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As I stood on the ledge of the cliff overlooking the ocean blue

full of life’s infinite possibilities,

I turned around and looked at you.

I asked, “Are you going to take the leap

of faith along side me?

Or are you going to just sit there and enjoy the view?”

How I Did It

I recently reviewed Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery’s book How She Did It, which you can read here (Book Review- How She Did It. Stories, Advice, and Secrets to Success from 50 Legendary Distance Runners by Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery).

In my review, I also provided a link to their website where you can buy a copy of their book and if you go there, you’ll see it includes a reader worksheet. This is the same list of questions the authors asked everyone they interviewed for their book. I thought it would be interesting for me to post the questions on the worksheet and put my personal answers here. Here goes!

YOUR CHAPTER

Below are the questions we asked all the athletes interviewed in How She Did It.

Use these questions as a guide as you think about your own experience. Then, look at the answers from the athletes in the book. Do you notice any similarities? Come back to this page often and review how your answers change over time

What were your PR’s?

Although I ran on my elementary school’s track team, I have no idea what my times were for the distances I ran then (the mile, 800 meter, and 4 x 400 meter relay). That was the only time I ran on a school team and the only time I raced shorter distances. I didn’t start racing until I was an adult so I only have PR’s from the last 22 years. I bring this up because in the book, people had PR’s from high school, college, and beyond. Here are my PR’s: 5k- 26:53 (May 2022), 10k- 52:27 (July 2021), 10-mile- 1:27:13 (April 2022), Half Marathon- 1:51:20 (October 2021).

How did you get into running?

As I mentioned above, I started running on my elementary school’s track team. Our PE teacher was phenomenal and I believe a big part of why I’ve always been athletic is because of his encouragement. I’ve always also had a drive in me and the adrenaline rush from running has kept me going.

What major setbacks/challenges did you face as an athlete?

I had shin splints in college that stopped me from running for a few years. At their peak, they were so painful I was in tears as I walked home from a run and that deterred me from running for a long time. I also had ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome) that I developed after the birth of my daughter when I was training for a half marathon in Ohio. I tried to push through the pain and keep running but that was not a good idea and I was forced to stop running for a few months after that race.

If you have this setback/setbacks, describe how long you were off from running competing? How did you overcome the issue?

I already answered the part about how long I was off from running. I overcame shin splints by buying better running shoes, focusing more on recovery, and just training more properly. My foam roller and deep tissue massages helped me recover from ITBS and it’s not been a problem since I incorporated both of those things into my regular practice.

What is your best race following your setback (or your best race ever!)?

My best race ever was the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon (see photo above). It was one of those races where all of the stars were aligned and I felt like I was flying on the course. In a close second (or maybe even a tie) was the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta where I had a huge smile plastered on my face for the entire 10k. Not surprisingly those were also my fastest races.

What are you most proud of in your running journey?

I don’t consider myself a “proud” person in general; I don’t go around bragging about myself or my accomplishments. That being said, I am proud of completing my goal to run a half marathon in all 50 states. It took commitment and perseverance on my part and the journey changed my life.

What did you learn and what would you have done differently?

I’m not sure if this question relates to the previous question but that’s how I’m going to answer it. I learned that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for (physically and mentally). I also learned that big goals are achievable if you make them a priority (I realize sometimes that’s just not possible so I’m not saying it’s easy to do that). I would have changed a couple of the races I ran and chosen different ones, with the Run the Reagan just outside of Atlanta high on the list as one of my most miserable races.

Who makes up your support system? (coaches, trainers, family, teammates, friends?)

My support system has changed over the years. For all 17 years of her life my daughter has been my biggest fan and supporter. She traveled with me to all but 3 states for the half marathons I ran (Pennsylvania, Iowa, and New Mexico) and always cheered me on. Never once when she was younger did she complain when I told her I was going on a training run. Now that she’s older she’ll often have a cold glass of water with Nuun waiting for me after a run.

What is your favorite workout?

My favorite workout is one that incorporates quarter mile repeats. They’re over before I know it but I feel like they make me faster and stronger.

What is your most interesting/funny race story?

Believe it or not, despite running somewhere around 60 races, I don’t really have any interesting or funny race stories that come to mind. I guess maybe the best I can think of was the half marathon in Boise, Idaho where a guy was running with a pool cue balanced on a finger, trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.

If you could give other girls in sport one piece of advice, what would it be?

My piece of advice for other girls in sport would be to listen to your body to notice any changes and seek help from either a coach or physical therapist when necessary. If something feels off, figure out why that is. For example, if you have a pain on the side of your knee, figure out what’s causing that pain and work on getting rid of that pain. Don’t continue running if something hurts. It’s not worth the damage you’ll inevitably do and be forced to take time off from running.

What has been most rewarding about your running journey?

The most rewarding part of my running journey has 100% been the people I’ve met along the way. I still remember conversations I had with other runners years ago either before or after a race. Joining a running club has been one of the best things I’ve ever done and have made lifelong friends. Connecting with other runners through my blog and social media has also been one of the best parts about my running journey.

Have you read How She Did It? Did you fill out this worksheet? If you did, is there anything from it you’d like to share or discuss?

Happy Running!

Donna

Day Trips From San Jose, Costa Rica- Poas Volcano, Waterfalls, Hot Springs, Manuel Antonio National Park, Sloths, and Monkeys!

As I mentioned in my previous post (Why You Should Spend Time in San Jose, Costa Rica), this wasn’t my first visit to Costa Rica. I didn’t say it before but I had previously been to the Guanacaste region in northern Costa Rica, many years ago, and I stayed at an all-inclusive resort and just took a day trip to go zip-lining and visit mud pools, plus take a cycling tour of the area for a couple of hours one afternoon. This time when I went back to Costa Rica, I wanted to do things differently and stay in the Central Valley region where the capital city of San Jose is and take some day tours from there.

We decided to take three days for all-day tours and spend the rest of the time in downtown San Jose. This gave us a nice mix of museums and shopping in the city along with outdoor pursuits. Plus, it limited our days in the car, since a “short” drive to an excursion was a little over an hour away, one way. First, I should give a shout-out to the tour company I chose, Sol Tropical Tours https://soltropical.com.The resort where I was staying has a close relationship with this tour company, although not exclusively so anyone can book tours with Sol Tropical.

It turned out that when I was in Costa Rica, my daughter and I were the only ones at our small resort (only 10 units) that chose to do the tours that week so we literally had our own private tours, for the price of group tours. Score! Our guide, Christian, was so friendly and knowledgable about Costa Rican history, culture, and animals and we gained so much information we never would have if we were on our own. By the second tour, it felt like we were old friends and he was showing us around his beautiful country. We would pull up to a restaurant after he had called in our orders in advance and since he knew everyone in the place, they all made us feel extremely welcome and like a part of the family. Normally I don’t take tours when I travel but this time I was a firm believer in the value of a good tour guide.

Day Trip Number One- Sloths and Hot Springs

Our first day trip was to the Arenal Region. Because it was the rainy season and there had been recent mudslides and bridges getting swept away, Christian had to take an alternate route to the region. This reinforced the fact that it was a wise decision for me not to rent a car and just go it on my own. We stopped in the town of Sarchi for some souvenir shopping and breakfast on our own. Then it was off to a quick view of Arenal Volcano, although because of the mudslides and other reasons, we couldn’t get very close.

A SLOTH!!! It was so cool seeing them moving around in the trees.

There was an optional Sloth Tour in La Fortuna, which I was like, of course we want to take the sloth tour! Who wouldn’t? Christian had an expert eye for spotting all of the sloths and thanks to his telescope we were able to see them clearly up in the trees. Sure, I had seen sloths before in zoos and the like but this was immensely better seeing them in nature. He also showed us many different birds, trees, and flowers along the way.

For the grand finale, as if seeing sloths and a volcano wasn’t good enough, we went to what are often called the best hot springs in Costa Rica but I would say the best hot springs I’ve ever been to anywhere, Baldi Hot Springs. This is a 5-star resort with over 20 natural hot spring pools, several swim-up bars, two restaurants, accommodations, and of course changing rooms, showers, and lockers. We were allowed to stay there for three hours before dinner, and they were the most relaxing three hours I spent in Costa Rica.

We had access to all of the hot springs, including the VIP ones at the very top near the hotel rooms, and we went to every one of them, some twice. Christian had left us to enjoy the hot springs on our own and told us where to go for dinner, also on our own (but everything was included in the tour price). Dinner was a buffet full of traditional Costa Rican dishes like rice and beans, plantains, and fish but so much more as well, a wide array of desserts, and even a chocolate fondue fountain with things like marshmallows, strawberries, and graham crackers to dip in it. With full bellies and soothed muscles, we met Christian by the towel return area for our drive back to the resort.

Baldi Hot Springs

Day Trip Number Two- Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens

My daughter has an interest in volcanoes and even wants to be a volcanologist and work with volcanoes when she’s an adult (she’s 16 now). When I told her we could visit a volcano up-close, she was excited and of course she wanted to do that day trip. On this day, we went to Poas Volcano National Park, with the largest active volcano in Costa Rica and 8885 feet above sea level.

The crater of the volcano is over a mile across and 1050 ft.deep. Since the crater is in a continuous eruption with its sulfuric gases, visitors are only advised to stay 20 minutes at a time, to limit respiratory distress. We also were given hard hats to wear, in the event of flying rocks and debris from a sudden eruption. Christian pointed out indentations in the walkway up to the viewing spot where large rocks had landed in previous eruptions. He also showed us specific plants growing there and told us what animals live there (mostly birds, coyotes, rabbits, and marmots). There is a lake in the crater with a lovely light turquoise color, and with a pH of zero, it is one of the most acidic lakes in the world. Since it is at a high elevation, it’s much colder here than San Jose so it was nice to get a cup of hot cocoa at the cafe there to warm up afterwards.

It was a foggy, rainy morning at Poas Volcano so it was difficult to get a good photo of the lake. Like most places, photos don’t do it justice and it was much better in person!

Afterwards, we had a short drive to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This is an easy walking trail (but with many steps) in a tropical rain forest. Christian pointed out birds and took us to the individual sections. There was a butterfly observatory, more hummingbirds than I’ve seen in one small area in the Hummingbird Garden, an Aviary exhibit, Serpentarium, Jungle Cats, and the Frog Exhibit. We had a nice lunch and once again filled up on the buffet with everything from chicken, fish, pastas, pizza, beef, the usual rice and beans, vegetables and salad, a multitude of desserts, and hot coffee and tea.

After lunch, we took the 2 mile path with the waterfalls, all 5 of them. One waterfall was so high and the water was so powerful you could feel the spray from pretty far away. I later learned La Paz is the most visited privately-owned ecological attraction in Costa Rica with the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, and the largest animal sanctuary in Costa Rica with over 100 species of animals. You can even stay at the park. https://waterfallgardens.com/la_paz_waterfall_gardens/

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Day Trip Number Three- Manuel Antonio National Park

As we were approaching the town of Quepos, the scenery suddenly changed. This seemed like a town over-run with tourists and there was a restaurant and small hotels or rooms for rent everywhere I looked. Street vendors were selling everything you could think of and it seemed like way too many people piled into this small town. Men were aggressively trying to get us to park in their parking area and sell us day tours. Fortunately Christian, our guide, knew the best spot to park and not overpay. When I asked him how a tourist would know the difference between a legitimate parking lot and an overpriced one, he said simply, “They wouldn’t.” Hmmm. Another reason I was glad we had a reputable tour guide with us.

Christian had to buy our entrance tickets to the park in advance online, as is stated on the park website, https://www.sinac.go.cr/EN-US/ac/acopac/pnma/Pages/default.aspx. Entrance fees are $16 for foreigners. No food is allowed in the park but beverages are. The reason for that is the monkeys.

This little white-faced monkey was adorable

Let me just say a word about the monkeys. There are white-faced monkeys, titi monkeys, and howler monkeys in the park. The white-faced monkeys are aggressive (but not in a harmful or scary way) and used to people. When we were walking on the boardwalk to enter the park, a woman was blocking the path of a white-faced monkey and it very comically pushed her aside so it could get past her (she was fine and it didn’t bite her or hurt her in any way; we all laughed). I loved watching the monkeys, especially the white-faced ones since they were running around on the ground in addition to being in the trees so they were easier to see. We also spotted the other monkeys while we were there but they were in the trees and didn’t come down around people.

There are also two-and three-fingered sloths (both of which we saw, and one even was a mama with a baby!!!), coati, raccoons, birds, caymen, and iguanas in the park. There are three species of mangroves, the main beach (Manuel Antonio Beach), Gemelas Beach, Espedilla Sur Beach (with strong waves so be careful), and trails. Plus, there are changing rooms and showers (no soap or shampoo allowed) and drinking water.

We were content to stay at Manuel Antonio Beach the entire time we were at the park and my daughter and I happily jumped the waves (not too high, not too wimpy) for just about the entire time we were at the beach. Christian had gone off for a run to let us have free time on our own and not hover over us but I had his What’s App contact info just in case plus he checked in on us periodically. The day we were there the beach wasn’t overly crowded but was big enough to allow people to spread out and relax under the shade. Even though it was rainy season, the sun shone all day and it was a gorgeous day for the beach.

When we left the park, Christian took us to a small restaurant nearby where he once again knew the people working there and they all treated us like rock stars. We had a table waiting on us and as soon as we were seated, we were given tasty fruit drinks to help cool us off. I have to say a word about the fruit in Costa Rica. It’s some of the freshest I’ve had anywhere, including places like Hawaii. My daughter swears she can never eat pineapple anywhere else than Costa Rica now.

That’s it for our day trips! They were all unique and if I had to pick just one, it would be extremely difficult. The hot springs were amazing but so was Manuel Antonio National Park, as was Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Garden. Christian from Sol Tropical Tours was one of the best tour guides I’ve ever had and he helped us experience true Pura Vida of Costa Rica.

Have you been to Costa Rica? If so, where did you go and what did you do? Any advice about when I go back to the Guanacaste region (where I went many years ago)?

Happy travels!

Donna

Book Review- How She Did It. Stories, Advice, and Secrets to Success from 50 Legendary Distance Runners by Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery

When I heard Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery were working on a book, I was excited about reading it. Molly Huddle is a two-time Olympian for Team USA and a six-time American record-holder and Sara Slattery represented the US at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championship and was a four-time NCAA champion. Knowing this, it was interesting to see what kind of book these two accomplished runners would write.

How She Did It is different from any other book about runners that I’ve read. First, it’s only about female runners and includes parts taken from interviews the authors had with 50 prominent female runners going back to the pioneers like Patti Catalano Dillon (also pictured on the cover), Kathrine Switzer, and Cheryl Bridges Flanagan Treworgy, Shalane Flanagan’s mom and ends with more recent runners like Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sally Kipyego.

The authors’ main question was “How did you do it?” but they asked similar questions like what was their support system like, how did they overcome challenges, how did they take care of their bodies, along with the general information about personal records at different stages of their running careers. There were many overlapping stories with the athletes such as stress fractures from under-fueling.

There’s much more to this book than interviews with famous runners. After an introduction by the authors about how the idea for the book was conceived and their running stories, part one is called “The Experts.” Huddle and Slattery brought in experts to help cover what they call the four keys to being a healthy young female runner. The four areas are: physical health and injury prevention, hormonal health, sound nutrition, and mental health and sports psychology. Not only is there advice from experts they talked to on each of the four areas, there are citations of scientific articles included in case anyone wants to dive deeper.

Part two is the bulk of the book and is comprised of the athlete interviews, which I’ve already discussed. While I enjoyed reading about each of the athletes in the book, I found it did get a bit much and in my opinion some of the athletes could have been left out. I heard on a podcast with the two authors that originally the book included interviews from 80 female runners and they whittled that down to 50, so I guess they already felt like they were cutting out quite a chunk of their book.

The next-to-last section, called “The Cooldown,” is short and includes anecdotes that happened to some of the runners in the book that weren’t included in part two. For example, Molly Seidel tells the story about when her phone was stolen from a track in Ethiopia and the whole town came together to help find it. Carrie Tollefson recalls the story about how her husband proposed to her on a run.

The final section, “Favorite Workouts” includes some of the runners in the book’s favorite running workouts, as you might imagine. I found most of these extremely vague so you won’t find true workouts, at least not in the sense I think of as a workout. For example, 2008 Olympian Anna Willard Grenier states that “all-out 200s, all-out 300s, and 150s” were her favorite workouts. Four-time Olympian Coleen De Reuck’s favorite workouts are “hill repeats. I don’t go too far because I think if your form breaks down, then you lose some benefits.” It’s interesting but is less than four pages long and just has comments from ten runners.

In total, the book is 336 pages in the paperback version and it’s available on Amazon and other book sellers. I borrowed it from my public library, which I encourage others to do unless it’s a book you know you’d read over and over. For most books, I like to see if they’re available at the library before I buy them. It’s better for the environment and is a lot cheaper! Or, you can order directly from the website and get a signed copy: https://howshediditbook.com.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. I’ve never read a book comprised solely of information about female runners through the years and from this type of angle. It’s not meant to be a training guide so as long as you don’t think that’s what you’ll be getting, it’s a worthwhile read.

Have you read this book or heard about it? If so, what did you think? Would you like to read this book?

Happy running!

Donna

Why You Should Spend Time in San Jose, Costa Rica

Many people fly into the capital city of Costa Rica, San Jose, only to quickly leave and go to another city or cities for their vacation, and they don’t bother checking out things to do in San Jose. I recently went to Costa Rica for the second time and I purposefully chose to stay in San Jose (technically it was a suburb only 5 minutes from downtown San Jose) so that I would be centrally located for day trips in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica. This decision turned out to be even better than I thought it would be.

Here’s a paragraph taken from the Frommer’s travel website that sums up San Jose well: “Although most tourists enter Costa Rica through the international airport just outside this city, few travelers take the time to soak in San José’s gritty charm. Costa Rica’s bustling capital and population center is not a bad place to hang out for a few days, or to get things done that can’t be done elsewhere, but it isn’t a major tourist destination. Still, that lack of tourism makes the city feel uniquely Tico. And because San José is the country’s biggest urban center, it has varied and active restaurant and nightlife scenes, museums and galleries worth visiting, and a steady stream of theater, concerts, and other cultural events that you won’t find elsewhere in the country.” I agree completely.

What’s there to do in San Jose?

Well, if you like museums, there are plenty of good ones including the Museo de Arte Costarricense (Museum of Costa Rican Art). The art museum is in La Sabana Park at San Jose’s first international airport facilities, and the building itself is a work of art. You can find contemporary and modern art in many different forms and as you would expect the museum houses the most complete collection of Costa Rican art in the world. Upstairs includes a room with bas-relief walls, visuals of the pre-Columbian natives and an impressive mural by French artist Louis Feron. Outside is a sculpture garden with art by Costa Rican sculptures. Very little information is in English but that wasn’t a problem for me, given the nature of the material.

Museum of Costa Rican Art

The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica (National Museum) is in the Plaza de la Democracia and includes a wide array of historical and archaeological samples with pre-Columbian art and artifacts, musical instruments, recreated tombs, pottery, and pieces in jade and gold. There are also dioramas with recreated interiors, furniture, and paintings. There is even a butterfly garden with over a dozen different species. Much of the information is in English. Check the website for prices and other info: https://www.museocostarica.go.cr

One of my favorite museums in San Jose is the Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum). I was told by a tour guide that this museum was one of his favorites in San Jose and after visiting I could see why. Not only are there 1600 gold pieces dating back to 500 B.C., there are many cultural displays about the indigenous people in Costa Rica, which I found interesting. There were also many ancient maps and information about Spanish and other conquerors over the years in Costa Rica and Central America. Much of the information is in Spanish and English so it’s easy to understand the displays. https://museosdelbancocentral.org/eng/exhibiciones/

Pre-Columbian Gold Museum

Another popular museum is the Museo de Jade Marco Fidel Tristán (Jade Museum). It may surprise you that during pre-Columbian times in Central America and Mexico jade was more valuable than gold. This museum is massive, with 5 floors and over 7,000 pieces so make sure you allow a couple of hours to fully explore everything. All of the text on the walls is also in English. http://Museo de Jade Marco Fidel Tristán (Jade Museum)

One museum that was one of my favorites but is often over-looked is the Museo de Ciencias Naturales La Salle (La Salle Science and Nature Museum). This museum is also in Parque La Sabana, so it’s easy to combine it with a visit to the Museo de Arte Costarricense. At first glance you might think it’s for children because there are dinosaur bones when you first walk in, but this museum is most definitely for adults as well. I was in awe at the huge number of items on display here. There are taxidermic animals and birds from Costa Rica and beyond, animal skeletons, sea shells, minerals, preserved specimens in jars (including a two-headed pig!) and an enormous collection of butterflies. According to the pamphlet I picked up at the entrance, “this is one of the most complete museums in Iberoamerica with more than 70,000 items on permanent exhibit.” There is an incredible amount of specimens on shelves plus dioramas full of taxidermic animals grouped together by category, like birds or mammals. It was utterly fascinating to me. Like the art museum, there is very little in English here but since it’s such a visual museum, it’s not necessary to be fluent in Spanish to understand what you’re looking at. https://www.museolasalle.ed.cr

I saved the best for last, in my opinion. Teatro Nacional (National Theater) is a must-see place in the Plaza de la Cultura. It took 7 years of construction but the theater opened in 1897 using taxes on coffee (their most popular export at the time). The theater still houses plays, concerts, dances, and operas. They offer a one-hour tour in English every hour (but that varied when I was there, so check in advance) and it is well worth it, even if you don’t normally take tours. The tours are led by artists who perform at the theater and include some areas normally off-limits like the Men’s and Women’s (separate) Smoking Rooms. Plus, you learn information about the theater you wouldn’t otherwise know. Finally, there is one of the most beautiful cafes in San Jose in the theater where you can enjoy a cup of their delicious Costa Rican coffee. http://www.teatronacional.go.cr

Teatro Nacional

Shopping

The Municipal Crafts Market is a fun place to stroll around for 30-60 minutes and browse the local goods. This is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir and you can find a wide array of hand-made goods, along with clothing and leather products (wallets, purses, etc.). The people selling their goods are more than willing to haggle, even if you don’t normally engage in this. I don’t haggle but when I went to purchase a Christmas ornament, the woman automatically lowered the price, without me even asking. https://mercadomunicipaldeartesanias.negocio.site/

In the same vein as the Municipal Crafts Market, there’s San Jose Central Market. This is more geared towards locals rather than tourists because it has more “everyday” products like herbs, meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, desserts, and also some crafts and souvenirs. There were also some small restaurants called “sodas,” which doesn’t refer to the drink but it means they have local food on the menu and mostly locals eat there. In other words, sodas in Costa Rica have delicious, authentic and inexpensive food.

Being a big city (with around 1.5 million people), San Jose has all of the shops you would expect but some were eye-openers to me. There were stores that I would call “Dollar Stores” back in the United States that were utterly fascinating to walk through. Things seemed to be randomly arranged on the shelves with umbrellas next to makeup next to small religious statues, then there was some candy, next to men’s socks. We made it a point to check them out after we experienced our first store and just see all of the crazy offerings and laugh at how they were grouped together.

I found prices to be all over the place at the clothing stores and other stores we went in. Some things would be much lower than here in the US, like the cute t-shirt my daughter found for $4, but other things like a name-brand shampoo I could get for $20 a bottle was $60 a bottle in San Jose. Groceries were mostly cheaper than in the US, with some exceptions, and restaurants were always cheaper unless they were obviously geared toward tourists, which is always the case no matter where you are in the world.

Such cool architecture! Even their post office is beautiful!

Driving in San Jose

I did not rent a car the entire time I was in Costa Rica and every single day I was glad I didn’t. The traffic in San Jose is busy, the drivers are aggressive, and drivers often don’t stop at stop signs. Parking didn’t seem easy to come by in San Jose, either. On the other hand, taxis and Ubers were plentiful. Uber is a funny thing in Costa Rica. Technically it’s illegal but you’ll have no problem finding half a dozen drivers to pick you up, at least in and around San Jose. If you have problems in other areas, it’s probably because you’re in a remote area and you can’t get a good signal for Uber.

The Uber app works exactly like it does in the US. Once you request a driver, you’ll be connected to one and given their car make and model and license plate. Since it’s illegal, it’s best if you don’t make it so obvious by sitting only in the back seat if you’re traveling with others but honestly, my daughter and I rode in at least three Ubers before a driver suggested I ride in the front (so it wasn’t so obvious he was breaking the law to take me back to my resort). Never once did I feel unsafe or that it was a potential problem. I only took one taxi (when I couldn’t get a Wi-Fi signal) because I was warned by a local they’re more expensive than Uber and the drivers sometimes “forget” to start the meter when you get in the car. The one time I took a taxi, he did start the meter but the price was definitely more than any of my other Uber rides for the same distance.

Have you been to San Jose or Costa Rica before? If not, are you surprised at all of the museums in San Jose? Do you like museums or not so much?

Happy travels!

Donna

My Tried and True Half Marathon Training Plan

First a disclaimer: I am not a running coach nor do I have any running certifications or affiliations. What I am is a runner who has been running races since 2000 and I’ve run a half marathon in all 50 states (plus a marathon, 5ks, 10ks, a 10-miler, and a 15k). Over the years, I’ve used many training plans including ones I’ve gotten from books, online, and from other runners. Since I’ve run more half marathons by far than any other distance, that’s what I’m going to focus on here.

When I discovered this particular half marathon training plan several years ago, I liked it for a few different reasons, which I’ll cover in a moment, but I did tweak it over the years. At first glance, you can see there are 5 running days with an option for another. When I first used this plan I was going by the “Run Less Run Faster” training plan where you only run 3 days a week so it would have been a stretch for me to go from 3 days a week to 6 and even jumping from 3 to 5 concerned me. It turns out running 5 days a week was the perfect sweet spot for me.

If you’re not familiar, the Run Less Run Faster program focuses entirely on speed work and a long run; there are no easy recovery days. This seemed to be working for me for a while but I began to feel like I was in a running rut and I needed a new plan, hence the training plan I will go over here. I feel like this training plan needs a name so I’ll just call it “Donna’s Half Marathon Training Plan” to keep it simple, or “Donna’s Plan” to keep it even more simple from here on since we all know it’s a half marathon training plan.

I finished first in my age group with this training plan (in Missouri)!!!

In Donna’s Plan, there are both timed runs and distance-measured runs, so for example, some days you may run for 45 minutes and other days you may run 5 miles. I like this mix of both timed and distance-measured runs because I feel like if you’re only running by time all of the time it may be not give you enough time on your feet to prepare you for the race. If a training plan says to run for 60 minutes and you’re super-speedy you’re going to cover much more ground than someone who’s running 11- or 12 minute-miles. No matter what your speed is you need to get that time on your feet before the half marathon.

On the other hand, if you only run by distance, it can get to be a bit of a head game for some people. You see that you have to run 12 miles and you think, “I’ve never run that far before. I’m not sure I can do that” and you may talk yourself out of it and run for 9 miles instead. Likewise, if you see you’re supposed to run for 6 miles during the week and you work full-time and have a family and a million other things to do, it’s too easy to tell yourself it’s ok to just run 4 miles even though the plan calls for 6 miles. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like people are more likely to get hung up on the distance-measured runs than timed runs.

Having a mix of both timed and distance-measured runs seems like a good mix to give you the confidence you need as you gradually build up both the distance and time you run. Speaking of gradual build-up, it’s important to give yourself the full 14 weeks to complete the plan. You don’t want to jump into the plan by skipping the first few weeks nor do you want to cut the training plan short by skipping the last few weeks. Donna’s Plan also assumes you’ve already built up a base of at least 25 miles/week and have been consistently running at least 5 miles for your long run.

I’ll discuss some of the terms used in the plan now.

Distance Runs are timed by minutes. They’re meant to be easy runs.

Intervals are speed workouts that include tempo runs and runs at interval pace. Tempo runs are meant to be about 25 seconds per mile slower than 5k race pace. Interval pace is supposed to be close to your current 3k or 5k race pace. This could also be referred to as a VO2max workout.

Fartlek runs are divided into three parts, a warmup, then faster brief segments that are usually repeated such as 8 x 45 seconds, and a cooldown. These are timed runs in Donna’s Plan.

Long runs sometimes include part of them at your goal half marathon pace or they can be at even distance/long run pace.

One day is slated as either a rest day, aerobic cross training (such as cycling, eliptical, rowing or some other non-impact activity) or an easy 30 minute run. If you’ve never run a half marathon before or haven’t run one in a while, I suggest you take this as a rest day.

Strides are usually done at the end of a run but can be done in the middle if you need a little pick-me-up. They aren’t meant to be sprinted all-out but help improve turnover. Focus on your form; you want to be relaxed with light footfall landings, and quick push-off. These are 15-20 seconds each.

One last note, the plan starts on Monday and includes runs on Monday, Tuesday, (optional on Wednesday), Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Sunday is a rest day every week. If you prefer to do your long runs on Sundays, you should shift everything so that you’re still running three days in a row. In this case, your day off would be Thursday instead of Wednesday and you would run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I PR’d with this plan for my 51st half marathon in state number 49 (Iowa)!!!

Week 1

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy running, 6 x 400 meters at interval pace with 1:30 jogging recovery between. Cooldown 1 mile easy. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 35 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 2 x 3 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 35 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 5 to 6 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 2

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 10 x 300 meters at interval pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 35 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 5-7 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 35 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 5 to 6 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 3

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 8 x 400 meters at interval pace with 1:30 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 3 x 3 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 6 to 7 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 4

Monday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 6 x 1000 meters at tempo pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 6 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 8 x 1 minute pickups at 5k race effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 8 mile long run. First 4 miles at long distance easy pace then last 4 miles at half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 5

Monday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 10 x 400 meters at interval pace with 1:30 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 5-6 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 3 x 4 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 9 to 10 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 6

Monday- Distance Run- 40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo run- Warmup 1 mile easy, 4 x 1 mile at tempo pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 6 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 15 minutes easy, then 12 x 30 seconds pickups at 5k effort with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 11 miles. First 5 miles at long distance run pace, last 6 miles at goal half marathon pace.

Week 7

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 4-5 x 1 miles at tempo pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 7-9 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 10 x 30 second pickups at 5k race pace with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 13-14 miles at easy even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 8

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 3 miles at tempo pace with 5 minutes jogging recovery, 1 mile at tempo pace. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-8 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 10 x 45 second pickups at 5k race pace with 45 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 12 miles. First 6 miles at easy long distance pace, last 6 at half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 9

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 2 x 2 miles at tempo pace with 2 minutes jogging recovery. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-8 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 8 x 1 minute pickups at 5k race pace with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 13-14 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 10

Monday- Distance Run- 40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 3 miles at tempo pace followed by 2 miles easy, followed by 2 x 1 miles at tempo pace with 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 8-10 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 4 x 1:30 minute pickups at 5k race pace with 1:30 minute easy between then 4 x 1:00 minute pickups with 1:00 easy + 4 x 30 seconds pickups with 30 seconds easy. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 11 miles. First 3-4 miles at long distance pace then increase last 7-8 miles to goal half marathon pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 11

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 4-5 x 1 mile at tempo pace with 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-9 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 10 x 30 second pickups at 5k race pace with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 13-14 miles at easy pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 12

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 6-7 x 1000 meters at tempo pace with 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-8 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 8 x 45 second pickups at 5k race pace with 45 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 11 miles. Run first 3-4 miles at long distance pace then increase final miles to half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 13

Monday- Distance Run- 40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1 mile easy, then 3 miles at tempo pace. Cooldown 1 mile easy. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 8 x 30 second pickups at 5k race pace with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 20-30 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 7-8 miles. Run first 3-4 miles at long distance pace then increase final miles to half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 14

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1 mile easy, then 4 x 1000 meters at tempo pace. 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1 mile easy.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Easy short run 30 minutes + 6 x 10 second strides.

Friday- Rest day.

Saturday- Easy 20-30 minute shakeout run.

Sunday- RACE DAY!

That’s it! That’s Donna’s Half Marathon Training Plan. It’s worked well for me because I was able to PR using this plan for my 51st half marathon in Iowa, my 49th state last October. I like the plan because it’s challenging enough but not so overwhelming that I’m not able to hit my goal times or run the specified distances.

What about you- do you have a tried and true half marathon plan you use for races? Or would you prefer to just wing it and run by feel on race day? Do you feel too “locked-in” or are you just too busy to follow most training plans?

Happy running!

Donna

Global Entry- Is It Worth It?

I have a platinum Delta Airlines frequent flier credit card and when they offered to reimburse fees for Global Entry as a perk for all card owners, I jumped at the chance. Global Entry costs $100 and includes TSA PreCheck and is good for five years. In other words, it’s not only useful for international flights but for domestic flights as well.

On the other hand, if you just get TSA PreCheck by itself, it’s $85 for five years, so for just $15 more you can get BOTH Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. I’m not sure who would even hesitate to just get Global Entry given this fact, unless you truly had no plans whatsoever of flying internationally in the next five years.

I applied for Global Entry sometime around the beginning of 2020. You know, before the pandemic started and people were still flying to other countries regularly or at all for that matter. I had applied online and got an email saying the first part of the process (background check) was approved and I just needed to schedule an interview at an airport approved for interviews at my earliest convenience. But then when not only international borders but also states were restricting travel early in the pandemic, I quickly saw my options for scheduling an interview go out the window.

The closest airport to me was never an option for an interview but I was willing to drive to another airport if it wasn’t going to be too far away. Even those airports weren’t offering appointments after the pandemic started, though. I remember checking the airports I was going to be flying into when I did start flying again in 2021 but none of those airports were scheduling interviews for Global Entry and I started to get extremely frustrated.

Finally, before I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the fall of 2021 I checked the online calendar for Global Entry interviews there and somehow managed to find an appointment that would work with my schedule. The “interview” was basically getting fingerprinted and my face scanned for facial recognition. They did ask me a couple of questions like if I had been to Mexico in the last six weeks or something like that but it was nothing intense. Within about 10 minutes, I was out of there and was told my card would arrive in the mail shortly.

I knew I would be flying to Portugal the following spring and while I would have my Global Entry card, my daughter, who didn’t go to New Mexico with me did not have hers. She had been “conditionally approved,” meaning she still had to have the interview and fingerprinting done. Fortunately some time in 2021 several airports began offering this final step in the process upon arrival from another country, including Newark Airport in New Jersey, which we would be arriving to from Portugal.

After getting off the plane when we were headed toward Customs and Border Control, I saw the signs for Global Entry and followed them through until I saw kiosks. I scanned my face and a receipt was printed out that said to hand it to an agent upon exit and that was it! I was done! No line, no waiting, nothing! My daughter, however, had to wait in a short line behind about five other people for her interview, which went without incident and then we were both done.

I’ve used TSA PreCheck before so I was already aware of the benefits with that program. If you’re not familiar with TSA PreCheck, it basically allows you to jump ahead in the security line to a dedicated line and you don’t have to remove your shoes or jacket and you can keep liquids in your carry-on bag. I probably wouldn’t pay for TSA Precheck by itself unless I traveled much more than I do but since it’s part of the package with Global Entry, it’s a nice extra perk.

What if you only fly once a year internationally, is it worth it, you may be asking. Let’s break it down a bit. That’s $100 for five years or $20 each year for both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. Would I personally pay $20 for A LOT less hassle after arriving home from an international flight, where I’m inevitably going to be exhausted? Probably but when you throw in TSA PreCheck on top of that for multiple domestic flights a year that I usually take, my answer is a stronger yes. Of course, the more you fly internationally and domestically the more it would be worth to you, but to me, just one flight a year out of the country is worth having it.

Since I get my Global Entry fees reimbursed by Delta, it was a no-brainer to get Global Entry, since I don’t even have to pay $100 for the programs. This wasn’t a one-time offer, either. When I renew with Global Entry, my credit card will reimburse me for the fee. Of course I did have to pay for my daughter but when I include her in the costs, it’s like I’m getting a 2-for-1 deal. For only $50 each for five years or $10/year we get Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, which is really 100% worth every penny.

One final note, while it took quite a while for my Global Entry card to be processed, that was largely due to the pandemic. Under “normal” circumstances, it shouldn’t take nearly as long or be such a pain to get as mine was. Still, you should allow a minimum of 90 days for processing. If you don’t live near an airport where they do the in-person interviews, either plan on doing approval upon arrival or find an airport where you can make an appointment (like I did when I was flying domestically).

What about you? Do you have Global Entry? If so, what was your experience like using it? Have you thought about getting it but didn’t because of the pandemic and shutdowns?

Happy travels,

Donna

Bucket List Running Goals and Motivation

Most people that regularly follow my blog know that I had a big goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states and I ran state number 50 in New Mexico last November. What you probably don’t know is since then I’ve been slacking off quite a bit when it comes to my running. Since my half marathon in November I’ve run a couple of races, Catching Fireflies 5k- My First Night Race! in May and Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in April but that’s it. I was supposed to run a race in February but it was postponed until next February.

The major reason I haven’t run that many races or started working on another big goal for myself is my daughter has been going through a serious health situation. It’s not cancer or anything like that but a chronic condition she’s had since she was 9. She’s under the supervision of some incredible doctors and we hope she’ll be through the worst of it soon and her life will greatly improve by the time she goes back to high school in late August.

It’s been extremely stressful for me as her mother, and I’ve had to take her to multiple doctor visits and stay in the hospital with her around the clock multiple times sometimes for more than a week at a time. Of course it’s been even harder for her. She’s supposed to be having fun with her friends and just enjoying life as a teenager, not being in and out of the hospital for months on end.

I realize you may have seen the title and thought I was going to announce a big bucket list running goal, but I’m not. While I did say at the beginning of the year that I would like to start running a half marathon in all of the Canadian provinces in my running resolutions post in January (Running Resolutions and My Word for 2022), that’s not going to happen any time soon. When I wrote that, I thought it would be possible to run a couple of half marathons in Canada this year but since then things have changed and there’s no way that will happen. Maybe next year.

Taken on a run with my daughter back in 2020

In hindsight now I can see when I had the goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, that definitely gave me motivation to run. I know not everyone needs a big goal to keep them motivated but for me it certainly helps. Even running local races hasn’t been possible for me since late spring. I just haven’t had the time to devote to training for much of a race other than possibly a 5k. Plus, once the summer heat and humidity kicked in here in late May, there were less and less races so my options dwindled.

Although it took me 21 years to complete my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, I never doubted it would happen. It was always about the journey for me anyway. I’ve never been the type of person to run a race just to check off a box (not that there’s anything wrong with that; to each his/her own). But I always wanted to spend at least a few days, preferably more in every state to get an idea about what the state was like, or at least the part or parts of the state I was in, try the local foods, and talk to the local people.

Even though bucket list running goals are a huge motivator for me, it’s OK that I’m not working on any big running goals now. It’s OK that my motivation to run has dwindled. And it’s OK that my overall running has slacked probably more than it has in over 20 years. Obviously my daughter comes first before anything else.

Honestly, it’s not like I’m not motivated, either. That’s not truly stating how I feel. I would love to be able to train for half marathons and travel to run them. The timing just isn’t right for me at the moment to be able to do that. It’s more like my motivation to run local short distance races has waned a bit. But then again, I never was motivated to run local short races other than the 5k I ran in May, so that’s nothing new.

I have no doubt things will improve with my daughter and once that happens, I can jump back into things. Well, I should probably ease back into things and not overdo it. Still, I know this isn’t permanent and eventually I’ll be able to start on my bucket list goal of running a half marathon in all of the Canadian provinces. Until then, I’m going to continue running when I can and be content with that.

What about you? Have you had a bucket list running goal you’ve had to put on hold for something other than covid? Do you have a bucket list running goal/s or does that not appeal to you and you’d rather just see what races pop up?

Happy running!

Donna

A Couple of HUGE (and Costly) Travel Learning Experiences For Me

During my week in the Algarve in Portugal, two things happened to me that had never happened to me EVER while traveling. I consider myself a pretty savvy traveler, at least for an American, having been to several islands in the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, parts of Europe, and South America. However, two things happened that ended up throwing me for a loop and I want to pass along what I learned as a result so that hopefully none of you make the same mistakes I did.

I have a Garmin GPS-enabled watch that I wear all the time. It usually resets itself to the current time when I travel but in the past it may have taken it a day or so to reset itself. While I was in Portugal, I noticed it suddenly reset itself after several days, on the Friday evening we were there. Since it had taken my watch a while to catch up before I didn’t think much of it. Around the same time I noticed my Samsung phone had also reset itself to the same time as my watch.

Sunset during dinner on our last night (nope even that didn’t trigger anything at the time even though we normally don’t eat that late)

Of course I assumed both my watch and phone had reset to the current time in Portugal, which was 5 hours ahead of EST, where I live. I assumed incorrectly, because as you will later see, both my watch and phone had actually reset 4 hours ahead, not 5 hours. So when I looked at my watch or phone and thought it was 6 am, it was actually 7 am. There was no reason for me to check that both devices had reset to the correct current time and there were no clocks in the Airbnb to check. I didn’t do a Google search to see current time in Portugal and check that it was the same as my watch and phone.

This wasn’t a problem until it was time to fly back to the United States on Saturday morning. I thought we were arriving at the Faro airport two hours before our flight, which should have been enough time since we weren’t checking bags and I had printed out our tickets at the Airbnb the night before. Plus, I knew Faro airport wasn’t huge like some other international airports.

At the airport, I checked the board to see what gate our flight to Lisbon was leaving out of and thought it was strange it said final boarding. I remember thinking to myself, “That’s strange they’re doing final boarding so early” but I still didn’t think much of it. We arrived at our gate and I saw a line of people getting ready to board a plane, thinking of course that was the line to board our plane, but I was wrong again. This line was full of people going to Berlin, as the chatty girl in line in front of my daughter mentioned and when I actually looked up and saw a Ryanair sign, my heart sank. Then I saw the final blow, a clock that read 7:00.

Frantically, I looked at my watch and phone and said, “But it can’t be 7:00! It’s only 6:00!” My daughter, who has nightmares about missing flights, despite the fact that it’s only happened a handful of times out of the dozens of flights we’ve had, usually due to weather delays and missed connections, started crying uncontrollably and she started to panic. Of course that didn’t help me. Nor did the fact that not a single soul was around to help me sort this out.

I went back to the ticketing area (thank goodness we never check bags and still had ours with us) and tried to find someone from TAP Portugal Airlines. There was no one. Finally someone in an information booth told me to wait until an hour before the next TAP Portugal flight, and someone from the airline would be at the airport then. Since it was a little after 7 am, that meant someone should be there to help me in a little less than two hours. I knew there was a flight from Faro to Lisbon with TAP Portugal at 10 am so I felt confident as long as there were seats left they could get us on that flight.

So we waited and I bought us some pastries from a kiosk and some bottled water since European airports don’t typically have water fill stations for water bottles. Finally someone from TAP Portugal showed up and I kindly explained that we had missed our 7 am flight to Lisbon and asked if we could please be put on the 10 am flight. She looked at me with disdain and repeated, “Missed your flight?” to which I replied, “Yes, we missed our flight. We had car troubles,” thinking she might be more sympathetic to that rather than saying my watch and phone hadn’t reset properly and had only reset 4 hours ahead rather than the entire 5 hours, which was actually the truth but I realized how crazy it sounded.

She then informed me rather brusquely that indeed there were seats available on the 10 am flight and I could purchase them for 2800 Euro. I was shocked and blurted out “Excuse me? I need to pay for these seats even though I already paid for the seats from the 7 am flight? And is that per seat or for two seats?” She said it was for two seats and yes, that was correct. I was dumbfounded. Previously we had missed a flight going to the Canary Islands with Iberia Airlines and we had been put on the next flight without having to buy new tickets so I didn’t think it was just a difference between US airlines and European airlines. I hadn’t bought the cheapest seats available with TAP Portugal, either. She suggested I do a search online and compare my options with different airlines to see if I could find another option. In other words, I was on my own.

My mind felt like it was spinning a million miles a minute. Not only did I have to search for flights from Faro to the United States that same day but our flight back to North Carolina was at 9:15 pm out of Newark so we needed to get to Newark before 9:15 that evening. Thank goodness I had good wifi at the airport.

I finally found an acceptable flight with British Airways from Faro to London, London to Newark that was leaving in about an hour and a half, which I thought should give us plenty of time to get through security again and to the gate. It also didn’t cost me nearly as much as the 2800 Euro I would have had to have paid with TAP Portugal (this would have been on top of what I had already paid for our tickets from Newark to Portugal). Because of COVID, I also had to download all kinds of extra information like our negative tests and certifications that we were healthy.

We did indeed make it to the gate on time and boarded the flight on time. The flight from London just barely missed getting us into Newark in time for the flight home; we missed it by less than 30 minutes. Fortunately, the nice person from United that I called from the BA airplane when we were waiting to deplane was happy to put us on the next flight from Newark, in about an hour later, at no charge.

Typical buildings and cobbled streets in the Algarve; this was in the city of Portimão.

The next day after we got home I called TAP Portugal, thinking surely they would give me a travel voucher if nothing else. I was curtly told that was not their policy and since I missed the flight, there was nothing they could do for me. I hung up the phone shocked. Believe me, I will try everything in my power to never fly TAP Portugal again but if I have to for some reason (because I would like to go back to Portugal) I will make sure I’m at the airport three hours in advance, not two, and more importantly, I will do a Google search asking what time it is in my current city every single time I travel across time zones.

Have you ever heard of a GPS-enabled watch or phone only partially adjusting when someone travels across time zones? Has this ever happened to you? A friend of mine suggested maybe since I didn’t have cell phone coverage in Portugal, my phone only partially reset but that doesn’t explain my watch. And why they both reset 4 hours ahead instead of 5 hours ahead is a mystery to me.

If you missed my other posts on Portugal, you can find them here: A Week in the Algarve- Southern Portugal- Outdoor Adventures, Faro, Sagres and Lagos, Portugal, First Impressions of Every Day Life in the Algarve (Southern Portugal) from an American Point of View

Happy travels!

Donna

Book Review- Next Level. Your Guide to Kicking A$$, Feeling Great, and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond by Stacy Sims with Selene Yeager

When I saw that Stacy Sims was coming out with another book, I was excited. If you don’t know who Stacy Sims is, she’s a PhD researcher who studies exercise nutrition and performance in women and focuses on athlete health and performance. Dr. Sims has lectures she calls “Women are Not Small Men” and has been trying to make people more aware that much of the research done in relation to exercise has historically been done in men, not women, and as we all know, women’s bodies are very different from men’s.

The Foreword for this book is Selene Yeager’s personal experience with menopause beginning at the age of 43 and how Stacy was able to help her by adjusting her training, adding adaptogens to her diet, and lifting heavy weight. After implementing some of the advice Dr. Sims gave her, Ms. Yeager won a tough bike race at the age of 50. Instead of just saying that her best days were behind her, Ms. Yeager gained back her confidence in herself and continued challenging herself.

Next Level was written especially for active women either approaching menopause or experiencing menopause. The book is broken into two sections, Part 1: Menopause Explained is just what it sounds like. There are simple, easy to understand explanations of perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Differences among races and ethnicities are given as well. For example, Asian women are able to metabolize isoflavones in soy better than women in Western countries. This is important because isoflavones can help reduce hot flashes.

Also included in Part 1 are some common menopause symptoms and some things you can do to help reduce the effects. Dr. Sims gives some advice on how to deal with heavy periods, as many women experience heavier than usual periods during perimenopause.

Part 2: Menopause Performance is the bulk of the book. Several pages are devoted to information on menopausal hormone therapy, past and more recent research on the subject, bioidentical hormones, and nonhormone options. She extensively covers adaptogens that are life-savers for many women. Adaptogens are plants that increase your body’s resistance to stress. When you take adaptogens in pill form, they block some of your cortisol response, resulting in a stimulating or relaxing effect depending on the adaptogen. I really appreciated this section and found it descriptive of what each adaptogen is good for, how it works, the results from studies, and how much to take.

Dr. Sims also discusses why sprint interval training (SIT) is hugely important for menopausal women. There are several examples of SIT exercises including how to do them. She is also a huge proponent of women lifting heavy weights, which is emphasized in the book, and she also gives some warm-up exercises, complete with photos. The importance of jumping exercises is brought up, with the reminder that running isn’t enough to help prevent bone loss. Several plyometric exercises are given, along with photos and good descriptions. That’s one area I was lacking in before and I’ve started doing the plyometrics circuit in her book a few times a week. It’s quite the heart-pumping workout, too!

There’s one chapter on gut health and another on diet, including fad diets like ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting. One thing many people don’t realize is women respond differently than men to intermittent fasting. Studies have shown women that fast have increased oxidative stress, slower thyroid function and slower metabolism. For women who exercise, the negative effects from fasting are amplified.

Several chapters are devoted to nutrition and the timing of fueling in relation to exercise and a chapter on sleep. There’s a chapter on core exercises and more examples with photos given. Finally, there’s a chapter on supplements including everything from vitamin D to creatine. I didn’t know that women have 70-80% lower creatine stores than men. As a result, Sims recommends menopausal women take 0.3 grams per kilograms a day of creatine for 5-7 days and then cut back to a lower daily dose (but she doesn’t say how much that is); alternatively, she suggests taking a routine daily dose of 3-5 grams.

In the final chapter, “Pulling it all Together,” Sims encourages women to take inventory of their symptoms, track your body composition, schedule your training and workout days, and plan your nutrition. She says to track everything for four weeks and see what worked and what didn’t work and try different things if necessary.

As a perimenopausal woman, I absolutely devoured this book. To my knowledge, this is the first book related to menopause geared toward active women. Some of the information was new to me and some I had heard before. Overall, I absolutely recommend this book to any woman in her mid-30’s to 40’s who is active. There are many scientific papers referenced, personal examples given throughout the book, and practical advice any older woman can appreciate.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? If you have not read Stacy Sim’s other book I have a review here: Review of “Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” by Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager.

Happy running!

Donna

First Impressions of Every Day Life in the Algarve (Southern Portugal) from an American Point of View

For so many years I had wanted to go to southern Portugal and just when I was finally going to go the pandemic started and international borders were closed. After another almost two-year wait, I was able to go to the Algarve region. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely 100%. Was it what I expected? In some ways yes, in other ways, not at all. I’ll go over some basic things I experienced, like driving, the food, and the people, and my thoughts on each.

Driving in Southern Portugal

People in Portugal drive on the right side of the road so that was easy for me as an American. I can’t speak about driving in Lisbon, Porto, or any other part of Portugal since I only drove after I picked up my rental car in Faro. The highways are well-marked and well-maintained. There aren’t many stop lights but there are roundabouts instead, which I mostly loved as I saw how there was only traffic backed-up at the places where the stop lights were. I did have to get an international drivers license for my trip but that was taken care of with a stop for passport photos followed by a stop to my local AAA for the small booklet. The downside is the license is only good for one year, which means the next time I go to Portugal I’ll have to get another one.

When you get into the main part of town, especially in small towns, driving can be a bit nail-biting. The roads in town are of course very old and were built way before the existence of today’s large vehicles. I was glad to have my compact car and even with that was nervous I’d scrape the sides of the vehicle next to me when I encountered another car. Fortunately the drivers that I encountered seemed willing to let others merge and seemed courteous for the most part. The only times I encountered any kind of car-related hostility was parking-related. As you’re probably aware, gas prices in Portugal (and Europe as a whole) are outrageous so be prepared for that. You should also acquaint yourself with European signs before your trip as well.

Do you need a car in the Algarve? If I would have only wanted to stay in my little corner of the Algarve where my Airbnb was in Ferragudo, I could have skipped the rental car entirely. However, I knew I wanted to explore the southern coast, which meant I would absolutely need a rental car. My only advice about renting a car is pay attention to the charges on your rental agreement. I’m currently disputing a charge with my credit card company about a toll fee that should have been credited back to me by the rental company but they neglected to do so, despite the fact I never drove on a toll road.

The Food in the Algarve

If you enjoy fresh seafood with loads of fruits and vegetables, this is the place for you. I’m not sure if we had seafood every day we were there but it must have been close. I had been told I should try the grilled squid, which I normally don’t enjoy in the US, and it was delicious, as were the grilled sardines, which are gargantuan compared to the nasty tinned sardines in the US. Even my teenage daughter devoured her sardines, which should tell you how good they were.

Portugal is also famous for their little pastries called pastel de nata or pastel de Belem. These are little egg custard tarts sometimes dusted with cinnamon. We had these for breakfast several times and once for an afternoon snack during a long walk. They were so tasty my daughter wants to learn how to make them!

So much fish here! Not a single meal wasn’t at least very good and most were excellent!

Some of my favorite restaurants in the Algarve include: Haven in Vilamoura, an expensive city with golf courses, expats, and a harbor filled with yachts. Side bar- there’s also an archaeological site in Vilamoura, Cerro da Vila but it was temporarily closed so we couldn’t visit. Another restaurant I loved was the fantastic O Molhe, in Ferragudo, with fresh seafood, servers fluent in at least 5 different languages (I heard them speak French, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and German), and some of the best views in the Algarve. I also enjoyed some wonderful Vietnamese food at Sen Tonkin in Ferragudo. Finding Asian restaurants is a rare find in the Algarve so it was a nice change. Another favorite was in Sagres called Three Little Birds. This is a large restaurant with a comfortable outdoor seating area in addition to many indoor tables.

Shopping in the Algarve

I was surprised to see so many Lidl grocery stores, the German-based company, but I guess I shouldn’t have been since apparently there are 11,000 Lidls in Europe. There were also several French-owned grocery stores called Intermarche, as well as the German-owned store Aldi. I always like checking out selection and prices at grocery stores when I travel and I found the selection and prices to be reasonable with some things priced lower than I would pay in North Carolina but other things were about the same. I didn’t go to a Continente grocery store, which has the most grocery stores in the Algarve so I don’t know how the prices are there but I suspect they aren’t much different from the others.

I know I seem to be contradicting myself a bit here because I’ve said before I prefer to shop locally when I’m traveling abroad and the grocery stores I’m talking about here are all chains. Further, I also shopped at a Decathlon, not once but twice when I was in the Algarve. Decathlon is a French sporting goods store with almost 1700 stores worldwide but none are in the US (there used to be one in San Francisco but it closed recently, citing the pandemic).

One rainy day I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to finally get to go to a Decathlon store in person. I have bought several things from Decathlon online, and I was so impressed with the products I wrote a post about some of my purchases (Review of Decathlon Running Apparel or Why Running Tights Should Not Cost $158). If you’re not familiar with Decathlon, they sell everything from gear for running, hiking, cycling, swimming, surfing, camping, and well, you get the idea, for extremely affordable prices. My daughter was excited to see short-sleeve running shirts for 5 Euro, pullovers for 10 Euro, and I was excited to see a backpack for 15 Euro, all of which I bought, along with a box of cereal bars for something like 3 Euro (for 12 bars). When we were in another town just strolling around and happened-upon another Decathlon, of course we had to pop in. It was a much smaller “boutique-size” store right on a beach, with mainly bathing suits and a small selection of other sporting goods. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as the main store we had visited a few days prior and we didn’t buy anything at this store.

Of course there are also the touristy beach shops selling things like t-shirts, magnets, photo holders, and other souvenirs. There were two things I didn’t buy that I wanted to: an adorable ceramic honey pot decorated with typical blue and white Algarve designs and a small zippered bag. I didn’t buy the honey pot because I don’t check bags when I travel and I knew I’d never eat all of the honey before we flew back home plus you can’t fly with honey in a carry-on and I didn’t buy the bag because I wasn’t sure I’d actually use it for anything useful. The one thing I did buy was a keychain. I buy an ornament for our Christmas tree when I travel to a new place but I didn’t like any of the ornaments we saw in the Algarve so I bought a cute key chain instead (I’ve done this before and by now have several keychains that I put on the Christmas tree from places we’ve traveled to over the years).

The People

I realize I may be getting into a controversial subject here but my first impression of the people was not what I expected. Every other person in the US that I’ve talked to that’s been to Portugal has raved about how beautiful the country is, how amazing the food is, and how friendly and nice the people are. My experience was not like that when it came to the people I encountered.

Not that I expected the people to gush compliments and be the most friendly people I had ever met but I didn’t expect them to be rude and ignore me at times. Not only was I yelled at by an elderly Portuguese man who thought I was taking his parking spot (I was just trying to turn around) when I was in Lagos, there were other people there who yelled at me for parking in an inappropriate spot (temporarily, since I quickly moved the car when I figured out why they were yelling at me). If any of those people would have just talked to me instead of yelling at me, it would have been an entirely different experience for me.

Then there was the time when my daughter and I went to a restaurant for lunch and we were blatantly ignored by three different people who worked there. They saw us standing by the entrance then looked the other way and carried on with their business. At best, all of the people we encountered were civil but in a cool and distant way, if that makes sense. In other words, they were merely doing their job and were not chatty or in no way tried to get to know us or basically had any real interest in us.

Since I didn’t take any photos of the people there, here’s one of my lovely daughter wearing her new shirt from Decathlon!

One thing I don’t think I mentioned that is a big reason I wanted to go to the Algarve was to see if it could be a potential retirement place for me. Some of the boxes were checked, like good food, reasonable prices, great weather and scenery but the one box that I don’t feel like I could check off was friendly people. I will go back to southern Portugal and give it another chance but honestly, I’m not sure I’d want to live in a place where the people aren’t that friendly. Maybe I just had a bad first impression and on that account but I’m willing to give it another chance. I’ve since talked to other people who have said they’ve heard the people are more friendly in Lisbon and Porto than in Southern Portugal. Who knows if that’s true in general but since I would want to live in the south because of the warmer weather, even if it were true, it wouldn’t help me.

Have you been to Portugal? If so, where did you go and what was your experience like?

Happy travels!

Donna

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