American Fork Canyon 1/2 Marathon

This was my third time running the American Fork Canyon Half Marathon. It is such a beautiful, well-organized race with a great cause (fight cancer). I rarely turn down the chance to sign up each year.

This year I had been working with a friend to get in better shape by lifting weights and eating more regular meals. In turn, this helped increase my speed. I ended up beating my last time by nearly four minutes, and my first time by about 11 minutes. I ended up finishing at 1:42 (average 7:48/miles).

I will admit that I wasn’t feeling super great the morning of the race. I had a good run down the canyon, but my foot was hurting due to a large blister forming on my bunion. By the end I was ready to be done. I am hoping if I can get a better pair of socks for my blisters (which I usually do before a race) that I can beat that time by another minute or two. We’ll see next year!

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San Diego Birthday Trip

For my birthday, my sweet husband bought me a ticket to go visit one of my besties, Kristy, in San Diego. When they moved from Utah a while back we promised to visit each other often, but that proves to be difficult at times with the craziness of both of our lives. Thankfully Seth bought the ticket forcing me to make time and go.

I flew out on a Wednesday afternoon and returned back on Saturday afternoon. We spent a lot of time just visiting and catching up. My favorite part was our morning workouts. The first day she whooped my butt at the gym. Although I work out nearly daily, I obviously wasn’t doing the same things she does because by the end of the workout I was spent! It was fun though. I remember why I love having her as a workout partner. The next morning we dropped her kids off at a friend’s home and went to the beach by Carlsbad and ran along the coast. It was beautiful and so refreshing. Running by the coast isn’t something I get to do very often, if ever, so I cherished every minute of it. On my final day we ran a five-mile loop around a lake together. It was crazy to go from wearing my lined fleece pants here in Utah to wearing shorts and a tank in San Diego, but I loved it!

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Other than working out we found time to get our toes and nails done, eat, visit, eat some more, watch chick flicks and we even did a little shopping. We even got a little naughty and snuck off to one of the best donut shops in her area – yum? Although the trip was short and sweet, I am grateful I was able to find time to sneak away and spend a few days with Kristy and her darling family.

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Me, Kristy, & Brett at VG’s Donut Shop
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Me and Kristy
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Sledding for Manina’s Birthday

Having Manina’s birthday so near Christmas makes it a little difficult for gift-giving. So (and entirely to her credit) we usually take time to do an activity as a family for her birthday. This year, we decided to all go sledding.

We all had a great time sledding and more importantly, no one got hurt. We finished it up with a family dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, followed by a traditional birthday DQ ice cream cake.

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Happy birthday, Manina!

2014 Caribbean Cruise Day Seven: At Sea

Friday, February 7

After yesterday’s super-fun day in St. Lucia (which may have been the overall favorite day of the cruise), we were looking forward to a nice, relaxing day on the ship with very little itinerary.

Unfortunately, our day started off too early. Room service came by and woke us up before we were ready to get out of bed. Usually, that’s the kids’ job. But, after eating a little bit, we lounged around for a couple hours. Manina read her book and I took some time to record down all the goings on of the previous days.

It felt great to just take it easy, but Manina was feeling a bit guilty about not leaving our room until 10am. But then, just as we were shutting our door to head up to the gym, out walk the Mr. and Mrs. Denney. Manina assumed they had already worked out, eaten, and gotten dressed, but it turned out they were on the same schedule we were. That made Manina feel a little better. Then, just as we got to the gym in walked Penny Bergeron who was just getting going too. Seems we were all on the same easy-going wavelength for the first time on the cruise. So much so, in fact, that all of the girls were even wearing the same outfit—it was cute for them to all be on the same team.

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Manina and I did a quick workout warmup and then she ran while I did some weight lifting and yoga, much like the morning of St. Croix.

After everyone finished working out, we headed to the dining room to a special at-sea brunch. Then we headed back to our rooms to get ready for the day.

Manina wanted to finish her book, Glimmer of Hope, so I headed to the upper decks to find a chair and some sun.

I ran into Tony and Emily, who had a pretty good spot up above the pool, but there wasn’t enough room for Manina and me. If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship on an at-sea day, good spots and deck chairs are not easy to find. So, off I went to go find a couple chairs. After several miles of walking, I finally found a pretty good spot near the front of the ship. It wasn’t near all the action like Tony and Emily’s spot, but I’d had enough of cruise director Dennis anyway.

Manina found me, and eventually the Denneys and Bergerons did too. We had to move some things around, but were all able to sit near each other. The girls gabbed away the afternoon. I listened to some podcasts, napped, and enjoyed the sunshine.

By 4pm we’d had enough sun, so we went back down to our room to pack our suitcases and get ready for dinner. The reality of the cruise coming to an end started to set in.

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We enjoyed our last dinner as a group and then hustled down to the farewell show. Cruise director Dennis went on way too long, but the final act was performed by a married acrobat couple. They’d performed with Cirque du Soleil, and some of their routines were pretty impressive. Definitely the best cruise ship entertainment of the trip.

The group went together to one last game show called majority rules which was pretty forgettable. Not all that exciting.

After that, everyone went their own separate ways for the night. Manina and I went to Starbucks to get her a vanilla steamed milk. We found a comfortable spot overlooking the atrium and sat for 30 minutes while we talked about our cruise.

We agreed on a couple things:

  • Starting a Caribbean cruise out of Puerto Rico was a good call—we didn’t have the weather concerns of our first cruise, it meant one less day at sea, and it was another very cool place to visit.
  • Going to church on St. Thomas was a great experience. It was well worth the extra time to hang with the local people for a while before doing tourist stuff.
  • If you’re going to spend an hour doing stand-up paddleboarding in St. Croix, don’t wear yourself out in the gym beforehand.
  • Antigua was amazing, but we would have been just as happy chilling on Jolly Beach.
  • The whole day on Martinique could have been accomplished in an hour or two off the boat, then heading back onto the boat for meals and sunbathing.
  • The blend of activities on St. Lucia was perfect. Well worth the money.
  • We both could have packed better: more semi-casual clothes, less formal dresses and shoes.
  • We needed better balance of group activities and quality time together.
  • We should have brought along a Frisbee.
  • Taking time to journal and record each day was a worthwhile activity, even though it wasn’t easy.
  • We needed to take more pictures

So, despite a couple minor setbacks, we had an amazing vacation. We went to bed that night not knowing the nightmare scenario that awaited us on the flights home. Our 2014 cruise was definitely one we will remember forever. We love the Caribbean and can’t wait to head back.

2014 Caribbean Cruise Day Six: St. Lucia

Thursday, February 6

Manina and I were in charge activities on St. Lucia. We had booked a speedboat with Exodus charters who would take us down the west coast of St. Lucia. We had done a similar trip when we had visited this lovely isle before several years ago when Manina’s brother Derek got married, and we hoped it would be just as fun this time.

Unfortunately, when we disembarked from the Jewel of the Seas we were greeted to St. Lucia by a torrential downpour. We all ran into the nearest shelter, but were already soaked through. We found our chartered boat nearby and climbed in, hoping to get out of the rain. Captain Jeremy manned the wheel and Rasta Dave was our tour guide.

We headed south, each of us huddled up and cold. But, the closer we got to the town of Soufriere the more the rain eased up—it was going to be a nice day.

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We stopped by a few attractions before making it to the dock in Soufriere: a cleft in a cliff that was full of bats, a cliff-jumping young man who got very well compensated for his daring feat.

We got into a taxi and headed up into the mountains. We had the option to either take a scientific tour of the volcano or hang out in the volcanic mud baths. Rasta Dave promised the magic mud would make you look 15 years younger, so the girls made a quick decision. To the mud baths we went.

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Our next stop was a nearby waterfall, Piton Falls. We had to hike a little way through the jungle to get to our destination, but Rasta Dave pointed out all the cool flora and fauna native to St. Lucia. When we got to the falls, the water was still warm as it poured over us and into these natural mineral pools. The water was clear and refreshing and helped to wash off some of the mud from our earlier stop.

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Our next stop was back in the city of Soufriere for a buffet creole lunch. They had rice, beans, chicken, macaroni and cheese, tuna, and a salad. All of it was pretty good, and all had a bit of a kick, all being local creole dishes. We were on the banks of the river, the majestic Pitons looming in the background.

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Rasta Dave then walked us to a souvenir shop, where Manina finally got a chance to buy some fun stuff for the kids. She was relieved to find something for all the kids since our shopping in Martinique the previous day had been less than productive.

We walked back to the boat with Captain Jeremy who took us a little further south down to Sugar Beach. I snorkeled for a bit, but the water was pretty murky from the rain earlier in the day. So, after a quick dip I went back up onto the beach.

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One of the coolest things about St. Lucia is that all of the beaches are public property. So while Sugar Beach Resort is usually reserved for the rich and famous, we could enjoy the same sand and surf as long as we didn’t touch resort beach chairs or umbrellas. So, we put down our towels and enjoyed beach. Rasta Dave hung out with us for a while, telling us stories and pointed out the haunts of movie stars and yachts of rich folks.

After about an hour on Sugar Beach we got back on the boat and Captain Jeremy drove us up to Marigot Bay. We cruised around the bay looking at cool boats, restaurants, with Rasta Dave telling us, “Marigot Bay is the place they filmed Doctor Doolittle. Not the Eddie Murphy Doctor Doolittle, but your mama’s Doctor Doolittle.”

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Our last stop was a cool arch he called the Tunnel of Love. This was also used in a famous movie, The Pirates of the Caribbean, but in a much darker way. In one of the opening scenes of the first movie Captain Jack Sparrow looks up to see several skeletons hanging from this same arch.

A couple of us jumped in and swam over to where a young man was showing us good spots to jump. On the climb up, I managed to miss some nasty sea urchins lurking just underneath the surface, unlike Mike and Ben, who weren’t as lucky. It was pretty high up, much higher than the cliff jump in Antigua, but the water was clear and I could easily spot the trouble areas. I jumped out and away from those spots, and didn’t even hit the bottom. No trouble at all.

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Manina swam out to join me and we took a picture of us kissing underneath the Tunnel of Love, mainly so we could send it back home and make Katelyn and Megan squirm—they had made the mistake of telling us how gross they think those kinds of pictures are.

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Back in Castries it started raining again as we walked back to the Jewel of the Seas. We boarded for the last time. Like the night of St. Croix, we got dressed up in our fancy clothes for another formal evening. Manina looked gorgeous. Again.

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The evening was pretty uneventful. Everyone hung out in the Bergeron’s suite for a bit, we went to go get hot chocolate, and then went upstairs to go dancing. We only stayed for a few minutes, but Penny danced for a few minutes with the Crazy Dancing Argentine, which probably made his cruise. I could devote a whole post to that guy, but his name tells you all you need to know.

We spent a few minutes in the hot tub before retiring for the night, ready to have a nice relaxing day at sea for our final day of the cruise.

Our day in St. Lucia hadn’t started off very well, but it ended up being a giant success. We had a fabulous day.