Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stuck In Paradise? Let's Do It Again!

Justin and I decided to go on vacation to Florida to compete in the Ragnar Florida Keys race, a 190 mile relay race that started in Miami and finished at the Southernmost point of the United States, Key West. One of the reasons we decided to take on this adventure was because Justin's birthday happened to be on the date of the race. Not only that, but Justin was our team's 12Th runner, meaning he would be crossing the finish line ON his actual birthday. How cool is that? We flew down with four of our wonderful friends (Jonathan and Shelly Taylor, Taylor Wood and Jason Belcher) that were on our Ragnar Vegas team. We arrived and spent our first night in Miami preparing for the race the following day. The morning of the race, we meet the other half of our team, CrossFit Fort Myers: Josh and Lindsay Wright, Jason Brod, Diane Sobel, Adrian Secrest and Sarina Woodworth. What a fun group of people! The "Utah Peeps" we so grateful that these six people allowed us to jump in on their team with them.The Florida part of our team were runners 1-6, so they started the race. We saw them off and made our way to the start line to bide our time until it was our turn. We were all sporting some serious adrenaline and the excitement was almost unbearable! Team Utah was ready to go when Team Florida made their way to our first exchange. we went! Our team, runners 7-12, took turns relay running from one exchange to the next until we all completed our first "legs" and exchanged with the Florida team for their second runs. We all continued this way for the entire 190 miles. Running all day and through the night and the entire next day. It's no joke that Ragnar's slogan is "Run, Drive, Sleep?? Repeat". It's true, there is not much sleeping for the 32 hours or so you are running. But it's so much fun. You develop such a bond with the six people you share VERY close quarters with (a mini-van) for a day and a half. Each person ends up running three "legs" varying in mileage from 21 to 9 or so. We crossed the finish line in about 32 hours. It was so beautiful. Justin came running down the road, picked up the team, and we all crossed the finish where medals and beach and ocean were waiting. It was magical! I can't even describe it! The sun was just going down as we gathered on the beach. After a celebratory toast (Thanks Josh and Lindsay!) we made our way down Duval street and spent the evening with the Florida team at "Margaritaville" for Justin's birthday dinner. Then the Florida team said goodbye as they made their way home. It was great to meet them and make some new friends for life. The Utah peeps booked a couple extra days in paradise so we started our vacation the next morning. We rented scooters and ventured up and down Duval Street several times. We ate at the best restaurants with the freshest seafood. We enjoyed an abundance of tropical drinks, awed at the ocean, and just soaked up all that true paradise had to offer. We took our breakfasts at the Southermost Beach Cafe on the beach and Banana Cafe, lunch on the Gulf of Mexico at Turtle Kraals , dinners...oh the dinners...La Trattoria, Sloppy Joe's, the original Margaritaville, and Sunset Pier where we witnessed the most intense, beautiful, breath taking sunset that I have ever seen in my life! We had dessert at Better Than Sex -voted the #2 most romantic restaurant in the United States! We all got tattoos at Paradise Tattoo. We really had no plans with the exception of our Commotion on the Ocean dinner cruise. We just took our time seeing the sights and asking the locals where to get the best foods. We were due back January 11, in time for my daughter's 11Th birthday, but our flights were cancelled.While being stranded in paradise seems like a wonderful idea, I was very upset at the fact that I was going to miss Sieauna's birthday. Her grandparents assured me all would be fine and they threw her a party. THANK YOU for taking care of her! My mother-in-law eased my mind and somehow I managed to enjoy the next few days ;) (wink wink). By Thursday, we were ready to come home. It had been a full week at this point and while Key West is truly beautiful, there isn't that much to do. As we packed up and checked out of the hotel, we were notified that our flight was cancelled. AGAIN! We were beyond angry at this point and headed to the airport anyway. After arguing with the reservations person, we were booked on a flight out of Miami (3.5 hours away by car) to Detroit and then home to Salt Lake. We had to rent a car to get to Miami and luckily there was ONE car in all of Key West (however, the rental place was totally aware of this and totally ripped us off). Anyway....Justin and I said goodbye to our friends (they had different flights) and we drove the Keys up to Miami.

While this would normally have been a frustrating and crappy turn of events, Justin and I decided to make lemonade out of our lemons and we enjoyed our drive. About an hour into the drive, Justin realized our rental Jeep could be a convertible! Hello sunshine! Driving through the Keys in the daytime, leisurely, and not while running through them in a race, was very pleasurable. We found this quaint little thatched roof restaurant, Islamorada Fish Company right on the shore on Islamorada Keys and had a very romantic lunch with fresh fish they just pulled out of the ocean, alligator, conch key lime pie ever! It really eased our stress levels about getting home once we decided to just quit worrying and take in the surroundings around us and take advantage of our last few hours in paradise. Oh, and the ginger rum beer probably helped with that as well. It was truly an awesome vacation, even with some of it's little down moments (kids needing stitches-sorry Shelly Belly, scooter accidents, fogged out cruise, cancelled flights, etc). I am extremely grateful to my parents and Justin's parents who helped out and took the kids. Especially Kathy who had to keep them an extra few days and nurse them as they BOTH got sick on her. :( Thanks ma, immensely. It was a vacation we will never forget.