Monday, July 6, 2015

Road trip! Fort Campbell to Baltimore, via Asheville, NC

It's finally summer! Well, it's been feeling like summer for quite some time, but I'm finally done with my summer on-the-job detail with the OSJA at Fort Campbell, and I have the next 7 weeks to relax and be at home.

To get back from Fort Campbell, K flew down to Nashville and stayed with me for my last few days of work, and then we drove home together. He was supposedly helping out, but I think I ended up driving about 9 hours....of the 13ish we drove (I hit all the bad traffic). Even though it was a little bit out of the way, we stopped in Asheville, NC, for the night on the way back. I originally was hoping to visit the Biltmore, but because of traffic, we didn't get to AVL until almost 4pm; not quite enough time to enjoy one of the country's largest historic homes. Other than that, I only really knew of Asheville from references in the Mandie mystery books I used to read when I was young, and from the Hunger Games.

Things to do on a trip: breweries, good food, and a little bit of relaxing. We managed to get all of that in during the one evening we had in Asheville.

First up Highland Brewing! We made it just in time for the first tour of the evening, but since we've done so many brewery tours, we ended up deciding to skip it and instead do the Troy & Sons Distillery tour right next door. We did make time for a tasting flight, though (they also have delicious root beer on tap).

After all that, we went to the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville, where there is no parking. Seriously, what's up with no parking. We browsed through some of the shops, including one that was a book store AND champagne about two of my favorite things! We also got a last minute walk in appointment at the Wake Foot Sanctuary, which was an interesting experience. K got their summer special, which was a lemon-scented foot soak with neck and foot massage, while I opted for the Salty Beach Rose, with lavender, jasmine, and rose salt soak, and shoulder and neck massage. We also ordered a pot of tea. I swear K can turn his brain off and relax at the drop of a hat (or, he just lives in a perpetually not-type-A bliss...), so he was practically snoring, but calming down is a little harder for me (especially when I'm allowed to have my phone). The experience included almost an hour of soaking our feet in large copper tubs, while relaxing together on a giant couch; we were the only ones there for the last appointment of the evening  (I didn't feel bad about possibly bothering someone else whenever I whipped my phone out or took this picture). It felt a little bit like a pedicure, without the chatty nail tech, pumice stones, or new polish; I enjoyed it for the evening, but probably wouldn't be a regular if we lived closer.

After all that, we headed to the Grove Park Inn, where we stayed for the night. After checking in, we dropped our bags off in the Vanderbilt Wing and got dinner at the Friday night seafood buffet at the Blue Ridge Restaurant. The buffet included three rooms of delicious food, including hot and cold crab legs (K loves crab legs), a noodle station, and a whole room just for dessert. Personally, I judge a buffet by the desserts, and this one was at least an A-. They had a cherries jubilee station, or you could just make a sundae with fresh vanilla ice cream; lots of little desserts and tarts, as well as cookies, and a delicious coconut cake. Also, there were jars of candy all around; who doesn't love a few malted milk balls after dinner! K always judges his buffets by pure variety and how long food as been sitting out, so I think he would go with more of a B. Some of the dishes definitely weren't that fresh looking, perhaps because the restaurant wasn't crowded, and the quality on the hot crab legs was a little hit or miss. We got to sit by the window, though, and enjoyed a lovely fireworks display a little after 9pm while we enjoyed our desserts.

After dinner, we were planning on walking around the resort a little bit to see what else there was to see, and ended up at Elaine's, a dueling piano bar hidden in the Vanderbilt wing. We stayed there for a while and had a lot of fun before finally getting to bed a little after midnight.

The next morning I definitely enjoyed sleeping in, in a room with soft, clean sheets, and lots of pillows, not to mention a lovely bathroom. After two months in Army lodging, my standards were pretty low, but this resort brought them right back up to the top. I enjoyed a lazy morning just looking out our window at the Blue Ridge Mountains, with some fresh coffee, and then took a long shower.
 Before heading back on the road, we finally took a nice walk all around the property. Since we were near the bottom of the Vanderbilt wing, there was a tunnel from the wing out to the resort spa. If we had more time/I wasn't pregnant, I would have liked to get a day pass for the spa just to laze around all day, like we did last year at the Homestead Resort in VA. Instead, I just took a picture in front of the waterfall, with the old Inn building in the background.
 From the original Inn building, you get an amazing view of the mountains, and downtown Asheville not too far away. How lovely is this view?
After a little more exploring, we finally had to get back on the road and head up I-81 back home. One day I would like to get back to Asheville, visit the Biltmore, and explore more of the outdoor space. I would definitely go back to the Grove Park Inn, even if it is a little bit pricey, and hopefully make time to explore that spa!

For now, though, I'm ready to just sleep in every day, finish "nesting," and get in a few more adventures before this sweet potato shows up. We're down to single digit weeks now, which feels like not much time at all! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Race Recap: Baltimore Women's Classic 5K 2015

And for my last official "race" of this pregnancy, the Baltimore Women's Classic 5K! I did this race last year, and really enjoyed it, so signed up again for 2015. It's one of the oldest and biggest all-women's races on the East coast, and is really well organized.

Bib pick up
You can pick up your bib at the charm City Run stores in the week leading up to the race, or the morning before, which keeps race prep pretty low stress. Since I've been at Fort Campbell, KY, for the past 7 weeks, and flew back home for this race and a wedding the night before, I was glad I could just walk over to the race start at 7am and pick up my bib then. The finish/start area still had a ton of tents and vendors set up, though, so there was still a little bit of an expo atmosphere.

The course starts and ends right around Rash Field on the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore. From there, it follows Key Highway for a little bit, goes up a hill, and winds through Federal Hill fr about a mile and a half before dipping back down to Key Highway and along the harbor to the finish line. There are probably two noticeable hills, one right before the first half mile point and one right before two miles, and the rest was pretty rolling and standard Baltimore terrain. There were two water stops, which was great, even though it wasn't as hot and humid as last year (or I wasn't as hungover as I was last year...). The last 1/3 of a mile goes right along the harbor walk, on the water, with a light breeze, and lots of twists and turns, so you don't see the finish line until after you pass the Rusty Scupper.

My race
Being over 30 weeks pregnant, I wasn't gunning for a PR like I hoped for last year.
Feeling like a whale....but maybe it's not all that bad
I was mostly happy to be able to run at all.....though I use that term liberally. I started out feeling ok, despite only walking for PT for the past week or two, but by the first mile, my shins were on fire, and I slowed to a walk. After trying my old run-walk, and still being in pain, I switched my stride to more of a toe strike, which helped relieve all the strain on my shins but used a little more of my calves than I like. Oh well, no pressure on the pregnant running lady! A little before the 2 mile mark I spotted one of my friends (who was running her first 5K since I made her sign up for it in March), and I stuck with her for the last mile. Since she didn't have her inhaler, and my legs hurt, we made quite a pair running/walking down Key Highway. Despite the gorgeous weather, grabbing a cold water and iced towel at the finish line felt great! We finished in just under 45 minutes of clock time.

As usual, one of the main reasons I run is for the swag, and the BWC never disappoints. At bib pickup you get a t shirt (this year it was an awesome cotton blend, not a technical t, which I actually love just as much as a tech t) and a reusable bag, which is big enough to go in my trunk for when I forget my grocery bags. At the finish line, I also got an ice towel, which I thought was a little odd, but I threw my towel from last year in my gym bag and actually use it quite a bit to wipe down my face after working out, or bring it to the pool with me. It's also one of the few 5Ks that hands out medals, which is just adorable! All finishers also get a rose, which makes the finish line look a little bit like a well-trodden wedding aisle near the end.

After the race, my friends and I met up again and found K, who was an awesome sherpa and carried around our four bags, jackets, extra water bottles, t shirts, and inhalers while also taking insta-worthy photos. He held on to our stuff a little bit longer while we dived into the expo area to grab bagels, Chewy bars, pretzels, more water bottles, and bananas (and watermelon!). I am a HUGE fan of both chewy bars and watermelon at the finish line, so this race always gets an A+ for food! I wasn't able to find a whole box of bars to snag, but I did fit several (dozen) in my bra.

After a few more photos, we all started walking home (being law students without cars, we all live downtown and were able to just walk to the start area), and stopped at Tesfa Cafe right around the block from home for coffee and a croissant.
5K medal, FTW!
I think I'm going to make a little medal hanger for all the medals I've gotten while pregnant, and put it up in the nursery!

Meanwhile, I'm thisclose to being done in Fort Campbell, and I'm so ready to head home!