Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hemingway Days and The Most Brutal 5K EVER...

Jason and I had the chance to visit Key West this past weekend. Believe it or not, after slightly over 4 years living in South Florida, we have yet to visit Key West...this was our first excursion.

We went to take part in "Hemingway Days", a 5-day celebration/festival that includes contests and festivals, a HUGE 3-day marlin fishing tournament, and a 5K race around the island.

We stayed in the Douglas House, an absolutely CHARMING boutique inn right on the corner of Duval and Amelia streets. We arrived LATE Friday night, and woke up at the crack of dawn to begin exploring Key West. Our first stop was the obligatory photo op of Southernmost Point. Here we were able to not only get our picture, but see several Key West staples...rampant chickens, guys in drag, and elderly Cubans screaming: "Asesino!!" across the water towards Fidel.

It was only 9am, and already sweltering. As I locked my bike, sweat literally dropped from my face in make-up had already worn off, and my shirt was plastered to my back. I was already nervous about the upcoming 5K race I would be running in 10-and-a-half hours...

Next stop was the Ernest Hemingway House. This was AMAZING...I learned so many colorful and unique stories about this prolific American author, who actually completed most of his works here in Key West. I would love to share all these amazing stories with you...but the post would be immense.

One of the things Hemingway was famous for was his cats. He had received a polydactyl cat as a gift from a captain of a wrecker. Hemingway believed these cats, who are exceptional mousers, thanks to their additional toes, were good luck. He collected and bred them. They are featured in MANY pieces of artwork around the house...including an original sculpture given to Hemingway by his good friend, Pablo Picasso, who knew of his love for these cats.

(That sculpture has it's own very real, and immensely tragic, story.)

Today, more than 44 cats live at Hemingway House, and they are known the world over as "Hemingways".

Most of the 44 are polydactyls...just like our beloved cat Jay...who somewhere down his feline family tree is related to the famous first cats of Hemingway.

After the museum, we rode our bikes down Duval Street to Hemingways favorite watering hole, Sloppy Joes...where we had conch fritters, Sloppy Joes, and several gallons of water while waiting for the "Papa Hemingway Look-a-Like" contest and the "Running of the Bulls" race/event that took place just outside the bar.

I even managed to get a picture astride one of the hobby-horse "bulls" with two "Papa Hemingway" contestants.

By now it was mid-afternoon, and the heat was really taking it's toll. Both Jason and I were literally soaked to the skin and feeling the drain of heat and we rode back to the Douglas House and changed into our swimsuits and cooled off in the pool. We also stepped around the corner to share a piece of Key Lime pie...figuring it would be indecent to visit Key West without sampling that particular treat.

We tried to keep cool and rest the remainder of the afternoon, venturing out only to get our race packets and a light bite of soup and salad. At 7pm, we headed back down to Southernmost Point for the 5K.

It was still sweltering.

There wasn't a large group of racers, and looking around, it was obvious that most of them were seasoned runners. I guess you'd have to be pretty dedicated to drive all the way down to Key West to run a 5K in 93 degree weather with a 66% humidity.

I knew within the first half-mile I was in trouble. Earlier in the week, Jason and I had run a "mock" 5K...running casually and not racing, per se...but timing ourselves all the same. On that day, I ran a 10:14 best time yet...and I wasn't even working that hard. t was an almost 2 minute improvement over my last race pace taken on July 4th when I ran the Westin 5K. I was confidant about my abilities.

Alas...although we ran through beautiful, shaded, and historically interesting neighborhoods, I had little strength to look around and enjoy my surroundings. I felt sapped and energy drained. As it ended, I ran a an 11:14 minute mile, making my time improvement from my last time by about 45 seconds. Although an improvement is, I feel, might be more telling to share my place stats. I'm used to being in the "middle" of the competitors and age group racers...neither being the worst, or the best, runner.

But in this race, which had the smallest amount of participants of any race I have yet run, I came in at 302 out of 401, and 24th out of 30 racers in my age group. Ouch...

Nevertheless...I DID improve my time, and in conditions that I felt were extremely I'm going to call it a win.

After the race...we didn't hang around...and headed straight for the blessed air conditioning and an ICE COLD shower. After the shower, we had tickets to go on a haunted ghost tour of Key West, supposedly the fourth most haunted city in the United States. The tour included a visit to the museum that holds Key Wests' most creepy resident...Robert the Doll.

A doll supposedly imbued with dark voodoo magic that has wrecked havoc in the lives of all who possess him. I was the only one brave enough to "ask" the dolls permission to take photos. While I spoke with him, the girl next to me, who was holding an EMF reader, let out a gasp...her reader was fluctuating all over the place.

When I had finished photographing Robert, it calmed down again. This made the other people on the tour EXTREMELY spooked, although Jason and I took it as "all good fun". I am, as far as I know, the only person to get photos of Robert that night from our I guess it's pretty interesting.

We walked home from the tour, drinking in the insane night life that infects Duval street as the hours tick closer to midnight. Too tired to hang out and party, we went straight back to the Douglas House and gratefully climbed into bed. We had to get up VERY early the next morning so we could drive home and Jason could go back to work.

We had a lovely time on our mini-vacation...and hope to return to Key West again someday, hopefully with the kids.

No comments: