2014 TPC Sawgrass

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I was lucky enough to get a pass to a practice day at TPC this year.  I’ve been out there several times and it is always fun.  I’m not a golf fanatic but walking around the beautifully manicured environment there is so peaceful and pleasant.  If you ever get the opportunity, I recommend that you go.

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A Faux Treatise on Doughnuts and The Donut Shoppe

DOUGHNUTS
While I try to eat healthy most of the time, I’m no stranger to junk food and I love doughnuts (or donuts – both deliciously acceptable spellings).  In high school it wasn’t unusual to tuck into a cruller or Bavarian creme at Krispy Kreme after everything else but Krystal had shut down for the night.  With the slowing of my metabolism, I have to be more intentional about how often I eat these treats and, therefore, more selective when I spend the calories in my doughnut bank.

I’ve never had a doughnut better than Krispy Kreme.  Of course, I’m only talking about those that you get directly from one of their stores.  The hideous hardboard franken-nuts available at gas stations and grocery stores only share the green box and name with the genuine article.  If you want to tell me that Dunkin’ Donuts are a viable alternative, get out of my blog you lightly-sweetened bread eater!  You might as well have a piece of frosted toast.

Generally a shop can be judged on their plain glazed doughnut because there is almost always a direct correlation between the plain and the fancies.  When hot, it should dissolve almost without chewing like angel’s breath, cotton candy or a dream.  When room temp, it should have some chew but still be delicious and never too bready or greasy.  These magical properties must surely come from a recipe that is both 100% fat and 100% sugar.

I’ve heard many times before about how this local doughnut place is better or that doughnut shop is best.  In every case, the statement has been a lie.  Recently, a trusted doughnuteer recommended a local place I’d never heard of –  The Donut Shoppe.  I was immediately skeptical, but he assured me that the doughnuts were great – “the best,” in fact.  “They aren’t like Dunkin’ are they?”  “Of course not.”  “They’re really the best?”  “They are great.”  “Better than Krispy Kreme?”  “Wellll… As good as.  You should try them.”

He had withstood my withering cross-examination.  Maybe, just maybe, I’d found a Krispy Kreme alternative.  Dare I dream?  Perhaps even a new doughnut king?  I had to give them a try.

THE DONUT SHOPPE

There it is in the Righthand Corner

The Donut Shoppe is located in Jacksonville, Florida in the Arlington neighborhood close to Jacksonville University.  As with almost all really great local one-off establishments there are Soup Nazi quirks and rules.  In the case of this place I’d been forewarned of two things:

1. Get there early.  These guys don’t play.  They make what they make and when they sell out they shut down for the day.  Arrive after 10 am and you won’t have much selection.  Arrive after noon and you’ll probably be greeted by a locked door.

2.  Know what you want by the time you get to the counter.  The line will probably be kinda long and the store is tiny so others can’t go around you and they don’t want to wait forever on you.  The staff will be polite but they keep things moving.

With the rules fresh in my mind, I pulled up to the shop one weekday morning around 9am.  I’d been told parking is a problem and that wasn’t a joke.  Every available legal and illegal spot had been filled at the shop and the connected gas station.  I ended up pulling around the corner and parking at a mini-park.

As I approached the front door I noticed the line of happy people extending out of it.  There was even a vacationing family getting a group photo in front of the building.  All signs were pointing to yum.  My wait was short lived as the line moved at a steady clip.  I got to the glass case and noticed a variety of old standards.  This would not be a crazy combo place like Voodoo Doughnut (another shop I’d desperately love to visit) but its lineup could certainly compete with Krispy – perhaps even topple it, I thought.

Soon it was my turn and I cracked off an order for a plain glazed, custard-filled, lemon-filled and an apple fritter (trail plop).  Confident that I had selected an excellent cross section of the available ‘nuts, I paid, returned to my car and headed home to test.

Look at the Size of that Fritter

I wish I could be more dramatic about the actual tasting but they were exactly what I expected them to be – deliciously predictable.  With my advanced planning, I had forgone breakfast so I was able to shovel all of them into my gut not wasting a single bite or saving any for a later snack.  It was the equivalent of five doughnuts in one sitting.  I’d be sorry later, but at the time I couldn’t have been happier.

The verdict:  As good as Krispy Kreme.  Please note, I was not able to compare any hot off the presses so they may fall a little flat there but this is the highest praise I’ve ever given a non-Krispy doughnut.  In addition, with this place you get the “in the know”/local-secret excitement when you visit.  I would definitely go back and would recommend it to anyone.  Well, not to a diabetic.

THE DONUT SHOPPE
1721 University Blvd N
Jacksonville, FL 32211
(904) 743-1844

Pro tip:  I’ve since learned that you can call in an order.  Do it.  That way you are assured you’ll get something before you drive over.

The Donut Shoppe on Yelp

The Donut Shoppe on Urban Spoon

Fort Clinch

Toward the end of last year Melanie and I visited Fort Clinch.  I had heard the name in every Folio Weekly Ad (“From Fort Clinch to the Matanzas Bay”) and was curious to see what it was all about.  One Saturday morning we realized we were going to be right by the place when we went to watch an ocean-based triathlon so we took the opportunity to check it out.

HISTORY
Located at the absolute northeasternmost corner of Florida, Fort Clinch was built to protect the mouth of the St. Mary’s River and the port of Fernandina, FL.  It is one of the best preserved examples of Third System Fortifications in existence.  That means it has a two-walled construction with an outer brick wall and an inner earth wall.

Named in honor of General Duncan Lamont Clinch, work began on Fort Clinch in 1847.  Construction progressed slowly and by 1860 only two of the bastions and one third of the brick wall was completed.  Improving weapons technology began to make brick fortifications like this one obsolete, but construction continued until 1867 when the fort was nearly finished.  Fort Clinch was used off and on by the military until 1945 even though the State of Florida bought it and its surrounding property in 1935 eventually turning the site into a state park.

REVIEW

It was a really hot mid morning when we arrived.  The first stop was the air conditioned gift shop where we purchased tickets.  They sell some snacks, drinks and Fort Clinch doodads just like you’d expect.

From there we walked a moderately lengthy path to the sallie port (entrance/exit tunnel) complete with drawbridge.

Once inside we met a couple of period actors that explained what life was like for men and women (cooks and laundry) working at the fort during the Civil War.

Top of Wall Looking in to Fort

Walking around to the various buildings we could look inside some and actually enter others.  Each was outfitted with its Civil War era trappings.

View out the Fort from the Top of the Wall

The view from on top of the wall showed exactly why this was such a great spot for a defensive fortification.

We couldn’t have spent more than an hour or two here and I don’t remember it being very expensive, although you pay to get into the park and then again to visit the fort.  Overall, Melanie and I enjoyed ourselves and if you live in the Jacksonville area, I’d recommend a visit.  The fort is well maintained and every place we went was quiet and clean.

Busy Campground. Typical Campsite. Ok for RV's. Crappy for Tents. No Shade!

The remainder of the surrounding property has some very nice looking (and nearly empty) beaches, some hiking trails and a pier to fish from.  We drove over to the RV camping area which had a surprising number of occupants for a non-holiday time of year.  As you can see from the picture, it would be a fairly miserable place for tent camping though.  There was absolutely no shade to be found at this campground.

Fort Clinch State Park

2601 Atlantic Ave

Fernandian Beach, FL

(904) 277-7272

http://www.floridastateparks.org/fortclinch/

Mud Run Miscellaneous

[Part Three of a Three-Part Article on the Mud Run]

All good things come in threes:  scoops of ice cream, The Lord of the Rings, the main galaxy morphological classifications and articles telling you everything you need to know to prepare for the Mud Run.

In this catch-all article I’m collecting anything that didn’t fit neatly into the training or what to wear categories.  So let’s continue with answering your questions and then summarize everything in a nice little checklist.

I’ve collected my equipment.  Should I train with it or save it for race day?  It is worthwhile to run about 3 miles in your team uniform before the race.  There is a big difference in wearing cheap boots with long pants and running shorts with weightless comfy shoes.  I wouldn’t do this more than once if your equipment is on par with most.  I know my boots tend to hurt my feet.  The point of trying it all out is to make sure it doesn’t fall apart too easily, doesn’t cause blisters, etc.

If you really want to get a taste of potential problems before the race, when you do your test run, do it near a pool, river or at least a garden hose.  Get wet.  Do your pants fall off?  Better get a belt.  Do the pockets fill with water?  Might need to poke holes in them.

What about right before the race?  Anything special then?  I’d recommend that you hit your longest run one to two weeks before the race.  Once you get into the week of the race, take it easy.  Moderate upper body and core stuff.  Limit your running to short easy runs of three to five miles.  Most importantly, don’t do any exercise two days before the run.  Be sure to eat well during this time.  No junk food.  Get plenty of sleep the night before the race.  The rule of thumb for running is that carb loading doesn’t do a lot if you aren’t running for at least an hour.  This course is tough to judge since you use your entire body and fast teams will finish in 45 minutes while mostly-walking teams will go for about 3 hours.  It probably wouldn’t hurt to eat something like a whole wheat spaghetti dinner the night before, but just don’t overdo it.  Avoid eating items high in fat or fiber that will sit in your stomach a long time.  Go to the event website and look at the results from last year.  The course may be significantly different than the previous year but it will give you an idea of where in your group of racers you might finish.

What about race day itself?  Have all of your gear fire-manned the day before so all you have to do on race day it put it on.  Get your timing chip on you boots and walk around.  This is your last minute check to make sure you have everything and it all works.  Leave your jewelry and anything else extraneous at home.  Get to the starting line an hour before you plan to run.  It is usually more of a madhouse than most of the Jax races so it will take some time to find the start.  Be sure to have eaten a couple of hours before you run.  Be sure to drink some water (maybe 8-12 oz) about 30 min before you run.  I don’t like to stretch before I run.  If you do, don’t forget that.  After the race I’ll do my stretching.  When it comes time to line up remember where your team might fall in the pack and be courteous and line up there.  Think you are faster than about half the teams?  Line up at the midpoint of the group not the front of the line.  Expecting to walk?  Start at the back.

What about finding my team before the race?  This is a real weak point of this event.  There is no central info center or check-in place.  People will be wandering around.  Your best bet is to meet up with your team off site and ride to the event together in one vehicle.  Be sure that everyone has a mobile phone with them the day of the event before you meet.  This way whoever is late can update everyone else.  Of course, don’t take your phones from the meet-up place to the run.

What about during the race?  You will find that even in the competitive division there is much less of a serious tone than other races.  Do your part to keep the event upbeat and fun.  Cheering for other teams is normal.  Assisting other teams on obstacles is always good.  I have been pleasantly surprised at how often one team following another will steady a cargo net, grab a rope swing, etc.

What kind of goals should I set for myself?  Consider setting two goals for yourself.  That way you have more chances to win and more potential positives to build on.  If this is your first organized event, commit to training on a regular basis and attempting the course on race day.

If you’ve done something like this in the past, maybe a 5k or played a sport before, perhaps your goal will be to complete the race and maybe to try and do it in a certain time.

Are you already physically fit?  Maybe you should have a time to beat and a place you are trying to finish.  For example, this last year we had a time to beat and we wanted to finish in the top ten.

What about pictures?  It is almost a guarantee something hilarious is going to happen while you run.  It would be nice to capture the moment.  Apparently there are official photographers for the event, but in the two times we’ve run, they’ve never photographed us so I wouldn’t rely on them.

Get a disposable waterproof camera, a waterproof clamshell for your point n’ shoot/mobile phone or have a friend photograph you.  I strongly recommend the last one.  They can photograph you before the start, at the start and then walk or run the course in reverse until they find your team.

Be sure to get before and after shots.  The Original Mud Run usually has a nice big banner/backdrop on the side of the finish line structure that works great for this purpose.

What about after the race?  If you think you placed in the top three, check with a race official.  Since they have heats going all day, they do awards throughout the day shortly after the third team finishes for each heat.  Don’t forget about your beer and food.  Stick around for a while and cheer people in to the finish.

Now I’m back home.  Do I just throw away these mud-infused clothes?  It is going to be a little work but your clothes are completely salvageable.  Here is my three step process:  1. Lay everything out on your driveway or parking lot and spray it with a full-blast hose.  Get all the chunks and piles out.  Take the insoles out of your boots before you spray them so you have access to all the nooks and crannies.  2.  Fill a big bucket with hot water and soak all that stuff.  I put Oxyclean in with ours.  Amazing how much more dirt comes off right?  3.  Assuming nothing feels gritty anymore, I put everything but the boots in the washing machine.  I wash them until they smell clean (they will never look completely clean again) and then dry them.  This may take two trips through the washing machine.  4.  I wash the boots separately from the clothes making sure that the insoles are separate from the boots.  Our dryer has a little shelf attachment so I can set the boots in there to dry without them tumbling.  I keep the heat on medium to try and prevent any of the boot glue from releasing.  When they are mostly dry I take them out to air dry the rest of the way.

Will I ever get all of this dirt off/out of my body?  Believe it or not, it will be easier to clean your clothes.  Expect to have dirt in your ears and under your toenails even after you shower.  It is just one more funny thing to talk about with your teammates when you see them next.

Jason’s Mud Run Checklist
Training
1.  Running is the key to a fast time.
2.  Run hills or stairs.
3.  Upper body and core exercises will help but are secondary.

Equipment
1.  Head – if vision is good then nothing – if vision is bad then disposable contacts
2.  Chest – water shedding polyester technical T – Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, etc.
3.  Legs – long durable water shedding pants – 100% nylon hiking pants with mesh pockets – maybe a belt – REI Outlet, Gander Mountain, etc.
4.  Socks – non-cotton – slightly taller than boots – REI, Black Creek Outfitters, etc.
5.  Boots – over the ankle lightweight aggressive lug – Rack Room Shoes, Target, etc.
6.  Team Name and logo – screen print it – think about it before you go online to register
7.  Sunscreen – waterproof
8.  Plastic bag – garbage bag big enough and strong enough to hold your soaking wet gear
9.  Change of clothes – everything (underwear, socks, shoes, etc)
10.  Two crappy towels – one to dry off with – one to sit on for the ride home.
11.  Glasses and eye rinse stuff – after the race toss the contacts, rinse your eyes, wear your glasses

Other Tips

  1. Give your equipment a test run before the race.  Get it wet if you are hardcore.
  2. Have a training plan that allows you to rest two days before the race.
  3. Don’t eat high fat or fiber foods the night before the race.
  4. Have all of your equipment tested and laid out the night before the event.
  5. Look at results from the previous year to get an idea of where you might finish in your heat.
  6. Don’t eat once you are within an hour or two of your start time.
  7. Have your mobile phone with you until you meet your team.
  8. Meet your team at an off-site location and ride to the race together.
  9. Slob on your sunscreen.
  10. Get to the race an hour before the event.
  11. Drink some water about 30 minutes before you run.
  12. Line up according to where you think you’ll finish in your heat.
  13. Have a friend photograph you before, during and after the race.
  14. This is not a serious event.  Remain upbeat and have fun.
  15. Don’t be afraid to cheer for other teams and help them during the race.
  16. Drink beer and eat.
  17. Hose, soak and wash your clothes and boots.
  18. Tell war stories of the race and prepare for next year.

You can find all of my other mud run articles here.