A Perfect Day in Skagway and Ketchikan

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I realized that this post didn’t upload the other day so I’ll share the main highlights. It was a picture perfect day with gorgeous weather. Skagway is a quaint town of about six blocks. Very walkable. Lovely Victorian architecture. Small boutiques, haberdasheries, old brothels, and world wide assortment of unexpected food: Thai, Indian, etc.

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Everything’s up for negotiation I guess
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An elephant ear or a dough boy
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No I didn’t buy it!

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We also found gold in dem dar hills!
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See the gold flecks?
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Panned $22 worth of gold here!

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Today we’re in Ketchikan and visited Misty Fjord’s. Another lovely day in a place that rains all year. Visited along a national park protected by Jimmy Carter. Pristine views, uninhabited islands, calm waters. Simply beautiful.

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An old volcanic spike

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A glacier used to be in that U shape
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Punchbowl Cove

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Can you see the sun painting? It’s either 80 or 200 years old.

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I could stare at the water and God’s nature all day. Breathtaking how small we are in this majestic world.

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The tourists who stare at goats

Tracy Arm
Today we cruised the Inside Passage which is about 45 miles south of Juneau. This fjord is in the Tongass National Forest. The mountains are about 7,000 feet high and there are plenty of waterfalls along the way created by the melting snowcaps.

We sailed for hours to reach the end of Tracy Arm. At the beginning the passage are tons of green trees that are about 200 years old. This area is where the glacier began 200 years ago. So like the Grand Canyon, our route traced the place where the glacier carved through the mountains. The first few pictures will be green from the old growth. The pictures closer in to the glacier are newer growth. Where you see curves and slices in the mountains, there once was a glacier.

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200 year old trees at start of Tracy Arm

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Waterfall

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Beautiful pristine water

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Sawyer Glacier

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The South Sawyer glacier goes on for another 20+ miles. 200 feet shows above water and there is about 200 feet below water. Just the tip of the iceberg.

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Sawyer Glacier

We had a narrator who was very knowledgeable about the area and wildlife. He discussed bears, goats, salmon and other wildlife we might see. We saw two families of goats through our binoculars. So cool!

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Pieces of the glacier

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A boulder that got stuck in a past landslide.

Another Lazy Day
We ran today (me 3 miles, Melvin 7 miles–show off), went to Palo for brunch, cruised Tracy Arm, talked at length with another couple about cruising and saw The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Tomorrow we visit Skagway. Population 846. When we get off ship, we will triple their population!

I’ve been a lot of places and have visited Alaska before. It’s always been my favorite place. This trip has confirmed that. I still miss my boys though.

Hope you all are having a terrific week!

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Seattle and a Sea Day

Hey folkses! We are on our second vacation of 2015. After all my summer work travel, I have been looking forward to doing absolutely nothing. And that’s what I’ve been doing. I do miss my boys though.

Seattle
We came to Seattle on our honeymoon in 1997. Did all the touristy stuff then like the Space Needle and Pike’s Place Fish Market. This time, my main goal was to run 14 miles and see my sister and her family.

I connected with Black Girls Run Seattle/Tacoma over a month ago and told them I needed 14 miles while on vacation. They responded right away and I got a hookup from one of the ladies for a ride at 5:30am at the meetup. She didn’t know me from Adam but Elaine not only met me before dark but then ran with me for 9 miles and then waited til I finished my 14. Mind you, it rained 2 of those 3 hours! Soaking wet. Whew! Elaine also took us to see the Jimi Hendrix memorial and the Seattle Seahawks athletic center. How nice of her!

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Elaine

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I also got to see my sister. Haven’t seen her in 11 years! It was so good to connect with her. We didn’t grow up together but we are a lot alike! I met her husband Trevor and my adorable nephew Theo for the first time. We caught up on life, family (our mutual father), acting and being a mom. It was the best feeling to connect with her. Blood. Family. Nothing like it.

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Holding this little fellow for the first time tugged at my womb strings…for like two seconds!! He hugged my neck or was trying to grab my hair and earrings but I will count it as a warm hug. He was so adorably cuddly!

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Cascades to Vancouver
We took the 4-hour Amtrak train from Seattle to Vancouver. My first time to Canada! For two business class seats one way, it was $126! We each got our own window seat, a coupon for the bistro and plenty of leg room! Such a lovely trip. The trip before the trip…

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Our 10th Disney Cruise
After this cruise, we will be Platinum level cruisers which means more Disney perks! More discounts, early bookings, concierge level service, etc.

If you followed me last year on the Mediterranean cruise, we met a few wonderful couples at Table 16. We decided to book another cruise together so we’re headed through Alaska for the next 7 nights.

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Louise & Bobby, Amanda & Rick are the main reasons we are on the trip. We’re all at Table 25 and the giggle fest has begun!

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A typical picture of Bobby and typical me.

Sea Day
I love sea days. Melvin said he wanted to do everything on this trip including all the activities and what not. Me? I don’t want to do a thing. Absolutely nothing. I have perfected my napping skills, caught up on some Disney classic movies, saw some new ones and lazily watched the sheer beauty of God roll by from my verandah. The water is calm and a greenish blue. You can see the white water falling out of the clouds rushing down the mountain ranges. Eagles are flying overhead. The sun is beaming off the water. Simply beautiful.

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The Magic Touch

We went to a Gold/Platinum (those who have 6+ cruises) reception where we get to meet with the captain’s officers and crew. Struck up a conversation with one of the officers. We missed out on the rice crispy treats that they gave to each Gold guest so he asked for our stateroom # and said he would get some delivered. Look what showed up at our door!

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Little did we know he was the Food and Beverage Manager for the ship! Now that’s the Disney extra special touch of magic I love.

Next Up
Tomorrow we cruise through Tracy Arm passage where we get a narration of the gigantic glacier mountains that we’re passing through. From what I hear, imagine a toy boat at the bottom of a bath tub. That will be our massive ship through this passage.

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Us with Clayton the cruise director. I still miss my boys.

Til next time…

3 cities. 11 days. 8 miles.

Southern Tour
For the past few weeks, I went to Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; and New Orleans, LA. All for work. I am worn out. You hear me? Worn. Out. But I did have fun though. One Alpha took a picture with me because he said I was striking. One Senior Kappa sang me the Delta sweetheart song. Flattering being around these folks but all were very respectful. Some are stalker material though.

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Charlotte, NC

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Alpha Phi Alpha Convention

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Steve Harvey Neighborhood Awards

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Nawlins

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The Kappa event was so busy I asked my intern, AJ, to come help. He dad is a Kappa. He said he was mad that I invited her to come. Guess he didn’t want to “be out” with his daughter in town. Silly man. Aren’t they cute?

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Why was this event so busy you ask? Welp, in addition to executing my first Senior Kappa Lounge for 800+ people, our CEO came for a meet and greet reception with the Kappa leadership and local community leaders.

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AARP CEO and Mr. Rawle

The room was packed, the food was good and the conversation was lively. Our dynamic MC, Mr. Rawle, kept the ball rollling. At the end of the day, the CEO said to me, and I quote, “You did good, Natalie”. Whew!! Praise Jesus. Hallelujah! I could have gone home at that moment cuz if anything went wrong during that reception, y’all wouldn’t be hearing from me cuz I asn t coming back. Ever.

Peachtrees
Of course I was supposed to run 3x -4x a week during my trips. Brought my clothes and everything. In Atlanta, ran one long run that was s’posed to be 12 miles but we kept getting lost on the various Peachtree Streets. I did however walk all over creation in those three cities. All events were in huge convention centers so walking across the floor and back and forth to hotels got all the steps I should need for a lifetime.  I ran 13 miles today after getting back home. I paid for it. Those short runs during the week are for a reason. Oh well.

Celebrity Encounters
Just in this past two weeks alone, I have had a few celebrity sightings, hearings and tweetings.

Roland Martin came by our booth at the Steve Harvey Awards and took a #selfiewithNatalie and retweeted two or my tweet of us and him stopping by!

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Met the very gracious Shirley Strawberry from the Steve Harvey Morning Show and she retweeted this ussie!

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Met this guy from The Parkers in the hotel hallway. He has new show coming on Bounce TV in the fall.

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My son got a picture with Big Boom Boomerang, Steve Harvey’s bodyguard. It made his entire weekend!

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Sheryl Underwood, the comedian, started following me! I don’t do Twitter too often but this is kinda cool. I have a whole 200+ followers now. Like when Steve Martin found his name in the phonebook from The Jerk. 

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Kim Coles, the comedian, emailed me this week to thank AARP for our hospitality when she came to visit us a few weeks ago.

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And last but not least, Donnie Simpson! If you’re in the DMV area, you should know that he is returning to radio on 102.3 in the evenings. Well. I sent him congratulations a few weeks ago since we’ve worked with him in the past. So as I’m getting my nails done in Nawlins, he calls me out the blue! He wanted to thank me for my congrats while he was on his vacation. He sounded so happy and is looking forward to doing what he loves. All the best to him! I will be listening on my drive home each weekday.

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Next Up: Northwestern Tour

Heading on vacation to Seattle, Vancouver and a Disney cruise through Alaska. All with 14 and 15 mile training runs on deck. Should be quite interesting eh?

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So if you need me for the next two weeks, I have to see two plays, visit with Aakhu and Aaron for Restaurant Week, do an audition, run 4-6 miles at least 2x each  week, go school shopping and chauffeur kids to football practices. And go to work. Between all that, I’ll be on the couch with my boys cuddled up under me. Travel shmavel!

Smooches!

Ode to My Lover

Basebuilding is Over
The last few weeks have not been the best for marathon training for me. I’m getting in my long runs on the weekend but I haven’t been consistent with the three short runs in between. Chalk it up to travel and having some chest/breathing pain for a few days. Took about 8 days off. Really missed running but the runboos wouldn’t let me run. I noticed I was a different person when I didn’t run. More on that later.

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The Running Community
No matter where I run, I pass runners on the pavement. When we meet in the parking lot to start our long runs, we strike up convos about mileage for the day or past/future races. It’s easy to strike up conversation. Well it is for me anyway.

A few weeks ago I joined the Black Greek Running Nation. A Facebook group of Black Greeks that run all distances. As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., I had already belong to a Delta running Facebook page and have made some friend/sisterships there. Well I went to an Omega fraternity conference and posted in the Page if anyone was there and running. Two people replied. I met one in the lobby and you would think we are the best of friends now. I said I wasn’t accepting anymore friends, but if you’re a runner, then you are welcome in my circle. 

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A Lil Encouragment Goes a Long Way
Before I started training, I did a boot camp for two months. It was the boost that I needed. Running with strength training makes you a better runner. Especially going up hills which I loathed before. Now. Not so bad. While I was on injured reserve, my personal trainer asked if I was doing another camp. Due to my travel I can’t but he sent me this note:

“okkk. then we can catch back up in oct! you better be killin it out there homie! I know that you are staying fit- not only because I see your post but because I believe in you- and I pray that all is going well with all else” -Manny Rothmiller

Do you know how good this made me feel?! I was feeling mighty bad; I was feeling pretty low cuz I couldn’t run but when I seent this post, I knew that I was gonna finish my course! I’ve lost 15 pounds so far.  Winning!

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Now the Fun Begins
So next week officially starts the full marathon training. Yeah. Like I’ve been playing these last 7 weeks. Ha! Base building is over and the shorter runs and the long runs will get longer. And I have five trips in the next two months. I have connected with Black Girls Run chapters in my travel locales to hook up on some long runs. In theory, it will work. Let’s see how I do.

The Ode
So since I couldnt run for a while, I thought about how much running has meant to me. Three, count em, THREE of my high school classmates, in these last few weeks, saw my progress on Facebook and asked how they could start running. I suggested the Couch to 5k program and told them to keep me posted on their progress. If I can help somebody as I pass along…

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As I was running a beautiful nine mile run today, I took the time to smell the flowers, see the sights, listen to my breathing and enjoy the run. I thought about all the benefits of running so I wrote a little diddy about it:

This last week without connecting with you was different. Something was missing.
You make me feel whole. You make me smile when I think about you and what I can conquer when I’m with you.
Every week I plan out my calendar so I can find time to spend with you.
All my girls, and even Melvin knows I’m not the same when I’m not with you.
I’m glad we found each other so many years ago.
As long as my body holds up and my mind is clear, I want to keep that connection with you.
We have many more miles to go before we sleep.
Running. Thank you for being in my life.

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I Used to Love You

So if you didn’t know, I’m training for a marathon! I am embarking on Week 5 of base building miles. That is building up to a consistent level of miles each week before the real long miles begin. Each week I’ve done between 15 and 18 miles each week for a total of 63 miles in a month. This number will only go up but the only thing that hurt was waking up at some God forsaken hour to get these miles in before the heat and work.

Anyway. A lot happened in a month so here are the highlights.

I Love Running. I Hate Running.
By week two, I absolutely hated running. Questioned why I was doing it. Am I out of my mind? You’re gonna hear the good the bad and the ugly from me so all that glitters ain’t gold. This crap is hard some days and I want to just quit but if it wasn’t for folks waiting for me at 5am and what not, I would still be in bed.

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This pic shows how much I really did not want to be running outside in the hot on this particular day. It’s a hell of a lot to wake up every weekday and weekend to rise and run. Especially when you don’t feel like it. But after about two weeks, I got into my running groove. Waking up was easier. I was getting faster. My breathing thru the humidity was getting better.

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So each week I suck it up and keep it moving. Keeping my eyes on the goal. If it was easy then everybody would do it right?

Road Trip to Emporia, Williamsburg, Richmond, Emporia and Home

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In the midst of my training and busy work schedule, I had to take the boys down south for Vacation Bible School…solo. Took Mateo to be with Grandpa for VBS.

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Then Khalil and I went to William & Mary for his first college football camp.

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While he was at Williamsburg during the day from 8am to 8pm, I drove to Richmond to work out of the state office there. A Mother’s love for her son while still keeping her job.

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The folks in that office were so kind to me that they took me out to lunch.

I did this trek for two days but I still got my runs in. One 3 mile and one 5 mile.

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[“I miss magnolia trees”]image

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Then took Khalil back to Emporia on the fourth day so he could finish out VBS with Mateo and drove home to MD that same day. Six hour drive solo.

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Melvin texted me to say “check the glove compartment”. He left this card in as a nice surprise.

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Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
While I was in Richmond, I was notified that I won the FB cover photo for the Richmond Marathon because of my #richmondready marathon story.

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[“Winning FB Cover Photo”]image

While in Richmond I got to meet the sports company, Sports Backers, that is putting on the Richmond race. Very nice folks. I drove some of the course through VCU and Virginia Union. All my young life, I lived an hour away and never explored Richmond. It’s a charming city. I will in November. At least 26.2 miles of it.

Second Race of the Year
Last year I went race crazy and did a ton of races. At least 8. After that, I hated running and stopped cold turkey. This year, I have only registered for three races. The Frederick Half in April, today’s Baltimore Women’s Classic 5k and the Richmond full. That’s enough. If you hear of me trying to sign up for another race, please shake some sense into me! I ain’t playing!

Today’s 5k was awesome though. All female race. T-shirt and medal for $40. Not bad at all! There was a time I used to be scared of 3.1 miles. My strategy today was to run the whole thing. And I did; only walking through two water stops. Felt good. Also it was so great to reunite with all the women I’ve encountered on the pavement over the years. We may have run a few miles together but we become fast friends.

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It’s a lovely running community and I’m so glad to be a part it. Even though I hate running most days. But if this blog doesnt do anything else, I hope it inspires somebody to get out there and move for their health. Or dare to do something else or different. Why not?

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Never Say Never

What the hell have I done now?

Me. The tomboy who ran the Sprint distances (100, 200, 4×100 relay) in high school track. The skinny girl who came in next to last in cross country only because Coach Atkins asked me to try it. Mind you that was only 3 miles. The thick girl who ran four half marathons last year after saying she wasn’t interested in long distance races. The pessimistic chick who said she would NEVER run a marathon…has the nerve to train for the Richmond FULL FREAKIN MARATHON in November. Back in my home state of Virginia. Wooooosaaaaah.

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If you know me, I get bored easily. Always looking for that next project or adventure. Welp! This is a new adventure that I never wanted to happen. Some of my marathoner friends said that I would want to. Even Melvin knew! How come I didn’t know?  Never had the desire to run for six hours. Either way, last year I was “half crazy” so this year I’m going straight up full crazy! Why not?

So Let the Training Begin!
I will be working with a running coach. Lydia Shell of Titanium training. She’s run 20+ marathons and is a marathon pacer so I think I’m in good hands. She developed our schedule and will even map out and run long runs with us.

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This week was Week 1. I will be running 4x a week for the next 24 weeks.  This week I ran 15 miles. Some were 3 miles, some 4, one 5. In rain, sunshine and humidity and all before the sun came up. I remember when I used to be scared of 5 miles and not a morning person. Who am I?!?!

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Fall Marathon/Summer Training
I would rather run in 10 degree frigidity than in the summer heat. Last year, I ran through the winter and spring. Loved it but got burned out from all the races and quit cold turkey due to the summer heat. I really wanted a spring marathon but since I wasn’t “trained up” I opted for a fall marathon. A lot of my “runboos” will be training for other fall races so we are in this all together. Alesha, Rashanta and I will be running Richmond so you’ll hear more about them a lot.  #miserylovescompany

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One Mile at a Time
Over the next 24 weeks, I plan to share my successes, challenges, highs, and lows plus a few pictures along the way. Might not be every week but you’ll get a flavor of what it takes to complete this thing. I have quite a few work trips in the midst of training so that makes it more interesting. At times I may want to quit, so will need your encouragement.

All of my run posts last year encouraged others to start walking and eventually running. You never know how your testimony can affect someone else. But if I can do it, anyone can.

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26.2 miles. All or nothing. Here we go. You ready?