TRI Something New

Cycling is something I have always wanted to do in addition to running for a few reasons:

1.       I have been inspired by triathletes while volunteering for Ironman Races in Louisville and Panama City Beach.

2.       Attending Spin Class at the Southeast YMCA, under the instruction of Paul and alongside wonderful people like Steve increased my passion to want to cycle.

3.       Knowing several cyclists who love the sport because they can no longer run based on sports related injuries.

4.       To have longevity as an athlete with a sport that is less damaging to my body compared to the continuous pounding of running.

Over the past few years, I never got into the excitement of getting a bike until I was guided by someone, who is deep into the sport of triathlons.  I picked out a 2018 Trek Émonda ALR 4 in California Sky Blue. 

Trek Emonda ALR 4 2018

Getting a proper fitting at Scheller’s Fitness & Cycling in Clarksville, Indiana.

My pedals were originally the type where I could have the option of clipping in or wearing a regular shoe.  It was odd for me to have to purchase pedals in the first place.  That is like buying a running shoe without laces.

After practicing clipping in and out in the grass and eventually pavement, it was determined that I need the straight clip in pedal that would be easier.  I remember riding for blocks and being frustrated about not finding my left clip.  The new pedals are much easier.

My second official ride was with a women’s only group in Louisville.  It was my first time on a group ride, and I was very uncomfortable with being on busy streets and clipped in while the other women were in sandals and sundresses.  It turns out that the group is more of a social club that will bike 5 miles to a bar, drink, and bike another 5 miles to the next bar.

It was a total waste of my new, and only cycle kit.  A cycle kit is the jersey with pockets and shorts with padding.  I never knew all of this until now.  Running gear is so much easier, and less expensive!

Anyway, after the first bar stop I knew there was no way I was drinking and cycling all while having two foster kids at home and having to be up at 4:30 a.m. to run.  I ended up riding back to Tyler Park alone via Bardstown Road in the Highlands.  Thankfully, I purchased lights, so I was more visible as the sun set.

I ended up falling twice because I was unable to clip out when I needed to.  I scrambled to get up the first time because there were a lot of people around.  The 2nd time was on a residential street as I was trying to go up a hill.  I cried out of frustration, but I made it to my car and home to treat my bruises and scrapes.

At this point, I learned about the Louisville Bike Club and options for various distances and experience levels.  My next opportunity to ride and gain some experience was on Labor Day weekend. I did a 9.5-mile ride in just over 40 minutes.  That is slow in the cycling world, but it took me a few miles to feel comfortable around a bunch of bikes. 

Louisville Mayors Hike Bike Paddle

I considered the Hike, Bike and Paddle as training for the Oldham County Parks and Recreation Sprint Triathlon on September 9th.  After making this investment, I want to dive into the sport and not let my bike collect dust.

Kelsie Smoot Hike Bike Paddle Louisville

I hate that my running shirts are not the same for cycling. 

The last time I swam laps was during spring break down in Lakeland, FL.  The distance for this swim was only 400 meters, so I wasn’t worried too much.  I still run at least four days a week, so I was unbothered by a 1.86-mile course.  

My greatest fear was the bike portion.  I watched transition videos on You Tube and mentally prepared for the transitions during my meditative runs.  Ironman volunteering also helped prepare me.

I arrived in Oldham County at the crack of dawn to set up the transition area.  Athletes were complaining about how cold the water was.  The air temperature was about 52° and the water was around 58°.  

Everyone was making their comments on how long its been since they’ve raced and how poorly they expected to perform.  I had to focus on my race and not the things beyond my control.

Beginner Triathlon Transition

Meticulously planned transition area.

 Due to a late race registration, I was one of the last athletes to start.  I saw several people get into the pool and get out due to the frigid temperature.  I was determined to swim those laps regardless.  I didn’t come this far to quit before I began.

When they called my name on deck and said to get in, I was like “WOW!”  The water was cold!  When I began my freestyle, it was a brain freeze.  It took four laps for me to block out the shock.  I could feel my triceps engaging as a reminder of what 5 months without lap swimming feels like.

Oldham Country Sprint Triathlon 400m Swim

We started on the far right about 1 minute apart.  Swim down and back, go under the rope to the next lane, and repeat for all lanes.

Getting out of the pool was almost as bad as being in it.  I took off my swim cap and goggles as I ran to T1.  I put on my helmet, cycle socks, shoes, gloves, glasses, and half a GU and walked my bike towards the mounting area.

Again, I was freezing cold as I faced winds in a wet tri suit.  I saw several people with jackets and immediately regretted not having one.  I felt comfortable with the clips.  My deal with cycling is knowing the mechanics of the gears and brakes.  I did good for the first few miles and passed several people.

Oldham County Sprint Triathlon 10 mile bike

Mounting area for the 10 mile cycle portion.

 

I was in a heavy gear and was not able to gear down as I hit a steep hill.  The pedal was too heavy.  I was losing control.  I unclipped my left foot and laid the bike down, because it was tilting over with or without me.  I attempted to get back on, but it was still in the heavy gear.  I said screw it and walked the bike up the hill. 

Again, I wanted to cry but I knew I had to stay focused.  It was my race, and I was going to finish.  I lost at least 10-15 minutes walking in the grass so I would not damage my shoes.  The same people I passed were going by and asking did I need assistance and if I was OK.  That just made me even more upset.  I wanted to have a meltdown.

Finally, I reached the top of the hill and clipped back in.  The course was open to traffic in a rural area.  There was traffic behind me I thought, “Why don’t they just go around me?”  It turned out to be a truck with a trailer and he needed enough clearance to pass.  The situation was nerve-racking.

I gained some confidence after the turnaround.  I did good on the flats and passed the same people again.  My core was engaged, so I knew I was doing something right.  

On mile 8 of 10, I hit another snag.  My gears were stuck in a super easy mode.  I felt like Ice Cream Jones from the cereal commercial.  I said forget it.  I was not fooling with the gears.  It would be stuck on easy for the last two miles.

T2- I had to change from the men’s church socks cycle socks to my running socks, and out of the Bontrager circuit shoes to my Brooks Glycerin.  A volunteer was encouraging me and suggested I use a bucket to sit on next time.  I also got a compliment on matching my gear with my bike which was VERY intentional.

Oldham County Sprint Triathlon 1.86 Mile run

Finally made it to the run.

 It felt so good to be on solid ground for the run.  It took a moment for my quads to adjust.  Although the run portion was a short 1.86 miles, it was similar to a cross country course.  It was pavement, gravel, and grass with a lot of turns and minor inclines.  One guy said, “I see you made it off that hill,” referring to my bike portion.  I told him I didn’t have a choice and passed him as he struggled on the run.

Results-

Overall Place: 63/99

Gender Place: 6/8

Swim Time (400m):  9:10.3, Rank 3/8

T1:  2:35.4 (4th fastest of my age group)

Bike Time (10 miles):  47:42.2, Rank 6/8

T2:  2:00.1 (slowest out of my age group)

Run Time (1.86 miles):  15:34.7, Rank 1/8

Oldham County Sprint Triathlon Shirt and medal

Gender specific shirt and finisher medals for all finishers.

 Clearly, I had the edge on the run, and the swim was good for me not having any training.  If I would have not lost so much time on the bike, my 6th place would have easily been a 2nd place age group award.

The only accomplishment I felt was completing my first triathlon.  I felt nothing physically because I did not give full effort on any portion.  Most triathletes say swimming or running are their toughest areas.  Those are both the easiest for me, especially swimming.  I am confident that once I master my bike, I will be winning medals.  This is just the beginning.    

Kelsie Smoot Triathlete

Why be great at one sport, when you can be good at 3?

♡KelsieLou♡

Posted in Cycling, fitness, health, Louisville, running, Sports, triathlons | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas Review

Great Stirrup Cay (GSC) is a privately owned island by Norwegian Cruise Lines in the Bahamas. As much as I wanted to visit a beach in Cuba, there were too many historic and cultural elements to experience there.  Besides, the final day of the Sky cruise would be spent on GSC from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas

Cruisers had to get tender passes for a short ride to the piers.  Unlike Havana where I was able to work around the excursion prices, everything for GSC must be booked through the ship.  I wanted to go kayaking and jet skiing, but the remaining times overlapped.  I reserved the wave runner excursion for $99 for single riders and $139 for double.  The ticket was delivered to my room early in the morning and also served as my pass to board the tender.

The group of Quinceañera girls were organized in their own activity.  They were well behaved and at no time did it feel like the large group was taking over the island.

GSC Bahamas NCL

The Norwegian Sky has an open bar concept that carried onto the island.  There was food set up for lunch.  Bring along some cash to purchase souvenirs.  The t-shirts with the beads were very reasonable.  Havana had way better deals on clay, jewelry, and wood work items so pass on those.

Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas Open Bar

The Sky offers reservations of clam shell cabanas.  I do not recommend paying and extra $35 for a rental because there are plenty of lounge chairs available in shaded spots.

Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas beach chairs

The space around the bars were the most crowded, but not to the point where you could not find a beach chair.  For more privacy, walk towards the left. 

Great Stirrup Cay Beach left side

The water temperature was warm and very clear.  Several fish swam around me.  I did not like the sand texture.  It was rough and a sure way to ruin a pedicure.

Sand texture at great stirrup cay

I went to the meeting place for the wave runner excursion.  We watched a quick safety video.  I met some cool people who turned out to be marathon runners also. 

We rode the jet skis around Berry Islands for a good hour. 

We stopped at an area known for starfish. 

wave runner bahamaskelsie smoot Norwegian Cruise Wave Runner Excursion

The guides allowed us to jump off the wave runners and swim for about 20 minutes.  I had a ball!  Its moments like these where I pause to thank God for everything!!

Starfish Great stirrup cay

I had about an hour to relax at the beach before catching the last tender to the ship. 

NCL tender to great stirrup cay

GSC exceeded my expectations and the open bar and lunch made it even better. 

Kelsie Smoot Bahamas

 

 

Posted in landmarks, running, Travel | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Havana, Cuba Day 2

For our second and final day in Havana, Cuba via a four day cruise aboard the Norwegian Sky out of Miami, I booked a private tour using I LOVE CUBA TOURS.  My person of contact was Yosel Vazquez, and his tour company is ranked #1 on Trip Advisor. 

I explained how I wanted a 5 hour tour that did not involve a lot of walking for my Mom.  The cost was 150 CUC for the two of us.  The ship excursions could not touch this itinerary.  Their most comprehensive tour was $299/person and they did not cover nearly as much as what I LOVE CUBA TOURS had to offer.   

San Francisco Square havana cuba

Only a few steps from sinners to saints.  Slaves were sold in the tan building behind the tree with the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi to the left.

The meeting place was the fountain in San Francisco Square which is across the street from the cruise terminal.  Mom and I arrived about 30 minutes early to make sure we did not miss our reservation. 

I purchased a hand painted fan from a lady who was hustling to sell her quota for the day.  She asked my Mom and I for our water bottles for her kids to use in school.  I told her she could have mine when I went back on the ship.  Unfortunately, it slipped my mind, and I didn’t make good on my promise.  The lady was claiming my Mom as her Madre and showing major love to us Americans.

I still had a few minutes to spare, so I strolled through the Mother of Teresa of Calcutta Garden.  A Greek Orthodox Church is located at the end of the garden.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta Garden Havana

Basilica San Francisco Havana

We drove off in a mint condition vintage car along the Malecón heading west towards Fusterlandia.  It was a relief to have a car with air conditioning.  We went through an area called Miramar that was more upscale compared to Old Havana.  The boulevard was called 5th Avenue.  There were sports fields for baseball and a large carnival area for children.

Another view of Hotel Nacional, Riveria Hotel built by a mobster wanting to copy what he saw in Las Vegas, Homes in Miramar area, Jesus de Miramar Church on 5th Ave.

Fusterlandia is an area created by Cuban artist, José Rodríguez Fuster.  He used his artistic abilities to express his creativeness around his home with tiles.  Eventually, his designs spread throughout the neighborhood and took on part of his name to become Fusterlandia.  Fuster lives in the same house and can sometimes be seen working outside.

Fusterlandia CubaJosé Rodríguez Fuster ArtworkFusterlandia ArtworkFusterlandia ArtJose Fuster ArtistJose Fuster Fusterlandia

On 54 hectares, or 133 acres is a lush area called Parque Almendares along the Almendares River.  The park is commonly called the Havana Forest.  It is a nice place in the city to get away from the pollution, and to take a break from the UV rays.

Vintage Cars Havana Cuba Forest

The Havana Forest is a popular area for Santería rituals and sacrifices.  The African slaves brought the Santería religious practices with them.  Santería initiates have to wear all white for a year.  The Almendares River bank is littered with bags, feathers, chicken bones and various animal parts.

Santeria Ritual Havana Cuba Forest

In addition to the spiritual atmosphere, the Havana Forest is a popular area for quinceanera photos.

Kelsie Smoot Havana Cuba Forest

Why not flaunt forty in the forest?

 

We passed the Christopher Columbus Cemetery (Cemetario de Colon) on our way to Revolution Plaza.

Christopher Columbus Cemetery Cuba

Our guide spent a lot of time talking about the historical significance of Plaza de la Revolución.  There were a lot of famous speeches and marches held at this site.  Nearly a million Cubans came out for mass with Pope Jean Paul II in 1998.

Revolution Square Havana Cuba

We had a 45 minute drive to Ernest Hemingway’s home.  I was realizing just how large Havana is along with what 2.2 million people in one city looks like.  There are 11 million people on the Caribbean’s largest island.

All of the major roads had people out like what NYC Time Square looks like, except they were not tourists.  Also, the schedule is different from the U.S. where we work straight through the day.  Cubans take a break from work and school to go home or out for lunch and return to finish the second part of the day.

Bank in Havana Cuba

Cubans in line for banking.

Coliseo de la Ciudad Deportiva

Coliseo de la Ciudad Deportiva.  This sports arena hosted the Rolling Stones concert in 2016 which drew in crowds of 500,000 people.

The next stop was Ernest Hemingway’s home in Cuba.

Finca VigíaErnest Heminingway Home Cuba

Ernest Hemingway Bathroom Cuba

Hemingway recorded his weight on the bathroom wall.

Ernest Hemingway Writing towerErnest Hemingway fishing boat Pilar key west

The estate also has a swimming pool, an area where Hemingway would have cock fighting, tennis courts, gardens and almond trees.

Kelsie Smoot in Cuba

Walking in paradise.

We used up every minute until it was time to board the Norwegian Sky.  I wanted to spend the rest of my CUC at the market.

Almacenes San José Artisans' Market

I would love to visit Cuba again.  I advise anyone who is thinking about going to watch The Cuba Libra Story on Netflix.  Everyone was on the ship’s decks to watch Havana, Cuba fade towards the sea.  I am blessed to have experienced another amazing country with beautiful people.

Havana HarborKelsieLou

Posted in Art, landmarks, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Havana, Cuba Day 1

I was up at 5 a.m. like other eager passengers to see a slow, cruising view of Havana, Cuba.  Some people were very emotional as this was their first time seeing their families and native land in a long time.  My first impression was how large and densely populated the island is compared to other countries I have visited in the Caribbean.  The second thing I noticed was how old the infrastructure was with a lack of environmental controls for the pollution. 

I was up at 5 a.m. like other eager passengers to see a slow, cruising view of Havana, Cuba.  Some people were very emotional as this was their first time seeing their families and native land in a long time.  My first impression was how large and densely populated the island is compared to other countries I have visited in the Caribbean.  The second thing I noticed was how old the infrastructure was with a lack of environmental controls for the pollution. 

Havana Harbor

There was a buzzing sound from an airplane which kept circling the area.  When we arrived to the Havana Harbor, along the port side of the ship was a view of the Fort of Saint Charles.  Not too far from the Fort is giant sculpture of Jesus.

Morro Castle Havana Jesus

We were not in a rush to disembark because we booked a private tour for our 2nd day in Havana.  The 4th of July was supposed to be a free day to roam on our own.  We went through the immigration process which involved handing over our travel visas which were obtained through Norwegian Cruise Lines in advance.  We had to show our passports and walked through to customs.  Customs was a simple metal detector screening before approaching the money exchange area.  The whole process took about 30 minutes.

Havana, Cuba customs and immigration

There are some establishments that accept U.S. currency, but I played it safe and ordered Canadian Dollars.  The reason for Canadian over USD is because the exchange rate from CAD to CUC is a better deal than USD to CUC due to an extra 10% tax on USD imposed by Castro in 2004.  Another option is to order Euros to exchange to CUC.  After careful calculations, I determined CAD gave me the best exchange. 

Havana Cuba money exchange rates CUC

I did not have enough time to gather as many tourist tips as I normally would for a new travel destination, however, I read that toilette paper is not to be expected as it is in the U.S.  I was well prepared with my own stash.  It is also very important to bring hand sanitizer because most of the sinks did not have running water, not to mention soap for cleansing.

What my Mom and I planned as a walking tour quickly changed when we were approached by some gentlemen offering horse carriage tours from the main square across from the cruise terminal.  We were quoted a price of 45 CUC per hour for the two of us.  Our guide was highly energetic and assured us that this was a tour of “the real life in Havana.” 

Havana Horse & Carriage City Tour

Our guide spoke fluent English that he attributed to working in Jamaica for some time.  He explained how a lot of Cubans learn English from picking up radio stations out of Miami.  In order to strive in tourism and being a vendor, speaking English is a necessity. 

The excitement of being in Cuba was a slight distraction from the heat and humidity.  I did not expect anything different with it being July.  We carried filtered water from the ship to stay hydrated.

Our buggy took off and we made our way through the streets of Old Havana.  The guide made us feel like family and gave us so many photo ops.  I ended up with nearly a 1,000 photos making this one of the most time-consuming posts I have ever composed for this blog.   

Old Havana Cuba Photos

Old Havana Cuba

Old Havana

After going through the narrow streets and getting a first-hand take on life in Old Havana, we went to Central Park.  It was nice to be in a shaded area and take in the Spanish architecture and vintage cars.

Havana Central Park

The Great Theatre of Havana, Jose Marti Statue, National Museum of Fine Arts.

 

 

Havana, Cuba vintage Cars

One person I found very interesting was a man with a vintage camera.  I cannot explain how hyped up our tour guide was.  He was very assertive, and anything that intrigued us made him elaborate to enhance our experience.  In this case it was having a photo taken by a 115 year old camera.

Central Park Havana Photos

Not far from Central Park is the building known as the Capitol of Havana.

National Capitol Havana, Cuba

Before our tour began, I made it clear that we needed to go to Hotel Nacional to purchase tickets for the Parisien Cabaret.  Norwegian offered tickets as an excursion package for $100/person, but I saved a lot by buying on my own from the source for only $30/person.  The only difference was having to pay for a taxi.  We still came out way ahead.  I also have to mention that the tour guide left his house at Central Park and we rode in a Taxi for the bulk of our tour.  He didn’t know the taxi driver.  It was a hustle type of thing where he worked out a deal to chauffeur us.  It was better than walking, and I knew that a car could take us farther than a horse.

hotel nacional de cuba

Hotel Nacional was the host of the Havana Conference in 1946 to determine the rules going forward concerning Mafia ties with the casinos.  The Chicago Mob invited Frank Sinatra to perform as their entertainment.

Being inside was a reprieve from the heat.  Hotel Nacional is located on Taganana Hill overlooking the water.  There was a nice breeze on the patio area.

hotel nacional de cuba havana

Patio of the Hotel Nacional- the most famous hotel in Havana.

Back inside, our guide took us to the hotel’s cigar shop and showed us various price ranges for cigars along with an explanation of the various types. 

Cigar Shop at the Hotel Nacional

Cigar Lounge in Hotel Nacional located underground.

We drove down the Prado Promenade which is an area with a lot of people hanging out and socializing with each other.  The atmosphere was very calm and laid back.  The Promenade features a lot of lion statues.

Statues in Havana

Monument to victims of USS Maine, Primavera sculpture facing the sea along the Malecon, Lion statues on the Paseo del Prado.

Our guide was very expressive about his love for Barrack Obama.  He was excited about Obama’s visit to Cuba in addition to Bey & Jay, and Rihanna being there also.  Several tourists went to the San Cristobal Paladar, because that is where the former POTUS dined during his stay in Havana.

Hotel Saratoga

Kid Chocolate Recreation Center, The hotel Beyoncé stayed in, the Saratoga Havana.

The guide’s sentiment was the exact opposite when he talked about Chinatown.  It had something to do with the working conditions and the treatment of Cubans.

Chinatown Havana Cuba

Chinatown, Havana

We walked around for a while and experienced Cuban life up close.  Everyone was so friendly towards us and, the tour guide was claiming my Mom as his Madre.  He explained how much Cubans loved pop and soul artists such as James Brown and Michael Jackson. 

Havana Cuba Culture

Open Air Markets with pigs feet, Barbershop, James Brown mural, life in Old Havana, Statue of Abraham Lincoln.

We ran out of water and made a pit stop at a corner store for bottled water.  I was leery about drinking it, but I felt like it was my safest alternative versus having a heat stroke.  Water would not be my only beverage since we stopped at the Havana Club Rum Tour.  We did not take the actual tour, but we did walk around due to our guide’s finessing.

Havana Club Rum Factory and Bar

The band was setting up for the late afternoon crowd, and the guide insisted that they play the poem by José Martí turned song called “Guantanamera.”  Next, he requested a dance with me and his new Madre.  Talk about being outside of my comfort zone, but I obliged.

Havana Club Cuba Dancing

We said our goodbyes to the taxi driver who I’m sure felt like he was on a whirlwind just as much as we were. 

Bar Monserrate

Bar Monserrate on the lower level with apartments above.

On the way back to the cruise port via the horse, I spotted the Floridita.  The guide parked the carriage to the side of the road so we could go inside.  We took a photo next to Ernest Hemmingway’s bronze statue and walked across the tightly packed room.  That’s when I recognized the actress/producer, Tasha Smith.  She was so kind, down to earth and complimentary towards us.

El Floridita Havana Cuba

Bar Floridita, Ernest Hemmingway’s spot for strawberry daiquiris.  Actress/producer Tasha Smith.

 

We passed a few more sights before our day in Old Havana ended.

revolution che guevara

Havana’s Museum of the Revolution

When we returned to the ship a long shower was mandatory along with a good meal.  We lounged poolside to get ready for a night out in Havana.  This time, we hopped in coconut cab.  It may have been a bad idea considering we were dressed up per the requirements of attending a Cuban cabaret.  I was amazed and the number of Cubans who were posted along The Malecón.  Most of them were just sitting and talking or looking at their cell phones.  We had to pull over so the driver could put more gas in the cab which was located underneath the seat.

Coconut Cab Havana Cuba

Coconut Cab

The Cabaret Parisien is a smaller scale version of the Cabaret Tropicana.  Norwegian wanted $200/person for those tickets and they were a fraction of the cost when buying direct.  What I factored in my decision for the Parisien over the Tropicana was the distance from the cruise ship resulting in higher cab fare and the fact that Tropicana is an outdoor venue.  It started raining and that confirmed that I made the wisest decision.

Havana Cabaret

Cabaret Parisien.

The seating at the Parisien was tightly packed with dinner tables.  The ticket included a mojito that might as well had been water compared to the mojitos at the Havana Club Bar.  We sat with a lady who visits Cuba often by way of Airbnb.  She gave us several suggestions on what to see and do the next day.

The Cabaret was in Spanish and different from what I was accustomed to attending as cabarets in Detroit, where it’s a BYOB club like setting mostly for UAW or “Grown and Sexy” events.  This was live entertainment with a theme which I did not fully understand not knowing Spanish.  I just went along with the vibes and was impressed by the costumes, dancing and stage makeup.

Hotel Nacional Cabaret ParisienParisien Cabaret Havana

When we arrived to the Hotel Nacional, I kindly asked the taxi if he could come back to pick us up.  There was that slight fear of doing the activity on our own versus a group excursion that we would have a hard time getting back to the port.  The driver was loyal and came zooming around in his little coconut to get us to the ship safely. 

That was the end of day 1, and how Mom and I were fortunate to spend July 4th in Havana, Cuba.  The only thing I missed on my “To-Do” list of Havana was a visit to the Habana 1791 (Museo Del Perfume) for custom-made perfume. 

KelsieLou

Posted in Art, landmarks, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Norwegian Sky Cruise Ship Review

The following four blog posts will be a summary of my 4 night cruise to Havana, Cuba and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas aboard the Norwegian Sky ship out of Miami on July 3-7th.

This post will focus on a review of the Norwegian Sky.  The second and third posts will summarize private tour experiences in Havana.  The last post will wrap up my last cruise day on Norwegian’s private island of Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.

Quick facts about the Norwegian Sky:

  • Built in 1999
  • Refurbished in 2013
  • 2,004 Passengers
  • 13 decks
  • Freestyle dining
  • All-inclusive beverages.
  • First cruise to Cuba in May 2017

Decks:

3- Medical Center.

4- Cabins on forward ship.

5- The Atrium, Guest services, shore excursions, LeBistro French Restaurant, Crossing and Palace freestyle dining options.

Norwegian Sky Atrium

Norwegian Sky Atrium

6- Dazzle Night Club, Stardust Lounge Theatre, Photo Gallery, Mark Twain Library, Captain Hook’s Bar, Jogging/Walking track.

Norwegian Sky walking track, clubs, stardust lounge

Norwegian Sky Stardust Lounge, Dazzles, Captain Hook’s Bar, Jogging/Walking Track

 

Kelsie Smoot mother Alice Smoot

Take advantage of the free photo kiosks in addition to professional the photography.

 

7- Art Gallery, Atrium Bar, Casino, Splash Academy Youth Center, the Chapel, Coffee Bar.

Norwegian Sky Casino, Coffee Bar, Gift Shop

Norwegian Sky Casino, Coffee Bar, Gift Shop

 

8-10 Staterooms.  We stayed in 8260, which is an ocean view room right by the elevators.  I selected that room to make it easier to remember the location and to save time walking down the long corridors.  There was not any noise from the elevator traffic and a tip I will consider for every cruise.

Norwegian Sky ocean view room

Norwegian Sky Ocean View Stateroom

 

11- Pools, Spa, Salon, Fitness Center, Entourage Teen Club, Ice Cream Bar, Garden Café, IL Adagio Italian Restaurant.

Norwegian Sky Pools, Spa, Fitness Center

I did not swim in the pools, but I did utilize the steam room and sauna inside of the spa.

 

12- Shuffleboard, Basketball, Volleyball Court, Batting Cage, Gold Driving Net, Champs Bar, Cagney’s Steakhouse, Plantation Club Sushi Bar.

Norwegian Sky Basketball Court

Norwegian Sky Basketball Court

 

13- Sun deck.

Alice Smoot Kelsie Smoot Cruise

My Mom, Alice Smoot, July 4th Cake in the Garden Café, Kelsie on the sun deck.

 

Embarkation Process:

The Port of Miami is easy to get to.  Pull up to luggage drop off and the gentlemen will take the luggage.  No worries if the luggage tags are not printed.  Provide your name and they will tag the luggage for you to make sure it is delivered to the stateroom.  Parking is in Garage C and $20/day.  Remember to take your parking ticket with you so that you can pay at a kiosk before getting in your vehicle.  The ticket has to be validated in order to activate the lift gate at the exit.

Security was heavily armed which I found out was due to a fight inside of the terminal from the returning passengers aboard DJ Khaled’s SummerFest Cruise.  I thought about cruising back to back for the concerts but realized that would be doing too much.

I’m not sure if the incident caused the long delays, but it took us about two hours to embark.  We arrived at noon and went through the priority lines which did not go that much faster than the bronze level travelers.

Embarking Norwegian Cruise

View of South Beach, a Carnival Cruise Ship, and last photos sent to friends while I still had phone service.

 

Food:

The food was an upgrade from what I experienced on the Breakaway.  The Sky offers three freestyle dining options with the buffet style Garden Café, and two formal dining rooms called the Palace and Crossings.  I liked the Palace over Crossings because of the pink décor.  Both restaurants offer the same menu with complimentary wine.

Norwegian Sky Food

Norwegian Sky Food from Palace and Crossings

 

Specialty dining choices included Le Bistro, II Adagio, Cagney’s Steakhouse, and Plantation Club Sushi Bar.  I chose not to pay additional charges and stuck to the complimentary dining.

My favorite breakfast items were the Belgian waffles and made to order omelets.  The Garden Café has outdoor seating that has beautiful views of the ocean.

Norwegian Sky Dining

Norwegian Sky Dining Options

 

We ate at the Garden Café buffet for breakfast and lunch.  We at one dinner at the Garden Café because we wanted something quick without the formality of the dining rooms.  Our plates got picked over that night based on the bland selection.  That was our only bad meal aboard the Sky.

All Inclusive Drinks:

The Sky offers daily, premixed drink specials.  They were very light in terms of alcohol content.  It’s best to ask for your cocktail to be made to order.  Additional fees apply for top shelf liquor.

Thankfully, no one was super wasted.  This crowd was very laid back and mainly seeking a cultural experience in Cuba versus a party vibe.

Overall Review:

What I liked about the Norwegian Sky is the simplicity of the ship.  No area was crowded at any time.  Unlike the Breakaway, there was always plenty of empty lounge chairs along the deck.

There was a group of 250 girls from Argentina aboard to celebrate a Quinceanera.  They were well-behaved and classy.  The only time I saw the Quince group was at dinner.  The planning service they booked through did an excellent job of keeping the ladies safe and organized.

I liked the convenience of booking an excursion at a kiosk.  It was good for a last minute change, but I suggest booking excursions in advance to guarantee a preferred time.

There is a low key way to relax away from the pool vibes on the port and starboard area of the ship on deck 6.

Norwegian Sky Deck 6 Starboard

This is when an area like the Breakaway’s Haven would have been a nice retreat from the cheesy pool area games.

 

We went to a musical show on the last night in the Stardust Theatre.  The performance was good, but it was beyond freezing.  We walked outside to get warm.

Alice J Smoot Kelsie L Smoot

Plan it, Book it, Go!

 

Til’ next time!

Norwegian Sky Aft

Therapeutic Views

 

~KelsieLou~

Posted in Florida, food, restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Road Trip: Jacksonville, FL

While having the summer off from teaching, it was a no brainer for me to take a spontaneous trip.  My friend Donetta, who I nicknamed “Groovy” needed to tie up some loose ends as she relocated back to Louisville.

Jacksonville FL road trip

The Sticks

 

I have only been to Jacksonville, FL once when I worked for S.A.F.E. Management at Ford Field.  A group of us had the opportunity to attend Super Bowl XXXIX to prepare us for Super Bowl XL in Detroit.

Super Bowl XXXIX

I cannot find the rest of my Super Bowl photos!  I worked Guest Services and saw a ton of celebrities and dignitaries. 

 

I dipped off on my own to sight see as Groovy handled her business.  Without having much time to plan anything, I just went off Trip Advisor for things to do.  It led me to the Friendship Fountain in the downtown area.

Friendship fountain jax

Friendship Fountain Jacksonville, FL

 

Downtown jacksonville fl

St Johns River

 

Next, I went to the oldest oak tree in Jacksonville for a few photos.

Jessie Ball duPont Park

Jessie Ball DuPont Park

 

Treaty Oak Jax

Treaty Oak Jacksonville, FL

 

Treaty Oak Jacksonville

Treaty Oak

 

It rained all day, which is typical for Florida in June.  By the time we made it to Jacksonville Beach the sun was ready to rise in another part of the world.  I’m used to seeing sunsets over the water on the Gulf Coast.  It was awkward to have the sun set behind me on the Atlantic Coast.  The water was very warm with fine sand.

Jax Beach Fishing Pier

Jax Beach Fishing Pier

 

We linked up with one of Groovy’s teacher friends and decided to grab a bite to eat.  Singleton’s Seafood Shack, which is featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives was closed.  We left the beach area and went to Miller’s Ale House, which is one of my favorite dining spots in Florida.

Miller's Ale House Orange Park FL

Cajun Chicken Pasta & Capt. Jack’s Buried Treasure

 

Other than that, Jacksonville is a pretty bland city.  As much as I love Florida, Jacksonville is not a place I would want to live.  I’m glad Groovy is back in Louisville!

Kelsie Smoot Donetta Groves

“Groovy” & “Smoothie”-  Donetta has such a warm spirit.  We’ve been friends since my first day of teaching at Job Corps back in 2006.

We must take adventures to know where we truly belong!

KelsieLou

Posted in Florida, food, landmarks, restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Level Up in Las Vegas

A vacation in Las Vegas was long overdue for this mother/daughter duo.  We originally planned a February 2016 itinerary with tickets to Mariah Carey.  I started a new job and took the responsible route of canceling the trip which had no travel insurance to cover the losses. 

Mom and I made up for it in a major way with a four night stay at Caesar’s Palace Augustus tower.  She arrived from Orlando several hours before my Cincinnati flight.  Lady luck was on her side to the point she had to utilize the room’s safe to secure the bag.

I had to finish up Voice Thread and Perusall assignments for my Diversity course before I could let my hair down.  I was grateful for the extra three hours of Pacific Time to meet the midnight deadline.

We ate hors d’oeuvres at the Diamond Lounge which became our complimentary recharging area with excellent wait staff.

Taking a photo in front of the Vegas welcome sign is one of the best souvenirs to take home. This is where my Mom really got to experience what 105° dry heat feels like.Alice Smoot Kelsie Smoot

Our suite was on the 29th floor, and offered excellent views of The Fountains of Bellagio.

Caesars las vegas room view

My Mom ate at the Bacchanal Buffet in Caesars and wanted to compare it to the Buffet Bellagio.  We were too hungry to wait for the 3pm dinner menu, so we opted for Brunch.  The food quality was very good with the seared salmon being my favorite choice.Bellagio lunch buffet

We checked out a few boutiques while hoping to see a beautiful floral arrangement inside the conservatory.  Unfortunately, renovations were underway for the summer display.    

Bellagio fountains conservatory

I gave my Mom a tour of the strip, then we went to Fremont Street.  Although it was early, we were still entertained by the local sidewalk performers.  My feelings were hurt when I found out that the deep fried Oreos spot had closed.     

Fremont street free spin

After being in the heat, it was time to cool off in a choice of seven pools.  Caesars offers swim-up blackjack for those who like the combination of water and trying to bust the dealer.     

Caesars palace las vegas pool

The time difference had me up all night, so I walked the strip and shopped along the way.  I love the NY, NY area.  The water feature reminds me of the 9/11 memorial fountains for the World Trade Center.

New york new york las vegas

We took a trip to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. It was very windy walking across the bridge to the Nevada-Arizona State Line.

Kelsie Smoot alice hoover damHoover dam

A fairly new art exhibit called, Seven Magic Mountains sits about 15 miles south of the strip.  These colorful boulders are situated along the highway that links Vegas to L.A.  There was swirling dust everywhere, and we were very dirty by the time we left.  We also had to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes.

Seven magic mountainsKelsie Smoot seven magic mountaina

The next stop was the Wynn Buffet, but not before taking another shower.  There was no way we were going into the Wynn dusty. From the moment we walked inside, it was easy to see how the Wynn is ranked as one of the finest hotels in the world.

The Wynn Las Vegas kelsie smoot

The Buffet which is always listed at the top of any “best buffets in Vegas” search was perfectly executed.  The flow of the food lines, variety, taste, and decor were outstanding!

The wynn las vegas flowersThe Wynn BuffetThe wynn dessert buffet

We toured other areas of the Wynn, including the Parasol Up/Parasol Down lounge and boutiques.  Everything was bright and colorful.

The Wynn hotel las vegas

That night, we went to Mandalay Bay for the Michael Jackson ONE Cirque Du Soleil.  The venue was very serious about enforcing the “no photos” policy.  The ushers would point lasers at anyone caught breaking the rule.  Overall, the performances were world-class and MJ would be proud.     

Michael Jackson One Cirque Du SoleilMichael Jackson One Mandalay Bay

For our last day, we kept it chill for the afternoon by having lunch and shopping at the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes.  I absolutely love the chicken and waffles at the Grand Lux Café!

Kelsie smoot venetian las vegas

Lastly, Caesars comped us tickets for the JLo, All I Have concert at Planet Hollywood.  We went to will call expecting to have basic seats.  To our surprise, we were seated in the 2nd row from the stage pit.  We even passed by the actress who played Donna in Friday After Next on our way to our seats.

Kelsie Smoot las vegas stripJennifer lopez las vegasJlo all i have jenny from the block

JLo put on an excellent show that kept us on our feet the entire time other than a tribute to her twins. 

Jlo planet hollywood vegasJennifer lopez twins max & emme

JLo was personable with the audience, and it was obvious that she takes care of her body in order to perform with such intensity.

Jlo las vegas concertJennifer lopez jlo concertJlo planet hollywood vegas show

There is still so much to see, do and taste on the Las Vegas Strip and surrounding areas.  Trip #4 won’t be far away!

♡KelsieLou♡

Posted in concerts, food, landmarks, Las Vegas, restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Always Beachin’

I wasted no time in vacating Louisville after the last day of school.  I have accomplished a lot this year and no need to slow up on my glow up for Summer ’17.  My new foster daughter and her little sister have lived in Florida, so they were ecstatic about returning to the Sunshine State.  We were able to stop off I-75 in Gainesville to link up with their Aunt that they haven’t seen in six years.

Our first stop was the community pool at my parent’s residence.  It was closed the entire week of my spring break, so it was nice to enjoy the space again although the hot tub was still undergoing maintenance.

The following morning I ran the Hooters Clearwater Beach 5K.  The race started at 10:00 a.m, which meant there was a guarantee to be very hot.  Like several runners, I assumed the race would be on the streets around Clearwater.  I had butterflies in my stomach when I found out I would be running on a open sand course.

It was not my first time running on the beach.  I have trained along the coasts of St. Pete’s and Panama City.  Those runs were at the crack of dawn, and at a an easy pace.  The trick to running on the beach is to find that happy medium where the sand is not too soft, yet packed enough for proper support.

The interesting part about the Hooters 5K was an optional ocean swim for 1 mile at 9 a.m.  Since I am not in swimming shape, I did not attempt the 1 miler so I would not miss the running portion.  There were 1/2 and 1/4 mile options, but they were not timed.

The course was down and out.  It took forever to hit that 1.5 mile marker.  One of my mile splits was 9:00, but I was putting in a 7:00/mile effort.  There was much needed water at the turn around.  On the way back, the sun beamed my entire left side.  One word to describe this race: Brutal.

The first 25 male and female runners received a poker chip to redeem for a framed top finisher award.  I don’t know my official results, but I believe I was #6 female overall.  My Garmin time was 25:47.  Hooters gave out a wing sampler on the deck of their Clearwater Beach location.

Clearwater Beach was super crowded for Memorial Weekend.  A lot of police were out issuing citations at $150 per bottle for open containers.  We kept it classy and unbothered in our little tent.

All this sun and salt worked up an appetite.  We took a walk along the main strip of Mandalay Ave.  Something told me to pass by all the touristy stops.  We kept walking, and I was so happy to find a Coney.  At this point of my post Master Cleanse I was not eating any meat, so I kept it clean with a Greek salad while the girls indulged.

I felt right at home in this Detroit Coney off the beaten path. The “Excuse the Detroit in Me” shirts were sold out.

Memorial Day called for grillin’ and chillin’ around the house.  My Mom is always whipping up new recipes.  It was a slow week for my Dad as he had to wait until Thursday to watch Game 1 of the NBA finals.

On Tuesday, we were in Orlando to drop my car off for routine maintenance.  Mercedes-Benz of South Orlando told us they would take us wherever we needed to go.  They dropped us off in front of my must stop shopping spot for Florida:  the Victoria’s Secret Outlet.

This place gives me life.  I spend a minimum of an hour and a half “throwing it in the bag.”  I can probably open up a boutique in Louisville from items I have hauled back over the last few years.  It is not uncommon to see Ebayers buying entire racks of merchandise for resale.

Again, I didn’t want to have typical vacation food in Orlando.  I found Mrs. Potato off the beaten path in Orlando.  There is a similar place in Detroit called the Potato Place I used to frequent while going to Wayne State.

For that reason, I did not order the baked potato and tried the Rosti Style.  The girls had shrimp and Philly cheese steak, and I tried the chicken catupiry.  It did not meet my expectations because the texture of the chicken was overly shredded to the point of having a tuna fish consistency.  No Bueno.  The captupiry frosting like topping was over kill.  Maybe it was my fresh taste buds, but the potato was too salty.
While we were on vacation, Dr. Beach rated Siesta Beach in Sarasota as the #1 beach in America.  I told the girls I would make the drive for them to get a taste of the best.  I wanted them to be able to compare Siesta Key to Clearwater.

The atmosphere was very laid back.  Parking is free, and amenities are more convenient than Clearwater Beach.  I had assignments due for my Education Research class, so the lap top was on the beach with me.  The ocean was my motivation to get it done.  It was pure luck that the girls ran into some friends from Northern, KY.

These photos capture why Siesta Beach is the #1 Beach in America:

My Galaxy Note 4 died, so I picked up the new Galaxy 8.  These filters are the closest I will get to Snap Chat or Instagram since I don’t have an account for either.

To wrap up our vacation, the girls and I spent a day at Universal Studio’s new Volcano Bay.  I have watched this water theme park being built right off I-4 for several months.

There are three seating options for Volcano Bay.  One is first come, first serve lounge chairs.  The next option is premium seating that comes with 2 connected loungers that have their own umbrella and lock box.  The last option is a cabana.  I called several weeks prior to my trip and I was only able to reserve a cabana because someone cancelled.  Premium seating is booked through the end of June.

A concierge greeted us at the gate and led us to our private oasis.  Food, towels, cold water, an electrical outlet and comfort were in the palm of our hands.

The food was top notch quality and flavor, with very reasonable prices.

The concierge suggested the lava cakes.  They were good.  The tapioca pudding was very refreshing.  The pizza had too much crust on the ends, so only the middle two slices were loaded with toppings.  The burger was excellent.

The TapuTapu device is given to all guests as the enter the gates.  I was able to order food and reserve rides from my cabana.  With out cabana rentals, the rides must be reserved at the actual ride.  It will vibrate when it is time to “ride now.”

We went on the blue water slide.  It was so much fun!

This is a view of Waturi Beach from the volcano.  There is a walk through to lead you to the other side of the park.  The wave motions are so fun.

A lot of people had water proof phone pouches.  I asked someone to snap our photo:

This photo shows the scariest ride at Volcano Bay.  It was closed for most of the day for technical issues.  Due to the scheduling with TapuTapu, the ride was closed for anyone who did not reserve a spot.  We watched the daring people slide down in a blink of an eye through the plexiglass.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and I cannot wait to go back.  I’m sure I left out some details, but it’s on to the next adventure!

 

♡KelsieLou♡

Posted in family, Florida, food, foster parent, mothers, restaurants, running, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Master Cleanse

I was introduced to the Master Cleanse detox by one of my classmates in the Kinesiology Department at Wayne State.  I read the book by Stanley Burroughs who designed the cleanse in the 1940s, and decided it was something I would like to try.

That was over 12 years ago, and I have completed about four or five Master Cleanses since then.  I have gotten into running in the last few years, so I have not felt the need for fasting.  However, over the last several months my eating habits have gotten out of hand due to my hectic schedule.

Every time I do the Master Cleanse, there is a long-term improvement in my eating lifestyle.  One of the biggest changes I’ve experienced is ditching coffee for green tea. I am also reminded that every stomach pang is not for food, but my body’s need for water.

The benefit of fasting is immediate weight loss.  I always lose about a pound per day, or 10 pounds.  The lifestyle eating changes help me keep it off unlike fad dieting.

The only items to be consumed during the Master Cleanse are:  Organic Smooth Move tea to be sipped at bedtime, 1 quart of lukewarm water with 2 teaspoons of dissolved sea salt, and a lemonade mixture.

How to Make the Lemonade:

The book gives directions for preparation based on drinking the lemonade by the glass.  For people on the go I suggest mixing a gallon at a time as follows:

1 ¾ cups of fresh squeezed lemon juice.

1 ¾ cups of Maple Syrup.

A few dashes of cayenne pepper.

How to make the master cleanse lemonade

The Master Cleanse lemonade.  The mixture is good and satisfies hunger.  I used one gallon container for mixing and another to transport to work.

 

Note- organic lemons are preferred and limes may be substituted.  The book calls for Grade B Maple syrup but the grading of maple syrup has changed and Grade A is fine to use.  The key is that the color has to be dark amber.

Sea Salt Flush:

The sea salt flush is the absolute worse part of this cleanse due to the awful taste.  I count the days down based on the number of salt flushes I have remaining.  The idea is to flush out everything that was loosened by the Smooth Move tea the night before.  My experience is like someone running a garden hose through my body.

I suggest waking up and drinking this flush 3 hours before you need to be anywhere.  It takes about 30 minutes for the urge to come and when it does, watch out!  The urge may come 3-4 times before you can get back to “normal.”  Now is the time to start drinking the lemonade.

Pre-cleanse ease in:

Like most things outside the norm, it is easy to be successful if you are mentally prepared for the process.  Timing is everything.  Although the minimum time is 10 days to get the full detoxing effect, you have to plan ahead for any social events that involve food.  It just so happened that my yearly thyroid exam was due, and my medical check-up was normal.  Everyone is different, so consult with a doctor if you have medical conditions.

It is also important to have enough lemons for a few days and plenty of maple syrup. The night before the official Day 1 is when you start the Smooth Move tea.  The taste is not that great compared to green tea.

My 10 Day Master Cleanse:

Day 1- Friday and off work.  Easy day to begin due to a cold and rainy Kentucky Oaks day.

Day 2– Entertained by the Kentucky Derby coverage.

Day 3– I ran 5 miles.  I wanted to go to the movies, but I did not want to miss out on popcorn and candy.  I’m realizing how much food is a part of our lives for social and entertainment purposes.

Day 4– No lack of energy.  A busy Monday with work, Louisville Laser hair removal treatment in three areas, and the start of summer semester at U of L.

Day 5– 3 mile run.  Cooking lesson for my foster daughters.  The smell of food does not bother me.

Day 6– Work and School.  My tongue is completely white as a sign of the toxins coming out my body.

Day 7– Work and School.

Day 8- Feeling very nauseated and almost double the elimination.  T.G.I.F.  I just need to get through one more weekend and I’m good

Day 9– Hot Yoga Class and 502 Power Yoga.  Absolutely loved it and my body has not felt a challenging work out like this since my spinning days.  I consumed 20 oz. of lemonade and drank a bottle of water during my one hour hot yoga session.

Nike Studio Wrap Pack

The Nike Studio Wrap Pack for Hot Yoga class.

 

Day 10– Happy Mother’s Day Pampering.  Time to stock up on fruits and veggies.

Happy Mothers Day

Mother’s Day gift from my two Foster Daughters.

 

Breaking the Fast:

This is the most important part about the Master Cleanse.  The idea is to get the digestive system prepared for solid foods again, and it has to be done meticulously.  This is where the lifestyle changes come in because after 10 days of cleansing, I am super careful about what I put back into my body.

Day 11- Breaking the fast with orange juice.  This was the hardest day for me.  If I could only eat a banana I would be satisfied. That night I prepared a vegetable soup in the crock pot.  I used every vegetable that I was craving.

Master Cleanse Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Brooth Base with tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, squash, baby carrots, celery and onions.

 

Day 12– Only orange juice all day.  Dinner is mainly the vegetable soup broth with a few vegetables.

Day 13– My tongue is turning back pink and I can finally look forward to soup for lunch and dinner.  Orange juice is not appealing to me, so I switched to Bolthouse Farms Carrot and Naked Green Machine.

I will not consume any meat for about 2 weeks, and that will be mainly fish.

Tips: 

  • For the sea salt flush it is best to chug the quart of water without stopping.  I used my Reduce 32 oz. tumbler for the perfect measurement of a quart.  The salt water also cleaned out the tea stains from my daily green tea on the stainless steel.
  • Prepare the lemonade right before you go to bed.  The mixture is good for a day.  I found it easier to squeeze lemons at night rather than at 4:15a.m.
  • Pour a half gallon out for work and make sure you have enough left for when you get home.
  • If you take medications, seek Doctor’s approval first.  I took my thyroid pill about 30 minutes after the sea salt flush to make sure the hormones were absorbed into my bloodstream.
  • Lie down after the sea salt flush and let it work its magic.
  • For ladies, I suggest timing the cleanse in between menstrual cycles to avoid having too much going on at one time.
  • On the days I worked out I added more maple syrup to make sure I was getting enough calories.

KelsieLou

Posted in food, health, Juicing, recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

KY Derby Festival Mini Marathon 2017 Recap

Half Marathon #13

April 29, 2017

The 2017 Derby Mini Marathon was my 4th time participating in a KDF race.  In 2013, it was my longest distance, and my inspiration to run a full marathon.  In 2014, I returned to walk a majority of the race with my foster daughter at the time.  In 2015, I ran a Boston qualifying time of 3:39:51 on the full marathon course in 18 miles of steady rain.

Kentucky derby festival medal 2017, 2015, 2014

The KDF mini marathon medal grew in size for 2017.  It is larger than my full marathon medal of 2015 and shows the Pegasus as the focus compared to the horseshoe in 2014.

 

This year, I signed up because one of the Race Ambassadors, Karen Brady encouraged me to use the throwback promo code to secure a very reasonable race fee.  It sounded good at the time, but this was the most underprepared race I have run due to a lack of training caused by a painful health condition.

Pleurisy:

I went for a 5 mile run about 3 weeks prior to the race.  I felt a cramp in my chest, and I waived it off as gas or indigestion because I had eaten spaghetti a few hours earlier.  I went to sleep with the same cramp in my chest.

The next day, the pain worsened to the point it felt like a knife was stabbing me every time I took a deep breath.  I went straight to the doctor.  After EKG testing and x-rays I was diagnosed with pleurisy.

Pleurisy is an inflammation in the lining around the lungs.   They prescribed me 800mg Ibuprofen to take 3 times a day for 2 weeks.  I only took the meds for about a week and sometimes only 1 or 2 pills a day.

After my symptoms subsided, my pace was slower because resuming routine workouts after any set back can be intimidating with fear of reoccurrence.

Race Expo: 

I linked up with Karen who was performing her Ambassador duties. She gifted me with a goodie bag of items any runner chick would like to add to the collection.

The Humana booth had a display of treadmills for people to run a mile and have Humana donate $20 to a local charity.  I was the first person to take the challenge which led to more people coming over to help the cause.

kelsie smoot louisville kentucky derby mini expo

1 Mile Humana run for charity at the KDF Expo

 

Weather Delays:

Due to not being on the popular social media platforms, I was probably the last to know via email about the first of three race delays.  I did not have a problem with an 8:00 a.m. start for the sake of more sleep.

When I entered the downtown area, the weather radar was not improving.  The sky remained dark and lightening was within a 15 mile radius of the course, although it was not raining.

weather for ky Derby mini marathon 2017

KY Derby Festival Mini Marathon Weather

 

I was almost at the start line when I realized I left my salted caramel GU in the car.  I was so bummed because I needed that boost if nothing else.

The next thing I know, there was another 30 minute delay.  I needed this break to power walk to my car for the GU.  I continued to check the radar and wondered if the race would be cancelled.  I thought about all of the training runners had endured and travel expenses for out of town guests.

Starting line ky derby festival mini marathon

A bare starting line at 8:09 a.m.

 

Once again, I walked back down Main Street to the starting line. I saw Karen and other familiar faces as we followed the directives of seeking shelter.  I bunkered down under a tree by one of the buildings.  Everyone displayed patience as we awaited the next update.

Race delay kdf mini marathon 2017

8:35 a.m. Seeking shelter from the rain and lightening

 

The bottom line is we all wanted to run our race.  Yes, our morning meals, and those 30 minutes before the race bananas had worn off.  Yes, some half marathoners would have been finished by time the race finally started a little after 9:00.

Kdf mini marathon gear check

8:48 a.m.  View of Gear Check area.  The race is almost 1.5 hours delayed and we’re all hungry.

 

Corral A:

The KDF festival assigned me to Corral A based off my prior results.  I knew good and well that I would not be running a fast pace.  I had worry in the back of my mind that the pleurisy would come back.  My goal was to run a smart pace as long as I finished.

My corral assignment was earned, so therefore it never crossed my mind to fall back and let other runners go ahead of me.  I was passed a lot the first half mile, but I stayed in my happy pace with a goal to complete under two hours based solely on pride.

Route:

It rained for the first 4 miles.  I felt comfortable about taking my hat off to avoid overheating.  As always, the crowd support was very encouraging.  Water and PowerAde stations were well organized.  I ran without carrying fluids or wearing a gps watch, so the fluid stations were critical.

God Bless the unofficial aid stops that provided orange slices.  In total, I know I ate an entire orange by the time I reached mile 6.

Feeling the energy as the route goes down Central Avenue into Churchill Downs is always motivating.  What I missed were the T.V. cameras with live updates.  The jumbo screen showed the Churchill Downs logo and not the “Go Baby, Go” greeting I saw at the last KDF race.

After the infield loop, we were back on Central and the full marathon split.  I recalled that long, lonely path, and was glad I was diverting left with the smart people this time.

At mile 9 one of my toes had the nerve to give me a little pain.  It also happens that I was only able to peak at 9 miles instead of 12 for proper half marathon training.

The larger the downtown skyline came into view, the happier I became.  The 2:00 pace group rolled up at mile 11 and I kicked it in high gear.  I was not about to let them pass me.

Results:

Time- 1:59:54

Age Group- 63/658

Female- 531/5,009

Overall- 1683/8736

Not bad for top 10% in age group and gender.  Factor in the males and my overall performance fell to top 20% which is decent for the long road it took to get me there.  I am thankful for all the support from my Smootents and colleagues.

Kelsie Smoot Stuart Academy

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” – Fred DeVito

Kelsie Lou

Posted in fitness, half marathon, health, Louisville, running | Tagged , , | 2 Comments