To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
-Steve Prefontaine
Make it simple, but significant.
- Don Draper

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

VEGAS! The Show

1994 - sophomore - 15 years old
Before I review VEGAS! The Show at Planet Hollywood, let's - just like the show does - start out in Vegas of days gone by. My first visit to Las Vegas was when I was in the 10th grade. Starlight Express, my all time favorite musical, was at the Las Vegas Hilton and I HAD to go. My dad and I went down for a long weekend to see the show and were maybe 5 rows back, dead center in a theater specifically made for Starlight Express. I don't even know if it was 30 seconds in when I was completely covered in goose bumps and told my dad we were coming back! As soon as the show ended we went to the box office to buy tickets to see it again before we went home. We ended up going back to Las Vegas again to see it when it was announced the show would be coming to an end. During my first Walt Disney World College Program we didn't have cable TV, and internet? What was that?!? Our idea of entertainment was watching the Weather Channel. So it was often that I was cranking up Starlight Express (the Vegas cast recording), singing and dancing my way around our Vista Way apartment pretending to be a train. I just wanted to be Pearl. Reva Rice was Pearl in Vegas and I absolutely loved her and her voice. That first time I heard her was in, now I'll age myself, 1994. The Strip in 1994? Nothing like it is today! New York New York is considered old now, and at the time it was just a piece of flat, undeveloped dirt! So 1994 is where this begins. Let's jump to 2014!

MGM From the Tropicana. NYNY is now across the street and that lion is long gone!
Oh my gosh, that was TWENTY YEARS AGO???

I fully admit I crashed my family's trip to Las Vegas this year. My mom, step-dad and grandpa were going and I figured why not stop on in before Ragnar? Mom and I decided it would be fun to have the whole family going to a show together. Jubilee was on a hiatus when we were planning so we picked out VEGAS! The Show at Planet Hollywood - I have a soft spot for PH since that's where we got married last year. Showgirls, Vegas nostalgia, the Neon Graveyard, the Rat Pack, Elton John ... this was a show made for me!

We got there early and they were awesome and let us walk up to the entrance early to give Grandpa some time. That let us hear the big finale of the Beatles show that was just ending! Soon it was time to go in and my jaw dropped when we walked to our seats. Second row, again dead center. I booked these tickets on my phone at lunch one day - and chose VIP seating, I had no idea it really meant VIP! Wedged between Man Friend and Grandpa, I was giddy and ready!

Josh Strickland. Eye Candy!
The curtain lifts and before us is an unlit Neon Graveyard.Our host comes out and welcomes us. With a flash the lights go up and the music starts. Hello goose bumps! From there it is non-stop! Singing, dancing, a live band on stage. And not some cheesy band, but a piano, trumpets, drums, bongos, saxophones, a legit "big band". The singing, oh the singing! It was this spectacle that I was immediately in love with. I LOVE old school Vegas, so seeing the Rat Pack come to life was pretty damn cool. "Wayne Newton" came out (and frankly sang way better than Wayne does now.) and perhaps the seating was the reason, or my overall beauty (ha!), but Wayne and I had "a moment". It didn't hurt that "Wayne" was pretty easy on the eyes! Later on "Tom Jones" even sang to me about my pussy cat nose! Man Friend loved the Can-Can Girls the best! I don't even know my favorite part. If you're wondering what music you get, here's a small run-down based on the CD that I am now listening to! Frank, Dean, Sammy, Wayne, Tom, Lena, Ella, Judy, Elvis, Sonny, Cher, Gladys, Tina, Elton .... if you know them by their first name then you know it's a soundtrack worth listening to!

Oh, and for the guys there are the showgirls. There are thongs. And happily NO boobies! It was completely family friendly ... which was nice since I was with the fam! Oh my gosh, I almost forgot! There were a few acts in between song and dance numbers. Acrobatics, comedy, magic. I seriously almost snorted a couple of times. This is something I can't even describe, you just have to see it!

Something clicked during the show. I started recognizing faces and realized perhaps I've seen too many Vegas shows. Remember "Wayne"? - who was also Elton and other characters .... that cutie was none other than Josh Strickland - for those of you that watched Holly's World on E! - he was Holly Madison's BFF! But that wasn't THE excitement that I had and was dying to tell my mom .... For 20 years I've been singing along with Starlight Express - the VEGAS version ... and I've loved Reva Rice's voice. Who was the start of VEGAS! The Show?? That voice I've loved!!! Reva freaking Rice!! 20 years later and here she is again!! 

The show ended to a standing ovation! We exited and bought our group photo. I also picked up the CD and then there she was. Reva was right there!! For 20 years I've wanted to be her, and this time I didn't miss my shot. I actually got to talk to her and tell her how I've been singing with her for years and how great she is and how much I loved the show. She was so sweet, it made my entire Vegas weekend!

In conclusion ... go see it. If you like classic Vegas you will LOVE the show!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ragnar Relay - Leg 3

And now it’s time to bring it on home with my third and final leg of the 2014 Ragnar So Cal relay. Seeing as I passed out after my second run I was feeling wide awake, as refreshed as one could feel after sleeping in a minivan with 5 other people, and ready to get in my last run. It was 5am in the Taylor Made parking lot somewhere in California that Garth and I started stirring and getting ready for our early morning runs. I can’t tell you enough how awesome he is. He had to run more miles than anyone else and never once complained about a single thing. It’s like he was a machine and just knocking them out like training runs! My morning wasn’t completely smooth, however. I hadn’t gone to the bathroom in 12 hours so I was dying! Imagine the smell in this porta potties, okay? I went in, checked for toilet paper, and then almost gagged. I hurried but was a mess. Almost until I ran I was trying to make myself throw up to just get it over with. … never happened. By the time we got to the transition area where I would start running I was feeling much better, thank goodness!

In typical form, Garth came up faster than expected and I bolted off ready to enjoy another sunrise. This time I started at 7:28am right at the beach. I had barely started running and found myself in a sort of round courtyard. There were two paths open. One went up a crazy staircase, the other to the beach. I got excited! I looked at the volunteers and said, “Do I get to run on the beach???” Imagine my disappointment when they laughed and said no, pointing to the stairs. Clearly I didn’t practice running up stairs when I wasn’t training for Ragnar! At this point I hadn’t walked at all, so dammit I wasn’t going to do it on this last round. To the stairs I went! They went on for so long, but at the top I was able to look down and see all of the vans and runners below, pretty cool! I ran from the stairs to Highway 101. Never did I think I would be racing on the South Coast Highway 101!

It was probably my favorite setting of my 3 legs. The street was lined with quaint shops and restaurants all starting to preparing for opening. The shops that really caught my eye were hard to pass up without lingering to look in. First was a bamboo and tiki lounge shop… that’s so me!! And next to it was an antique shop with Marilyn Monroe in the window. Too darn cute! The rest of the street was just the same. Other local runners were out, as well as people walking their dogs. Again, it was pretty quiet even though I was on a major road. Only a few stoplights hindered me this time, much better than on my first run. Of course I wanted to see the end, but also I was loving it so much I just tried to take it all in and enjoy it while it lasted. The air smelled of salt water, I saw some seagulls, it was just perfect!

I had a slight rise in my path that then would drop down a bit. But before that drop all I could see ahead of me was a massive hill. How could they do this to me?? Throw in a monster hill in my very last couple of tenths?? But fate would be nice to me. I crested my mini-rise and saw the next directional sign turning me toward the beach and away from the hill. Hallelujah! Seeing that sign was a relief, and at that same time my final song came on… mind you I had made a playlist of songs that reminded me of Southern California, but it was just on random… if you remember I started with Sugar Ray’s Every Morning. The song I finished to as I ran toward the ocean and Man Friend waiting for me? Sugar Ray’s Fly. Absolutely perfect bookends to the coolest running experience so far!

With that run I had some kills, but at the moment I can’t remember. I finished at the beach in Encinitas, California and I finished with a HUGE smile! I absolutely loved every minute of Ragnar and cannot wait to do it again!

Prior Ragnar Posts:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ragnar Relay - Leg 2

After my first run I was feeling pretty darn proud of myself. I basically only did a handful of 2 mile runs to prepare for Ragnar and that’s it (thank you, Meniere’s Disease for killing my training plan), so the fact that I just powered through 7.5+ miles with no problem left me excited about my next run. Before I could run again, however, my 11 teammates all had to get in a run of their own. This gave us a lot of downtime, which I might cover in a later post. I started the race at sunrise, and my second run was coming up. In order to do that one I had to decorate myself with a reflective vest, headlamp and flashing red tail light. Plus it was cold out, seeing as we were in the evening hours, so I was wrapped in a blanket until the final possible moment. Carrie and I hurried to the transition point, sure that Garth would be finishing any moment. I didn’t even have time to start my music or get a signal on my Garmin and he was there. I tossed Carrie my blanket and set out for my turn to run!

The transition area was a bit of a sticky situation. It was basically in a long narrow parking lot on the beach side of Camp Pendleton. I saw Garth come in for the finish and had to wait for the race people to give me permission to cross over to get the slap bracelet and take off. One cool thing I learned is after I started running Garth was given a pint glass basically declaring him a bad ass for running 11.9 miles at night with zero van support! (Meaning we couldn't stop to give him any food or water. We never even got to see him run at all on that leg.) So anyway, I was off and running. My Garmin was NOT getting any signal at all. I ran six-tenths of a mile (I’m guessing) before I was able to get one. Sometime in that first bit of running I managed to get some music playing as well. Once all was working I relaxed and continued powering forward.

It was completely black outside. I don’t even remember any area lights at all. The only lights I could see were from vans heading to the transition area and the headlamps of fellow runners. It was so peaceful. Even with my music quietly playing I could hear the footsteps of fellow runners as they got closer. I did get passed by a member of the team that ultimately won Ragnar! It was like my slow ass racing against Steve Prefontaine… but even with the impressive speed of that runner…. the guy in the shiny blue Speedo was very nice and told me I was looking good and to keep it up. I cracked myself up when I told him, “Thanks, you too. Keep going!” Yeah, I’m sure this elite really needed my encouragement.

As far as MY running, I was feeling incredible! I never knew how far I was since my signal didn’t happen until I had been going for quite a while. I didn’t even care. I just kept running straight and pushing at what felt like a middle of the night 5K pace, although I know it was a bit slower than that. My run was only 3 miles long, and even in that time I managed to have 3 kills (passed 3 people) …. two of them being dudes! The path was basically flat, and straight – with occasional zig zag action following the road as it bent around islands of palm trees. The beach was over to my right but I couldn't see it over the hill of trees. Darn. I could see stars though!

Being a straight road with zero area lighting, the final transition area was very easy to see from afar. A mass of lights was ahead and I just focused on that and kept pushing to make sure I could get in those 3 kills that I was plotting! This hand-off was different. Instead of giving Man Friend the slap bracelet I came flying in for my finish and he was handed a card with a time stamp on it for my finish time. (Meaning the time of night it was, not how long it took me to do it.) According to our fb posts, it was 9:49pm I got back in the car. From there we had to drive to Man Friend’s starting area to get us around Camp Pendleton, where he would hand off the time stamped card. I was hardly in the car before I passed out. I know I woke up to wish him well on his race, and then I got up to see him hand off to Elizabeth as well. I was pretty much exhausted! But what a beautiful night for running. I love night running! That leg was pretty perfect conditions and I kept myself at a nice, speedy pace, making for a very happy runner! 2 legs down, only 1 to go!

Prior Ragnar posts:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ragnar Relay - Leg 1

So let’s talk Ragnar running!
Meet the Rum Runners of Van #1!
The leader of our pack!
Thursday night, after Downtown Disney, 4 of us from van 1 stayed at the Hilton in Costa Mesa. I was up at 3:15am to shower and thoroughly wash my hair and my body – twice! I figured I won’t get to shower for a long time, so I may as well make the best of it. At 4:30am we were out the door and on our way to Huntington Beach and the 2014 Ragnar So Cal start line. It was a parking lot full of vans, something we’d be accustomed to rather quickly. We parked and immediately met up with our other 2 van-mates. I just made that up. Teammates in our van… van-mates! Check-in looked chaotic from afar, but actually went really fast considering it was dark out and there was a mass amount of people everywhere not knowing what was going on. First up was our safety check for headlamps, butt lights and vests. We passed flying colors and moved over to our big safety briefing. Pretty common sense. Next bibs, Rag Mag, safety flags and shirts. In no time at all we were set and moving over to the official start line.

Heading off on my own adventure!
Garth was our first runner, and easy to spot with his long hair, kilt and bedazzled pirate on his sleeve! Once he took off the rest of us went to the van to make our way to the first transition point, which is where I started my running. We got to the designated spot and learned that it was moved about a half mile back. Quickly we jumped into the van and hurried back. I had time to get a swig of water, 2 small bites of food and then run up to have Garth hand off the slap bracelet to me. And there I was … beginning my Ragnar Relay adventure!

My Garmin was set, my music was on… and it was a perfect song for the perfect setting. There I was, running along the ocean at Huntington Beach with the sun rising, listening to Sugar Ray’s Every Morning. Absolutely wonderful! It was eerily calm. I had just been in the chaos of people and vans, and now was all alone with a handful of other runners, just watching the waves crash on the shore beside me. Immediately I had a huge rush of happy adrenaline! I had no plans for this run, other than to just go out and do my best and have fun. Along the way I kept hearing van-mate Tara’s voice. “Running is easy, you just keep going!” So that’s what I did! It never even struck me that walking was an option. I just pulled a Forrest Gump and kept running and running. I had turned to run east into neighborhoods and a major street with many businesses and apartment complexes. To get there though, I had to run up a long hill. Eh, no biggie – I just kept running. The van 1 Rum Runners passed by at one point cheering me on, which totally helped me not even consider walking. I can’t let my team see me wimp out, no way! At the top of the hill was a welcome surprise. I had a crosswalk I had to wait at, and also waiting for me was Man Friend with some water. Awesome!

The light switched and I was clear to run. And so I did. The only pauses were due to the crosswalks I encountered, but those also gave time to talk to other runners, all of whom seemed to be loving the day as much as I was. A couple of guys even let me “pass” them as we waited to cross – giving me a couple of pity “kills” – which I did NOT count in my final total, FYI. *"Kills" are when you pass people, and teams typically count them and track the numbers on the side of their vans! Around mile 4 things weren’t as lovely. The only Meniere’s attack I had of the entire race happened then. Fortunately it is where my van-mates were waiting with more water. Man Friend calmed me down a bit and just reassured me I could do it. Vertigo aside, I could do it! So I did! That was my last meeting with the team until the next hand off.

I passed all those people! Heading into the finish.
It was around mile 6 that I found myself in a cluster of women (that I was systematically passing). We were all at a crosswalk together and I was making conversation and giving a group pep talk since some looked like they needed it. I told them we only have just over a mile to go, we can do it! I then left a bunch in my dust and was focused on 7.2. I was running 7.2 miles, maybe I would kick it up in the last bit of my run? But then something strange was in front of me. I was 6.66 miles in and hit a sign that said 1 mile to go. WHAT?!?! It never dawned on me that Garth’s run was shorter so mine would be longer. Oh well, what can ya do? I just continued along keeping up a great running pace (damn crosswalks) and picked off runners one by one until I handed off to Man Friend. The “finish” area was pretty cool. Fellow Ragnarians lined the chute cheering on everybody that came down, teammates or not! I love that about runners, we all cheer for each other. Man Friend was waiting, wrist out, ready for the slap bracelet. It was pretty fun getting to pass off to him, and he looked set for a great run himself!

In the end I had 7.66 Garmin miles, zero walking, and 11 kills. Not too shabby! Ragnar was proving to be pretty damn awesome!

Prior Ragnar posts:  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Miss Ragnar

I'm still pretty much thinking of Ragnar non-stop.I told Tara today that Ragnar topped Disney. Sure Disney is fun, but Ragnar is 2 days of non-stop fun and you get to go in the beach if you want!  After Vegas for days immediately followed by Ragnar I am pretty much STILL trying to get back into a normal sleeping and eating pattern. At night, even though I'm in my bed, I keep waking up thinking that it's time for a runner exchange and that I need to get up to go cheer - or get up to run. And the runger. Holy cow, I only ran 13.5 miles but you'd think it was a marathon. I guess I just never really ate while we were there except for once at a restaurant. My tummy is demanding more action that that apparently. Another thing I realized, from 3:15am Friday morning when I woke up for Ragnar until we got done with our van running and back to shower - I only went to the bathroom FIVE times! That's it! Clearly I was NOT hydrating at all. Bad form!!

In between Las Vegas and Ragnar I did have a moment of pure childlike excitement.... DISNEYLAND!!! We didn't technically go IN, but my hands and arms did! Nobody said you can't go up to the gate, stick your body parts through and take photos! Oh it was magical. I heard the area music, I went into the bakery at Downtown Disney, I had my purse checked at Security. Loved it! 

The purpose was our pre-race dinner at Downtown Disney. In attendance was myself, Man Friend and Carrie. Tara was actually able to show up just before we ordered, bonus! ESPN Club was setting. My food was yummy, but I hardly ate any of it ~ I blame pre-Ragnar nerves. And for those of you trying to figure out who everyone is, obviously Man Friend is my obnoxious, yet darling husband; Carrie is a friend from grade school; and Tara I met during the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2013 and then was part of Team Freedom during the Dumbo Double Dare. *You might recall we crashed the mass chaos of the Disney Health and Fitness Expo together. That right there should have been a clue as to the shenanigans we would be up to once Ragnar was under way. 

I hated to have to leave, but I know I'll be back.... and we would end up very close to the park again during our first round of running! So that's it for now. Basically I miss it. I want to be doing it still. Or again. Or maybe some day in the future after I catch up on much needed sleep!

And if you missed out on my very serious, advice from the pro post about surviving a Ragnar, click HERE!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ragnar With RR Survival Tips!

I'm in denial that the whole Ragnar So Cal 2014 experience is over. Before writing actual posts about the running, I've compiled a list of tips and things I've learned in order to have a successfully fun Ragnar experience!  *In photos RR is for Rum Runners, although a bonus that they are my initials, too!

The start of MINIvan decorating.
Get a BIG van. A minivan works, our team is living proof of that … but seriously, do NOT choose to use a minivan. Imagine this, if you will … 6 adults, each of whom have run 2 times already without a shower, all trying to sleep in the minivan at the same time. Not a pretty sight!

If you are travelling in a van with myself, Man Friend and Tara – be prepared for pure sarcasm and nonsense to come out of our mouths almost all the time. If we pronounce El Cajon as El Cajun – it’s not because we can’t read…. It’s 100% on purpose! And it will never get old for us to do it, consider yourself warned.

Keeping MF hydrated on the run!
Bring a Sharpie to mark your water bottles. We had tons of partially empty bottles laying around because nobody could remember whom they belonged to. Pretty sure I stole Garth's water after my first leg just because it happened to be in my line of sight and I was thirsty. Team Bonding!

A way to stay hydrated? Make “Rag Mag” a drinking game. Every time you hear “Rag Mag” take a drink of water or whatever you prefer to hydrate with!

So Cal seems to really care about status. Status is just material and a state of mind. Ignore it and you’ll be just fine!

Go in the ocean!! It might not feel tropical, but you are in Southern California with beaches as far as the eye can “sea” ~ take advantage. The cold water actually felt really nice on my legs and it was “boatloads” of fun!

Sleeping is pretty much hardly even optional. When you are trying to sleep there WILL be vans coming and going next to you and those runners will be talking, so just don’t talk in your own van to try to keep at least a small bit of quiet. Did you know Jamie feels a little hurt and has a blister? I know that, I learned that in my first attempt at sleeping. Fine – just don’t even bother pretending to try to sleep during the daylight hours. It’s not going to happen.

Tagging. It is a must, if you want to be one of the cool kids. Tagging was the best part of the whole race! Hardly anything is off limits – sorry elevator. ;)

Have at least one totally laid back guy in your van. Check! (Thank you, Garth!)

Have at least one totally silly, obnoxious guy in your van. Check!  (Thank you, Man Friend!)

You’re probably not going to eat all that food you are bringing. So don’t overbuy. And don’t bury all of your food and drinks. It’s hard to hydrate when you have to unpack the entire back area just to get to the water.

Be FUN!!! Ragnar is not serious. Relax, have a sense of humor, go with the flow, goof off, tag vans, wear a costume if you want. Have the spirit of fun! We had clappers, pom poms, a sword, pirate hats, eye patches, flags, heck we even had a parrot!

Tara is ready to High 5!
High five people cheering you on! I high fived the heck out of people on 2/3 of my runs – and I only didn't do it on run #2 because it was completely dark and the only people out were fellow runners and vans driving to their next exchange… so no opportunity. But yeah, put your hand out and I will be reaching for it, it always puts a bounce in my step!

And you know what else is good for lifting the spirits? Seeing your van’s tag on another team van when you are running. I was pushing through my final leg and trying to keep my spirits up, and what do you know, a van went by with a huge RR right across the back. Boom! We did that. Awesome!

Once you stop sweating, change your clothes. I used my Chawel (and looked like a pillow case) to change and it was so freaking simple. I never felt disgusting the entire race because I was constantly in fresh clothes. Mentally I think that helped me survive the close quarters! ---and the other 5 in your van will appreciate your effort to change and not stink!

My Chawel - a life saver!
Your van WILL stink. Fact.

Have a sheet with everybody’s phone numbers on it (big font!) where all can access and read it. It’s hard to communicate with your other van if you don’t have a way to do it.

Have a big group meet up or dinner the night before the race so you can at least meet the other half of your team before you all start running.

You’ll get sick of the Rag Mag (take a drink!!), and when you do – just follow the runners. On a few occasions we just followed intuition, and runners, and got to the exchange with no problem. Relax! It’s the key to having a fun, successful Ragnar experience!

And with relaxing know this, the course very well might change without you knowing it until it happens. My first leg ended up being about a half mile longer than expected, and the first runner had his leg cut short by half a mile. No biggie, things change…. It’s all part of the adventure!
Whoa, time to start! Adjusting to a surprise course adjustment!
Last.... Hug the signs! -- Do a Ragnar and it will all make sense! *And with that, maybe bring a soft blanket. I had mine and it was my BFF for a few hours!

Thank you, Ragnar, for selling comfy pants!