Working on the Mental Part of Running and Being Thankful

This year I’ve been working on the mental aspect of running. Since I read Deena Kastor’s book, Let Your Mind Run, I’ve been trying to get my brain to turn away from negative thoughts while I’m out running and turn them around to more positive or even neutral thoughts. Running in the summer heat and humidity has been a good challenge for me in this aspect. Instead of letting thoughts like, “It’s 93 degrees and I feel absolutely miserable. Why am I even bothering to try to run in this?” take over, I’ll try to put a spin on them and think things like, “Miles in the heat mean miles in the bank for my fall race” and “I can do this. Just one step in front of the other.”

On a recent run, there were two people in my life going through some pretty serious health problems, both of which were potentially life-threatening. One of these people used to be a runner, and would still be a runner if not for all of the health problems. In fact, he was a serious enough runner that he qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon several times (I’m not sure exactly how many times because he’s a humble man and has never really said just how many times but I know for sure it’s been more than twice).

20190727_083553
One of those 90+degree days where I had to remind myself why I was out there running!

I started thinking about this former runner when I was on a particularly hot and humid run, struggling to just get going. There were a dozen excuses I could come up with why I could just stop running right there and call it a day before I had even run a mile. I needed to run errands, it was hot, I needed to do weight-training at the gym, I hadn’t slept well the previous few nights so I was tired, and on and on. But then I started thinking about all of the reasons why I should run:  because I could, my body was fully capable of pushing through the heat and humidity, because even a slow run is better than no run, and because I had a nice, cool water bottle waiting for me to add a Nuun tablet when I got to my car and I knew that would make me feel better after I had run.

Over the 19 years I’ve known this former runner, he and I have chatted about running quite a bit. Like I mentioned, he’s run the Boston Marathon a few times but he’s also run other well-known races like the Marine Corps Marathon, New York City Marathon, and many others. He had a running streak going where he ran every single day for many years. This man has held a high level science-related position in three different areas of the country, over-seeing a large group of other scientists at each area. In addition to his work-related duties, he raised two children along with his wife, who also held high-level positions in her career. If he wanted to find excuses not to run when he was younger and healthy, there were plenty, but he always made running a priority.

I was thinking about him when I was running and at one point on my run, I even said a quiet prayer for him, adding that this run was for him. Instead of focusing on the heat and how tired I felt, I began focusing on how thankful I was that I could run. So many people aren’t physically able to run, whether they’re sick or for other reasons. Over the years I’ve known plenty of people who also are so busy with their home lives and working multiple jobs they simply can’t find the time to run.

20190730_075016
A mama and baby deer I saw on a recent run made me thankful to be out enjoying nature

I’m thankful that I am able to run, even on days when I may not love being out there, but still putting in the miles. Sure, running is hard and some days it’s extremely hard (speed work days come to mind) but I still keep doing it and keep pushing through. Most days I absolutely love running. I love being outside in nature and watching all of the animals and the changes going on with the trees and flowers from one season to the next. I love the camaraderie that comes from other runners, whether it’s the small group I “run” with around the world through a running app, through blogs, or at races I run around the country.

Sometimes I may have to remind myself why I love running, when the conditions aren’t so great or I’m not feeling 100% but it’s never hard to find reasons why I should be running. Most of the time that answer is simply, “because I can,” and that alone is enough to be thankful for.

Do you remind yourself why you’re thankful to be a runner on days that aren’t so great? Why are you thankful to be a runner?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Advertisements

First-Time Lessons Learned by an American in Peru

After I visit a new country, I always like to reflect on what I learned during that visit. Inevitably there are things I should have done differently, things that surprised me about the people or places, and things that I can say I would never do again but I learned something from the experience. Peru is no different and here I would like to share some of the things I learned while I was there.

During the two weeks I recently spent in Peru, I found myself surprised on many occasions. This wasn’t my first time to South America, but it was my first time in Peru. I’ll share some of the things I learned in this beautiful country so that you can learn from some of my mistakes or just be wiser than I was and be better prepared. Peru was undoubtedly the hardest vacation to plan for of all the places my family and I have been, although we have never been to Asia or Africa and I imagine those places would also take a lot of planning by an American. I wrote up a post while I was in the midst of planning, which you can read here Planning a Trip to Machu Picchu in Peru.

20190522_085710
We saw so many llamas and alpacas in Peru- I loved it!

Here are just some of the things I learned while in Peru:

Peru is an extremely poor country so don’t expect your accommodations to be like what you typically find in the United States. That being said, there is a range of accommodations from hostels for just a few dollars per night to hotels that cost a few hundred dollars per night. The accommodations also vary widely based on what city you’re in.

Machu Picchu is every bit as stunning and special of a place as you have in your head from all of the photos we all see online. However, it does get crowded, especially as the day goes on, even with the recent restrictions on daily admissions. Get there as early as you possibly can, which you’ll likely do anyway if you’re traveling with a tour group. Pay the extra admission to climb Huayna Picchu. It’s worth every penny and every second of the elevated heartbeat that you will have climbing it. My post on Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu is here.

20190523_104007
At the top of Huayna Picchu overlooking Machu Picchu

Take a multi-day trek to Machu Picchu. My family and I took the 4 Day Lares Trek with Alpaca Expeditions, which I highly recommend but there are other treks of varying degrees of difficulty and length. Meeting and interacting with the Peruvian school children and families is something so priceless it’s difficult to convey to others. The views along the trek are like scenes from some of the most epic movies you’ve ever seen, and completely incomprehensible until you’ve experienced them. Just go. Don’t worry if you’re not a “camper” or you don’t think you can do it (unless you have valid health reasons. Talk to your doctor first). You can find my posts on the Lares Trek here: Day OneDay TwoDay Three.

Areas in the Highlands region including Cusco, Aguas Calientes, and Ollantaytambo (all of which many people pass through one or more nights on their way to Machu Picchu) are cold at night and in the mornings. Depending on the time of year, they are also often rainy. There is usually no central heat in the hotels and hostels in this region either (despite what they might tell you at the front desk), so bring warm sleeping attire. I wore long-sleeve wool thermal underwear and wool socks to sleep in every night while I was in the Highlands (yes, even in my hotel room).

Temperatures and climate in Peru can vary widely depending on what part(s) you’re in so wearing layers is always advisable. Arequipa is a much warmer city than Cusco and much drier so (at least where we stayed) it was noticeably warmer than where stayed in Cusco. More information about Cusco plus climbing the famous Rainbow Mountain is here. Arequipa has a European feel to it and is a beautiful city with white stone buildings.  There is a huge range of accommodations in Arequipa just like any other city. My post on Arequipa is here.

20190526_094624
One of the plazas in Arequipa

Traffic in Peru is more chaotic than any other city I’ve ever been to, which includes Greece, Italy, Chile, and other areas known to have aggressive drivers. Drivers are so aggressive especially in Lima and Arequipa they make New York City drivers look laid-back. I wouldn’t recommend driving in Peru, pretty much anywhere at all. From all of the research I conducted, I read over and over that cars are sometimes stopped by robbers especially at night and even buses can get robbed like this. I’m sure plenty of people take buses all over Peru and are fine but we chose to fly over large distances between cities. We did take some buses with the tours we took, but the longest bus ride was 3 hours and most were during the day. Flights within Peru are very affordable and efficient (although some airlines more so than others).

Peruvians are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, especially in the Highlands areas like Cusco and the surrounding rural areas. One evening in Cusco, we went into a small store to buy bottled water and the man working there ended up asking us where we were from, showed us his drawings, and told us he was glad we stopped by as he shook our hands in a friendly way. This was all in our broken Spanish since he spoke no English. Another woman that owned a small restaurant chatted with us while we waited for our take-away food and gave me 2 bags of tea for free to help with my stuffy sinuses, a bag full of extra bread, and an extra container of soup (she also spoke no English). There were many other warm and kind people we met along the way as well.

Unless you travel to Peru with a travel group, you really should have at least a decent grasp of Spanish. We found very few people who spoke English fluently even in hospitality sectors like hotels and restaurants and even on tours where the guide supposedly spoke English. It was far more common for the people we met to speak no English at all, regardless of their age or city. There is always Google translate when you’re really stuck but I wouldn’t rely solely on that.

20190524_105413-PANO
Rainbow Mountain

The toilets in the rural areas are usually a hole in the ground that you have to squat over but in bigger cities you can find actual toilet seats. However, bring a roll of toilet paper and a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you at all times because there often isn’t toilet paper or soap. When there is a sink, it’s almost always just cold water (no hot water). However, we always had hot water in our showers at hotels everywhere we stayed, which was a welcome relief.

I would stay away from venturing out in Lima. We had a couple of bad experiences the second time we were there and we were told by someone who used to live in Lima and moved to Arequipa that it’s extremely unsafe and to stay away from the city. If you have to fly through Lima to get somewhere else, just spend that time at the airport. There are plenty of shops and restaurants at the airport where you can easily spend hours. Although you may have a perfectly good experience, you just never know and it’s not worth risking it in the city. My post on Lima is here.

IMG_2249
Machu Picchu

Finally, the food all over Peru exceeded my expectations as far as taste and presentation. Who knew Peru was such a foodie country? Everywhere we went, the food was exceptional and beautifully presented. Try a Maracuyá Sour, which is made with passion fruit and is a delicious variation on the pisco sour. Other Peruvian foods I really enjoyed are ceviche, Lomo Saltado (stir-fried beef), Aji de Gallina (creamy chicken), Causa Limeña (potato casserole), and Pollo a la Brasa (roasted chicken).

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

Happy travels!

Donna

 

Book Review- To Be A Runner: How Racing Up Mountains, Running with the Bulls, or Just Taking on a 5-K Makes You a Better Person (and the World a Better Place) by Martin Dugard

Even though this book isn’t a new release, I recently heard about it on the podcast, Marathon Training Academy, which you can find here. The hosts of the podcast, Angie and Trevor, interviewed Martin Dugard and it seemed interesting enough for me to check out the book. Aside from this book on running, Dugard is a New York Times bestselling author of many books and co-author of books from the Killing Series with Bill O’Reilly, in addition to many magazine articles and the movie “A Warrior’s Heart.”

From the beginning of To Be A Runner, which is a series of essays that Dugard uses to weave together the story of his running journey, it’s apparent that running has always been a driving force in Dugard’s life. As a young boy, he caught the running bug after running a mile at a running club his parents belonged to. He says in the book, “Running has taught me that I can do anything, just so long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other.” That’s a powerful lesson in life.

In addition to being a runner for the majority of his life, except for stints where he would slack off, gain weight, and be drawn back into running once again, Dugard has been a running coach for many years. In the book, he describes how he kind of fell into the position of Head Cross Country Coach at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, California in 2005, where he still coaches. Throughout the book, he tells coaching-related stories about the girls and boys on his team, most of which are entertaining and interesting.

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 3.27.58 PM

Dugard seems to be an avid traveler and tells stories of running in places like a small island off the coast of Borneo, where he was warned about 30-foot pythons who live in the jungle there and drop out of trees onto unsuspecting prey. He tells of running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain and running in the early morning hours in London. In the story about running in northern Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, he explains how he came up with his mantra “Keep pushing … always,” which is now on the shirts of his cross-country runners.

Besides the stories of pythons in Borneo, there are other examples of encounters with animals throughout the book, such as a brown bear and her cubs in Mammoth, California. There was the elk in Jackson, Wyoming and the moose in the Rocky Mountains. He tells of being on the lookout for mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and rattlesnakes in the canyons of Southern California, where he lives and regularly runs.

In the short story entitled Saipan, he explains how this where his “quixotic” Olympic quest had come to an end. You see, Martin Dugard decided sometime during his middle-age that he was going to get himself back in shape and try out for the men’s Olympic team. This dream ultimately ended at the XTERRA off-road triathlon in Japan where Dugard finished last, but in the end he was able to turn that experience around into a positive learning moment.

There are many other stories in this book that’s 238 pages including the acknowledgements, but I don’t want to give too many away. If you enjoy reading stories about other runner’s journeys, I believe you would enjoy this book. There are small interjections about Dugard’s running beliefs and philosophies (ice baths, running shoes, etc.) but for the most part, this is not a book about how to be a “proper” runner. This is simply one man’s story of how running has influenced his life and in turn how his life has influenced his running. Check it out for yourself!

Have you read this book or any of Martin Dugard’s many other books? If so, what did you think?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Tips for Viewing Geysers, Springs, and Pools in Yellowstone National Park Plus Hiking Trails and Waterfalls

Previously, I discussed the layout, entrances, and basic information about geothermal areas within Yellowstone National Park, in my post here. Now for a little more in-depth information about the fun stuff. As I mentioned previously, Yellowstone is famous for its hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles, and geysers. Over 10,000 different hydrothermal features are estimated to be active within the park and more than half of the world’s active geysers are found in Yellowstone.

Everyone’s heard of the most famous geyser, Old Faithful, but this is just one out of many geysers in the park. Also famous is Grand Prismatic Spring with the blue center surrounded by green, green, yellow, red, and orange hues, but again, it’s just one of many springs in the park, with all colors of the rainbow represented. In general, what I learned is to try to see as many geyser basins as possible and get an early start or you’ll have to wait in a long line to find a parking spot (even then you’ll have to wait for parking as the day goes on).

IMG_2569.JPG
Viewing Old Faithful from above

Tip for viewing Old Faithful:  go up the Observation Point Trail for views of the Upper Geyser Basin, which includes Old Faithful. From the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, walk about 0.3 miles (0.5 km) counter-clockwise along the Old Faithful boardwalk, turn right at the Geyser Hill sign, and continue on the path. The trailhead is just after the bridge crossing the Firehole River. Although there will be some people up here with you, it is far less crowded than if you watch at the designated seated area directly in front of Old Faithful, and you’ll get a better view. Plus, there are many geysers, springs, and pools along the trails in the Old Faithful area. You can easily spend several hours in this area.

Tip for viewing Grand Prismatic Spring: park 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Midway Geyser Basin at the Fairy Falls Parking Lot. The trail is 0.6 miles out-and-back, or 1.2 miles total from the Fairy Falls Trailhead for a view from above of Grand Prismatic Spring and the Midway Geyser Basin. You can (and should) also walk around the boardwalks that surround Grand Prismatic Spring and the other springs and geysers in the area, for up-close views.

20190718_112258
Mystic Falls

If you want to see waterfalls, some of the best are Fairy Falls, Mystic Falls, and the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. Fairy Falls are part of the Midway Geyser Basin, as I mentioned in the paragraph above. To get to Mystic Falls, go to the Biscuit Basin parking lot and you’ll see the trailhead for the falls there. Although it’s an easy hike to the falls, if you want to go down for a better view of the falls, it’s a bit rocky and slippery going back up so make sure you have good hiking shoes. The Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River are in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Take the South Rim Trail for the best view of the falls. Actually, Artist Point Trail, which is off the South Rim Trail will give you the best views of the canyon and falls together.

One trail to skip is the Ribbon Lake Trail. We got eaten alive by more mosquitoes on this single trail than we had encountered on all other trails in Yellowstone combined and this was with us wearing bug spray and bug bands. I didn’t even think the trail or lake were that scenic and definitely not worth all of the mosquito bites to get there and back. The Ribbon Lake Trail is off the South Rim Trail.

Safety

Buy or bring bug spray and bug bands especially if you’re coming during the summer months. You can buy bug spray at all of the general stores throughout the park. If you want to buy bear spray, you can find it at gift shops, outdoor stores, service stations, and bookstores inside the park. You can also rent bear spray in Canyon Village at the rental kiosk at the northwest corner of the visitor center plaza. Be aware that regular pepper spray is not good bear deterrent and is not recommended by park rangers.

Although there are bears at Yellowstone, my family and I never saw a bear on any of our hikes or driving through the park, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t bear aware. In any area of the United States where there are known bears, you should never hike alone; the recommended number is three or more people. It’s also a good idea to carry bear spray and make noise when you’re hiking so you don’t sneak up on a bear and startle it. Another option is to hike with a ranger.

IMG_2646
We saw this bison hanging out by one of the springs

In addition to bears, Yellowstone has many other wild animals. Always stay at least 100 yards (91 meters) away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards (23 meters) away from all other animals, including bison and elk even though they may seem harmless. Less than a week after I was at Yellowstone, a small girl was thrown into the air by a bison, who park officials believe was spooked by noises from people hovering around it.

Keep on the designated pathways and trails. Children should be under close supervision by parents at all times. Do not touch thermal features or runoff, regardless of how beautiful and enticing they may be. More than 20 people have died from burns when they fell or entered Yellowstone’s hot springs (meaning some were on purpose and others were accidents).

See Everything (Within Reason)

Yellowstone is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful national parks I’ve been to and one that I’d love to return to and see more of the northern part. For me, part of the appeal is that it’s one of the most diverse parks I’ve seen, with everything from canyons, waterfalls, geysers, pools, forests, and wild animals. Probably my biggest tip for Yellowstone is to try to see everything you possibly can in the time you have there without spending the majority of your time in the car. Remember, it’s an enormous park and there’s no way you’ll be able to see everything so just choose where you want to spend your time and focus on those areas.

20190718_105458
Just one of many beautiful pools in Biscuit Basin

One way to save time is to skip at least one meal per day eaten at a restaurant and buy food and snacks you can quickly eat in your room or at a designated picnic area where there are picnic tables or seating areas (say, for lunch). Also, don’t focus on just one or two geyser areas but try to see as many as you can. At first, I was hesitant about Biscuit and Black Sand Geyser Basins, because I wasn’t sure what was there and if it was worth it. What I learned is everything is worth seeing (well, except Ribbon Lake, which I re-named Mosquito Lake).

Have you been to Yellowstone National Park? If so, what were some of your favorite things you saw or did? If not, is it on your bucket list?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

Preparing for a Destination Race or Racecation

As you all may or may not know, I love to combine running and travel (hence the blog name if you were wondering). Out of the 48 half marathons (in 46 states), 1 marathon, 10k, 10 miler, 15k, and three 5k’s I’ve run over the years, only the 5k’s, 10k, and 15k have been local. I’ve traveled more than 2 hours from my home to every single other race and for most races I traveled far enough that I needed to spend the night before the race. That means by now I’ve found what works and what doesn’t work when traveling to a race, at least for me.

I’ve previously published a post on What’s in my Racing (Running) Bag? but there’s so much more to preparing for a destination race or racecation than just what to bring. As I also mentioned in this post on packing a bag for a race, it’s huge if you don’t have to check your bag with the airline if you’re flying to a race. Not only do you save money, more importantly you save time by not having to go to physically drop off your bag before your flight (just go straight to security then your gate) and wait at the baggage carousel after your flight, and you save yourself the stress of worrying about what to do if your running clothes don’t make it to your destination on time.

20190511_112259-2
From a recent racecation to Delaware, one of the few races I’ve driven to in recent years instead of flown to (but it was far enough we spent a few days there).

Even if you absolutely have to bring those four pairs of shoes, 5 dresses, and other clothes that you’ll probably only end up wearing half of and you do end up checking your bag with your airline, you can wear your running socks and shoes and the shirt you plan on racing in so at least you’ll have those things if your bag does get lost. Or another option is to put all of your racing gear in your carry-on bag and make sure the bag is small enough that it will fit under your seat on the plane so it doesn’t get gate-checked. This includes your running watch, belt, armband, earbuds, sunglasses, and hat or visor in addition to your shirt, sports bra, shorts or pants, and socks.

I also highly recommend running with your own hydration during the race if it’s going to be hot and/or a long distance (half marathon or longer). Honestly, I’m surprised more people don’t do this at races. I assume just about everyone trains with some form of hydration so why wouldn’t you want to run the race using what you train with? I guess maybe not everyone trains with hydration, though, or maybe they just don’t sweat as much as I do and don’t feel like they need to run with it. Also, if you run with gels or Gu be sure you put them in your liquids bag (each person is allowed 1 plastic quart-sized bag) because TSA counts them as liquids.

If it’s going to be cold the morning of your race, pack something you can discard just before the race starts like a mylar space blanket or old sweatshirt you needed to get rid of anyway. Those cheap thin gloves (Target sells them) and a Buff are great and barely take up any room in your carry-on and you can easily store them in a pocket or running belt when you warm up during the race. I recently heard of someone taking hand warmers to a cold race start and thought that was brilliant. Believe me, I wish I had this advice at some of my previous races where I was shivering in the cold waiting for the race to start. My advice is if you even remotely think it might be cold or chilly on race day, for instance if you’ll be running in a place where the weather often changes quickly, pack gloves, a warm hat, Buff, and tights or capris. I’ve been burned by summer races in the mountains before and have learned the hard way to do this.

IMG_7163
See the person running in capris that were bought the day before the race in Montana because I didn’t come prepared for the cold morning start? That’s me!

On the flip side, if you’re going somewhere that it will be hot the day of your race, there are some special considerations to take into account. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend racing with your hydration of choice (I like Nuun), which is even more important on hot days. If you’re prone to chafing, be sure to bring your preferred product to prevent chafing (I like Body Glide, which you can find at local running and outdoor stores). I’m also a big fan of Arctic Cool products and their “Hydrofreeze X” technology. You can find athletic shirts, shorts, capris, hats, headbands, and cooling towels on their website and can also purchase bundles of products to save money.

After the race, if you plan on hanging out at the race finish, put a clean shirt, sports bra if you’re a woman, and pair of recovery sandals or other comfy shoes in a gear check bag and you’ll be glad you did. Sometimes races will offer free post-race showers at a nearby YMCA or hotel, which is fantastic if you have to check out of your hotel or Airbnb before you can get back to take a shower after the race, or if you just want to stay close to the race finish for a while before heading back. As long as you plan for this when you’re at home packing for the race, you’ll be prepared. I have a small towel that I bought in Peru that I wish I would have bought for travel years ago. It’s small enough that I can stuff it in my bag without it taking up much space at all but it’s big enough to dry off with after a quick shower. In short, these small, quick-drying towels are perfect to bring along to a racecation.

20180819_113939
My racecation in Alaska was one to remember for sure!

Traveling to a race doesn’t have to be stressful as long as you plan and are prepared before you ever leave your house. Make a list of all of the things you’ll need for your race plus everything you’ll need before and after the race, and check them off as you pack them. Start packing a couple to a few (depending on your stress level for this kind of thing) days before you’re supposed to leave to make sure you don’t forget anything. It’s also a good idea to lay out your “flat runner” on the floor so you can visualize everything you’ll be running with.

Have you traveled to a destination race or racecation? If so, do you enjoy them? If you’ve never traveled for a race, why not?

Happy running (and travels)!

Donna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Packing for a destination race

Learning Your Way Around Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana- “World’s First and Best Park”

Although it’s not the most visited of all of the US national parks, Yellowstone National Park is certainly high on many people’s lists. Since 2015, the annual number of visitors to Yellowstone has been steadily increasing from 4 million people. By the way, the reference in the title is because we saw someone wearing a t-shirt at the park declaring that Yellowstone was the “World’s First and Best National Park;” Yellowstone was established in 1872 and was not only the United States’ first national park but also the world’s first national park.

We spent four nights in Yellowstone (so I make no claims to being an expert) and despite the fact that it’s 3,472 square miles spread out over parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, or larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, I feel like we were able to see quite a bit of the park in that amount of time. Well, sort of. We saw a decent amount of the bottom part of the park, but we really didn’t see much of the top part other than driving through it on our way to the airport in Idaho Falls. In this post I will obviously focus on the lower part of the park.

I’ll give a little bit of background geographical information here, to give everyone an idea of the lay of the land. Yellowstone has five general areas within the park. In the north is Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt, which includes Lamar Valley. The central part includes Canyon Village to the east and Norris Geyser Basin and Madison to the west. The southern part includes Lake Village, Fishing Bridge, and Bridge Bay to the east; Grant Village and West Thumb to the central part; and Old Faithful to the west.

One more thing to know about logistics:  there are 5 entrances; north, northeast, south, east, and west. The North Entrance is the only park entrance open to wheeled vehicles all year. Winters are brutal in this part of the US, and the other entrances close in the fall and don’t re-open until the spring (which can be late May for some entrances). If you’re combining Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, some people say you can make a day trip from Jackson through Grand Teton and up to Yellowstone through the south entrance, which you could technically do, but it would be a really long day with most of it spent in the car.

Geothermal Areas:  Geysers, Pools, Mud Pots, Fumaroles, and Springs

There are an estimated approximately 10,000 geothermal areas in Yellowstone. Throughout the park, there are several geyser basins. The main geyser basins are described in detail below, but there are others including Norris Geyser Basin, which is the hottest geyser basin in the park and is home to Steamboat Geyser, the tallest active geyser in the world.

West Thumb Geyser Basin is the largest geyser basin on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. This is where you’ll find the following geysers, pools, and springs:  Abyss Pool, Black Pool, Hillside Geyser, Twin Geysers, Blue Funnel Spring, Ephedra Spring, Fumaroles, Big Cone, Fishing Cone, Lakeshore Geyser, Surging Spring, Ledge Spring, Percolating Spring, Thumb Paint Pots, and more. There is also a historic Ranger Station, Duck Lake Trail, and Lake Overlook Trail.

IMG_2665.JPG

The Upper Geyser Basin includes Biscuit Basin, Black Sand Basin, and the Old Faithful area. The walking paths that connect the Old Faithful area, Biscuit Basin, and Black Sand Basin contain a huge amount of springs, pools, and geysers. If you only have time to visit one basin, this is the one where you should spend your time. Some of my favorites on the walk between Old Faithful and Biscuit Basin are Morning Glory Pool, Grotto Geyser, Chromatic Pool, and Castle Geyser.

Don’t make the mistake of just viewing Old Faithful explode into the air and then leave. There are many other geysers, springs, and pools on the walkway around the Old Faithful Area. Some other great ones include Beehive Geyser, Grand Geyser, Riverside Geyser, Sawmill and Daisy Geyser. Also, in addition to the seating area in front of Old Faithful, there’s an observation point a short walk uphill where you can get a less-crowded view of Old Faithful from above. More on that in a later post or this one will be way too long.

Biscuit Basin includes Silver Spring Globe, Shell, and Avoca Springs, Sapphire Pool (one of my favorites), Black Opal Pool, Jewel, Cauliflower, and Black Pearl Geysers. The Firehole River and a highway divide the basin.

Black Sand Basin contains only five geysers and hot springs but is one area not to be missed. You’ll see the colorful and aptly named Rainbow Pool (my daughter’s favorite), Emerald Pool, Spouter Geyser, Cliff Geyser, and Sunset Lake which discharges into Iron Creek, and overflows into Rainbow Pool creating a large microbial mat between the two thermal features.

IMG_2713.JPG

Midway Geyser Basin is technically part of the Lower Geyser Basin but is given its own domain. The famous Grand Prismatic Spring, which is almost 370 feet in diameter, is here, as is the now dormant Excelsior Geyser.

The Lower Geyser Basin is the largest of the geyser basin areas in Yellowstone, at 11 square miles. If you take the Fountain Paint Pot Trail, you can see the beautiful Celestine Pool; Clepsydra, Fountain, Morning, and Jet Geysers; Fumaroles (steam vents), Leather Pool, Red Spouter, Silex Spring, Sizzler, and Spasm Geyser.

Where to Stay

We decided to stay inside the park, at Grant Village, which was a wise decision especially after hearing a co-worker who went there a week before I did say he had to drive one hour just to get to the entrance of the park and then another hour or two from there depending on what part of the park he was going to that day. By staying inside the park, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of time you spend driving each day. There are nine hotel/lodges within Yellowstone and 12 campgrounds, so you do have some options. Just remember they fill up several months to a year in advance so you’ll need to make your reservations early.

However, even if you stay within the park, you will still spend time driving within the park, just because it is so spread out and enormous. For example, to get from Grant Village to Old Faithful, it will take about 30 or 40 minutes if you aren’t slowed down by construction, traffic, or animals crossing or blocking the road (we had to deal with all three of these at one time or another). If you were staying outside the park and drove in the north entrance, for example, it could easily take you 2 1/2 to 3 hours just to drive from your hotel to Old Faithful. Believe me, we saw first-hand the huge line of cars trying to enter the park from the north entrance one morning.

IMG_2632
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

As you may guess, there are no Airbnb properties or non-National Park Service hotels within the park, but there are some near the entrances if you truly don’t mind a long drive into and back out of the park or can’t get reservations in the park. Within the park, Canyon Village has Canyon Lodge and Cabins. Tower-Roosevelt area has Roosevelt Lodge and Cabins. Mammoth Hot Springs has Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins. Old Faithful area has three options:  Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Cabins, and Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins. West Thumb and Grant Village has Grant Village. Lake Village has Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins and Lake Lodge Cabins.

If you want to focus your time on the northern part of the park but also have relatively quick access to geysers, I would stay in Canyon Village. Tower-Roosevelt and Mammoth Hot Springs to the north are great if you want to explore Lamar Valley. If you will be fishing and spending more time at Yellowstone Lake or want a fairly central location in the park, Grant Village would be a good option. Old Faithful area is great for focusing on geysers, pools, and springs since a large proportion are in this area.

Just by taking some time to learn the layout of Yellowstone and deciding where you want to focus your time, you can reduce the amount of driving you’ll be doing within the park and be able to spend more time outside enjoying the park. I feel like Grant Village was a good choice for accommodations for my family and I since it was only about a thirty minute drive to the Old Faithful area of the park (as I mentioned earlier), which is where so many of the geyser basins are but we could also get to the Canyon area in about an hour so it was a relatively central location for the places we went during that week.

Where to Fly Into

If you don’t live within driving distance of Yellowstone and/or don’t want to take a cross-country road trip, you can fly into Idaho Falls Regional Airport and drive in through the north or south entrance, which should each take about 3 hours. An alternative is to fly into Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah and come up through the south entrance, which would take about 6 hours. Jackson Hole Airport is the quickest way to Yellowstone, at only about an hour’s drive to the south entrance, but it’s also likely the most expensive option.

I have another post coming soon with specific tips for viewing geysers, pools, springs, and waterfalls plus trail info and safety.

Have you been to Yellowstone National Park? If so, what did you do there? If not, is it on your bucket list?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

Race Medals and What to Do With Them

Race medals didn’t use to be a thing when I started running races, way back in 2000 and I ran my first 5k. In fact, I didn’t even get a medal for running my first, second, third, or even fourth half marathon. My first race medal was at the Philadelphia Distance Run in 2004 and since then I received medals at most of the races after that, although there was the occasional race that didn’t include medals in the early 2000’s.

Now it seems like everyone who finishes everything from a 5k to a marathon and every distance in-between gets a medal. Until more recently medals were only given to marathon and sometimes half marathon finishers, but now it’s not uncommon to receive a medal after a 5k, especially if it’s a large event. Small, local 5k’s may or may not give medals to all finishers. Sometimes a medal will be given to age-group winners only at small races.

IMG_20181117_105727
My largest medal- it’s bigger than my palm spread out!

I’ve seen all kinds and sizes of medals over the years. I even have a medal that seems to be made of some type of foam material that I got at the Color Vibe 5k, a “fun run” that I ran more for the experience than anything because it was my first run of this type. The most interesting medal I have is the one from Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It’s a functioning bottle-opener so it’s not only cute but it’s useful too (well it would be if I actually used it).

20180908_083710
My “Bright & Bold” medal from the Color Vibe 5k

Although I’ve only run on average 3-4 races a year, I have been running races since 2000 as I mentioned before (with a lapse between 2001 and 2004), so I have a decent accumulation of race medals by now. I know many runners run more like 7 or 8 races a year (or more), which means they accumulate a whole lot more medals in a year than I ever did. In just a few years’ time, this could mean dozens of race medals. I only have 45 race medals so it’s not an issue of what to do with them but I could see it being a real issue for other people who may have hundreds of medals.

Some people have display racks. My daughter started running when she was in grade school and has accumulated quite a stack of medals by now (she’ll be starting high school this fall), and she has a display rack that’s already over-filled with her medals from races. You can buy these at local art supply stores or easily make your own.

Others give their medals away. Medals 4 Mettle accepts medals earned by runners and triathletes and gives them to “children and adults for the mettle and courage they demonstrate battling cancer, chronic illness, trauma and other life challenges.” All you have to do is remove the ribbon from your race medal and mail it to them and they will take care of the rest. According to their website, over 55,000 medals have been awarded since 2005.

I’ve heard of other people repurposing their medals into coasters, Christmas ornaments, and magnets. All of these things would be pretty easy to do, especially to make magnets and ornaments. This way your medals actually have a use other than sitting in a drawer or on a shelf.

20190721_183916

I have to admit, all of my medals are on a bookshelf in my office at home. I have a collection of books that I was saving for my daughter to read someday and/or re-read them myself, and the medals are on this bookshelf. I also have some other race-related things on the bookshelf, like the trophies I’ve won at races and the printed photo I got at the Missoula Half Marathon in Montana. They’re a nice reminder of all of the races I’ve run over the years.

What about you all? What have you done with all of the medals you’ve received over the years?

Happy running!

Donna