Guest Post: That Time I Joined the Gym, Then Quit, Then Joined, Then Quit, Then Joined…

When it comes to joining gyms (and quitting them), I have quite the lengthy history. In fact, it goes a little something like this…

  1. In high school, I joined a gym. I quit the gym because I was headed to college.
  2. I went to college and worked out (a wee once in a while) in the fitness center.
  3. I graduated, moved home, and joined a new gym.
  4. I fell in love with spinning at said gym and religiously went to classes three time a week. I bought the shoes, the shorts, the whole lot. I was owning it.
  5. I quit the gym because I was moving away.
  6. I moved to Hoboken (with my then-boyfriend, would-be fiancé, would-be husband) and joined a gym. I loved it for awhile, especially one specific yoga class and teacher.
  7. I got engaged.
  8. I hired a personal trainer to get ripped and ready for my wedding dress.
  9. I got married. I went on my honeymoon.
  10. I came home and joined a different gym.
  11. My husband and I were moving to the suburbs so I quit the Hoboken gym and joined a gym in the ‘burbs.
  12. I got frustrated that I wasn’t going enough, so I quit that gym.
  13. I joined a cheaper gym.
  14. We got sick of the suburbs and moved back to Hoboken.
  15. I rejoined the Hoboken gym.
  16. I went pretty regularly for awhile and tried my hand at the various fitness classes.
  17. I grew frustrated.
  18. I stopped going.
  19. I quit the gym.
  20. I started purchasing various online vouchers for gyms and workout studios in the area. I had a blast redeeming them. I’d found my thing.
  21. I used up my vouchers so I joined rejoined the gym I’d quit a couple times before.
  22. I quit that gym again.
  23. I did a one-week trial at a new gym. I loved it. I loved it so much that I locked myself into a year-long membership.
  24. I don’ t love it anymore.
  25. And now I want to quit.

Also weaved in there were short-lived stints with running. But really, who’s counting?

I ran in the Phillips 5K the first year. I was slow, but heck, I finished!

I ran in the Phillips 5K the first year. I was slow, but heck, I finished!

I don’t mean to be hard on myself here, but man, that’s a lot of quitting. Looking at this list, I really have to laugh, too. It’s such a hilarious cycle. Each time I put my John Hancock on a gym contract, I really and truly believe in my heart of hearts that THIS IS THE ONE! And then I have a change of heart…

My latest fitness interest is hot yoga (there’s something quite fascinating about sweating, dripping, get absolutely drenched alongside 20 strangers). Who knows how long this interest in yoga will last, but I do have to figure out what I’m doing here (I can’t keep dropping money on one-off yoga classes when I’m still locked into about 9 more months at my gym.) As it stands, I Google “how to get out of a gym membership” daily.

So, yeah. When it comes to fitness, dedicated I am not. Will I ever get there? Your guess is as good as mine.

Oh, and sometimes I hike. Here's a snapshot of Sharon (left) and me (right) last summer.

Oh, and sometimes I hike. Here’s a snapshot of Sharon (left) and me (right) last summer.

Now I’ll tell you about something I AM dedicated to: Helping good people do good things. And “doing good” is exactly what my dear friend Sharon Phillips is accomplishing with the Christopher and Susan Phillips Foundation. This very special Foundation was started by Sharon in 2011 to honor her mother Susan (64) and brother Chris (27), both lost within days of each other from two separate cardiac-related events.

The Foundation hosts some fabulous fundraisers each year to help provide scholarships for students of Jonathan Dayton High School (the alma mater of the entire Phillips family) and Trinitas Nursing School (where Chris was studying to be a nurse).

Next month, on May 31st, the Foundation will host its 4th annual Phillips 5K/10K Run/Walk. This special event will take place at Lewis Morris Park in Morristown, NJ — and 100% of the race proceeds will benefit the Foundation and go toward future scholarships.

I’ll be there like every year, cheering participants on from the behind the microphone and helping to present ribbons to the fastest finishers. The day isn’t just about speed, though. It’s also about taking a few hours on a spring morning to come out and remember two lives well lived, two lives lost too soon.

Come be part of this special day. For additional details about the 5K/10K and to register online (pre-registration guarantees you a cool wicking t-shirt!) visit http://www.phillips5k.org.

So that’s where I’ll be on May 31st. Until then, I’ll be feverishly trying to get out of my gym membership. I’ll also be spending quality time with dear friends like Sharon — because when it comes to my friendship with her, I’ll NEVER call it quits.

Jodi Rigotti is the Senior Editor at Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace for teachers to buy and sell their original lesson plans and other course materials. Her hobbies include cooking, exercising sporadically, and being nicer than some say is necessary. She currently lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband (and college sweetheart), Dan.

Guest post: My first 15K and my first runiversary

Next week will mark the first anniversary of when I decided to get serious about running. Before last April, I had never run more than 22.5 miles in a month. Starting with last April, I’ve run at least 50 miles every month.

In fact, I’ve run about 1,200 miles since I decided to become a runner last April. And I’ve run in 10 races. The last of those 10 races was at the end of March: the Spring Forward Distance Run 15K in Mendon Ponds Park, which I ran with Chick Vic and a few other members of our informal running group.

The course at Mendon Ponds Park varies depending on the distance of the race, but it’s always hilly. Very hilly. The kind of course where when you crest a hill, you frequently see a downhill followed immediately by another big uphill. You hear all sorts of comments about the hills when you’re racing. “I hate these hills.” “Don’t look.” “At least we get to go down the other side.”

I love it. I don’t know why, but I’ve discovered I love hilly races. Of my 10 races, three have been at Mendon Ponds Park, and at all three races the hills have been where I’ve tracked down and passed people.

Anyway, on race day I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and went through my standard race morning routine: go to the bathroom, eat breakfast, get dressed, drive to course. The race was at 8 a.m., and I got to Mendon Ponds Park at 7 a.m. and took the shuttle to the starting area. Around 7:30 I ran into Vic and Ray and we made our way to the starting area, where we found Mark.

This was my first 15K, so I was guaranteed a PR. But I was planning to use it as a test for my upcoming half marathon, where I want a big PR. So my goal for Spring Forward was under 1:20. I planned to try to do about 8:30 miles all the way through and then see if I could pick it up even more the last mile or so.

Vic was getting over a cold, so I knew she wouldn’t be interested in trying to go really fast. Ray was doing the race as the first 9 miles of a 16-mile training day, so he didn’t want to push it either. Mark said he’d try to stick with me but warned that he was working through some discomfort and might need to back off at some point.

With our plans in place (Mark and I running together, Vic and Ray running together, and Bill starting up front en route to second place in his age group), we settled into our spots to wait for the start.

The weather was really nice for a race, which was lucky for us considering that it snowed later that day. In the morning, it was cold but not frigid. There was no rain, no sun and little wind.

Mark and I started off with an 8:14 mile and then clicked off back-to-back 8:22 miles. We were a little bit faster than we needed to be for 1:20, but I felt good. We were able to hold a conversation, so the effort wasn’t tiring us too much. Unfortunately, the hills weren’t helping Mark’s injury. On a hill just past the 5K point, Mark told me he’d see me at the finish and slowed down.

Running on my own now, I maintained a sub-8:30 pace for the next two miles (8:27 and 8:23) while enjoying the scenery. The rolling hills in the middle of country and park space make for a beautiful course, and it was nice to just take it all in.

FF1Picturesque but hilly course (Photo by Fleet Feet Rochester)

I slowed up a bit in miles 6 and 7 (8:45 and 8:49), but that didn’t bother me. I was feeling strong and I knew I still had a kick left in me. I had no concerns about hitting my 1:20 goal. I sped up a bit to 8:32 in mile 8 and then again for an 8:13 in mile 9.

In races, I don’t really care where I finish in relation to the other runners. I’m competing against myself, and I know I’m not going to place in my age group. But the other runners can be useful props as the race goes on, especially at the end.

Over the last couple miles of the race, an older runner and I had been trading places back and forth a few times. I’d generally catch him on the uphills and he’d catch me on the flats. As we made the turn toward the finish line, I decided there was nothing more important than staying ahead of him. I kicked into as close to a sprint as I could manage at that point and I could hear him pushing to catch me.

I held him off and as I approached the line I saw that the clock hadn’t hit 1:19 yet (my official chip time was 1:18:47). I took a few seconds to celebrate my personal victory, then I walked back along the finishing stretch so that I could cheer in Vic, Mark and Ray. Mark came in around 1:23 with Vic and Ray a couple minutes later. It wasn’t the fastest any of them could run, but they were all happy with their times given their personal circumstances for the day.

And really, that’s what every race is all about: Running the best race you can given whatever you’re dealing with that day.

For me, this race was huge for two reasons.

First, as I mentioned earlier, it was a test run for the Flower City Half Marathon on April 27. Flower City is a hillier course than my first half marathon, so while I know I’m faster than when I ran 1:58:38 in September, I wasn’t sure how fast I should try to go at Flower City. My time at Spring Forward, and how good I felt after the race, gave me the confidence to decide that I’m going to run with the 1:50 pacer at Flower City.

Second, this was my first race since my marathon DNF in mid-February. After how badly that race went, it was nice to set a goal, follow a plan and have everything work out perfectly. It’s been nearly two months since my DNF and I still think about it almost every day. I don’t think I’ll be able to let go of it completely until I finish a marathon, but this was a nice step forward.

And it was a nice cap to my first year of running. Despite the marathon setback, I did more in the past year than I ever thought I could. I can’t wait to find out what I’m capable of doing in my second year of running, and beyond.

Ben is a husband, father, runner and editor in Rochester, NY. He can be found on Twitter at @bjacobsroch.

Guest post: DNF does not mean failure

Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you want it to or think it will.

Last Sunday was going to be the day I ran my first marathon. I didn’t know what my time would be, or how my body would feel after it, or if I’d love the experience or hate it. But I knew I’d finish.

Except that I didn’t.

Before I get into the details of what happened Sunday, a little background. I started running in April, when I decided I wanted to run a half marathon in September. When I made that decision, I had no bigger plans than just running the half marathon, but it quickly became apparent once I started to train that I would want to run a full marathon at some point. My thinking at the time was that I’d do another half marathon this spring, then do my first full in October.

Then I ran the half marathon, and it was perfect. I ran the entire way with Chick Vic, met my goal of under two hours and helped her beat her PR by five minutes. I felt so good that I wanted to start training for a full marathon right away.

After one recovery week, I began a 20-week marathon training program that put the date for my first full in mid-February. Perfect time to go down to Florida and run a race. But just to be safe, I decided to find a backup race in case flying to Florida wouldn’t work out.

And that’s how I ended up attempting my first full marathon in upstate New York in the middle of February.

beforeraceBundled up for a chilly race

My training went very well, for the most part. I did Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 program, modified slightly to fit my schedule (and extended two weeks to add a second 20-mile run). I ran outdoors as much as possible (on the weekends and when my parents were in town and could watch my daughters), experiencing some truly uncomfortable conditions that I hoped would prepare me for whatever weather awaited on race day.

In early November, I did a 14-mile training run that included a 1:52:26 half marathon, more than six minutes faster than the race I had run in September. On my first 18-mile run, I was able to do the final six miles at an 8:19 per mile pace. Neither of my 20-mile runs felt great, but I was a lot fresher after the second one than the first one, which I considered a good sign. The only race I did during training was a hilly 7.5-miler on New Year’s Day in frigid weather, and I felt great after finishing in 1:07:22.

The Hudson Mohawk Road Racers Club Winter Marathon was an out-of-town race for me, but the logistics set up perfectly. On Saturday, I took the train to Schenectady, where I stayed with my wife’s aunt and uncle. They took me for a pasta dinner that night and had everything I’d need to get ready for the race. As a bonus, my wife’s uncle is not just a former marathoner, but a former sub-3-hour marathoner who ran Boston eight times. It was nice to be able to talk about some of his race experiences as I prepared for my first one.

Sunday morning I had a banana and a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast (I also had a gel half an hour before the race and carried four on the course with me), got all layered up for the 20-degree weather that was supposed to feel colder with the wind and then they took me to the University of Albany’s athletic campus, the site of the race’s roughly 5.5-mile loop course.

My parents, who live in western Massachusetts, drove to Albany Sunday morning and met me before the race to cheer me on and then drive me back to Rochester.

withparentsAll smiles with my parents before the race.

As the start time of 10 a.m. drew closer, everything was going according to script, and that would continue to be the case for about the next two hours.

I had three goals for my first marathon. First, obviously, was to finish. Second was to finish in under 4 hours, 22 minutes, a 10-minute pace. Third was to finish in under four hours.

I know you’re not supposed to worry about time for your first marathon, and I know you’re really not supposed to go out too fast. My plan was to set a pace that would give me a shot at a four-hour marathon. If I was feeling good, I’d go for it. If I wasn’t feeling good, I’d slow down and just do what I could.

HeadingoutOn our way out to the first loop

The first half of the race went pretty much according to plan. I let the adrenaline get to me a bit in the first mile and ran an 8:23, but I slowed down right away and was at 9:24 and 9:33 the next two miles, then I accidentally slowed down even more and did the fourth mile in 9:59.

After that, I settled into a groove and started clicking off 9:00-9:30 miles: 9:06, 9:07, 9:13, 9:06, 9:20, 9:20, 9:16, 9:09, 9:25, 9:22. I reached the half marathon mark in 2:01:15. My first quarter of the race (1:00:30) and my second quarter (1:00:45) were almost exactly the same. I felt great.

SecondturnaroundHeading out for the third loop and feeling strong.

And even the conditions weren’t that bad. It was cold but not unbearably so; I actually unzipped my top layer on the third mile. It was sunny. The roads were mostly dry. There was some stiff wind, but only at certain points on the course.

Then things started to unravel. In retrospect, I clearly had a plan that was too aggressive. I expected to feel tired during the race, and thought I could just slow down if I felt too fatigued. I didn’t anticipate the severe leg pain that was to come.

Just after I finished my 14th mile, I started feeling small cramps in my calves. Nothing debilitating, but enough that I knew I needed to slow down and try to get them to go away. I immediately dropped my pace and did the next three miles in 10:09, 10:08 and 10:03. I still got the occasional calf twinge, but not very often.

ThirdloopGoing a bit slower but still feeling OK as I finish loop three.

Then, during mile 18, my thighs started to get tight. By the end of the mile, they had seized up so badly that I had no choice but to slow to a walk. The only way I can think to describe it is that it felt like my thigh muscles were trying to strangle my knees.

I walked for a quarter-mile, and the tightness subsided enough that I could start running again, slowly. But it was the beginning of the end. Mile 19 took me 13:24 to finish.

That’s the last mile I have a split for because, to make matters worse, my Garmin stopped tracking distance at 19.04 miles. It didn’t affect my ability to finish the race, but it definitely threw me off a bit.

The fourth loop ended around 20.6 miles, and I alternated walking and jogging for the last 1.5 miles. My parents had picked a spot near the turnaround to come out about when I should be approaching to take pictures and cheer me on. They knew something was wrong because it had taken me so much longer to finish the fourth loop than the first three.

Fourthloop Struggling mightily as I finish the fourth loop.

I had been running as I approached them, but then I walked through the water station and to the turnaround and back to them. As I passed them, my dad came with me to see how I was doing. I told him it wasn’t good and he kept going with me as I headed out for the final loop. We walked together for about three-quarters of a mile and when we got to the beginning of the main loop, I had to tell him to stop while I tried to stretch out my legs a bit.

Seeing how much pain I was in, and that I couldn’t even keep up with him walking, he said he thought I should call it a day. I knew he was right, but it’s not easy to pull yourself off the course when you’ve worked for 20 weeks to reach this point. Ultimately, I decided that if I kept going, I risked seriously injuring myself, and I told him I was done.

We walked back to the staging building, and I had a new problem. Since I had been slowing down significantly, I was suddenly very cold. That roughly one-mile walk – dejected, in pain and freezing – was one of the most unpleasant experiences I’ve ever had.

The good news: They had cookies in the staging building. I may have had five or six, and I don’t regret it (I also had a banana and some orange juice).

I slumped to the floor and leaned against a wall, texted my wife and posted the bad news on Facebook and Twitter.

As disappointing as the DNF was, I tried to stay positive (and the comments from friends and family that came flooding in certainly helped). I went farther than I had ever gone before, I didn’t let stubbornness lead to injury, and I learned valuable lessons for my next marathon attempt.

I don’t see Sunday’s race as a failure. If anything, it has made me even more determined. I’m going to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 19. And this time, I’m going to finish.

Ben is a husband, father, runner and editor in Rochester NY. He can be found on Twitter at @bjacobsroch.

Guest Post: Non-runner to half-marathoner

Six months ago, I wasn’t a runner.

Today, I’m a half marathoner.

The story of how I went from non-runner to half marathoner begins and ends with the same person: Chick Vic.

Vic and I both work at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, NY, and she’s the newsroom captain for our team for the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge, an annual 3.5-mile race that draws 10,000-plus runners who work for Rochester-area companies.

In early April, I was at a conference in St. Louis for work when I got an email from Vic saying when this year’s race would be. She sent it to me, I presume, because I had expressed some interest in running and had tweeted some about my difficulties on my once-a-week treadmill runs at the Y.

Even though I didn’t really enjoy running at that time, I had always been intrigued by the Chase because my colleagues all seemed to have a great time every year. By the time I left the conference, I had decided to reschedule an event I had planned for the night of the Chase and register to run. I left the hotel in St. Louis the morning of Sunday, April 7, walked past runners competing in the St. Louis Marathon and headed to the airport with no idea that I’d soon have plans to become a marathoner myself.

Eight days later I was at work when bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As with most everybody else, I was sickened by what happened, but the thing that moved me to tears over the next couple days was the power of the running community. The stories of runners who pushed exhaustion aside to help those who had been injured. Of the finisher who gave his medal to a runner who had been stopped at mile 25. I was so moved that I decided that I wanted to be part of the running community.

Two days after the bombing, I tweeted out a new fitness goal: To get myself into good enough shape to run the half marathon in Rochester on Sept. 22.

I had no idea what this would entail. I had never run a road race before. I had never run “farther” than six miles before. And I say “farther” because I didn’t actually go anywhere; my only runs to that point had been on the treadmill.

I spent the rest of April researching how to train for a half marathon. Vic and some of the other distance runners I work with gave me some advice, and articles online provided a wealth of information. Ultimately, I decided that I would modify Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 program, extending it by four weeks so I could start it right after the Chase.

I immediately increased my running from once a week to four times a week to get ready for the Chase. And I started to run outside some. The results were immediate. I started to run faster. I started to enjoy running. I started to think about running all the time. I started to look up other races I could run. I was hooked.

Getting my first taste of racing at the Chase just cemented my addiction to running. The atmosphere before the race was incredible. I lined up with Vic and several other members of team D&C. For the first couple miles, Vic, Traci Bauer and I ran as a group, a tremendous help to me since I had almost no experience pacing myself. I pulled away with about 1.5 miles to go as they cheered me on and when I saw the finish line I got a jolt of adrenaline and was able to sprint to a 30:43 finish.

The rest of the summer was some of the best fitness self-control I’ve ever exhibited. My training plan called for four runs a week for 15 weeks, so 60 total. I did 59 of them, skipping one three-mile run in July because my knee hurt.

I ran three more races between the Chase and the half marathon: the Firecracker 5-mile (44:22) on Fourth of July, the Jungle Jog 5K (25:23) a few weeks later and the Summer Fest 12K (1:09:20) at the end of August. I loved all three races. The feeling of crossing the finish line is one of the best imaginable, and my times in the races made me feel like I had a good shot at hitting my goal for the half marathon: two hours.

junglejogBen finishes the Jungle Jog 5K in July

The unexpected part of the summer was that my journey to a half marathon became more than just me, my training program and some advice from friends.

A little before the Chase, Vic mentioned that Scoot A Doot was holding a giveaway for PROCompression socks. I didn’t really know anything about compression running socks, but I like free stuff, so I entered (I didn’t win, but I ended up buying four pairs of PROCompression marathon socks over the course of the summer).

As many of you know, getting entries to the giveaway entailed following Scoot A Doot on Twitter and Facebook, tweeting about the giveaway, etc. That led to me learning about more giveaways, which of course I entered. Which led to me following more people on twitter and following more blogs. Which led me to chatting about running on Twitter with people I may never meet and getting tons of encouragement from an online running community I never even knew existed.

It was, and is, amazing. The thing that pushed me into running was that I thought it would be great to be part of the running community. I was right. The specifics of what that would mean just weren’t exactly what I expected.

When I finished my final training run before tapering, a slow 10-miler the Sunday before the race, I felt incredibly content. Whatever happened in the race, I had already fulfilled the fitness goal I set out in that tweet five months earlier: to get myself in good enough shape to run a half marathon.

The morning of the race, my nerves weren’t as bad as I might have expected. I was glad I had already run four races earlier in the summer. I knew what routine worked for me and I just made sure I gave myself plenty of time to get ready. My wife dropped me off down the road from the start line about 25 minutes before the race, which was perfect.

As I wandered around among the thousands of people gathered around the starting area, I saw Vic. We hadn’t planned to meet at the start (she was actually looking for a different friend she was going to run with), but I was glad to see a friendly face. She reassured me that I’d do great and, as the start time neared and she still hadn’t found her friend, she said she’d run with me until she felt like she needed to slow down. This was just supposed to be a training run for her as she prepares for the New York City Marathon.

I won’t go into as much detail as she did in her recap last week, but she never slowed down. We ran side-by-side, almost step-for-step at times, and chatted for 13 miles. It was so much fun. I think most non-runners, and even some runners, are skeptical when people say running can be fun. And certainly, not every run is fun. This one was. I enjoyed every minute I was out there on the course.

Some people asked me if I had a time I was shooting for. My response was always the same: two hours would be nice, but it’s not a big deal if I miss. I was lying. I wanted to be under two hours badly. As we ticked off each mile, I become more and more confident that I’d make it. We were setting a great pace and felt comfortable doing it.

Also as the miles went past, I became more confident that Vic was going to keep up with me the entire way. At some point I asked her what her PR was. “2:03:something.” I got even more excited for a potential sub-two-hour finish. It’s one thing to set a goal, work for months toward that goal and then achieve it. A intensely satisfying feeling, to be sure. It’s something else entirely to have somebody give you encouragement and advice every step of the way toward that goal and then, unexpectedly, be able to help them reach a goal of their own. It was wonderful running karma that all the help she gave me in preparing for my first half marathon led to me being able to help her break the two-hour mark.

As the finish line came into view, we could see that we had plenty of time to cross before the clock would read 2:00:00. I got my usual finish line adrenaline surge and Vic, sensing that I suddenly had a lot more energy, told me to go. I sprinted to the line and crossed in 1:58:56 for a net time of 1:58:38. I got my medal and turned to cheer on Vic, but she was already across, finishing seven seconds behind me. Traci (whom we had seen briefly about halfway through the race) finished nine seconds after Vic.

sprinttofinishBen sprints to the finish at the half marathon

We hugged. We high-fived (badly; we were tired). We grinned from ear to ear. We got some post-race food and drinks. We took pictures. We discussed the race. We reveled in our achievement.

Over the summer, when I told people I was training for a half marathon, they frequently looked at me like I was crazy and/or told me they could never do that. I used to feel the same way. Then I started running. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

sub2clubThe sub-2-hour club: Vic, Traci and Ben

Ben is a husband, father, runner and editor. This week he started training to run his first marathon in February at a race to be determined (but hopefully in Florida). He can be found on Twitter at @bjacobsroch.

Guest Post: Kimberly and Kyle take on the Philadelphia Chocolate Tour

Scoot a Doot note: Hey gang! Meet Kimberly and Kyle.

kimberlyandkyleKimberly was the winner of our Philadelphia Chocolate Tour giveaway and chose Kyle to join her on the excursion. We asked if they’d like to blog their experience and Kyle jumped on the task. (And now I’m singing Sugarhill Gang.)

Last weekend, before we joined Team Scoot a Doot for Jog ‘n Hog shenanigans, Kimberly and I embarked upon a voyage of gastronomic delight throughout the streets of Philadelphia (quiet, Springsteen). That’s right, folks, we jumped on the chocolate bandwagon!

Kimberly had the good fortune to win the Philadelphia Chocolate Tours giveaway a few months back, and we decided that since we were already planning to head up to Philly for some ice cream-fueled nonsense, we might as well make a weekend of it.

kyle1Things kicked off at the Reading Terminal Market. Our tour guide, Jeffery, lead us inside the Terminal to the Famous 4th Street Cookie Company.

kyle2Of course the first thing we sampled was the classic chocolate chip cookie. What else would you expect? And you know what? It was delightful.

kyle3You simply cannot go wrong with a chocolate chip cookie. It can’t be done.

From the terminal, we hauled our cookies (pun intended) over to Verde, a small boutique that houses Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates.  Literally. In the back of the shop, amongst all of the way-too-cute purses, and jewelry, and dresses, is a small kitchen where the confections are made.

kyle4This shop features a ton of great flavors and uses organic, locally-sourced cream and butter, as well as honey and produce, to create their confections.

kyle5There was even a bacon-flavored truffle. Bacon. Amazing.

kyle7We sampled two kinds of chocolate bark: Pub Crawl (with pretzels, smoked almonds and cashews) and Cherry Ginger. Both were very good, but my penchant for anything ginger made the latter my fave.

It’s a good thing the samples were small, because I’m about 98% sure I could have eaten A LOT more of that noise.

After evading the temptations of the chocolate and the absolutely adorable merchandise throughout the store, we continued on our trek. The next stop? Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland. Yup. That’s right kids. Fancy European chocolate.

kyle8All of the fancy chocolate.

kyle9Our sample? Heaven. Wait. I mean, the Dom Perignon Gold Crème Champagne Truffle.

Yeah, like I said. Heaven.

kyle10Basically, that little ball of chocolate was probably the most decadent thing I’ve had. Ever. In my life. I don’t know what that says about my life… except that it’s pretty awesome.

Leaving Teuscher was tough, because basically, I wanted to eat everything in that store. So much delicious chocolate. But, we had to make our way to the next stop. A stop I was most intrigued by. A stop where we would sample chocolate hummus.

Before you get all weird and freaked out about it, let’s preface this by saying that Kimberly, who has a strong dislike for traditional hummus, loved this stop. It’s fair to say that I did, too.

FreshaPeel Hummus creates a number of sweet and savory hummus flavors, from lemon kale to pumpkin (which legitimately tasted like pumpkin pie). We sampled all of these, but the best, the best, flavor was Chocolate Cherry. The proprietor mentioned that you could enjoy this hummus on a cracker or on fruit… I immediately jumped in and said “also on a spoon.” Because, quite frankly, that’s all I’d need. It was that good. Trust me.

kyle11You could even feel good about pigging out on this particular chocolate treat, because it’s hummus and it’s generally pretty healthy. Or at least that’s how I rationalize it. I have no qualms about this.

Following the hummus magic, we stopped at John & Kira’s, a small, innovative company that combines delicious treats with promoting positive social change. Their French-style chocolates are created with ingredients from family farms and urban gardens. Which I think is pretty cool.

We were fortunate enough to sample quite a few confections at this stop, but my favorite was probably the Mighty Urban Garden Mint bar. Mint and chocolate is always a favorite flavor combination, but this sort of transcended all other mint-chocolate situations. This was aromatic and the mint was really, really fresh. I wanted more of it. That small little chunk was not nearly enough.

kyle12Our last stop was probably the perfect way to end the tour. It was a hot day and we’d been walking a lot, so gelato? Yeah. Perfect.

Capogiro is home to the number 1 gelato in the world. According to some (probably) arbitrary contest, but I digress. Regardless, this gelato is the best I’ve ever had, so the title is relevant.

We sampled four flavors of chocolate gelato: Moka, Cioccolato Scuro (rich, dark and serious), Ciaccolato con Caramello (chocolate with caramel), and Cioccolato.

kyle13Of the four flavors we sampled, my favorite was probably the Cioccolato Scuro, because in my book, the darker, the better.

Basically, there are few things better in life than frozen chocolate treats. Gelato is no exception. Especially not this stuff. Out. Of. Control.

All in all? The tour was a delight. Kimberly and I were so happy to have been afforded the opportunity to indulge in such a tasty treat thanks to the benevolence of our favorite Scoot chicks. We second the motion: if you’re ever in Philadelphia, do a chocolate tour. Do it! You won’t be sorry.

Guest posting

Chick Vic here.

Today, I am a guest blogger on one of my favorite blogs, Heather’s Looking Glass, as Heather and her husband Bobby are vacationing on a Disney cruise.

Inspired by some spring cleaning, I talk a bit about the challenges of home organization, especially when you’re a clutter-monger like me! So please check out my post on Heather’s blog for some humor and tips. And I’d love to hear any suggestions you all may have!