Life, Travel

Summer Travels

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Traveling is one of my all time favorite things to do. Not only do you get to disconnect from the every day hustle and bustle and recharge, but you also get to experience new things and make memories with your family. We have made travel a priority and have worked hard to make vacations a special experience for our family. Aside from plain old hard work you can also make planning vacations a little easier by using travel rewards Credit Cards, like the Discover It Miles Card. It has no annual fee, the miles never expire, and you can fly any airline at any time! Just use it for regular purchases and you can rack up rewards to use towards your summer travels.

 

Just before summer started we spent a week in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. We stayed at The Gran Porto Real, our first all inclusive!

 

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The pool was by far our favorite place. We had a view of it from the balcony in our room. Payton was in the pool within the first hour we were there and it feels like she didn’t leave for the whole week!

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We made it!! #normanfamilyvacation2015 #mexico

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We spent most days hanging out by the pool. Lounging, reading, swimming, napping.

 

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An all inclusive vacation was a bit different than our typical Disney vacation or our previous Costa Rica and Baja trips, we spent more time relaxing and having no plans instead of planning out every detail and adventure. We did a spontaneous bike ride tour of the area one morning and ended up down by the beach and toured some Mayan Ruins.

 

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We also saw these awesome palm trees – they had been blown over by a hurricane but continued to grow even though they were growing sideways!

 

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One of my favorite things about taking vacations is being able to share these experiences with Payton. Growing up with memories of spending quality time together exploring, adventuring, and relaxing is something you can’t buy.

Travel is something that helps keep us focused during the busy seasons. I am so thankful to be able to work hard along side my husband and best friend and know that we are building our dream, working hard so we can play hard. With that hard work and smart planning with rewards card like the Discover It Miles card, nothing seems out of reach. Work hard, plan smart and you can experience the world.

 

Mexico was our one big trip this year, but we also have some travel plans to spend a few days in Minnesota next month and then we are going to Jamaica in September for Chris’ 30th Birthday/Our 8th Anniversary Celebration! For that trip we will be leaving the kiddo with grandma and enjoying ourselves sans kiddo on 7 mile Beach!

 

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I Can’t Wait!

 

What are your Summer Travel plans?

 

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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Disney, Life, Travel

Disney World 2014 – Epcot & Animal Kingdom

Isn’t funny how you look forward to something like vacation for so long and then BAM it’s over. Coming home on a Tuesday means hitting the ground running trying to catch up after being gone for a week. I wanted to try to write a recap with some Disney tips before I forget.  We packed so much into just a week. Traveling and vacations are some of my favorite things, but after day 6 or so I usually start to crave the comfort of structure. I’m looking forward to getting back to my bed, my food, and my gym. But we had a really great time.

This past week we spent 3 days at Disney World, my absolute favorite place on earth. This trip was especially exciting because Payton is old enough to ride almost all of the rides! We flew in late last Tuesday afternoon and stayed at the Wyndham right next to Downtown Disney for the night. We had reservations and park hopper passes for the next day so we wanted to be sure to get an early start. We headed right to Downtown Disney and ended up eating at Bongos Cuban Resturant and just walking around for a bit before heading to bed. We were up early the next morning to check into our On Property resort, Art of Animation.

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I love love loved Art of Animation! It has four areas: The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Cars, & Finding Nemo. We had a family suite in The Lion King area. We already had our Magic Bands when we arrived so we just had to check in to activate them. It turns out they were updating their system when we tried to check in and they weren’t sure our Magic Bands would work in time for our Breakfast reservations or for our park tickets and fast passes, so they gave us hard copies of the park tickets and blank fast passes. Once the system came back online we still had our pre-booked fast passes as well!

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One of the biggest tips I give to people who ask about how we plan is to invest in the Deluxe Dining Plan and make your dining reservations in advance. With the Deluxe Dining Plan each person gets to order an Appetizer, Entree, and Dessert at each meal, along with 2 snacks per day. With the plan you aren’t stressed about spending money on food and you can just enjoy your meals! We try to book Character Breakfasts’ with the Dining Plan so we don’t spend our time in the parks chasing down characters, they just come to our table while we eat! Our first meal on Wedneday was at the Grand Floridian at 1900 Park Fare. The food was great. Breakfast is one of my favorite meals because they have Mickey Waffles! Seriously, there is something magical that makes those waffles taste amazing. The characters at this breakfast were a bit out of Payton’s realm. We saw Mary Poppins, who I’m not sure she really knew. It also had Alice & the Mad Hatter, she was clueless on those as well. Tigger and Winnie the Pooh also showed up, which she was excited for.

After breakfast we were able to just take the monorail to Epcot, where we planned to spend half the day. epcotfamily

We planned on using our fast passes and riding all the big rides like Test Track, Mission: Space, and Soarin’. We started out with Test Track, which has changed a big since we last rode it. You get to design your own car and see how it measures up in different test areas like power, safety, and efficiency. I’m pretty sure every one just tries to build the fastest car they can! Payton picked the decorations for our car, isn’t it cute?

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After that we headed to Mission: Space. I was a bit concerned about this one… I don’t always love this ride so I wasn’t sure Payton would love it. We started out heading towards the Green “less intense” side, but once we found out she was tall enough for the Orange “more intense” side we switched over. Poor girl had no idea what she was in for!

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All or nothing, I guess! She did really well, but said she didn’t like the tight feeling when we would accelerate. She liked when we were floating or driving, but not when we would blast off. This turned out to be the ride we used to rate all the other rides… “Is this like the Space Ship ride?” No, its not as bad as the space ship ride… haha. But she survived, I was pretty proud of her!

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.jsWe also did the Nemo ride and played in the aquarium for a few minutes before heading to Soarin’. This ended up being her favorite ride of the day! After Soarin we headed over to walk through the World Showcase. We started in the United Kingdom where we had our lunch reservations at the Rose & Crown Pub. This is Chris’ favorite restaurant at Disney! It’s like spending a day in a real English Pub. I started with the Scottish Egg. I’ve heard a lot about these but don’t think I’ve ever tried one.  

Delicious Scottish Egg I had with lunch at The Rose & Crown in #epcot #normansdisney2014

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It was delicious! I also had the burger and Fries, which was fantastic. I had a Toffee Bread Pudding for dessert. After we finished we walked through the rest of the World Showcase. Payton loved hearing the different music and trying to guess what each world was.

We conquered Epcot in record time thanks to our ample supply of fast passes! We didn’t wait in line at all. We took the monorail back to the Grand Floridian where we parked and then headed back to finish checking into Art of Animation now that our room was ready.

After checking in and resting for a bit we headed back out to Animal Kingdom.

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We wanted to take Payton on Dinosaur and Expedition Everest. Going in more of an off season, Animal Kingdom wasn’t that busy at all. We barely waited in line and got right on both rides. Dinosaur is always fun, but I was most excited to take her on Expedition Everest. It was her first “real” roller coaster! She absolutely loved it! Even if she had her eyes closed half the time.

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We also did he It’s Tough Being a Bug show and joined in a few of the dance parties going on aroud the park. Animal Kingdom closes earlier than the other parks, I imagine it is because as it starts to get dark all the animals go hide for the night. We headed back to the hotel to rest and clean up for dinner. We had reservations at Boma, the African themed buffet at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The dinner was great with a large buffett of all different types of food. Meat, Salads, Soups, all kinds of flavorful food! Plus an amazing dessert buffett. They had a fun bongo dance party that Payton loved.

Day 1 at Disney was a long day, but SO fun!! We walked over 17 miles, without a stroller!! After dinner we were ready for bed… we knew we had another full day coming up as we planned on hitting Magic Kingdom all day the next day!

Have you ever been to Epcot or Animal Kingdom?
Do your kids (or you) like roller coasters?

Running, Travel

Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Half Marathon Race Recap

After a jam packed Friday and Saturday in Pittsburgh, it was finally time for race day! I kept waking up thinking I was going to be late for the race, so my sleep wasn’t exactly sound. I finally decided to get up a few minutes before my 5:30am alarm. I stumbled around the hotel room getting ready.

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I made sure I had my watch, my Honey Stingers, my fuel belt, my Nuun, and of course, my pace tattoo!

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We headed down to the lobby around 6 and met up with the rest of the #runfor crew. I ate half a blueberry bagel with butter and drank some Cherry Limeade Nuun. Corrals were closing at 6:45 and I had a bit further of a walk than some of the other runners because I was in a later corral so we set off around 6:20 or so.

Sidenote- I’m pretty sure staying at a hotel near the start line of the race is a must do for me from now on. I loved not having to worry about driving/traffic/parking on race morning! Especially with nearly 30,000 runners in this race, I can’t even imagine the madness.

A last minute stop at the portapotty and it was time to enter the corrals. Security was obviously heightened. Some people asked me if I was nervous to run a race after everything that happened at Boston. I can honestly say I wasn’t. Meeting with some of the PR people that work with Dick’s and the race I knew they had it under control. They took a lot of precautions like No spectators allowed near the corrals and they had these signs up:

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They actually checked our bibs as we went into our corrals. I was in the last corral, which was crazy full. We heard the star spangled banner off in the distance and sat there for awhile before we started moving. We had to have walked nearly a mile just to get to the start. It took close to 25 minutes for us to even get up to the starting line… see it up there?

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As we approached the start the energy was electric! The crowd was loud and strong – there were SO many people there cheering us on. I mean, by the time we had got to the start people had been crossing the line for over 20 minutes! And the crowd was still going strong!

And just like that… we were off! I saw the hubs just a little ways down from the start. He was such a great spectator! Barely a half mile into the race they already had a band set up and playing. There was a cheering banana just after mile 2. SO many people were out everywhere cheering us on. I thought surely the crowd would die down after a while – especially being one of the slower runners- but they didn’t! The first few miles went quick. I was holding a decent pace and on track to PR big time. Mile 3 brought the first of 5 bridges we would cross.

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I can honestly tell you that eating carbs pre-race made a HUGE difference for me. During the GO half in April I was already gassed by mile 4. This time around I was feeling strong. We crossed another bridge around mile 4 reminding us we were earning the title “Runner of Steel”

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Just after this bridge I saw the hubs again. He walked briskly next to me while I pounded my feet out trying to run faster… haha. We then turned around and crossed another bridge… yay for bridges! Oh yea- this is also where I spotted the guy who was juggling his way through the whole race. Seriously!

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Miles 5 & 6 were good, nothing exciting to report. I remember crossing the 10k mark and heading for yet another bridge. It truly was gorgeous out. The perfect race conditions, cool with clear skys. And honestly, I was surprised at how beautiful the city was!

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At this point we were heading outside of the downtown area and I was certain the course would be empty about this time. Man, was I wrong. There were SO many people out cheering us on! At this point I was still pretty close to being on target for my 3 hour finish. I felt energized by the crowd and tried to pick it up a bit. Mile 8 had another water station… which, this course was absolutely amazing with! I never felt myself wishing for another water station. They were perfectly spaced out and well manned. Even being one of the “slower” runners I found that they still had plenty left and ready to hand out when I got to each one. As we passed through the water station there was a huge crowd of what looked to be Military. Turns out it was a local JROTC program cheering us on! This, of course, made me pick up my pace. I remember being in JROTC in high school and not being able to pass the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) and how far I’d come since then. So I ran harder.

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At this point my legs/hips were getting pretty tired. I was a few minutes behind my pace schedule but kept trying to catch back up. Miles 9 & 10 passed as we were nearing the split off from the Full Marathon. Mile 11 came as we crossed a bridge back into the downtown area. At this point I was pretty certain I could shave off those few minutes and still come in sub-3. Then I turned the corner near mile 12 and saw the hill. It wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined… but it really killed me. Then started the downhill… I was thankful for the extra momentum but it was not feeling good on my hips/legs that were already hurting. I just tried to keep a steady pace. I was going to go for it as soon as I saw the finish line. Right around mile 13 the full marathon rejoined our course. People were going crazy as the marathoners came in. I was imagining it was all for me. ha. I tried my best to sprint it out and then got a charlie horse in my right calf… and in my right hip (how does that even happen?)… and then in my left calf… so I did the ugliest sprint/waddle to finish.

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It felt so good to cross that finish line and know I was done. I was hurting far more than I did on my last race because I know I pushed myself way harder. I was proud of myself. Even if I didn’t get my sub-3… I was close!

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My previous PR was 3:23, so a nearly 20 minute PR! I’ll take it! I snagged my bag of goodies at the finish and my Runner of Steel Medal and hobbled toward the Dick’s Sporting Goods tent where I met up with the rest of the #runfor crew…. ate some snacks and got a massage. Man, VIP tents rock.

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Overall I was seriously impressed with this race. The course is beautiful, the aid stations were well executed… but the thing that stuck out to me the most was how excited the people of Pittsburgh were to support the race. It is a BIG deal in this city. Some places can make you feel like the races they put are a hassle – but Pittsburgh honestly LOVED this race. And it showed. The crowd support on this course was unlike any I had experienced before. It was so motivating. I was brought to tears a few times as I struggled through my own pain/thought process and needed that encouragement to keep going. So, hats off to Pittsburgh. You rock.

The rest of the day was spent napping and relaxing with the hubs. Where I looked like this:

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Post nap hair and compression sleeves. Oh yea.

and this happened too…

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Apparently Primanti Bros is a Pittsburgh must-do… so we did.

What do you do after a big race? Nap? Eat?
What’s your latest PR?

I was compensated for this campaign with Dicks Sporting Goods. All thoughts and opinions are my own

 

 

Running, Travel

Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend – Part 2

Forgive me for not having this up yesterday! I came home to a whirlwind of “real life” demanding my attention and didn’t have the time to finish writing it up! The good news is right after landing in STL and picking up my daughter I went grocery shopping and prepped breakfast casserole and portioned out meat for our meals for the week – so no excuses for not eating right this week!

Our first full day in Pittsburgh was filled with all kinds fun… Press Releases, Ribbon Cutting, Getting all dressed up for a cocktail dinner… It was awesome! Saturday we were scheduled to drive out of downtown to Dick’s Sporting Goods Store Support Center. We eventually made it there and let me say, I was immediately impressed! They call it the “Castle on the Hill” because it is such a big building with one of those long winding hills leading up to it. dicksoffice

So basically, we learned that you could totally live at the offices and never have to leave. They have a cafeteria, a sit down restaurant, dry cleaners, post office, Starbucks, a gym (including full basketball court!)… We joked all you needed was a place to sleep… until we happened upon a bunch of tents set up. Of course, you can sleep in the tents! The Gym has showers. Seriously, you don’t ever need to leave!

I learned that Dick’s Sporting Goods was actually started because Dick was working at an Army/Navy store and the owner asked him to set up a fishing supply area and then told him it was horrible and he didn’t know how to run a store. He went and borrowed $300 from his grandmother and started his own store. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t!

We got to see some super secret Product Development areas that we weren’t allowed to take pictures of… one of which was the Reebok design room (apparently Dick’s owns some part of Reebok’s clothing line? Not sure how that all works) But I can tell you that there are some FUN things coming… in Spring of 2014! Ha. Those guys plan ahead! They also have a “lab store” which is an actual store layout where they can try new marketing set ups and product placements. So neat!

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Before we left we had to get a picture in front of the sign! (By the way- it was kinda chilly, so if we look weird thats why)

From here we headed back to downtown for lunch and another stop at the Expo. We had more time to walk around/shop around and had to exchange some of our gear. Mr Dreamer got in on the expo fun… Since this whole weekend was centered around the #runfor campaign he made a sign with the (only) reason he’d ever run…

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haha. I love that guy. We then got to head out to an actual Dick’s Sporting Goods store with a generous gift card in hand. I walked out with a new pair of Reebok Nanos for both me and the Mr and some Under Armour shorts and sports bra. I had plans to use the gift card on some of the Reebok CrossFit line they sell online at DicksSportingGoods.com… I’ll show you more when it arrives!

After shopping we headed back to the hotel to chill out for a bit before dinner. I wanted to get my race gear together so I didn’t forget anything… like when I forgot my Garmin when we left for my last Half and made Mr Dreamer turn around 10 minutes after leaving…. haha, oops.

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I also made sure I was hydrating for the race. I’m loving this new water bottle!

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We walked to dinner with the rest of the #runfor crew, including Steve Bell (check out his new blog!) who was featured in the first video of the #runfor Series. Of course there was carb loading…. in the form of this amazing pizza.

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I may or may not have ended up in Market Square with the hubs hanging out and indulging in some not so pre-race friendly beverages… we ended up back at the hotel and in bed by a semi-decent hour… and the pre-race jitters were kicking in!

Full race recap to come tomorrow!

What are your pre-race rituals?

 I was compensated for this campaign with Dick’s Sporting Goods. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Running, Travel

Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend- Part 1

Holy Moly. What a weekend! Thursday afternoon Chris and I flew out of STL for Pittsburgh to spend the weekend hanging out with the Dicks Sporting Goods #RunFor Campaign Social Media Influencers. I was so incredibly blessed and humbled to be a part of this amazing group of people! The weekend was jam packed with so much that I’m going to break up my recap into a few parts.

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Me, Ryan, Danica, Calvy, Linzay

They flew us in on Thursday, we met up and had a nice dinner. Friday we got to go to the expo VIP style, an hour before it opened to the public.

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We were able to walk around to some of the vendors, and we found the huge Dick’s Sporting Good area at the expo. They had a photo shoot area set up, so of course I took advantage of that…

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They also had a huge wall set up with the names of all the runners, they were going to have it at the starting line also. I took about 10 minutes to find my name.

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I love that the mini store area that they had set up had the #RunFor posters up everywhere, and even had the videos playing as well.

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After looking around the expo for a bit we got to attend the press conference, where we learned that Dick’s had paid to fly out 37 Boston Runners who didn’t have the opportunity to finish the race in Boston. We also learned that Pittsburgh has a sister city in Mexico. Then it was time for the ribbon cutting and opening the expo to the public. The line for the expo was literally out around the building! It was craaaazy!

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From there we went down to Market Square. Dick’s had set up a mock finish line festival to get the city in the celebrating spirit. You could run down a “finish line” and get a medal. They had the drum line that plays at the steelers game and it was just a fun event.

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The kids were the cutest. They danced their little hearts out. Loved it!

We headed to Sonoma Grill for lunch, I ordered a Cuban. It had pulled pork instead of the usual roasted pork. It was really good. I’m usually not a huge fan of different takes on the Cuban sandwich since I grew up on the “real deal” but I was impressed.

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While we were sitting outside eating one of my twitter followers came up and introduced herself to me. I love meeting readers and followers! That was one of my favorite moments of the weekend for sure. After lunch we had some down time and I was able to get some work done, and start getting ready for our cocktail dinner!

I don’t get to dress up often, so I was kinda excited. I found a dress on clearance at Target for $8 months ago. I didn’t know when I’d ever wear it, but it had pockets so I couldn’t pass it up. My shoes were also a target find, $15!

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I loved getting to dress up and feel super girly… even though I was covered in bruises from CrossFit!

The VIP Cocktail Dinner was hosted by Fantasy Health & Fitness – an organization started by Coach Mike Tomlin from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coach Tomlin was one of the speakers for the evening.

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Along with Coach Tomlin, we got to hear from Ryan Clark, one of the players from the Pittsburgh Steelers. We also got to hear from Steve Bell, who was featured in the very first #RunFor video.

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It was a great time and the view from Le Mont was stunning. I’ll be totally honest, I did NOT expect Pittsburgh to be that “pretty” to look at. I mean, its the city of Steel… but the view did not disappoint!

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All that was just Friday! I’ll be back throughout the week with recaps of our tour of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Headquarters, dinner with Steve Bell, and of course the Race Recap (Spoiler: I set a nearly 20 minute PR!!!)

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh? Do you ever travel for races?

I was compensated for this campaign with Dick’s Sporting Goods. All thoughts and opinions are my own

Coffee Date, Travel

Coffee Date: On The Road

Good morning, Friends! How’s your week going? Mine has been busy! Are you ready for our coffee date?

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If we were having coffee today I would offer to split the creamer with you. There’s only 2 packets in the hotel room! I would tell you I’m so excited for this weekend! We are in Pittsburgh for the Dicks Sporting Goods Marathon weekend.

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I am one of their Social Influencers for the weekend. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and twitter (@courtnorm on both) for sneak peaks and happenings throughout the weekend. Check out this swag…

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I’m off to the expo, VIP style.

Your turn, If we were having coffee, what would you tell me?

Life, Travel

Wide Open Baja – Driving Day 1

At the end of last summer we were talking with one of the clients we work with about setting big goals. Chris had been watching some videos of Baja Racing and suggested that we set some BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) with a goal of taking a Team trip with Wide Open Baja. Well, we set some goals… and in complete honesty… I didn’t think we would meet them. We set 5 goals with guidelines that meeting 3 of them would get us there. We met 2 of them pretty quickly, and right as the deadline approached we met the 3rd. We were going Baja Racing!

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I really had no major desire to go, but I knew it would be one of those things I would be glad I did. It really is a once in a lifetime trip! There was one little snag. Those awesome (expensive) Baja Cars had manual transmissions. I didn’t know how to drive a manual and nothing to learn on! My mom tried to teach me once and we got around the block and she told me never again. Ha. Regardless, I was going to give it my best shot!

We flew into San Diego and stayed the night at the U.S. Grant Hotel. Holy smokes, that place was beautiful.

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They have a restaurant on site called the Grant Grill where we had breakfast. It was marvelous. They grow a lot of their vegetables on a rooftop garden onsite and use as much in house and locally sourced produce and meat as they can. I loved it.

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Around 11:30 our ride arrived and we were off to Mexico! Crossing the border to get into Mexico was super easy, maybe 15-20 minutes for our group of 12. We stopped for lunch after driving a little ways into Mexico. The place was called La Fonda. Seriously. They had some legit food though! Guacamole and awesome Chicken Tacos.

After lunch and a little more driving we arrived at the hotel we were going to stay for the night and checked in. We then headed out to the test track… It was go time! We saw the cars for the first time, holy intimidating batman!

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After a little instruction I was told I was going to be going first in the cars since I was one of 2 people who didn’t know how to drive a manual at all. So I climbed in, got all strapped in, helmet on, radio check… I got a little explanation of how it all works and then just told to try it. aannnnnd…. I killed it. like 6 times. Once I got going I couldn’t believe it! I was actually doing it! Since I was the first one around the track I was going to be the first one to attempt the jump! This is actually Chris doing it, but just to give you an idea of what it was like:

Except my was obviously way higher of a jump. Obviously. 

The guide in the car with me told me they wanted a show…. so I put the pedal to the metal and gave them one! I had an awesome jump and felt like a rock star! I went around a few more times getting more comfortable with the car. The course was muddy and I hit some of the puddles pretty good. Whoops. haha. It was a blast! It was fun watching everyone else practice too.

After we all finished trying out the cars for the first time we had a great dinner at the resort and headed back to our rooms to get some rest before taking off on our driving adventures the next day. When we got out to the parking lot the next morning our cars were lined up. We were the first out so we got first pick of the cars. We picked “The Flamer”

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We all started getting into our cars and getting ready to go…. that meant strapping yourself into the 5 point harness, helmet, air hook up, radio hookup… it was more of a process than I normally use getting ready for date night!

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Ready to ride!

After getting everyone ready and doing radio checks (I so LOVED getting to be the radio girl. I think it’s my calling) we were heading out. We got put in Car 1 position, meaning we were directly behind the lead car. Our first several miles were on pavement through the city. I didn’t experience this, but apparently those Baja Cars are Much harder to drive on the pavement than the dirt? Who woulda thunk it.

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I know it looks beautiful, but it was actually pretty cold. And those are open air cars! Brrrr! I was wishing I had a heavier jacket! We drove through the town and once we turned onto the dirt stopped for a quick pit stop. A few of us girls went in search for a place to go to the bathroom. We found some bushes. ha. Let’s just say I got really good at my “outdoor skills” over those 2 days!

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It was really beautiful. It wasn’t the stereotypical Mexico you think of. We got into some back roads and mountains that were just gorgeous. We went on a few small stretches of highway between the different trails. It was still pretty early in Driving Day 1 and we went through some ranches and got to a dirt road when we heard the lead car in front of us call out for us (Car 1) to hold up for a minute. As we came up on them we saw they were “almost” stuck in a mud pit. According to our guide, James, being stuck means you need the help of someone else to get you out. They literally were not moving, the wheels were turning up mud. They eventually were able to rock their way out of the mud pile and told us to hit the mud pit at speed and go through the middle, not the side they went on. So, Chris hit the mud at speed. There was another less mucky, more watery mud pit directly after that one. Which he also hit at speed. Apparently we didn’t need to do that. I think we cleared all the water out of the second mud puddle for the other cars, because none of them looked half as bad as we did after that.

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The only part that was clean was where the 5 point harness was. That guy over on the side is James, our guide. He was awesome! He was cleaning the mud off my visor for me, what a guy!

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We kept on driving through twists and turns and got to speed up on some straight aways. It was really a blast. At one point we went through some more narrow road… Let’s just say the Mexican Desert may have one less tree than it did before we got there, ha!

At one point James decided to have us switch drivers. I was SO nervous. It took me a few times to get the car going… but I felt pretty good once we got started. Chris was a great (patient) coach. I was still getting used to knowing when to switch gears. There was just SO much going on at once. Knowing when to shift, watching the trails for which way to go, avoiding water, etc… So much pressure! I actually was REALLY proud of what I did out there. It may have only been like 20 minutes, but I had a blast. When we stopped for a quick regroup James suggested all drivers stay the same and then mentioned something about a “not really steep hill” and some “decent sized rocks” I tapped out. I told Chris he could drive. And boy was I thankful for that when I saw the not really steep hill!! Plus, I missed being the radio girl.

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We eventually stopped for lunch. Wide Open had a group of people there already cooking and setting up lunch to the side of one of the trails! It was probably one of the best meals we had, for real. We stretched out there for awhile before continuing on. We ended up decided to drive like 20 miles out of our way to go to these dry lake beds.

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It was beautiful when we got there, the sun was starting to set. We were going to drive along there for a bit before heading up to the ranch we were staying at for the night. It was a nice flat place to drive so I thought I’d try again. Well, I had a hard time getting going… and then it got SO dusty that I just couldn’t see. That dust dried out my contacts and I couldn’t see like for real… Cue Mini Melt down. Good thing I wasn’t the only one having one – right, Leslie? So I ended up stopping after like 2 minutes to make Chris drive again.

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We didn’t stay long and headed up towards where we were going to stay for the night. It got dark quickly though. We had to drive up this mountain in the dark. The lights on the car made the flying dust look like a sandstorm and it got cold. It wasn’t the most fun part of the trip, but we eventually made it up to Mike’s Sky Ranch! Time for dinner and some rest before heading out on Day 2 of our adventures!

Can you drive a Manual Transmission vehicle? How’d you learn? Would you go Baja Racing?

 

 

Travel

Back from Baja

Good Morning Friends!! It has been a long week with some amazing adventures, but I am glad to be home! I’ll be recapping the whole adventure throughout the week and I’ve got some other fun things planned to write about too… Here is a sneak peak of some of our adventures:

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We actually didn’t take our laptops with us since we were going to be in Mexico and driving the Baja cars the whole time. Once we got into Mexico we turned off and stored our phones. It was by far the longest time I’ve gone without a laptop in a long time. It was actually sort of refreshing not to have the pressure to write or work on projects, but man was I excited to get my phone back on once we got back to California! We spent a day in California before heading home and went on some more adventures there… they included wet suits and surf boards!

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Today is going to be a recovery day as we try to get back on Central Time, jump back into work, and finish up some school work on time. I have a feeling today is going to include lots of coffee.

How was your week? Have you ever been racing… or Surfing?! 

Life, Travel

Costa Rica White Water Rafting

So, you know how I was freaked out about riding ATVs? And How I redeemed myself by not freaking out at all while ziplining? Yea… I was SO freaked out about White Water Rafting. More than the ATVs. When it came to rafting we were at the total mercy of mother nature. I couldn’t control the gas pedal or feel safe in my harness. I was sitting on the edge of an inflatable raft with my foot tucked under a simple strap to “keep me in” …. uhhhhh what?!

Rewind…. We got picked up to go rafting, brought to the local office to fill out paperwork (aka – sign your life away) and then we were told it was going to be an hour plus drive to our destination. I was SO not mentally prepared for that. I was tired, scared, and a bit sunburnt from our adventures on the catamaran the day before (I’ll write about that later). Anyway, we all pile into this van with our rafts strapped down to the top. And we were off!

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We learned a lot about the area as one of our guides told us all about the history of that area. There are lots of huge Palm Tree plantations. They use them to grow and harvest the fruit of the palm tree that has the palm oil in it. It is, apparently, a pretty lucrative business to be in. Good to know. After driving a little ways on actual roads we turned off into a gravel path that we would travel on until we got to the part of the river we were going to start at. It was beautiful. So lush and green! We stopped at a tiny rural store/market where we saw the ugliest animal I’ve ever seen.

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After a few scary twists, turns, and hills we finally made it to the place we were going to start. They gave us our vests and helmets. The guides seemed overly excited because the rain brought the river up a couple inches higher than normal. Yay? Again… I am telling you these helmets look good on no one.

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This was our “proof” that we started, you know… in case we didn’t finish. haha. Once we were all geared up it was time for the instructions. They told us the basic row forward and backward motions. They talked about using your whole body, leaning into it and rowing long and hard instead of short strokes. Sound like CrossFit much? Functional Fitness! Then they spent a long time explaining to us what we should do if we fall out of the raft. Uhhh I didn’t plan on falling out! But it was good to know that trying to stand up was the worst thing you could do. We were taught the white water survival position. Good to know!

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(that’s my “We are going to WHAT?” face. ha.)

And then just like that… we were off! It was exhilarating and terrifying. They split us between two rafts, I was with the husband and his Uncle and our guide Scotty. I was in the middle of the boat, scotty at the back, and Chris and Kevin at the front. I was thankful that our guide was so laid back, but so in control. He never made me feel like he was panicking. The people at Quepoa Expeditions are really good.

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“Oh look here comes a rapid”

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Just going down the rapid…

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EPIC.

yes, that is us. under the water. in our raft.

About half way down the river we stopped to have a snack (pineapple!) and check out a waterfall. With all the rain the waterfall was rushing, so we couldn’t get too close to it. One of the guides said that the creeks around the waterfall were the highest that he’d seen them. It was fun to get out of the boat for a minute, mostly to let my hands regain circulation because I’d been hanging on to my oar so tightly.

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After we crossed the creek to get to where the waterfall was we attempted a group shot. I’d say this pretty much sums up our group:

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uhhh yea. apparently we ride the short bus. let’s try this again.

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much better.

We hopped back on the river and I was actually feeling way more calm and starting to enjoy myself.
I still had my death grip on my paddle though!

I was so impressed at how incredibly well these guides knew the river. We got to one rapid where our guide noticed a broken tree limb/log hanging in one of the rapids. like in the middle of it. They knew the way the water flowed and had to figure a way to go around it. There was just enough room to the right for the raft to fit before hitting the huge rock wall. We had to navigate just right to be able to squeeze through. I was convinced we were going to smash into the wall and die flip the boat. We made it. barely. Our guide said that was something they do on Class 5 rafting trips. Talk about adrenaline rush!

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I was ready to hit some more big rapids… and then I realized we were at the end. Sad day! I have to go rafting again now that I’m not deathly terrified.

So we pack everything up and climb into the truck to head to dinner. There was another car in front of us carrying a family that had gone down the river with us. Apparently they had to drive separate because the woman got carsick. Still not sure how they made it down the river without her getting sick, but whatever. Anyway, it had rained the whole time we were going down the river and coming back down the roads there was a creek that we had crossed over that had risen quite a bit. There was a bridge there, but it was broken so you had to literally drive across the creek. Well the people in this car, a rental Toyota Corolla (who drives that into the jungle? I have no idea), decided to try to drive across this creek. And of course… they didn’t make it. Good thing we were behind them with a van full of muscular men!

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They hopped out and had to push the car out of waist high water.

The girls were still over on the other side of the river with our huge van. We knew the van would have to drive across too so I asked the driver if we should get back inside, he said yea… so Caren and I hopped in. I was like I guess I should close the door? She said she would shut the window… and we were off… SPLASH!

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The van had plenty of power, but ended up getting stuck on a big rock under water.

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You can see Caren in the back, I was one row up. We were like “WHY DID WE THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?”

Luckily the men came to our rescue!

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And meanwhile the view inside the van:

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Oh man. What a trip!

And that is why we CrossFit. Functional fitness at it’s finest!

I would highly recommend Quepoa Expeditions if you are in the Manuel Antonio/Quepos Area of Costa Rica. And I certainly plan on trying white water rafting again, since I’m not quite as terrified!

Have you been rafting? Scary, fun, or Both?

 

 

Travel

Costa Rica Waterfall Repelling

Are you guys getting tired of hearing about Costa Rica yet? I hope not because I have a lot more to share! I’ve already talked about my disgust with Spirit Airlines and driving ATVs in the Jungle, I’m so excited to share our next adventure with you… Costa Rica Waterfall Repelling and Zip lining! I was so excited about this one. Funny thing is some of the people in our group were totally cool with the ATV adventure but completely freaked out by this one. I was totally opposite. I was freaked out by ATVs and Totally cool zip lining and repelling. I’m backwards I guess.

When we got picked up for the zip lining adventure we went on one of the scariest taxi rides yet. The guy was just plain old nuts. He’d slow down every once in awhile and we’d joke he was going to tell us to get out and find a vine to swing on or something.

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When we arrived we were greeted warmly by our guides and told to go to the bathroom “one last time” and get our harnesses on. It was like we were suiting up for a Village People reunion or something, ha! I was ready to bust out the YMCA… or fix some phone wires or something. Also, canwe just agree that these harnesses are NOT flattering. Or comfortable. Just sayin…

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Alright so we were all suited up and ready to go. Now we had to get out to the jungle. Remember how I told you we drove ATVs to the waterfall we were going to repel down? Well since we didn’t all have ATVs we piled in the back of a 1980 jeep and drove along the tiny trails. At one point I was absolutely certain we were going to flip into a ditch with a stream that we were trying to cross. So what do I do? Take a picture of my terrified (or terrifying) face!

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What?! I was legit scared. Can you see the stream behind me?

Anyway, once we got to the point the jeep couldn’t go any further (thank the Lord…) we got out and walked to our first platform. It was absolutely beautiful. I guess I missed a lot of the scenery the day before since I was so focused on not dying while driving the ATVs.

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When we got to our first platform we were told we had to climb up the ladder to get to our first zip line. I honestly wasn’t nervous at all, just excited. As I started to climb the ladder I was SO thankful that I CrossFit. I can’t imagine climbing that ladder 30lbs heavier and not nearly as strong. It wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be.

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Oh, and lets just talk about these helmets. They are ALWAYS crooked. And make you look like you escaped special ed. And I look like i’m 12. Moving on…

Once up the ladder we were strapped in on the platform for safety and waited our turn to go on the first zip line. I watched a few people go before me and still wasn’t nervous at all. They strapped me on the line, gave the 321 and I was off!

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Ok- this is my first time really looking at these pictures and I can’t stop laughing. I promise I wasn’t as scared as I look! Although I was going pretty fast headed for that tree… I don’t know. These are priceless though. and again, the crooked helmet!

There was another platform we stood on while we were waiting for the second zip line. What does one do while waiting for a zip line in the Jungle of Costa Rica? Selfie!!

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The second zip line was even more fun than the first because you already knew what to expect. I was determined to try to NOT freak out about hitting the tree at the end. It was easier to relax since we already knew how it would feel. A few people went in front of me and then it was my turn, hooray!!

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hahaha- oh these pictures. I look like a total nutcase! That last one I’m all like “I’ll get you my pretty! and your little dog too!” At least I was having fun!

After the first two zip lines came the suspension bridge. I had a bad run in with one of these before. I was a part of a Youth Leadership team in High School and we did a high ropes course one time. On the suspension bridge I totally hyperventilated and the ropes were shaking and I freaked out more and one of the staffers had to come “rescue” me. I was NOT going to do that this time. So I controlled my breathing and strolled across. Seriously, my heart rate didn’t even go up! It was fun!

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uhm… can we be honest here. This is NOT a flattering picture of me at all. I almost wasn’t going to post it just because I thought it was so bad. But I wanted to post it to show you I am a work in progress. I have come a long way on my journey, but I have a long way to go. I still struggle with self image and how I portray myself on this blog, and you deserve to know that. I struggle like everyone struggles. So I decided to put it out there. This is unedited pure badunkadunk. Harness + Cuban Booty = Hot Mess. Ah well, at least my husband likes it 😉

Once we all safely crossed the suspension bridge (besides the hubs dislocating his knee… and popping it back into place…) One of our guides asked if we wanted him to take a group picture. We said yes gave him my camera and he did this:

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That’s Alex and Genesis. Genesis is the owners daughter, she is 6 and started doing this when she was 4. Impressive!

and now for the actual group shot… we are a hot mess…. I’m telling you those helmets, SO hot right now. LOL.

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After the suspension bridge it was time to repel the waterfall! Remember the beautiful one we saw yesterday during our ATV adventure? Yea, that realllly tall one… We were going to repel down it!

So they gave us a crash course on repelling, but made sure we knew that Armando would be on belay the whole time. So if we were to let go of our rope he would make sure we wouldn’t plummit to our death fall. To start out they flung us out over the waterfall and then slowly pulled us back to where we needed to be to go down correctly and then told us to start repelling.

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Doesn’t that look so hard core?!

Unfortunately the video doesn’t look nearly as hard core. Nothing like the movies actually.

I didn’t notice for the first few minutes after I finished repelling because I was on such a high, but apparently I hit my shin pretty good on one of the rocks on the way down. I came away with a souvenir! It was a pretty good scrape and ended up bruising up pretty bad over the next few days. I wore it as a badge of honor.

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After we all made it down the waterfall (mostly) safe we had a snack. The pineapple there was UNREAL. And they had these white cheese cookies that I swear were made with crack. So good. So NOT good for you. Pura Vida! <– the Costa Rican version of YOLO. ha.

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I thought this might be the end of our excursion, but no… there is more. Are you still with me?! This is the best. We moved on to what they called the “Monkey Drop” So basically they strap you in and fling you over the edge of another waterfall where one of the guides had control of your rope. He would blow his whistle signaling you to lay back and put your hands behind your head. He would then drop you straight down into the pool of water (some he dunked, some he let land softly into the water). This was hilarious. and SO fun.

 

After we all collected ourselves from the fear and laughter of the monkey drop we had one more zip line to do. This one was so laid back and fun because we had already done all the “scary stuff”

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To get down we just repelled straight down from the last platform.

This was seriously such a blast. For those of you who have the opportunity to zip line or repel, DO IT! It may be intimidating or scary, but it is just SO FUN.

Oh! The funniest part of the day… remember how I said my husband gave me a hard time about Roy (our ATV guide) being so “friendly” towards me? Well, the whole day we spent out here he had his own little fan being extra friendly towards him. Meet 18 year old Carin. She was VERY friendly towards him allll day. ha.

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And he played it up. Touche, hubby dear, touche.

Have you ever gone zip lining or Repelling? Would you?