Tag Archives: chocolate

So, What Did We Do In Boston Last Week?

We’re back from five days in Boston (plus one in Manchester, NH) where we did a lot of touristy stuff and I snuck in a marathon. More on that to come, but I’m a bit rushed getting ready for Trail Marathon this weekend, so here are some quick highlights from our trip.

(Note for the TL;DR crowd: If you get the chance, do it. Go to Boston, run the marathon (or cheer someone on), and make time to take in some of the area’s 400-year history. If you want more details, read on!)

Location, location, location

We stayed at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, across the Charles River from downtown Boston and about a 5K away from the Expo and finish line. We enjoyed our stay there and we’d recommend it to anyone traveling to Boston.

Need to walk or run? Step out the back door and onto a paved path that runs along the river for miles. Watch university sailing clubs and crew shells practicing with the Boston skyline in the background. Or go the other way and run through several pretty parks on your way to:

The Navy Yard – USS Constitution and Cassin Young

 

Nowhere else in the world, as far as I know, can you walk on board a warship that’s been in continuous service since 1797. Old Ironsides was in drydock undergoing repairs, but still open to the public. It’s crewed by active duty Navy personnel, some in period costume and some in modern uniforms, who give lectures and performances on and below decks.

The Cassin Young is a WWII destroyer berthed behind the Constitution. It too was open, with retired Navy sailors giving tours. It’s less well known, but equally deserving our respect, serving in the war and surviving two kamikaze attacks. By visiting both we got a sense of what things have changed in warships (armor, weaponry, food) and which have not (living space). But perspective came from some visiting submariners, who walked through the tiny crew’s quarters, marveling, “So much space here!”

Freedom Trail and Freedom Tours

If you’re walking in downtown Boston, you may see a line of red bricks running down the middle of the sidewalk in many places. These red bricks mark the Freedom Trail, which runs from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Memorial and to the Navy Yard, through parks and historic neighborhoods along the way.

You can walk part of the trail with a tour guide in period costume, who will take you to several historic buildings and one of the first graveyards in Boston, whose remains include Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, among others. You’ll also hear tales about early Boston, from the patriotic to the gruesome. For instance: what question did native Bostonians ask suspected spies during the War of 1812? And what did they build on top of the old hanging ground on Boston Common? (*)

Boston Harbor Tour

This is a 90-minute narrated boat tour of a good part of Boston Harbor. We passed by modern art museums on the waterfront, went by several islands each with its own story, and saw the really unusually shaped buildings that process the waste that keep the harbor clean. The top deck of the boat is open, which would have been great except it was chilly that day, so we went down into the lower deck and looked out the windows. Touristy? You bet. Worth it? Absolutely. I’d do it again.

Confession: I forgot what this building is. But it was fascinating at the time!

Food

While Boston is full of great restaurants, anyone visiting should not fail to visit one in particular: Legal Sea Foods. The clam chowder is so highly regarded it’s now served at every Presidential inauguration. The first time I went there was during the Big Dig, when roads were torn up everywhere and the wharf was nearly impossible to get to. But I did, and sat outside at sunset sipping a cappuccino and watching the fishing boats come in. Today I-93 runs under the city rather than above it, the harbor is clean, and the restaurant is as good as I remembered. Save up for lunch or dinner there, even if you’re don’t particularly like seafood. You’ll like it there.

And don’t forget the dessert!

And Then There Was Chocolate

We flew home from Manchester, New Hampshire, avoiding the crush at Logan Airport and happening across one of the best chocolatiers in the country. I’m going to save that story for another time. It’s worth its own post.

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Coming soon: what was it like to run Boston for the first time? All will be revealed. Stay tuned!

(*) I just might give you the answers in an upcoming post.

Celebrating the Easter Spirit (and its costumes)

My best wishes for a peaceful and joyous Easter to everyone, regardless of your faith or celebration preference. Spring, with its promise of renewal, is upon us! We read these words from Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews in church this morning:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us, and persevere in running the race that lies before us…Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.

And for those who participate in the modern version of a certain pre-Christian fertility ritual, click here or on the picture below to see a fun collection of fitness activities featuring people (and other creatures) dressed up in bunny costume. Wow.

From the "Fit is a Feminist Issue" blog.

From the “Fit is a Feminist Issue” blog.

And don’t forget the chocolate!

Handcrafted chocolate Easter egg from Sweet Gem Confections in Ann Arbor. Just one of Nancy's amazing creations.

Handcrafted chocolate Easter egg from Sweet Gem Confections in Ann Arbor. Just one of Nancy’s amazing creations.

Cocoa Power: Kona Chocolate Run Recap

Just how powerful is chocolate? Witness the following.

Chocolate Run - 10K start

7:00 a.m. in downtown Plymouth, MI. 26 degrees and dull gray sky. Sensible people are still in bed or enjoying breakfast and coffee in a warm location. And yet over 5,200 people are standing outside, shivering in Spandex, gloves, and beanies, waiting to begin a 10K or 5K run.

Yes, today was the Chocolate Run, the final race in the series put on by the Kona Running Company every year. Along with some pretty snazzy gear, runners got a trip to the chocolate tent after their race, where they refueled with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate bread, and pretzels with dipping chocolate, and, of course, a nice cup of hot chocolate.

The half-zip is a nice upgrade over the standard race shirt. And it's cat-approved.

The half-zip is a nice upgrade over the standard race shirt. And it’s cat-approved.

As usual, I volunteered my services as a pacer, which got me the same snazzy gear and chocolate tent visit without feeling like I needed to run my butt off. I was joined by  fellow PR Fitness runners Ray and Melissa for the 10K 50:00 pace. Our group was well represented, including the 6th place overall finishers in both the 10K and 5K, and many of our runners achieving personal best times (a.k.a. PRs). That’s the spirit!

She's run six Ironman triathlons but claimed holding the sign for a couple of miles was "too hard". Hmm....

She’s run six Ironman triathlons but claimed holding the sign for a couple of miles was “too hard”. Hmm….

The course is mainly flat, which makes it good for first-time and casual runners and made sticking to pace easy. It took about a mile and a half to fully warm up, but we had a good time chatting about Melissa’s Ironman experiences.

After the 10K and some chocolate, I took the 8 minute/mile pace sign and went off to the 5K. Thanks to the cold and a half hour wait before the start, I was a bit stiff at the outset, but I was grateful to be running relatively fast. And it was fun yelling at people to pass me in the final few hundred yards.

Chocolate Run - the goodiesA couple of logistical issues from last year were much improved this year. To cut down on crowding during the first mile, the runners were sent out in waves at ten-minute intervals. But the best improvement was the flow through the chocolate tent. Last year there was just a single line, and it got so long that many people gave up and went to the nearby coffee shops for their hot chocolate. This year there were two lines and the goodies were more pre-arranged so people spent less time getting their goodies.

Finally, a trip to Plymouth to pace a race isn’t complete without a good cup of coffee. Plymouth has many choices near Kellogg Park but my favorite is the Plymouth Coffee Bean, where in addition to a good latte they make sweet and savory crepes to order. Life isn’t just about chocolate, you know.

This is all that's left of my crepe when I remembered to take a photo. Yes, it was very good.

This is all that was left of my crepe when I remembered to take a photo. Yes, it was very good.

Kona Run Recap: Cocoa Power

An event that combines running and chocolate? Sounds darn near perfect to me. No way I was going to miss Sunday’s inaugural Kona Chocolate Run in Plymouth. And it was over 60 degrees at race time. T-shirts and shorts in late November! Who cares if it rained a little?

Awww...

Awww…

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The final turnout was over 6,000 runners – an amazing turnout for a first-time local race. That’s what the word “chocolate” can do for you. And contrary to the “chocolate event = all women” stereotype, some men ran it, too. I think I saw both of them around mile 4.

The youth turnout was pretty good, too, although I’m not sure that all of them were enthusiastic about being there.
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Theresa and MeAs usual for the Kona races I was a 52:00 pacer for the 10K, and one of my regular pacing partners, Theresa (shown here) carried the sign while I took pictures. And as usual, we had fun bickering about whether we were on pace or not. Complicating things was no chip timing – everyone’s time was measured from the gun. Since we started back in the pack, our on-time pace meant we actually crossed the finish line around 52:30. Bummer for those who wanted to get a PR but didn’t line up near the start!

After the 10K I returned to the pacing area, to find out they needed someone to carry the “1st time” sign for the 5K. “When does it start?” I asked, only to hear the Star Spangled Banner being sung for it. So straight back to the starting area I went. So much for a cup of hot chocolate between events. And while we waited for the horn, it rained on us. Ah, such is the life of a volunteer.

Brave ladies, in more ways than one.

What would you do for chocolate?

The 5K was a challenge for me. Most of the “first 5K” folks ran pretty slowly or did a run/walk combination, and my legs kept begging me to step it up. But I talked to some nice people and got their pictures. One couple had taken up running due to their daughter, which is similar to how I started regular running. I assured them there was plenty of room for improvement, and that if they kept at it, they would really come to enjoy running. Eventually. (I didn’t tell them it took me about three years.)

Good stuff, if you can get to it.

Good stuff, if you can get to it.

I crossed the finish line a second time, and my job was done. Time for chocolate! Except the line into the tent o’ goodies was about a 5K long. (Did I mention that they had over 6,000 runners there?) Given that chocolate was involved, I’m amazed there wasn’t a tent-flattening stampede. Just goes to show you, runners really are a well-mannered breed.

I headed down the street to Espresso Elevado and got a mocha and chocolate chip biscotti. Several other runners were also there getting hot chocolate, heartily agreeing that it was worth a few bucks to avoid the line. And an actual restroom sure beats a porta-potty. So no complaints. Looking forward to next year – where I just might have to make myself invisible after the first race.

Oh, and how about this? According to the race results, Eric Stuber, age 50, finished the 10K in 35:25 (a 5:43 per mile pace). Not only did he win his age group, he finished first overall. That’s right – a 50-year-old won the 10K. Such is the power of chocolate.

I have a tempo run tomorrow. Hope these are enough.

I have a tempo run tomorrow. Hope these are enough.