My Mom had a 48 hour notice about the Lake Wales YMCA Turkey Trot. I gave her the option to participate based on how she felt on Thanksgiving morning. She said if it was too hot, she was not doing it.
The 8:00 a.m. start is later than what she is used to for her daily walks. The temperature was only 67° which is mild for Floridians.
For a smaller race, my goal was to place in my age group. I needed to push through because I was dealing with a sinus infection. I told my Mom I would complete my race, then go back and find her on the course.
I got a dose of my own medicine when a young lady hawked me down at the finish. I beat her crossing the line. I knew her chip time would come in faster because I started ahead of her. She beat me by a 10th of a second. I was 20/324 overall, 3rd place Female overall, and 1st place Masters Female.
Next, I had to walk towards the lake to get my Mom. The rising sun and 97% humidity was making it difficult. We walked the last mile together. I stepped aside so she could own her moment of running across the finish line.
I am thankful for a mother who exposed me to various sports in my youth. She drove me to the Eastside of Detroit to practice with the Motor City Track Club. I am thankful for my Dad’s genes. Phillip L. Smoot Sr. was the captain of the Scott High (Madison, WV) basketball team, team MVP, and averaged 20 points his senior year in 1962.
Forever thankful for my parents and enjoying the views of their retirements:
Over the last few months my focus has been setting the tone for a successful school year, keeping a foster care routine, and getting settled into my new home. It is important to set high expectations and to remind my Smootents of them daily. Students cannot learn in the midst of chaos. I don’t do chaos or clutter.
People often ask me if I still run. The answer is: Yes. I will always run as long as I am able to. I average three to four miles a day with a 5-6 miler on the weekend. Regardless of mileage, a proper running shoe is mandatory.
The Brooks Ghost and Glycerins in my rotation were on their last cushion. I used some GO365 bucks to order the Glycerin 17 from Amazon. The newest model would not let me “run happy.”
I went to Fleet Feet for a foot scan. I learned from the Volumental 3D foot scan that my feet are almost in the narrow width. After trying several brands, I decided to go with the Hoka Clifton 6. They are very lightweight despite the heavy cushion.
Cute running gear makes the time on my feet more fashionable and enjoyable. I don’t know how long Goodr sunglasses have been around, but I discovered them last summer. I bought a pink and green pair called, “Flamingo on a Booze Cruise.” I needed a Fall neutral, so I picked up these:
The last weekend of daylight savings time was the perfect opportunity to visit my Grandma. I treated her to a day pampering with a pedicure, hair cut and eating all the shrimp she wanted from Red Lobster.
My visit happened to fall on the same weekend of the Marshall University Marathon/Half Marathon. I did not want to risk injury of pushing through 13.1 miles without the proper training, so I registered for the 5k.
The race website mentioned how all 5k participants would receive a finisher’s medal and only the Top 3 male and female would win additional awards. I drove from Madison to Huntington with no expectations of winning anything. Boy was I wrong.
The MUM and half races started at 7:00 a.m. with 31° temps (28° real feel). There were runners from 44 states. I spoke with a lady from Florida who needed a WV race for her 50 State Challenge.
I warmed up in the Joan C. Edwards Stadium parking lot before the 5k started at 7:15. We took off and right away, there was a young lady putting in work by my side. We were neck and neck for 1.5 miles until she stopped for water.
Next, I had my sight on a lady in green. I was feeling confident about being able to pull off a strong finish. I didn’t want to hawk her down too early though. The last half mile of the race took us through the campus of Marshall University. I saw the Memorial Fountain that stands as a tribute to the lives lost in the 1970 plane crash.
I thought there was another woman who was with the speedy runners who jolted out of my view after the first turn. I ran onto the football field a few steps behind the woman I tailed. She didn’t take the football, but I did.
Running with the football gave me a super charge. At that moment I wished I was wearing cleats. In my mind this was not a 5k; I was on a punt return. I did not want to slip and fumble on the AstroTurf. Once I made that loop towards the end zone, it was all she wrote. My running tights rolled down on me and everything.
A volunteer told me I was the first woman to cross the line in the 5k. I was like, “Nah, there was a lady in pink way ahead of me.” Again, she said she was sure I was the first one. I checked the results, and 24:11 was enough for me to win it all! Ten men finished ahead of me, placing me at 11/316 overall.
I ran the MUM Half Marathon in 2016 and placed 2nd in my age group. This course holds my personal best record of 1:41:54. I felt very accomplished on the ride back to Louisville. I was able to brighten my Grandma’s weekend and this race experience was a bonus.
Experiencing the falls up close was my main priority for a day in Niagara Falls on the Canada side. I read reviews about getting there early to avoid long lines. Thankfully, that was not my experience. At 3:00 p.m., I was able to get a ticket and board in the time it takes for 700 people to ride the elevator down to the dock, get a poncho, and board the vessel.
Everyone wanted to rush to the top deck. I did my research and found out that both decks offer the same views, with more of a soaking on the top deck.
We went right into the Horseshoe Falls and stayed long enough to experience the power of the falls. The water was refreshing for a hot, summer day.
The boat turns around and gives a view of the Bridal Veil and American Falls.
Maid of the Mist
The Maid of the Mist used to operate on the Canada side until their lease expired. The cruise follows the same route as the Hornblower. The only difference is the blue poncho.
Journey Behind the Falls
Journey Behind the Falls was too much time wasted for about 15 minutes of an “up-close” experience to Horseshoe Falls. I didn’t even get wet. There is an assigned time to go through security and take the elevators down to what used to be called “Table Rock.”
The only good thing about waiting for the assigned time was the sun coming out and being able to see rainbows. The afternoon and evening rainbows are an advantage of viewing the falls from the Canada side. These photos are not edited.
This is an above view of Journey Behind the Falls. There are two viewing decks located on the edge of the Horseshoe Falls.
New York’s version is called Cave of the Winds. It has more of a walking deck along the American Falls. I think that is better than tunnels.
There are two tunnels that lead to views of this behind the Horseshoe Falls:
Clifton Hill Good Eats
The best way to describe Clifton Hill is a mini Great Smoky Mountains Parkway. There were some of the same attractions and franchise restaurants. I preferred a meal that was more fresh and authentic. I found a place called Fusion Wrap by accident when I was navigating to a BeaverTails location. The chicken shawarma and cardamom tea were excellent.
I was wanting BeaverTails ever since the Toronto Island tour, but it was closed by the time I got back Downtown. I was so happy there was a location in Niagara Falls.
For dinner, it was back to Fusion Wrap and a place called Sweet Jesus for dessert.
Rainbow International Bridge
I was right by the Rainbow International Bridge when I got off the Hornblower. Silly me forgot to take my passport, so I had to save the walk to the U.S. for later.
Niagara Falls at Night
The finale to my Canada vacation would be watching the fireworks from the Rainbow Bridge I was finally able to cross.
Back in the U.S.A.
The quickest way back to Louisville, KY was crossing the Peace Bridge into Buffalo, NY. The scenery changed from lively to stark.
I learned a lot during my visit to Canada. I respect that it is more of a mosaic than a melting pot. I am grateful that everything worked out smoothly with safe travels.
My Canadian adventures continued from Toronto to Montreal. The drive was very scenic and more metropolitan compared to the rural landscape between Windsor and Toronto. I did all of my research about “Things to do in Montreal” and “Best area to stay in Montreal” during the drive.
I tried Airbnb and the listings were not as nice as what Toronto offered. I played it safe and booked two nights at the 5-star, Hotel Le Crystal.
Mary Queen of the World Cathedral
This was my first outing in Montreal. The majesty of this church was nice for prayer and reflection. The architecture stands out in the downtown location of modern buildings.
Montreal’s Most Iconic Dishes
Every where you go in Montreal, there are restaurants selling poutine. Poutine is french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. It does not sound appealing, but the flavors blend nicely.
If your diet allows, do not leave Montreal with out eating a smoked meat sandwich. When I walked out of Rueben’s Deli and Steakhouse, the manager said, “See you tomorrow.” He was right. What made the dining experience even more unique was having a hilarious waiter from Louisville, KY. It’s a small world and a reminder that I was in the right place, doing the right thing. I don’t take coincidences lightly.
Another must-try food in Montreal are the bagels. I worked in a bagel store in high school, so I know what a good bagel tastes like. Fresh out of the oven with cream cheese is the way to go.
It is a good thing that I did a lot of walking. I do not want to look at a french fry for the rest of the summer.
Scooter Tour of Montreal
After planning every step in Toronto, I thought it would be nice to go on a guided tour of Montreal. A bicycle tour was suggested, but I do enough of that at home. Dyad Scooters would lead the way for 4 hours in the city.
As we rolled through traffic towards Mount Royal, I noticed similarities to Toronto in terms of city murals.
We stopped at the bottom of Mount Royal for an explanation of how buildings in Montreal are not permitted to be built higher than this landmark.
We rode down Avenue Maplewood where luxury homes lined the streets.
Once we crossed the Mount Royal Cemetery, we went to the Mount Royal park, designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted. Olmsted was a blessing to North America with his landscape designs.
We had to be careful going down the steep mountain. We stopped for a view of the Olympic Stadium where Caitlin Jenner who, as Bruce Jenner won the gold medal in the 1976 Men’s Decathlon.
Montreal is a bike friendly city with purposely marked lanes. Our tour went into a laid back area of The Mile End. There are a diverse number of ethnic divisions of Jewish people in Montreal, with the Hasidic families being the most noticeable.
Our last stop was at the Jean- Talon Market. I was not shy about sampling the fresh produce. A bag of cherries would be my snack for the day.
Montreal Jazz Festival
The Jazz Festival was getting ready to start just a few blocks from the Dyad Scooter store. There were at least eight different stages, plus stand alone performers. I was surprised to a lot of interactive music activities for children.
Montreal’s Chinatown was better than Toronto’s. I didn’t sample any food, just sightseeing. A very sweet woman gave me a pamphlet about Falun Gong.
In addition the the Montreal Jazz festival, there was a Cirque Festival going on too. After a long day, I was not feeling the outside events and I can catch an indoor Cirque show in any city.
I was pressed for time so I caught the Metro from downtown to Old Montreal.
One of the best experiences in my life was attending the Aura show at the Notre-Dame Basilica. Photography was strictly prohibited during the 20 minute luminous show that told stories using lights and angelic music. This is a must do activity in Montreal, for sure!
This vacation to Canada was inspired by one of my Smootents, Skylar who went to Niagra Falls for Memorial Day Weekend with her Girl Scouts Troop.
An important decision for my trip to Toronto was deciding where to stay. I had a wonderful experience with my first time using Airbnb.
I was hosted in a million dollar condo in the Entertainment District. The fully stocked, 2-bedroom split floor plan was a nice place to call home for two nights.
Toronto City Pass Attractions
The Toronto City pass was an opportunity to see the top six attractions in the city. With less than 48 hours, I did not waste any time getting to the CN Tower and Aquarium which were only two blocks away from the condo.
Neither attractions were crowded. Canada Day had just passed, so I missed all of those crowds. For the sake of time, I had to skip the Toronto Zoo and Ontario Science Centre.
The CN Tower
“Nothing Can Stop Me, I’m All The Way Up!”
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
By this time, I had worked up an appetite. The open air lounge of e11even was very inviting with the Scotiabank Arena over my shoulder. This freshly ground burger did not disappoint.
Nathan Phillips Square
Royal Ontario Museum
The ROM was included with the City Pass. My favorite world culture exhibits were the Asian and Africa collections.
There was a 1.5 mile walk from the Royal Ontario Museum to Casa Loma.
I passed through the posh area of Yorkville that had this unique, jewelry store front. It was right across the street from a Ferrari dealership.
The decor of the Casa Loma reminded me a lot of the Biltmore Estate.
With directions from a local, I was able to ride a street car to Chinatown. I was not impressed with this area compared to Chinatown’s in the U.S.A. There was mostly Dollar Store like merchandise for sale.
This was a fun area. There were a lot of specialty stores and cafes. After all the walking it was time for a cold beverage.
Toronto Island reminded me a lot of Detroit’s Belle Isle. A local told me that Toronto went from winter to summer during the end of June. It rained for a week straight, which caused a lot of flooding on the island. A 10 minute ride on the fery gave me this view:
Recreational marijuana is legal throughout Canada. I was smelling herbal essences on every corner I turned. Either people were smoking or had just finished smoking.
Toronto has done a great job with having a cycling infrastructure in the core of the city. During rush hour, it looked like a race was taking place.
The CN Tower view from the condo at night.
Toronto was absolutely breathtaking. It is a shame that I never taken the four hour drive from Michigan when I lived there. I don’t think I could deal with the wintertime regardless of the underground city and heated parking garages.
Overall, I am blessed to have experienced this city, and I encourage others to do the same.
My next post will include all photos from Graffiti Alley. This post is long enough 🙂
I just returned from a two-week visit with my parents in the Sunshine State.
It was a chilled-out vacation with a visit from our family who lives in Morgantown, WV. We were game ready for the NBA Finals.
I skipped the few running races that were in the area. It feels good not to be in training mode and to exercise simply for the health benefits. Besides the usual shopping, dining out, concerts, etc., I wanted to explore some of the Florida beaches that I have never visited.
Honeymoon Island State Park
My Mom and I drove to Honeymoon Island State Park which is off the coast of Dunedin, Florida. This park was packed with boats, jet skis, kayaks, cyclists and walkers.
Honeymoon Island has a few beach areas to choose from. One beach allows pets if they are on a leash. The Oasis Beach was the most crowded. It was interesting to see how narrow the shoreline was compared to other Florida beaches.
Another area of Honeymoon Beach is covered in rocks that are sure to ruin a pedicure or cause injury. Despite the rougher terrain, people made their way to the north side of this area for safer swimming.
The Caladesi Island beaches were much nicer than Honeymoon Island. We watched the boats come and go in the Gulf of Mexico.
I wanted to get my steps in for a Go365 challenge. I walked south until the sand disappeared. My Mom enjoyed the 86 degree gentle waves.
Caladesi Island has a nature trail that started off all cute when I saw a gopher tortoise minding its business. Things turned ugly when I was attacked by mosquitoes. There was also signage to warn of rattlesnakes. I only made it about 15 yards into the trail before I ran out.
I can cross these two Florida beaches off of my list.
My History with the Kentucky Derby Festival Full & Mini Marathons
The 2019 Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon was my fifth time on this course. Since 2013, I have completed four half marathons, and Boston Qualified on the full. During Black Friday I snagged a great entry fee deal. A couple of weeks later I was sidelined from a running fall resulting in a fractured little finger and other sprains.
Training for the KDF Mini
I started training for the KDF Mini in February, only to have the annoying pain of shin splints cause me to take off three weeks. I was frustrated, because I could not train to my potential. My original goal was to run a personal best which is common for runners who want to prove to ourselves that, “We still got it.” Reality was another thing. There was no way I could run a sub 1:42 half with the extra weight gain and lack of mileage.
Determined to race, I used the Florida heat during Spring Break to get in a couple of longer runs. I even rode my Mom’s beach cruiser to stay active. Training in 80 degrees would make it easier to run in Kentucky Spring temps. Fortunately, my school has a brand new track. I squeezed in some lunch miles to make after work life easier as a therapeutic foster parent. My foster daughter and I would get in 6-9 miles after school on our bikes.
I had to cut portion sizes, and ease up on meat and junk foods. This was about the time I started a 10-week Express Invisalign. I have to wear my aligners for 23 hours a day. I cannot sip tea all day like I normally do. Increased water intake helped with the shin splints. No candy and no snacking. Basically, I take the aligners out to eat lunch and dinner. I can only drink water. This helped me shed a few pounds.
I made sure to get plenty of rest all week before the race. My new goal was to finish under 2:00. The night before, I took a look at my https://kelsielou.com/race-summaries/ page to make some updates and remind myself of previous performances.
The positive thinking and sacrifices resulted in me having an extremely pleasant race. The weather was PERFECT!! I did not run with music. The real reason is because I have not taken the time to link music to my new Forerunner 645 Music. The crowd support and DJs along the course kept me entertained.
Race Highlights of the KDF Mini Marathon
As soon as I entered Corral B a stranger asked me to tie his shoe. I thought it was a little odd, but I humbled myself to kneel down and tie this man’s shoe. Then, he asked me to tie the other one. I made sure I double knotted and tucked the ends under his laces like I do mine. When I stood up, I saw that he was wearing a Special Olympics shirt. I introduced myself, and he told me his name was Nick. His corral was F, but he was all the way in the Bs. He told me he had run the Mini before. I let him lean on me to stretch. We crossed the starting mats and ran together for a block. I did not see him after that. I’m glad I was able to be Nick’s friend in that brief moment.
The first few miles has a lot of turns. The pattern is: 2 lefts, 2 rights, 2 lefts. It makes it easy peasy to run those tangents.
There was a water station between miles 6-7. I thanked the volunteer. As I passed I heard her yell, “Kelsie!” I turned back and saw her face. It was the former Finance Manager at Job Corps. She and I settled up a lot of checks back when I was the Recreation Supervisor. It was so good to see Dawn after all these years.
So normally, I’m the photo queen. Without my phone, I did not get ANY photos. I walked past the finisher photographers and straight to where I parked. When I got ready to pull off I got a text. My co-worker, Karen, was at the finish line awaiting her boyfriend to finish the Full Marathon. She heard the announcer say, “Kelsie Smoot” and found me getting ready to finish. This made my day.
Results of the 2019 KDF Mini
Finish Time: 1:52:28
Age Division: 40/643
Women’s Division: 313/4557
The non-measureable is feeling like myself again, having that surge going into summer with fun 5 and 10Ks, and a unique half marathon picked out for the fall. The full marathon calls my name sometimes, but I suppress those thoughts. I’m not insane anymore.
While I was finishing my race another co-worker, Ms. Glass, was participating in the preliminary rounds of the National Physique Committee Derby Championship. She has been training since January, and I saw her already toned body become even more defined. She emailed me her eating plan, and I was blown away with the attention to detail and the daily water intake. In addition to her lifting, she had to do 70 minutes of cardio a day and increase her water consumption even more.
I went back downtown to support her Kentucky Derby fitness efforts. Unfortunately, I did not get to see her Master’s Figure 35+ pose on stage because the NPC program is so long. The bikini category was the largest and took a couple of hours to go through each category, class, etc.
There is more to the Kentucky Derby than horses. Next year, I may do the Tour de Lou bike ride.