Winter break was nothing short of spectacular as I was privileged to spend the entire time in Florida with my parents. I felt a sigh of relief as Cycle 1 of my KY Teacher Internship which involves a lot of evaluations, meetings and paperwork was completed. I also survived fall semester at U of L with a 4.0 GPA. School was dismissed on a Friday, and I was on the highway at 5am on Saturday. My foster daughter was invited, but she chose to stay with her family in Louisville which wasn’t a bad idea for the holidays.
The Hot Chocolate Race Series held an inaugural 5k and 15k in Tampa on December 18th. My Mom was cool enough to drive to Tampa and pick up my race packet which included a jacket and personalized bib. I was not expecting my name to be printed on the bib because I registered a few days before.
Hot Chocolate Fleece
Women’s 1st place 5k Winner
Hot Chocolate Tampa 5k walkers
I had to submit proof of race times in order to be placed in the fastest corral. It didn’t make a difference because the start was slow and crowded due to sharing our start with the 5k finisher’s corral and people more interested in Snap Chatting the race versus running it. The 5k started about 30 minutes before the 15k. The sky was overcast and the temps were around 73 degrees. I knew once the sun peeked through, it would make for a very warm race, especially with an 8:30 start.
Temps maxed out at 84 degrees with full sunshine. The breeze from the Hillsborough Bay along Bayshore Blvd did not provide any relief to a course that was beautiful, but lacking sufficient fluid stops or shade. The first Nuun stop was at mile 1. That was good for the 5k runners, but meaningless for a 9 mile haul. I took some fluids anyway just in case. The next stop was not until mile 4, then another around mile 6 or 7. There were a lot of upset runners.
Tampa Hot Chocolate 5k/10k Race Route Bayshore Boulevard
Along the sidewalk, I could see the locals running and stopping at fitness stations for pull ups, squats and other exercises. They made it look so easy because they are acclimated to the heat. Back in Louisville, I was adjusting to the cold. This race was so brutal that I thought about walking the last 3 miles. Logic kicked in for me to determine a slower 9:00 minute pace would be easier than walking a 15:00 pace while dehydrated. One lady gave in to walking while cursing the lack of course hydration. She said she has never walked in a race. I pushed through with pride and removed my shades for better finisher photos which were included with the race fee.
Finally, I met up with my Mom in the finisher area and indulged in what this race is about…my favorite dessert in the world, CHOCOLATE! As hot as it was, I sipped my hot chocolate and ate everything in my goodie mug. I read reviews about the mug and jackets being cheap quality. I don’t know if the Hot Chocolate Race Series offered ceramic mugs in the past, but these were definitely plastic. I doubt I will use it again. I disagree with the jacket being cheap. It is good quality fleece, but they run small. I suggest ordering a size up.
Kelsie Smoot Hot Chocolate 15K Tampa Finisher
Hot Chocolate Tampa Mug
Overall, Hot Chocolate Tampa was a check off my bucket list of novelty races. I do not think the organizers and out-of-state participants expected mid 80s in December. The medals are the best part of this race. It reminds me of the golden ticket bars in Willy Wonka.
Hot Chocolate Tampa 15k Finisher Medal 2016
Parking was a little confusing due to construction around downtown Tampa. We parked in a Publix lot and walked over a few blocks to the start. It was convenient for after the race when I hopped in the backseat and swapped my race gear for a bikini and the lovely wrap from Hawaii my friend Karen gave me.
Kelsie Smoot St. Pete Beach Florida
Cuban Sandwich Paradise Grill
Alice J, Smoot and Kelsie Smoot
Mom and I drove to Pass-A-Grill Beach at the southern part of St. Pete’s Beach. We rented our little cabanas and munched on Cuban Sandwiches from Paradise Grill. The water temperature was cold at 70, but it felt really good for my aching muscles. Besides, there is not much to keep me from getting into the ocean.
Hot Chocolate 15k Tampa Results:
Time: 1:19:54 started with 8:25 pace and finished with 8:35 pace.
Overall: 103rd of 1,952
Female: 51st of 1,483
40-44: 13th of 266
The majority of the two weeks was spent doing a sunrise run every other day and soaking up as much sun as possible at the community pool of my parent’s gated residence. I teased a few family members up north with captioned “You Cold?” selfies.
I wasn’t feeling the Disney crowds during the busiest days of the year like I did in 2013. One of the locals suggested I visit Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. My Mom and I toured the beautiful garden which was envisioned by Edward W. Bok for all to enjoy. He hired Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. as the landscape architect, and it was Olmstead who came up with the idea to construct Bok Tower on the highest point in Florida.
What’s Blooming at Bok Tower Gardens
Kelsie Smoot in front of Gold Door.
Edward Bok Quote
Bok Tower Gardens River of Stone
Bok Tower Gardens Visitor Center
Bok Tower Gardens Exedra
Bok Tower Gardens Singing Tower Gold Door
Singing Tower Sun Dial
Reflection Pool Vista
We toured the Pinewood Estate that was built for a snow bird from Pennsylvania by the name of Charles Buck. The 1930s mansion was decorated to reflect how it would be furnished for the holidays when Mr. Buck and his family would come visit. Bok Towers was a nice experience and the weather was perfect.
Charles Buck Winter Home
Pinewood Estate Gardens
Moving on, I had some business to take care of in Lakeland and asked about anything worth seeing. I was led to Lake Hollingsworth and Florida Southern College. FSC is home to the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in one place.
Concrete Path Walkway FSC
Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture at FSC
Voted as the “Nation’s Most Beautiful College Campus,” the centerpiece of the college is the Water Dome Fountain of Knowledge. I spent about an hour walking around the various concrete path walkways and admiring the sweet smell of roses at the Ruth’s Garden.
FSC Water Dome Fountain of Knowledge & Annie Pfeiffer Chapel
Ruth’s Rose Garden Florida Southern College
Christmas Day, and also my Mom’s birthday was spent beachin’. We rented another cabana at St. Pete’s Beach near the Sirata Beach Resort. I picked this spot because the Mississippi State and Miami (OH) marching bands were having a battle of the sand outside the resort.
St.Pete Bowl Battle of the Sand MS State and Miami (OH)
St. Pete Beach Christmas Day
We stayed on the beach until sunset with crowds who brought mini Christmas trees onto the beach and built sand snow men. Mom and I were thrilled to spend Christmas Day and her birthday on the beach. She took one of her best photos to date with a little sassy coaching from yours truly.
Alice Jean Smoot Christmas Birthday
So where was Big Phil during all of this? I treated my Dad to midcourt 9th row seats at the Amway Center for the Magic vs. Grizzlies game. Amway is one of the best sports venues I have visited. I liked the order from your seat service, variety of concessions, customer service and overall cleanliness. Being off I-4 made for easy entry and exit. I will always try to make Magic games when I am in town and a concert would be nice too.
Phillip L. Smoot Sr. and Kelsie Smoot
Phillip L. Smoot at the Magic’s Game
Amway Center Orlando
Stuff The Magic Dragon
Memphis Grizzlies Bench
Magic vs. Grizzlies
The following day, my Dad accompanied me to the North Palm Beach Mercedes-Benz Dealership where I purchased a 2014 ML350 while wearing my Mercedes-Benz half marathon shirt. It may seem corny, but when I ran that race in Birmingham, AL and earned the 3 point star medal, I thought how nice it would be to drive that emblem. I would have never imagined owning a Benz less than two years later.
Mercedes-Benz 2014 ML350
My Dad says I don’t drive a car anymore, I have an automobile.
To round off the holidays, when the Louisville Cardinals football bowl game was announced to be the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, it was a no brainer on whether or not to attend. The night before was the Fan Appreciation party where I met the Athletic Director, Tom Jurich, and made a couple connections with U of L staff.
The game day activities were fun with a lot of freebies from Geico and Buffalo Wild Wings. I worked it like a race expo and got every free item and photo offered.
Camping World Stadium. Citrus Bowl 2016 Louisville vs. LSU
Citrus Bowl Trophy
U of L Marching Band
BDubs Wing Challenge
The weather was gorgeous as I watched the game in defeat. Not a single touchdown, but I am glad they got something on the board. I spoke to James Quick’s Dad, my former co-worker and neighbor on my way out the stadium. He mentioned having a meeting with agents soon. Best of luck on NFL dreams to the Quick family!
I went to the Dillard’s sale on New Year’s Day for Nike running shorts and watched all the NFL Sunday football games simultaneously at Millers Ale House. Who knew there was a freaking Giordano’s in Orlando? I went for dinner and was eating the left overs all the way back to Louisville.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!