Monday, December 22, 2014

Gobbler 5K 2014 recap

This was the first year I ran a Thanksgiving Day race.  So close to home, the Gobbler 5K was the perfect option for me.

I had been wanting a nice flat course that I could PR for my 5K distance.  The Gobbler race took place in Starkey Park...where I run every Saturday morning.  Perfect!  I knew the park and flat running trails very well.

My PR to beat was 27:39 from 2 years ago.  I hadn't run a 5K in over a year and I knew I was faster.

Thanksgiving morning was a brisk 52 degrees...perfect running weather.  I met up with friends in my running group and we hung out until the start of the race.  My goal was a sub 27:00 5K to give me the PR.

We lined up in the start corral and someone asked if there was a mat at the start line.  I walked up to check and reported back that there was NOT a start mat.  No start mat meant that all timing chips started when the gun went off to signal the start of the race instead of when racers actually crossed the start line.  Racers that were a minute back in the start corral would already have an extra minute on their finish time before they even crossed the start line.  I was trying to PR so I moved up closer to the start line.

The race started and I felt great!  The temperature was cool and I was well fueled for a 5K.  We ran on the park road for about a mile, making our way to the trail.  I kept up a nice pace and loved seeing friends' faces as I ran.  We turned around at mile 2 to head back to the finish area.

My awesome race and pace continued to a Garmin finish time of 25:53!  My official chip time was 25:58 (because of no start mat).  Not only did I get a sub 27:00 but also a sub 26:00!  I was so happy with my new PR.

My new PR also won me a second place age group award!  Woot, Woot!  Never before had I won an age group award in a running race.  So excited!

This is a race I will definitely do again next Thanksgiving!

Age Div place: 2/38
Overall place: 103/617
Average pace: 8:31
Garmin time: 25:53
Gun/chip time: 25:58

The Phantom of the Opera in Tampa

Cameron Mackintosh's new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is performing in Tampa as part of the new North American Tour.  This amazing musical, with new scenic design, choreography and staging, shouldn't be missed!

The Phantom of the Opera is one of my favorite musicals.  Mike and I first saw it at the Straz Center in 2008 where I fell in love with the thunderous organ cords.  It's back in Tampa for a 5th time.

I was so excited for the opportunity to see the latest production of The Phantom.  Unfortunately, my husband, Mike, already had plans.  I intended to invite one of my sisters but my 10 year old, Dylan, really wanted to see the show with me.  How could I say no to some culture and a musical with my little boy.

Before the show, I explained the background of the story.  I told Dylan that the phantom lived at an opera house in the late 1800s.  His face was disfigured so he wore a white mask to cover up.  It was rumored that the phantom escaped from a freak show and was always treated cruelly.  He fell in love with an opera singer named Christine and just wanted to be loved by someone.

Before the show started with the famous chandelier still covered

This was Dylan's first musical with an orchestra.  Like me, he also loved the powerful organ cords and recognized certain instruments like the flute and triangle.  His school music teachers would be proud.

Ready for Act Two to start

Act Two began with a New Year's Eve masquerade in the Grand Ballroom with incredible dresses and costumes designed by Maria Bjornson.

Original costume design by Maria Bjornson. Photo credit Straz Center

The set design was amazing including a major mechanical piece used as the walkway and stairs to the phantom's lair.  The stairs magically appeared out of the side of the set piece as the Phantom led Christine into his lair.

Katie Travis as Christine and Chris Mann as Phantom

I truly loved The Phantom of the Opera's musical score with the "Angle of Music" being one of my favorites along with the Phantom's theme song.

Dylan and I thoroughly enjoyed The Phantom of the Opera with his only complaint being an uncomfortable chair.  He enjoyed the live orchestra and captivating songs.  I was happy to introduce Dylan to this musical and the arts.

See The Phantom of the Opera at the Straz Center December 17, 2014 - January 4, 2015.

*Disclaimer - Through the Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was given two tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera in exchange for review.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa

My family and I visited Busch Gardens Christmas Town on this year's opening day, November 28th.  My boys were thrilled that their oldest brother and his son joined us for the day at Busch Gardens.

After parking and riding the tram to the park's front entrance, we were greeted by playful elves and stacks of huge ornaments.  I noticed lights and garland decorated the ticket booths and awnings.

Christmas Town transformed Busch Gardens Tampa into a holiday wonderland.  I hadn't realized that the entire park was Christmas Town (instead of a small area within the park). We found lights, carols and tasty treats of the season.  All of the shows were reformatted to have a Christmas theme. Even the park map was replaced with a Busch Gardens Christmas Town map.

Thousands of twinkling lights surrounded many of the Busch Gardens' trees.  Holiday characters, like snowmen, spread cheer throughout the park.  Enormous Christmas trees decorated seasonally named areas like Three Kings Oasis and Christmas Time Terrace.  I loved the organic nativity scene, made of plants and straw.

A 50-foot tree light show that came to life every ten minutes

The sign reads "The tradition of Christmas lights comes from early Christians who displayed lit candles to represent that Jesus is the light and hope of the world".

Live band in Holiday Hills
I was excited to board the Christmas Town Express sing-a-long train!  I sang along to my favorite holiday songs until I had tortured my 10 year old enough (he was lucky enough to sit next to me).

Christmas Town Village was the perfect spot to buy gifts or yummy holiday treats like warm cookies, hot chocolate, or waffles.  My boys enjoyed watching the electric trains go around and around.  The younger kids could go for a ride on the Jingle Bell Express next to the electric trains.

Our entire family had a wonderful day visiting Busch Gardens Christmas Town.  Dylan even wanted a Santa hat tiger to remember the day (his words as he talked me into buying him a souvenir).

Busch Gardens Christmas Town is open 23 select dates from Nov. 28 through Dec. 31, 2014. You may experience all of the Christmas celebrations throughout the day with your park admission.  Park closing times range from 8pm to 9pm throughout the event.

Disclaimer: I was given 4 tickets to Busch Gardens as a Busch Gardens Ambassador.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Day at Busch Gardens Tampa

This month my family and I visited Busch Gardens Tampa.  We had not been to the local theme park in a couple of years so it was fresh and exciting for my boys.  The weather was perfectly cool with a clear blue sky and warm sunshine.

I simply love Busch Gardens!  Being a Tampa native, roller coaster junkie, animal lover and former employee, I've visited Busch Gardens more times than I can count. I know this park from top to bottom and enjoyed the recent changes since the last time we visited.

The biggest change was Timbuktu became Pantopia.  The new vivid colors and building decorations were fantastic!  Timbuktu was always a hot area with plain brown buildings that blindingly, reflected the sun.  Not anymore, now that it changed into Pantopia, it was cool and colorful with more shade trees, decorative water fountains, and less cacti.  I loved the theming!

Pantopia was also home to Busch Gardens' new ride Falcon's Fury.  My husband, Mike, and my 10 year old, Dylan, went on Falcon's Fury but Jared and I sat out that time around.  Dylan was impressed that he could see over Sheikra from the top of Falcon's Fury at 335 ft in the air.  Then, the ride turned their seats face down to prepare for the drop at 60 mph.  Mike and Dylan were a little nervous at first, but thoroughly enjoyed the 5-6 second free fall.

Also new to Pantopia was Opening Night Critters which featured rescued dogs, cats, birds, a rat, horse, and kangaroo.  My boys loved seeing the rescued animals have fun on stage with their human co-stars.  They even got to meet some of the furry stars after the show.

I love the intense look of love in Dylan's eyes

Of course we couldn't miss all of the animals.  I always loved the nocturnal cave and the meerkats.  My boys loved seeing the hyena up close and personal.  After seeing the hyena's hair and spots, they thought our newest dog, Rocco, might be part hyena.  He certainly acts like a wild animal!!

Meerkat on a mound posed with my boys

And last but not least, the Busch Gardens' roller coasters.  This was Dylan's first ride on the big coasters.  The last time we visited Busch Gardens, he was not tall enough.  He rode those coasters like a pro!  Montu was his favorite with it's 60 ft vertical loop, Immelman loop, zero-G roll and intense 3.85 G pull.  Dylan road Montu 5 times!

My favorite coaster at Busch Gardens was Cheetah Hunt.  This coaster started with a 30 mph launch that took us up, around and down a big drop.  Cheetah Hunt launched us two more times with a top speed of 60 mph and 4 Gs.

Boys ready to ride Cheetah Hunt

Cheetah Hunt
Jared and Dylan even got me to ride Sheikra again.  Its 200 feet high, 90 degree drop down at 70 mph, freaked me out in the past.  But I rode it for my boys and it wasn't as scary as I remembered.  The back row was better for me so I didn't have to look over the edge for those agonizing 5 seconds before the first drop.  It was a gorgeous day to be at Busch Gardens Tampa!


Are you a roller coaster junkie or animal lover?

Disclaimer: As a Busch Gardens Tampa Ambassador, I received 4 tickets to the park.  All opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Savannah Rock n Roll Half Marathon Recap 2014

My very first half marathon was from the Rock n Roll series in St. Pete, FL so I decide to give Savannah, GA a try.  A girls' weekend with my Suncoast Strider running peeps.

With a new marathon PR under my belt, I wanted to run a half marathon under 2:00 hours.  I wasn't sure if Savannah would be the place I'd try or if I wanted to enjoy my run.  Because let's face it, if I'm trying to PR or beat a time, I'm not enjoying the pace I have to keep.  I picked up a free pace bracelet from the expo incase I decided to go for under 2 an average 9:09 pace for 13.1 miles.  Yikes!

photo by David
I had a great time at the Savannah Rock n Roll Expo!  Some of the vendors had discounted shirts, jewelry and PB2 for only $5.  I loved getting deals at this expo instead of everything being full price.  After a little sight seeing, dinner and hotel drama, I settled in for a fantastic night sleep.  The start corrals were literally right in front of our hotel on Bay Street.

Pre-race team pic, photo by David
The weather was a cool 46 degrees and crisp with humidity.  I had another throw-away jacket from Goodwill to keep me warm while I waited in my corral for the race to start.  I decided to try for a 2 hour finish time.  I honestly didn't think I'd get close because my weekday runs sucked since Chicago and I didn't do any runs longer than 6 miles.  My friend, Patty, offered to try to pace me for a 2:00 finish time.

My corral started shortly after 7:00am.  After warming up, I tossed my jacket about a quarter mile into the course.  Patty and I were going strong, keeping a nice pace.  I wasn't used to running with Patty and knew she ran faster than me so that pushed me a little because I didn't want to hold her back.  At about mile 3 when I started to feel the effects of my exertion, I told Patty that she didn't have to stay with me if she wanted to take off, but she stayed.

I ate a vanilla GU with caffeine WHILE I RAN.  I finally mastered that task while running.  Yeah me!!  If only I could drink water without spilling or pouring it up my nose, while running.  That caffeine GU gave me a boost!  I felt great for the next couple of miles.

I loved the course so far with even streets and cheering spectators along the way.  Handmade signs always make me smile.  This race my favorite was "You've got stamina, call me".  The water stations were well managed and the GU station was clearly visible.  At about mile 7, Patty needed to slow down but she told me to keep going.  I felt great so I continued on the course.

I needed some energy around mile 10 so I tried the salted watermelon GU.  Not my favorite, nor will I try it again.  According to my free pace bracelet, I was more than a minute behind pace.  At this point, I stopped looking at my Garmin and pace bracelet and just ran the 5K I had left.  I knew I wouldn't be under 2:00 but thought I could still PR.

The last part of the course (it felt like a mile but was probably a quarter mile) was a continuous incline to the finish line.  I had a little bit of a sprint in me as I crossed the finish line with a new PR of 2:02:26!

photo by David
You can't see the chocolate milk in my right hand but it was cold and delicious after running 13.1 miles.  I drank two!

photo by David
photo by David
We ran in support of Friedreich's Ataxia, a progressive neuro-muscular disease, for Team Gavin & Team Mike.  With permission from his doctor, Mike ran the entire half marathon!  We were so proud of our fellow Strider and his accomplishment!

Mike in blue surrounded by his supporters
It was another beautiful day in gorgeous Forsyth Park where we got to see Phillip Phillips in concert!  We sang along, danced and enjoyed life.

5K: 28:55
10K: 57:36
10 miles: 1:32:53
Division: 187/1195
Gender: 1308/7327
Overall: 2709/10603
Avg pace: 9:20
Chip time: 2:02:26

My next half marathon is in 3 weeks at Space Coast.  Will I get under 2:00???