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Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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My Running Super Power and Kryptonite

I’ll admit I stole borrowed the idea for this post from a fellow blogger who wrote on the subject several months ago, which you can read here if you’d like. In response to her post, I wrote that my superhero power was the ability to judge distances when I’m running (I’ll have a number in my head and check my watch to see if I’m right, like a game when I’m running) and my kryptonite was my weak stomach especially before running races.

For those of you that might not be Superman fans, this is from the superhero character “Superman,” who has superhuman strength and other abilities, but he also has a serious weakness. He is from the planet Krypton and when a rock from his homeland comes anywhere near him, Superman is cripplingly weakened. If someone asks you what your “kryptonite” is, they mean what’s your weakness.

Anyway, I was intrigued by that blog post and thought it would be a good prompt for a post of my own. I filed the thought away and then promptly forgot about it until I was out on a run recently. While I am pretty good at judging distances when I’m running, I think I have an even better answer for a superhero power, my ability to adapt to the heat.

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From Street Fighter V; perhaps an exaggeration

This past summer seemed hot and humid as usual but I noticed pretty quickly into the early weeks of “official” summer that I wasn’t struggling so much when I would run outside. This is nothing new to me; I feel like I’ve always been better at adapting to warm or hot weather than cold weather. I’ve often joked to others around me if I’m hot, it must really be hot outside or in a room.

Being able to adapt quickly to hot weather is a definite advantage when you live in the South like I do and often have days in the 80’s and many days in the 90’s as well during the summer. Of course the flip side of those hot days means the winters are mild and we usually only see snow once or twice each winter. Sometimes the snow just melts as soon as it hits the ground so there’s not even any accumulation. I absolutely despise cold weather so no or little snow is a great thing in my book!

If you’re going to run a fall race, like so many people do, that means running through at least part of the summer. The better you are at adapting to hot weather, the easier time you will have making your goal times for speed sessions and for just being able to put in the miles. As much as the treadmill is better than not running at all, there simply is no substitute for running outside, either.

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Running in Hilton Head, South Carolina during the heat of the summer

Are there ways to help your body adapt to hot weather? Sure, the usual like gradually increase your time spent outside (it takes about two weeks to acclimate to hot weather), drink cool water and/or electrolytes before you go out and bring some with you if you’re going for an intense or long run, and wear hot weather appropriate clothing. Some people also put ice cubes in their hats or sports bra before they run. Honestly, though, some people’s bodies are just better at adapting to hot weather and they may never be able to completely change that. Some people are also more efficient at sweating, which helps cool you off.

So, yes, if I was a running superhero, my power would be the ability to withstand extremely hot weather. The downside is I have a weakness toward cold weather and especially cold, dry air but that’s not my true kryptonite when it comes to running. My true kryptonite is my weak stomach before races.

I’ve been known to throw up before many a half marathon. You would think after running 49 half marathons plus a marathon and random other distances to round off to around 56 or so races, I would be over the nervous stomach before a race. Nope. I still get at least a little nauseous before each and every single race and sometimes I go from the verge of almost throwing up to the full point of actually throwing up.

Sure, I’ve tried all of the mind tricks before a race like telling myself how much fun I’m going to have. No pressure! Just have fun! I still feel sick. I visualize the course after actually driving the course the day before. I practice other imagery like me crossing the finish line or just running on the course. I’m still sick. I practice meditation. I make sure only positive thoughts cross my mind and I dismiss any negative thoughts. I’ve tried not eating solid foods before a race, just drink my calories. Nope, nope, nope. Nothing works, so now I just know that I’m going to feel nauseous and that’s OK. That’s actually normal for me. I embrace the nausea.

What about you guys? What is your running superhero power and kryptonite?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Oh Yes, Omaha, Nebraska

What do you think of when you think of Nebraska? Farmland? Prairie land? Corn fields? Something else? Never really thought about it? Omaha, Nebraska and in fact the state of Nebraska isn’t exactly one of the most-visited areas of the United States. For those of you that don’t know, I’m running a half marathon in all 50 states and I recently ran the Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon in Omaha, Nebraska. Nebraska was my 47th state and I was happy I had chosen a race in Omaha for my race in Nebraska. The city surpassed all of my expectations.

I read in a book (Judgmental Maps) in a bookstore in Omaha that Omaha is the “least Nebraska-like city in Nebraska.” I’ve only been to Omaha, so I can’t speak about the other cities in Nebraska. All I know is I really liked Omaha and was constantly surprised at just how much I liked it. There are so many restaurants with delicious food, all kinds of museums, and outdoor activities like a top-notch botanical garden for starters. It’s easy to quickly fill-up your days here. Omaha certainly gets a bad rap by people who have never been here, unjustly so in my opinion.

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Omaha is beautiful in the autumn!

Just some fun facts before I go on. Omaha is on the Missouri River and is the largest city in Nebraska. The headquarters for five Fortune 500 companies are in Omaha including well-known Berkshire Hathaway. CEO multi-billionaire for Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffet calls Omaha his home at least part of the year. The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha is known for having the largest indoor rainforest in the world. The NCAA College World Series has been held in the city of Omaha for more than fifty years till present date.

So before I went to Omaha, I chatted with a local to get some suggestions for places to eat and things to do. He sent me a long list, way more than I could ever do in the few days I was going to be there but it was good because I had plenty of options. I’ll share here some of the things my family and I did and also some of the things that came recommended but we didn’t do. I realize Omaha, Nebraska isn’t at the top of most people’s list of vacation places, but honestly, I would go back if given the opportunity. There are several things we didn’t have time to do that I would enjoy doing. Who knows when you might find yourself in Omaha, Nebraska, and when that happens, you’ll have a long list of places to choose from!

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Lauritzen Gardens

Outdoor Activities

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a botanical garden, Lauritzen Gardens. I would imagine the gardens are especially beautiful in the spring and fall but thanks to a conservatory, you can even visit the gardens in the dead of winter, if you choose to do so. The gardens are on 100 acres and include several diverse areas like an English Perennial Border, Rose Garden, Tree Peony Garden, Woodland Trail, and one of my favorites, the Model Railroad Garden. A Japanese Garden is currently being constructed. There are even different types of garden areas within the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory. I also loved the sculptures and art work within the gardens.

Also mentioned earlier is Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. This zoo has the world’s largest indoor desert under the world’s largest geodesic dome, the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit, and North America’s largest indoor rainforest complete with waterfalls. In addition to all of those area, there’s the Hubbard Gorilla Valley, Hubbard Orangutan Forest, Cat Complex, Butterfly and Insect Pavillion, Expedition Madagascar, African Grasslands, Asian Highlands, to name some. Owen Coastal Shores, a one-acre new home for sea lions with a $275,000-gallon pool, will be opening in spring 2020. There’s also a train, tram, skyfari, and carousel if all of that wasn’t enough. You can find ticket prices, hours, location and much more information on their website, Omaha Zoo. One good thing to know is prices vary based on season, so they’re cheaper in the winter and fall than the summer. Another plus, outside food and beverages are allowed.

The Fontenelle Forest Nature Center including the Raptor Woodland Refuge is just a short drive (10-15 minutes) from Omaha, although it’s in the nearby city of Bellevue. This is a great place to walk on trails in Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods with a wide variety of ecosystems from wetlands to oak savanna to prairie to deciduous forest. For those wanting more adventure, there’s Treerush Adventure Park with zip lines, bridges, and swings. Fontenelle Forest invests heavily in conservation efforts in activities like habitat restoration and erosion control and volunteer opportunities.

Old Market

The Old Market is known as Omaha’s arts and entertainment district. There’s so much here you might want to find out what’s here first before you go or you could be wandering around aimlessly for quite some time. Here’s where you can find information on everything to do, eat, and shop plus hotels and business services:  Old Market. I found the area architecturally-pleasing and enjoyed checking out some of the cool buildings. There are several art galleries along with all of the pubs, coffee shops, and so many restaurants. Two of our favorite restaurants here are M’s Pub and Upstream Brewing Company. For a stroll down memory lane, The Imaginarium is absolutely stuffed with all of the dolls, collectibles, games, and about a million other toys that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. No joke, I even got lost wandering around in this store and had to go back out and come in again to find my family.

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Courtyard in the Joslyn Art Museum

Indoor Activities

If you like art museums, Joslyn Art Museum is a great one and even better, admission is free. The museum is divided into distinct sections including one for special exhibitions, American Art, American Indian Art, Asian Art, Modern and Comtemporary, just to name some. One of my favorite sections was the Asian Art area but I really enjoyed the other sections as well. There are also sculpture gardens outdoors and the Discovery Garden, an interactive  outdoor space. For small children, there is an interactive hands-on experience, Art Works, with nine activity stations.

The Durham Museum is a history museum in one of the coolest spaces I’ve seen for a history museum, Union Station. When you walk in, you’re surrounded by the massive former train station complete with bronze statues made to look like former train passengers and workers and interactive displays. There’s also a gift shop and soda fountain where you can order drinks like an old fashioned phosphate (I had to ask what that was because I had no idea), milkshakes, sundaes, ice cream sodas, malts, sandwiches, and other snacks. Most of the museum is actually downstairs, where you can find many different exhibits like the original Buffett Grocery Store that opened in 1915 in Omaha’s Dundee neighborhood, replicas of a former home, teepee, and a collection of things like coins, maps, and documents of historical significance. One of my favorite things we did there was walk through a train car that was decorated for Halloween, complete with skeletons, lights, plenty of spiders and spider webs, and other fun decorations.

Also in the Durham Museum when I was there were also two temporary exhibits, Louder Than Words: Rock, Power & Politics that has interactive displays, photography and artifacts to look at how music has both shaped and reflected our society on things like civil rights, LGBTQ, feminism, war, censorship, political campaigns, political causes and international politics. I liked checking out which musician or band was singled out and associated with each president, from Eisenhower through Trump and reading about the influence they each had on one another. My family and I had already seen the second current exhibit RACE: Are We So Different? so we didn’t spend much time checking that one out but it’s a good one as well. This exhibit encourages visitors to examine race from the perspective of biology, history, and personal experiences.

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Union Station of the Durham Museum

About 35-45 minutes from downtown Omaha in Ashland is the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. If you’ve been to the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C. and enjoyed the section there with aircraft, you will likely enjoy this museum. It’s an affiliate with Smithsonian and home to the U.S.’s largest collection of Cold War aircraft and artifacts. There’s a flight simulator, children’s learning center, and enormous collection of aircraft in 300,000 square feet.

For something a little different, there’s the Czech and Slovak Educational Center and Cultural Museum. According to this website Nebraska has “the largest number of Czech farmers of the first generation (born in Europe), or one-fifth of all who live in the United States.” At the museum, you can find a cafe with traditional kolaches, a gift shop, monthly movie night and conversational Czech language gatherings.

The Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters has local history and also offers free admission. Here you can learn about the migration of Mormons from Illinois to Utah. Winter Quarters is just one of 90 temporary settlements utilized by the Mormons along the Missouri River in Nebraska and Iowa. Although this was meant as a short-term home, many people established businesses here and published a newspaper. You can see many artifacts, paintings, photographs, and play around with an interactive map.

My daughter is way too old for children’s museums but had we gone to Omaha when she was younger, we definitely would have visited the Omaha Children’s Museum because it looks like a really fun place for young children. There’s a Super Gravitron ball machine, Zealand, Imagination Playground, a science and technology lab, art studios, a grocery store, car repair center, splash garden, carousel and train, plus more. In addition to permanent displays there are special exhibits and special events.

Restaurants

In addition to the ones in Old Market that I talked about earlier, we also went to Spezia’s, a wonderful Italian restaurant with a brunch on Sunday. I could eat to my heart’s content after the race, so it was wonderful! There were so many delicious options to choose from from healthy options like salads, fruits, and vegetables to pastas and deserts and many things in-between.

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Some falafel cakes at one of our favorite restaurants, M’s Pub

Some of the many restaurants that came recommended but we just didn’t have time to go to include:  Cascio’s, Johnny’s Cafe, and the Drover all for their steaks and meats; Benson Brewery and Zipline Brewery; Hook and Lime, a Taqueria and Tequila bar; Lo Solo Mio and Spaghetti Works for Italian; Oasis Falafel for Mediterranean food; eCreamery, Coneflower Creamery, and Ted and Wally’s for ice cream; Cupcake Omaha, Olsen Bake Shop, and Petit’s Pastry for bakeries.

Now are you convinced that Omaha, Nebraska is a pretty cool city with tons of things to do and really great restaurants? Of course this just scratches the surface of the highlights, too!

Have you been to Omaha, Nebraska? If so, what did you think of it? What did you see and do?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

 

 

Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon, Omaha, Nebraska- 47th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Nebraska was my 47th state.

When I was looking at half marathons in Nebraska, I only found a couple that interested me, to be honest. Once I had run half marathons in around 40 or so states and had gotten the list down to my last several states, of which Nebraska belonged, I thought I would run the Feast and Feathers Trail Half Marathon in Omaha on Thanksgiving weekend. But then more recently I started thinking about all of that and then I started overthinking everything.

I’ve never run a trail race before. Ever. That’s one strike. Omaha weather over Thanksgiving weekend can be pretty cold and I don’t run well in the cold. That’s two strikes. I started to question if that was really the best race for me given those two big factors. Then I saw an ad for the Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon in Omaha and that race suddenly seemed much more appealing.

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Not only would it be warmer because the race was a month earlier than the other race the end of November, it wasn’t a trail race and part of the course was around a lake so it should be at least fairly scenic and hopefully flat. It was for a good cause, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, too. Plus there would be hot cider and caramel apples at the finish! Even better, you get a finisher mug and pullover! That’s way more pros for the Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon than for the Feast and Feathers Trail Half Marathon. I’m in!

Packet pickup was on Saturday, October 26 at Fleet Feet Omaha from 10 am to 5 pm. There was the option of race-day packet pickup, but that was “not suggested” according to the race website. Finally, you could also have your packet mailed to you for $12.99. The only thing in my packet was the aforementioned pullover and race bib in a reusable tote bag. There were no other vendors presumably because it was in a somewhat small store so there wasn’t room for much else.

I did have a bit of a panic attack the night before the race when I happened to click on something on Google Maps on my phone and it said the race was at 8:10 am. I thought the race started at 8:30, so I went through my emails and the race website and everything else I could find to clarify. The confirmation email I had said the race start was 8:30, but the race website and everywhere else said it was 8:10. I figured it would be safer to go with the earlier time and if I was early that would be fine. It turns out the race start was indeed 8:10 am. Also, it was chip-timed, so even if I would have shown up at the race 20 minutes later than I did, it would have been fine, but I would have been in a total panic and wondered (wrongly) why the race started early.

A cold front moved into Omaha on Saturday evening and by Sunday morning, there was a frigid wind that had come down from Canada with gusts up to 18 mph, and to top it off, the sky was completely overcast. The temperature was in the low 40’s, which would have been fine for running a half marathon, but with the wind and lack of sun, it was so cold my feet were numb for the first three miles of the race.

The race start and finish was at a local high school, Skutt Catholic. Although there were plenty of parking spaces, many were already full by the time we got there around 7:40, but we were still able to find a spot. I made my way to the port-o-johns, reluctantly handed over my warm coat to my husband (who wasn’t running), and lined up at the start. The half marathon started promptly at 8:10 and included a 5k that also started at the same time. This caused quite a bit of congestion for the first couple of miles until the 5k runners split off from the half marathoners.

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Just before the race start

The vast majority of the race was around Lake Zorinsky, criss-crossing, looping, and zig-zagging around the paths that went around the lake and through the park. Lake Zorinsky has an interesting background story that you can read about here, which goes to show the power of the running community. Overall I would say the course was scenic and there were plenty of water views.

All was going pretty well for me until I noticed somewhere between miles 4 and 5 that my left shoelace had become undone, despite double-knotting it. I took off my gloves, tied my shoe, put my gloves back on, and continued on my way. Later, those 20-something seconds that took it to do all of that would come back to bite me.

Most of the course was relatively flat with short, moderate hills until we reached mile 7, and that was uphill pretty much for about a mile, but then we got to go downhill for a while to make up for it. We had to run uphill again in the 10th and 11th miles, but thankfully we got to run downhill for the last section until the course leveled off at the finish. There was almost no crowd support but there were these two women who were cheering everyone on at the first part of the race, around mile 5 and again towards the end, around mile 13. They were shouting things like, “You’re beautiful! You’re strong!” and for me because I was wearing a purple shirt, “Go purple! You’ve got this!” I love people at races like that. At races where it’s freezing cold like this one, people like that are appreciated even more by me.

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Lake Zorinsky in the background, where most of the course wrapped around

There were plenty of aid stations along the course, with water and Gatorade being handed out at five places along the course. I don’t remember seeing port-o-johns along the course, but perhaps I missed them if they were there. There are bathrooms at the park, though, so that would have been an option for runners.

My goal for this race was to finish under 2 hours, preferably under 1:55, and I finished in 1:54. Given the weather and the fact that I run far better when it’s warm than when it’s cold, I was happy with my finish time. Now for the DOH! moment. I checked finish times that were posted as they came in and the woman that finished third in my age group finished 23 seconds ahead of me. Of course all I could think about was, “Had I not had to stop to tie my shoe, I would have finished in third place.” BUT I don’t live my life by what-if’s, so I happily took my fourth place in age group finish along with a time that’s my second-fastest ever for a half marathon.

Now for the fun stuff- the swag! When I crossed the finish line, a volunteer handed me a mug that had a medal, bottle of water, and small bag of trail mix in it. The mug is of good quality; for some reason I expected a small, metal mug but this is a nice-sized ceramic mug with the Hot Cider Hustle logo and year on it. There was another table full of caramel apples, some with nuts, some without. I can attest that the caramel apple I got was absolutely delicious! Finally, the name-sake of the race, the hot cider. There was a table with big containers to dispense the hot cider either into your own mug or paper cups. A nice and friendly volunteer happily poured a cup for me when she saw my hands weren’t working properly after the race. This was delicious, steamy hot cider, as it should be, not lukewarm or watered-down in the least. I ended up getting two cups because it was so good and warmed me up.

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Sorry about the dark photo, but it was so overcast!

Would I recommend this race? Yes, despite the frigid wind and hills on the latter part of the course. I realize weather can vary from year-to-year, especially in October in Omaha. Besides, the temperature itself was reasonable for a half marathon, it was just the wind that got me, and maybe next year it wouldn’t be so windy. The hills at the end weren’t exactly fun, but they were short enough that I didn’t hate the race director either, and I did at least get to run downhill afterwards, straight to the finish line. The race was well-organized and had plenty of volunteers from pre-race to finish. Finally, this race coincided perfectly with peak fall foliage in Omaha, so it was absolutely beautiful seeing all of the yellow and orange leaves on the trees everywhere (not much red, for some reason, but a little).

Date of my race was October 27, 2019

Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon and 5k in Omaha, Nebraska

Have you run a race in Nebraska? If so, which one did you run? If not, is it on your list of places to run? Have you run another Hot Cider race in another city?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

How a Free Cruise to the Bahamas Changed My Life

When I was in college I didn’t travel that often. My parents divorced when I was young and I was raised by a single mom who didn’t have the money to pay for me to go to college. I paid my own way through school with loans, jobs, scholarships, and financial aid. I barely even remember eating out that much in college, so I sure didn’t have money to travel more than maybe a few hours away for a road trip but even that didn’t happen that often.

Then when I was a junior in college, I received a card in the mail stating I may have won a prize. It listed several possibilities such as a TV, a check for $500, a VCR (this was the late 90’s), or a cruise to the Bahamas. All I had to do was go to some kind of informational meeting about a product that I don’t remember what it even was now. At the end of the meeting, they would draw a number and if it matched the number on our card, we would win the prize associated with the number. As you may have guessed by now, I won a cruise to the Bahamas.

I had never even been out of the country and I was a poor college student so I didn’t even care that it wasn’t even a “real” cruise but only a day cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on a small cruise ship to the Bahamas, where I was provided with a free hotel stay for 3 days/2 nights, and a day cruise back to Ft. Lauderdale. I had to pay a nominal amount for some fees and/or taxes but it was maybe $75, so I happily paid that and got ready for my first international trip.

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No, my “cruise” ship wasn’t nearly this big. Photo by Matthew Barra on Pexels.com

The cruise and hotel stay was for myself and a guest so my boyfriend and I drove to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where the cruise ship was to depart during our summer break a few months after I won the prize. Neither of us had ever been out of the country and neither of us had a clue what we were doing. We didn’t plan a single thing but went along with the flow of things and figured it out when we got there. I still remember driving to Ft. Lauderdale because the air conditioning went out on his car literally the day before we left, so we had the windows down, getting blasted with hot air, while we drove along the interstate.

The day cruise was pretty uneventful really. We left Ft. Lauderdale sometime in the afternoon and were only on the water for a few hours, arriving that evening. The water was pretty rough when we got out in the open water. I remember walking to dinner on the ship and watching the ship being rocked from side to side. Fortunately I didn’t feel that sick and was just a little nauseous. We had dinner, which was nothing special, and not long after that the ship was docking in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. There was a small casino on the ship and some sort of show was going on in another area but we didn’t gamble and we only watched a portion of the show.

If you’ve never been to Freeport in the Bahamas, it’s not a place I would recommend visiting now. When I was there in the 90’s it was sketchy as far as being safe and since then it’s gotten worse. The U.S. Department of State currently rates the criminal threat level for New Providence Island (Nassau) as critical with the criminal threat level for Grand Bahama Island rated as high. There are parts of the Bahamas that are safer than others, so just know that the many areas of the Bahamas are not all the same and do your research before you go.

There isn’t really that much to do in Freeport either. You can visit Port Lucaya, go to the beach, and if you have the money (unlike I did) you can go horseback riding, ziplining, go diving in Lucayan National Park, or you can go snorkeling, which I splurged on and spent the money for. The snorkeling trip I went on was an all-day excursion and we were given free access to all of the Bahama Mama alcoholic drinks we wanted. Yes, I was a college student, and yes I had way too many Bahama Mama’s that day, so many in fact that all I wanted to do was stay in my room that evening and try to sober up. The snorkeling was fun but definitely not the best I’ve seen now that I’ve been snorkeling many other places in the Caribbean and Hawaii.

My boyfriend paid for us to go to dinner at a nice seafood restaurant the second night we were there. We went out with two other couples we met on the “booze cruise” and had a good time. Honestly, other than snorkeling, going out to eat a couple of times and lounging at the beach during the day, we didn’t do that much. Again, we were poor college students who hadn’t planned a single thing ahead of time.

Despite barely even leaving the United States and going to a country that didn’t even require Americans to have a passport for entry back then, I feel like that trip is when I first caught the travel bug. Despite not planning anything to do on that trip before I went, not choosing where I was going to stay, where I was going to eat, or a single other travel-related thing other than the fact that my boyfriend and I had to drive to Ft. Lauderdale and back to West Virginia after the cruise, this was a pivotal moment in my life as a traveler.

After my free trip to the Bahamas, I began to pay attention to where other people were traveling. I still didn’t have money to travel anywhere substantial and knew I wouldn’t until I was completely through with college, which included graduate school to get my Master’s degree, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming and starting to build my bucket list of places where I eventually wanted to travel.

That free trip to the Bahamas was the vacation that opened my eyes to the rest of the world. Never would I have guessed that would happen when I went to that meeting to see if I won a TV but ended up winning a cruise to the Bahamas. It may sound a bit dramatic to hear me say that trip to the Bahamas changed my life, but I feel like it did in many ways. It made me realize the world is enormous and there’s so much out there that’s vastly different from the places where we live. There’s so much to see and do, if only we go and explore.

Is there one vacation that stands out to you as one that opened your eyes to travel?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

 

My Dream Half Marathon

Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were a race director? I started thinking about how I would design my dream half marathon if I could be the race director and also add in some things that probably would never happen in reality, but hey, it’s fun to just think “What if?” sometimes. I’ve experienced quite the variety of races over the years in states all over the United States ranging from big cities to small towns. Some of the races offered things that I thought were a great idea and other races were so poorly ran I thought surely no one on the team for the race could be a runner because no runner would ever do something like that in a race.

So how would I design a race if I was in charge of absolutely everything including location, weather, and had an unlimited budget and a surplus of volunteers to help me pull it off? Well, for starters I would offer a half marathon because that’s my favorite distance. We could have a marathon the day after the half in case anyone wanted to run both races and of course give the runners a total of three medals, one for each race ran and one for completing both races.

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Some pretty nice views from a race start like this would be good. This was the Dogtown Half Marathon in Utah.

Packet pick-up would be at a school or other place big enough to have a variety of vendors giving out free samples. Nuun and Honey Stinger would both be there, letting people try their products. Zensah would be there selling their compression socks and other running gear that I love but at a discounted price for runners. If you’re running both the half marathon and full marathon you’d get an even bigger discount on anything you bought at the expo.

There would be a pasta dinner the day before the race with Kara Goucher speaking and offering a short (one hour) running clinic and motivational talk. This pasta dinner would be sponsored by the best Italian restaurant in the state and everyone would rave about how good the food was. Family members of the runners would be encouraged to attend both the pasta dinner and running clinic, which would be offered at an amazing low price thanks to the generosity of sponsors.

There would be many, many port-o-johns at the start of the race and there would be small bonfires attended by volunteers for safety to help keep the runners warm. Hot coffee and tea would also be at the race start. Bart Yasso would be at the race start and after saying some motivational and funny words, the runners would be off. Mr. Yasso would be staying for the duration of the race to call out each runner’s name as they crossed the finish line.

The course would start at the top of a canyon in the mountains (but only maybe up to 3,000 feet in elevation at the peak) and wind its way down through the canyon alongside a river. You could see a beautiful bridge in the distance as you ran. Traffic would be closed off for the race so runners wouldn’t have to worry about cars. You would also be able to watch the sun rise from the start of the race but it would be a cool, cloudy day for the rest of the race.

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Water views like this along the course? Yes, please!

There would be homeowners out along the course cheering runners on, with adorable well-behaved dogs and cute kids holding funny posters, to help keep those smiles coming from runners along the course. Volunteer aid stations would have Nuun and water and Honey Stinger gels and chews. All along the course there would be a wide array of music being played, with local musicians playing classical music, guitarists playing rock music, drummers, a piano player, and more. The volunteer aid stations would all be told to come up with a fun theme and the team with the most votes by runners would win a small prize.

As the course wound its way through the canyon, traveling slightly downhill but not so much to trash your quads, you would pass some waterfalls and see a snow-capped mountain in the distance. There would be a couple of small (very small) hills just to mix things up a bit with your legs along the course. Every mile would be marked with a mile marker sign and include a countdown since the race started (you never know when you may have watch trouble or forget your watch for a race so this would be for those people). There would be pacers on the course who would be following their pace times phenomenally well and were chatty, funny individuals.

You would know when you were getting close to the finish because the last mile would be clearly marked, with a clear shot of the finish line. After entering a football stadium, you would run the last 50 yards of the race on the football field, where you would be handed a small football at the finish line, along with your medal (don’t even bother asking me about logistics of having both a clear shot of the finish line and entering a football stadium). As I mentioned earlier, Bart Yasso would call out each runner’s name as they were crossing the finish.

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Bart Yasso at the finish of the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska

Beer from a local brewery, chocolate milk, ice cold water, smoothies, and Nuun would be all of your free beverage choices post-race. There would be pizza, soft pretzels, watermelon slices, bananas, a variety of soups, chocolate chip cookies, and Noosa yogurt at the finish for all runners. Musicians would be playing for the rest of the day at the park near the race finish. Kids could play at the playground while their parents hung out and chatted with other runners. A local swim facility, hotel, or YMCA or something like that within walking distance would offer free post-race showers to all runners.

Awards would be given out to the first three male and female finishers as well as first three finishers in 5-year increments of age groups. Cash would be awarded to the first three male and female finishers and trophies to everyone else. Photographers would be along the course and at the finish and runners would have the option to print out their own photos for free with the link sent out after the race.

Now your turn- what would your dream race look like? What things would you be sure to include? Do you like how I’ve designed my dream race? Remind me what I’ve left off!

Happy running!

Donna

 

How do you Decide Where to Travel?

I always have a long list of places where I want to travel, and it seems like my list is always getting longer instead of shorter. More times than not, I’ll listen to a podcast and they’ll discuss a place I hadn’t really considered going to before, but by the end, I’m convinced I must go there! Or I’ll read something online and see beautiful photos and add that place to my list. Sometimes a good deal on airfare will come up and I’ll snag the deal and make plans to go there even if it might not have been at the top of my list.

Often I wonder how other people choose where they travel to. Do they go to places near-by or do they go to Disney every year with their kids? Do they go to places where they always went as a kid and it’s just become a habit? Do their spouses or friends mostly choose where to go and they’re just along for the ride? Do they only have enough vacation time to visit family? Or is it something else?

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Grand Cayman Island exceeded my expectations and was a perfect choice for a beach trip in November

At the beginning I said I have a long list of places where I want to travel, but that’s not really correct. Actually I have three lists for travel:  one includes states in the United States where I haven’t run a half marathon yet, the second includes places where my husband and I are considering to retire early, and the third includes places where I’d like to go and visit but not necessarily live there.

My first list is short and sweet and thankfully getting shorter. It includes Nebraska, New Mexico, Iowa, and Minnesota. I already have half marathons chosen for these states (although the race in Minnesota could change) and because I like to add on a vacation after the race to turn it into a racecation, I already know which city I’ll be going to in Nebraska (Omaha).  I have a pretty good idea about Minnesota, New Mexico, and Iowa, but those aren’t quite as firm as the other states yet. I’ll  be going to Albuquerque, New Mexico and possibly Santa Fe, probably St. Paul in Minnesota, and probably Cedar Rapids in Iowa. If you have suggestions for things to check out including restaurants in any of these areas, feel free to suggest them below.

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After running in the Famous Potato Half Marathon in Boise, Idaho, we stayed in the area for a few days and hiked in gorgeous places like this!

My second list includes areas both in and out of the US that are places that my husband and I are checking out as places to retire. A big factor in choosing these areas are the weather, in addition to general location, safety and cost of living. I’ll admit I’m like Goldilocks in that I prefer to live somewhere that’s not too hot and not too cold when I retire. I also like proximity to beaches and mountains if possible and within a reasonable drive to an airport. Currently, this list includes places like southern Portugal and Spain, Ecuador, parts of Central America, as well as places in Oregon and Florida.

My husband and I would also consider living in one place for the winter months and driving (even if was a big distance but could be done in several days with breaks) to another place for the summer months. This potential dual-home idea includes places in the US and Europe. I feel like while I’ve been to the majority of the US, there are huge areas of Europe that I’ve never been to. If you have a suggestion for somewhere in Europe, Central, or South America that would check off the boxes I’ve listed here, let me know and I’ll add it to my list of places to check out. Spanish-speaking places are not a problem for us

Finally, my third list, the solely for fun list includes places like the Republic of Georgia, Slovenia, Croatia, Thailand, Vancouver, and on and on. This list is very long and seems to be growing longer all the time. The places on this list haven’t taken a priority because of the other two lists, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go there any less. I’ve been dying to go to the Republic of Georgia for several years.

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The Canary Islands is a place we wanted to check out as a potential place to retire

Once I finish my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, my priority will be in choosing places on the list for potential retirement spots. Even though my husband and I plan to retire early, we still have about 11 years until that will happen. This gives us plenty of time to go to places we’re considering multiple times, during different times of the year and visiting different neighborhoods within the areas we’re considering. We have flexibility, though, because we have plenty of time, and I’ll be able to watch for airfare deals and choose according to them more than I currently do.

I know that my family and I don’t travel like most people do. Over the years we’ve been to many places that most people wouldn’t necessarily choose but yet we haven’t been to some of the more popular places. For example, we’ve been to New Zealand but not Australia. We’ve been to Austria but not France. We went to Chile but didn’t go to Patagonia. Yes, we travel a bit differently than most Americans but then again there has always been a reason why we’ve chosen to travel where we have, such as I got a deal on airfare or lodging. Or New Zealand looks freaking amazing and how could we NOT go there?!

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Just one of many incredible views we saw in New Zealand

This brings me back to my original question:  How do you choose where you travel?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

Checking In With Less Than One Month to Go Before My Next Half Marathon

I usually don’t do a week-by-week post because quite honestly, I don’t feel like my weeks are that interesting to warrant a weekly post. I don’t run many races like some other runners do (now I run only three races a year) so I don’t have that many race reports and my training isn’t that unusual. However, every now and then I do like to do a post with a brief check-in and how my training is going so far. For those of you who don’t already know, I’m running a half marathon in all 50 states and am getting down to the final ones.

Later this month I’ll be running my 49th half marathon in Nebraska, state number 47. My last race was Star Valley Half Marathon, Thayne, Wyoming- 46th state, which feels like an eternity ago even though it was just a little over two months ago. I like to take a full two weeks off of running in-between half marathons and I had just enough time to do that before I began my current training cycle. However, I was hiking in the mountains of Wyoming the week after my race so my legs didn’t get much of a break until the following week.

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Hiking in Wyoming after the race

It’s always kind of strange when I have time off from running and I feel a bit out of sorts at first. The break is always useful, however, and one I know my body needs. Now that I’m only running races three times a year (one in the spring, one in the summer, and one in the fall) I also end up taking an extended break at least from training but not from running entirely in the winter. However, that won’t happen until after this race, and I digress so back to my training.

So, how has my training been going through this hot, muggy summer we’ve had? Pretty good, really. I tend to adjust pretty well to hot, humid weather and although I wouldn’t say it was easy because by no means was it ever easy to run through the high temperatures with high humidity on top of that, I was able to hit my target times when I did speedwork.

With the training plan I’ve been using for the last few half marathons I’ve run, I have one day a week where I incorporate fartleks and one day a week where I have a tempo run. I also have two days a week where I run anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes (longer towards the end of my training cycle) and finish with 20-second strides. One day a week I have my long run that starts at 6 miles and goes up to 14 miles. Twice during the training plan I run 14 miles and a few times during the plan I run 11 or 12 miles. The 14-mile runs are meant to be slow and easy and the 11 or 12 mile runs are meant to be partially at race pace (the latter half).

There were a few days this summer when it reached near 100 degrees where I live and on those days I ran on my treadmill at home but on other days when it was upper 80’s or low 90’s, I sucked it up and ran outside. On some days I would run in the morning but the real issue with summer running in the south is even if you run in the morning, it will still be humid and it won’t exactly be cool. So you may be running in 75 degrees with 70% humidity in the morning, and you’re still soaked with sweat after a few minutes of running. The humidity tends to drop a bit as the temperature goes up, so you can choose if you want it to be a bit cooler but higher humidity or ungodly hot and less humid. Either way sucks but then again we get rewarded with mild winters, so there is that at least.

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I loved standup paddle boarding this summer as one of my cross-training exercises!

I managed to run every day I was supposed to so far, although there were one or two runs that I remember I had to cut short a bit due to other time constraints (job, family mostly). The one area that has slacked off, especially lately, has been my weight training. It’s been difficult to run five days a week, go to the gym for weight training, go to yoga class, stretch, foam roll, and cross-train (standup paddle boarding on Sundays during the summer, bike riding when the lake house is closed in the fall) in addition to working full-time and having time for family obligations. Usually it’s not an issue to get to the gym for weight training but when my daughter went back to school, things got busier in our house, and that’s one thing that fell to the wayside for me lately.

Last weekend it actually started to feel like fall and those few days of cooler, less humid weather were fantastic, but unfortunately it didn’t last. Just this week, the temperatures were back in the 90’s, so I guess summer isn’t over yet here. I do still have a few weeks to go before the race, though, so I should have at least a couple of weeks of cooler weather to run in before the half marathon. I can’t wait for that!

How about you guys? Are you training for a fall race? How has your running been going lately?

Happy running!

Donna