Why Chattanooga with a Toddler is the place you want to be!?!

Early on in Jon and Is marriage he surprised me with a birthday trip to Chattanooga and it’s been a love affair ever since. The walkability, the intimate but enough feeling, the ease of location. It’s become an annual tradition for us to head up there for a few days, but with a toddler it might become more frequent. And here’s why:

  1. Traffic.
    There isn’t much. Unlike Atlanta we felt extremely safe having Elijah follow us along the sidewalks. It gave us some relief from feeling like he was having to be in his stroller constantly, and he got ALL of his energy out.
  2. Walkability.
    From the aquarium, to the pedestrian bridge over the Tennessee River, to the playground along the riverwalk everything is accessible by foot. Taking away the hassle of being in and out of a carseat while you move locations. The only thing we did that we moved our car for was our hike at Lookout Mountain.
  3. Kid Oriented Activities.
    While they aren’t necessarily cheap, if we were to come up more than twice a year it’d be worth an annual pass. Here’s what you have:
    a. The Tennessee Aquarium – maybe an unpopular opinion, but it is way better than the Georgia Aquarium for a toddler. It is a small walkway that guides you through the exhibit, there are multiple floors and buildings but it keeps you from feeling overwhelmed as you are only seeing one or two things at a time. This was truly Elijah’s favorite part. Check out what they have to offer here: Tennessee Aquarium Site
    b. The Creative Discovery Museum – this was partly under renovation when we went, but between the water features, the creative stations, and the giant play/slide structures Elijah could have easily spent all day in here if he wasn’t already exhausted (we spent about 2 hours). Want more info? Click here.
    c. The Riverwalk water feature – this is a true gem. We stumbled upon it walking around one day but is a gently flowing water feature that ends with a shallow pool overlooking the river. You can find it underneath the pedestrian bridge and check out my Instagram Post for a look here.
  4. Ease of travel.
    Getting somewhere that can give us a change of pace and fresh perspective within 2 hours of Atlanta is optimal. Two hours is about Elijah’s limit before he starts getting antsy. The only traffic you regularly is at the I-24 split (I am not sure why on Earth they created it that way especially when there is clearly more space for more lanes but what do I know), but after you get past it you are 10 minutes out from downtown!
  5. Best of both (all three?) worlds.
    You get a little city, mixed with a little outdoor adventure, mixed with a little small town feel. It makes for such a great opportunity for learning and engaging in a variety of sights, sounds, and activities. Plus almost every restaurant has the color sheets for kids which is also key for tired babes who just want to eat and have some quiet time.

One other tad-bit: DoubleTree Downtown Chattanooga has the BEST FREE cookies when you check in and it’s a good bribery piece for a toddler. Alright, so are you convinced enough? Have any questions/thoughts? Let me know!

Until next time Chattanooga,
Jordan

Old Key West, Epcot and Eats

Originally this weekend was supposed to take place at the beginning of January. Time away, solo, enjoying some sunny Florida weather as a way to refresh and refuel. Lately, I’ve learned how to rent DVC points and grab a cheaper option for a nicer resort. Two years ago we were able to experience Saratoga Springs for the first time and this time I decided to grab an Old Key West reservation. I was excited to check out another DVC exclusive resort and eat at my favorite breakfast on property: Olivia’s.

I stayed with some friends on Thursday night in Gainesville and then headed down to Disney after breakfast Friday. The first night I was there I stayed in one of the good neighbor hotels near Disney Springs; I love close proximity to Disney Springs. It’s so nice to have it as an option just to lounge, shop, get some Disney magic, and get incredible eats.

So after a quick nap in my room I headed towards Disney Springs to check out all the new merch, with a few stops at my familiar comforts! I picked up a new pin from Pin Traders (for Disney Visa Holders) and new ring from Pandora, and the regular grub from the Polite Pig, a barbecue joint with some incredible vegetarian options as well! I checked out a few new toys for Elijah and the latest styles and called it a day!

After settling in for a mostly restful night sleep I woke up and hopped out the door for a walk/light jog, definitely humid, but I couldn’t complain about sunny and not freezing. I made it back just in time to shower, checkout and head to my breakfast reservation at Olivia’s Cafe. There isn’t anything crazy special on the menu but if you want a family feel with cozy eats this is your place. Its located near the main lobby of Old Key West and sits on the water. I made sure to grab some mickey waffles, a LOT of coffee and I headed to Epcot for my one park day. The buses are a little crazy at Old Key West, they do not come through often like they do at a resort like the All Stars and the stops before you actually leave are plentiful. That was lesson #1! When we finally made it to Epcot the excitement was contagious. Typically when I’m at Epcot its during a festival so I am after festival food, unique designs and visuals, but this time it was the week in-between Arts and Flower & Garden so I took advantage of rides and character meets that I usually don’t! It was wonderful. Staying on property also has its advantages here since you can get in early – I was on and off Test Track and in the queue for Ratatouille before the park even opened to the general public.

Ratatouille was a one and done for me, but it’s definitely worth doing! By the time I was out of that line I was starting to get hungry so I went over to Regal Eagle Smokehouse. I was going to try the barbecue, we never have and as someone who lives in a place with fantastic barbecue I was skeptical. Rightfully so, if you live in a place that has access to great barbecue this is a no-go, however, if you don’t then you might find this perfectly acceptable. But it was nothing that a good Joffrey’s cold brew and donut couldn’t make up for! So I sipped as I walked the rest of the show case and stopped for photo-ops, all in all a great day.

After several hours taking it all on I took a lap on the monorail as a break. I had no agenda except to enjoy the ride, I stopped at Magic Kingdom to say hi and then hopped on a bus there to get over to All Star Movies where my sister in law was staying. The afternoon was just as relaxing as can be, we chilled at the pool for awhile, got ready in their room and then hopped over to Hollywood Studios for our first time at the Brown Derby. It’s considered signature dining, and the food was good, but I am not sure quite good enough for the price tag, this was lesson #2.

What happened next was extremely unfortunate and continued to paint Old Key West in a less than positive light. While my sister in law and her friend headed off to rides, I was ready to hit the hay. I walked over to catch a bus to the resort and after 30 minutes I was still waiting for a bus to the resort, it continued to paint the picture that the transportation at OKW is less than ideal. An hour later I finally did get back to the resort, moved my car over the room I was staying in (SHOUT OUT TO MOBILE CHECK IN), grabbed my two backpacks and headed up the stairs to my room, EXCEPT my digital key on my phone wouldn’t open my door. So I rustled through my bags to see if I had any of my magic bands with no luck. Thankfully, when you do mobile check in you’ll get an email that gives a number that goes straight to the front desk of your resort, clutch. So after two calls to them I finally was able to get someone to come let me in, but the process was anything but smooth. Lesson #3 : in person is always better. I should’ve just walked to the front desk myself it would have solved all my issues in a matter of minutes instead of the night and next morning ordeal it became. Who knew you could learn so much after so many times at Disney?

I was slightly disappointed in the rooms at OKW, they seemed more bare bones than the rooms at Saratoga Springs, and there is no access to walk to any parks or Disney Springs. I did NOT like the Boardwalk but the ability to walk to Epcot or Hollywood Studios was clutch. Likewise, at Saratoga Springs the ability to walk to Disney Springs puts it above Old Key West for me.

But again, the food at Old Key West is top notch, and that might be reason enough for some people to still stay there, just probably not me. The next morning I went to their quick service place right on the water called Goods to Go. The harvest breakfast sandwich was hands down one of my favorite sandwiches on property. So while some of the logistics weren’t ideal, the eats were 10/10. Pick your poison.

Leaving is always sad for me, other than on major holidays when I can’t wait to get out of there its just such a fun place to dream, relax, try new things, you can really pick your own vacation! And as you saw above, you’ll learn a few things each time you go!

Enjoy the magic!

Jordan

Processing Disappointment + Cultivating Positivity

The Chicago Marathon 2021. It’s been a bucket list race for so many years, and three weeks ago I finally was able to toe the line. It was warmer than they anticipated, about 15 degrees warmer – yikes, 75 degrees start was not what I was hoping for. Still, I felt confident. I knew my fitness was there despite nagging injuries, I had run plenty of miles, and my Chiro and PT had helped me through it all. So my wave started around 7:45am and I felt great, I had to really hold myself back from going out too hard, the crowd was energetic and loud. The course just barely rolling – what a thrill.

10K in and I was in a stride still holding myself back trying to stay between the 3:25 and 3:20 pacers, for now. I knew I could keep this pace up no problem, the only hard moments were when the wind decided to gust in your face – it knocks your breathing off rhythm but I didn’t think too much about it. 10 miles in and while my legs still felt fresh as ever, something didn’t feel quite right, it was hard to place it. Was it my back, my leg that had given me trouble, was it the high temp and humidity forcing my lungs to work too hard? It was truly hard to pinpoint. The freshness of my legs, wanted me to keep going, my mind said I shouldn’t. So at 12.5 I dropped to a walk, called Jon on the phone and told him something wasn’t right. I was sad and confused, because I could have kept the pace up the whole way… but something had gone awry and I had to chose what happened next.

I walked 1 minute and then ran 2 minutes trying to loosen up my body, I was done by now no chance at coming back, but the decision to finish or walk off the course was another question entirely. Mindset is everything, I could live in the disappointment, but I could also embrace the atmosphere and the 11 or so miles I had left at this point. I did a body check to make sure I wasn’t actually causing damage to my hips or legs and pressed on. Smiling, chatting, breathing it all in. My legs were still fresh so as long as I circulated in a walk break to make sure I didn’t lock up I could run half miles at a time. Slowly (respectively – I realize it is still a nice clip to most) the miles ticked by. Jon was a rock, catching me at the points I needed it most.

I had fun the last 6 miles, when most people are just toasted my legs could still carry me with my steady clip. So down the last straight away we went and finally the finish line! I walked through feeling fine, until the 80 degrees suddenly caught up to my stomach, embarrassing! I sat down for a moment in the finish shoot (pretty far down, I wasn’t in the way) and quickly got told that I had to keep moving. That sounded dicey. So I breathed slow and steady to keep my stomach from actually taking me out and I made it over to Jon! In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have chugged the whole water bottle at the finish line.

We slowly made our way to the hotel and Jon stopped in for donuts that was just a block down. I didn’t feel like eating anything yet the donuts seemed like a great idea. Jon was so sweet to get a six count variety pack and I took small bites of each so we could try them all. It did not disappoint (shout out to Stan’s Donuts). We didn’t have as much time as we had hoped for since I finished about 45 minutes later than expected, so I quickly showered and headed to our last stop before flying out – Chicago deep dish.

OK, so I’m not a pizza person, however, when I traveled to Chicago in 2013 for a girls weekend we hit one of the iconic Chicago pizza places and I ate it up! This was not that. I am glad I had it, I still love true Chicago deep dish, but do NOT try to force it on your stomach a couple hours after a full marathon. It is not worth it.

The next couple hours were a blur, we made our way to the “L” and on to the airport. I talked to a nice older man from Maryland who had just finished the race as well. These young guns who had no idea what they were doing were sitting near us and asked us for running and fueling advice. Our flight was a few minutes delayed despite the flight attendant’s best efforts to make people board efficiently. I got upgraded at the last minute to Delta Comfort, which made Jon sad but my legs happy. Watched a fascinating documentary about the week after Princess Diana’s death, yes I am one of those people. Had a smooth drive through the city home; night time against the Atlanta Skyline is my favorite. My parents were there to greet us with pumpkin muffins and a sound asleep little boy. That adventure that really was 6 months in the making over, life moves on.

I would recommend Chicago to everyone. It’s an experience. A good one. I will forever look back and be glad I did it despite the result. But Monday started, I had a smiling boy that was so happy and surprised to see me, my work team didn’t care how I did, they are just forever impressed that I run marathons, I had so much support from my community. That’s a really beautiful thing about being a runner, you don’t have expectations added on from outside forces, it just gets to be you, and then when its over life is moving and people are with you through it all. A few days later I was in my kitchen eating ice cream and donuts with my friends and just happy to be there, thankful for the life God has given me.

If God is calling you – you can hold both, and they might have tension. You can set goals, step into the “yes’s” God is asking you too, but regardless if you hit a home run or strikeout, you did something and the people around you will spur you on for better or for worse.

Hawaii & Traveling Without Baby

Despite the pandemic, we managed to safely travel several times in Elijah’s first 16 months of life. Lake Hartwell to see my grandmother, across the southeast and even the southwest parts of the US, and most recently up to Maryland to see family. Traveling with Elijah as an infant was far from easy, but we hoped to get him used to it early on. I mentioned in an earlier blog post how great it was to be able to rent baby equipment! Although Elijah is far from accommodating on an airplane, he does fairly well once you get him to where he is going. He loves a good hiking backpack and has always seem to sleep well in different places. However, after so many trips it was time to branch out on a mom and dad only trip! When we first got married I had dreamed of saving up enough to go to Hawaii for our five-year anniversary, although for obvious reasons we didn’t hit that mark we were in a place we could do it for our 6th year. Jon is really blessed to have his whole office shut down for a full week every year. The church takes a Sabbath break to rest and remember all the Lord has done. This has typically fallen right around our anniversary so the timing is always perfect. August had been full this year, and we were ready to take some deep breaths and slow it down. I knew I would miss Elijah, the emotions came heavy with 36 hours to go, but the stay at home working mom life wears you down at moments, and on top of marathon training this mom needed a reset.

I am thankful for all of the moments I get in this life. God has blessed us immensely! I love what I do; I have a great running community, and I get to be home with Elijah while growing in my career. It doesn’t get much better, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get exhausted and whether big or small need to find ways to have our cup refilled. Hawaii was a dream trip of ours, once in a lifetime. And as much as we wanted some beautiful views, we also wanted to make sure we were quiet enough to really hear from the Lord.

So here’s several Hawaii tips when you are going on a couples trip sans kiddos:

  • DO NOT try to do Hawaii on a budget, you won’t enjoy it nearly as much. It’s expensive and if you are stressing pinching pennies, it’s not the time. We saved up 6 years for these moments and it was worth every penny!
  • Our view was phenomenal, I did the one tier upgrade so that we could have a garden view (and we ended up with garden, ocean and hills). We stayed outside of Honolulu/Wakiki because, especially during COVID, we wanted to have the space to walk around and breath in some of the more low key areas. These cost a little bit of a premium (although it didn’t not seem like an outrageous jump). Ko Olina was perfect for us! It has upper tier resorts, but the village is to die for, and you are in a little bit more of a secluded area, and you aren’t far away from anything. If you head that way try Island Vintage Coffee – I think we went there every day!
  • Bring snacks for the time difference! Especially quick breakfasts. Atlanta is a 6 hour time difference from Hawaii so the earliest we could eat Hawaii time was 12pm our time. So we grabbed a thing of bagels and peanut butter, and a few protein bars to tide us over when we woke up early and didn’t want to get hangry!
  • Take on the excursions that you couldn’t do with littles! The two that stand out to us were a couples surfing lesson on Oahu (no matter how scared you are – DO IT), we had a great experience with Surf N Sea ! The one thing I wish we had was someone to take a few snaps of us. The other experience is the Koko Crater Railway Trail. It’s a steep steep railroad track that takes you straight up and has the best views, but Jon couldn’t have done it with Elijah on his back.
  • Island hop! It’s easy to think that Oahu has all you need, and honestly it’s pretty close. BUT our trip to the big island was phenomenal. At Honolulu International there is a single terminal for cross island flights. We were parked and through security in 15 minutes if not less, the flight was 50 minutes, and the car rental experience in Hilo was outstanding. I think all in we were 2 hours from parking at HNL to pulling out of the Hilo rental car lot. Spend the $20 on the Jeep upgrade and enjoy whatever the other island has to offer. We chose the Big Island for Volcanoes National Park, but from all I hear Maui and Kauai are stunning.
  • Take your time eating. Meal times for us in this season are hectic. Elijah can have a great lunch and then be the pickiest ever for dinner, so getting a break from those toddler conversations and freak outs was so refreshing. We spent so much time on our balcony in the word with coffee and treats in hand.
  • Read every word at the Pearl Harbor Museum. There was a mom with a little boy while we were there, he had the nosiest shoes ever, but also just wanted to keep moving. Totally normal, but we got to actually sit in the weight of what happened over the course of Pearl Harbor’s history, and it’s worth sitting in.
  • Grab a photographer and get some shots together. Thankfully we were at Disney’s Aulani, where Photopass photographers are everywhere, and unlike Disneyworld where you pay $160 regardless of length of stay. You pay $70 at Aulani for a full 7 days. We were able to grab a photographer at sunset on the water, and just add it to our package.
  • Be ready to squeeze your littles so tight when you get back. We got back right after sunrise Sunday morning, and he was SO confused when we got there. We had purposely not talked to him during the week so he didn’t start to get uneasy and upset, but he was less than thrilled after realizing our betrayal. A few hours later he napping on my chest like he was a newborn. The transition back can be tricky, but it was worth it for both him and us.
  • Put the memories in a book… and do it quickly! I love memory books and so does my family and Elijah. However, the further you get from the trip or experience the less likely you are to get it done. So less than 48 hours after our trip I had all our pictures downloaded and compiled and added them to a Shutterfly photobook.

We realize how fortunate we are to experience these things at this stage in life. It’s not lost on us our situation, but regardless of where or how far you can go. Time away is good. Not to just do nothing, but to actually hone in on the gratitude and magnitude of God, who He is, and what He has done. Aloha for now friends.

Race Recaps and Rest Days

This past Friday rolled around and the pre race day moment I usually encounter hit: “Do I really want to toe the line tomorrow?”. Simply put, the way to get better at racing is to practice racing, but when you’ve ground your body down during training making it to the start line can be challenging. A 4 miler is nothing to gawk at, but it’s also not like asking my body to run a half or full marathon. I needed 12 miles on the day, and instead of pushing and potentially hurting my worn out body I decided to use the 4 miler as a marathon pace effort. It was the best of both worlds, I could get in practice with race morning, start waves, racing smart without pushing my body to the max and still getting in the work I needed.

And honestly those moments should be approached that way every time. Run by feel. Push yourself, but don’t get hurt. Race days are a dime a dozen and you can adapt your plan to what is healthiest for YOU on any given day. For some of us more competitive folk it’s hard not to try to rage out the starting gate, but that is when you have to focus on the long range goal. Sure I could risk injury now and aim high, but my actual goal is to be able to complete “so and so distance on this date”, so what is the wisest choice for now? Navigating iterative goals in the midst of a much larger goal poses challenges, but isn’t that kind of how life goals in general?

In my case, I am looking towards October 10th at the Chicago Marathon, everything else is just a build up to that moment. Decatur is hilly, very hilly and Chicago is very flat, so pushing myself up and down hills at max effort is only going to add so much value. Injuring myself up them sure won’t help. So if you’ve set a run, cycle, yoga goal make sure you are moving and pushing your body in ways that will benefit the end game!

Also to note, if your body truly feels like its been drug through the mud, give yourself the rest day! There is no shame in adding an extra one to your plan or even taking one to begin with! If you still want to make sure to move your body take a easy stroll around the neighborhood or do a gentle yoga session – your body will thank you either way!

Today, my body just said no. So I did some light stretching on the Nike Training App and took a short walk first thing in the morning. You can also Epsom salt bath, ice, use compression, foam roll, etc anything that relaxes and lets your body recover! Other than making sure Elijah is taken care of my legs are thrown up on the couch to keep them elevated! There are so many natural recovery tools that we have access to.

Wake up your body and then move it in the best way for you today!

Happy Tuesday Friends!

Jordan

Mama and Marathoner and Keeping God First

My body knows how to wake up right at 5am, it’s been conditioned to do so since my collegiate swimming days, if not before when our first bell in high school chimed at 7:25am. Jon jokes that he always thought he’d be the early riser, but God had other ideas. At this point it hardly matters even though most people think it sounds horrid. One hour is on the clock, I down a glass of water first thing, grab a banana and start the coffee. Maybe this already sounds way to structured for a morning to some, but this is me and this is the gifting and personality I’ve been given! And for the most part its propelled me.

I open up my laptop and send my first messages to my team, since they are ~11 hours ahead time is of the essence in making sure tasks are moving forward and bugs are taken care of. About 20 minutes later with coffee in hand I grab my Bible study and let everything fade around me. We just came back from Maryland, I didn’t take my study because of the nature of our trip and the fact my current study book is giant! Over the past year and a half Bible study discipline is one of the core areas I have worked on, it’s been challenging and beautiful. Now, I miss 5 days of study and I feel similar to not getting water after summer runs in Atlanta. The unquenchable thirst. In both cases if that weren’t the case I would be worried. Like a rain gauge that has been sitting dry for far too long in both running and spiritual growth hydration is the key.

After I wrap up study time (for anyone interested I do the She Reads Truth Monthly Study Plan) I usually have several messages highlighting my notifications bar. If I have a few spare minutes I’ll go ahead and try to resolve whatever is lighting up, but if Elijah is ready to get up then it waits a few minutes. It’s 6am Elijah is typically stirring, I let the dogs out, wake up Jon and we are off to the races. And for me that means semi-literally. It sounds intense, however, my gaze has been set for the day, not on the never ending to do list and work crises but above on the things that matter, therefore I feel sturdy and ready for the day.

I rock Elijah for a few minutes, and then he’s ready to move. He knows mommy goes out the door soon so quickly asks if he can go “side”. I fix him breakfast as Jon makes his way to the living room and by 6:45am, at the latest, I am out the door. I get in 6-8 miles depending on the day, some days depending on work load I’ll break my miles into a morning and afternoon run, but I always get them in. Not every run is easy, especially in Georgia summers, but they are worth it. Usually I’ll go half and half throughout the week between listening to Worship music or a podcast, and there is always one run that I go completely silent. It’s rhythmic, and my soul needs quiet and worship as much, and even more than my brain wants to know “all the things”. I’m not slow by any means, but I also have a long way to go to reach some lofty goals and so there is always the question….

But wait, why? You aren’t at Olympic Trials, you aren’t that caliber of runner (yet), why work that hard? And it’s something I battle with regularly. One, because I’ve been gifted with athleticism, and I’ve tasted that level in another sport. My mom told me when I thought about hanging up my cap and goggles after my sophomore year at GT that God gives you a gift and he gets to tell you when it’s over. That “over” was very clear after my senior year ACC Championships, but I still left a lot of potential on the table and this is just a continuation of something that started when I was 8 years old. Second, it allows me to build community all over Atlanta. People I love and a lot of people I would love to meet Jesus. So I want to keep showing up and putting what I’ve been given on the floor every day. And last, like anyone feels the mental release when you workout – thanks dopamine – it helps you breathe out and relax when it’s over!

So I warm down at by 730-745am, walk inside grab a shower, get Jon off to work and Elijah and I start our day together. It’s not easy friends, I am incredibly blessed I can work from home with flexibility. There were a few months that were really hard, now he’s able to have a little bit more structure around his day and it has made all the difference. In August he will go back to his Mom’s Day Out program two days a week, and that will be exciting as I get into the heaviest part of marathon training to be able to use some of that time for training. However, the grounded and peaceful feeling I feel isn’t because I have it all figured out, but because I know who does.

The days go on, most of the time they fly by. I pray we stay anchored in truth and love, that God brings clarity to the sport I love and have built such a community around, and that our top priorities remain our top priorities. Mama & Marathoning isn’t easy, but there is a whole lot of beauty God is bringing through it.

For now friends!