Fueling up for the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon and a Giveaway

Tuesday, January 31, 2017
A very common thing people ask me is what to eat the night before their first half marathon (or enter race distance here).  What may work for me may not work for you but I am someone with a stomach who controls their running. For me, bananas are a no-go. My pre morning meal is half of a bagel with peanut butter and I run with a mini protein bar if I get hungry on the course.  

So I reached out to my friends at First Watch and had them put together some fueling tips for the upcoming First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon. I never expected to be this excited upon getting the email back - Corporate Chef Shane Schaibly literally went inside of my brain and crafted the tips on what I eat! Avocado Toast and eggs are my go-to post race meal. Granola, fresh fruit and yogurt are a staple in my house. Lastly, anytime I see a carrot ginger fresh juice on a menu, it is instantly ordered.

I am happy to post these amazing fuel tips a Half Marathon thanks to First Watch Corporate Chef, Shane Schaibly.

First Watch is giving away an entry to the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon. Click here to enter it. This means I have three giveaways going at this time! Click here and here for the other two. 

Fueling up for the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon by Chef Shane Schaibly

     When Megan asked me to put together some tips to fuel up for the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon, I was pretty pumped. There are a bunch of things I love about running – well, I really like watching other people do it, and I love the part where it’s over and especially the part where you get to eat afterward.

In all seriousness, it takes a ton of determination, discipline and intense training to work up to a half marathon, and I applaud you for all of your hard work! In addition to a dedicated training program along with hydration, your diet and nutrition are vital to your success when running the race. Food is fuel, and I’m excited to provide you with some quick tips to fuel up for this year’s Sarasota Half Marathon.

Throughout your training, eat healthy snacks like these to keep your energy levels high.

With the race just a few weeks away, I hope your training programs are in full swing! As your runs get longer, try reaching for pre- and post-workout snacks and meals containing things like fruit, nuts, Greek yogurt or natural fruit and veggie juices. If you’re in our neck of the woods, stop by your neighborhood First Watch to try one of these:
Energy Bowl – Your choice of our housemade granola or Muesli cereal of oats, sliced almonds, pecans, dried cranberries, wheat germ and raisins. Topped with fresh fruit and a touch of cinnamon. Served with non-fat vanilla Greek Yogurt.
First Watch Sunrise Granola Bowl
 Sunrise Granola Bowl – Non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt layered with fresh, seasonal fruit, nuts and our housemade granola.
First Watch Day Glow Juice
Pair the Energy Bowl or Sunrise Granola Bowl with our fresh Day Glow juice (Carrot, orange, lemon and organic ginger). This healthy combination should give you that extra pep you need to get through your training!

Race week should have you fueling up with a healthy, balanced diet to prepare your body for the 13.1 miles ahead.

In the days leading up to the half marathon, you should be eating healthy foods, but you don’t need to carbo-load. A balanced diet containing a mix of healthy fats, lean protein and carbohydrates will help get your body ready for the 13.1 miles ahead. Swing by First Watch for breakfast, brunch or lunch to try this:
First Watch Avocado Toast
Avocado Toast – Our thick-cut whole grain toast topped with fresh smashed avocado, EVOO, lemon and Maldon sea salt. Served with two cage-free basted eggs.

The night before the race, eat a simple dinner that contains carbs to give you energy for race day!

The night before the race, it’s important to eat something that’s easily digestible and contains carbohydrates to give you energy for the race. Pasta is always a good choice, but try to avoid any thick, heavy sauces or too much butter, since you definitely don’t want to feel weighed-down on race day.

On race day, eat a light breakfast to give your body the energy it needs to finish the race.

The morning of the half marathon, you’ll want to eat something to get your body going. This breakfast should be simple and something that your body is used to consuming. Toast, oatmeal and cereals are all good sources of energy that will be slowly released throughout the morning during your run.

Don’t forget about the post-race Pancake Party (and Michelob Ultra beer garden)!

After the race, we’ll be waiting at the finish line with lots of fun snacks to help you refuel. This includes our famous post-race pancake station, along with lots of fruit and other healthy snacks to replenish those energy levels. Don’t forget to stop by the Michelob Ultra beer garden to celebrate your accomplishment too!

Keep in mind that no two bodies are exactly alike, so it’s important to pay attention to your nutrition and the way your body responds to different foods to figure out what works best for you.

Race day will be here before you know it, and I know I speak for the rest of the team at First Watch when I say we are thrilled to be part of your awesome accomplishment. See you all on March 19!

Shane Schaibly
Corporate Chef
First Watch Restaurants, Inc.

Carnival Vista Seafood Shack Review

Monday, January 30, 2017
It is easy to get wowed while on board the Carnival Vista. Everywhere you turn, something will amaze you. While on our recent 6 night cruise, I fell head over heals for the Seafood Shack. An open air restaurant, where your fresh seafood is cooked to order at a small additional fee.
When the Carnival Vista released their first press video, the Seafood Shack was mentioned. Right then and there, I knew I had to sail on this ship ASAP.
One of the coolest things about the Seafood Shack is that you can purchase local fresh catch from the and have it prepared to your liking at any restaurant on the ship, at any time. When the ship is docked, the Seafood Shack will get locally sourced fresh fish to offer when you're back on board. The prices are not bad either!
Ordering at the Seafood Shack is simple. You receive a pager and when your freshly prepared food is ready, you pick it up. Keep in mind, this is not a quick counter service style restaurant. While it is outside in the open air just like Guys Burger Bar, this is just like ordering at a restaurant. Don't expect your food to come out in a flash - everything is cooked to order.
I am a huge fan of everything Lobster. My family has a house in Maine and we have a reunion every three years. Six years ago, I had my first Lobster Roll and everything changed. I became obsessed. Anytime I see it on a menu, I have to order it. Most of the time, I am left disappointed.
I was not disappointed with the Seafood Shack's Lobster Roll. In fact, if I didn't have to be in a bikini multiple times on this trip, I would have eaten one everyday. The lobster roll is actually lobster roll's. For $12, I got two filled fresh lobster salads stuffed in perfectly grilled buttery buns. There wasn't too much mayo or filler. It was just lobster perfection served with a side of fries.
My friend Keri ordered the Lobster BLT - and she said it was one of the best sandwiches she's ever had in her entire life. Using the same lobster salad as the lobster rolls, this was stuffed between bacon, tomato, lettuce and two grilled pieces of bread. Also served with fries for $12.
I was starving when the order was placed, which resulted in me ordering two dishes. We also got the buffalo shrimp for $8. I was only able to eat one, and gave the others away. These shrimp were giant. While very good, it was too much combined with the lobster rolls I already devoured. We did see another group order grilled shrimp and those looked amazing. We had planned on going back but cruises go quickly and next thing we knew, it was over.
I strongly suggest dining at the Seafood Shack at least once if you are on the Carnival Vista. I am hoping that other ships will receive this amazing restaurant. Having the option to order fresh oysters, steamed crab legs, beautiful lobster tails and customized fresh fish is only the beginning. You can check out the entire Seafood Shack menu here. Now I want a Lobster Roll!

GIVEAWAY! First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon and Relay

Friday, January 27, 2017
Hi friends! Today I have some pretty awesome news for my fellow runners. For the third time, I am partnering up with First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon which is taking place on March 19, 2017! We have some fantastic memories at this event and I am giving a few people a chance to run this race for free!

photo from First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Facebook

I cannot say enough about the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon. It's sponsored by First Watch, a restaurant where everything is made fresh to order and has some surprisingly healthy options. All First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon participants receive a gourmet breakfast at the finish line and if you feel inclined, a free Michelob Ultra (I am definitely one of those inclined people).
photo from First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Facebook
The First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Course
The course is amazing, starting at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, then over the John Ringling Bridge to St. Armand’s Circle. You make a loop and go back over the bridge.
photo from First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Facebook
At this point, those doing the relay will find the exchange at 6.2 miles and the second half will continue the race with those running 13.1.
photo from First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Facebook
The second half of the race continues on Tamiami Trail, then onto residential Indian Beach Drive, heading over to the John Ringling Museum, then looping back to finish at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.  The finishers medals are huge and along with delicious food, you will find live entertainment at the finish.
2013 was our first time participating in the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon series and we did the relay. Looking back on the race recap makes me smile (and laugh at the horrid iPhone photo quality)! At the time, my husband and I were not engaged yet and very into running. I reread the post and my statement of "I was jealous of everyone running the full vs. the relay" made me LOL. Read about our 2013 First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Relay Recap here.
We returned in 2014 and I clearly remember this race. It was shortly after I went race crazy, running 10 races in 3 months, 2 were full marathons, 4 were half marathons, including one Dopey Challenge and one Glass Slipper Challenge. The 2014 relay began with me doing the first 6.2 miles - and I struggled hard. We finished slower than anticipated but that was fine with us. We enjoyed the course and the amazing sunrise. Read about our 2014  First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Relay Recap here. This was the last race we ran before our wedding!

Although I am 4 years older than the first time we did the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Relay in 2013, I feel much stronger. I've never been one to write about hopes of a PR but I cannot lie that there is a huge part of me that want's to slay this course.
I have not one, but two race entries to giveaway today! I am giving one away here on the blog and one away on Instagram (click here to head over to that post from your smart phone). This race is selling out fast so this will be a quick giveaway, ending a week from today. I encourage you to share away on twitter daily through the rafflecopter below to gain extra daily entries.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Register for the 2017 First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon & Relay and receive the following:

First Watch gourmet breakfast items for all participants
Free Michelob ULTRA beer for all participants over the age of 21 (ID required)
Largest medal in Florida for all half marathon and relay finishers
Custom made, tech short-sleeve shirt
Live band at the finish line presented by First Watch
Kids Corner featuring face painting, balloon artists, interactive games and contests
Great photo opportunities throughout the course

First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Start / Finish Line
6:45 am – first wave race start time
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
777 North Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34236


Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse Review on Carnival Vista

Tuesday, January 24, 2017
One of the very first questions people have asked about the Carnival Vista is "how was the food". The Vista offers a wide variety of dining options and a six night cruise was not enough time to explore them all. Specialty dining on Cruises has become my favorite way to dine at sea.

We kicked off our girls cruise by dining at Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse on night one of the cruise. It was our favorite night and we tried to make a second reservation on the last night but it was booked.
First, let's check out the dining room of Carnival Vista Fahrenheit 555.

The dining room is modern, very large and has an open floor plan. There is also outdoor dining, which we didn't experience due to the weather. The Vista's Fahrenheit 555 also had a sit down bar, which was great for those looking for a glass of wine while their friends were drinking martini's at the Alchemy Bar next door.

Before we received our menu's, we got a chefs taste of the cutest little burger slider ever. And it was DELICIOUS.

Menu options: Below are the Menu options and an example of your four course menu that will run you $35 a diner (kids 11 and under $10)

Starters: We were able to choose from the following: Escargots Bourguignonne baked in Garlic Herb Butter; Grilled Portobello Mushroom marinated with virgin olive oil and aged Balsamic vinegar; Beef Carpaccio sliced raw beef tenderloin with shaved parmesan cheese; Ahi Tuna Tartare dices of Sashimi grade yellow fin tuna belly; Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail black tiger shrimp with American cocktail sauce; New England Crab Cake fresh lump crab cake on roasted pepper remoulade; Lobster Bisque with Vintage Cognac; Baked French Onion Soup

We ordered the Beef Carpaccio and the Grilled Portobello Mushroom. Both were excellent and I would strongly suggest either while dining at one of Carnival's Steakhouses. The Portobello Mushroom was like a piece of art!
Beef Carpaccio
Grilled Portobello Mushroom

You can choose from a variety of salad options or a second Appetizer. The Salads offered are: Classic Caesar Salad; Baby Leaf Spinach and Fresh Mushrooms Salad; Heart of Iceberg Salad; Sun-Ripened Beef Steak Tomato Salad.

Keri went with the Beef Steak Tomato Salad which she dug into before I could take a photo and I opted for the Lobster Bisque from the Appetizer Menu. The Lobster Bisque was full of chunk lobster and was absolutely delicious. I may have licked the bowl clean.
Entrees: For your entree's, you have a wide variety of options. Broiled Prime NY Strip, 14oz; Grilled Prime Cowboy Steak, 18oz; Spice Rubbed Prime Ribeye Steak, 18oz, Broiled Filet Mignon, 9oz; Surf & Turf, Maine Lobster Tail and Grilled Filet Mignon; Broiled Maine Lobster Tail; Broiled Rosemary Infused Chicken; Grilled Lamb Chops; Maine Lobster Ravioli; Grilled Filet of Fish from the Market.

It came to no surprise that we both ordered Filet. I got the 9oz broiled Filet Mignon which was cooked to a perfect Medium Rare. Keri ordered the Surf and Turf, a smaller cut of Filet Mignon cooked to her Medium preference and a Maine Lobster tail. Two weeks later and she is still saying this was her best meal she has ever ate in her entire life.
Broiled 9oz Filet Mignon
Surf and Turf
You get to choose side dishes at Carnival's Steakhouse: Baked Potatoes with Trimmings; Sautéed Medley of Fresh Mushrooms; Yukon Gold Mash with Wasabe Horseradish; Creamed Spinach with Garlic; Steamed Broccoli

We both got a Baked Potato with trimmings. I don't know about you but I cannot eat a steak without a baked potato.

Cheesecake with Hazelnut Biscuit; Carmelized Washington Apples; Chocolate Sampler, Bittersweet Chocolate Cake, Banana Pannacotta, Tiramisu and Chocolate Marquise; Fresh Fruit; Selection of Homemade Sherbet and Ice Creams; Selection of International Cheeses

There are no photos of our dessert and there are reasons for that below under tips.

A few tips for dining at Fahrenheit 555:
Free or Discounted wine - dine at the Steakhouse on night one: Try to get a reservation to the Steakhouse on night one. The last 3 times I have sailed on Carnival, we have gotten reservations at the steakhouse on the first night. Every sailing has had a wine special on night one, offering either a free bottle of house wine or you could purchase any wine by the bottle at half off. We went for the later and got an incredible bottle of Caymus for $40!!!!!!! That's cheaper than you can buy it for in the stores. Now we're talking! You can even have them cork up the wine if you don't finish the bottle (or second bottle) to take back to your room.

Book well in advance. A few cruises offer early dining reservations, all you need is your booking number and the date of cruising. Once logged into your Carnival account, go to manage and select dining, which will give you email addresses to the Maitre d' for various restaurants. We got on the ship at 11:30 on the sailing date and the first place we went to was Fahrenheit 555 to book our dining and we only had a few options left. If we boarded the ship later that day or hesitated on booking our reservation, we may not have gotten in.

Desserts: As you can see above, the meal is huge. So when it comes to dessert, you are likely going to be too full to enjoy it. You can get your dessert to go! Since we had a fridge in our room, we got our two desserts to go and enjoyed them for a late night snack. Keri got the Chocolate Trio and I got the cheesecake. Both were delicious, and way better than pizza at midnight (not that anything is wrong with pizza at midnight)

Dessert for Starter: Before you dine, ask your server if you can get the cheese plate from the dessert menu to start your meal off. This is my favorite starter to any meal!

Don't be afraid to ask: If you want three appetizers instead of a main entree or if you want nothing but veggies, chances are Carnival will accommodate you.  This stands in any of the dining facilities on board. Just don't get greedy with your requests.

Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Parade 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017
Gasparilla 2017 is officially here!! For those unfamiliar at to why Tampa is obsessed with pirates (hello our NFL team is based on Pirates!), here's a quick history story. Gasparilla has many components to it, from a marathon weekend to a music festival. However when you say Gasparilla, the Invasion and Pirate Festival Day Parade (which started in 1904) is what comes mind.
Gasparilla celebrates the apocryphal legend of José Gaspar (Gasparilla), a mythical Spanish pirate captain who supposedly operated in Southwest Florida. As of the 100th edition of the Gasparilla Festival in 2015 (it was cancelled during World Wars), the parade was the 3rd largest in the United States and had an economic impact of $23 million on Tampa's economy.
My friends at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa are in the midst of a three year sponsorship as the title sponsor of the Pirate Festival. Last year, my husband and I got to experience Gasparilla in the sponsors tent and we had a blast. Before I share some of my favorite photos from the 2016 Gasparilla Day Parade, I wanted to take a second and recap the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Gasparilla Charity Dinner which took place two months ago. This amazing dinner was hosted by John O'Hurley (AKA J. Peterman from Seinfeld) and benefited the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla Community Fund.
As to be expected, the dinner was amazing. A four course meal featuring a salad with spiced pork belly bacon; a sous vide traditional Lobster Boil; Bourbon Infused dry aged Bone-In-Ribeye; Manjari Chocolate Mousse Cake.  It was an incredible dinner with amazing wine - while raising money for scholarships and student financial aid in Tampa. Plus we got a lot of laughs thanks to O'Hurley!
There is nothing like being part of the Gasparilla day Parade. We take our Pirate Life serious around these parts of town. I have a few suggestions for those first timers out to this weekends festival.
Arrive early and claim your seat. Bring blankets or chairs. Although I've seen them, coolers prohibited. You can bring your own food and drink, just no styrofoam or glass. Just be sure to hydrate with water throughout the day.
If possible, don't drive. People drink their breakfast on Gasparilla and it isn't safe for anyone. Uber, Lyft and streetcar transportation is available.
What should I wear? For the love of god, don't wear heals unless you are in a house, watching the parade from a balcony. It's easy to come up with a cute and comfortable Gasparilla outfit - black, white, red and strips - with a touch of crossbones!
You will see local celebs - all of the sports teams have floats.
HYDRATE (did I already say that?) and be sure to eat. There are multiple food stations located throughout the parade route. If you are controlling your diet, Bayshore Publix is located at the end of the parade route, which may be where you come in at.
Crowds: Be prepared for a large crowd. (four photos below from www.gasparillapiratefest.com)
Expect the unexpected at Gasparilla Day Parade. These pirates have been at this for days (charity events, dinners, etc) and some are a bit crazier than others.
SOUND! If you are sensitive to sound, bring earplugs. I know this makes me sound like an old lady but I swear to you after last years cannons (as seen in the photo below) were NO JOKE. My ears rang for days.
Have FUN! Remember, all of this is about giving back to our community.
Catch all the beads! Fun fact - we collected only the "good" beads from parades in 2011-2014. I packed an entire suitcase with these beads at our 2014 destination wedding in New Orleans to be part of our welcome bag. Thank you Gasparilla for helping us save $$$ by not having to buy pretty beads!
2017 Gasparilla Day Parade Hours
Time: 2:00 p.m. – approx. 5:30 p.m.
Route: The parade begins at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard. It continues along Bayshore Boulevard to Brorein Street, turns east on Brorein Street, then north on Ashley Drive. The parade ends at Cass Street & Ashley Drive.
Viewing: There are many locations open to the public along Bayshore Boulevard and in downtown Tampa for viewing the parade.
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