Sunday, September 23, 2018

Orlando TDY

Inspector General AIMS Conference

This last week, I traveled to Orlando, Florida with our Wing's Inspector General team for the Air National Guard Inspector General Management Summit (AIMS) Conference. I've been working in the IG office since March 2018 as their Wing Planner. I'm transitioning out of their office and into a solo permanent position as our Wing's Information Protection Officer (aka our Chief of Info Protection, the CIP), so I was fortunate that the IG office asked me to go with them on this trip. I'll still be helping their office out with big exercises and inspections, so this was a great trip to enhance my learning and hone in on some more training.

We got to Orlando on Monday, with the conference going Tuesday - Thursday. We checked in to the Florida Hotel and Conference Center (it was really nice!) and enjoyed some Mexican food and brews at two local spots while we watched Monday Night Football. The next three days, our conference was slated to go from 0700-1630. Orlando has a ton of stuff to do, but it's also about an hour away from surrounding beach towns, so that was the plan almost every evening after the conference.

The coolest part of this conference was that Daniel got to go with me! He had a bunch of extra leave to use, so he flew down to Orlando with me and was there all the way through Wednesday. We turned my work trip into a mini spontaneous vacation after each day's conference was over, and it was the best way to spend the week. Tuesday while were in the conference, he went hiking at a local spot and then when we got out, he and I headed over to Cocoa Beach.

Cocoa Beach Florida
Cocoa Beach Florida

The beach was gorgeous! It was a nice little town, filled with condos and hotels and a couple hot spots to sip on cocktails and enjoy some delicious seafood. We spent some time down at the beach by the pier. It was the perfect temperature and the water was so nice and warm!

Rikki Tiki Tavern, Cocoa Beach Floria

After looking at reviews of the most popular places in Cocoa Beach, we wound up at the Rikki Tiki Tavern which is out on the very far end of the pier. It was an amazing spot (with yummy cocktails!), and we spent quite a bit of time there just enjoying the afternoon and meeting some new friends.

Cocoa Beach Florida, Cocoa Beach Penny Press

Cocoa Beach was an absolutely beautiful place. The weather was so nice, and it was just a short hour's drive from Orlando. We were so glad we went there and are thinking about planning a real vacation back to enjoy more of the town in the future.

Cuban Food Orlando Florida

On our second day, we spent our conference lunch break at the Havana Bistro and Café next to the Florida Hotel. It probably looks just like a simple plate of Cuban food but OH MY GOSH it was good! I have never had Cuban food before, and that entire plate was only $7.00... the chicken and rice melted in my mouth. Had to share!

Capt Duke's Air Boat Ride

After the conference on Wednesday, we drove an hour over to the St. Johns River to take a ride on Capt Duke's Airboat Rides. Talk about the best $50 I've ever spent... it was a 90-minute ride through the Florida swamps and we saw the craziest and coolest things! I've never been on an airboat, and I'm not only in love with the experience, but it was literally the most awesome thing we did in Florida. We saw alligators (hundreds of them!), water snakes, pink birds, giant hand-sized spiders (didn't share those photos--you're welcome), an amazing sunset, and learned all about the history of the St. Johns River.

Capt Duke's Air Boat Ride alligator

This was one of the big alligators we saw on the airboat tour. There were hundreds of them out there, big and small. We got pretty close to some of them, but I would have loved to have been able to have a Lake Placid-esque moment with one of them--without being eaten, of course--that would have been so cool!

Capt Duke's Air Boat Ride St Johns River Swamp in Florida

The swamps of the St Johns River. The waterline that was permanently marked on the trees was incredible. There are huge Huntsman Spiders that live on those trees. We saw one that was the size of my hand! I'd have gotten closer to it if I'd have been convinced it wouldn't bite me.

Capt Duke's Air Boat Ride Bird watching, St Johns River

Amazing sunset and bird fly-over on the St. Johns.

Capt Duke's Air Boat Ride, Florida Water Snake

We stopped at a little island so Capt Duke could tell us some of the history of the area. While we were walking around, we stumbled upon a little water snake. I bent down and snatched him right up! He was a nice little guy (not poisonous), and I held on to him for a while. I would have taken him home if I could!

Capt Duke's Air Boat Ride, St Johns River Sunset

The ride with Capt Duke was our favorite thing we did on the trip. It was a 90-min ride through the swamps and was the most incredible experience. I'd do it again in a heartbeat and can't recommend it enough!

Wednesday night was Daniel's last night in Orlando, and this was truly an amazing way to cap off a short and sweet vacation.

Pig Floyds Urban Barbakoa

On Thursday after the conference ended, the rest of us went to Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa in Orlando before heading to Daytona Beach. Their BBQ was to die for. The guys got brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, and I got a brisket bento. Holy cow that place was good!

Pig Floyds Urban Barbakoa
Daytona Beach Florida

Daytona Beach was an hour's drive from Orlando, and it was surprisingly empty. I've heard so many stories about Daytona and how it gets just packed during spring break time. I was anticipating crowds of people, busy storefronts, lines of people waiting to get in to the most popular restaurants, and beaches teaming with crowds. However, none of that was the case. It was pretty much deserted, so we felt like we had the beach mostly to ourselves. We walked up and down the beach, wading through the water, and found our way down to Sloppy Joe's for some cocktails before dinner. We explored the streets of Daytona, pretty much the only people out there, and just walked and walked all evening.

Daytona Beach Penny Press

I found a penny press in a tourist shop! Had to snag one for my collection.

Daytona Beach Vomatron Ride

As we were headed back to the car, we got sidetracked at Screamer's Park, which boasted a Sling Shot ride, the Vomatron, and a big Jenga puzzle. I got suckered in and had to ride the Vomatron. I love thrill rides and this one was very, very fun. I hated that I paid for it, but loved the feeling of zero gravity and flying high above Daytona Beach. That was a fun memory for sure!

We headed back to Boise the next morning. The entire week was such a cool departure from the norm and I had so much fun exploring somewhere new. I've been to Orlando before to go theme-parking at Disney and Universal Studios, but this was an entirely new experience. I loved visiting the beach towns, eating all the best-rated local food, and spending time with my husband and coworkers outside of our hometown. I was so fortunate to have been invited on this trip, and not only did I learn a lot, I also really enjoyed the time outside the conference that we turned into a mini-vacation.

I've been so lucky to be able to travel for work and to get to see all different sights and states in the US. I knew I'd travel and explore when I joined the Air National Guard, but I never expected to travel so often, enjoy the TDYs so much, and to be given the most amazing open doors with each new opportunity. I love my job lately and couldn't be more grateful to finally have a permanent position within the ANG. This military life is goooooooood!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hood to Coast Relay 2018

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

When you take Hood to Coast 2018 by the numbers, it looks a little like this... 199 miles. One team--The Original Scrambled Legs and Achin'. 12 teammates, 3 volunteers, 2 vans. 3 legs each and between 15-20 miles total each. Less than 3-hours of sleep since Wednesday night. 2 meals and lots of hungry tummies. 36 exchanges. A round of Bloody Mary's for post-race celebration. 33 hours, 19 minutes. Lots of laughs, lots of sweat, lots of running. Regardless of the numbers, the way I see it is... SCRAMBLED LEGS AND ACHIN’ CONQUERED HOOD TO COAST!!!

I arrived in Portland, Oregon on Thursday afternoon. My friend Nick, who I met through Officer Training School (he was my MTI) picked me up at the airport. You may recall that I've run HTC in the past (2015, 2016), but it was with my sister's team. This year, I joined Nick on his team. They had a team member who couldn't make it, so he called me a couple months ago and asked if I'd like to join--I've been so fortunate to maintain our friendship past OTS, and this was such a fun event to get back together for and run as a team!

We ate a delicious lasagna dinner and decorated the vans before turning in early because we had a 5:00 am start the next morning.

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

Notice the lovely "art" on the back of our van. That egg was on point!

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

The 5:00 am start meant we had to be on the road up to Mount Hood at 2:30 am. Oofda--that was early. Considering we wouldn't be sleeping much for the next day and a half, the little amount of sleep we got pre-race didn't quite set us up as well as we'd like. It was cold at the top of the hill. The thermometer said 44 degrees, but with raging winds, it was in the low 30's... brrrr not the way we wanted to start the morning. Right when the clock hit 0500, our first runner Nick was off and we were officially in HTC-run-mode.

I was runner 3, so I had a couple hours to go before my first leg. When it came time for me to get the baton around 7:00 am, I was ready to run! I'm haven't been as fast as in the past, but I can still turn the old legs over for a race.

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

I knew my leg was going to be downhill, but I didn't realize that most of the 4.86 miles would be on an un-paved and very un-even mountain bike trail that ran adjacent to the highway. I've run on un-paved roads during this race before, but never on a rocky trail. The path TORE MY LEGS UP and after my leg I already had blood-blistered toenails... gross! Anyway, the rocky terrain actually made my leg pretty interesting, and I was able to finish the 4.86 miles with a 7:18/mile pace.

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

I was happy to have one fast leg during the race, because after that one, my legs tightened up and I had difficulty walking/running the rest of the day. I was happy that we were on a non-competitive team--no one was monitoring or cared about my times--so I was able to relax, run my legs, and just enjoy the race as much as I could.

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

Our van was filled with some pretty awesome people, and everyone did a great job on their first legs. After we made it to the first major exchange, we headed to Vancouver to eat some leftovers from the previous night and get a short cat-nap before we had to head to the next exchange. I was most grateful to be able to take a shower during that break... showers after each leg are such a luxury and so valued when you are able to get them!

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

Taking this trip with my battle buddy was the most fun. I couldn't have asked for a better or more enjoyable weekend!

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

After our refreshing break in Vancouver, we were ready to head to Portland for the next major van exchange. Of course that meant we had to run again, but we were all pretty well-recovered and ready to go. My legs were still pretty achy after my first leg, but I was pretty confident that my 7.25 miles wasn't going to be that bad (I was wrong). I took off at about 5:20 pm and thought I was prepared for what was to come...

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

And here's a non-flattering photo of me crossing the hand-off line at the end of my second leg, leg 15. If I look like I'm smiling, it was because I was finished with that leg. For me, the second leg is always the worst one. This one was 7.25 miles on rolling hills along the side of the highway. It's very long, very boring, and very challenging to stay motivated. My shorts ended up causing me issues, and I ended up chafing the inside of my legs raw (ouch!) so I was in a lot of pain during that leg. The chafing started between miles 3-4 and I was only halfway done... it was painful and I was already running weird because of my tight legs from my first run, so it was just a challenging run overall. Despite the pain and frustration, I ended up finishing with an 8:03/mile pace for the 7:25 miles. All things considered, I was happy that one was over and pleasantly surprised with that time.

At the stop between the second runs for legs 5 and 6, I was able to use the local high school's locker room to take a shower. That was the best $2 donation I've ever made! I got all sudsy and they loaned me a towel and I was a happy (and chafed) clam after that second leg. Honestly, showers between runs are everything!

After our whole van finished our second legs, we went to Muchas Gracias for some Mexican burritos around 11:00 pm (probably a mistake) and then drove to the next exchange to try to nap before it was time for our third legs. Unfortunately, it was really chilly at the exchange, and I wasn't able to get comfortable in the van. I tried to sleep, but my lightweight blanket and van bucket seat didn't do the job, so I mostly tossed, turned, and shivered for an hour. At least I got some rest.

I started running my third leg, leg 27, around 5:15 am. By this point, I was sore, tired, and so glad our team didn't care what my pace was. It was pitch black on our back-country roads, and I didn't see another person for over 2.5 miles of my 6.36 mile stretch. When I say "pitch black," I mean pitch black, so I turned up my music that I had going in my little waist runner's pouch in an effort to scare off bears and local wildlife (it was creepy out there), and started jammin' out to my tunes while I was running. If I wasn't going to see people on the road, I had to enjoy myself somehow since there weren't any "kills" to chase down. My pace felt easy and controlled, and I was super happy each time I hit a new mile-marker because that meant I was one step closer to being done! As the skies were beginning to lighten, I began to come up on people and ended up with 9-kills and an 8:30/mile pace for my last leg. My last leg was the most fun and most comfortable of all of them. I'll take that pace to enjoy my run any day of the week.

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

The photo above is from our 6th runner coming over the top of her killer-uphill leg. Her cresting that hill meant one thing for our van--we were two miles away from being done running! We met her at the bottom of the hill at the next major van exchange and we ce-le-brated because we were done! We still had six hours or so until the next van was going to make it to Seaside, so we did what any respectable HTC team would do...

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

We drove just past the exchange and toasted to Bloody Mary's at the Only Bar in Olney, Oregon. We ate breakfast, too, but first--alcohol. Those Bloody Mary's were just what the doctor ordered. We were all smiles and ready for a break before heading to the finish line.

We drove to Seaside, Oregon and checked in at the hotel for a quick shower (praise all showers!!) before going down to the beach party.

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

Before our team arrived, we had time to enjoy some brews. I ran into one of my coworkers from home... that's always neat to see a friend from home at a race a couple states away.

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

Our van toasted to Hood to Coast just before our Van 2 team came into the finish. I couldn't have asked for a cooler van to ride along with during those two days.

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

33 hours and 19 minutes after we started, Van 2 made it to the finish and we all crossed together--happy as can be. All 12 of us were exhausted, sore, and so so so glad it was over!! It was time for some food at The Fish House, some laughter and re-telling of stories, and some rest!!

Hood to Coast 2018, Scrambled Legs' And Achin, HTC

Half of our team did not plan on staying in Seaside, so we drove back to Vancouver that evening. It's the first time I haven't stayed in Seaside, and there was part of me that missed the beach party, but part that loved the new experience I had instead. Nick took me to Kennedy School, an old remodeled school in Portland, Oregon that is now a brewery, restaurant, hotel, and party venue. What a cool time we had touring the halls and reading the history... taking in the building (as well as some beer and tots!) was well-worth the trip back that evening! I flew back to Boise the next morning, missing the team already and wanting to go back and re-play the past 48-hours.

I was so grateful to spend such a fun weekend with a brand new group of people and grateful that Nick invited me to run in this race that really, only crazy people sign up for. The idea of being stuck in a van for 30+ hours with five other people and running 20-miles is something that not a lot of people would raise their hand and say "Yeah! I want to do that." But we did, and we keep going back for more. There's a part of me that is so crazy for loving these races... and that crazy part is always going to say "YES!" for more.

Thanks Nick... for the weekend, for the memories, and for the opportunity to go kill 199-miles with The Original Scrambled Legs and Achin'. Can't wait for the next one ;-)

Past Hood to Coast Relays: 2016  │ 2015