Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Semi-Abnormal Gal is Over and Out!

This is my last post here on Chronicles of a Semi-Abnormal Life. But no worries ya'll, this Gal isn't really going away, I just moved over to my own website now! (And it only took nearly a year to accomplish this goal! I always complete what I set out to do, even if it takes an absurdly long time.) Come visit ASAP! Also, if you subscribe to me via email, Google Reader or Blogger Dashboard, be sure to update your browsers/favorites/subscriptions!

Oh and no worries, you haven't missed much between my spring break and today, because now I'm on a Hunger Break! Don't know what that is? Read more here at ThatJessGal!

Love to all,
~the Semi Abnormal Gal turned ThatJessGal

Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Meat Shall Touch These Lips for the Next 40 Days-Half Way Check In

The Stats:

Starting Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Ending Date: Sunday, April 8, 2012
Total Days Meat Free (so far): 24

The Eats:

Tofu Bahn Mi

Tiki Masala Soup with Shrimp

Trashcan Salads

Spicy Curry Noddle Bowls 

Vegetable Stir Fries with Tofu

Not nearly enough Paneer Cheese and Spinach, and Spicy Peas, Chickpeas & Potatoes with Five-Grain Pilaf and of course, Naan. 

Plus loads of: Tuna Salad with Crackers, Subway Seafood Sensation Subs and Eggs (scrambled, fried sandwiches, hard-boiled)

The Reflections:

This challenge has been fairly smooth so far but admittedly not very creative. I've been a very busy gal the last couple of weeks, so grabbing what I can, when I can has been the reality of the situation. I've discovered that the only time I struggle with avoiding meat consumption is when I fail to plan in advance. Of course this statement is true of nearly any healthy eating, I think, meat or no.

I've been eating mostly trashcan salads for dinner (I roast up a huge pan of veggies and potatoes on Sunday and eat off it all week in my salads) and tofu sandwiches or tuna/seafood subs for lunch. Breakfast has been mostly unchanged, I just don't include ham in my egg scrambles or sandwiches.  

Dining out has been painless as well, since my friends are awesome and we have been frequenting mostly Asian fare restaurants, which ironically I usually eat tofu at all the time. Dining out with others has also been the hardest on me, because I'm a big sharer of meals and it's irritating not to be able to steal a sesame glazed chicken wing off a friend's plate, or a bite of chicken pad thai off another's. I think that leaves me more leaning towards reintroducing meat into my diet after Easter.

This coming week will be the most challenging yet to be sure. I'm headed out on a road trip with my Mum to stay with her brother as we visit with my elderly grandmother who now lives permanently in a nursing home.  I didn't tell my uncle and aunt about my new "vegetarian" ways because I didn't want them to make a big fuss. But they are good southern hosts and both excellent cooks; which means bacon in even the green beans! Oh and my uncle makes some wicked good grilled chicken. Yes, a challenge to be sure. I'll report back soon.

How is everyone else doing with their Lenten abstinences? Have you learned anything new about yourselves?

Love to all,
~the Lenten veg head herself, Jess

Monday, March 12, 2012

Medium & A Pinch and Other Things that Shouldn't Go Together but Do

Some combinations are sound strange and yet they go together so well.

Potato Chips/French Fries on Deli Sandwiches.

Cheddar Cheese and Apple Pie.

Peanut Butter, Bacon and Bananas.

Salt and Melon.

Pickles and Ice Cream.

Penn and Teller.

(Not sure how that last one got in there!)

Another one of those wonderfully wacky (and incredibly tasty) combinations can be found at Bahn Thai.

Actually Bahn Thai is is a rather wacky, yet wonderful, place itself as it is located in a funky old hotel on the south end of Gville. In fact, due to it's arrangement in the hotel, BT has no windows, instead they have framed old Thai motif printed wrapping paper hanging where windows would be. It's awkward to be sure but the food is so good that no one cares.

I actually chose what would become my favorite item at Bahn Thai based on what sounded like a random combination of things.

Gang Kua w/ Tofu Red curry sauce with coconut milk along with tofu and sweet potato, pineapple, bean thread noodle, snap bean, asparagus and black mushroom.   

Yep, you heard right. Sweet potato AND Pineapple AND Asparagus? Whoa. Of course I had to order it. It was during the ordering process that things got even more wacky, wonderful and combination challenged.

See, Thai and American spice tolerance levels are quite different.  For some reason they forgot to put "Thai Hot" on the Scoville Scale but I'm pretty sure it falls in somewhere around 2,000,000 units. Phew. (and yes, I just made that measurement up, but it sounds reasonable, don't you think?)

Now most Thai restaurants have a "star scale" that you use to order how hot you want it. Five stars is "American Hot" and well, you just order Thai Hot if you are Thai. (my boy bestie I've been this move in action) For reasons unknown to this customer Bahn Thai isn't a fan of the star system. Or at least the star scale was missing on the menu.

When asked by the owner/server how spicy I wanted my Gang Kua I said "two steps down from American Hot, please." She replied "ok, how about medium with a pinch?" "Sure." I innocently replied.

See all the red flakes on the top of my lovely meal? I'm guessing it was the "pinch." Let's just say medium is sufficiently spicy for this gal. However, I discovered the odd sounding combination of flavors actually go together beautifully, and if I killed a few taste buds while savoring the sweet, tangy, green, sour flavor profile so be it.

But next time Bahn Thai, just medium will do it.

Love to all,
~the weird combination loving gal, Jess

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day Light Savings Listening List

Herrrro my dears! It's a beautiful spring-like day here in NorCenFLA. And the best part about spring like days, is spring-like weekends. And do you want to know the very best part about this spring-like weekend?

You do? I knew I liked you, friend. Yes, you guessed correctly. The best part of this spring-like weekend is that Sunday, March 11th is the first day of Daylight Savings Time. Horray, horray, horray!

Wait. That wasn't what you guessed? And what did you just ask? Why am I excited about losing an hour of sleep? Well, because I love sunshine. I mean, I am a a born and raised Sunshine State Gal after all. And the best part about an extra hour of daylight for the next eight and a half months is I have more time to be outside soaking up fresh air and vitamin D.

What? You still aren't convinced? Oh boo. Well, how about a fresh playlist to enjoy during the extra hour then? You know, something to light up your ears, as the sun lights up your day. Yes, I'm cheesy. No, I'm serious. Ok fine. At least you do like music. We'll call it a compromise.

Florence and the Machine-Shake it Out
Drake ft. Nicki Minaj- Make me Proud
Neil Diamond-Sweet Caroline
Kanye West & Jay Z- Ni**as in Paris  (this is the explicit version-consider yourself warned)
Flo Rida ft. Sia-Wild Ones
Dia Frampton, ft Kid Cudi-Don't Kick the Chair
David Guetta, ft Nicki Minaj- Turn Me On
Beyonce- Schoolin' Life
Christina Perri-A Thousand Years
Journey-Don't Stop Believing
Y.C., ft Future-Racks
Say Anything-Every Man Has A Molly
She & Him- Gonna Get Along Without You Now
A Day to Remember- If It Means a Lot to You 
Fun. ft Janelle Monae- We are Young

Some if it is new. Some of it is old. Some of it is getting overplayed on the radio already. (but I promise I was listening to it first!) All of it will be perfect for an extra hour of light to read by the pool, run an extra mile or two, or just cruise around in your car, embracing the golden rays of sun.

Happy Spring Forward, friends.

Love to all,
~the music and sunlight lover gal, Jess

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sanaa Makes Me Say "Ahhhhh"

An optional title for this post would be Fatty Fatty Moo Moos go Carby Carby Moo Moo 

Bestie Michael came up with the term Fatty Fatty Moo Moos for our group of friends, because we all LOVE food so much and are always going out on quasi extravagant dining outings together. (or at home, Michael is a great chef!)

But when this Fatty Fatty Moo Moo gal heads to Sanaa it is all about the carbs, specifically these beauties:

Warm, ghee drenched Naan will you marry me? Well, I guess we won't be monogamous, because I do tend to wander over to spend equal time with the Onion Kulcha and the Paneer Paratha too. Actually that is a threesome I can really get behind. Is that ok, Naan? We can invite these guys too:

Woah. I still write a food blog, I promise. Not one of those websites. Back to the yummy bites.

Even after the bread and dipping sauce orgy I had no problem making room the in bottomless pit I call my stomach, when this beautiful platter arrived in front of me.

From the Vegetarian Sampler: Paneer Cheese and Spinach, and Spicy Peas, Chickpeas & Potatoes with Five-Grain Pilaf.

It might come out from the kitchen in neat bowls, but nothing stays orderly around this messy Jessy gal. (Yep, I'm a huge fan of entropy...well, and playing with my food. duh.)

In fact no one at our table went home with empty stomachs or clean fingers. The spread at Sanaa is so simple, so satisfying and yet filled with such complex flavor profiles.

It's any foodie's (or Fatty Fatty Moo Moo's) afternoon delight dream lunch.

Now, when this herd of Moo Moo's take on Sanaa we really have no choice but to finish out the meal with this divine little cup. 

Oh Chai Cream, how are you so refreshing yet silky and rich? And Sanaa, why are you literally breaking my heart by taking it off the menu?

And our dessert's dessert? Why some giraffes and an ostrich!

The giraffes were particularly active and our party of 6 ended up spending nearly an hour out by the fire pit watching the animals and gossiping about food, fashion, career changes, technology and basketball. Just another Sunday afternoon for the Fatty Fatty Moo Moo crew.

Love to all,
~the, carby moo gal herself, Jess

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gal Talk: Motivation

Motivation. It's a bit of a dirty word to a high school teacher. We are always trying to find a new way to motivate our students and let me tell you friends, in 2012 even this "young dog" is having a hard time finding any "new tricks" to motivate her students.

Motivation applies to many things. Motivation to be successful in a career. Motivation to be successful in a partnership. Motivation to raise a family, be a supportive parent, or understanding to an aging parent.

Finding the motivation to be healthy is one of the most common topics around the lunch table and blogging world, however. I don't usually say much about motivation around these parts for many reasons, mostly because I think "motivation" is truly different for everyone and should be a personal thing.

I know that I personally am not motivated when people yell or scream "hard, faster, push-push-push" or anything of the sort. I just don't really like yelling. Or being bossed around. Or anything that seems remotely similar to military boot camp. In fact at my triathlon one spectator (she was another competitor's coach, I think) started yelling at me to "push harder" during the last mile of the run and I may have yelled back a few not so nice things. Don't push me; it just makes me angry, not motivated.

Needless to say, most of the "motivational things" that are said in group classes, such as spinning, Body Pump and Body Combat don't really get me going either.

PS. This isn't my gym. They didn't have any group class photos. Lame, GHF. 

This Saturday I had a revelation. Right in the middle of Body Combat. Carrie, our instructor kept saying that if we we want "to see change you have to go get it. It won't just come to the doorstep" or something to that effect. Sometimes sweating my brains out makes my memory a touch fuzzy. I'm sure you understand.

Anyways, as usual I was tuning out the "motivation" spewing forth from the instructor's mouth until the last track. Push-ups. Ugh. I hate push-ups. And after a bunch of punching drills that had already shredded my arms and shoulders I really, really hate push-ups. Honestly I was about to fake my way through the set when Carrie once again said "change won't come to you, you have to go get it" and for some reason it finally clicked. If I want ripped arms, I have to fight through the push-ups. 

Now I know most of you are saying "duh, Jess. Did you really just climax with that?" Stay with me. Aside from realizing I need to embrace push-ups the important lesson I learned while teetering on shaking arms and abs was I am motivated by rational "cause and effect" statements. 

Guess that means that I'm finally motivated to be motivated. And you know what? It feels good.

Love to all,
~the "motivate me with logic and reason" gal, Jess

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year Look Ahead

I'm a gal who really likes goals. I'm always dreaming about the future and plotting out my next weekend, vacation, and move in life.

Since I am pretty much always thinking (and chatting aloud) about the future, one of my closest friends was surprised that I didn't have a running "bucket list."

This came as a bit of a shock to me as well. Why didn't I have a bucket list? I realized that I do have one, it's just been rattling around in my brain (and occasionally getting lost) all these years.

The physical act of listing out my life long dreams, goals and aspirations brought to light how varied they are in terms of time to accomplish.  Some of the entries will be crossed off as soon as this summer (road trip solo) or as far off as visiting all 52 states and the 7 continents (who knows when I'll pull that off...50, 60, 70?)

As the Leap Year drew closer to the all important date of February 29th I began reading up on what the Leap Year means and special traditions that are associated with this funny quad-annual calendar anomaly I kept running across the term "Leap List."

A Leap List is pretty much what it sounds like. A list of goals to be achieved by the next leap year. Four years to tackle a chunk of my Bucket List? Now that sounds like a plan right up this gal's alley.

Leap List, 2012 Edition

Solo Road Trip
Visit Polyface Farms, owned and operated by Joel Salatin
Return to Metropolitan Area Living
Start Leading Community Yoga Classes
Complete a Sub 3 Hour Half Marathon
Complete a Sub 30 Minute 5k
Complete a Sub 1:55 Sprint Tri
Complete an Olympic Distance Tri
Travel Abroad Again (Asian Countries? Return to Munich?)
Spend Time in Portland and/or San Fran
Purchase a house as a single gal
Adopt a Rescue/Shelter Dog
Start a Vegetable Garden (and ideally not kill it!)
Take a college level creative writing course

Phew! I'm sure I'll think of a thousand more things before midnight, but I'm going to cap myself right there. It's going to be an amazing four years. Get ready 2016, I'm going to have a lot to share with you!

Love to all,
~the "what did I just leap into this time?" gal, Jess

Friday, February 24, 2012

This Post is Brought to You by the Letter S

Because S stands for:

Spectator Signs and Science Show and Tell, duh.

It's been a busy week over here in Gal Land, and I've been dying to share my thoughts on my first time spectating a race, but first I had to make brains.

Yes. I said, make brains. Behold:

 Just a little mixy-mixy- with some boiling water,  a trip overnight in the fridge in an oiled mold and voila! I give thee brains! Muahahahah.

The heart one didn't firm up. Turns out the recipe on the mold calls for more water than the recipe on the jello box. Lesson learned. I got both the brain and heart molds from which is one of my favorite  "stores!" It is jam packed with all kinds of quirky items which make great gifts and as a teacher, fun pranks for my kids!

I wish I had a picture of my biology student's faces when I took a bite of "the brain" after telling them all about Kuru! (a nervous system disorder like Mad Cow Syndrome that has been observed in Papua New Guinea after ritual brain consumption) I had convinced the class that the brain was real; that I had gotten it on loan from UF so it was pretty priceless. Ahhh, Science Show and Tell.

Now, about that race spectating. 

See, in the races I've done so far I've had some amazing spectators:

But I'd never actually been a spectator myself. However, last Saturday both Anni (who came to my first tri and took up running afterwards, she was so inspired by all the competitors) and my bestie Christine with her boyfriend Ross, were running the 5 Points of Life 5K, which is a part of the 5 Points of Life Marathon Weekend, one of the biggest racing weekends in Gville. Needless to say, I was pumped to test out my spectator skillz

And we all know that a good spectator comes with fun signs. So, fun signs we made! (we being my Mum and I...Anni is her best friend. No worries, friends. I don't just talk in third person like a crazy royal!)

 Mom, showing off our handiwork.

We finally found our racers and all three of them were super pumped to get this party race started! (and no we didn't have to stand around in the chilly pre 8am air for an extra 35mins before finding them because I super over estimated how long it would take to find parking. I don't know what you could possibly be referring to.)

I really enjoyed this experience because I got to see some of the "behind the scenes" of the race.

Like the start, with the bike leader:

And how fast the starters are:


I missed getting a good shot of Christine and Ross at the start...they were really flying and I wasn't prepared, but I love this one of Anni. She was so happy!

 This course was essentially a loop through UF's campus and the finish line was a mere 1000 meters from the start, so I got off really easy in my first spectating job. Operation stay-in-the-same-spot commence!

A mere 17 minutes later the winner came flying by.

And then at ~29 minutes into the race a familiar couple came into sight.

 Christine really powered through the finish line and accomplished her goal of finishing under 30 minutes with a time of 29:56! I'm so proud and totally inspired to pick up my own running game!

Just over 10 minutes later Anni came into sight, making that nasty little hill up to the finish look like cake!


Anni, celebrating her super awesome finish! What an amazing first 5k!

Christine, myself and Ross. Hungry for that breakfast! 

 Mission accomplished! Thanks 43rd Street Deli!

My first spectator experience earns a score of "super!" Just another letter S to add to the day!

Love to all,
~the science-y spectator gal, Jess

PS. Speaking of signs, check out what my Mom snuck down to hang up in my apartment, since she couldn't make it down for my first 1/2 marathon in person. So sweet!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No Meat Shall Touch These Lips for the Next 40 Days

That's what she said. Barharhar.

Ok, sorry. Let me get serious here. Today is Fat Tuesday. So, happy Mardi Gras, everyone!

As I am Catholic, that also means that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the start of the 40 day season of Lent. If you are not familiar with Lent it is a period of reflection, prayer and fasting.

["40 days" represents many things- The 40 days of the great flood (found in Genesis), 40 years that the Hebrews wandered in the desert (found in Numbers),  40 days Moses spend on Mount Sinai (found in Exodus),  40 days that Jesus was temped by the devil in the desert (found in Mathew).]

In the past I've given up fast food, swearing, chocolate, and caffeine. Well, I don't eat fast food any more. The swearing bit was an epic fail last year and as a high school science teacher I NEED chocolate and caffeine so I don't bite the heads off of unruly freshman and sophomores!

That only leaves one thing: it's time to go meatless. I had actually considered fasting from meat for Lent a couple years ago, but at the time I wasn't eating much meat at all, so that didn't seem like much of a sacrifice. But recently? Well, I've been eating-and enjoying- a great deal more meat than I have in the past 6 years or so combined. I blame it on addictive nitrates!

Case in point:

Yep, that was just a week ago. And let me tell you, the idea of having to for go salami on my cheese plate for the next month and a half makes me a little twitchy. However, since Lent is about sacrifice, I can suck it up.

Instead, my Tweets might sound a bit more like this in the coming days:

I'm excited for this challenge, to be perfectly honest. My vegetarian and vegan friends are being super supportive, sending me recipes and ideas. Some predictions have been made that I won't even look back after Lent is over. We shall see. Maybe this Lenten experiment of sorts will change my diet drastically.

Or maybe I will feel like this:

Thank goodness I genuinely like beans, tofu and veggies*!

Is anyone else abstaining for the season of Lent? I always get a kick about of everyone's fasting choices. It's like New Years with wonderful religious backing.

Love to all,
~the little vegetarian pescatarian Catholic gal, Jess

*I'm abstaining from meat (chicken, pork, beef, etc), but will still consume dairy, eggs and seafood. I also am not worried about chicken stock in soups if it is unavoidable.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Impulsive Half Marathoner-The Full, errr, Half Monty

Exactly one week ago I competed in my first half marathon. I'm honestly not sure when I started thinking about completing a half marathon (at least a year ago?) and now I've completed one. It's a little mind boggling to be sure.

But one thing I can be sure about is on Sunday, February 12, 2012 I ran/jogged/walked 13.1 miles all over downtown St. Petersburg, FL in the Inaugural St. Petersburg Rock and Roll Half Marathon and eventually found myself crossing the long awaited finish line. 

As I stated before, registering for this race was very spontaneous. (impulsive, even?) I randomly signed up after seeing friends post the link to Facebook on 11/11/11 with a discount code bringing the cost of registration down to 60 bucks. After a quick peek at the course map, which covered some of my favorite parts of St. Pete I had an email confirmation in my inbox from RnR and a "what the hell did I just get myself into?" feeling in my gut.

A few weeks later that same group of friends whom unknowingly "got me into this mess" ran in the Las Vegas Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon, bringing some flaws of the Rock 'n Roll series under the microscope in very sharp focus. I recall some people having real qualms about how packed the course was and that they couldn't move, but the two issues that sent me into a panic were lack of aid stations/no water at the aid stations and a shortage of metals for the slower finishers.  

WHAT? "Come on people, I only do this for the metals!" I wailed.

Needless to say, this cute little turtle paced gal was legitimately freaking out!  But just like any of my freakouts, I got over it and got proactive. I purchased a water bottle with a running grip from Camelbak and reminded myself that they could always mail me the metal later, if they once again ran out at the St. Pete event.

It seems that the RnR group really learned their lesson in Vegas, because I could not have asked for a better first time half marathon experience on my own race day.

So, with all that preamble and no further adieu here is the story of my first half marathon:

The morning started off with a great big "ugh" regarding alarm clocks going off at 5:15am on a Sunday morning, especially when you have stayed up until past midnight with your bestie making positive running shirt signs, watching silly youtube videos, gossiping and chatting about fitness the previous evening. Oh and a double ugh for the 30 degree windy weather awaiting me outside. So yes, it was cold, but frankly I was more concerned about food than the cold snap. (well, when am I not concerned about food, honestly?)

I had discovered the previous week during my last long run-12 miles- that banana and peanut butter didn't go too well as a pre-run meal for me and since I usually eat scrambled eggs/omlete every morning I had this crazy thought that I would just order that for room service at 5am. Um, well, it was a nice plan but no dice, because good 'ol room service doesn't start until 7:30am. (shows you my vast experience with room service-I thought it was 24 hours) The Starbucks in the lobby of the hotel was opening at 6am, so that was my only plan B.

Actually, it was quite a few people's plan B, because the line was 15 deep even though I got there right at 6am. One coffee and a "perfect oatmeal" later I was headed over to the Trop for the start of the race. I did my best to woof down the oatmeal in my car, but it just tasted really sweet and I only managed to eat half of it. (Rookie mistake number 1)

I wanted to stay in my car, nice and warm, but I couldn't hear the announcements on the loud speaker and that was making me nervous so I yanked my ugly yellow sweatshirt on over my long sleeved tech tee and headed out to join the queue for the porta-potties. Fun times, fun times. Fast forward the 25 plus minutes of shivering in corral 12 the race finally started. (rookie mistake number 2-totally could have stayed in the car all that time!) 

Another 24 minutes later thanks to the staggered start I was crossing the start line. The first 5 miles were very uneventful. Lovely, very chilly (chilly as in my nose was frozen but snotting at the same time-thanks random head cold that popped up on Friday morning) enjoyable miles, winding around the stadium and covering some western parts of Central Ave. I kept thinking about chunking the sweatshirt as it felt very cumbersome, but then another gust of wind would come swirling down the street at me. Burr.

Just past the 5 mile marker we turned back unto 4th Street South and into blessed full sun. I said goodbye to the uncomfortable yellow sweatshirt and kept on trucking. My plan to run 3x each song on my playlist was working grandly and I was also enjoying the live entertainment on the course. My only slight problem was my pants. Turns out they are a size too big for running (I bought them primarily for yoga) and therefore kept falling down, leaving me yanking them up every third or forth stride. Eventually I got used to them riding low (just on my hips, not my waist where I wanted them...nothing was exposed or anything) just let them be.

The turn around through a residential neighborhood at mile 7.5ish was particularly memorable because I stopped to chat with a friendly homeowner and play with his beautiful Great Dane. She wanted to run with me, which would have been amazing, but of course I had to say goodbye to them both. (It's moments like that I wish I had run with my camera, but I just wanted to keep the race simple) I also said goodbye to the cool sign on my back around that time, or rather the wind said goodbye to it for me. Sniff.

Trotting along the marina and bay was great, even if a bit breezy, because that chilly breeze was laced with sweet, tangy salt. It made me feel alive and happy. And if feeling alive and happy isn't the point of a race, then I don't know what is. The next segment of the race was the down and back along the Pier. When I signed up for the race I was not happy about the idea of this stretch because I figured it would be in the full sun and hot as blazes. It was full sun, but the sun was welcome. Honestly as much as I keep mentioning the chill factor I'm glad it was cold. I would much prefer shivering at the start and having to plan extra layers to shed (and getting super windburned too) over sweating my brains out.

Peace to the Pier indeed. I actually love the "down and backs" of race courses, because you get to better see exactly who is ahead of and behind you. And let me tell you friends, even though I had now long lost the 3:00 hour pace keeper I was nowhere near the end either! And that golf cart that I feared would be on my heels? Not even in sight.

Exiting the Pier left only 3 miles left! Just a 5k, right? No sweat. Ugh. This was the only part of the race where I got a little frustrated and from mile 10.5 to 11.5 I didn't run at all. Remember, rookie mistake number 1 of not enough breakfast? It came back to bite me hard. I knew I needed more calories, but had only had 2 cups of Gatorade (or whatever brand of electrolyte drink it was-they are all nasty to me) thus far, although I had water at all the aid stations. (which were at every mile-making my decision to leave my running bottle at the hotel actually a good one!)

But back to the calorie deficit, at mile 10 they offered Gu packets. Admittedly I'd never had one before, and I know you "shouldn't do anything new on race day" but I also knew I needed something. So I took a vanilla one and sucked down about 3/4 of it with a cup of water chaser. (it actually tastes and "feels" just like vanilla pudding, so I'm a fan for future training/events)  

After the Gu pack station the race course turned down the cobblestone street of 5th NE right next to the Vinoy, aka sheer gorgeousness. I have always loved this part of St. Pete and was feeling SO good to be running along it. 

That good feeling abruptly disappeared as I rounded the corner off Bayfront onto Beach Drive and two things happened pretty much simultaneously: 1-my stomach started trying to reject the Gu. 2-I could see the finish line party but knew I still had nearly 3 miles to go. (and people who had already finished started wandering on the course-not cool, fyi) Needless to say I wasn't feeling so alive and happy at that moment. I pushed on walking as fast as I could and focusing on keeping the Gu inside my stomach. 

Thankfully there was another aid station with water just after mile 11 and after stopping for two full cups of water and some deep breaths I felt much better. Finally all that was left was the out and back across the Snell Island Bridge. Ugh, again. We could still hear all the festivities at the Finish Line Party, and yet we were running (or walking as briskly as possible in my case) away from it.

As we turned and headed back across the bridge I finally got a last spurt of energy. Maybe it was because we were headed towards the finish. Maybe that Gu packet was finally in my bloodstream. Maybe it was gravity helping me down the Snell Island bridge. Whatever the reason I perked up and started trotting along Coffee Pot Blvd with my head held high, knowing I was less than a mile from becoming a half marathoner.

My good mood only improved when I noticed a familiar figure walking in the opposite direction on the sidewalk. With excited recognition I called out "Meghann!" and jumped up on the side walk to give her a quick hug and congrats on her run. (and engagement since I hadn't seen her recently) Little did I know aat the time she had just successfully completed her goal of finishing a sub 1:45 half marathon. She encouraged me to keep moving, since the finish line was just around the bend. I shouted a good bye to her and kept slowly trotting to the finish line.  

[Just a quick side story here: I first met Meghann back in 2006 when she was dating one of my childhood friends and we were all home from college for the holidays. We stayed friends on Facebook even though that relationship didn't last and it was thanks to her blog that I first discovered this world of blogging runners, inspiring me to take up competitive racing. So, even though we don't talk on a regular basis, it is because of Meghann essentially that I am even able to write this post. Isn't it fun how small the world is?]

They had photographers set up to catch the facial expressions of people as the finish line came into sight. This was all I could offer.

I call it "where's the finish line?" because that was all I had been thinking for the last 3 miles! I began a slow jog towards the mats, getting really excited when I saw Christine along the fence of the shoot!

Those are my "excited hands."
I was waving and flapping around when I saw her!

The next thing I knew I was crossing the finish line!

 Since I crossed solo the annoucers really hammed it up. I believe this is what was said:

And here comes Jess Mahoney. She is 25 and fabulous. And looking so pretty in purple today. Well, I'm sure she always look pretty, but she is sporting that purple today.

It made me laugh and really feel special, even though I'm in the "turtle group" and finished with a time of 3:26:06, a time that many other women can finish a full 26.2 miles in. And awaiting me past that finishing mat was my metal. 

My overall pace was quite a bit slower than I thought it would be (I was shooting for more of a 14:45) which also helps to explain why I was closer to 3:30 than 3:00, but I'm very pleased, considering how undertrained I was for this event. And hey, I totally wasn't last!  I'm excited to announce after this amazing experience that while this was my first half marathon, it won't be my last! I'm going to focus on triathlons for the rest of 2012 but I'm planning on fully training for another half for the spring of 2013 and will attempt to actually run the whole beast! Stay tuned for that fun!

Phew, writing this recap was nearly as exhausting as completing the 13.1 miles that made me a half marathoner! Thanks for reading, you deserve a metal just for finishing the post!

Love to all,
the "yup, I'm pretty proud to call myself a half marathoner now" gal, Jess

PS. My only other rookie mistake was my poor hands. I didn't wear my gloves, which I did bring with me, but just didn't realize how cold they would be. Also, they got very swollen around mile 6 which you can kind of see in my finisher picture if you look at my wrists. A lady I was chatting with during the "bad mile" told me it was from not keeping them at heart level when when I was taking walking breaks. Lesson learned indeed, because they were incredibly uncomfortable but went back down to normal with in an hour of finishing the race so no real harm done.