Thursday, June 12, 2014

Crescent City Classic 2014

Have you ever gotten so busy that your hobbies have been pushed to the back burner? I know I have!!! As a teacher, my last month of school seems to be the most hectic. Getting final grades into the computer, filing papers, cleaning out and purging my closets and shelves...there is always so much to do! June 4th was my last day of school, and now I'm on break until August. I have a few workshops lined up for the summer (as teachers never stop learning either!!) that I am looking forward to, but I'll also be enjoying my time at the beach with a good book or two (reading is another hobby that often gets pushed aside during the school year.)  I have so many great things to blog about and now that I'm off for the summer, this is the perfect time to catch you guys up on some races that we have done over the last 2 months. I'm going to start with the Crescent City Classic 10K. Stay tuned for a few triathlons (two for Ali, and one for Darby), and a 5K, 10K, and half marathon that I participated in last weekend. Let's take a look back to the CCC10K.

The CCC 10K fell on the last Sunday of my Spring Break back in April. Could you think of a better way to end a week spent lounging at the beach and pool?? I think not!! My best friend Larisa and I drove to New Orleans the night before the race. Our first stop was the race expo to pick up our race bibs.

We were able to meet up with our friend Mindy and her friend Paige at the expo. It's always so much fun running into people we know!

After the expo Larisa and I set off on a walk downtown. Check out this amazing shadow cast by this statue! It seems as if New Orleans takes on a new life after the sun goes down. Our walk ended with an delicious dinner at our favorite pre-race eating place...the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen. The roast chicken pizza with the black bean base is Ahhhh-mazing!!! 

After dinner we hopped on a trolley to get back to our room. We laid out our running gear and got ready to call it a night. I am such a creature of habit! When I find a product I like, it is hard for me to try other products. I always run in my Nike capris (as I don't feel comfortable running in shorts), Saucony Kinvaras, and Swiftwick socks. 

Lucky for us our hotel, The Blake, was within walking distance of the starting line. We got up early and made our way to the Superdome. It was a beautiful day for a 10K!! Check out those beautiful blue skies :)

It seems like every year this race gets bigger and bigger. We crammed ourselves into our starting corral and waited for our turn to start. If you ever plan on racing this 10K, you need to ensure that you are in the first corral. Where we were towards the middle made it hard to get started. The sheer number of people on the streets made it hard to stay on pace. This was ok for us though, as we planned on stopping for plenty of pictures.

Like this one at mile 1 :) I was having such a good time!! The people on course were so friendly, and many were dressed in hilarious costumes. People watching is a must during this race! You never know what you will see.

Just past mile one we came upon this Marine Corps band. Of course we had to stop for a minute to listen.  This was just one of the groups providing music entertainment along the course. 

Mile 3 and still feeling good!! By this point many people around us were walking, and we were doing a lot of weaving between groups. A few times we stopped trying to duck and dodge, and simply walked along with the masses. The atmosphere along the course was fun and encouraging the whole way! This would be a perfect first 10K for a beginner runner. It is very laid back and you will never feel alone on the course.

Before we knew it we were entering City Park. Time really does fly when you are having fun. We knew then that we were close to the finish. At this part, the course kind of snakes and winds through the park. You can see the people on the final stretch and we picked up our pace a little...after taking a few more pictures :)

And then we were done! I'm glad we were running for fun, and not trying to set a PR. The crowded streets made for a great party atmosphere, but it also made it hard to maintain a steady race pace. I had a blast on course, but my body was letting me know it was time to eat! It was time to head to the VIP tent to meet up with some other bloggers and enjoy the after party. 

Check out this amazing group of ladies!! It was great to hear about their blogging experiences and upcoming plans for races and other opportunities. 

This race is definitely one to pencil on the calendar every year!! Last year I walked the CCC10K due to knee injuries. This year we ran/walked it. Who knows. Maybe next year I will consider running it for a PR? I do love that course!! 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

McGuires 5K Prediction Run

Yes, this post is a little late. I couldn't get it to load for days!!! Nevertheless, here it is!

One of our favorite races of the year is the McGuire's Irish Pub 5K. It has the BEST after party around! Where else can you run with nearly 17,000 other runners in a 5K? This race is unique because you have to predict your finishing time, and you aren't supposed to use a watch/clock/Garmin to pace yourself. Whoever gets closest to their predicted time wins.

 This year the race was held on March 8th, and we decided to do something a little different. Normally, if we are racing in Pensacola we just drive the 45 minutes the morning of the race. This year we decided to get a hotel room near the race start. One reason we did this was to have guaranteed parking near the start, it gets a little crazy with all those thousands of people looking for parking. Another reason was that we decided to let the boys participate this year, and having a room meant they could sleep in a little later and we would have a place to escape the crowds should they need it. 

We drove over Friday night and waited just over an hour for a table at McGuires. Well...I waited. Ali, the boys, and our friend Simon checked us into the hotel and wandered around while I secured us a table. Ali and the boys set a meet-up place just in case they crossed the finish line before Ali could spot them. I was nervous about my little guys running among that many people who were all dressed in green!! It would be hard to set them apart. We picked a restaurant sign between our hotel and the race start to meet at if we became separated at any point. 

Our dinner at McGuire's was amazing. I always get the Senate Bean Soup as a starter!! Where else can you get an appetizer for less than 50 cents?? The 3 adults ordered chili cheeseburgers, though we could have probably all split one. They are huge! 

While we were eating a group called the Guiness Brothers started playing right next to our table. They were super funny and quite entertaining. We now know why "Kiss the Moose" is such a popular phrase around McGuires ;)

Here are some funny pictures of Tyler trying on some hats in the gift shop. He is such a nut!
After dinner we walked across the street to our room and got our gear ready. We got the boys settled down and called it a night. 

Saturday morning we got up about 1 1/2 hours before race time. I looked out our window and saw that the party was already under way across the street! We had a spectacular view for people watching!! See the start line below?? The street began to fill up with a sea of green! 

About 20 minutes to race time we wandered on down to the start...

Ali and Tyler tried to get closer to the front while Simon, Darby, and I moved a little further back and tried to force our way into the corral. It was PACKED!!!

We received an Irish blessing, the cannon fired, and we were off. We were so packed in that we had to walk a ways before it thinned out enough to get running.

There were soooooo many people dressed in entertaining costumes. This guy was dressed in a golf suit and carried his clubs around with him! I bet they got heavy after the first mile. Darby and I ran/walked this race together. It was hard to run in some parts where people got congested around turns. It was nice walking with my oldest boy, talking about all things Dr. Who, Minecraft, and Harry Potter. We had a great time discussing the outfits some runners were wearing too. Haha!

One of the charities the benefited from this race is the Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund. It's only fitting then that the Marine Corps should run this race in formation. Here they are finishing the race. It never gets old listening to these soldiers running to cadence. 

Marines finish on the left, civilian finishers on the right...

Ali, Simon, and Tyler finished ahead of us. Luckily they were waiting for us at the finish, and we didn't have to use our meet-up plan. We made our way to the refreshments. 

Of course after running a 5K you get pretty thirsty. Many folks were looking for the Irish Wakes and McGuire's brewed beer. I was looking for the fresh brewed, ice-cold root beer!! I'm easy to please :)

Another highlight of my day was the Irish stew. It was so tasty! I actually had two bowls. The boys weren't too sure about it, but I loved it.

At the after party we got a closer look at some of the creative costumes of other runners. Check out this swamp monster! He must have been sweating like mad under that suit. It was very warm outside! 

And Simon's friend (who looks a lot like a character from the movie Devil's Rejects). He was kinda creepy! Haha!

This creative group won the group costume contest. They are the cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! 

What a great party!!! Have you ever seen so much green in one place? 

The Guiness Brothers were playing on stage after the costume contest. There were also some bag pipe players playing as well. We were all having a blast listening to the music and singing along. We hated to leave, but we had to check out of the hotel and make our way back to Mobile. 

If we had stayed for the awards ceremony, we would have heard then that Tyler won his age group (0-9). He won the clock time, and he was closest to his predicted time!! 

This year the street behind McGuires was closed to allow the crowd to spread out. This made such a huge difference from previous years. It was much easier to get around to the soft drinks and food. I didn't feel as claustrophobic as I have in the past. It was a great family day for sure! We can't wait to run this race again next year :) Who knows...maybe we will try out some costumes too! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

It's the little things...

My weight loss journey started a few years ago in 2011. I decided that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I wanted to LIVE my life and enjoy it. I started counting calories using a wonderful app called My Fitness Pal. I was sure I would die with my daily allowance of 1200 calories. Not only did I survive, I learned what portion control meant. I learned to "spend" my calories on lots of fresh, nutrient rich foods, and not so much of the pre-packaged, processed stuff I was accustomed to.

Counting calories allowed me to shed a few pounds quickly. Success!!! With that, I began to feel good for the first time in a long time. I decided to step up my game and throw some exercise in the mix. Ali has always been a runner, and I decided one day that I could become a runner too. Boy was I in for a big surprise. It wasn't as easy as it looked! I started myself off by using a Couch to 5K app. I had a really hard time running for more than a minute at a time. My shins hurt, my feet hurt, it was hard! I didn't give up though. I bought an elliptical trainer from a friend and used that to exercise on days when running wasn't an option. I also started taking a boot camp class that my friends Jennifer and Larisa were teaching. They sure whipped me into shape! 

As the pounds came off, running became easier. Soon I was ready for my first 5K! I decided that the Tunnel to Towers race in September in downtown Mobile was my goal. I ran the whole way without stopping!! After that, I was ready for more. 

Since that race I have ran in many, many 5Ks, a few 10Ks, two 15ks, and 6 half marathons. I met my weight loss goal of nearly 50 pounds, and have been in maintenance mode for over a year. 

Sometimes it's the little things that remind me how far I've come in this personal journey. Finding an old pair of shorts in the closet that are 4 sizes too big, seeing family photos of myself 45 lbs heavier, getting a compliment from someone who hasn't seen me in years. 

Today's little thing was getting a new drivers license. I have waited a long time to be able to change the printed weight on this little card that I use for identification so often. Today my weight is true!!! My picture is another thing that marks my progress. What a difference a few years makes!! Funny how such a little thing can make my day :)

So, here is the before and after pictures that gave me reason to smile today.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Biggest Loser Half Marathon and 5K

Last Sunday my family and I participated in the Biggest Loser Run/Walk in Mobile. Ali, Darby, and Tyler all ran the 5K, and I ran the half marathon. All four of us had a great time at this awesome event. 

I was a little nervous initially as I'd not done any real training for this event. I know Ali was a little apprehensive as well as he is still having trouble with his knees. One of my favotite things about this race, is that there is very little pressure with time. I knew going in that I could practically walk the whole race and not get swept to the end. Knowing that I could walk when I needed to helped me to relax, and I focused on my goal: just finish the darn thing!! Ali decided to let his knee set his pace, and he'd decided that if that meant walking the 5K, so be it. Lets just say that come race morning, the Stevensons were cool as cucumbers! Haha!

I met up with Larisa and Jennifer at the start. Larisa and I planned on running together and just having a great time. We didnt really have a goal time in mind, other than to just beat our Rock-N-Roll Relay time of around 3:30. Before we knew it, it was time to head to the starting corral. I was eager to get going as it was pretty cool that morning. 

Notice we put ourselves into the 13:00 minute/mile pressure there :) 

The elite runners were sent on their way, and soon it was our turn. Previous contestants on the Biggest Loser were on hand to cheer us on our way. 

Here we go!!!! Whoooo-hooo!! 

Larisa and started out together, but sadly she decided to head back to the finish. I hated to see my best friend in pain and not feeling good, and was glad she made the decision to listen to her body. This left me pushing on for the remainder of the course on my own. I do not run with music, so I took to sight seeing instead. I loved how so much of our course had us running under the beautiful old oak trees that Mobile is known for. I also enjoyed seeing some of the older homes downtown. It was a very pleasant course. 

About 30 minutes after I started on my journey, Ali and the boys were starting on theirs!! Ali ran the first mile or so with Tyler to help him keep pace. It was around this time that Ali decided that he was feeling pretty good and decided to run ahead. 

Darby wasn't far behind. He was having a great run of his own. His running practice with the Allentown Running Club has helped him get his 5K times down too. 

At one point along the course, the half marathon course and the 5K course merge into one another and then split apart again. It was great for me to have more people to run with, but the split was a little confusing for some people. This was really a problem for the people leading the 5K and made it to the split early on. They were directed to turn down the half marathon course!! Ali and the group he was running with ran a few miles off course before they realized they were on the WRONG course. They turned around and headed back, though their lead was lost by this point.

Tyler was the first in our family to cross the finish line. He came in around 26 minutes! That is his fastest official 5K time!! He was flying!! He settled himself in the grass to rest and waited for the rest of us to come in.

Ali was the next one to cross the line. You can see he was hamming it up as he came in, giving out high-fives along the way. It was one of his slowest 5K times (a little over 32 minutes) but, hey, you've got to allow for those extra unexpected miles in there! Haha!!

Darby came in next at around 36 minutes. This is a personal best for Darby too! He was so excited to finish with such a great time. It did a lot to help boost his self confidence. He can't wait to break his new PR now.

While the guys were finishing their runs, I still hadn't made it half way around mine! Ali called me at around mile 6 and I was still feeling pretty good. I was running quite a bit, and walking through the water stops. This all changed around mile 8 when me legs decided they were no longer going to run. Ha!! I decided to walk it out a bit and pick back up around 8.5. I did some walk/run intervals for a couple miles. Around mile 11 I hit an emotional wall. I very nearly started crying when I saw that mile marker. I kept telling myself, "Only 2 more miles, only 2 more miles, only 2 more miles!!" 

I was just about completely walking by this point. I was averaging 14-14.5 minute miles by this time. My new goal: try not to crawl. 

Running back into downtown did a lot for my spirits. I knew the finish line was near. I was inching along when I heard a familiar voice yelling at me and telling me to RUN!! I saw Larisa in the distance and knew I'd better not let her see me walking. Reluctantly I forced myself into a slow run. She met me at the turn, and pushed me along the last straight-away to the finish line. I was soooo grateful for the push! I saw Ali and the boys cheering me on from the sidelines and I felt so good to see them there supporting me.

I crossed the line in just over 3 hours!!! I beat my original goal of 3:30 by nearly 30 minutes! Talk about excitement. 

As I made my way down the finishers' chute, my precious Tyler came running in to give me a plate of food he collected for me in the VIP tent. This very thoughtful act by my baby almost brought me to tears. He was thinking of me and knew I'd be hungry after running all that way. Bless his sweet heart! Let me tell you, that was the BEST food I'd eaten in a long time. 

After the race we were able to refresh in the VIP tent. It was stocked with drinks, fresh fruit, salty chips,  Subway sandwiches, and more! It also had a private port-a-potty (no lines!!) The VIP experience is definately worth the extra charge. 

Another perk of being a VIP is that you get to meet and hang out with previous Biggest Loser contestants. It was great to see that they are still making healthy lifestyle choices even after the show. 

The highlight of the day was when Tyler received 3rd place in his age group for 5K runners. He was so proud of his accomplishment! 

The Biggest Loser Run/Walk was a perfect family event. Even if you are not a fan of the show, this event is fabulous. We loved how the race caters to people of all ability levels. 

I hope that they decide to return again next year. I have a new time to beat!!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rock-N-Roll New Orleans Half Marathon Relay

Two years ago I ran my first half marathon in New Orleans. Finishing the The Rock-N-Roll half marathon was an accomplishment I once thought impossible. I cried as I crossed the finish line with my friend Megan, and I was super excited to see Ali at the end. He ran the full marathon, yet he was waiting for me at the finish of my half!! Haha! This was the race that earned Ali his spot at the starting line at the Boston Marathon. It was a wonderful day for both of us. 


Last year I was registered for the half, but had to sit it out due to my knee injury. I was relegated to being a spectator, and I was excited to cheer on my husband and friends as they competed. I didn't plan on running this year because I just didn't feel quite ready to run 13.1 miles. My training has been hit and miss since the Disney Wine and Dine in November. 

My plans quickly changed when my best friend, Larisa, called me one night asking if I'd be interested in running the half marathon relay with her. Of course!!!! She would run the first leg of the half (7.5 miles) and I would run the second leg (5.5 miles). I could do that! She got us registered and I must admit, I was super excited to be running in this race again. 

On Saturday we met up at the expo to pick up our race bibs and our drum sticks. Relay runners are given drumsticks to act as the relay baton. 

The expo was smaller than it has been over the last couple years. Sadly I missed some of my favorite vendors like KT Tape. That meant I'd be taping up my own knees!! LOL

We did get to stop by the Swiftwick sock booth though!! You may remember that these are the socks that Ali wore while competing in the Louisville Ironman. We are both die-hard Swiftwick fans. They have socks of every length, but my favorites are the 12" compression socks. I wear them ALL the time to work. I spend so much of the day on my feet, and the compression saves my calves and ankles! I'm not going to lie, these socks are a little pricy...but they are the BEST sock ever and they are worth every penny. 

After the expo Ali and I met up with Larisa, her husband, our friend Mindy, and some fellow bloggers for a pre-race carb loading dinner at the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen. If you've never eaten here you are really missing out!! It is located right at the end of the French Quarter.

Now, don't get this pizza confused with the typical greasy pizza you get from a common chain pizza place. This pizza was fresh and light. We ordered the roasted chicken pizza which was topped with black beans instead of the traditional red sauce. It was very different, but very delicious. We also ordered some stuffed shells, but Ali and I agreed that the pizza was the winner of the night. 


After dinner we decided to take in some of the sights of New Orleans. We wandered down Bourbon Street and enjoyed people watching. There were some characters out that night! It was nice to be out with friends the night before a race and not be stressed out about having to get back to the hotel early. 

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a trip to Cafe du Monde. Their beignets are worth every powder sugar coated calorie. Sooooo good!! Just be careful eating these. That sugar gets everywhere!! I knew I'd run these little babies off on Sunday. 

After our bedtime snack, it was time to call it a night. We knew 5:30 a.m. would be here before we knew it. 

Sunday morning we awoke and got ready to head to the starting line. At the expo on Saturday Ali won this Team Geico shirt. They said if I wore it during the race, I'd get a free massage at the finish. Yeah!!! Who would turn down a free post-race rub down? Not me! 

Here we are before the race....


Ali dropped us off at the start and Larisa was first up to run. I had to make my way to the transition area about a mile away. There wasn't a shuttle to transition, so I walked/jogged to my designated hand-off point. There I was able to watch the race while waiting for Larisa to tag me. It was great to see my friends who were running both the half and full marathons as they made their way to the finish. 

I was so excited to see Larisa coming down the transition chute. The weather was starting to get worse (drizzly and colder) and I was ready to get moving so I could warm up. I took off on my leg of the relay. I had to run through the French Quarter and down to the park to the finish line. It was getting pretty foggy and it made for a spooky run in some places. As I ran past Cafe du Monde I had to resist the urge to snatch a beignet off someone's plate!! They smelled so good and I was getting hungry. Just a few more miles to the finish! 

I felt really good and I ran for the first 3 miles. After a bathroom break I was slow to get running again and I walked a bit of mile 4. I was so afraid that the rain was going to start at any moment, and that gave me the encouragement I needed to run in the last 1.5 miles. I hate running in the rain! There is nothing nice about soggy sneakers. 

I was very excited to round the corner to see Larisa, Ali, and Donald at the finish line. I may not have run all 13.1 miles, but I was DONE.  I got my relay medal and grabbed an icy chocolate milk. Yum!!


Of course I had to find the Geico tent so I could get my massage! My lower back was hurting, and the lady who gave me my massage was wonderful!!! I will definately wear this shirt in future Rock-N-Roll events so I can claim another pampering session. 


I was so thankful that the weather held off and we didn't get soaked. Running the relay was a much different experience than running the half marathon. I loved the shorter distance, but I kind of felt out of place among the half marathoners. I actually felt bad passing up people as I took off on my fresh, rested legs. Some of them were hitting the wall and I was just getting going. Regardless, I had a great time. 

Relay runners were given a special medal. It will look beautiful on my medal hanger :)


Overall I really enjoyed this Rock-N-Roll experience. I would even consider running as a part of a relay team again in the future. BUT, next year I want to run the New Orleans Half again and see if I can't set a new PR :)