have never been.  Looking forward to getting back there in April 2022 for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon and line dancing at the Wildhorse Saloon.

“We’re playing your song”.

(Tennessee Department of Tourist Development)

Poetic Flow / Fallacy

Poetry

(Image by lolame from Pixabay.com)

The fallacy of today is tomorrow will be a better day

Regardless of what the hope will be

There are things we will not see

The motivation of circumstance

Will keep all searching for their chance

Improving daily

But what chances should be taken?

 

Goal progress—where are you?

Goals

“The great danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark”.

(Michelangelo)

Decided to check my 2021 goals in December to see how well I did to accomplish the things I projected to get done back in January 2021.

Yearly goals are a big part of my planning process and I love checking things off my list.  The written goal is a way to ensure success and provides clarity on things to get done in the new year. 

2021 presented some unique opportunities for me and I am happy to grow on a professional and personal level.

There was only one area where I did not meet or exceed my written goal.  I started 2021 with a written goal to cook weekly and I started the year off well.  I made a point to meal prep and utilized my crock pot for convenience.  My cooking goal lasted about two months before the wheels fell off on my progress.  Working late and my scheduled after work runs are the excuses but the convenience of the drive-thru is the real reason.  Turns out it is a lot easier and quicker to pull up and order something without having to come home and cook.  I realize the drive-thru is not the healthiest option for me, but I rationalize this process with an extra run or two to combat.  I will do a much better job with this goal in 2022!

Travel

Travel was an area I wanted to hit specific marks in 2021.  COVID-19 eliminated most travel plans in 2020 and I wanted to get back on the road once it was safe again.  I was leery of the vaccine process early on but fully embraced the concept once the vaccine was available.  I wanted to be able to see family and friends again without the concern of bringing the virus with me.  I understand vaccinated people can still carry but felt a sense of relief once I received the Moderna doses.

I routinely took monthly excursions prior to COVID-19 and looked forward to doing this again.  Clearwater, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Melbourne were targeted cities for my monthly getaways and happy to report I hit them all.  Orlando and Melbourne were regular visits for me in 2021.  I also made it back to Jasper at least once per month to see my mom and family. 

My visit to Clearwater Beach back in January was my first time there.  I always saw pictures and heard about the area but never took time to visit.  I am happy I made the trip over and will return October 2022 to run in the inaugural Clearwater Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  Plan to get more sightseeing in when I get there.

Got in a few running tourist opportunities too:  Virginia Beach, Savannah, and Orlando.

My last 2021 travel adventure got me back to Nashville, Tennessee to listen to live music and enjoy a great city.  The Wild Horse Saloon was closed on this trip, but I will be back for the 2022 Nashville Rock N Roll Half Marathon in April.  I will get my line dancing in when I return. 😊

Exercise program

Exercise is a huge part of my daily routine.  This is an area I take a lot of pride in and hit all my goals in 2021. 

The first thing I wanted to hit was 1,000 training miles.  Happy to report I was able to finish the year with 1,055 training miles.  Building training runs into my daily schedule allowed me to hit this mark without feeling rushed to get training completed.  I will leverage my 2021 training routine to build an aggressive 2022 training goal to help me challenge myself.  Will share this number in a later post.

I set a goal to break my Personal Record (PR) in a 10k race and beat my friend Lauren Kume’s time in 2021.  I ran a PR of 55:57 (Fifty-five minutes and 57 seconds) at the 2021 Winter Park 10k in March 2021.  I did not run faster than Lauren, so I get to try again in 2022.  I am registered for the same race in March 2022 and will work to get closer to 54 flat—still more work to do but headed in a good direction.  Seems I am always chasing Lauren, but she inspires my running program—thank you!  😊

My workouts in 2021 were much improved.  I still make it to the gym for weight training at least two times per week and upgraded my home equipment to enhance my strength training.  I got in 5 body weight sessions weekly to complement my work in the gym.  I was able to add more muscle definition and maintain my weight even though I do not eat the healthiest.  I will correct my eating habits in 2022.

Writing

I maintained a consistent writing program throughout 2021.  I published several articles on LinkedIn and added my poetry to the Walk into The Future blog.  My blog library allowed me to publish weekly content to share my thoughts, views, and travel with readers.  I gained a few more blog followers and incorporated content several friends requested.  I plan to continue to build new blog content in 2022—don’t know how much longer I will use this platform, but I have other areas I want to explore for the blog so keep sending me your ideas.  I will work to build content to keep your interest.

I did not publish my Leadership ebook in 2021 but did work on content throughout the year.  I talked with a designer to build the cover art but will need to reengage with him to finalize the cost for the project.  This will be a rollover goal for 2022.

Happy with my 2021 goal progress and excited to launch my 2022 goals towards another successful year.

How did YOU do on meeting your 2021 goals?  What big things do you have planned for 2022?

Make it great!

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”.

(C.S. Lewis)

2021 OUC Half Marathon

OUC 1

Running Friend (n):  One who listens, does not judge, and somehow makes two hours of running fun.

(Pinterest)

Yes, I made the trek over to run the Orlando Hometown Half Marathon again this year.  This is becoming my favorite half marathon due to the course, weather, proximity, and the great Track Shack staff.

The is the 8th time for me running this half marathon and it may have been the most enjoyable.  I signed up for the race in December 2020 with the intent to target a Personal Record (PR) during the event.  I made an adjustment to my mindset during packet pickup to just enjoy the course, the spectators and, great December weather in Orlando.

I still wanted to beat my 2020 time but did not overemphasize the concept of a time-based goal.  My training has been good but nothing like the miles or training sessions I put in in 2019.  The hills in Tallahassee helped prepare me for races so I knew where my conditioning was before every race.  Targeted race times were easier to predict due to hill training.

I toed the start line this year with the intent to get/stay close to a pace so I would complete the half marathon in 2:15 (two hours and 15 minutes).  This would be ten minutes slower than my PR but obtainable without stressing my body too much just to hit a number.  This is personal growth for me because I normally beat myself up if I do not hit a certain number.  Decided to listen to my body and have fun since that is what this is all about.

I crossed the finish line this year in a time of 2:18:58 (two hours, 18 minutes, and 58 seconds).  Close but extremely happy with this time.  Why you ask?

Great question! 😊

I knew my tree branch, Daniel Botero was signed up for the race and we texted to make sure we connected prior to the race start.  Always great seeing my tree branches and this was the first time Daniel and I have seen each other in-person since February 2020.  While catching up and stretching Daniel asked me what my targeted time was for the race.  I gave him 2:15 for my targeted time and he asked if he could tag along. 

OUC 2

Looking at past articles on my training program and race schedules highlight I run alone.  This is mostly by choice but also because not many people in my Fort Pierce circle exercise or run.  I happily accepted Daniel’s request to run with me and embraced having a tree branch running with me.  I was surprised when he identified he would try to keep up with me—made me laugh a bit too since I am a lot older than him.

We agreed to run together until it was no longer practical.  Happy to report I got to run the first 5 miles of the half marathon with Daniel.  We kept a decent pace of 9:30 per minute over this distance before going our separate race strategies.

I traditionally run 8 smaller races within the half marathon.  I find it easier mentally and physically to leverage this approach and it has helped me gets faster.

Example:  The water stops are approximately 1.8 miles apart for most half marathons.

I run to each water stop and then walk through the area to drink water and Gatorade.  Please note, I do not stop moving forward but take about a 20 – 30 second walk break to replenish my fluids.  I take off running to the next water stop after getting my water and Gatorade.  This concept creates 8 smaller races and helps me stay strong throughout the half marathon.

There are other running strategies for success, but this works well for me.

My pace stayed consistent for the first 8 miles, but I began to slow a bit when the lactic acid in my legs started to get away from me.  I incorporated beet and tart cherry juice into my diet to help with the lactic acid buildup but there are times when it just jumps up and grabs you by the quads.  This was one of those times!

I carry nutrition gels in my running belt and started taking them at the 8-mile mark.  The gels help get more carbs into my system and helps with the leg pain.  Yes, I spend money, time and, effort to put myself in pain—runners are a unique breed.

A new adventure for this race is I ran with the 2:15 pace group for a good portion after mile 8.  The pacer was an experienced marathoner and paces half marathons for fun—again, we are a unique breed. 😊

I was happy to have company again and stayed with the group until my quads told me to slow down—I did!  My goal at this point was to stay ahead of the 2:20 pace group that was further behind me—I refused to let them catch up with me.  I stayed between both pace groups as I made my way back downtown Orlando.  The crowds were huge at this portion of the course and having people cheer for me gave me the extra inspiration to finish strong.

Yes, I was able to fake wellness and sprint across the finish line with a smile on my face.  This was a forced smile but smile I did.  Looked down at my watch and was happy with my effort and time for the day. 

Track Shack ran a 3-year series and every runner that completed the OUC Half Marathon in 2019, 2020 and 2021 got an extra medal to go along with the normal swag.  I did not realize I was in this elite group but happily accepted my additional bling.

OUC 4

Made my way to the runner’s village to get some refreshments and recover.  I wanted to stick around to cheer Daniel across the line and make sure he was okay.  He came across the finish line in good shape and I directed him to the medical tent to get some ice on his legs.  I always get ice to begin the recovery process and it helps with pain and inflammation caused by a 13.1-mile race.

Got a couple beers to replenish carbs and Daniel and I parted ways with a new memory for our growing friendship.  Hope to run with him again in 2022!

My plan is to run the OUC Half Marathon again in 2022.  Who is going to join me?

Irie!

OUC 3

Smoky Mountains 2021

Gatlinburg1

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? 😊

Yes, I made my annual pilgrimage back to the Smoky Mountains right before Thanksgiving.  This was my third year in a row Walking into the Future with the Tennessee mountains as my backdrop.  I plan to continue this tradition as long as possible to live life on my terms.  Never envisioned the Smoky Mountains being part of my life journey but happy I found the mountains for the peace and joy I feel there.

My drive up this year was uneventful.  Decided to bypass all the outlet malls except one as I made my way north.  It took me an extra two hours to drive up in 2020 because there were so many outlet malls on the way.  My friends know I love outlet malls so for me to bypass several is a major growth step for me.  I made a quick outlet mall stop in Georgia and got some new running gear for my 2022 races—always looking for running gear.

My drive up this year was pleasant—not much traffic to fight through.  I arrived in Gatlinburg early in the evening on a Saturday night and decided to venture out and see some familiar sights. 

The Ole Smokey Moonshine Distillery is always on my list of places to visit while in Gatlinburg.  Decided to get my moonshine tasting in early and figured the moonshine would help me warm up since the temperature was 25 degrees when I arrived in Tennessee.  Happy to report the folks at the Ole Smokey distillery were still conducting tasting tours.  They added a bunch of new flavors to the rotation this year.  My goal for visiting this year was to restock with Blue Flame moonshine which is 123-proof alcohol.  They did not have Blue Flame in 2020 because they were highlighting a special 150-proof blend.  I was able to get my preferred Blue Flame this year.  Note:  most of the other blends are available in Publix, Walmart and Winn-Dixie liquor stores and the prices are less than what I would pay at the Ole Smokey Distillery.

Moonshine

A new adventure for me in Gatlinburg was a visit to the Ole Smokey Whiskey Distillery.  I have walked past this store multiple times but never ventured in since my focus was always on moonshine.  They have a similar tasting tour in this distillery as well.  Pay $5 dollars to get a taste of each whiskey flavor and get a $5 credit towards your purchase.  Not a bad deal!  The whiskey flavors were all good, but I decided to get a Strawberry/Lemonade blend which the folks in the store identified would go great with Publix lemonade.  I have tried it as suggested and it is good!  Not a bad first day back in the Smoky mountains.

I mapped out several hikes for Day 2.  Decided to warm up with the Gatlinburg trail again to get myself moving and prep for the bigger trails I wanted to tackle on this trip.  The Gatlinburg trail is scenic and allows hikers an excellent way to explore the Smoky mountains without taking too much energy.  There are a few spots with elevation, but the trail allows hikers to experience the best of the mountains.  Took this trail out to the Sugarland area before turning around and retracing my steps back to the trail head on the outskirts of Gatlinburg.

Gatlinburg2

This was my warmup for the real reason I was back in the Smoky mountains—the Chimney Top trail. 

This trail beat me down in 2020 and I decided to tackle it again earlier this time.  I did not want to have tired legs as I made my way up to the top this year.  Happy to report I was able to handle Chimney Top this year without having to stop as much as I did last year. 

This trail has it all—elevation, tough terrain, rocks, water, and amazing views once you make it to the top.  I was able to help other hikers keep going this year by providing them with the encouragement I needed last year.  It was a great experience when several hikers finally made it to the top and thanked me for not letting them give up before making it to the top.  Turns out there were a lot of people on the top this year enjoying the views.  This sounds like a great thing, but I did not hike to the top of a trail in the Smoky mountains to have a bunch of folks around me talking about work.  Decided to make my way back down the trail and discover other areas of the mountains.

I left the Chimney Top area and drove further up into the mountains looking for adventures.  The colors in the mountains this year were fantastic.  Made multiple stops so I could capture the views and colors in pictures.  The smoke (clouds) on the mountains made for some great pictures.  A new aspect to my Smoky Mountain adventures in 2021 was the fact there were black bears out.  Yes, black bears are normally hibernating in November but for some reason they were out and about this year. 

The first one I saw was in a tree as I was driving down the mountain heading back to Gatlinburg.  I could not figure out why there was so much traffic, but cars were stopping to get a picture of the bear.  This Bear Jam (traffic) was unexpected but seeing a black bear in the wild seemed to energize everyone as they took pictures while still in their vehicles.  Seeing the bear in the tree made me reassess my next hikes and pick trails with better visibility. 

Smokey Bear

Day 3 adventures centered around the Gatlinburg Skybridge Park and finding waterfalls. 

I discovered prior to driving up to Tennessee the Skybridge Park added a new feature:  The Sky Trail.  They were building the Sky Trail last year, but I had no idea what it was at the time.  This added feature allows for amazing views of downtown Gatlinburg and the mountain tops.  Decided to begin my day in Skybridge Park and enjoy the views and new features.  The Christmas lights were already hanging on the Skybridge and made for a festive walk across.  Grabbed some lunch after spending a few hours on top of the mountain and mapped out the next adventure.

I made my way to view smaller waterfalls on my previous Smoky Mountain adventures but wanted to hike to one of the larger falls this year.  Laurel Falls was recommended by a lot of folks I spoke with, so I decided it was the next stop on my trip.  Turns out Laurel Falls was about 15 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg, so it was a quick trip getting there.  It took me a little time to find a parking spot since this was a popular destination.  I almost turned around due to the number of cars parked at the trailhead.  Glad I decided to make the trek up the mountain.

This trail was paved so this made it a bit easier to get up the mountain.  There were a lot more people on the trail than I normally see in the mountains, but everyone was friendly going up and coming back down.  The inclines grew gradually but you could tell we were walking up the mountain.  The views were amazing and there were multiple spots with steep drop-offs.  Please note, I saw bear #2 at the bottom of one of these steep drops.  It was a cub getting some sun and mama bear was close by.  We were safely out of range, so I continued my trek up the mountain to view the falls.  Again, there were people everywhere but finally getting to the falls was well worth the traffic on the trail.  I was able to get several good pictures of the fall and surrounding area, glad I didn’t let a crowded parking area keep me from this trail.

My walk back allowed me to get some great pictures of the mountains and the fall colors.  Took in as much of the scenery as possible before heading back to Gatlinburg.  I recommend Laurel Falls if you make it to the Smoky Mountains.

Made my way to Ole Red after my mountain adventures to get some food and listen to live music.  I have seen this place before but never made my way in.  This is a place to add to your dining experience when you visit Gatlinburg.  I decided to get the meatloaf wrapped in bacon and mashed potatoes.  It was as good as it sounds. 😊

The mountains were good to me again this year.  Can’t wait to visit again in 2022!

Irie!

Inspiration Man—Florida Association of Colleges and Employers (FloridaACE) Keynote

Keynote

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”.

(Winston Churchill)

To keynote or not? 

This was a question I faced back in October 2021 when one of my friends asked me to consider being the keynote speaker for a virtual Drive-In conference.

The Florida Association of Colleges and Employers (FloridaACE) members come from college/university Career Services and employers who maintain active on-campus recruiting programs.

I have been a member of FloridaACE for over 10 years and have made some great contacts throughout the state of Florida. 

Fun fact, I was selected as the keynote for the inaugural Drive-In Conference back in 2016.  I gave my keynote address at the University of Central Florida in the building I used to work in prior to moving to FSU.  Who says you can’t come home again? 😊

The Drive-In Conference is designed to be shorter than a regular conference—a day and a half instead of a full week.  The concept of the Drive-in Conference is to make it accessible to a large population of attendees who can physically drive to the location and not need hotel accommodations.

COVID-19 made the concept of virtual conferences come to life and this Drive-In Conference was switched to a virtual format.

I love to spread the Inspiration Man message to any group that will sit and listen.  I hesitated to accept this request because it was via Zoom, and I did not know how my message would translate on a virtual platform.  I love in-person audiences and feed off the crowd when I present.  A virtual keynote was a challenge to me but one I am happy I accepted—things went well from start to finish.

The 2021 FloridaACE Virtual Drive-In Conference was titled: Gulf-to-Coast Connections.

I reached out to my friend to get a better understanding of the conference title and how significant it was to attendees.  Turns out the term gulf was picked so people in western Florida would not feel left out.  I decided to focus on the conference in terms of how people on both coasts (Gulf and Atlantic) could connect to build Authentic Connections.  Yes, I put authentic in most things I do these days. 😊

Happy to report I accepted the Keynote invitation and was able to move the crowd on a virtual platform.

I researched the term Authentic Connections to build my knowledge base as I worked to create a presentation to inspire others.  There is a ton of research available, and my new task was to filter this data in a way to build the presentation.

The key to any form of connection is RELATIONSHIPS.  My goal during the keynote was to highlight to the attendees how technology (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn, etc.) allow us to reach a larger audience than before.  There was always a mindset to catch-up with colleagues during the annual in-person conference or workshop.  This was an effective way to connect back in the day, but COVID created new options/ways to connect.

We can reach out to potential mentors and colleagues by utilizing the technology we have.  My keynote centered on how FloridaACE members could leverage technology and build authentic connections.

Authentic Connections should be genuine, direct, and focused.  My point for the group was to highlight relationships can be built virtually, in-person or a combination of both platforms.  You must want to make a connection for it to happen.  Networking with an intentional mindset helps build connections too.

I would have been remiss if I did not talk about some of the challenges we face when attempting to make new connections:

  • COVID-19
  • No in-person events
  • Zoom fatigue
  • Multiple platform (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn, etc.)

Simply figuring out how and when to connect with others has been a challenge even for me. 

Some folks prefer a phone call, others are all about Zoom and then you have a set who want in-person connections because they want to feel normal again.  I shared with my audience it is okay to identify a preferred platform and stick with that.  I prefer Microsoft Teams now when connecting with anyone not on-campus with me.  The key to this I have found is to state the preference up-front and then provide a Microsoft Teams calendar invite to eliminate confusion on how/when we will connect. 

The concept of recalibrate was addressed to ensure attendees understand they must adjust thought processes in today’s world.  We are not going back to pre-COVID networking so finding authentic connections should be prioritized for them to happen.  Following up after making a request is an outstanding way to continue to build the connections needed to make a difference in the world.

Being a keynote speaker during a virtual conference was a new experience for me but I was able to make several authentic connections during and after the event.  Will see how many attendees follow-up with me and leverage the wisdom I dropped on them.

How do you make/ensure authentic connections in your world?  Thanks!

“Speakers who talk about what life has taught them never fail to keep the attention of their listeners”.

(Dale Carnegie)

Merry Christmas

Christmas 2021

“The way you spend Christmas is far more important than how much”.

(Henry David Thoreau)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Please make time for family and friends during this holiday season.  We have traveled far in 2021 and look forward to talking with you in 2022!

Continue to Walk into the Future!

Calvin

“At Christmas, all roads lead to home”.

(Majorie Holmes)

Running to Savannah

RnR Savannah

“The journey is the destination”.

(Dan Eldon)

Searched for a clever destination run quote since I have been writing about the 2021 Savannah Rock N Roll Half marathon for months now.  The quote above brings me back to center with the simple concept on the importance of the journey.

Well, I have been working up to this journey for quite a bit of time.  I was originally scheduled to run in Savannah for the first time back in November 2020.  We know COVID-19 caused havoc and most races were cancelled in 2020. 

The Rock N Roll folks allowed runners to defer race credits forward to 2021 races—I decided to do a direct swap to the 2021 Savannah half marathon since I have never run in the city.  Please note, I have visited Savannah multiple times to enjoy the culture, food, and sightseeing.  My draw was to be a running tourist in Savannah and take in the sights while running through the city.

Full disclosure, my running tourist adventures did not happen in 2021 and we cannot blame it on COVID-19 this time.

Savannah weather in the month of November is normally mild and attracts 15k+ runners from all over the world.  I am sure my fellow runners targeted this race for the mild temperatures, flat course, music, and great food.  Unfortunately, I am not sure many runners experienced any of these things.

The weather forecast for race weekend identified rain and colder weather early in the week.  The premise was the rain would clear out before race day and keep temperatures cooler than normal.  I was excited to run in cooler weather since I train in Fort Pierce, Florida and experience heat and humidity daily.

I got on the road on Friday to head up I-95 to Savannah.  The trip was a straight shot up the interstate and took a little over 5 hours to get there.  It rained the entire drive up, but it was never a heavy rain, just steady.  My thoughts heading up was the rain would clear out by race day and things would be great in the morning.

This concept did not play out and the weather got much worse than projected. 

I made my way to the EXPO to pick up my race packet and get some shopping in—normal routine.  The rain impacted the foot traffic at the EXPO while I was there so getting in and out was quick.  Most of the folks there had rain gear on, but we all were hoping the rain would be gone by race day.  I was shocked with the number of vehicles still trying to get to the EXPO—I am sure the weather caused delays with runners arriving in town and then to the EXPO.

Made my way to the hotel to check-in and then look for a place to continue my carb loading program.  Decided to make a quick trip to a local Goodwill store to buy a sweatshirt I could wear in the corral while waiting for the race to start.  Runners routinely drop sweatshirts and blankets prior to racing—these items are then donated to local homeless shelters.  I did not find a sweatshirt at the Goodwill so headed across the street to Burlington and found what I needed for a very good price. 😊

Headed to Buffalo Wild Wings to complete my carb loading process and watch some college football before going to bed early.  FYI—it was raining the entire time I was out and about, but the hope was the rain would stop before morning—it did not!

I laid out my race outfit like normal when I got to the hotel.  Decided to dress in layers with a long sleeve run shirt since it was colder than normal.  My sweatshirt would allow me to stay warm prior to the race—in theory.

Fast forward to race day and it was STILL raining!  The rain was a drizzle when I headed out towards downtown and got a bit heavier the closer I got to the shuttle pickup spot.  My fellow runners were dressed in layers wearing rain gear, trash bags and large coats to stay dry and warm.  This should have been an indication of what was to come but we all got on the shuttle and headed to the start line.  The rain appeared to get heavier the closer we got to our drop off spot.

Everyone got off the shuttle with full intent to run the half or full marathon.  This intent lasted for about 30 minutes as the rain came down harder and the streets started to flood.  I met a lot of nice people from all over America as we huddled and shivered under a restaurant overhang trying to stay dry and somewhat warm. 

There was a gentleman who flew in from Seattle two days prior who needed to run this race to complete his goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states.  He was conflicted with the weather but determined to run.  Other runners had similar stories or reasons they wanted to run.  The consensus was none of us expected the weather to be this bad and completing the race in these conditions would be tough.  Some vowed to stay and run while others said to hell with this.  

I was in the hell with this camp since I rarely train in the rain but have done it.  The temperature at the time was 41 degrees and we were experiencing a downpour with no end in sight.  I decided to call NO JOY and not risk injury or sickness with the current conditions.

Made my way to Forsythe Park since that’s where the shuttles were to drive runners back to their vehicles.  A positive note is the shuttles had heat and provided a dry environment to get us out of the rain.  I have never made it to a race start line and not run but this was the best option for me considering the cold, rain, and race conditions for the day.

Happily made it back to my hotel, took a hot shower and got back in the bed for a 2 hour nap! 😊

I normally write about the sightseeing from a race location, but the rain never stopped.  I made my way back downtown so I could visit New Realm Brewery.  My first experience with New Realm Brewery was when I ran in Virginia Beach back in September.  Great food again!  They were out of the Acai Berry cider, but I was able to enjoy another local craft beer which was pretty good.

That’s about it for my trip—the rain and cold weather was not conducive to exploring so I didn’t.  Made my way back to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch more football and stay dry.        

Don’t know if I will try to run Savannah again—two tries and two false starts.

May just take a trip back up in the summer to experience the city as a regular tourist. 😊

https://www.savannahnow.com/story/sports/recreation/2021/11/06/nasty-weather-forces-rock-n-roll-savannah-marathon-shortened/6300893001/

RnR Savannah 2

Jayla's Thoughts On

INSTAGRAM: @jayla_brianna

Retrospective Lily

Reflections on Faith, Disability, Blogging, Books & More!

The Content Consultancy

Copywriting : Editing : Strategy

Walk Into the Future

Don't wait, get moving!

Discover WordPress

A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

Longreads

The best longform stories on the web

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: