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Xterra trail 10k (50:54)

Xterra trail 10k (50:54)

I had no plans to do this race until about 15 minutes before my husband left the house.  He had mentioned during the race Saturday night but I had just hoped he would forget. I woke up around 6:15 and my husband’s words at 6:30 in the morning were: “I am seriously doing this race”.  That day, I had planned to do a workout by myself but after thinking about it, I thought it might be fun to get out of my comfort zone.  I didn’t do anything I usually do to prepare for a race and just threw everything in a random bag and got in the car.

The 10k was down in super south NJ, just outside of Salem County.  It’s the part of NJ most people don’t even think exists and most of it is covered in farms or parks, which is great for trail racing.

Like most of the East Coast recently, we have gotten a lot of rain.  It’s rained on and off since last Friday and is supposed to continue most of the week.  Needless to say, the race was very muddy.  Even the “elites” said it would be a tough day on the course.  Always good to hear your first anything will be tough.

We got to the race a bit later than I particularly like and had time for about a mile warmup. I hadn’t charged my watch so ran about 10 minutes and decided that was a mile.

We were given course directions at 7:50 and the race went off at 8.  It was two loops (5kers did one loop and 10k did two).  It was a combination of grass, single track, and about 200 meters of road.

I self-seeded myself directly in the middle of the crowd.  I had no idea what to expect and didn’t want to be too far in the front but also not in the back either.  The race went off and it reminded me of a mass country style start.  We were all in a field, and it quickly funneled into the trail.  I found myself boxed in for the first mile or so.  My goal for the race was just run my own race AND NOT HURT MYSELF. If you know me, I am most likely to hurt myself in a cushioned room.

xterra mudlands 10k alloway nj me running

I thought the first mile must be taking forever.  I wasn’t sprinting and just running.  The course wasn’t “bad” as I thought it would be.  There was mud, but nothing too drastic.  I was running with a large pack of men.

During the second mile, I passed a couple of females and we headed into a much more challenging part of the course.  I had no idea what shoe to wear (TBH, I probably should have worn the same shoe I hike in: The Brooks Cascadia.)  I had opted to run in an old pair of college flats, which was a bad idea.  I shoud have run in spikes over those flats.

Around mile 2, a young kid asked me if we were at the 5k yet and I told him I thought we were about 2 miles in.  Turns out later, he won the 5k overall!  Since it was a two loop course, we went under the finishers shoot at 5k.  I hit the 5k around 25:30 minutes.

xterra mudlands 10k alloway nj me running

As we headed back through the field we started at, I was able to pass a few more people.  I could tell, I had more leg speed (from roads) but they had more technical skill through the mud and single track.

Mile 4 and 5 went uneventfully.  Around mile 4, a male in front of me fell.  I asked if he was okay and he said yes and got back up quickly. The course was much more torn up because of all the people that had come through.  I stepped in ankle deep mud and just plowed through.  My only goal was not to hurt myself.  I had no remorse if I had to stop, walk, or take things easy.

The last mile felt as though it never-ending.  I saw it was about 8:45 am and thought I probably had about 10 minutes or so left of racing.  I just kind of plugged along.

All of a sudden I popped out of the woods and saw the giant finish line ahead.  As I crossed, the announcer said I had won for females.  Then proceeded to ask if I was wearing road racing shoes.  I wasn’t expecting to win, and it was pretty cool to do so.  I had no idea I was even in first place because it’s hard to tell who is in front of you.

xterra mudlands 10k alloway nj me running

In all, I had a great time getting out of my comfort zone.  My only regret was not wearing a trail shoe but I didn’t hurt myself so it ended up ok.  A lot of locals said it was “the hardest trail race they’ve done’ but I don’t have anything to compare it too.

It reminds me a lot of open water swims because you can’t race for time, just on the conditions for the day!  I wouldn’t say I’m “hooked on trails”, and prefer the speed of and consistency of roads.

xterra mudlands 10k alloway nj me running

We were asked to do a jumping shot and I didn’t fall holding glass which is a rather big accomplishment for me

Questions for you:

Have you ever done a trail race?

What is the hardest race you’ve ever done?

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Sand Castle Diner (Beachwood)

A few weeks ago, before walking around Cattus State Park, I went to the Sand Castle Diner in Beachwood.  I remember reading the Sand Castle Diner making one of the “top 40 NJ diners” so I was excited to have the opportunity to stop by.

Atmosphere: A
The exterior of the Sand Castle Diner is cobblestone.  It’s not a big shiny diner, like many, but it’s a nice modern diner.  The inside is big with plenty of booths, tables, and a full-length bar.  It’s a very modern building, and it appears to have had been updated.

Coffee: B
The coffee was brewed hot and fresh each time. There wasn’t anything unusual about it, but it was good coffee.

Sandcastle Diner toms river

Food: B
The Sandcastle Diner has every type of food you can imagine in a diner.  There are plenty of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.  I was indecisive of what I wanted.  Ultimately I decided to order a breakfast special which came with eggs, pancakes, and ham.

Sandcastle Diner toms river

The special was good.  It’s hard to mess up breakfast but everything was cooked well.

Sandcastle Diner toms river

Service: B

The waitress was friendly and brought us refills when we needed them.  In all, the food came out and quickly, and I have no complaints.

Price: $
For my salad and coffee, it was $16.

Summary/Would I Come Back:
I liked the Sandcastle Diner, and it’s definitely one of my more favorite diners along the shore. I would go back!

Atmosphere: A
Coffee: B
Food: B
Service: B
Price: $10-20
Overall: B

You can see all 186 diners I’ve been too here.

Questions for you:
Where is the biggest salad you’ve gotten?
Do you have many beach trips planned for the spring and summer?

Dynasty Diner (Tuckerton)

Dynasty Diner (Tuckerton)

Recently, I got dinner with Ariana at the Dynasty Diner.  One of my many goals is to go to more shore diners this summer, and when Ariana was in town for the New Jersey Marathon, it worked out.  I’ve followed Ariana on the internet for a long time, so it was great to finally connect.

We arrived around 4:30 for dinner and it wasn’t crowded.  The Dynasty Diner was a lot bigger than I anticipated.  I hadn’t been to Tuckerton before, but it’s a cute small shore town.

Dynasty Diner tuckerton nj

Atmosphere: A
The Dynasty Diner looks like a typical, chrome, shiny diner.  The outside was big, shiny, and metallic.  If you are looking for a stereotypical NJ diner, the Dynasty Diner meets that.

The inside had a full-length bar, with retro booths, and tables.  The Dynasty Diner meets all stereotypes of a NJ Diner.

Coffee: B
The coffee at the Dynasty Diner was good.  It was brewed hot and fresh, and I didn’t have any complaints about the coffee.  I could have used more refills but other than it was good.  The Dynasty Diner serves Lacas coffee, and you are even able to buy it up front if you choose.

Dynasty Diner tuckerton nj

Food: B
The Dynasty Diner serves everything a stereotypical diner would serve.  It follows the unwritten “diner guidelines.”  There are plenty of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.  It also has a page dedicated to Greek specialties.  Originally I had planned to get a gyro, but when that wasn’t an option, I ordered the Greek salad on the fly.

Dynasty Diner tuckerton nj

When the Greek salad came out, it was massive.  The waitress said it was enough to feed four people and she wasn’t joking.  Enough to feed four people ended up being me.  I liked the Greek salad, however, there were a few things it was missing including anchovies and onions.  It had plenty of lettuce but could have used more toppings.  The dressing was good, and in all, I enjoyed it.

Service: A
The waitress was friendly, and our food came out extremely fast.

Cost: $
For my salad and coffee, the cost was $13.

Overall Thoughts/Summary:
I had a great time at the Dynasty Diner, and it is definitely one of my favorite shore diners.  I would love to go back sometime!

Atmosphere: A
Coffee: B
Food: B
Service: A
Price: $10-20
Overall: B

You Can See all 185 Diners Here.

Questions for you:
What are your plans this summer?
What is your favorite salad topping?

Exploring Hartshorne Park in the Highlands

Exploring Hartshorne Park in the Highlands

As part of my “spring and summer” NJ bucket list, I want to go to more local parks.  Last year we went to a lot of northeast parks, but we’ve been feeling the shore this year!  I’ve already been to Turkey Swamp in Freehold as well as Cattus Island in Toms River.

Anyway, one park I’ve wanted to go to was Hartshorne Park in the Atlantic Highlands.  It’s a little bit of a treck (about 80 minutes), but one random weekday last week, we decided to drive up there.

Hartshorne Park is a lot hillier than anticipated.  I thought, oh it’s along the shore it will probably be flat.  That was not the case and my Garmin said I climbed about 80 flights of stairs.  Not that it matters, but don’t go in expecting a flat shore park.  Hartshorne is 794-acre site and overlooks the Navesink River.  After some research, I came to find out it’s one of the highest elevations along the Atlantic Coast.   If you are looking for a great park for walking, hiking, and even mountain biking (we saw many bikers), this park is for you!  No, the park is not paying me to tell you that, parks are free fun.

One thing drew my husband, and I here was the history of the park:

During World War II, batteries for artillery were built in Hartshorne Park to modernize coastal defense.  You can view several of the bunkers in the park.

With the rise of Airpower (go Air Force).  Military bunkers were not needed as much. During the Cold, War Hartshorne served as a missile defense site and command center.  It was equipped with radar, computers and electronic plotting devices.  All of these structures have been removed, but the bunkers are still in place.

The Hartshorne Park site is now listed officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Anyway-

As I mentioned, I hadn’t done a lot of research about the hiking in the park.  If I had, I would have known all of the historic sites are in the parking lot, and the park is much hillier than anticipated.  We got there around noon, and it took us just about 4 hours to hike 8 miles.  We stopped, we took photos, we looked at the history.  It was a beautiful park with many different views from the woods and deer, to the shore, as well as the military site.

We ended up hiking about 8 miles around the trails and then finished up by viewing the military site.

I didn’t expect so much green, but we did about 6 miles of hiking through that.  Before we came, I expected it almost to be on the water since that is what people took photos of!

Hartshorne park

A very large treeHartshorne park

Another large treeHartshorne park

Most of my photos are from the military site which is within 200 yards of the parking lot.

Hartshorne Park atlantic highlands

A Map of the site

Hartshorne Park atlantic highlands

The Bunker

Hartshorne Park atlantic highlands

Hartshorne Park atlantic highlands

Hartshorne Park atlantic highlands

Now onto the hiking portion.  With the hiking, it goes deep into the pines as well as near the water.  There are so many different views!

Hartshorne Park atlantic highlands

Hartshorne Park atlantic highlands

In all, it was a beautiful hike in the forest as well as along the water.  I’m glad we finally made it up there!

Other Spring hikes I’ve Done:

Hiking Turkey Swamp in Freehold

Exploring Cattus Island in Toms River

You can see all hikes here.

Questions for you:

What was the last historical place you went?

Do you plan to go to the beach this summer?

JJ’s Diner (Pleasantville

JJ’s Diner (Pleasantville

A few weeks ago, after the April Fools half marathon, I stopped at JJ’s diner on the way home.  When I arrived around lunchtime on a Sunday, it was crowded.  In fact, it’s one of the few diners I’ve had to wait for a table.  No big deal!

Atmosphere: B
JJ’s Diner is small but cute. The outside looks like a small trailer.  I like the old yellow sign that says JJ’s too.  It is one room, with several tables, booths, and a full-length bar.  It’s very compact.

JJ's Diner pleasentville nj 

Coffee: B
The coffee was brewed hot, but I could have used more.  It was the local Lacas brand.  I’ve actually been to several diners that have Lacas brew lately.  It was hot and after a cold, wet, rainy race, exactly what I needed.  I just wish I had more.

JJ's Diner pleasentville nj

Food: A
JJ’s Diner has many different options.  The diner itself is only open until 3 pm, so they don’t have big entrees, but they have all sorts of breakfast and lunch specials. I decided to order the chicken and waffles.JJ's Diner pleasentville nj

As I’ve mentioned a few times, since living in Alabama last year, I’ve wanted to find good chicken and waffles.  At JJ’s, the chicken and waffles were one of the best portions I’ve had.  The waffle itself was crisp, but the chicken portion was massive.  It was also topped with a homemade sauce which made for a delicious topping.  In fact, it didn’t need any additional syrup.  So far, it’s the best chicken and waffles I’ve found in the North. 

Service: A
The waitress was friendly and kind. Even being busy, she came to check on us several times.  The food also came out quickly. I think we waited long for a table than the food!

Cost: $
For the chicken and waffle, plus coffee the cost as $11.

Overall Thoughts/Would I Come Back?
I enjoyed JJ’s Diner, and it’s definitely a diner I would stop at again if I went down the shore.

Atmosphere: B
Coffee: B
Food: A
Service: A
Cost:$8-12
Overall: A 

This is Diner Review 183. You can see more diner reviews here.

Questions for you:
Have you had chicken and waffles?
What is your favorite post workout meal?

Exploring Cattus Island Park in Toms River

Exploring Cattus Island Park in Toms River

Last week, I took a drive out to Cattus Island Park in Toms River.  Originally, I wanted to enjoy the shore while still doing something active.  While laying on the beach is fun for some, it isn’t all that fun to me. I get bored after a few minutes. One of the parks I’ve wanted to get too is Cattus Island in Toms River, so it worked out.

Cattus is an easy trail suitable for a leisurely walk, small kids, or pets.  You hike through the Pinelands, on a boardwalk, and along the beach.  There is even a massive Osprey nest! The hike itself is one of the easiest I’ve done, with a mix of sand, boardwalk, dirt, and pine needles.  If you combine all of the trails, it ends up being about 6.9 miles.

One thing I appreciated about Cattus Island Park was the map available at the front.  Obviously, everything is available online beforehand, but it’s nice to have a paper copy out.

I did hike most of the trails, but it got to be a bit windy along the shore, and I was getting cold.  Plus, I also wanted to beat the traffic on route 70.

Starting along the boardwalk

Cattus Island Park toms river
You can see the Osprey nest in the background.

Cattus Island Park toms river

Marsh and Wetlands

Cattus Island Park toms river

Then all of a sudden the trail went through the pines.

Cattus Island Park toms river

And along a small creek.

Cattus Island Park toms river

Then all of a sudden I was along the shore.

Cattus Island Park toms river

Cattus Island Park toms river

This is when things got windy.  It got cold quickly.  It’s hard to believe because the rest of the week has been so warm!

Windy day down the shore.

A post shared by Hollie (@fueledbylolz) on

Cattus Island Park toms river

Cattus Island Park toms river

In all, I had an excellent time hiking, and I’m glad I went out there.  Cattus Island Park is a beautiful, leisurely park and I highly suggest it.

Spring 2018 Hikes I’ve Done:

Cattus Island Park (Toms River)
Turkey Swamp Park (Freehold)

You can see all hikes here.

This Spring and Summer, I want to get to as many NJ parks as possible.  Now that the weather is nice, it’s been great to be outdoors!

Questions for you:
What was the last park you’ve been too?
Do you have any plans this spring and summer?

The Point Diner (Fairview)

The Point Diner (Fairview)

Recently I went to the Point Diner in Fairview, NJ.  I was in the area, and it looked like a great diner. Not to be confused with the Point 40 Diner in Monroeville.

the point diner fairview nj

Atmosphere: B
When I arrived around noon, it wasn’t crowded, in fact, there were only a few other parties in the restaurant.  The hostess put me in the corner which was okay, but I felt as though it was kind of weird and isolating.

The Point Diner has an outdoor patio which makes it unique.  Inside there is a full-length bar, small dessert case, and plenty of booths and tables.

Coffee: B
The coffee was good, but I could have used more.  Being in the corner, I think the waitress forgot about my table often.  I liked the coffee, and it was hot and fresh.

the point diner fairview nj

Food: B
The Point Diner has everything you want or need in a diner.  They have a lot more breakfast specials that many diners including more omelets, eggs, and french toast.  The Nutella french toast sounded intriguing.  They also have plenty of lunch and dinner options too.

the point diner fairview nj

I decided to order the steak benedict which was good.  Often times diner steak is rubbery, but the steak at the Point Diner was good.  The meal came with hash browns which tasted like regular hashbrowns.

Dessert: A
I decided to get a split cookie to go.  The cookie was good. I ate it about halfway through my hike at the Palisades.  If the cookie tasted lousy midway through a hike, you know it was terrible to start with.

the point diner fairview nj

Service: B
While the waitress was friendly, I felt as though sitting in the back made her overlook our table frequently.  I could have used more drink refills.  I was surprised about the length of time it took for food to come with how quiet the restaurant was too.

Price: $
For my breakfast, coffee, and cookie the cost was $13.

Overall Thoughts/Summary:
I liked the Point Diner and would go back.  I thought I was a good diner and in the top half of diners I’ve been too.

Atmosphere: B
Coffee: B
Food: A
Dessert: A
Service: B
Cost: $10-23
Overall: B

Questions for you:
Where is the best restaurant steak you’ve had?

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