Thursday, December 29, 2011

Quito, Ecuador

So here I am finally getting around to my Galapagos posts.
As most of you know, last month I was sent by work to the Galapagos to experience our cruise product there. 
A-MAZ-ING! Wow... fabulous... fantastic... once in a lifetime experience!

But let's start at the beginning shall we.
Where exactly is Quito, Equador and the Galapagos?  I knew it was only a 4 hour flight from Miami, but I wasn't exactly sure where I was flying to.  Well I knew I was going to South America, but wasn't sure exactly where :)
Turns out, Quito is almost directly south of Miami.  I thought it was further west.  I actually thought all of the South American continent was further west.  Learn something new every day.

After the quick flight on luxurious LAN airline (I think all non-US airlines are luxurious) two nights were spent in Quito at the JW Marriott.
Really lovely hotel with all the comforts of home. 
Saturday included a city tour.  Quito is a beautiful city situated 9,500 feet above sea level and was the first UNESCO World Heritage site.  
The first place we stopped was the Basilica of Quito. 
While I have seen many churches in my day, the thing that stood out here was that instead of regular gargoyles, there were animals native to Equador and the Galapagos Islands.

The architecture in Old Town was fantastic.
Independence Plaza
Quito Cathedral
Government Palace

Statue of the Virgin on Panecillo Hill

We also visited the Equator.  
Mitad del Mundo - Middle of the World
Overlooking both the northern & southern hemispheres
I'm in both hemispheres!  I am cool!
I love geography, maps, etc.  so I was very excited to be at 0 degrees latitude.
I have also been to 0 degrees longitude in Greenwich, England, so now I think I am doubly cool :)
This was my first trip to South America and I really enjoyed it.  I can't wait to visit other places in South America, namely Peru, Argentina & Brazil.
One thing that really stood out to me was how unsafe it seemed for tourists there.  Maybe the company was just being overly cautious, but the security surrounding our tour group was really tight.  We had bodyguards with us on the bus and they told us not to leave the hotel on our own.  I appreciate the value/security/information group travel can bring, but I also like experiencing things on my own, so all of that weirded me out a bit.  In the end, there really wasn't any time for me to explore on my own, so that was fine.

On Sunday we took a chartered flight from Quito to Baltra in the Galapagos.
Traveling to and from the islands was so easy!  The company took care of all our luggage taking it from the hotel, to the plane, to the ship.  All we needed for the flight was our carry-ons.  I highly recommend traveling on charters whenever possible :)

After the cruise portion, and before flying home, we spent one additional night in Quito.  We went shopping that afternoon and I picked up this cute little manger set - I love it!
And I also had to pick up some scarves made from alpaca wool!  So soft!
Ummmm, yea...  I need those in Florida :)
My last day in Quito was spent at our company's local office.  It was fun to meet new co-workers and learn what they do to keep this great vacation experience running smoothly.

Next up... the islands and some animals! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Hope you & your families are having a wonderful Holiday Season!

21 Miles... D-O-N-E!

Yesterday morning I completed my last long run (and longest run ever) before the Disney Marathon - 
21 miles!
Oh my fucking hell, it was HARD!

This was my Facebook status yesterday:
Finished my last long run (21 miles) before the Disney Marathon. My thoughts... Running and walking can go f*ck themselves. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
Surprisingly, I got several "Likes" and comments on this :)

Why... no, HOW, can people run multiple marathons?
I was in the worst pain of my running life during miles 18 to 21.
If I had another 20 or 22 miler planned before January 8th, I simply wouldn't do it.
I am over the marathon distance.  Over it.
Give me back my happy little world of half marys and lets call it a day.

I had been dreading these long runs since I signed up for the marathon in April.  I thought signing up for a running group would help me to get through them.  Unfortunately my running group ran their 20 miler last Saturday when I was coming home from vacation.
Clearly I did not do a great job of prioritizing the marathon training, so this left me to run 20 miles on my own.

Here are the basics of the run (many of these places will mean nothing to you, if you are not familiar with Miami, but just know it is a popular running area)...
I drove over to Bayshore Drive and did the first half of the run out on Key Biscayne.  5 miles out and back for a total of 10 miles.  Key Biscayne has several public bathrooms and water fountains, so it was nice to know I could go to the bathroom if I had to and refill my hand held if necessary.
At mile 10 I was back at my car where I had a banana, rubbed some Icy Hot on my hips and knees and refilled my hand held with an electrolyte drink.
For the next 11 miles, I ran in the opposite direction, through the little town of Coconut Grove with the turn around point on Edgewater Drive.  3 miles away from my car was the Starbucks at CocoWalk, so I knew that would be a good half way point (in either direction) where I could use the bathroom and get water or shots of espresso as needed.  I stopped at Starbucks twice.

The good things about the run
-It's over
-The first half actually went really well
-My left foot and knee, which had been bothering me, were fine and are fine today!
-My mom sent me all these Hammer Nutrition things to try: Gels, Endurolyte pills and electrolyte drinks and none of them made me poop my pants, yipee!  The Montana Huckleberry Gel was especially good!
-Calf cramping comes on later and later as I run longer (is this a good thing?)
-The lady who rung me up at Starbucks is training for the Miami half marathon so she was all excited & supportive to hear I was running the Disney full.  Thanks Starbucks lady!
-In a twisted way, I am now SO EXCITED for Marathon day (WTF is wrong with me?!)

The bad things about the run
-Insane pain for miles 18 to 21
-Weather at start of run was 68 degrees (nice) with 100% humidity (kiss my ass)
-Weather at end of run was 82 degrees (kill me now) with 90% humidity (kill me again if 80 degrees doesn't do it)
-For whatever reason, unknown to me, I had the worst pain in my hips and ass (both cheeks) that I have ever felt.  I don't know why... I have never had pain there before.  It came on at mile 8 which was even stranger since I have been running so many 10 & 13 milers in the past 3 months.

Things I learned
-Should have brought another shirt to switch out half way through, mine was soaked!
-Unless it rains on Marathon day, I feel confident I can deal with whatever the weather is... high humidity or not
-I will take GU every 4 miles during the marathon... only took two yesterday, so I will definitely up that number January 8th

Once that shit show was over, I spent the rest of the day I switching between here...
and here...
Wearing these... so thankful for compression socks!
And watching a crazy amount of 'Friends' reruns...

Kudos to all of you who have trained for multiple marathons.  You are impressive.
People may say that about half marathons, but come on, those are easy... :)

P.S.  Can someone tell me if marathoners cry when they cross the finish line because they are proud of what they have accomplished or if it is because they are so unbelievably relieved  it is over?
There may have been a teary eyed moment filled with relief when I got back to my car and could take my sneakers and socks off.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two Posts in One Day!

Can you even believe it?!
After neglecting the blog for so long and having no trip planned for two weeks, I have lots of time on my hands and lots to talk about!

First, thank you to all the bloggers from Team Rudolph for your Christmas cards, kind words, poems & treats! 

Next, the new runDisney race was announced yesterday:
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler

Who's in?
I definitely am.  
10 miles is my happy place.  I feel like I have had a great workout, yet do not feel as fatigued or sore as the longer runs.  Thank goodness I live in Florida so it is very easy for me to attend these fun events!
In 2009 the Tower of Terror 5K was my very first race ever, and it was such a fun night (even though I was really sick).  I am so excited for their 2012 revamped version!
Can I also tell you that several people have found my blog today searching for "10 mile tower of terror medal".  Patience folks.  We all know the medal will be awesome, why do you have to see it the day after the race was announced? 

Last,  my newest addiction are the books in The Hunger Games series.  
OMG.  They. are. so. good.
I read the first two books last week during vacation and I am currently on the third (and last) book.
As I was reading the first book it intrigued (great characters!) and disgusted (what the Hunger Games actually are and the reality TV aspect of it) me all at the same time.  It had me thinking the author was a complete lunatic.  I Googled the books when I got home and found out that they are loosely based on Greek and Roman mythology.  Ok, I can see that.  And now I no longer think the author is a psychopath.  Plus she invented Katniss Everdeen and she is a definitely a character you want to route for!
The Hunger Games movie comes out on March 23rd and I am really looking forward to it.  The trailer looks great, I hope the rest of the movie is as well.  The casting seems to be spot on and I can't wait to see Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch and Elizabeth Banks as Effie.
Did you noticed that cute, little Kindle in the picture above?  My sister gave me that for Christmas.  While my heart will always belong to Apple, the only thing that bugs me about my iPad is that I can't read outside.  My favorite weekend days involve sitting outside and reading, so I figured the Kindle would be a good gift.  It is amazing and I love it!
They are not kidding when they say it reads like a book.

Palm Beaches Marathon Festival Half Marathon

This half marathon took place Sunday December 4th.  I ran this as part of a 16 mile long run I had scheduled for that weekend.  It worked out great for this purpose as I didn't get bored and the 16 miles went fairly easily.  Having said that, this is not a race I would recommend. This is a shame since the course is absolutely beautiful... all along the water and through some neighborhoods in Palm Beach.
The course was on the road right along the water, I told you it was beautiful :)

The things I tought were the worst parts of the weekend:
-"Expo" was a joke, so small.  They should have just called it Packet Pick-Up
-The shirt I received was a cotton tee shirt, not a tech shirt.  Not that I am desperate for anymore running shirts, it is just lame for a half marathon
-Started late
-Ran out of water by Mile 6.... so LAME.  There was the half and the marathon going on at the same time, but at Mile 8.5 we broke off from the marathoners and started heading to the finish.  At that point the half peeps were getting first crack at the water, so I can only imagine that there was nothing left for the marathoners when they were making their way to the end.  Feel so bad for them.  I have never experienced Mile 24 or 25 of marathon (yet), but I would assume water would be one of the few things to make me happy.  I would be so mad if there was nothing available.  
There was also no electrolyte drink available.  That made me nervous because it was kind of warm that day and I sweat a lot.... like salt covering my face a lot.
Luckily for me, the hotel I stayed in the night before was right on the course, so once I got to it (at mile 11), I ran over to my room, chugged some coconut water and got my own bottle of water to run with the rest of the way.  Marathoners, I did not drink any of your water... you're welcome.
Yes, I totally left the course during a race.  Since I was running 16 total that day I totally could not have cared less about my time.  As I was running off the course, one of the cops was like "Hey no cheating"... the direction I was heading in was the opposite way of the finish line, so that wasn't even a possibility :)

Not to be a total downer with this post, the good things about the race:
-I got an Active Schwaggle deal and only paid $45.  Total bargain... love those Active Schwaggle deals!  Last minute registration fee was $90. Totally not worth that.
-Beautiful course.  It is an extremely flat, fast course and the marathon is a Boston qualifier.  For people interested in that sort of thing, this would be a good race... just bring your own water.
-Start/finish lines were close to the hotel I stayed at so I could run to and from the race to get in my 16 miles
-Volunteers decorated their water stops, very cool!  The cops along the course were great.  This wasn't a big race, so not every road was closed, but they were great about cars crossing, etc.
-Medal... not super fancy, but I do love the bling!
Sorry for the blurry picture

Friday, December 9, 2011

Monthly Update

Apparently a monthly update is all I can handle these days.

1.  My trip to the Galapagos was AMAZING!  Truly like no other place on Earth!  Wow!  Definitely need to post pictures soon.

2.  Ran the Palm Beaches Marathon Festival 1/2 Marathon last weekend and added on 3 miles, for a grand total of 16 miles, as part of my Disney Marathon training.  Recap to come.

3.   Marathon training... so it is now officially 30 days until the big 26.2 at WDW.  
Am I prepared?  
Enough to make it to the finish line.  
Is that what I was hoping for?  
No, I would have liked to put a little more effort into the training, but all the travel just got in the way.  
I have kept up with running, but no cross training at all.  Let me tell you that running on cruise ships is not easy.  It is usually done on a treadmill, but imagine that treadmill being on top of a weeble wobble thing.  Awesome.
Long run tomorrow is 18 miles, which will be done here in Miami, before I board another cruse ship for a week's long vacation.  Can't wait for next week's 10 mile run onboard :)
Overall, I am very excited for Marathon weekend, but I am not super impressed with all the super long runs that have been eating up my weekends.... specifically my sleep-in late time.  I am excited to go back to halfs when this thing is over.  I want to run more hills and work on my speed at that distance.

4.  I am participating in this lady's holiday card exchange and my cards for Team Rudolph will be going out this weekend!  I am proud of myself for staying on top of this task.

Hopefully I will get around to posting again in December!
How's everyone holiday season been going so far?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Continent #4 & Blue Footed Boobies

So... it's got to be a good day at work when you get an email saying that blue footed boobies are in my future, right?!
That is the email I received yesterday confirming that work was sending me to the Galapagos to experience our amazing product down there!  
I leave this afternoon and it will be 10 nights of new adventures and lots of animals... can't wait!
Plus, I have never been to South America before so I am so excited to visit a new Continent.
Can't wait to take my own pictures of these little guys!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not your Grandma's cruise ship

For most people when they think of cruise ships, they think it is all buffets and old people. 
While that may be sorta true :) cruising has really come along way in just the last 5 years. 
I have mentioned on here before that I work for a cruise line, and I think it is one that has really redefined the industry. 
I don't like to talk about work much on the blog, because it is pretty much the same thing every day, but this past weekend I participated in the two 2-night inaugural sailings we had for our newest ship. 
The sailings were invite-only events to introduce her (ships are always "her") to the North American media & trade. 
The ship was the fourth one in a "class" of ships we have in the fleet.  These ships are so beautiful, sleek and chic... they offer our guests a truly Modern Luxury vacation. 
Take a look at some of the amazing spaces onboard...  
The Lawn Club with oversized Adirondack chair & yes, that is real grass
What would a Lawn Club be without some lawn games?!
Art Studio where you can take beading, painting, etc. classes 
Pool area
My favorite chairs onboard, so comfortable.  Definitely nap-worthy!
Tree in the atrium with the Hideaway behind 
Comfy reading nook in the Hideaway 
Another reading spot in the Hideaway
The cruise line is an authorized Apple reseller and all of our internet
cafes are being converted to iLounges.  You know how busy Apple
stores are in your mall?  It is pretty much the same scene here.
Cellar Master Wine Bar
Lots of enotech machines and wine choices 
This one is for my family - Peju wine!  Yum!
Martini Bar 
Love these silver chairs and the textured wall behind them
Shopping Gallery
Quasar, the nightclub 
Love the yellow they incorporated into this Quasar and love that carpet, so fun!
On the weekend sailing Kenny G. was onboard and performed a concert in the atrium Saturday night.  Check out my crappy BlackBerry pictures.  

I didn't have my camera with me because I thought "Why do I need a picture of Kenny G", but then got caught up in the excitement I just had to have a picture.
He sounded truly amazing! 
The ship was piping the music from the concert through to the other venues onboard (lounges, restaurants, etc.).  I was having dinner with some co-workers at the creperie and it was really nice to be able to hear the music from the concert! 
Kenny G. even performed the theme from "Titanic", which sounded beautiful. 
Before he played that song he told the crowd "You'll think this song is so appropriate or really, really, really inappropriate" :) 

As the ship returned to NY harbor on Sunday morning, we went under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  You know, the bridge that is Mile 1 of a certain marathon.  I could see the flood lights on Staten Island which I can only imagine was for the Athlete's Village.

Just ignore all the salt on my stateroom window!
A fun, useless fact... I have visited the Verrazano Family winery in Tuscany and they have a piece of steel from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  Somewhere on that Bridge is a piece of rock (or stone) from the winery in Italy.

Beautiful morning in Manhattan
It is nice to have a little break from the office.  Spending 5 days working on a cruise ship is always ok in my book! 
This fall has been a little hectic with travel and there may be one more trip in my near future... as in tomorrow.  I find out today for sure and then I will let you know!