Race Review: Celtic Solstice 5 Miler

Hey guys!  As you know back in December, I ran the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler in Baltimore. I posted the recap but now it’s time for the race review to see if it’s right for you! I judge races based on 5 categories; atmosphere, course, post race party, race swag, and logistics.  To read more about my rating system, check out my Race Reviews/Recaps page. Five medals is the highest rating a category can receive while one medal is the lowest. So what did I think about the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler?

Atmosphere

If you want to run a holiday-themed race, this is definitely the race for you!  Most people dress up in costumes or other festive gear that will surely get you in the holiday spirit. I would say people generally run this one for fun and run it with a group of friends. Not to say that you can’t go and compete, but if you do show up to compete, be sure to line up at the very front at the start line. There are not corrals at the start and everyone just kind of squeezes in at the last second before the gun.  The Irish Wolfhounds and bagpipes make this race even more festive and fun!

Course

The course itself is just okay. I wouldn’t say it was very scenic and pretty. There are quirky Baltimorean things you run by such as weird gazebos and a random graveyard by the tennis courts. At least it keeps it somewhat interesting? LOL! The course is hilly and challenging but I like that because it keeps you honest. I also like that you are always around people but it does not feel crowded.  I get my energy from others around me so I am not a fan of races where you are alone for a portion of the course.

Post Race Party

If I could give the post race party 6 medals I would!  The post race party is the reason I come back year after year.  Admittedly, I do not like to drink beer after a run. So races that offer that as their selling point do not appeal to me. But mulled wine after a blustery run? Perfection! After I cross the finish line I head right to the warm tent and grab a cup of mulled wine.  Then quickly head over the the table with all those yummy Italian cookies! It’s always nice to just hang out and relax after a race and I love listening to the bands at the after party. If you like a good post race party, this is definitely the race for you!

Race Swag

What I like about this race is you have the choice to opt out of the race premium, therefore saving money on race registration.  I don’t know about you, but in December my wallet is feeling a bit tighter than usual from buying presents. This year I chose to opt out but in previous years I have received the premium. Registration without the premium  is around $40 and registration with the premium is around $75. The value of the premium is about $65 (give or take) so the value is there.  It just depends if you want to spend the money or not. The previous year the premium was a very nice Brooks quarter zip long sleeve shirt that I wear often.

Logistics

When you have a lot of runners driving to a public park on the weekend with limited parking, there’s bound to be some chaos. I remember one year we were sitting on the off-ramp for 30 minutes to get to the start line. Another year they had to delay the start because a gate was stuck and prevented runners from getting to the start line.  This year we were turned around several times because random access roads were closed or the parking area was full. But honestly, my running partner and I expect this now so we do not panic or stress. Plus we are only running this for fun so we aren’t worried about getting to the starting area early. Even though the logistics aren’t the best, it won’t deter me from doing this race. The race organizer isn’t at fault and they really try their best to make it less stressful. I just think the race has grown in popularity and cannot handle the venue.

Overall

I really like this race and if there is a year when I cannot participate I’m definitely sad. If you are looking for a fun holiday-themed race with a great after party, then you must sign up for this one!

So tell me, have you run a holiday-themed race? If so, which one?

 

 

What I’m Feelin’ Friday #8

We did it!!  We made it to Friday!! It’s been a long week but luckily I have Monday off to relax and work on blog stuff.  This weekend I plan to run 5 or 6 miles, have dinner with my family, get my hair done, and relax a bit. I am so ready!

So let’s jump right into it! Here is what I am feelin’ this week.

#1- Up and Vanished Podcast

Oh.my.God. this podcast is amazing!! It’s very similar to the Serial podcast. In Up and Vanished, the host Payne Lindsey is trying to solve a 12 year old cold case of Tara Grinstead, a beauty queen from Georgia who went missing. I binged on this the entire week on my commute to and from work. The twists and turns in this crazy are so crazy. Almost like something straight out of a movie but it’s real life. Note: I do not recommend you this to this before you go to bed or before running on a trail in the woods.

#2 Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce

I may be late to the game on this one, but this marinara sauce is the best pre-made stuff I have ever had. I really wanted to like the Wegman’s sauces but they all taste kind of weird to me. I was so hesitant to buy Rao’s considering it’s around $7 for a jar, but it is 100% worth it.  The other week I made this crockpot lasagna with the Rao’s sauce and it rocked my world. Definitely will be making this dish again!

#3 Gone for a Run “Running Knit Hat – BOSTON 26.2”

I saw this knit hat back in December and knew I had to have it! I absolutely love the Boston Marathon as well as the city of Boston and wanted to show some love! Around the top of the hat it has all the towns you run through on the Boston Marathon course (Natick, Hopkinton, Brookline, Boylston Street, etc.) and on the cuff it says “BOS 26.2”. This hat is very warm and extremely well made. And for $20 I thought it was a steal! #BostonStrong baby!

And that’s all! Hope you have a relaxing weekend!! So tell me, what are you feelin’?

What I’m Feelin’ Friday #6

We made it!!!!!! Happy Friday gang! The Baltimore-area has seen snow this past week and I am loving it! Yesterday morning I woke up to a light blanket of snow. A lot of people say running in autumn is their favorite time of year to run but for me? It’s hands down running in the snow. The world seems so peaceful and quiet, even if it’s only for a little while. And the crunching of the snow under your feet? It’s magic!

It’s been a CRAZY week with little time to relax. So I have only 1 new thing I am feelin’ this Friday. I caught this gem yesterday and it had me cracking up! I may have watched it several times by now. 😛

I seriously love all the Bad Lip Reading videos! It’s a compilation of scenes from movies, TV shows, sporting events, etc. and they record their own audio as if they were trying to lip read what is actually being said. So frickin’ clever! I first saw the NFL Bad Lip Reading, but also discovered Game of Thrones, political events, and more pop-culture videos.

Enjoy!!!

So tell me, what are you feeling this Friday? 

Napa, CA Trip Day 4, Part 2: The French Laundry

Missed the previous 3.5 days? You can check out day 1 here, day 2 here, day 3 here, and day 4: part 1 here.

After our tasting at Robert Sinskey Vineyards, we ended our Napa trip on a high note with lunch at The French Laundry. The French Laundry is a three-starred Michelin restaurant from Chef Thomas Keller. It’s known for not only high quality, delicious french food but impeccable hospitality. I’ll be honest with you guys, I was nervous it was going to be a stuffy environment. I was sooooo wrong on that one. I literally wanted to be BFFS with everyone there by the time our meal was over.

NOTE: I am no way a professional food critic, so I will use very descriptive words such as “delicious” 🙂 I am just a girl who loves to eat!

We arrived at The French Laundry around 11:45 am for lunch. I would have never known this was the restaurant if Greg didn’t point it out to me a few days before. How cute is this blue door and courtyard?!

After we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by a friendly hostess and were promptly seated next to a window with a view into the wine cellar. I need one of these in my house…or maybe not because I’d never leave 😛

We started off with cornets and crackers that were delicious. Also, I’m a sucker for presentation.

A few moments after we finished, our plates were cleared and up next was the “Oysters and Pearls”, a “sabayon” of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and Regiis Ova White Sturgeon Caviar. This dish definitely set the tone for the day with it’s powerful, distinct, and rich flavors. I can still taste the oysters. *drool*

After polishing off that bad boy, it was onto the Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras “Terrine”, made with white wine poached Bartlett Pears, Sicilian Pistachios, Toasted Oats and Black Winter truffle puree.

Then it was onto Slow Cooked fillet of Wild Scottish Sea Trout, with a “ragout” of vidalia onions, Candy Roaster squash, Celery Root and Sweet Curry “Bouillon”.

OMG talk about fresh! That trout was amazing! After savoring the fish, we moved onto the Sweet butter Poached Stonington Maine Lobster, garden carrots, young coconut puree and arrowleaf spinach salad. This was my second favorite dish we had at The French Laundry.

Then it was onto some bread! YASS!! Next up we had “Bread and Butter”, aka “Parker House Roll” and Diane St. Clair’s Animal Farm Butter. Again, I’m a sucker for presentation. That butter is what dreams are made of!

And then (yep there’s more…) it was onto my absolute favorite dish that I have ever had in my entire life, “Carnanoli Risotto Biologico”, Castelmagno Cheese, Browned Butter, and Shaved White Truffles from Alba. Talk about decadent and rich!

I probably could have stopped here and died happy but no, we still had more dishes to go! Next up, “Chateaubriand” of Marcho Farms Nature Fed Veal, with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Musque de Provence pumpkin, crispy sage leaves and sauce “bordelaise”.

And then before dessert (remember there’s always room for dessert!) we had the Charcoal Grilled Japanese Wagyu, with “Ris de Veau” slow cooked La Ratte Potatoes, Preserved Green Cabbage and “sauce Raifort”.

And then, a mountain of desserts came at us! Macaroons, Coffee Semifreddo and donuts, real life coffee that rocked my world, and the best of all? They came out with a wooden box of chocolate truffles and you could pick whatever you wanted!!  Mind = blown!!

After we said our goodbyes to the wait staff, we lethargically walked out of the restaurant and took some pictures of the kitchen. I waved at them and they waved back. Yay!

Also, this picture of me cracks me up!  Why did I not just move 1 step to my right to get out of the sun?! I blame the wine.  😉

Some key take-aways:

  1. Soooo glad we did lunch. The whole event lasted about 3 hours and if we would have went for dinner, I would have been asleep by the 4th dish. #jetlag
  2. The timing of the dishes was perfect. We never felt rushed and we had enough time to enjoy conversation and drink the wine.
  3. It was 100% worth the money. This food was on a whole other level of delicious. I have never had anything so good and fresh in my life. Plus the service was fun and top-notch.
  4. You may want to use Uber after you have had so much food….and wine 😉

That wraps up our Napa trip!  Greg and I 100% agreed that this trip was one of the bests we have taken to Napa.  The itinerary was nicely timed without ever feeling rushed and we got to see different areas of Napa Valley and Sonoma. We can’t wait to go back!

What I’m Feelin’ Friday #5

Hey hey we made it to Friday!!!! How was everyone’s week? I’ve been busy checking off my Christmas list which is soooo nice! This Friday I am not following a theme. We will just say it’s overall health and wellness 😉 Here we go!

#1 Athleta

Image result for athleta logo

I am OBSESSED with Athleta apparel. Every time I am browsing online or in the store I want to buy all the things! It is a bit pricey, but after experiencing the quality, comfort, and cuteness of their clothes, the sticker shock wore off. This stuff lasts forever and fits so nicely. I went to Fabletics yesterday just to try on their stuff out of curiosity. Yeahhhhh let’s just say I won’t be back. Any way, when I went to Athleta yesterday, I was on a mission to find some cardigans/wraps for lounging, running errands, etc. Well I scored and found 2 cardigans (the Luxe Pose Wrap and Pranayama Wrap) that are crazy soft. Use this code for 20% off one regular priced item. I am wearing one now. I can safely say it’s good for blogging activities 😛

#2 Williams Sonoma Hot Chocolate

If you’re still drinking powdered hot chocolate, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Do yourself a huge favor and get the Williams Sonoma Hot Chocolate ASAP! It’s not the holidays without this stuff. It’s rich and velvety and basically what dreams are made of. I plan on having a cup (or two!) by the fire this weekend with a book. I can’t wait 🙂

#3 Native Deodorant

I have been searching for a GOOD natural deodorant for awhile. I have been using your typical Secret deodorant and I always felt a burning sensation and occasionally an odd bump in my armpit. Yikes! I was trying other natural deodorants but they either didn’t work or had to be applied by hand. No thank you! Enter Native Deodorant (<—-referral link) . I found this product through another blog and after reading up on it, purchased it immediately. I love how smooth and soothing it is, as well as the yummy smells. Oh, AND it works!

So tell me, what are you feelin’ this week? Leave a comment by clicking the Comment link just below the blog post title 🙂

 

Napa, CA Trip Day 3: Road Trip to the Sonoma Coast

Happy Monday!  Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend! I took a quick break from blogging to spend time with family and friends. Now back to it! Today we are continuing on with a day-by-day recap of my Napa, CA trip. Day 3 was a fun road trip from Napa to Healdsburg then down through the Sonoma Coast.

Missed the previous 2 days? You can check out day 1 here and day 2 here.

We woke up early to hit the road first thing since we had a long but fun day ahead of us. Luckily, the enormous amount of food we have been eating up until this point had us still full in the morning, so we were able to delay breakfast until we got to our destination. We drove through some of the most beautiful scenery on the way to Healdsburg.

Unfortunately we did drive through some areas that had been affected by the wildfires. I cannot even fathom the thoughts that were going through the minds of those who had to be evacuated. You could still smell the smoke as you drove through some of these areas.

After about an hour and 15 minutes of driving, we made it to Healdsburg. A small town known for its quaint shops and town square. Greg and I grabbed a quick breakfast and walked around and stopped at all the little shops. Fideaux, a boutique pet shop, in particular caught my eye because I was missing my dog Tadd. Definitely stop into this shop because they have the cutest dog and cat stuff you have ever seen! Since Tadd is the most destructive beagle ever, I opted for a stuffed turkey that was literally stitched so tightly that you couldn’t even squeeze it. The turkey only lasted a week haha! But it’s still around, minus the stuffing (get it!?).

The wing on the side cracks me up!

After some exploring around the square, it was time for our tasting with Ernest Vineyards at Grand Cru Custom Crush in Windsor, CA. As Greg and I  pulled up to the building we were awestruck by it’s cool modern design.  I’m a sucker for garage doors at breweries and wineries 🙂

Erin, one of the co-founders of Ernest Vineyards, and Nicole, the Hospitality Manager (I may be wrong on that title but I think it sounds pretty baller) rushed out to greet us and handed both of us a glass of Chardonnay. How’s that for a welcome?! They gave us the grand tour of the production facility and explained the various processes used to produce wine.

Then it was time to taste!  I absolutely loved the art on the labels and the story behind each wine name. My favorite in particular was “The Wrangler” named after Erin’s Great Aunt “Dude”, an honoree in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and all around bad ass woman.

After sharing some fun stories and great wine, it was time to say goodbye to Erin and Nicole 🙁 From there we hopped in the car and headed to Santa Rosa to make a quick beer stop at Russian River Brewing Company, famous for it’s Pliny the Elder beer. Definitely one of my favorite beers. After relaxing and rehashing how great our trip has been so far, it was time to head back to Yountville for dinner at Adhoc.

Adhoc has a set menu each night and serves the meal family style. Our menu that night was garden squash soup, a fresh garden salad with watermelon radishes and mustard vinaigrette, and steak with cheddar and pepper grits, and cabbage. So. Freaking. Good! I literally could have eaten 10 ponds of that steak. Perfectly cooked and just the right amount of seasoning.

So guess what we did after that? Went back to the hotel and fell asleep. Hard.

That’s a wrap for day 3!  Stay tuned for a recap of our final day, day 4, in Napa that concludes with the most mind blowing experience at the French Laundry. Be forewarned, don’t read the post while hungry 😛

Napa, CA Trip Day 1: Fried Chicken, a French Chateau, and Mustard’s

Hey gang! My boyfriend and I just got back from a few days in Napa Valley and it was AMAZING. We had our trip planned prior to the wildfires that happened and were debating on cancelling.  But we reeaallyy had our hearts set on a Napa trip so instead reached out to the wineries to see if they were open. Every winery we wanted to visit was open and they encouraged us to come out. You don’t have to tell us twice!  It was awesome to go out and support an industry that we love so much! 😉

The 4 days we spent there were action-packed!  So over the next few days, I’ll publish a post for each day we spent in Napa 🙂

Day 1:

We took an early flight from the east coast and landed in San Francisco around 10 am local time. While planning our trip, we decided to rent a car to make it easier to get around since we had plans to visit all the areas of Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast. First up on the agenda? Fried Chicken Sandwiches at Fremont Diner in Sonoma.

Feel free to stare at the picture above and wonder at the glory of this sandwich. This was some of the best fried chicken I have ever had and it came with a side of collard greens. This is what dreams are made of. And I definitely had to eat a heavier meal before I started drinking…. or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Next stop, just a short drive away, was Domaine Carneros for a sparking wine tasting. I have to be 100% honest here. I got hung up on the fact that the building was a french-style chateau. The wine? Meh. The thing I enjoyed the most (other than spending time with my boyfriend obvi) was the funny birds that hung out on the patio. They would wait until someone got up from their table and immediately  drop in and take the leftovers haha.

After enjoying the show from the birds, we headed to our hotel in Napa and relaxed. We had some time to kill before dinner, so we decided to head over to Oxbow Public Market in Downtown Napa.  Our main goal was to visit Whole Spice, a freshly ground, high quality seasoning boutique that has amazing blends.

Photo Credit: www.wholespice.com

I spent entirely too much time tasting salt there haha. I did manage to find the best cinnamon I have ever had in my life. After increasing my blood pressure from the extreme salt intake, it was time to increase it even more with dinner at Mustard’s. At this point, the jet lag was hitting us pretty hard but we powered through with some moscow mules 🙂

For dinner I ordered the lemon and garlic chicken which was perfectly cooked and seasoned. I would HIGHLY recommend Mustard’s for a simple, yet comforting dinner.

That’s it for day 1!  Stay tuned over the next week as I post a recap from each day of our Napa trip!

Tell me, have you been to Napa before? If so, what was your favorite place to visit?

What I’m Feelin’ Friday #2

Alright alright alright 😉 Time for another what I’m feelin’ Friday!  Hope everyone’s week was awesome! By the time this post publishes I’ll be coming home from Napa so stay tuned for some travel posts. 🙂

This Friday it’s all about rest and relaxation. Rest usually falls by the wayside when I’m trying to do all the things that’ll help me reach my running goals. So I strategically have to plan rest and I do that by having things around that force me to chillax. Let’s jump right into it shall we?

#1 The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls may be my favorite book ever. And I read A LOT. Talk about a page turner!  I could not wait to get into bed early to read this one.  It’s a memoir about the author’s unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing but is told with a lighthearted, funny spin. This book was one shock factor after another. Be sure to curl up after a long run with this one!

#2 Wicked Plush Throw from L.L. Bean

I don’t know what happened, but when I turned 30 I became OBSESSED with L.L. Bean.  I remember getting the catalog in my 20’s and thinking, “who the heck would buy this boring crap?” Oh how foolish we are in our 20’s.  I absolutely LOVE curling up with this blanket and watching TV by the fire.  It’s incredibly soft, large, and VERY warm! Even my dog Tadd loves it 🙂

#3 Massages

I have been getting massages for years now. I 100% credit them with keeping me injury free for the past few years. I have aches and pains here and there, but when I get a massage and ask for extra work on a specific spot, it definitely makes it better. I highly suggest you read this article from www.strengthrunning.com for more information such as when to get a massage and other options if it isn’t in your budget.

Alright gang, what are YOU feeling this Friday? Do any of you have to schedule rest?

Girls Trip to Santa Barbara, CA: Day 1

Hey gang!  Hope everyone had a fun fourth with tons of food, beer, wine, and running 😉 My cousin and I planned a girls trip to Santa Barbara this year as a way to de-stress and get our toes in the sand!  We spent a total of 4 days, 3 nights there which was plenty of time to relax and take it all in. We stayed at the BEAUTIFUL Santa Barbara Inn and we cannot say enough good things about it!

Santa Barbara Inn Lobby

We got to the hotel around 2:30 pm and around 2:31 pm, we hit the beach! It was literally right across the street from our hotel.

Santa Barbara Inn

After a few hours on the beach, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. Our hotel had a really nice restaurant called Convivo with decent happy hour that had $5 glasses on wine. I can’t even spell “no” to that! My cousin and I, being the gracious and refined ladies we are, casually strolled up to the bar in our beach gear and covered in sand, ordered our drinks “to-go” and sipped our sparking rose as we got ready in our room. Cheers to that!

For dinner, we headed to The Lark, located in a cool area of town called The Funk Zone. We started the night off with the best brussel sprouts I have ever had! They were made with dates, fish sauce, and lime.  Don’t knock it ’til you try it!

After the sprouts, we must have still been hungry because we devoured our food without taking pictures hahaha.  I cannot say enough good things about The Lark!

After dinner, we decided to walk around and explore State Street, the main strip for a bit.  The weather was perfect, dare I say a bit chilly! We walked off our meals, took note of some cool places to check out on State Street, and walked back to our hotel. Ready to rest up for day 2 of our adventure!

So tell me, have you been to Santa Barbara? Any vacations planned this summer?