Reload – 1 on 1 Firearms Instruction

When I was in my teens and early twenties I used to go target shooting with friends out in the desert.  We shot pop cans off rocks and that sort of thing. The gun was always handed to me loaded and then handed back after I was done.The only mention I remember about safety was to keep the butt of the rifle snug against your shoulder so you didn’t end up with a huge bruise from the recoil.

Recently my younger son  and I have toyed with the idea of going to a range and shooting (no deserts or wide open spaces in Florida!) but to be honest I was a little nervous about the idea as neither of us has a clue and so made the parental call that we would, but we both had to take a basic class first. And then we just sort of talked about it on random occasions for about a year.

Recently a new range opened in Tarpon Springs, Reload Quality Indoor Shooting Range so we decided to check it out.The place already has a ton of reviews, most of them outstanding.

They only offer a couple of types if classes right now because they are so new. One is the 1 on 1 firearms instruction which sounded perfect so we went ahead and signed up. I’ve never been to a gun range so I had no idea what to expect, except it would probably be loud.

Walking into ReLoad was kind of like walking into a big name running store.  It’s huge, clean, and full of aisles of things that you probably know all about if you’re into that kind of thing, but are otherwise interesting and totally worth looking at even if you know you don’t need any of this stuff.  They even have a big section of conceal carry purses.  I didn’t even know that was a thing. Wine purses on the other hand…

ReLoad

Anyways we signed the wavers on line and since we were a little early we sat at one of the the tables by the food place.  Yes, they have food.  It isn’t completely set up yet but the guy there said will be basically an extension of Shlomo’s Gourmet Subs and Deli in there. They’ll even have falafel sandwiches.  Who would have thought the time would come when I could go target shooting and have a great vegetarian meal under the same roof? I was already impressed before the class even started.

So the class starts in the training room with the instructor telling you the basic safety things to know, how to hold the gun, and answering any questions you have.  This part was fairly short and sweet, but there was no rushing and you had plenty of time to ask questions and make sure you understood how to hold the gun and such.  Which was actually a bit more step by step than I expected.

And you know what?  The one thing I thought I knew was wrong, because that place is quiet as can be.

Then on to the range.

Not quite so quiet, but still completely not intimidating. We did all jump at the first shot, but then it was just fun.  The instructor, Marci (I think), was amazing and stood next to us while we took turns shooting giving us tips and telling us how to do each step (I can totally load, and ReLoad a gun now) without once making myself or my son feel like we knew as little as we knew.  That’s pretty dang close to magic when you’re instructing a 14 year old.  Just saying.

Shooting Collage

 

So anyways, if you are near Tarpon Springs and have an interest in learning to shoot but are maybe a little intimidated, this is the place to go.  Check out their 1 on 1 classes, I really think they are a great idea for anyone new to the sport.  Is shooting a sport?  Maybe, my arms did get tired by the end of the night so…

 

 

 

 

 

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The Cider Press Cafe

Being vegetarian forever and vegan-curious for a couple of years when I first saw that The Cider Press Café was opening in St. Petersburg I was inappropriately excited to go try out their food.  Everything on their menu is raw vegan, which may sound more healthy than tasty, but that’s only if you haven’t tried it yet.

After eating at a couple of raw vegan places during a trip to North Carolina I was hooked and wanted to try The Cider Press Café even more, seeing how it’s about a thousand miles closer to home. So, of course, I did.

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I went the first time a few months ago and started with the Florida Roll – tamari infused watermelon ‘tuna’, mango, riced jicama, avocado; ginger, wasabi & tamari sauce. Sounds so strange, tasted so wonderful. This is the only one of their ‘starters’ I’ve tried but I want it again.  The problem with that is they have a few other items on their starter menu I really, really want to try too.  Cauliflower buffalo bites, coconut spring rolls…  everything either sound totally delicious or totally so far outside of anything I’ve tried that I HAVE TO try it.

I’ve tried a few of their main dishes (if you eat out with me you share with me) and my favorite two so far are the Garden Lasagna and The Three Amigos – spiced dehydrated corn tortillas (3), walnut-sweet potato picadillo, cabbage, guacamole, pico de gallo, poblano cream, pickled jalapeños, corn maque choux. Heavenly.

For the record, the deserts are the bomb as well.  I tried the pineapple sorbet and will definitely be having that again.  The person I was un-guiltily stealing food from had key lime ice cream and there is no way you could go wrong with that choice either. And yes, I’m like that. The people at the tables next to me are lucky I didn’t try their food too.

Final piece of advice – drink the Pearly Pear –   it’s an apple & pear cider and seriously, what else is there to say about that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tampa Bay Vegfest

Last Saturday I went to the Tampa Bay Vegfest in Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park on Riverwalk. It’s their 6th annual festival, but the first I’ve been to. I think last year I had a run at the same time. My loss, it was a lot of fun. Actually, my partner in crime went last year and said this year was much bigger.  I guess that means I better go next year because it’ll likely only be bigger and better.

So, what do you even do at a Vegfest?  Well, I think it depends of the fest.  I went to one in San Diego in like ’89 and it was a total hippy fest.  Reggae music, a haze over the crowd that was not tobacco smoke, a lot of girls in skirts that had not bought a razor maybe ever (I had never heard of women not shaving at the time and was a bit mystified.  Still not my thing but to each their own and all). This was not that.

Fast forward 26 years (writing that makes me feel old, but lets go with wise, shall we?) and vegetarian is pretty much main stream.  My 16 year old daughter is vegetarian (my sons are not), she has friends that are vegetarian that went to the festival, and my son (22) has dated like 3 vegetarians.  Apparently, it’s a thing now.

The Tampa Bay VegFest had all ages from kids, to high school and college age to  retirement age people. I have to admit that last one surprised me.

Anyways, what was there to do?

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Well, there were lots of vendor booths. Some where selling things like t-shirts (the Hail Seitan, Go Vegan t-shirt was one of my favorites), soaps, jewellery, snacks, pretty much a bit of everything. There were also some great vegan samples. My very favorite was Treeline nut-cheese (that sounds so bad, I know). It was a spread for crackers that all by itself made a case for the deliciousness of vegan food. I had to take a picture that was too bad to share but enough that I could go buy it. There was also a coconut ice cream sandwich that was amazing, which surprised me because I have bought the same brand of vanilla ice cream in the past and didn’t love it.  I’m going to have to try it again.

It was a lovely 90 degree fall day so even wearing a tank top I was happy to hear they had speakers and movies playing at the history center. We only made it to listen to one speaker, but wow was she great.  We got to listen to Jo-Anne McArthur speak about animals she had met during her photojournalist adventures. Adventures sound like great things but in this case not so much. She has traveled the globe to bring us the faces and stories of animals whose lives have been hidden. She has photographed minks and foxes being raised for fur in horrific conditions, factory farm victims, a bear whose life of suffering cumulated in having his paws removed for soup (but was rescued), all sorts of things.  But it’s all tempered with visits to a farm sanctuary full of happy, healthy animals and other sanctuaries which if nothing else allows you a glimpse into lives of people who dedicate themselves to good instead of evil. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that these places do exist.

There was also a food truck circle (yay, food!), bands and a cooking demonstration. I attended the Thai Tacos and Caribbean Rice and Beans demo. The demos were done by the people at thefoodpharmacy.com. Check out their web site, they have all kinds of recipes and videos on how to cook vegan recipes.  Their theme seems to be good, healthy food now instead of drugs and doctor visits later. Radical, right?

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Then there was the mandatory circle of animal rescue groups with dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, even a great big real pig.  I’m a sucker for this section and the partner in crime even put an application for a great dog there.  Should hear back some time this week. A photographer and a blogger and we were so into the dog we forgot to take a picture of her.  FAIL.

All in all a great time. If you’re on Facebook follow them here so that next year you’ll have all the info you need to attend. Bring your compassion and a huge appetite.

#HowlOScream review – & some tips

You KNOW I love some zombies and mayhem.  So deciding to attend Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream Unearthed was a no brainer. Not like a zombies aren’t interested no brainer, which was kind of too bad, because there were a lot of zombies to watch out for!

This year Howl-O-Scream included 7 haunted houses and a show.  We made it to 6 of the houses. I missed DeadFALL which I am pretty bummed about because that one was set in a Victorian garden and greenhouse, and you know I love gardening.

I have to say, I was only disappointed by one house, and that’s because it had the longest line and because I suck at video games. I think everyone else really liked this one. Zombie Containment Unit 15: Moving Targets is pretty much a real-life video game. While you’re waiting you hear a broadcast – one of the zombie containment units has been breached.  They are escaping and citizens are needed to help stop them! You get a super cool laser gun and are set loose on the containment unit of zombies. Hey, this is a job for me! Except that just like every other video game I was never quite sure what I hit or didn’t hit or what I was even trying to do.  Not an issue with the place, it’s that thing where I can’t play video games and then I give up.  So sad really. Know what’s not so sad? This mad cool zombie DJ on the way in.

All that about my least favorite.  Needless to say we had fun.  So what was the very best haunted house?  Everyone we asked said it was Death Water Bayou, so we went there first. It was pretty epic. Voodoo queens, Deliverance types, it was a great start to the night.

Death Water Bayou

But it wasn’t my favorite.  I loved the BASEMENT. It was a tour through the kitchen for Mama’s Meats. If I hadn’t been a vegetarian before I went in I’d still be one now.  Because that woman’s secret ingredient is Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets you.  Gross and scary and awesome all in one.

The Basement

What’s up next? How about a Zombie Mortuary? It seems zombies have taken over a small town mortuary and are working their way through the staff and mourners.  Sound old school? Holy crap, you try walking through a room of totally still dead people and trying to not touch anything because you know whatever you touch will actually be alive and get you. Ya, it’s like that.  I didn’t get any pictures ‘cuz zombies, but here’s Busch Garden’s video to haunt your sleep.

Next house, Circus of Superstition: The Last Laugh. I own a black cat and I have no problem (much) walking under ladders, but that does not mean I think it’s a good idea to meet all superstitions in one house.  In 3D no less. Got a problem with leaving a hat on a bed? How about a cracked mirror? Hmmm, sucks to be you. Hope you don’t have a problem with clowns… ‘cuz clowns.

ClownsOh, and then there is the reason that all of this occurred.  It seems that while doing renovations to the park an old house was dug up. In the house? A demon of course. Stupid renovations.  Just saying.

Scarlett's RevengeOh, and here’s some tips for when you go.

  1. Bring a change of clothes if you really want to be dry. You are in Florida, it’s going to rain and lightening.  And when it does Busch Gardens is going to close the rides because of that crazy thing where they don’t want you to die. Even if you’ve been in line for a while be nice.
  2. Talk to the people around you. We didn’t get to go on any roller coasters because lightening, but I met some great people and heard some great stories.  Sometimes a win isn’t the one you were going for. Plus, the houses are still open.
  3. Want a great picture? Don’t hesitate to rest those elbows on a trash can or whatever is around.  It makes for a much clearer picture on your cell phone than if you just hold your phone up.
  4. Drink.  Ya sure, they have not just beer but also mixed drinks. And I had some. But I’m talking about Power Aid or water.  And don’t wait until you’re thirsty and cranky.
  5. Start with the house or event you most want to see – you may not have time to see everything.
  6. Most important – wear comfortable shoes!  We were on our feet from 4:30 to 1:30 am and by the time we left the car seat was the most comfortable chair I had ever, ever sat in. Ever.  Trust me on this one.

I received 2 tickets to #Unearthed run as a member of Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with Busch Gardens in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own, of course.

Summer of Rum 2015

The Summer of Rum festival turned out to be everything hyped and some more. As expected.

This time I learned from experience and rented a room in walking distance at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Ybor City. Definitely a good move.  The place was perfect – clean, quiet and about a 5 minute walk from the Cuban Club. And of course the fact that no one has to be the designated driver after a celebration of all things rum was a plus. It’s my new go-to place to stay when I’m in the area for certain.

We decided to start the evening out right and headed straight to the rum tasting upstairs.  Another good move.  Dang, I’m like an expert or something.  At what I don’t know. Anyways, I got to try all of the rums on my list including Wicked Dolphin (who had RumShine!) and Blackheart, obviously a rum for pirates. Blackheart was a really good spiced rum, this may be my new go-to for rum and cokes.

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We tried quite a few rums – enough that I forgot to keep taking pictures. 🙂  I have to admit, I had a hands down favorite.  Blue Chair Bay had a banana rum that was so good it could be sipped straight out of the bottle.  If you were inclined to do such a thing that is. Not commenting any further on that.

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After that it was off to sit in cool comfort and watch a bit of a pirate movie.  I’m always a fan of pirates.  And movies I don’t have to try and stay quiet during. Win and win.

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By then it seemed wise to have a meal, so we walked across the way to the Spaghetti Factory. There were a bunch of really good looking food trucks, but I didn’t see anything vegetarian jump out at me.  If we were going to get serious about drinking and lasting to hear all of the bands to the end a serious meal was in order.  Who says carbing up is just for runners?

My son and his girlfriend met us after that and we all had a great time just hanging out, listening to bands and people watching.

SummerofRumBandOne thing I have to say, the bartenders in the VIP tent were amazing.  See how the girl’s hands are blurry in the middle picture below?  That’s not bad photography, that’s how fast they were moving to keep up.  And all the while everyone was cheerful and and fun.

2015-08-294Oh yeah, and we all got pirate tatts at Captain Morgan’s place. Because when in Rome… and also when drinking rum all day.

I received two VIP tickets to The Tampa Bay Rum Festival in exchange for writing a review and a giveaway. As always, my opinions are all mine.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Looking for something different to do with your mom this weekend?  I found the perfect thing.  Thursday I took my daughter and mom to see Beauty and the Beast at Straz center, and a great time was had by all three generations!

I seem to be getting hooked on musicals, but with all of the great shows at The Straz Center can you blame me?  Beauty and the Beast is a story told almost entirely through song, and the Broadway musical includes songs that were not in the Disney movie which I loved.  I spent the evening trying unsuccessfully to decide on my favorite song.

You don’t know how it could be so hard to decide?  Take a look at some of what I had to choose from!

My first favorite? Gaston of course. All of the girls in town and all of the tavern patrons joined in for a rowdy, beer mug clinking good time.  All in the name of cheering Gaston up of course.  So that was my favorite.

But then they did Be Our Guest.  The entire stage was filled with happiness and joy, colors and dancing. Confetti even.  So that was my favorite.

But then Mrs. Potts (Emily Jewell) sang Beauty and the Beast while standing quietly at the edge of a nearly dark stage and blew me away.  It’s amazing that one person can have such a presence. So then…

I decided it was OK to like them all.  And that’s my final answer.

So, moving on.  There were two other parts that really struck me. The first were the scenes in the woods. They were amazingly done, the woods were foggy and creepy and the wolf attack scenes were pretty awesome.  Oh, and the night time scenes with the stars and moon were also pretty amazing.  But that wasn’t supposed to be part of my 2. So I guess make that 3 parts?

The other was the rug during Be Our Guest.  I can’t even imaging being dressed as a rug while flipping around the stage and singing. Talent much? There’s a little clip of him at about the 15 second mark in the video I embedded above, but that doesn’t really do him justice.  I guess you’ll have to go see for yourself!

I won’t subject you to my inner dialogue about which was my favorite character.  You’re welcome.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is playing at the Straz Center through May 10th. Take a look on Straz Center’s site for tickets and times.  Tickets to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast would make a perfect mother’s day gift for a lot of moms out there!

I received 2 tickets to Pippin as a member of Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own, of course.

Color Me Rad 2015 Review

This is the second year that the family and I did Color Me Rad en masse.  We had a couple of different faces this time (same day as SAT testing), but everyone that goes to Color Me Rad is going to want to come back and run it again.

This year we even got my mom to run it – she decided that if the twins could do it at age 3 she had this.  And she did!  The only problem is with this as a first race you’ll have a hard time finding future races to live up to the precedent Color Me Rad sets!  Especially this year.

color-me-rad-biggerBigger, Badder, Radder is no joke.  Twice the color stations, gel (shot from water guns and cannons!) AND the free photos after the event. Seriously?  To top all that off several of the color stations actually had people on each side with different colors, so you were TRULY not getting through without being turned into something akin to a running rainbow.

Before and After photos tell the story pretty well.

EveryoneBefore

Everyone2015What’s funny is the two on the right went to prom that night. They went to the run determined not to get too colored up. Which I took as a challenge. All it took was asking one person throwing color to be sure to get my niece, next thing you know the two of them were having color wars every time I turned around. Just another reason why having a ton of teenagers in the family is underrated!

Oh, and just in case you were worried, they cleaned up just fine. (Told you so, but didn’t really know for sure…)

Kaili and EthanWe ran in the very last group, which the race people were nice enough to let go WAY after the original time due to the fact that apparently my family isn’t the only ones who forgot how to estimate time that morning.  Just another reason to love the Color Me Rad  people, we got there 10 minutes after the last run should have gone, a result of getting three car loads of people headed in the same direction at the same time.  Three ring circuses have got nothing on this family, you should see our holidays when there are 4 times more people.

Anyways, since we started in the last group and ran with 4 year olds we were some of the last people to finish too. We only caught the tail end of the after party, but the older kids ran ahead (am I allowed to call 20 year old+ people kids?) and they had an awesome time.  They got some great videos too, but we seem to have misplaced the charge for the GoPro so there will be no sharing of videos for a while.

Anyways, to make a long story short ( I know, too late for that) if Color Me Rad is coming anywhere near you you should go. Regardless of age or ability this race is tons of fun for everyone.

Disclosure: I received race entries through the Tampa Bay Bloggers’s partnership with Color Me Rad in exchange for writing a review.  All opinion are my own of course.

Pippin at Straz

To be honest, I didn’t really know what Pippin was when I first heard about the show. I looked on Straz’s site and saw “Broadway’s high-flying, death-defying hit musical” and thought death-defying DOES sound interesting!  Maybe no zombies and no space monsters would be OK?  After all, a Spartan race is not the only way to step outside of your every day and try something new.

Then my partner in crime asked around and was told he was uncultured for even having to ask. Seems Pippin is a big deal with a lot of history and we WERE uncultured for not knowing it. Well, thank goodness we were able to right that wrong!

The theater was full and it was pretty obvious that people were excited about the show. And now I know why. It was excellent! Pippin the Musical has a little (or a lot) of EVERYTHING. It seems the entire cast has incredible singing voices, can dance, can flip, balance, and do all sorts of other things that I would not even attempt.  The sheer number of people all doing different things yet perfectly working together at any given time in the show was pretty amazing all by itself. It’s a circus act rolled up in a drama that includes war, patricide, sexual innuendos, philosophy and love. And I would say that technically speaking there is even a zombie or two. But don’t quote me on that. In other words, something for everyone.

My pictures a a wee bit fuzzy because I used my (brand new) cell phone and I was back a ways, but I’m still sharing.

Which, by the way brings up a great point – if you decide to go see the show there is not a bad seat in the house. I was pretty neat the back and could both see and hear everything perfectly, the fuzz is my phone not the seats.

Pippin Everyone

This guy is kind of amazing, I so want to try this at home. Stupid insurance deductible.

Pippin Balancing Man

If you’d like to go there is still plenty of time! Here’s a list of showtimes at Straz Center:

  • Thurs.April 16th at 7:30 p.m
  • Fri. April 17th at 8 p.m.
  • Sat. April 18th at 2 and 8 p.m.
  • Sun. April 19th at  2 and 7:30 p.m.

If you aren’t in the Tampa area, move because you are missing out.  But  while you are waiting for your house to sell you still may be able to catch Pippin, it is after all a U.S. tour not a Florida tour. But heads up, they will be in Orlando and West Palm Beach. Check here to see if they are coming near your town.

I received 2 tickets to Pippin as a member of Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own, of course.

Tampa Spring Beer Fling 2015

I mentioned that I was going to the Spring Beer Fling last month, then never got around to telling you about it.  Why, you may ask?  Well because I was super happy with some of the cool pictures I took, then I dropped my cell phone (aka my camera) into the toilet.  Happily, it was freshly cleaned and shiny. Unhappily, my phone didn’t care about my wonderful cleaning habits. Here’s a thing I found out: turn your phone off IMMEDIATELY if it gets wet.  Because otherwise things get fried, to put it scientifically. Even alcohol and organic rice will not save it.

Anyways, coming back from another squirrel moment…

The Spring Beer Fling was A LOT of fun. I didn’t get to try all of the different drinks I would have liked to because of that thing were I had to wake up eventually but I did try Light My Fire which was as amazing as expected. A mixed drink with Angry Orchard and Fireball? Like that could be not awesome. Also the Arnold Palmer Remix with Sam Adams Cold Snap, lemonade, and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka. ‘Cuz vodka. I did not try a single Beerlini Puree which is a sad, sad thing but I was a too little distracted to remember everything.

The bands were a lot of fun. And guess what? My partner in crime did not destroy his phone so I actually have a couple of pictures. You have to love The University of Tampa in the background. As a matter of fact I was so loving it we walked across the river to check out the buildings.  If you get a chance, walk through them, they are pretty amazing. I’d show you, but you know, the phone incident.

Attach8That’s another great thing about the Beer Fling.  We got bracelets at the door (paper, not like, jewels or anything) and we could leave and come back as we wanted.  Since the Fling was from noon to 10pm that made it pretty cool. There are a LOT of things to walk around and look at around Curtis Hixon Park.

If you missed it you can’t go to the Spring Beer Fling again until next spring, of course.  However, Big City Events, who put this on, has several other events every year, and they seem to add new ones all the time. So check out all of their coming events, and maybe I’ll run into you at one of them. Not that either of us would know that, but still.

I received two VIP tickets to Spring Beer Fling 2015 in exchange for writing a review and a giveaway. As always, my opinions are all mine.

Don’t Tell the Short Girl Size Doesn’t Matter (but I Spartaned anyways)

Last weekend I finally ran a Spartan sprint at Raymond James Stadium.  Just about time. right?  I had a blast, as expected.  I couldn’t do all of the obstacles, as expected.  But I did hella better running up and down stairs than I thought I would.  Plus I didn’t fall once which is always a major win for me. Of course I did run into a stadium chair twice, leaving my hand looking kind of like I punched someone and a bruise on my leg the size of a saucer.  Not bad for me, I’ll take it.

This wasn’t a mud run at all, though we did go through some mud a couple of times.  So I guess not at all is a bit strong and untrue. Whatever.

It was a stadium run, which I didn’t really think about when I signed up (good thing) but which meant about a thousand miles of running up and down stairs.  Up got a wee bit painful after a while, down I was just terrified I’d trip and fall. Not that I would.

The funniest thing about the race (you know there are funny things about everything) is that just to get to the start line you had to get over a pretty high wall. Of course I needed a boost, but up and over is what matters, not how you get there.

The most FUN thing was they had jump ropes out of that really thick rope that cross fitters use and you had to jump with this huge rubber band around your ankles. And jumping over the fire at the end, but that’s a given.

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So why does size matter? Because from the top of the ladder thing I could not reach the (curse word) monkey bars.  Yes, I tried on my tip toes. Anything I had to get over or reach up to was harder than it had to be for me.  However, crawling under the barb wire? Cake. I would not have wanted to be any bigger for that one, or for running between the stadium chairs! I guess it all evens out in the end. At least this run didn’t have the mud / water that some people walked through while I had to swim.  🙂

Here’s the course as they mapped it, but I am pretty certain there was a whole lot more weaving up and down the stairs than this map shows.

SpartanCourse2015So what did I actually think of the race? I would do it again, for sure.  I’d even like to try the longer distance next time. But I will say this run is (fun but) less about having fun than most of the runs I’ve done in the past and more about proving something to yourself. There was nothing fun AT ALL about lugging a huge @$$ jug of water that seriously maybe weighed almost as much as me. I had to stop and set it down a few times. Didn’t really know how much I hated stairs till going up them with that thing.  But I did it and I did it without help.  There is something to be said for completing a task that you are seriously certain you can not do when you start it.

Maybe that’s why they say you’ll know at the finish line.