A Tale of Two Wetsuits, Part One

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” — Ferris Bueller

I swear I blinked and somehow June and July happened. I’ve been on two international trips, enjoyed time on the mountain, soaked up some rays on the beach, and spent time in our nation’s capital. I had some once in a lifetime experiences this summer and learned a lot about myself in the process.

With so many amazing adventures this summer, I have lots of stories to share. Today, I’m inspired to write about my family vaca to Banff, Alberta, Canada, in July. Anyone who knows me well knows that I prefer tights, boots, and coats to shorts, tanks, and swimsuits any day of the year, so a trip to Canada in July was right up my alley.  

After a dreadful experience with cancelled flights, an unexpected overnight in Dallas, and 48-hours without luggage, we settled in for a week of fun in the picturesque Canadian Rockies. The beauty of this locale was that the hardcore hikers could do their thing while others could still experience the breathtaking scenery without strapping on a pack and wandering into the wilderness. 

Day one began with a gondola ride near Lake Louise. Halfway up we spotted several grizzly bear right off the bat. Banff is known as bear country so we were psyched to start out the trip with a bona fide bear sighting. 

We spent the afternoon canoeing Moraine Lake. Y’all, the water is really that blue. It’s ridiculous. The color results from the sediment that is continually deposited into the glacially-fed lake and the light that is refracted off of it. Despite the fact that John will tell you he paddled myself and Miles around the lake “Driving Miss Daisy” style, Miles and I did our fair share of paddling through the 38 degree water. 

So, let’s get to that wetsuit. The whole fam loaded up and we rafted the Kananaskis River with Chinook Rafting. The water was in the low 30s and had still been icy the week before. We were each issued a wetsuit, neoprene booties, a water resistant pullover, and helmet. A quick training session later, we embarked on our frigid whitewater adventure. 

Miles had the most important job, serving as wave blocker throughout our journey. John and I sat in the front of the boat, so we could be close to the wave blocker, and were told to synchronize our paddles so that the rest of the raft would stay in sync. Somehow we managed to do just that, while keeping ourselves and the wave blocker safely inside. Our fabulous guide, James, made every effort to ensure that we were completely soaked, whether we stayed in the boat or not. Wetsuit or no wetsuit, that water was cold! 

We were in Banff for July 4th, so we celebrated with a traditional American evening of bowling and pizza. It was so much fun and being that my family isn’t competitive at all, no smack was talked and everyone was a humble competitor. Right. Look closely and you will notice that the six-year old won. 

Y’all know my favorite way to explore a new place is through running. I enjoyed a great run through Tunnell Mountain, exploring some of the trails near our resort. While I packed for mild weather (I may have packed a pair of boots in each member of my family’s checked luggage), they were having a heat wave while we were in Banff. It was hot, but it felt great to get a run in. I even spotted some wildlife!


The culmination of our trip was a ride down the Icefields Parkway and a visit to Athabasca glacier. We rode the massive, all-terrain ice explorer bus to Athabasca and were able to disembark and walk around on the huge, 10,000 year old glacier. As part of the experience, we also explored the glass-bottomed Glacier Skywalk with amazing views of the Sunwapta Valley. 

On our final night in Banff, we visited the Fairmont Banff Springs after dinner. While driving past the golf course that borders the hotel’s property, we spotted a group of elk hindering some golfers on the front nine. As far as the eye could see, the elk were grazing and enjoying the nice weather and manicured greens. 

From water slides and all-you-can-eat buffets, to poutine and bear sightings, many a memory was made in Canada. Ferris wasn’t kidding when he said that life moves pretty fast. That alone makes special memories made in far off places that much sweeter. 

2017 Miles to Go: 446

If I Can Do It, Anyone Can Do It

Since I started writing about running and travel, people always ask me two questions. First, they ask me where I’m running next. Second, they ask me how I got started running. Readers tell me all the time that they wish they could run, but they can’t. My token response is always, “if I can do it, ANYONE can do it.” Then, I share the tale of how it took me over 16 minutes to run a mile when I first started running and a few short months later I completed my first half marathon. There’s more to the story. 

In honor of Global Running Day today, I wanted to share a few tips for getting started if you want to begin the journey of running. Whether it’s to run a race, find a new hobby, or to just plain get healthy, I hope these tips will inspire you to take that first step. 


#1 – Buy the shoes

When I first started running, it was in tennis shoes that I had worn since college. Despite the fact that some days I feel like I could still be in college, running in shoes from those four fabulous years was a terrible idea. I felt like I was running in cement! 

Go get fitted for good running shoes. Find a local run shop where they can evaluate your stride, watch you run, and put you in the right pair of shoes. While you’re at it, get some good socks so your feet are well taken care of before you hit the pavement. I’m currently running in Brooks Ghost 9s and I love them! 

Side note: Shoes, like cars, have mileage. When you purchase your new running shoes, ask how many miles you should put on them before your next pair. If you’re training for a half or full marathon, consider buying multiple pairs so you don’t wear them out as quickly. I learned this the hard way. 


#2 – Make a Plan

I began running after setting a personal goal at work to run a half marathon. I gave myself plenty of time, found a race, got a training plan together, and began to run. I initially used the Couch to 5K training plan until I could run for 20 minutes straight. Then, I just ran as long as I could, upping my mileage by about 10% each week. Couch to 5K is a run/walk method that can be used through your mobile phone. I always run with my phone so this worked great for me. The key to making a plan is to find what’s right for you. Do the research and find what makes you comfortable. Then, get started! 

Side note: Go ahead and register for your goal race, then work toward completing it. I always do this to stay motivated and make sure I am ready to meet my goal.

#3 – Don’t Overdo It

You know when a new song comes out and you add it to your Spotify, download it on iTunes, and turn it up every time it comes on the radio, then about a week later you are completely over it? Don’t do this to running. Overdoing it can lead to burnout, and more importantly, injury. 

When I first started running, I wanted to get out there every single day and run as much as I could to get faster and go further. Stick to your training plan and add a day or two of cross-training to your plan to stay active and avoid overdoing it. Listen to your body. I upped my mileage too fast for this past February’s Rock ‘N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon and paid the price with shin splints.

#4 – Have Fun

Never in a million years did I think that I would enjoy running as much as I do. There is a feeling of accomplishment that cannot be explained when you cross a finish line after training for months to run a race. If you’re not having fun and feeling great, maybe running isn’t for you. But, wait to make that decision until after you cross your first finish line. You can thank me later. 

Side note: Training is not fun. I feel great when I’ve completed a training run, but I don’t look forward to training as a super fun activity. It is a necessary part of becoming a runner. Find a running partner or local run club to join and it will make training more fun and keep you accountable.

To be a runner, all you have to do is take the first step. Good luck! 

2017 Miles to Go: 480

They Say It’s A Dry Heat

Last week took me to sunny Palm Springs, CA, for the annual PRSA Travel & Tourism Conference. No other event is more targeted to what I do every single day at work than this conference. I love getting to see old friends in the tourism industry and making new ones. Plus, Palm Springs is not the worst location to have to travel for work, right? 


The conference was held at the Riviera Palm Springs Resort, just ten minutes from the Palm Springs airport and easily accessible to all of the city’s hot spots. The beauty of this conference is that you get to hear from major travel editors and journalists in the industry, while also rubbing elbows with them at networking events. I mean, how often do you get to talk Tupelo with Samantha Brown, face-to-face? 


Tuesday morning, I participated in a fun run with everyone else crazy enough to get up and run through the desert. It was hot, even at 6:45 a.m., and the 5K I ran seemed way harder than usual, as a result. They say it’s a dry heat. But, hot is hot and at least in the humid South, I know when it’s time to hydrate. I loved getting to experience Palm Springs while running, and the view made it worth those hot miles.

Our closing reception was held at the Dinah Shore Estate in Palm Springs. The plush, mid-century modern estate is now owned by Leonardo DiCaprio and is situated in the same neighborhood as homes once owned by members of the Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, and Liberace. Elvis’ honeymoon cottage is also in the neighborhood, so my new friend, Rachel from San Jose, and I hopped in an Uber and made it our mission to find the home. Of course I had to check it out! 


When the conference ended Wednesday afternoon, we moved the networking poolside to celebrate the end of a great event and soak up our last few hours of sun in beautiful Palm Springs.

My trip to CA included quality time with my first and forever best friend, Elizabeth. We met at Disneyland for a magical morning of roller coasters and catching up. We would have been happy to just sit in the car and talk all day, and with the crazy traffic getting in to the park, that almost happened.

This was my first trip to the original Disney park. I consider myself a Disney World pro at this point, but that prepared me in no way for this visit. Walking into the park was like stepping back in time. We maximized our visit by hitting the rides that were exclusive to Disneyland. The Matterhorn Bobsleds, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Pinnochio’s Daring Journey, were a few favorites. 

Elizabeth and I took a 72-hour trip to Disney World when we were in college. A Friday afternoon phone call from her at Ole Miss to me at the University of Alabama resulted in the two of us driving through the night to Orlando in time for rope drop at the newly-opened Animal Kingdom. Rather than buying food and a hotel room, we brought snacks from home and purchased Disney souvenirs. We ventured to the Magic Kingdom that afternoon, stayed through the fireworks, and drove home. The whole way down we talked about riding Space Mountain first. When we arrived, it was closed for refurbishment. So, it was only fitting that Elizabeth and I chose Hyperspace Mountain as our first ride together at Disneyland. It was well worth the almost 20-year wait! (Ummm, yes I did the math correctly and I, too, am shocked.) 

My trip to Palm Springs was pretty fabulous. It’s less than two hours from both Los Angeles and San Diego and Joshua Tree National Park is about an hour away. Make it your base and it’s the perfect place from which to explore all that beautiful, sunny Southern California has to offer. I learned a lot, met some new tourism friends, spent time with my forever friend, ate some great food, and got to experience a new place. This trip was just the first of many this summer that will keep me on the run and I look forward to sharing it all.

2017 Miles to Go: 483

Gates at Elvis’ Honeymoon Cottage

Editors’ Panel at the Conference

Unlike Disney World, Characters wandered around Disneyland

My Mickey Ears!

Fun Run in Palm Springs

The Hill that was not so fun on the fun run in Palm Springs

Oorah

It’s training time again at my house! But, it’s not me. John entered the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., this October, and once again he is the luckiest guy around.

Yes, I agree. He should try buying a lottery ticket or two instead of entering race lotteries. But, I’ll be honest, some days, getting the notice that you were selected to run a bucket list race is worth more than a million bucks. Some days.

There are many things that set this marathon apart. One of those things is that there is no prize money awarded for winning the race. It’s all about the commitment and courage that it takes to finish the marathon. It’s organized by the amazing men and women of the United States Marine Corps. The weekend is full of events, from the health and fitness expo and the kids races, to the 10K (that I will get to run!), and of course, the marathon. Everything takes place with our nation’s capital as the picturesque backdrop. 

This race is so much more than a bucket list run for John. It’s about running for something. He’s running for his Uncle Paul who served in the Marines during Vietnam.  His uncle saved multiple men in his company during a fierce battle. He was shot in the leg while saving the lives of others and received two Purple Hearts for his immense service to our country. That is something worth running for. My grandfather fought as a Marine in Okinawa during World War II, so I’m pretty sure it will be a special weekend for both of us.


I’m writing this from my gate at the rainy, 40-degree Minneapolis airport enroute to the PRSA Travel & Tourism Conference in sunny, 98 degree Palm Springs. As I was just walking to my gate, I passed a Minnesota lottery ticket kiosk. The thought to grab a ticket crossed my mind, but the luckiest guy I know wasn’t here to buy it, so I kept on walking. (P.S. It’s much more fun to travel, or really do anything for that matter, when he is around.)

I’m excited about our trip to D.C., a city I haven’t spent much time in as an adult. What are your favorite D.C. don’t miss spots and if you’re a Marine Corps Marathon finisher what tips can you share? 

2017 Miles to Go: 489

Today Was a Good Day

The Rock ‘N’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon is about a week away. I’ve had some fantastic training runs this week and I’m so looking forward to a weekend in the Big Easy. Despite the fact that they are currently predicting 70 degrees and rain for race day, it’s going to be fun.

I ran a little over eight miles this morning  on my last long run before the race. I’ve had a rough week, which actually makes for some great running. A stellar speed workout Thursday night both cleared my head and made me feel stronger. I needed it. Eight more miles this morning means I can make it to 13.1 next Sunday.

I ran in my new PRO Compression socks this morning and they are fabulous! The fact that they’re the hottest of hot pink definitely sold me on them, but the promise of faster recovery sealed the deal. The graduated compression felt great. I didn’t have to stop during the run to mess with my socks. And, you could see me coming a mile away.

So, today I tried something new. As John would say, I “got frozen.” After our long runs we went to Cryo Correct for -200 degrees of fun. I opted for the whole body therapy  which included three minutes in the cryochamber that uses nitrogen gas to drastically drop the temperature in order to promote recovery. It was cold, like, really cold. But, it was awesome and the shin splint pain I’ve been having the last couple of weeks is gone! I totally felt like Han Solo before he “got frozen,” but was straight back to Princess Leia after three chilly minutes. I will definitely be back for more!

As a bonus to my first full body cryoadventure, I also got a cryofacial. They apply pressurized liquid nitrogen vapors to your scalp, face, and neck improving circulation. I could literally feel my skin tightening as the treatment was applied! The extreme cold was invigorating and as she used it over my nose, it almost took my breath away. The treatment is also supposed to help with allergies. I loved the experience and will absolutely do it again.

Today was a good day. I’m looking forward to a great weekend in New Orleans next week as I run my fifth half marathon. Rock ‘N’ Roll NOLA was my very first half and this wil be my third time back for this super fun jaunt through the Crescent City. I run for my calories in New Orleans and this year will be no different. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon Series is celebrating 20 years in 2017, so my expectations are high, as this race should be the best one yet. 

2017 Miles to Go: 553

Racecation Top 10 List

I’m always planning my next racecation. A racecation is a vacation planned around running a race, but that’s pretty obvious, right? In other words, where can I go and run a race, experience something new, and have a great meal or two along the way? In honor of tomorrow’s RunDisney Walt Disney World Marathon, I am sharing my top ten list of racecations that are either on my list or have already been crossed off.

#10 Viking Half Marathon – Greenwood, MS, Not every racecation can be in an exotic locale, so number ten on my list is the closest to home. The Viking Half Marathon is a flat, fast race through this Mississippi Delta town where “The Help” was filmed. Your race weekend must include a night at The Alluvian and dinner at Giardina’s. Staying two nights? Definitely book a cooking class at the Viking Cooking School and a spa treatment or two at the amazing Alluvian spa.


#9 Tinker Bell Half Marathon – Anaheim, CA, Disneyland’s companion race to the Princess at Disney World, run both races in a year and you earn the special pink edition coast-to-coast medal. As if you need another reason, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon is a RunDisney race, which means magic at every turn in sunny Southern California.


#8 Rock ‘N’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & Half Marathon – Las Vegas, NV, I love a Rock ‘N’ Roll race and what sets the Rock ‘N’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & Half Marathon apart is that it’s run at night. With the Las Vegas Strip as the backdrop, runners finish 13.1 under the neon lights in the desert. I don’t need to tell you how to enjoy a racecation weekend in Vegas, baby.


#7 St. Jude Memphis Marathon – Memphis, TN, I have no excuse for why I’ve never done this race that is literally 90 miles from my front door. The weekend includes a full, half, 10K, and 5K, all benefitting the lifesaving work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. During the race, you run through the campus, past cheering patients and their families. What a humbling experience. Top it off with a stay at The Peabody, dinner at the Rendezvous for the best Memphis-style ribs, and a visit to Graceland, and your St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is complete.



#6 Seaside School Half Marathon – Seaside, FL, It’s a half marathon, at the beach. Enough said. The Seaside School Half Marathon includes medals and a Vera Bradley bag for every finisher. The weekend also includes a Taste of the Race event with Chef Emeril Lagasse. A flat race at the beach, with great food? Yes, please!

#5 Princess Half Marathon – Orlando, FL, Still my very favorite racecation to-date, the RunDisney Princess Half Marathon Weekend invites runners to channel their inner princess, dress up like her, and run 13.1 miles through Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. The feeling of turning onto Main Street USA and running through Cinderella’s Castle is truly unbelievable. I did the Glass Slipper Challenge and ran the Enchanted 10K the day before, maximizing my time as a princess.


#4 Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon – Napa, CA, This race takes participants on a scenic journey from Napa to Sonoma. The Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon includes great pre and post events, including a wine and  music festival after the race. Sounds like the perfect couples’ weekend getaway!


#3 Walt Disney World Marathon – Orlando, FL, RunDisney’s flagship race weekend, it includes a 5K, 10K, half, and full marathon, as well as kids’ races. Challenge races include the Goofy Challenge for those who want to complete the half and full, or the Dopey Challenge for runners who can complete every single race that weekend. During the Walt Disney World Marathon you run through all four Disney parks, the only RunDisney race during which this happens. I’m going to do this race, sooner than later. Mark my words!

#2 Rock ‘N Roll New Orleans Marathon & Half Marathon – New Orleans, LA, My very first half marathon and still one of my favorites, the Rock ‘N Roll New Orleans Marathon & Half Marathon is another flat, fast course that takes you through the heart of this city like no other. The Rock ‘N Roll Marathon Series folks do it right with bands every mile and great entertainment throughout the course. And, there is no doubt that the people of New Orleans know how to spectate! Plus, you will have earned all those amazing calories just waiting for you in this city that is all about delectable food. I’m doing this race again in just a few weeks and can’t wait!


#1 Disneyland Paris Half Marathon – Paris, France, Definitely a bucket lister, the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon has the magic of Disney all while you’re running through one of the most iconic cities on the planet. It’s number one on my list because it is so much more than a long race weekend. Combine the efficiency and excellence of RunDisney with the excitement of exploring this grand European city and you’re a winner already.

So, these are my current top ten racecation races. Ask me tomorrow and the list could totally change. The one constant is that I love to use running as an excuse to travel, and am a little partial to RunDisney races. At any rate, I am always in search of my next great adventure.

Good luck to everyone running the Walt Disney World Marathon. Run fast! Run hard!

2017 Miles to Go: 591

Marathon Man

John is a marathoner! We are a month post race and it may have finally sunk in that he completed the arduous 26.2 mile race, something that only about one percent of the world’s population can say. He now has the medal to prove it, which is really what it’s all about, right? I’m sure he would agree.

Race expo at the Javits Center

 

We arrived in NYC bright and early the Friday morning before the race, dropped our luggage, and headed straight for the Javits Center to pick up our race bibs and shop the massive race expo. Every racing brand out there was in the house, so we got John fueled up, dressed up, and accessoriezed for the race. I, of course, stopped by the Run Disney booth to reminisce about my weekend running as a princess and to plan my next adventure. Tiffany & Co. was even there with keepsake pieces for those running the marathon.

Waldorf Astoria NYC

 

We stayed at the gorgeous, historic Waldorf Astoria. This hotel is an NYC institution and everything from our room, to the staff, to the bacon on the Bull and Bear breakfast buffet was outstanding. Friday night we had dinner at The Green Fig in Hell’s Kitchen and saw the hilarious Something Rotten musical.

Beginning of the Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K

 

We woke up early Saturday morning to head to the start of my race, the Abott Dash to the Finish Line 5K. The race began at the United Nations and was a wave start. It was so much fun running through the streets of Manhattan and into Central Park where the next day 50,000 runners would attempt to cross the finish line. It was quite hilly once we got into Central Park, a cruel joke for those who on Sunday would be on mile 24, rather than mile 3 as I was. It was a treat to experience even a tiny morsel of the exiliration John would experience the next day. I did get a t-shirt and burned enough calories to enjoy a fabulous brunch at Beauty and Essex in the East Village post race.

Almost race day!

 

We tried to take it easy Saturday so John could rest his legs, so after brunch he ventured back to the hotel for a nap and I shopped my way through Midtown. My favorite thing to do in NYC is to just wander and Saturday made for a perfect afternoon of wandering through my favorite city. That night we had dinner at The Smith, just steps from our hotel, so John could walk as few steps as possible for his last carby meal before the race. Once dinner was over, the only thing between John and 26.2 miles was a good night’s sleep.

Disembarking from the ferry on Staten Island

 

John walked out of the hotel at 5:50 a.m. and headed to the subway, to head to the ferry, to head to the bus, to head to the start line. His wave began at 10:15 a.m. and after making it through security check and his transportation tour of New York, he had about 45 minutes until his corral took off.

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

 

The marathon starts on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge taking runners across the river from Staten Island into Brooklyn. The TCS NYC Marathon mobile app is awesome because you can track up to 20 runners from the second they start the race until the very end. I watched race coverage on TV, and John’s blinking dot on my phone as it started its 26.2 mile journey, from the comfort of my luxurious Waldorf bed until it was time to meet up with our friends who had traveled all the way to NYC to cheer on John.

John making the turn into Central Park

 

We found a great spot on First Avenue in Manhattan to wait for John to pass, between miles 16 and 17. I read somewhere that over one million spectators line the race course to cheer on the runners. It was amazing to see that kind of support. John had his name on his shirt and said that everyone from random strangers to police officers encouraged him along the way. Once he passed, even though he never saw us but gave us a thumbs up, we headed towards Central Park, by way of a few shops, to spot him one last time before the finish.

He finished!

 

John, and the rest of the ponchoed zombies, emerged from Central Park, exhausted, in pain, but most importantly, as marathon finishers. We began our trek back to the hotel, which included an accidental subway ride to Harlem. We had a celebratory dinner with our friends followed by decadent desserts at Smith & Wollensky that some had earned more than others.

NYC Ready for Christmas

 

I have spent so much time in New York, almost always getting to experience the city my way. This trip was in no way about me and it may have been my favorite trip to the city of all times. I am unbelievably proud of John and have a feeling that this is just the first of many marathons for him. I, on the other hand, am pretty confident that I will continue to run my marathons 13.1 at a time, but, you never know. John completed the 40th running of the five boroughs for his 40th birthday and that is something that neither of us will ever forget.

Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry

Dessert at Smith & Wollensky

My 5K Finish

 

Dessert and Great Friends

Looking Good at Mile 25

2016 Miles to Go: 775

From Mississippi to Europe

How we have made it to mid-October is beyond me. It’s still 90 degrees outside, and while fall has arrived in Mississippi, it is ever so confused. I have just returned from The Netherlands and Belgium where fall was at its best, with leaves crunching under my feet and the cool breeze calling for leggings, boots, and sweaters for all.

Delft architecture

This year’s Memphis & Mississippi International Sales Mission took our group to Europe for sales calls, media appointments, and two unveilings of a mobile blues marker representing the Mississippi Blues Trail. We began our journey in Delft, a picturesque Dutch town an hour’s drive outside of Amsterdam. They are known for Delftware, the blue and white ceramic pottery that is hand-painted and glazed in a process that has been used for centuries.

City Hall in the Delft Square

 

I enjoyed getting to run through the cobblestone streets of Delft, exploring the canals and architecture of the town. On my Saturday morning run, I discovered a market that was set up throughout the city center that included fabrics, Delftware, antiques, and just about anything else people were willing to buy. The shopaholic in me couldn’t wait to get back and grab my purse, but the runner prevailed and I finished three miles in the heart of this charming town.

 

USA Go Wild Event

 

Delft was our home base in The Netherlands because of the USA Go Wild consumer event that we worked, sharing Memphis and Mississippi directly with people who were interested in visiting our area. To kick off the show, we hosted our first blues marker unveiling for over 150 tour operators and journalists complete with live blues music from Mississippi bluesman Vasti Jackson, a Southern barbecue-style supper, and “Mississippi saxophones” for everyone to play a little blues of their own.

Zach’s Dutch birthday celebration

 

My dear friend and “partner-in-crime,” Zach Holifield, turned 30 as we were in the air headed to Holland. We celebrated with birthday crowns and a birthday boy button over breakfast boxes on the flight, but it wasn’t until Friday night that we truly got to celebrate with a proper dinner, toast, and Dutch-themed cake. I will forever remember Zach’s 30th when I see bread baskets, cumquats, and carafes.

 

Stock exchange in Brussels

 

Our next stop on the mission was Belgium. We hit the ground running in Brussels, immediately upon arrival, splitting into sales and press teams, dividing and conquering. That night we met back up for a walking tour of Brussels’ city center and dinner at Chez Leon, a restaurant known for its mussels and pommes frites. Oh, how I love the abundance of french fries in this part of the world!

 

City square in Mechelen

 

In Belgium, one of my favorite days included media visits in Mechelen, a Flemish city between Antwerp and Brussels. We explored the city on foot between appointments and had coffee in the beautiful town square that sits in the shadow of St Rumbold’s Cathedral. I love people-watching and there is truly no better place to gaze than in a city’s square with an exceptional cup of coffee. That goes for the Deep South just as much as Europe!

 

Hanging with Vasti Jackson before the Brussels event

 

Our last night in Brussels included another blues marker unveiling at The Music Village, a cool music venue in the heart of the city. Tour operators, media, and representatives from the American Embassy joined us for a night of blues that only Mississippi can provide. Vasti mesmerized the crowd with stories of our state and tunes to go along with them. Music really is a great equalizer and it is such a joy getting to share Elvis, Tupelo, and Mississippi with music lovers from across the world.

 

Memphis & Mississippi Delegation

 

It was a productive, fun trip and my hope is that both the fall weather and all of the wonderful people we met and shared Memphis and Mississippi with will make their way to see us very soon.

 

Unveiling the Blues Marker

 

Windmill in Delft

 

Press Event at Cannibale Royale in Amsterdam

 

Mussels and French Fries in Delft

 

Cappuccino and Portuguese pastries in Brussels

 

My Nutella Belgian waffle

 

Memphis & MS crew in Brussels

 

2016 Miles to Go: 799

The Countdown is On

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

New York City

Two weeks. The TCS New York Marathon is 14 days away. Our flights have long since been booked, hotel reservations made, and theatre tickets secured. I am totally ready for our trip to New York! But, this trip is in no way about me. John has been training for twenty-three weeks and is finally in the homestretch.

Two Saturdays ago marked his first twenty-mile run. He did this long run on the Tanglefoot Trail and it went really well. John felt strong and was trying to mimic the elevation of the New York marathon by running on this flat, fast trail. He fueled properly throughout the week, didn’t go too fast out of the gate, and never hit a wall during his out and back jaunt.

tcs1

John put in 15 miles yesterday and will start tapering this week. He’s excited. He’s nervous. But, most of all, he is ready! He’s got his outfit ready to go, which, as it turns out, is not nearly as important to this race as it was for my Princess race, but I don’t think anyone is surprised about that.

John’s ankles are sore. He had a bone spur in his heel and tendonitis in his achillies. He has beaten up his body to train for this race, but like I said, he is ready. He stuck to his training plan and is prepared for what lies ahead. I asked him what he has learned from this process and he shared several keys to his success.

11_brooklyn%20512x512

1. You have to be flexible with your training plan and modify as it meets your needs.

John had a strong training plan that was put together for him by Lynn Holland, a great running coach and friend of John’s. There have been days that he hurt and rather than running just because his plan said to do so, he listened to his body and took a day or two off. This has kept him free from any major injuries and has enabled him to rest when he needed it without straying too far from his plan.

2. Run with a Group

John is a member of Team X. Because he runs with this group of men and women, he has accountability, safety, and interesting conversation. He has made new friends and pushed himself more than if he had just been training alone. Because of Team X he has joined the Tupelo Running Club and has met even more folks in the running community, including the skunks at Ballard Park.

3. Cross Train. Cross Train. Cross Train.

Cross training keeps you healthy and less prone to injury. John loves to swim and has enjoyed swimming laps at the Tupelo Aquatic Center as part of his cross training. He also does yoga for runners to stay loose, as he is prone to stay tight. Make all the jokes you want. I always do. While it is time consuming to add more training on your running days off, he is committed to this race and has done a great job of putting in the work that needs to be done.

4. Summer miles bring fall smiles.

If I’ve said it once on this blog, I’ve said 100 times. It’s been a miserably hot summer. The vast majority of John’s training has taken place during the summer months and even the fall months have been sweltering thus far. But, two Saturdays ago when he ran 20 miles, it was 54 degrees, was one of the best training runs he has had at an 8:58 pace, and he never looked back. It looks like the weather in NYC is going to be similar to what we are experiencing now, with marathon temps hitting the mid to upper 50’s. Because of the miles John has put in, he’ll be ready.

30_firstave%201024x512.gif

We are excited about our trip to New York in two short weeks. I’m signed up to run the Abbott Dash to Finish Line 5K, which takes you on the final three miles of the marathon with the same finish in Central Park. I can’t wait to experience the same thing that John will get to do the next day, minus the first 23.1 miles. Some fabulous friends of ours are coming to the city to help cheer on John, so we’re looking forward to a wonderful long weekend in the Big Apple.

Have you run the New York Marathon or been a spectator during the race? I’m still researching where to go to make sure I get to see John other than just at the finish line, so I would love to hear about your experience.

2016 Miles to Go: 799

 

Fall is Coming

August was definitely a month on the run, but not so much a month of running. It has been hot. I mean, miserably hot. So hot, that I feel like my motivation to run has literally melted away. I have felt defeated when it seemed like a huge feat to run even two or three miles, but I keep reminding myself that running in a heat index of 105+ could make any seasoned runner question her sanity. Some days, I have pumped myself up to get my miles in after work, only to get home in the pouring rain. But, fall is coming.

This past weekend we went to Memphis for Miles to participate in a Ducks Unlimited Greenwings event. After sweating through the outdoor extravaganza to which I stupidly wore a dress and flip flops, we visited Breakaway Running where John and I both got fitted for new running shoes. He is logging miles like crazy as the New York Marathon is a little over 63 days away. I just hoped that new shoes would help motivate me to get back at it, as there are several races for which I am signed up or want to sign up this fall and winter. As fate would have it, I’m back in my beloved Mizuno Wave Riders, but up a full size. They feel great and it doesn’t hurt that they’re hot pink and purple. Yes, fall is coming and I’m ready to hit the pavement.

 

Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX

After Elvis Week last month, I found myself in Grapevine, Texas, for Travel Media Showcase, a trade show where I had the privilege of pitching stories about Tupelo to travel writers from across the country. Through excellent networking events and scheduled tours, we got to experience Grapevine. I assumed it was just a suburb of Dallas, as it took a mere ten minutes to drive from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to the gorgeous Gaylord Texan resort where the conference was held, but boy was I wrong.

 

Water feature in the Gaylord Texan

Grapevine is culture and cowboys, water slides and wine. It is a shopper’s paradise and one train ride away from a great adventure. I got to participate in the family fun tour that took us for an afternoon at Grapevine Mills. We lunched at Rainforest Cafe, complete with the enormous Sparkling Volcano dessert.

Sparkling volcano dessert at Rainforest Cafe

 

Sea Life Aquarium

Our next stop was Sea Life, a two-story, 45,000 square-foot aquarium with over 30 interactive exhibits showcasing amazing sea creatures. The highlight was a huge tropical ocean tank with a walk-through tunnel. Sharks and rays of all sorts and sizes were swimming just under our feet and above our heads.

 

LEGOLAND Discovery Center

When I travel for work, my child has figured out that my return almost always means a surprise. In fact, he often puts in his “surprise request” before I leave town. The next stop on our tour was a quick glance at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. I immediately hit the gift shop, making sure that his request was met. Part of me felt guilty that I was experiencing all of this without my LEGO-obsessed dude, but we got just enough of a taste that I knew a family trip here would be in our future.

 

Hanging with Wiley from Great Wolf Lodge

The last stop on our family fun tour was the Great Wolf Lodge. Speaking of places I definitely plan to visit further, Great Wolf Lodge is like a mini-theme park all under one roof. Love water slides? They have plenty. Need a princess makeover? Yep, you can get it here. Enjoy character meet-and-greets? They have those, too. And, there’s pizza, and ice cream, and an arcade. I can keep going and can’t wait to go.

 

Grapevine Lake

I did manage to get in some running while in Texas. The Gaylord Texan had a great running trail that went around the property, with gorgeous views of Grapevine Lake. I had the privilege of experiencing God’s amazing artistry as the sun rose over the lake each morning. It was hot and humid, but it made for a great start to the day.

I’m home for several weeks before I leave for Europe at the end of September. My goal is to build my miles back up and get ready for all of the races I plan to run this fall. I love keeping up with my upcoming races on the Days to Go app, as seen above. On another note, I’ve found the perfect virtual race to complete my running resolution and it is all the motivation I need. But, more on that later. For now, fall is coming and I am back on the run.

2016 Miles to Go: 823

Opening Dinner at TMS

 

Starfish at Sea Life

 

Clownfish at Sea Life

 

Sea Life

 

Dallas in LEGOs

 

Roll Tide from LEGOLAND Discovery Center

 

My booth at TMS

 

Gaylord Texan

 

Gaylord Texan