Monday, January 4, 2016

The Joys of Being a Recruit (UK and FU)

To have been the biggest Tennessee basketball fan ever when I was younger, you would think that I would never ever consider going to Kentucky.  Things change.  UT sports are rather disappointing right now, and Kentucky is pretty good.  Lexington is fun, too! 

For those who know my love for running, Furman wasn't so much of a surprise that they were in my top three.

Alabama was #4, but after visiting in the summer and doing some other considering, the school was great, but God just kept popping up little signs that is wasn't for me.

Florida State rounded out my top 5, and the coach even came to visit me over the summer!  It seemed like a great place to be, too, but being such a large school, the team was a bit too large for my preferences.

These were all great experiences that I'll remember as being part of the most fun times of my life, so even though these schools are not where I'll be for college, I am so thankful that I got to go!  This is a rare experience that so few kids ever get, and I feel really blessed that I got the opportunity.

Here's a look into all the fun that we had!

On the first night at Kentucky, we went to the dorms first to clean up and get my things settled. The RA for their hall had made these signs to go outside each girls' doors. My host was Devynn.
This is her room!  Kentucky has the best college dorms that I've ever seen. These aren't for special treatment; these are for everyone, complete with a tempur pedicure bed. I slept well while I was there. 
I also thought it was awesome that Devynn was from Colorado!  I love that place. Also to brag on her, she was on a team that got to compete in Nike Cross Nationals as a top team almost every year!
This is a panoramic shot of the shared part of the dorm. From left to right is the sinks and mirror, bathroom, table and chairs, bedroom entrances, fridge and microwave, kitchen sink and counter area
We grabbed a quick bite to eat at this cool little place called The Local Taco. It goes without saying that they get most of their ingredients locally, but I'll say it just in case. It was really good and fun, and I've found a couple more that are in places I may get to go again!
Fun fact: that night UK was playing Florida, so they had a special, alligator taco made with real, fresh alligator.
Our first festivity of the trip was the football game!  Beforehand, all sports recruits for the weekend got special passes to go down on the field during warm ups. It's an awesome view from down there!
That's a lot of blue. But it's a pretty blue!  (And thanks to Abby Mitchell for loaning me the jacket and Grace Purgason for the champs)
Now this was a beautiful view.  


After the game we went to get some ice cream!  Graeter's is on the list of the top 20 ice cream shops in America, and I would probably agree. 

Move this up next to the other tall ice cream. 
3 scoops by 3 flavors!  Caramel Truffle, Dark Chocolate Truffle, and Mint Chocolate Chip. 
Here again I was the feature of someone's snapchat story.
The next morning we ran from campus. There were some really cool houses and places around town that I got to see!  The neighborhoods were nice and most of them pretty fancy. I must mention that we ran past Coach K's house. No big deal. (As that sounds really cliché)
After the run we grabbed some breakfast to go from The Great Bagel, one of the area's most popular spots. Yes they have bagels, but there are other things too!  One of their most famous items is actually the orange juice (that's what Devynn has^). It must be good because just that size cup above was over $6. It's completely fresh squeezed from the oranges though, so it takes about 6 oranges or so just to make that one cup!
I got lucky with my timing; they had just gotten the seasonal pumpkin spice cream cheese in stock the day before!
That afternoon we met with the coaches in their offices and took a tour of the athletic facilities. Here are some hot tubs and underwater treadmills.
I took this picture especially for my youth pastor, Rob Walters, the biggest Kentucky fan I've ever met.
Their track is so nice!  He blue color makes it really unique, too.  They also have an indoor track, also blue, with a mondo surface.

This is Karina who was on her visit the same time!  She is from near Chicago, so now I've spread my running friends farther north and to a new state!  That's another fun thing about college and running. 

Next we tried on some gear!  Don't I make a great thug?
Academic tour. 6-story white marble library. Huge. I had to take a panoramic sideways to fit it all in.  Fancy. Laptops, computers, study stations everywhere. So many shelves there are even buttons to move them around!  And what is a college library without a Starbucks?  This one, however, is bigger than most individual stores.
Did we stay in a hotel?  No. But it looked like it. This is the lobby and check in desk. Each floor also has a lobby at the end of the hallway.
Dinner that night was at The Jefferson Davis Inn restaurant where we had a whole floor/room reserved!  
In Devynn's words, "Take advantage of all the free food you can get; that's one of the best parts of official visits." I totally agree and lived by that on all 3 of my visits. 
Steak it was.
Dessert again!  Orange Leaf has always been on my bucket list, and I finally got some!  And this one was even better because they have a $6 price limit on their cups!  Orange Leaf is also preferred by me and my mom because the have a partnership with No Kid Hungry. 
Another fun fact from this shop: some of their toppings are from a local lady who own and homemakes sweet treats!  One of those was my favorite topping, that pretty little ball thing on the side of the one in the cup.
The next morning, the team had a workout, which recruits aren't allowed to do, per NCAA rules, but we could go and watch and run on our own. Running on a golf course is an awesome surface because it's so clean cut!
It was beautiful, too, so I took my phone as I went exploring.
Trees, ponds, paths, and even a next door neighborhood kept me more than amused for my Monday long run.

Surprise!  I saw two pugs. Made my morning.

Monday's brunch was my favorite meal of the trip!  We are at First Watch, a small chain restaurant that also has a couple more that I'll go to again one day, including Knoxville and Nashville!  They also use a lot of local and fresh ingredients!  Everything looked so delicious, it was really hard to choose what I wanted to eat!
Their coffee cups were bigger and better than most restaurants, complete with flavored creamer and pure cane sugar.

My order: egg in a whole with chicken sausage and kale, fresh fruit on the side, syrup on top. Yes, this was a menu item. I did not put it together. See mom?  Other people in the world like chicken sausage and kale, too.
We finished up the morning meeting the academic advisors and a couple professors who gave us a tour of all the study and tutoring options available (and required for athletes).
The class I attended this visit was nutrition!  The teacher was great and the class interesting. This one was lecture-style in a nice room with comfy seats.
After our final talking with coaches and saying goodbye to my new friend, Mom, Dad, and I went out to late lunch/early dinner at another place on (now off) my list: Qdoba!  In case you didn't know, Mexican places like this are one of my all time favorites. Qdoba, Moe's, Salsarita's, etc are basically all the same just with a couple of their unique things, and I love em. 

Finally, we stopped in Orange Leaf to take advantage of those $6 limited cups! A long ride home calls for a sweet treat. 

Now a couple months later and several hours in the opposite direction...
My last official visit was to a familiar place, Furman. Since I had gone to camp there the past two summers, I was excited to get to catch back up with some friends that I had made as well as make new ones both high school girls and college runners.  
This visit was a bit different from the other two, since we didn't stay on campus, but rather in a hotel. That way we had plenty of room and both recruits and runners could get better sleep with championship season starting. My roommates were actually girls I already knew!  Jennifer and Anna had both been to camp and a couple races with me. We each had little goodie bags waiting on us when we checked in!
Courtyard Marriots are always nice hotels, and this was no accepting. Being downtown was also fun and convienient. We could just walk to several of the restaurants we are at or get in some miles on the swamp rabbit trail!  I love that thing. It's over 20 miles through Greenville of paved or squishy surface trail that is surrounded with beautiful scenery, shops, and even some special places only accessible by the trail.
I am an explorer. New experiences and taking pictures of things that fascinate me along the way are one of my favorite things. That made this fall extra fun for me, because I got to do that all the time.
Another snapchat feature!
Sunday morning was the first real thing we did together. We drove just over the border to beautiful Tuxedo Lake for our run. The team has a former runner who owns a cabin over there and let's them use it all the time, so that's where we parked to start and finish. The trail/road is fine gravel, one of my favorite running surfaces. It goes on and on around the lake with amazing scenery, houses, and lake property. You should look it up.
While we were running, a couple of the coaches went kayaking! (Photo credits Coach Rita's snapchat)
This waterfall was right next to the team cabin. Couldn't pass up the photo op.
Between the lake run and brunch had a bit of extra time but only one shower, so while some showered, other hopped down to the swamp rabbit trail! (Punny?) under the bridge at the trail entrance from our road, there was a little park area where I found this homemade chicken coop that made me smile...and think of Katlyn and her chickens.
I definitely got in some new experiences on this trip!  Many restaurants in this area offer a brunch buffet either daily or on certain days of the week. I had never seen such a thing, but I was in foodie paradise!  (Coach Rita told me beforehand that foodies like us will love Greenville.)  Brunch on Sunday was at Soby's.  (By the way, if you want to see what some of the brunch items are, I just found this list from the website while I was adding the links.)
One side was food-food and the other side was all desserts. A huge made-to-order omelette and waffle bar was also downstairs!
It's a buffet, so I had to get samples of most things before going back to get more of my favorites. We weren't sure what all of it was, but it was gooooddd. Of course I love my veggies all flavored up, shrimp with seasoning, egg and squash casserole, some things not-so-sure of (but tasty), and fresh fruit!
Parents, coaches, runners, and recruits just kept making trips for seconds, thirds, fourths, etc. 
We didn't know what all the desserts were either, but the were heavenly. Conviently all in miniature dishes, we could sample first!  The fancy little cups were probably my favorite. One was some kind of carry cake with cinnamon cream cheese icing I think, and the other was an espresso mousse with some icing and a bean on top!  And how cute is that little pumpkin pie!?  The other little thing was a huge hit with everyone, yet no one knew what it was. However, now I know that it was creme brûlée. We also had some hot, gooey, brownie that was actually more like pudding it was so melty!
Caramel filled dark chocolate turtle truffle. Fancy.
Back at Furman we went on the campus tour next. The Rose garden is one of the "famous" places on campus.
We had already seen the regular dorms since we had been there at camp, but some of the girls live in the larger dorms, so we went to visit them!
Emma and Jacquelyn had a fish!  The rug was homemade from race shirts!  Each hall had a theme, one of them being wild animals, so that comic was on someone's door!  This friendly note also reminded me of some team friends back home.
That night we explored more things around town!  Greenville is a big outdoorsy area, so there are waterfalls, parks, and plants everywhere!  This is one bridge we walked over.
This was at Falls Park, no explanation of the name necessary.
Next we split up into a few cars and headed to Frankie's Fun Park to act like children. How ironic that the guy in the middle of the back seat is named Frank--no joke!  
Laser tag for game #1!  After that, we went outside and rode go-carts!  I'm not a very fast driver, but at least I didn't wreck. It was pretty sad, though, that my feet didn't even reach the pedals. I had to slouch in the seat and stretch to reach them!
Last stop of the night was Allie's cabin. She is one of the lucky few on campus who get to live in the sustainability cabins, which are AWESOME!  They have tons of room and are really nice. They come with extra responsibilities, hence "sustainability," but I would say it is worth it and very enjoyable. Most of the guys and girls team came, and we had a great time hanging out and sharing about college running.
Another Furman tradition is pazookie!  Madison made them for us all. It's not-quite-baked cookie dough, served still warm fresh out of the oven with ice cream.
Austin was one of my group counsellors at camp last summer, and I was so excited that he was back as one of the hosts for our visit!  It was great to have him as someone there that I have so much in common with: running obviously, Jesus, crazy socks, sleep, a communications major, and even wanting the same type job!  Running brings awesome friends into your life.
Allie was one of my counselors during the summer, too, so we got a Group 2 reunion photo!
I also have to branch on Allie because she's awesome. During high school, she was a killer basketball player, and that's actually what she planned on continuing to do. She ran cross country, but was no faster than me right now. Now she is an all-American!  Once she started running in college, she just improved tremendously!  At this year's NCAA National Championships, she placed 7th!  I was so excited to see that!  And she's still got another year left.
The last morning we hit another super-cool place for breakfast. I would love to eat here off the menu one day!  It's a farm-to-table place with tons of fresh and flavorful ingredients and menu items.
This outdoor seating thing Greenville has everywhere is also right up my alley.
Roost's breakfast was a buffet again!  I love this stuff!  They also had made-to-order omelettes with these fancy little cards so it is exactly the way you want it. 

Pretty chalk boards with specials and other fun stuff about the place
This one was just a girls morning!

Next up was class. Another girl and I went to sociology with one of the girls.
Meet Cory Leslie, team USA steeplechaser. I thought I should definitely take a picture considering that he's an a pro and in one of my events at that!
Finally we got to check out all the athletic facilities like the training rooms, pools, zero-gravity treadmills, weight room, labs, etc. 

It was a packed weekend for sure, but I had a great time with all these new experiences!

I've made so many new friends throughout this recruiting process, and hope to keep up with them. We still all text and snapchat and encourage each other from all across the country-the already-college runners and us still in high school!  Some of us are ending up together and some not, but we all have running in common. I'm so thankful for all that this fall had taught me and given me.  It's been the most fun season of my life so far!  Thank you all for everything that you've done for me!  
Another thing that this fall has got me excited for, is that I'll kinda get to do this over and over again, just from the other side.  I've always thought that it would be awesome to have people come stay with me so I could cook and care for them a bit and just share some of the things that I get to experience and enjoy, and when I'm in college, I'll get to do that for the girls that my team brings in!

Go Cats, go Dins, and go Bisons!