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Krispy Kreme Challenge - Run, Eat, Run

State 2 - North Carolina

snow 28 °F

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Well, it was inevitable. I didn't want it to be the first state to cross off the list, but honestly, I knew it was going to be the easiest. Since I am currently living in North Carolina, I was bound to do something unique eventually. One thing for certain, the Krispy Kreme Challenge is definitely an unique experience.

For those of you not living in the southeast US, or in one of the 20+ other countries where Krispy Kreme operates, let me tell you what you are missing. Krispy Kreme makes quick-rise yeast donuts, most commonly served glazed. These donuts are fantastic, but their taste is not the best part. Krispy Kreme stores are known for the "HOT Donuts NOW" sign, which draws people like moths to a light. When this sign is lit up, it means that the donuts are coming off the line fresh and hot, and they will literally melt in your mouth (mmmm, my mouth is watering a little just thinking about it). It is not uncommon to take the long way home from downtown just to check if the "HOT Donuts NOW" sign is on.

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The Krispy Kreme Challenge is a charity race through downtown Raleigh that raises money for the North Carolina Children's Hospital. The race starts at the belltower on NC State University, continues to the Krispy Kreme, and then winds back to the belltower. The Krispy Kreme Challenge is a very challenging race, few who enter actually complete the challenge. The challenging part isn't the distance (a little over 4 miles) or the course layout (only a few moderate hills), but is in the task awaiting the competitor once they reach Krispy Kreme. After running 2 miles, the racer must finish a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, and then run 2 miles back. The race must be run in under an hour, no vomiting allowed.

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The race was started in 2004 as a group of friends met at the belltower to complete their self created challenge. The campus newspaper reported on the event, and later it was named #85 in the top 102 More Things You Gotta Do Before You Graduate by Sports Illustrated. The next year the event was held to raise money for the Children's Hospital, and has grown substantially each year. The 2010 race was capped at 6,000 participants due to space limitations.

This year, my friends and I decided we were going to participate. Only a few signed up as "Competitors" (those who will attempt to eat all 12 donuts and complete the race in 60 minutes), the rest of us signed up as "Participants" (those who run the course and receive 12 donuts to eat at their own pace). A lot of people show up in costumes, as this is regarded as a "fun" event instead of a "competitive" event (although there are cash prizes). Our group decided to come dressed in all black with pink headbands so that we would stand out. We were far from the most outrageously dressed.

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At 8:00 am the racers lined up in front of the belltower as snow started to fall. The gun sounded and we were off. Everyone started off ambitiously, moving quickly down Hillsborough Street. I saw people running with their dogs, I saw people running in speedos (only), and I saw the race mascot (a guy with an innertube strapped on top of his head). Our group began to split as the competitors sped off to the front of the pack, and the quicker paced participants steadily moved further in front of the rest of the group. We all met again at the half way point at Krispy Kreme. The eager and smiling faces I had seen at the starting line had been replaced by looks of pure torture. Trying to eat 12 donuts at once proved to be a grueling ordeal. Participants were staring at donuts 8-12 with disgust. A number of strategies were being employed to force the donuts down. Some participants squashed them all together so that they were only eating one very dense donut, while others brushed as much glaze off as possible and washed the donuts down with a cup of water. I ate a couple donuts, and then began to make my way back to the belltower holding the rest of the dozen in my hand. The race back was not too difficult for me, but judging by the partially digested donuts I saw laying in the street (and the retching and splattering sound heard occassionally behind me), others did not fare as well.

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I waved to my sister, dad, and dog (they were spectating) as I got close to the finish line. I met up with the rest of my group, and together we touched the belltower in the symbolic gesture to complete the race. Two of our group completed the challenge, the rest supported a great cause. The proceeds from the race are expected to surpass $50,000, a great donation to the Children's Hospital. The real winners are the children at the hospital, but I also consider myself a winner (I mean, I did get a dozen donuts).

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Posted by Mike.Flynn 08:32 Archived in USA Tagged event local_food Comments (0)

Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras

sunny 73 °F

Even though Ash Wednesday was two weeks ago, Australia is having their annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. It was also Jason's last night in Australia, and we couldn't think of any better way to send him on his way.

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The parade wound through downtown before eventually making its way to Kings Cross (the red light district in Sydney). The streets were absolutely swamped with people, most dressed in scandalous costumes. Everyone seemed headed in one direction, straight for the parade. Following the crowd, we eventually found the parade path. Since people were lined 10 deep to watch the parade, most had brought milk crates or stools to stand on for better views. Dawn found an abandoned stool while Jason, Will, and I squeezed in to take a peek.

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Music blared from floats as people danced through the streets. Heaps of people, both in the parade and the spectators, were dressed in drag. Rainbow flags were everywhere. It seemed that each float tried to be even more flamboyant that its predecessor. A lady next to me seemed to know someone from each float and received several hugs and kisses. Here are some shots (notice the guy walking in only a G-String, the gay marriage promotion by the Gay Catholics, and the Mature Age Gay bus).

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Pictures don't really do the parade justice. Thankfully Dawn also got some video footage. The first video is a group of dancers, but make sure to look for the two girls dressed as halves of the Earth that come together to make a whole planet at the end.

The next video is one of the percussion groups that came by.

The last video I'm posting shows a group of hula hoopers. Enjoy.

Shortly before midnight the end of the parade passed us by. Having seen enough, we left downtown and started bar hopping back to Glebe. We ended up stopping at the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel for the majority of our drinks (on the other side of Darling Harbor from the parade). However, as the night passed, the crowd started getting much more colorful. After figuring out that a guy had been standing at the middle urinal for over an hour (I guess doing a little sight seeing), we decided it was time to move on again. The Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was definitely an unique experience, but not exactly something I'd look to do again.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 16:49 Archived in Australia Tagged event Comments (3)

新年快乐

sunny 105 °F

Happy New Year (in Chinese)! Sydney is celebrating the Year of the Ox. It was the last weekend of the Chinese New Year celebration, so Dawn and I went down to Darling Harbor to watch the dragon boat races.

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The Chinese New Year symbolizes many of the same things as the western new year. It is a chance to start fresh and look forward to peace and prosperity in the coming year. The Chinese New Year is celebrated by families coming together and sharing meals, decorating (hanging lanterns and using the color red liberally), and giving packets of money to the younger family members.

Sydney put together a 3 week celebration for the Chinese New Year. This year, Australia Day and the Chinese New Year fell on the same day, January 26th. We missed the first night because of the Australia Day party, and then we were in Fiji for the big parade. There was no way I was going to miss out on all the festivities, we had one last chance. So after church Dawn and I headed down to check out the final event, the dragon boat races.

Dragon boats look like long and narrow canoes. The boat is propelled by people paddling (not rowing) in a synchronized movement. There are around 20 paddlers, a person in the rear steering (like on a white water raft), and one drummer keeping everyone in rhythm. The boats were decorated with dragon heads at the front and dragon tails at the back. A large drum was strapped towards the front of the boat for the drummer to use.

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There were different classes of races at the Sydney Dragon Boat races. There was a junior class, corporate teams, and competitive teams. There was not a monetary prize, just something fun for people to do together. Heats were run every 10 minutes, so the action was non-stop for 2 days. The racers started in the middle of Darling Harbor and frantically raced towards the spectator end of the harbor. An announcer called out the winners and the winning boat would take a victory lap as the crowd congratulated them with applause.

The specific races we saw had to do with breast cancer awareness. All the racers were survivors of breast cancer and teams had come from every major city in Australia. After the final heat, the boats picked up additional cancer survivors and met in the middle of the harbor to perform the Flower Ceremony. Originating in Canada, the Flower Ceremony is a way for everyone to remember those who were lost to breast cancer (it was especially touching with the recent passing of Kay Yow). The boats all linked together and as the crowd observed a moment of silence, flowers were dumped in the water for those that had been lost.

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Figuring we had seen enough boat races, Dawn and I wandered through the rest of the Chinese Peace Garden towards Chinatown. There were representations of all the animal zodiacs. The dragon, dog, ram, cock, etc were all present. After snapping a picture with the ox, Dawn and I moved further into the park. I got really excited, before us was the longest dragon I had ever seen.

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A ceremony was taking place, so I patiently waited for the performance to begin. Half of the ceremony was in Chinese, but I did pick up that this was the longest performing dragon in the southern hemisphere. We didn't have to wait too long, after a few minutes the music started and the dragon started its dance. Dawn caught part of it on video. Watch at the end of the video, three little kids have a dragon of their own that dances next to the big dragon.

Dawn was starting to get sunburnt, so we made our way back home. We had plans to go snorkeling at Clovelly Beach, and since it was one of the hottest days all year, I couldn't wait to get in the water.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 05:44 Archived in Australia Tagged event Comments (0)

Australia Day

rain 75 °F

January 26th is Australia Day, a day of national pride that commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, the unfurling of the British flag at Sydney Cove, and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia.

Australia Day is analogous to the 4th of July, a day off work intended to be spent drinking a beer, lighting fireworks, and grilling out. Our friend Rob was having a party and invited us to come along. It was slightly ironic that we were going to an Australia Day party hosted by two Americans, but it was going to be a good time. Rob also had an awesome view of Darling Harbor from his apartment (the harbor is where the TV announcers, dancers, and fireworks were going to be). Here's a picture of Rob and Dawn.

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We went to Pyrmont (next suburb over from Glebe) and walked up to Rob's apartment. After picking up some of the finger food that had been laid out, I made my way out onto the patio to check out the view. I knew then that we had come to the right place for an Australia Day party, the largest grill I had seen in Australia lay waiting on the balcony. Rob had tray upon tray of uncooked meat, my mouth began to water.

Later in the evening (after several beers, a piece of steak AND a piece of chicken, and a piece of buttered bread with sprinkles on it), we claimed our spot on the balcony to see the fireworks. A boat parade preceded several dance routines on a floating barge, the national anthem was sung, and the fireworks were let loose. It was a good show, but I was glad I could witness it from the dry balcony as a light rain began to fall.

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After the fireworks, the rest of the party began watching the Australian Open tennis event. Andy, Jeff, Dawn, and I lingered on the patio to take in the view and enjoy the cool air. The last week had been broiling in Sydney, temperatures staying in the 90s & 100s around the clock. Hoping that the cooler air was also cooling the inside of our apartment back home, I looked forward to not sleeping in a puddle of sweat.

PS - Before someone rails me for not having lamb on Australia Day, I think I had some pig-in-a-blankets made from lamb sausage.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 17:13 Archived in Australia Tagged event Comments (1)

Sydney Festival First Night

sunny 85 °F

Australia Day is coming, which is a huge day here in Australia. The actual day is not until January 26th, but there is a 15 day celebration here in Sydney leading up to the holiday called the Sydney Festival. I'll go into more about Australia Day in a later post, but in short it marks the day the British colonization of Australia began in 1788. The Sydney Festival is a series of concerts and performances around the city every night leading up to Australia Day. The First Night event was free, so Dawn, Andy, and I went down to check it out.

Festival First Night is held in Sydney’s downtown (known as the Central Business District), across its streets, laneways, and parks. There are seven zones, each with stages hosting live acts and DJs. They literally closed all the roads for several blocks and set up stages around each corner. Some stages were in parks, but most were plopped right in the middle of streets. The amount of people was staggering, I guess the free events brings everyone out in any country.

We walked to Martin Place, one of the zones that seemed to have the most action (and where a lot of the scenes from the Matrix were filmed). We stumbled into a group of guys do some break dancing (they all sported MLB hats, Cincinnati was of course represented). I had thought this was just a series of concerts, but looking more closely at the information I had picked up, I saw that the theme of the festival was "Dance" (despite most of the events being concerts). I flipped through the performers on the various days and saw that there were people and groups from all over the world performing here. I didn't recognize any of them, but that didn't mean that they aren't well known to those who actually are well versed in music.

Things still weren't quite rolling at Martin Place, so we headed over to the Domain (where we sang the carols) to wait for Grace Jones's performance. We ran into some friends, chatted for a little over an hour, and then decided to head back to Martin Place to see if things had picked up. Techno (known here as House Music) was blaring on one corner and we saw a percussion show getting ready to start on another. We got prime locations for the percussion performance (which looked like a pirate ship made out of pipes) and waited for the show to start.

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The show was a lot of percussion mixed with pyromania. Flames were used to create sounds in some of the pipes while other people played on drums and the remaining pipes. It was pretty cool. It lasted about 30 minutes and we continued walking down Martin Place. We saw another dance routine from some high school age girls that used special lights to project their images on the walls of the buildings. By now the crowds were getting very large and there still wasn't a whole lot going on. Andy, Dawn, and I decided that we had seen enough and decided to grab a beer. On the way out, we were able to see the "Sydney Dance."

Someone had thought it would be a great idea to get the whole city to do a coordinated dance at 9pm. I had wondered why I kept seeing videos of the dance until an announcement came out telling everyone it was time to "Do the Sydney." It was really our time to leave, take a look at the video that was playing all day and you'll see what I mean.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 04:56 Archived in Australia Tagged event Comments (1)

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