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

80s day at work!

80s Beth and Calvin

“If work isn’t fun, you’re not playing on the right team”.

(Frank Sonnenberg)

The concept of FUN at work comes up often when discussing how to keep organizations moving forward.  The quote above makes me laugh with the simplicity of the concept but it does have a place in the modern work environment.

Organizations that do not allow their staff members to unwind and have fun are doomed to have unhappy people in the workplace daily.  I am not saying staff must be entertained daily but the concept of fun has shown to be an attractive variable for some well-known organizations.

Google leads the way for work environment fun with nap pods, video games and ping pong tables available daily for staff members.  Who would not want to take a nap at work?  Genius concept!

Texas Roadhouse is another organization that values fun at work.  It’s right there in the mission statement:  We are committed to our shared Core Values of Passion, Partnership, Integrity, and Fun with Purpose

The staff gets to line dance multiple times during their shifts to some upbeat country music.  It is great watching the staff members dance with huge smiles on their faces while enjoying being at work.

Well, if the Texas Roadhouse folks can dance at work, then why can’t I?  That is a loaded question but one that we recently overcame in my current work environment.

Yes, there can be dancing at work! 😊

A friend at work and I started joking a few months ago about having a break-dancing contest in the parking lot.  It was our little inside joke and it made us both laugh.  We would mention the dance contest passing each other in the hallway and occasionally feign a dance move.  A couple of our coworkers overheard us talking about break-dancing and offered we should have a dance battle at work—true story.

This led to others chiming in that we should have the contest at work and dress the part.  The more this talk went on the more buzz the topic generated at work.  A final suggestion was everyone in the building should wear 80s gear and we should make it an event.  Please note, while at the FSU Career Center we had a Fantasy Career Day in October.  Staff members dressed in gear to represent their fantasy career—one year I went as a golfer complete with golf shirt, shorts, and a golf club.  This was the only time I wore shorts to work as a professional—it was great! 😊

This concept was the catalyst for us to create an 80s-decade event for our division.  I went to my boss to let her know we were dressing in the 80s and her response was:  I am coming as Madonna!  I did not have to make a plea; it was as simple as that.

The entire campus caught the energy, and the Fall Celebration Day was established.  The challenge went out to other divisions to dress in a preferred decade—we had dibs on the 80s.  The 60s and 70s were quickly grabbed by folks on campus and the celebration was on.

We decided to go all in for the 80s and dress the part.  I was a frequent eBay shopper as I looked for the perfect 80s outfit to enjoy the day.  The great thing about the 80s is the multiple phases we all went through—so many great looks to choose from.  I went with the mid-80s Hip Hop look as a throwback to some of my favorite artists—Eric B and Rakim, DJ Easy Rock and Public Enemy.

I was able to find multiple options for vintage Nike 80s track suit within my stated budget.  I was also able to find a fake (plastic) gold chain to accessorize my look.  A quick trip to Party City allowed me to complete the look with large rings for my fingers to really get that throwback look.  One of my colleagues had an old boom box at home and allowed me to borrow it for the day to complete my 80s throwback look.

Fast forward to 10/29/21 and we produced old school flyers to pass out on-campus to promote the dance battle in our building.  We wanted to ensure we had an audience and allow everyone to join in on the fun.  There were several practice sessions so we could space out the dance battle and then bring in a few surprise guests—we kept the surprises close to the vest so it would enhance the event.

We coordinated a three round dance battle to get the crowd pumped and generate fun, laughter, and anticipation.  The goal was to have fun!

I won the dance battle coin toss and elected to have my friend lead off with his first routine.  We agreed to three rounds and then get silly with dances an old dude would do:  the sprinkler, starting a lawn mower and the robot.  The crowd got into each round and really enjoyed the process of two professionals making a fool of themselves at work—it was all for fun! 😊

We finished our dance sequences back-to-back in a B Boy Stance.  We positioned ourselves directly in front of our VP—on purpose!

She pushed us both out of her way as the Salt N Pepa classic hit ‘Push It’ started to play.  This was surprise #1 and she rocked it.  She had been practicing for two weeks to get her moves right and started out with the 80s dance classic, The Roger Rabbit—the crowd went wild!  We joined her after with a choreographed rendition from the Push It video—don’t think I have ever had that much fun at work.

We got everyone in the building up and dancing with a classic Soul Train line.  It was fun to see others with HUGE smiles on their faces as they went through the Soul Train line multiple times.  I went through the line about 5 times since we were buying additional time for Surprise #2.

We have a Performing Arts program on-campus and partnered with faculty to request a student flash.  The students practiced the Michael Jackson’s 80s classic Thriller dance to finish off our dance party.  I had our DJ adjust the music once I saw the students enter the building.  We cleared the dance floor and let the students take over.  They were a big hit with the crowd as they went through their Thriller routine—it was fantastic!

The last part of our event was the Electric Slide!  Most of the folks hit the dance floor again as we did the Electric Slide—a great way to complete a dance party.

I have not seen people smile so much at work as they did during our 80s day!  Several made a point to let me know this was the best day they have had at work.  The smiles and happy faces made dances in front of colleagues worth the effort.  Some have asked what we plan to do to top this event—I’m going to let someone else plan the next event, but we will continue to have fun at work.

What do you do to have fun at work?

“Work is either fun or drudgery.  It depends on your attitude.  I like fun”.

(Colleen Barrett)

Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving-g944bc9341_1920

“What if today, we were just grateful for everything”?

(Charlie Brown)

Here’s to a great day for everyone who reads this!  Hope you take time to enjoy your family, friends, and great food.

Continue to Walk into the Future!

Calvin

“Be present in all things and thankful for all things”.

(Maya Angelou)

Pizza night

2nd Street Bistro

“Every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself”.

(Bill Murray)

Raise your hand if you do not like pizza!  Doubt there are many hands up right now since everyone loves pizza. 😊

I admit I enjoy pizza probably more than anyone I know and have decided this is my go-to cheat meal.  I have never been one to count calories and my running program allows me to indulge without having to worry much about gaining weight.  Not saying this as a brag point but just a daily fact for me.

The Treasure Coast provides me with multiple dining options to include fresh seafood and great ocean views while out for a meal.  I take advantage of these options, but my designated pizza night is one I look forward to weekly.

I was introduced to 2nd Street Bistro as a great place to catch a ballgame while enjoying a beer at the bar.  Seemed like a typical place to get wings, drink a beer, and watch Florida Gator football on Saturdays.  Happy to report 2nd Street Bistro provides all these things but it turns out they have a fantastic menu with rotating daily specials.  It is not your typical dive bar but a place to get a great meal for really good prices.  Note:  they provide a substantial military discount on all menu items, so I am hooked since I love saving money. 😊

I made my first weekday journey into 2nd Street Bistro on a random Wednesday after work because I wanted to get a beer and see what was on the menu.  I did not venture out a lot in 2020 due to COVID but kept hearing about this place and the food.  Made my way downtown Fort Pierce once I felt comfortable being around people again and grabbed a high-top table to enjoy a meal.

Turns out Wednesday is half price Bistro Burger night and there are a lot of fans of the burger.  There is always a good crowd of folks in the restaurant to take advantage of the special and get their burgers.  The menu has a lot of variety and everyone in there has a favorite menu item.

I did not have a specific food item in mind when I stopped in on the first Wednesday night so I asked the waitress what she recommended.  She rattled off that everything on the menu is great, so I was on my own selecting what I wanted for dinner.

Gravitated to the pizza selections and the waitress said they were all good—she’s tried them all.  Decided to go with my tried-and-true Pepperoni pizza with extra Pepperoni.  Never imagined a place like 2nd Street Bistro would have pizza this good but I am hooked. 

The personal pizzas are made once ordered so it takes a bit for it to make it to the table.  Trust me, it is well worth the wait.  The ingredients are fresh, and the pizza comes out of the oven smoking hot.  Learned that lesson the hard way the first time I got a pizza.  😊

I have been hooked on the Pepperoni pizza from day one and Wednesdays have become my official pizza night.  Everyone who knows me can track my location after work on Wednesdays to 2nd Street Bistro.  I am such a regular there the hostess takes me directly to a high-top table and the waitress does not bring me a menu.  She puts in my Bud Light draft and a personal Pepperoni pizza with extra Pepperoni.  I told her one day I am going to change my order up to mess with her but one day has not happened yet. 

I have tried other items on the menu but not on Wednesdays—that is my designated pizza night since I run on Tuesdays and Thursdays after work.  Figure I earned a cheat day and 2nd Street Bistro helps me cheat like a champ! 😊

Can’t wait for my next pizza night!

What is your favorite place to get a cheat meal?  What is the meal?  Thanks!

https://2ndstreetbistro.com/

“I’d rather have leftover pizza than leftover feelings”.

(Sarah Burgess)

New way to train, beach runs!

Beach Runs

“I want to run the beach’s length, because it never ends”.

(Deborah Ager)

The quote above makes me laugh because it could not have been written by someone who runs.  The beach is a wonderful place to get in some training but there are challenges and rewards to running on the beach.

I am always looking for a training edge to allow me to run at a faster pace.  My goal to set a personal record (PR) for every half marathon I run stays true—that is the goal every time out.

I ran the Virginia Beach Rock N Roll half marathon in early September to get back into the swing of being a running tourist and to test my training against other runners.  I am happy to toe the start line again but want to see improvement each time I finish a race.  Decided to find a new training method to help me get better daily and work towards improving my half marathon times.

I was able to increase my endurance by running the rolling hills in Tallahassee when I lived there.  Did not realize how much hill training helped my ability to run faster until I relocated to Fort Pierce which is completely flat.  Running on flat surfaces is better than nothing but it is hard to replicate the intensity needed to get up and over rolling hills.

A majority of my Fort Pierce runs are done close to the beach on Ocean Drive.  I enjoy the views on this route and feel safe since I do not have to cross traffic.  I am parallel to the beach when running and make pit stops to catch views and listen to the waves.  Example:  I run 2.5 miles on Ocean drive and then sit on the beach for a bit before running back 2.5 miles.  Some of my best Instagram pictures come from the middle part of my run.  😊

This process and route have worked well for me but wanted to find a new way to train since I do not have hills to climb. 

Decided to leverage the beach and start running directly in the sand.  This is not a novel approach but one I have not maximized since I moved here.  I have run on Jacksonville Beach, but it has a flat surface without awkward inclines.  Most beaches in Florida have an incline which puts pressure on one side of the body.  The Fort Pierce beaches have this incline closer to the water but provides a flatter surface further away from the water.  I used this part of the beach to build my mental and physical endurance.

My goal for the beach runs is to slowly increase my distance each time out as I establish a new training threshold.  Running in the sand creates unstable footing and makes the body adjust to continue to move forward.  This process brings in muscles that are not used with traditional running and strengthens them.  The sand on the beach moves with each step and forces the body to adjust.  Going fast is not the object of the training sessions—building endurance and mental focus are the top outcomes of running on the beach.

My initial foray on the beach allowed me to finish a 2.5-mile run.  I extend my beach runs an additional .5 miles each time I go out with an end goal of 5 miles completely in the sand.

The benefits of this training approach will pay off when I tackle the Savannah Rock N Roll half marathon in November.  I plan to run faster in Savannah with an end goal of setting another PR at the Orlando OUC Half Marathon in December.  The flat surface should be conducive to running fast.  Who’s going to join me in Orlando?! 😊

What new techniques have you incorporated into your training program?

“When I run on the beach, it is always in slow motion. That’s how I roll”.

(Amber Heard)

https://www.runrocknroll.com/news_article/show/1135109

Paisley Park (Repost)

“Paisley Park is in your heart”

This is a lyric from the song titled Paisley Park on Prince’s Around the World in a Day album.  It’s not one of his most well-known songs but the title was translated by the artist to name his artistic palace in Chanhassen, a suburb of Minneapolis.

Paisley Park is a combination of residence, recording studios, sound stage, video editing and party spot (concerts, DJ’s, etc.) designed by Prince in the late 1980s.  This is a place where he churned out hit after hit from his own recording platforms.  It afforded him the opportunity to create new music and concepts right where he lived.  Simply, come downstairs and walk into a recording studio to lay down some tracks that would one day become a #1 hit.

Paisley Park is a place I always wanted to visit to experience the place responsible for the soundtrack of my life.  I grew up listening to Prince from the very early stages of his career and wanted to Walk into the Future and see Paisley Park first hand.

Wow…what an experience!  I decided to make a visit to Minneapolis and then venture over to Chanhassen to tour Paisley Park.  They have multiple tour formats to select but I decided to reserve my spot for the General Admission (70-minute tour) and was not disappointed.  There were roughly 20 other Prince fans along for my tour timeframe.  We’re talking people from all over the world who decided to make the Paisley Park journey to reconnect with Prince, his music and the place where he created magic.

The tour started with a brief history of his music, why he wanted Paisley Park and what happens there now.  The tour’s most emotional moment for me was when we stepped into the foyer at Paisley Park.  Prince’s ashes are encased under glass overlooking the foyer.  Didn’t expect the ashes to be there but it was a goose bump moment for a lot of us on the tour.

We were provided free time to explore multiple rooms dedicated to specific albums/tours (LoveSexy, 1999, For You, etc.) and his personal office.  The tour guide identified the office was intact just as Prince left it.  Of course, it was a very cool set-up to include video, music and a sitting area to entertain visitors.

The tour then took us directly into Studio A where most of his hits from the 1990s were recorded.  Very cool place to see and experience the sound system and unreleased music that will be coming out soon! Sounds great and you will love the concepts! LOL.

His numerous awards (Grammys, BET, MTV, etc.) were displayed in hallway cases.  The effect of seeing these awards put a smile on most of our faces as we remembered watching Prince receive these awards on TV over the years.  Fantastic opportunity to actually see history.

Prince’s movies/soundtracks had separate areas at Paisley Park.  The Purple Rain display included the motorcycle from the movie, his iconic purple trench coat and the Grammy awarded for the soundtrack.

Under the Cherry Moon with the black and white theme provided a unique contrast to his other movies.  Graffiti Bridge, Sign ‘O the Times and RAVE were displayed, and all were shot on the sound stage at Paisley Park. 

Speaking of the sound stage, our tour took us into the enormous space used by Prince and others for tour preparation, make videos and shoot movies.  Prince allowed other musicians to use this area to help them get ready for national tour dates.

The tour ended in the New Power Generation (NPG) club which is still used to host dance parties for Prince fans.  This area was used by Prince to host fans and sometimes play live shows for the few lucky folks in attendance.  It was noted Prince normally didn’t start playing until 2 am in the morning so you would have to be an extreme night owl to catch one of these impromptu shows.

Cameras are not allowed at Paisley Park so the memories from this experience must be lived and not streamed out.  I believe this enhanced the overall experience for me.

Very happy my Walk into the Future led me to Paisley Park!

Where have you always wanted to go but never made the time?  How can you leverage a trip to help you decide to walk into the future?

Paisley park outside

Paisley Park inside2

FYI–I plan a return trip to Paisley Park in 2022.  Who is going to meet me there? 🙂

Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon

Virginia Beach half

“Remember, the second most important thing to choosing the right shoe is choosing the left one”.

(Unknown)

Decided to exercise one of my 2020 race credits for the Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon over the Labor Day weekend.  I targeted this race in 2020 before COVID-19 shut down running but never got a chance to explore Virginia Beach. 

I have traveled to the state of Virginia before, but it was in the Washington D. C. area—never the coast.  Starting and finishing a race on the Virginia Beach boardwalk was an appealing draw for me and wanted to explore the area as a running tourist

Happy to report the race, festivities and weather were fantastic and I enjoyed my adventure.

I have been training but knew my current regimen was not where it needs to be to run a Personal Record (PR).  Most folks know I am always chasing my next PR, but it appears I am getting wiser with my mental focus.  My goal for Virginia Beach was to take a measured approach to the race and then determine how fast my pace would be for the rest of the race.

Booked an early Southwest airlines flight out of Orlando to get to my race destination.  This was my first plane ride since my Rock N Roll half marathon and cheesesteak adventures in Philadelphia back in 2019.  I did not know how I would react to being back on a plane but felt safe since everyone in the airport and on the plane wore their masks.  I have seen horror stories on the news about people not wearing masks but did not experience this at all. 

Settled into my exit row seat with extra leg room and enjoyed the two-hour flight to Virginia.  This was a perfect opportunity for me to catch up on my reading.  I currently have two books going—Eat that Frog and Start With Why.  Both books speak to my current work situation, so I bounce back and forth between the books.  May need to just finish one so I can tackle the other one with more energy—we will see!

The flight to Virginia Beach was uneventful—nothing special happened but was excited to finally arrive to get the adventure started.

Hotels close to the race venture were booked or too expensive for my taste.  Ended up staying in Chesapeake, Virginia which is close to a lot of shopping and entertainment.  Made the most of this fact and did some light window shopping and got a pedicure.  Nothing like having your feet rubbed prior to pounding the pavement for 13.1 miles. 😊  Completed my carb loading process with extra pasta at The Olive Garden and made sure to drink extra water.

The weather was projected to be hotter than normal so drinking water was necessary to stay hydrated. 

EXPO

The Rock N Roll EXPOs are always a highlight of the weekend.  The excitement of being so close to race day puts a smile on the face of most runners.  I was happy to be back around runners again and experiencing a new city.  The Virginia Beach Rock N Roll EXPO was light on merchandise and vendors—believe this is because 2021 was the 20th Anniversary of this race and also the last year for the event. 

The Virginia Beach city leaders decided they did not want to host the race anymore and wanted to leverage the Labor Day holiday weekend for other activities.  There were vendors available but not as many as I am used to for the Rock N Roll series.  I made sure to shop and buy a new set of leg compression sleeves since they were marked down 50%–got a pair of white CHEP compression sleeves.  I am sure you will see picture of me rocking them soon. 😊

Virginia Beach Expo

Boardwalk

Made my way over to the boardwalk after the EXPO to get a taste of Virginia Beach.  Got a chance to take some pictures at the King Neptune statue that sits right on the boardwalk.  King Neptune is popular with running tourists so had to ensure I got the photo.  The beach was crowded—this could be because it was Labor Day weekend, and the local schools start the following week.  There were a ton of families on the beach enjoying the sun, surf, and weather.  Decided to find a spot to get a drink and food. 

Virginia Beach

Found Catch 31 right on the boardwalk and pulled up at the outdoor bar to enjoy the beach and the view.  Ordered crab cake and beer so I could people watch and enjoy college football on the  TVs.  This was a popular place, and everyone was friendly—I would recommend visiting Catch 31 if you are in the Virginia Beach area.  

https://catch31.com/

Virginia Beach Neptune

Race

Left Catch 31 with the intent to get to bed early so I could get up the next day to run the half marathon.  I hit the bed to get my rest and get off my feet.  I always set my race outfit out the night before since this makes life easier on race day.  Decided to rep the Orlando Track Shack running club again during this race.  My Track Shack race shirts always get attention from other runners and give us something to talk about before the race.

The race start was staggered to ensure we maintained a safe distance prior to crossing the start line.  I was assigned Corral #4 again based on my projected finish time.  Happy to report my start position has improved over the years which means I am running faster than most of the runners in each race. 😊

My goal was to run a steady pace, enjoy the process and not hurt myself by trying to do too much.  Mission accomplished!  The race started one block over from the beach and we made our way to the boardwalk within the first mile.  It was great running next to the beach with a nice sunrise coming up over the water.

The course brought us back onto the main drag and then we headed south through neighborhoods for most of the race.  My plan is always to run to each water stop and then walk through them when I get water or Gatorade.  I take off running again and head towards the next water stop.  This approach has allowed me to complete multiple races and set PRs in the process. 

I ran with a smile on my face for the first 8 miles then my quads and hamstring started to scream at me.  Again, I have been running but not putting in the correct number of miles to build the lactic acid threshold needed for a half marathon.  I knew this coming into the race, but it never seems to help when your legs are burning—you just keep moving forward.  I continued my game plan even with the pain, but I was not moving very fast. 

Mile 10 is where I decided trying to run a PR was not happening so slowed my pace to enjoy the rest of the race.  Luckily for me I decided a PR was not worth the pain—Mile 11 is where runners faced the problem of running up a steep bridge to get closer to the finish line.  Most of us let out an audible ‘Holy Crap’ when we saw the bridge and the knowledge we had to get up and over to finish the race.  My pace slowed down even more while making my way over the bridge.  The downhill portion was great and led us back to the boardwalk to finish the race.  There were race spectators along the boardwalk and they cheered us to the finish line.

Very happy and proud to finish this race considering my training program was subpar—I can improve and will put more effort into my preparation.

Realm Brewery

The reward for completing the Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon was a trip to New Realm Brewery.  This spot was highly recommended and did not disappoint.  Realm Brewery is an open air and inside sitting establishment.  The outside sitting is covered and there is plenty room to social distance while enjoying food and drink.  I got the Acai and Blueberry Seltzer and New Realm Burger which was outstanding.  There was live music in the afternoon and the environment was fantastic.  They did not have TVs outside to watch football but that is a small thing considering how great this place is.  Yes, I will visit again when I am back in the Virginia Beach area.

Unfortunately, the Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon will not be run again.  Great location, course, and entertainment in the area—guess I will have to explore other Rock N Roll locations to continue this running tourist program. 😊

Savannah is next on the list!

“If found on the ground, drag to the finish line”.

(From a runner’s t-shirt)

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