Cancun

Cancun

I’ve bragged a million times over the past few weeks that Nate and I were going on a trip to Mexico this past weekend. I guess that tends to happen when I’m looking forward to something! In any case, we got home Monday night, so I thought I’d do a little trip recap for you.

You might remember me mentioning a while ago that I had been nominated for employee of the year at work. Well, I didn’t win. (But that’s OK – I definitely did not expect to!) Even so, all the nominees got to go on this group trip to Cancun and bring their significant other, paid for by my company.

It was my first time to Mexico. We were pretty excited!

Cancun

We stayed at the Hard Rock Cancun, which is an all-inclusive resort on the beach there. I don’t have anything to compare it to, never having been anywhere similar before, but it was pretty nice. They had a pool with swim-up bars, a beach, a few restaurants, etc.

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Weekend in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

I promised you guys some pictures of my trip down to southern Utah this past weekend. And although I can never get my act together for a “weekend activities” post on Monday, Tuesday’s not bad, right?!

Nate and I spent the weekend in Moab, which has quickly become one of my favorite places over the past year. Less than a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City, it is an adorable touristy town that is a mecca of hiking, biking, climbing and Jeeping. It is close to the Slickrock trail and Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, so it’s a popular outdoorsy destination. Despite my childhood dreams of becoming a park ranger, I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself outdoorsy… in fact, I made Nate stay in a hotel because I’m a huge wimp and the desert gets COLD at night! But I do like the hiking, running, and beautiful scenery down there. I have to say that these pictures, even with my nice camera, don’t come anywhere CLOSE to doing it justice.

It was a popular weekend to go down to Southern Utah, since the weather is just starting to warm up. We ran into two different sets of friends while we were down there, which was lovely!

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Weekend in Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Things have been a little quiet around here lately… sorry about that.

Zion National Park

You already know one of my excuses: I had no time for cooking because Nate and I took a last-minute trip to Zion National Park over the weekend. Also, work has been busy, and so even though I wanted to share my trip to Zion with you earlier, I didn’t have time. Sorryyyy.

But better late than never. Here are some pictures from the weekend! Naturally, I brought my DSLR, but didn’t even take it out of the case once. Oops. The iPhone is just so much more convenient for hiking, you know? I’m sure my hiking pictures would be much better had I used my nice camera, but I’m also sure that I would have either a) dropped it off the side of a canyon or b) fallen off the side of a canyon myself while trying to rescue my camera. So let’s just save the DSLR for food, shall we?

Zion National Park

Last week Nate suggested that we head down to southern Utah, since he had a long weekend and we were both so sick of the cold. I said yes on one condition – no camping! We tried to camp down in Moab last March, but I panicked as soon as the sun set and the temperature dropped, and ended up sleeping in my friends’ hotel room. Huge wimp right here – no winter camping for me! So this time he made us a last-minute hotel reservation, and on Friday night we made the 4 1/2 hour drive from Salt Lake down to Zion.

We arrived in the dark (pretty sketchy!) and couldn’t wait to wake up and see the park in the light. We were not disappointed – here’s the view we woke up to on Saturday morning:

Zion National Park

We stayed at the Zion Lodge, the only hotel in the park, which was pretty ideal. The park is small, and the hotel was centrally located; we even walked from the hotel to the trailhead for one of our hikes.

Zion National Park

On Saturday morning we decided to hike the Angel’s Landing trail. We’ve been hearing about this hike since we moved to Utah, so naturally it was the first thing to check off our list. But part of the reason we’d heard of it is that parts of the trail have long drop-offs and chains to hang on to… possibly not the greatest wintertime route. But the woman at the visitors’ center said we should be fine, so off we went!

Zion National Park

You can’t tell here, but a lot of the trail was very icy, and it was also very crowded. Nice weather on President’s Day weekend made for a lot of hiking company! We would have preferred some more solitude, but the views at the top were pretty spectacular anyway:

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Happy hikers!

Zion National Park

After snapping a few pictures at the top, we spent much of the way down hanging onto the chains for dear life and hoping no one else would slide into us and topple us off the mountain. I was glad to get down off that icy part!

Zion National Park

After a day of hiking and a trail run (admittedly a pretty wimpy one), I was feeling extremely grimy. The main benefit of not camping: Showers! I made Nate take a picture of me before dinner to prove that I only spent most of the weekend in sweaty hiking clothes.

Zion National Park

Speaking of dinner, no pictures of food here. The food was definitely not the highlight of the trip. I guess that’s pretty common for outdoorsy destination towns. That’s OK – the natural beauty of the park more than made up for it. Here was our drive to dinner:

Zion National Park

This sunset was so beautiful. There was a line of photographers on a bridge as we were driving out of the park, just waiting to capture the beautiful light on the red rock. We didn’t want to act like tourists, but a few minutes afterwards I gave in and made Nate pull over so I could take a few iPhone photos. :)

Zion National Park

On Sunday we got an earlier start to avoid the crowds (and also to be able to make the drive home in the daylight). It paid off – we had a BEAUTIFUL hike up to Observation Point, and only saw 1 other hiker on the way up!

Zion National Park

We got a great workout, had amazing views of the park, and at times there was complete silence – an unbelievable day of hiking.

Observation Point is higher than Angel’s Landing and looks down onto it. It was cool to have done Angel’s Landing the first day and then be able to see where we had been (especially because we were higher up!).

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

The Observation Point hike was a little icy in parts, but unlike Angel’s Landing, there were no chains we had to hang onto… so it was much less treacherous. It was still slow going on the way down, especially since I can’t bear the thought of slipping and had to inch my way along whole sections.

Zion National Park

I was pretty proud of myself for keeping up with Nate (super-marathoner) on our hikes. Well, “keeping up” – he let me set the pace, and the one time I let him lead, he put 10 yards on me in about 5 seconds. Oh well, what did I really expect? But I do think we were good hiking partners. We did the 8 mile Observation Point hike on Sunday in 3 hours and 40 minutes, including stopping at the top and going veeeeery slowly on the icy patches on the way down. Go us!

Looking at these pictures is making me wish we were headed back down there this weekend. No such luck, unfortunately. But on the bright side, that means I’ll be in the kitchen, and we’ll get back to the recipe posts next week!

Hope your week is going well!

The Weekend: Viva Las Vegas!

las vegas | coffee & quinoa

I just got back from Vegas last night! And although I don’t necessarily feel ready to take on the week, I’m happy to report that I neither drank too much nor lost any money the whole weekend. The same can’t be said for all the co-workers I went with – not calling anyone out though :)

This was a work trip, but no meetings or anything – just an annual rewards trip where we get to head down there and have fun! Last year they went at the end of my very first week of work, so needless to say, I did not get to go. I was happy to be in on the fun this year.

We took buses down there, leaving at 6 am on Friday, which was brutal. We arrived in the early afternoon and checked into our hotel, the Palazzo. The hotel was awesome. I’m not sure how much the suites cost, but it was definitely nicer than the hotel we stayed in last time I was in Vegas on my own dime!

palazzo las vegas | coffee & quinoa

The rooms were huge! Each one had two double beds (we had roommates) and a step down to a seating and office area.

palazzo las vegas | coffee & quinoa

The bathrooms were super nice, too, although I didn’t get a picture before I spread my stuff out all over.

Our hotel was attached to the Venetian, and I wandered around there for a while. I found I could deal with the tackiness of Vegas much better my second time there, and even appreciate it, because I knew what to expect.

the venetian | coffee & quinoa

I didn’t do any gambling the whole weekend. I’m not really into the gambling thing… when I was in Vegas this May I lost about $2.50 in the penny slots, and that was enough gambling for the year for me! (Can you say high roller?) Luckily this time we had plenty of activities lined up, and I didn’t even have to spend too much time watching other people gamble. :)

Friday evening we had a company meeting (where I won a $50 Amazon gift card – totally left Vegas up!), then a bunch of us headed to dinner at the sushi fusion restaurant in our hotel.

sushi samba at the palazzo | coffee & quinoa

That might not be the most appetizing picture, but everything was delicious! Pickled seaweed, grilled baby corn, asparagus, eggplant, and more corn, plus swordfish and beef skewers. We did a tasting menu that included our waiter bringing out several trays like this for the whole table to share. I have to admit I broke with veganism to eat these swordfish skewers, plus the sushi that came after this. Too good to pass up!

After dinner, we went to the hotel club, where we had a VIP area rented out for work. Probably the only time in my life I’ll get bottle service in Vegas, and I only drank the bottled water! When my choices are Amstel Light and hard liquor, I think I’ll pass.

lavo at the palazzo | coffee & quinoa

The club was fun, but by 1 am (2 am Salt Lake time!) I was ready to call it a night.

The next morning we ate at Olives and got to watch the Bellagio fountain show from the patio. Fun!

olive's at the bellagio | coffee & quinoa

We shopped our way back down the strip, only to hop in a cab and head back to the Luxor for the Bodies exhbit.

Saturday night we had a staff dinner at the steak house at the Palazzo. I was all prepared to request a vegan entree… until I saw the prix fixe menus on the table. Boo. I ate creamy squash bisque, salad, salmon, and part of the creme brulee. My stomach did not feel awesome afterwards, but that’s OK. As much as I like eating vegan, I also realize the value of being able to go with the flow and not make a stink in that type of work-dinner-prix-fixe situation. (Did I mention I avoid confrontation at all costs?)

After dinner we made our way back down the strip to the Chandelier bar at the Cosmopolitan.

chandelier bar | coffee & quinoa

This place was awesome, and had no cover! It’s a multi-story bar in the center of the Cosmopolitan that looks like a giant chandelier. We wandered in and ended up going down to the ground floor where a live band was playing. They were amazing!

jennifer keith quintet | coffee & quinoa

They played swing, some songs from the 20s, and other music that made me wish I still had some of my old college ballroom moves. Maybe I’ll get back into it sometime…

My feet were killing me after walking a mile down the strip in heels, so we took a cab back and headed to bed. This morning we were up bright and early for breakfast and the loooong bus ride back!

So after adding every possible picture into this post, here’s a little summary:

Where we stayed: The Palazzo (attached to the Venetian)

Where we ate: Sushi Samba (vegetarian friendly), Morel’s French Steak House (they might make you a veggie entree, but everything on the menu definitely had meat, butter and cheese), Todd English’s Olives (I got the portobello flatbread without cheese and it was delicious!)

What we drank: Vanishing Point 2011 Pinot Noir (at Morel’s), Mad Fish 2008 Australian Shiraz (that I brought from home), bloody Mary at Olives (delicious!)

What we did: Lavo Nightclub, shopping on the strip, Bodies exhibition, Jennifer Keith Quintet at The Chandelier

My main takeaway from the weekend was that even though I don’t love gambling or drinking heavily, Vegas is a lot of fun! As long as someone else is paying. :)

Race Recap: The Other Half 2012

I ran my first half marathon on Sunday!

And ouch, now I hurt. But I’d say it was worth it!

I decided to do this race with a few friends about 4 or 5 months ago. I’d been looking forward to it for so long that when the time came, I couldn’t believe it was finally here! We headed down to Moab on Saturday morning and spent the afternoon and evening hanging out by the pool, visiting the race expo, and walking around downtown Moab. The town was crowded with runners and other Northern Utahns coming down to the desert for some sun, now that it’s fall and Salt Lake is getting chilly.

We had a relaxing day on Saturday and headed to bed early in anticipation of an early wake-up on Sunday. The race started at 8:30, so it could have been a lot earlier, but there were mandatory shuttles to bus us 30 miles out of town to the start of the race, meaning we had to get there much earlier than if the race had just started in town.

moab at dawn

The morning was warmer than I’d expected, and I was thankful – until we got off the shuttle, where it was FREEZING.

Maybe it was the slight change in elevation that made it so much colder out there? In any case, it was a chilly start to the race.

The race itself was well-organized, with a speedy packet pick-up on Saturday, shuttles to the start of the race, plenty of port-a-potties beforehand (remarkable!), lots of water and Gatorade at all the aid stations, and a great finishers area with beer and food. The only hiccup seemed to involve the shuttles. Apparently they didn’t send enough shuttles to one of the pick-up locations, and had to send a few back (30 miles into town) to get the rest of the people waiting there. Those shuttles showed up after the race was scheduled to start. They held the race for them, so we started 10 or 15 minutes later than planned. That doesn’t sound too bad, but when you’re waiting out in the desert in a tank top at 8:30 am, 10 minutes seems like a LONG time!

Once the race started, the course was beautiful… although to be honest, I could only appreciate it for the first few miles. Looking around at the scenery was quickly replaced by focusing on putting one foot in front of the other!

moab the other half

As far as my run, I stuck to my race plan, and I think I ran as well as I could have, considering my injured knee! Amy and I started off strong and ran together for the first 5-ish miles. My splits at the beginning were:

Mile 1: 8:57
Mile 2: 8:26
Mile 3: 8:35
Mile 4: 8:39
Mile 5: 8:28
Mile 6: 8:25
Mile 7: 8:44

The first hill started at the end of that 7th mile, and I kind of broke down from there. The hills were frequent and LONG for the next 5 miles, and you can see there was definitely some walking involved by mile 10!

Mile 8: 9:30
Mile 9: 9:25
Mile 10: 10:22
Mile 11: 9:35
Mile 12: 11:08

The 2:00 pacer passed me at the mile 12 aid station. Noooooo! He had clearly been very consistent the whole race, and was just going much faster than me at that point. I had no hope of keeping up.

That mile 12 hill was a killer, but at the top were the taiko drummers! They were just the motivation I needed to keep going at the top of that hill.

Mile 13: 9:22
Last .25: 2:01

The race was totally at least 13.25 miles instead of 13.1 – brutal! I think I can safely say that making it through the last 2.5-3 miles was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically. I know it was only a half marathon… and I can’t imagine ever running a full! After running the first 12.75 miles or so on highway 128, we turned into the Sorrel River Ranch to finish up. It was one of those finishes where you think you must be so close, and it just. keeps. going. I was so ready to be done by this point. I had been told that the final stretch on the ranch felt long, but I didn’t really appreciate that fully until I was ready to fall over and still couldn’t see the finish line.

I finally made it over the finish line in 2:01:41. Not bad for my first half! In fact, considering the fact that I hadn’t trained in over a month because of my knee, I’d say I did as well as I could have.

Happy girls!

After the race, we got our bags, snacks and free beer in Other Half pint glasses, and hung out on the grass for a bit.

moab the other half

It was a great finishers’ area. I’d never had beer after a race before, and although it’s nice that they had it, beer was not exactly what I wanted. And this is coming from a major beer lover! All I wanted was Gatorade. Luckily they had that too :)

So now I am back in Salt Lake, hobbling around and looking ridiculous… and already wondering whether I’d be able to run the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab in March. Of course I won’t let myself – remember how I promised myself I wouldn’t race for a year? – but the point is, I think I’m hooked.

Thanks to Nate and my family for all their long-distance support! And of course to Jacquey, Madelyn, Amy, Janelle and Carlee for making this such a fun trip.

The Other Half – I’ll see you again next year!

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