I Tried a Sensory Deprivation Tank and Here’s What it Was Like For Me

Over the last year, I had been hearing more and more about sensory deprivation tanks, also known as isolation tanks or floatation tanks, and I wanted to try one out for myself. A sensory deprivation tank is a lightless, soundproof tank filled with salt water at skin temperature, in which you float. There are numerous health benefits, including psychological effects like increasing concentration and focus and reducing anxiety, as well as benefits for athletes such as speeding up recovery after strenuous physical training by decreasing blood lactate.

Since I would be running the Seashore Classic Half Marathon in Delaware as part of my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, I checked to see if there was a place that offered flotation tanks near the race so that I could try it out as a form of recovery. Sure enough, I found Urban Float in Lewes, Delaware, part of a chain with a handful of locations in Ohio, Texas, and Washington. I booked a reservation online for the day after my half marathon and looked forward to my Mother’s Day appointment.

The day of my appointment, which was the day after the Seashore Classic Half Marathon, I woke with a sore core and sore legs. When I arrived at Urban Float, I filled out the usual personal information (name, address, phone number) and watched a short video on what to expect. I was taken to a private room (there were six private rooms with tanks here) that contained a sensory deprivation tank, a bench to put my clothes on, a shower with shampoo, body wash, and conditioner, and a basket full of earplugs and small packs of petroleum jelly (to cover any small cuts). There was also a pool noodle you could prop under your neck or knees and a small halo-looking flotation device you could put under your head if you felt like you wanted a little something to assure you your head wasn’t going to go under the water.

A nice shade of blue inside the tank

I was told to shower beforehand, using only body wash and shampoo (no conditioner), finishing off with cool water to make the transition easier, and enter the pod naked (although you can wear a bathing suit if you want but it’s all completely private). I had chosen there to be music for the first ten minutes inside the tank, followed by silence, then music again for the last five minutes. I chose which type of music I wanted and was told it would be followed by an announcement that my time was over.

There was a button inside the tank to control the lights. You had the option to have them cycle through different colors, choose just one color, or have no lights and be in complete darkness. There was also a panic button on the right-hand side, which I was told to hold and push several times if necessary, since they “tend to ignore the first couple of times the alarm goes off” because people apparently sometimes accidentally hit the panic button and they want to make sure you truly meant to hit it. There was also a small spray bottle of water in case you got any salt water in your eyes.

So, after showering, I grabbed the halo floatation device and entered the tank. Per the instructions and personal preferences of the people who work there given to me at the beginning, I didn’t put in ear plugs. I pulled the tank completely closed (you can prop it open but I was told you would feel a draft from the room since it was slightly cooler than the water and tank temperature) and eased into the water. Immediately, I began to play around with the lights, finally choosing a nice green hue to stay on.

I found it was actually pretty difficult to not float in the water when I tried pushing down my legs to the bottom. The tank had about 10 inches of water filled with 1200 pounds of epsom salt so it’s even more buoyant than the Dead Sea. As suggested, I moved around, trying different positions, until I finally settled on the typical arms out at my sides and legs splayed out, kind of like a star. I did wish I had put ear plugs in my ears because I didn’t really like my ears filling up with water and I found myself lifting up my head to let the water drain out of them several times. The halo helped a tiny bit with keeping water out of my ears but not much.

The outside of the tank reminded me of a space shuttle from Star Trek!

Once the music stopped, I didn’t have any trouble staying relaxed. I practice yoga and am pretty good at meditation and relaxing my mind. However, after some time, even I had trouble focusing and relaxing. I got a bit bored and was ready for my session to end about 5 or so minutes before the music came on again at the end. When it was time to get out of the tank, I once again showered with body wash and shampoo, and also used conditioner and put a few drops of vinegar in each ear. I dried off and got dressed and headed up to the front again.

There was a relaxation room off the side of the main check-in area, where you could get water or tea or just relax in front of the fake fireplace. I decided to skip that on my way out and just went to check out. I knew I would have a long drive back home and wanted to get back to pack up and head home.

Afterwards, my muscles definitely felt more relaxed. My core wasn’t sore at all and my legs weren’t nearly as sore as they were previously. I’ve always been a huge believer in the power of epsom salts to relieve sore muscles, and these tanks are basically giant epsom salt baths.

The sensory deprivation part of these tanks is more complicated, in my opinion. Since you’re completely in control of the lights inside the pod and you can have some music at the beginning and end, music throughout, or no music at all, or you can go for more of a quasi-sensory deprivation, where I feel like you get the best of both. You can have total darkness and no sounds for say 15 minutes, to ease into it, especially the first time or two you experience it, or you can choose to jump right in and go for total sensory deprivation with no lights or music. On the other hand, you can choose to leave the tank open a little if you’re concerned about feeling claustrophobic, and leave the lights on inside the tank along with music playing the entire time. In other words, you’re in control of your experience.

So would I do it again? Absolutely, without hesitation, especially after a hard race, like a marathon or half marathon. I’m not and have never been claustrophobic, either, so that’s not a factor for me but I could see where it would be with other people. I can’t say I really felt that much more relaxed mentally, but if you floated at a place regularly, I can see that being a benefit for sure.

Have you ever tried a sensory deprivation tank? Would you ever try one if given the opportunity?

Happy running!




How to Keep Your Airline Miles Once You Earn Them

I previously wrote about how I saved a ton of money using my Delta Airlines-branded American Express card, which you can read here: How Flying with Delta Airlines Has Saved Me a Boatload of Money. However, Delta Airlines isn’t the only airlines my family and I fly with. Occasionally, if a flight is substantially less with another airline, we’ll fly with them. Currently, I have airline miles with American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines. I have no plans in the next several months to fly with American or United Airlines, but you never know what may pop up so I want to keep the miles I have with them just in case.

With the exception of Delta Airlines, all miles earned with airlines in the United States have an expiration date. For United Airlines, miles expire after 18 months of inactivity; Southwest Rapid Rewards points expire after 24 months of inactivity. In general American Airlines AAdvantage miles expire in 18 months if you don’t fly with American or one of their partners, but if you have an American Airlines-branded credit card, your miles earned using that card will remain valid as long as you use the card.

mountains blue sky plane airliner
Photo by Hazyrah Mokhlas on Pexels.com

Most of us that have earned miles by flying with a particular airline have received something in the mail stating we can buy a magazine to stop our miles from expiring. Maybe you’ve even done this yourself; I know I have many years ago. That is, until I found out this isn’t really the best way to keep your miles from expiring.

It’s a pretty well-known fact that simply flying with an airline isn’t the best way to earn miles unless you fly for work and literally fly every week or you fly first class all the time. Once you accrue those hard-earned miles the last thing you want to happen is for them to expire so you can’t even use them. As long as there’s some kind of activity on your mileage account within the limit (as I mentioned above, usually it’s 18 to 24 months) your miles won’t expire.

What counts as activity? You could purchase magazines, as that indeed counts as activity on your account. You spend a small amount of your miles to buy the magazine, so the miles are deducted from your account, but it re-sets the clock on your account, thus further extending the expiration date of your miles.

An even better way is to have an airline-branded credit card that you use for everyday purchases. As I stated above, when you use an American Airlines-branded credit card, your miles earned using that card will remain valid and don’t ever expire. I use my Delta Airlines-branded credit card when I shop for groceries, get gas for my car, buy clothes, go out to eat, and pretty much everything else I can, in addition to buying airfare for myself and my family.

One thing many people don’t know about is you can earn miles simply by shopping online through your airlines-branded credit card shopping portal. For example, you can earn 2 miles per dollar spent by shopping at Home Depot with many cards, or Bloomingdale’s or Target or Macy’s, and the list goes on and on. The number of miles you earn per dollar also varies greatly, from 1 mile to as much as 15 miles per dollar but I’ve even seen some places offering many more for large purchases. Often, stores will offer limited-time promotions where you may earn say 8 miles per dollar when you normally would earn 2 miles per dollar. This only applies to online shopping, however. Still, it’s an easy way to rack up the miles simply by doing something you were going to be doing anyway if you needed to buy something online.

Many airlines-branded credit cards also have dining programs. Simply by enrolling in the program with your credit card, you earn miles by eating out at certain restaurants. If you eat out a lot, the miles would really add up quickly this way. Even if you don’t eat out that often, it’s another way to keep your miles from expiring.

It’s really not as hard as some people may realize to hold on to their airline miles. You have several options to earn miles by doing things that most of us do anyway.

Have any of you done any of these things to keep your airline miles from expiring? If so, please share your experiences below!

Happy travels!





I’ve Done Something I Always Said I Would Never Do as a Runner

No, I didn’t qualify for Boston or anything crazy like that. What I’ve done is something many of you do all the time. For years I’ve thought about doing what I’ve done but I resisted. Despite other runners telling me I should change, I didn’t until recently but I’m stubborn like that.

I’ve become a morning runner. OK, go ahead and roll your eyes and say, “Is that all?” For me, though, this is a big thing. Like I said, for years I resisted. Instead of running before work, I would run after work. For much of the year, that was fine, except during the heart of summer when the highs for the day reached the 90’s, and of course the heat of the day coincided when I was running. I’ve always run my long run on Saturday mornings but I would never set my alarm early and get out at something crazy like 5 am.

I love my sleep and I didn’t want to have to get up at crazy-o-clock in the morning so I could run before work. But then I had an epiphany- I could just wear my running clothes to work, run there, shower, and go on with my day. We’re lucky enough to have not one shower stall at work but four shower stalls in two separate bathrooms. They’re clean and I’ve never had to wait while someone else was using one (I’ve used them in the past occasionally when I’d run after lunch). Why the heck wouldn’t I take advantage of such a great perk?

Even at 7:45 am it was hot but still a lot cooler than if I would have run after work!

So one morning I tried it. I woke up at my usual time, packed a bag full of my work clothes, shampoo and the rest of my shower things, a towel and washcloth, and everything else I needed to get ready for the day. I ate breakfast at home, drove to work, ran, showered, and went on with my day. Hmmmm, not bad but I could do better. A couple of days later I laid out my running clothes and shoes, packed my work clothes and shower things the night before, and ate a Honey Stinger Cracker ‘N Nut Butter bar in the car on my way to work. Much better this time.

On my fourth day of running in the morning before work I started noticing a few things. My times were definitely faster when I would run in 60-something degrees versus 80-something degrees (no surprise there). I also was able to finish my run, shower, and get on with my day before all but one other person from my group at work even got to work, so certainly no one even noticed anything different in my work schedule. If I needed to, I could always work a little later in the evening because I wouldn’t need to hurry home to get in my run before dinner.

More importantly, I started noticing how much I enjoy being outside in the early morning. There are less cars on the roads so it’s noticeably quieter and there are more birds out, which I enjoy. It’s hard to put a finger on, but mornings just feel a bit different. I also really like having the evening completely free to do whatever I want. Instead of rushing home, changing into my running clothes, going for a run, making and eating dinner, stretching and foam rolling, I can now take my time getting home. I also am not running when it’s super hot outside, which is great!

So it seems I may have been converted to a morning runner after all of those years of fighting it. I have to admit I probably won’t run all four of my weekly runs in the morning, however, although I’ll continue running my long runs in the morning like I always have. I’ll probably still run 1 or 2 days a week in the evenings because I’m not 100% converted (yet, although that may change when it’s July!).

What about you- are you a morning runner or do you prefer to run in the evening? Do you think I’m crazy for just now changing so I run some of my runs in the mornings?

Happy running!





Delaware in a Weekend

I’ve lived in West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina and I’ll admit I knew almost nothing about Delaware before I went there recently. Since I only went for a weekend, I still know almost nothing about the state but at least I can say I’ve at least seen some of the coastal areas. Other than being known as the first official state in the United States, many Americans in general don’t seem to know much about Delaware unless you happen to live in an adjoining state.

Let’s all give a little love to Delaware and learn a bit about this state. Coming in as the second-smallest state, Delaware is 96 miles long and 39 miles at it’s widest. Delaware is flat, with the highest point a mere 442 feet above sea level. There are only three counties in Delaware and some of its most popular cities include Rehoboth Beach, Wilmington, and Dover.

When I was choosing which half marathon to run for my race in Delaware (I’m running a half marathon in all 50 states), several people suggested I run a race along the coast. I thought about running the Coastal Delaware Running Festival in April with a start and finish on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk, but then I found the Seashore Classic Half Marathon in May in Lewes, Delaware, just outside Rehoboth Beach. The Seashore Classic Half Marathon is a much smaller affair than the Coastal Delaware Running Festival and I really like smaller, local races.


My family and I drove up to Delaware from North Carolina and stayed in Rehoboth Beach in a house through VRBO. The house was close to everything in the area and allowed us to easily check out everything. Within an hour of Rehoboth Beach, there are a ton of things to do such as visit a couple of state parks and multiple beaches, go to an amusement park or water park, rent bikes and ride along the Junction and Breakwater Trail, or visit some historical sites in Lewes, the first city in the first state in the United States.

The afternoon of the day that I ran a half marathon, we went to Cape Henlopen State Park to walk our dogs. Part of the race was through the state park and I wanted to check out some other areas that I didn’t see on the course. We paid our $10 entrance fee ($5 for Delaware residents) and drove to the Seaside Nature Center, where we quickly found out dogs were not allowed, even though this is where we were directed to go at the entrance gate (and the woman saw and commented on our two dogs in the car).


I asked inside the Nature Center exactly what areas of the park were dog-friendly, and was told basically everything south of there but nothing in that area or north of there. We decided to drive to the campground and parked just before the entrance to the campground. From there, we walked along parts of the Bike Loop, the Salt Marsh Spur, Walking Dunes Trail, and Gordons Pond Trail. We got turned around several times and had to use our GPS to figure out which way to go, especially on the Salt Marsh Spur, which wasn’t marked well. Overall, Cape Henlopen State Park is very scenic and a place I highly recommend going to if you’re in the area.

There is also a plethora of shopping and dining in the Rehoboth Beach area and surrounding cities. I’ve been told many people that live in nearby Maryland cross over the border to go to the outlet mall in Rehoboth Beach to save money. There are also local, unique shops with a wide range of products and services, especially in Lewes. As far as restaurants, we ate at Kindle, The Pickled Pig Pub, and Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats. My favorite was Dogfish Head, which only fortified my claim that breweries almost always have great or at least really good food.

Cape Henlopen State Park

As I mentioned earlier, there are multiple beaches in the area, and I would venture to say the beaches are the primary reason why people come here to visit. Lewes Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Gordon Pond Beach (within Cape Henlopen State Park), and Dewey Beach are the most popular beaches as far as I can tell. Originally the plan had been to rent stand-up paddle boards from Delmarva Board Sport Adventures after the half marathon, but that wasn’t in the cards. It looks like a fun option for kayaking or paddle boarding in the area, though.

While we managed to just get a little taste of Delaware, it turned out to be a pretty state (at least what I saw along the coast) and we had a nice time there. I do have to say that it was quite congested with traffic around Rehoboth Beach on Mother’s Day weekend, so I can only imagine how much more congested it gets during the busy summer months. The area is also pretty expensive, so be prepared for that and budget accordingly.

Have you ever been to Delaware? If so, where did you go? Do you have plans to go there?

Happy travels!





Seashore Classic Half Marathon, Lewes, Delaware- 45th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Delaware was my 45th state.

Since I live on the east coast, you might think Delaware is a state I would have run long ago instead of it being one of my last few races. However, I found it a bit difficult finding a half marathon in Delaware that I thought would be a good fit for me, that is, until I found the 2019 Seashore Classic Half Marathon. I prefer smallish races put on by local runners. I also prefer courses that are flat or slightly downhill. This one checked all of those boxes plus the races along the coast came recommended by other runners when I asked which race I should run for my half marathon in Delaware.

Packet pickup the evening before the race was about as quick and easy as they come for races- I went to a restaurant called Irish Eyes, told the volunteers which race I was running, picked up my bib and shirt, and was done in less than five minutes. There was no expo, no vendors, absolutely nothing other than a room with two volunteers handing out shirts and bibs, oh and print-outs of hand-drawn maps.

Start of the Seashore Classic 1/2 Marathon

Normally I like to drive the course the day before a race so I get an idea in my head what I’m up against before a race. We tried to find the start but were unable to and it was quickly getting dark and we still hadn’t had dinner, so we decided to just get dinner and I decided to just hope for the best for the course. It was touted as being flat and fast, along the water and mostly through a state park. How hard could it be, right? That would come later.

Race morning was 65 degrees and a bit overcast, a tad warmer than I would have liked but not terrible by my standards (I tolerate the heat much better than most people). There was a 5k, half marathon relay, and half marathon, all of which started at the same time and place. Still, it was a fairly small crowd so even though maybe the first half mile or so was a bit crowded, things pretty quickly thinned out.

The first two miles of the race were on the road and my mile splits were 8:18 and 8:26, way too fast for me and I knew it. I figured I would just roll with it as long as I could, though. We entered Cape Henlopen State Park somewhere around mile 2.5 and shortly after that the ground changed from asphalt to crushed gravel. Mile 3 was 8:53, much closer to what I was aiming for.

Part of the crushed gravel course of the Seashore Classic 1/2 Marathon

We continued on the crushed gravel path through the park, passing a lighthouse, and had several water views along the way. The turnaround point was on Gordons Pond Trail, which was also the relay handoff. I still felt pretty good at the halfway point but by mile 8, I was pretty much done mentally and physically with the crushed gravel trails. The sun was out in full force by now and there were long stretches where we were exposed to the wind, which was pretty brutal.

I did a ton of self-talk during this race and I told myself that we should be back on asphalt somewhere around mile 10. However, I was warned by a local runner that often when you go from running a long distance on crushed gravel to asphalt, it feels harder on your legs when you get back on the asphalt. Perhaps this is because the gravel isn’t quite as solid as asphalt and you have to work a bit harder to get your footing. Whatever the reason, my legs were toast by the time we reached the asphalt again.

Mile 11 was my slowest mile, at 9:46, and I was struggling to not walk (but I didn’t). All around me, people were stopping to stretch their legs briefly before continuing on. By mile 12 I was able to speed up a bit to 9:34 but my legs were so tired I couldn’t speed up that much. Finally, with the end in sight, my last mile was 9:18, and I had a respectably strong finish, with a final time of 1:58:38, good enough for second in my age group.

2nd in my age group!

I had put it out there earlier this year that one of my goals for 2019 was to finish in the top three for my age group, Running Resolutions for 2019. I was thrilled that I was able to do that with this race because I knew it was my best chance for doing that this year. I waited around for the age group awards ceremony, not knowing where I placed in my age group, but knowing there was a slight chance I might win something based on previous years’ times.

Following the race, medals were handed out to all of the finishers at the finish line, along with bottles of water. Just a little walk from the finish line, at Irish Eyes Restaurant, there were hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, beer, and Bloody Mary’s. I didn’t have the stomach to eat or drink anything other than water, so I just sat and people-watched for a bit, waiting on the awards ceremony. Finally I decided a strawberry daiquiri would taste awesome (that’s normally not a drink I would ever get, either), and my husband happily went to buy one for me inside the restaurant.

My thoughts on this race are that it’s a pretty good one to run if you’re a 50-stater or live near Lewes, Delaware and want to run a scenic half marathon. If you’re the type of runner who needs crowd support, fancy aid stations, and loads of bling, this isn’t the race for you. The shirt was pretty simple, as was the medal. There were three aid stations on the course, with water only. I barely saw anyone cheering on runners except for the finish/start area.

Even though this race is often described as “fast and flat,” this isn’t an easy course by any stretch of the imagination. There are rolling hills in the park and large sections of the race where you’re exposed to the sun and wind. There’s also the toll running on crushed gravel takes on your legs. That being said, I really did enjoy this course and several times commented out loud to other runners how beautiful it was. I would recommend this race with those reservations.

Seashore Classic Half Marathon

Have any of you run a race in Delaware? If so, which one did you run and what did you think?

Happy running!




Travel Ideas for Animal-Loving Families

My family and I are huge animal-lovers. We have two rescue dogs that only travel with us on road trips (see my post Tips for Traveling with Dogs) so we love interacting with animals of all types when we travel to fill that void of missing our dogs. Over the years we’ve had many different encounters with animals. When our daughter was very young we would sometimes visit zoos when we traveled but that seemed to get less and less. Now we prefer to visit places that are rescue centers or see animals in their natural habitat when possible.

Our interactions with animals during our travels have run the gamut, with some places more positive experiences than others. My list of top places includes mostly dogs, exotic birds, bears, moose, butterflies, sting rays, and iguanas. I’d like to share some of the places that stand out more than others here.

When I was planning our trip to Utah, a co-worker who has been to Utah a few times recommended a place called Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. I looked it up and it did indeed look like a place my family and I would be interested in visiting. Not only did we visit there, but we had lunch upon arrival, stayed in one of the cottages on-site, toured the facilities with a guide, volunteered with some puppies (PUPPIES!), and even got to have a sleepover with one of the puppies in our cottage. It was even better than I could have imagined. I highly recommend staying here if you’re in southern Utah. You can read my full post on Best Friends here:  Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, “Save Them All!”.

Walking a puppy at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

San Diego, California is one of my favorite places in the world. Not only is it beautiful but it’s absolutely full of things to do. When we were there a few years ago, we stopped to visit a bird rescue just outside San Diego called Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary. This is a place my daughter and I still talk about because it was such a unique experience for us. We had been to animal shows before where birds perform silly tricks and such, but we’d never been allowed to touch and interact with exotic birds before. One of our most memorable interactions here was with a bird called “Peanut,” who serenaded us and made us laugh. You can read my blog post on Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary here:  Off-the-Beaten Path Things to Do in Del Mar, California.

Some of the birds from Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary

Many people visit Alaska to see bears, moose, puffins, and many other animals. When we visited Alaska, we definitely saw our share of many different types of animals. One of my favorite places to see animals was at Denali National Park. We went on a bus tour (an on-and-off bus where you could get off and hike then catch another bus to get back out of the park) one day and saw tons of bears, many different kinds of birds, caribou, and dall sheep. You can read about Denali National Park here:  Denali National Park in Alaska. Another animal encounter we had while in Alaska that turned out to be my daughter’s absolute favorite is when we went to Seavey’s Sled-Dogs in Seward, Alaska. What’s not to love about getting to hold adorable Alaskan Husky puppies? Going on a sled-ride pulled by some eager dogs around the grounds was a ton of fun as well!

One of the puppies from Seavey’s Sled Dogs

Ostriches and butterflies probably aren’t the first things you think of when you think of Aruba. Many people visit Aruba for the powdery white sandy beaches and while they certainly didn’t disappoint, we also discovered a couple of places for animal-lovers. Simply known as The Butterfly Farm, this is one of my favorite butterfly farms I’ve been to anywhere. There are hundreds of butterflies here from around the world as well as caterpillars. A guided tour is included in the entrance fee, and the guide will show you how to safely handle butterflies when they inevitably land on you. We also visited the Aruba Ostrich Farm and loved it here. In addition to the tour of the ostriches (which you can feed and even go on a short but wild ride if you’re little and lucky enough like our young daughter was), you can eat lunch here, and view their African art pieces. There’s also a souvenir art shop full of local art work.

My daughter feeding ostriches at the Aruba Ostrich Farm

Charleston, South Carolina is another one of my favorite places to visit, and I’ve been there many times over the years. On a recent visit, I discovered The Center for Birds of Prey, which is just outside Charleston in a city called Awendaw. Here, we took a guided tour and saw many different types of birds, watched a flight demonstration, and saw newly-hatched baby owls. Many people think of historical sites, gourmet food, and beaches when they think of Charleston, but The Center for Birds of Prey is also a great place to visit if you’re in the area and are an animal-lover.

One of the beautiful birds at the Center for Birds of Prey

The next place I’m going to mention is definitely touristy, but a lot of fun nonetheless. As they say, some things are popular for a reason. When we were recently in Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean, we went snorkeling with a tour group that took us to Stingray City. Here, we were able to touch these gorgeous creatures as they glided past us on the shallow sandbar. Our guides offered to let people hold or even kiss a sting ray (it was said to bring you good luck), but I was content to just gently touch them as they swam past me. We also thoroughly enjoyed seeing the endangered Blue Cayman Iguana on our guided tour of Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. While you can’t touch the iguanas on the tour (they bite), you get to see them up-close on the behind the scenes tour of the breeding and recovery program. You can read my blog post on stingrays (and more) here:  Grand Cayman Island- Beautiful Beaches, Bioluminescent Water, Stingrays, and More and my post on the botanical garden (and more) here:  Exploring Grand Cayman Island on Foot-Crystal Caves, Botanical Gardens, Hiking a Trail, a Historical Site, and Hell.

A Cayman Blue Iguana at Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in Grand Cayman Island

The final place on my list where my family and I interacted with animals is Hawaii. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii (a.k.a. The Big Island) multiple times and I’ve seen many different kinds of animals like huge turtles both in the water and on beaches on the Big Island, peacocks in Kauai, and whales off the coast of Maui. However, one of my favorite animal experiences was when we visited the Kauai Humane Society and took one of the shelter dogs on a field trip. At the Kauai Humane Society, you get to choose a dog from their best-behaved dogs and take them for a walk or wherever else you’d like for the day after paying a donation and getting some items for the day. The dog we chose, Priscilla, was extremely well-behaved in the car and on her leash. Taking Priscilla on a field trip that day was one of the highlights of my vacation in Hawaii and given all of the amazing things we saw and did in Hawaii, that’s really saying something! You can read about my vacation in Kauai here:  Rediscovering Kauai, Hawaii and Some of My Favorite Things.

Sweet little Priscilla from the Kauai Humane Society

Are you an animal-lover? Do you try to incorporate visits to animal rescue centers or otherwise interact with animals when you go on vacation? What are some of your favorite places to visit animals?

Happy travels!



Age-Graded Half Marathon Finish Times

I talked about age-grading in a previous post, which you can find here:  My Age Adjusted Half Marathon Times. For those of you in your 20’s, this isn’t something you think about but for runners in your 40’s like me, it’s certainly something to consider. Inevitably, we slow down with age and although it varies considerably from person to person and depends on when you first started running and racing, for most people it happens noticeably in your 40’s. That where age-grading or age-adjustment times come in.

Age Grading Calculators take into account your age and gender at the time of the race and compares your finish time to an “ideal” or best time (not necessarily the “world record”) achievable for that individual’s age and gender. Statistical tables are used to compare the performances of individual athletes at different distances, between different events, or against other athletes of either gender and/or of any age. In other words, it puts males and females of all ages on the same level essentially.

In my original article, I have a link to Runner’s World age graded calculator, but since Runner’s World has since locked down their online access unless you pay for it, I found another website with an age graded calculator that I’ll link to here. You just have to put in your age at the time of the race, the distance, and your finish time and it will calculate your age-graded finish time for you.

Running towards the finish line in Arkansas

I wanted to look at my most recent races, so I entered them in the calculator and got the following results with the age-graded results first here:

Arkansas- 1:48:08 (actual time 1:57:31)

Alaska- 1:51:25 (actual time 2:01:06)

Idaho- 1:50:16 (actual time 1:59:51)

West Virginia- 1:51:15 (actual time 2:00:55)

New Jersey- 2:03:05 (actual time 2:13:46)

Utah- 1:56:18 (actual time 2:06:24)

California- 1:57:48 (actual time 2:06:46)

To be completely honest, the race in Utah was bitterly cold at the start (to me anyway, a Southerner not used to running in freezing temperatures) plus it was hilly and this no doubt effected my racing times. The race in New Jersey was filled with some brutal hills which of course slowed me down considerably and the race in California was hot from the start and just got hotter. This explains my slower times for those races. I would say my times for the other races are pretty similar.

My fastest age-graded times seem fast by my standards, although I know many of you are much faster than I am and was faster than me even when I was younger. My fastest finish time to date was 1:55:28 at Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state. My age-graded time for this race is 1:49:13. Comparing the race in South Dakota, my age-graded time at the race in Arkansas was actually faster even though they were 3 years and 4 months apart. I’m truly surprised by this. This means factoring in age, my times aren’t getting slower but I have been getting faster in the last couple of years.

Just out of curiosity, I plugged in my information into the age-graded calculator for the half marathon I ran in Pennsylvania many years ago:  Philadelphia Distance Run, Pennsylvania-3rd state. My age-graded time was 2:00:13  and my actual finish time was 2:00:31. No surprise there really. It just proves that age-grading is really only for those in their 40’s and later.

Also, I’m a big fan of Arctic Cool shirts and apparel. I wrote a post on a shirt I tried a while back, which you can read here:  Review of Arctic Cool Shirt. Now through May 12, 2019, you can receive a free cooling headband with any purchase with code ACHeadband. Their website is here.

Do any of you calculate your age-graded race times or are you still too young for it to make a difference? Do you know anyone else who looks at their age-graded results after a race?

Happy running!




How Flying with Delta Airlines Has Saved Me a Boatload of Money

I started keeping a spreadsheet of how much I pay for flights late in the year 2017. Before that, I would of course search several places to get a good deal and search on Google Flights to see if flying on a different day would save money. Over the years, my family and I have mostly flown with Delta but not exclusively. We unfortunately don’t have an airline with a “hub” where I live, which means we often have to fly through other cities before our final destination and we also don’t get as good of flight deals as we would if we had an airline hub where we live. For many places where we fly, however, Delta has been the best choice considering both price and time for my family.

In 2016 I applied for and received my first American Express credit card associated with Delta Airlines. It was the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, which has no annual fee for the first year then is $95/year. You get 1 mile per dollar for everyday purchases and 2 miles per dollar for Delta purchases. There are no foreign transaction fees and your first checked bag is free.

However, in 2017 I began receiving information in the mail about upgrading to the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card. Like the Gold card, you get 1 mile per dollar for everyday purchases and 2 miles per dollar for Delta purchases. There are no foreign transaction fees and your first checked bag is free. However, the annual fee is $195. I debated whether it was worth it until I saw the part about the Companion Ticket. You get a free coach companion ticket every year at card renewal. Unless I use it for somewhere that’s always cheap to fly to (like New York City), that’s a no-brainer that it would more than pay for the extra $100 in annual fees over the Gold card and even cover the $195 annual fee.

airplane wing towards clouds
Photo by Sheila on Pexels.com

There is also a “Miles Boost” available to Platinum Delta SkyMiles card-holders that isn’t available if you have the Gold card. Basically, you get 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 in a calendar year. If you spend $50,000 in a calendar year you get an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs. This is probably a bit more information than most fliers are interested in, but I did want to throw it out there for you true “travel geeks” who are into that kind of stuff. If you have to ask what an MQM is, you probably don’t need to worry about it (Medallion Qualification Miles if you do want to know). Long story short, this could potentially put you into elite status simply by just using your credit card.

Now to get to my actual numbers and how much money having the Delta SkyMiles credit cards have saved me. I’m going to list some recent flights here, since I didn’t even start putting my numbers into the spreadsheet until late 2017, but you should know that flight prices vary for most cities throughout the year greatly and from one year to the next. Still, there are some exceptions; if I buy a ticket to New York City, I know it should cost me roughly $200 round-trip including taxes and fees throughout the year but it could be considerably more for last-minute tickets or the day after Thanksgiving for example.

Here is an example of some of the total airfare costs (basically taxes and fees) I paid per ticket using Delta miles (all were in the range of 28,000-37,000 miles per person):

One-way flight to JFK (New York City) from North Carolina:  $8.20

One-way flight to North Carolina from Miami:  $41.80

Round-trip flight from North Carolina to Boise, Idaho:  $11.20

Round-trip flight from North Carolina to Idaho Falls, Idaho $53.80 (using Companion Fare), $11.20 for separate ticket using miles, thus 2 flights were $65.

Let me go into more detail for the last example because it is by far the most striking. Full-price airfare for the round-trip flight from North Carolina to Idaho Falls, Idaho was $565.80 per person. You can see the Companion Fare ticket saved $512 ($565.80-$53.80=$512). Using miles for the third ticket saved $554.60. By using the Companion Fare for two people and miles for the third person, we paid $630.80 for three round-trip tickets. If we would have all three paid $565.80, it would have cost us $1697.40, so we saved a total of $1066.60! The Companion Fare alone more than pays for the $195 annual fee for the Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card, not even taking into account using basic earned miles and paying only $11.20 round-trip for that other ticket.

window view of an airplane
Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

I should note that I have absolutely no affiliation whatsoever with Delta Airlines, American Express, or any other credit cards. I don’t get any kind of benefits if all of you rush out right now and sign up for a Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card or any other credit card and I’m not even going to put a link here. I’m sure you all know how to apply for a credit card.

You may come across some articles where people are bashing Delta Airlines because of what’s called “devaluation of miles,” which basically means Delta’s miles aren’t worth as much as some other airlines’ miles. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of all of that, but suffice to say Delta isn’t the only airline to devaluate their miles; many others have also done the same thing.

One important point is if you never fly anywhere with Delta, then obviously you shouldn’t get a Delta-affiliated credit card. If you mostly fly with American Airlines or United Airlines, or another airline, I encourage you to look into their credit cards. If you just use the most basic card with no or a low annual fee and only fly once or twice a year, it’s still a potential way of saving big on your future flights. One final advantage Delta has over other airlines is their miles never expire; they’re the only airline with that policy.

It also should go without saying but is an important point if you have credit card debt, your savings are negated by the interest you pay. However, by paying for most things with an airline-affiliated credit card and paying off the bill in full every month, you can easily save hundreds of dollars in airfare.

Do you use airline miles to pay for flights? Do you have an airline-affiliated credit card to help you earn miles? What else do you do to save money on flights?

Happy travels!





The Power of Positive Thinking

My thirteen-year-old daughter is currently training for her first half marathon. She’s run several 5k’s and a 10k over the years and wanted to try her hand at a half marathon this spring. Although she runs by herself during the week, she and I run at least part of our long runs together. I’ll run farther than she does so when she turns around to go back home, I keep running for another mile or so.

This past weekend, she and I were running together and I was a bit ahead of her, and was gaining ground as I ran downhill. I passed a man who was walking the other direction (towards me) and he said that I had startled him (but he was really nice about it). I told him there was another runner coming behind me and that it was my daughter.

When the man came upon my daughter, he said to her, “You can catch her. I know you can do it!” or something to that effect. That conversation was unbeknownst to me until my daughter mentioned it to me at home after our run. All I knew was she quickly caught up with me before I even reached the bottom of that hill I was going down and she was either right at my side or a couple of strides ahead of me for the rest of the run until it was time for her to turn around.

Twinning in our Honey Stinger shirts on a long run!

When she got home, I checked her mile splits on Strava and saw that she continued at the pace she was at when we saw the man and she even managed to speed up towards the end. Her last mile out of 11 miles was her fastest. This is impressive not only because she’s only run longer than 11 miles once, when she accidentally ran 12 miles; she was supposed to run something like 8 miles but got turned around and ended up running 12. This is also impressive because as I mentioned, she’s only 13 so she’s not a seasoned runner and has struggled with pacing herself on long runs by starting out too fast and slowing down for the last few miles.

All of this got me thinking about how much of a role our brains have in long-distance running. My daughter told me about how that man’s comment made her push herself harder for the entire rest of her run. We had only run about 1.5 miles when we saw him, so she pushed for 9.5 miles, which is no small feat for anyone.

Lately I’ve been reading some books about the power of positive thinking and how it effects us in running and life in general. I really enjoyed Deana Kastor’s book Let Your Mind Run and have been applying some of the things she discussed to my runs. For instance, on a run about a week ago, it was really windy and as I was running into the wind, my quads felt tired. Instead of thinking, “This wind sucks. My legs are tired and I just want to be done with this run” I turned it around to “This wind is making my legs stronger” and I was able to finish my run on a more positive note.

Not that positive thinking alone will make you as fast as Deana Kastor. You do have to put in all of the hard work to get faster. Still, I think the power of the mind is so powerful and it can and does influence our bodies in so many ways we’re only beginning to understand.

What about you all? Are you a big believer in positive thinking or do you think it’s over-rated?

Happy running!



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