Going From Zero to Four

In 2020, I had three half marathons scheduled. Those races were supposed to be my final three states left of my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Every last one of them was cancelled so I didn’t run a single race last year. Well, I ran a virtual 5k but I’m not counting that, even though it was my fastest 5k ever (I Ran My Fastest 5k, but Does It Even Count?).

However, in 2021, I actually have not three but four in-person races scheduled. I’m running my final three states, Minnesota, Iowa, and New Mexico, in that order. The only race that is the original one I signed up for is the one in New Mexico, although it will be in November instead of April when it normally takes place (pre-COVID).

I had a hard time finding a half marathon in Minnesota in June or July that wasn’t already full to capacity (the races are smaller this year, due to COVID limitations). When I was looking for a half marathon in Minnesota, I would get excited when I would find an in-person one, only to quickly discover it was already full. Someone told me I could purchase a race number from an injured runner signed up for the half marathon part of Grandma’s Marathon, which I didn’t even know was a thing. After seeing the exorbitant fees being charged, I said no thank you and kept looking for another race.

Things are looking up for 2021 races!

There’s even a Facebook group set up entirely for the purpose of finding a race in 2021 that isn’t cancelled (of course there is, Facebook!). Some people from that group recommended some races to me, all of which I had already checked out and knew they were full. That’s how I found out about the ability to purchase someone else’s race number, what’s the word- legally? That’s not right, but hopefully you know what I mean. Usually you aren’t supposed to use someone else’s race number in a race, but apparently if you go through the approved channels, it’s OK to do so.

After checking every single search engine I’ve ever used in the past to find a half marathon in Minnesota in June or July, I found not one but two actual in-person races that weren’t full! I emailed the race director listed on the website for one race because it wasn’t entirely clear to me the race would happen as scheduled for 2021 (the website still had some dates from 2020 and other outdated information, along with a 2021 race date). When he didn’t get back to me, I held my breath, crossed both fingers, and registered for the other race. I later got confirmation that I’m indeed registered.

You may be wondering about the half marathon in Iowa. That one was easy. I found a race scheduled for October that stated on their website the race would take place in-person, basically come hell or high water, because they were going to do absolutely everything possible to make it happen. The race director has been sending out weekly updates, which I appreciate, and everything does seem to be going smoothly, or as smoothly as possible during a pandemic.

So where does the fourth race come in? On a whim, and as part of my resolution for 2021 to be more spontaneous with races this year, I entered the lottery for the Peachtree Road Race. This is normally the largest 10k in the world and is held every July 4th in Atlanta. The first time it was cancelled since it began in the late 1970’s was 2020.

The 2021 Peachtree Road Race will not only have runners on July 4 but also July 3, to control crowds. I thought I might have a better chance of getting in since it will be split into two days and it turns out I was right, or maybe I just got lucky. Not only did I get in, my teenage daughter also got in, and not only that, but we both got in on the same day. I knew I was taking a huge chance with that one, but I thought worst case scenario, neither of us gets in, best case scenario, we both get in. Yes, it will be steaming hot, but I’m used to hot and humid and will be well-acclimated to the heat by then.

I’m very excited for all four of my races this year! How does your race schedule look for this year? Do you have a race or races you’re excited about?

Happy running!

Donna

Travel News- Stay Free in Malta and Bring Your Full-Size Bottle of Sunscreen In Your Carry-On (Oops, Maybe Not)!

Looking for somewhere to travel to this summer that’s warm and sunny, has amazing beaches and food, and cool architecture and history as well? This may be an enticement for you. Malta is offering foreign visitors up to 200 euros ($238.10) each if you stay at least three days on their little Mediterranean island and make your reservations directly through their hotels. https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2021-04-09/covid-battered-malta-to-pay-tourists-who-visit-this-summer

There is a tier system to their scheme. If you stay at a five-star hotel you will get 100 euros from Malta’s Tourism Authority and 200 euros from the hotel where you’re staying. For people staying in a four-star hotel, you will get a total of 150 euros, and if you stay at a three-star hotel you will receive 100 euros total. If you stay on the smaller island of Gozo, you will receive 10% more (so 220, 165, and 110 euros, respectively).

The salt pans in Gozo. One of my favorite places I’ve ever been.

If you need even more incentive, most COVID restrictions are expected to be lifted by June 1, and Malta has the highest vaccination rate in the European Union, with 42% of adults having had at least one dose. Finally, Malta’s positive test results is down to 1% after a sharp drop in new cases.

I’ve been to both Malta’s main island and the smaller island of Gozo and absolutely fell in love with both places. You can read all about my experience there in my posts here: Where in the World is Malta?, I Almost Missed a Bucket List Item in Malta- Gozo Salt Pans, Rabat/Mdina/Mġarr Area of Malta- Touring a Roman House, Temples, and Catacombs, Valletta Area of Malta- the Capital City, Harbour Area of Malta- A Palace, a Fort, and Temples, The Blue Grotto, Dingli Cliffs, and My Favorite Temples in Malta, Beaches of Malta- We Saved the Best for Last (Maybe). Now do you believe me that I love Malta? I could go on and on about Malta for days.

Valletta area of Malta

When you go to Malta, you can also bring a full-size bottle of sunscreen with you. As of April 7, 2021, travelers are no longer limited by how much sunscreen you can bring in your carry-on bag. Sunscreen has been added to the list of medically-approved liquids, gels, and aerosols that can be brought through TSA checkpoints. You are supposed to declare that you have a full-size bottle of sunscreen to the TSA agent before your bags are scanned. For people like me who only travel with carry-on bags and never check bags when I travel, this is great news. I no longer have to find a drugstore upon arrival to buy sunscreen and then toss whatever I don’t use by the end of the vacation. I can now just bring my own sunscreen from home, regardless of size. https://onemileatatime.com/tsa-sunscreen/

While I was still working on this post, TSA updated their policy on sunscreen once again, saying you couldn’t bring full-size bottles onboard after all. https://www.afar.com/magazine/tsa-says-full-size-sunscreen-bottles-not-allowed-in-carry-ons?utm_medium=email&utm_source=sshare On Monday, April 12, TSA said they made a mistake on their website and all sunscreen bottles larger than 3.4 ounces would have to be checked. I thought about just deleting that portion of this post, but then I decided to keep it and go off on a little rant.

When we flew to Tampa, Florida recently, we didn’t have to take our shoes off, pull our bag of liquids out of our carry-on bags, or go through the body scanner on the way to Tampa, but on the way back we did have to remove our shoes, we did not pull out liquids, but we did have to go through a body scanner. Also, my daughter’s small bag of bath salts got pulled out of her bag as suspicious on the way to Tampa but not on the way back to North Carolina. I once even had a race medal pulled out of my carry-on bag at the Boston airport for being a suspicious item. Boston of all places, where they hold the massive Boston Marathon every year with 30,000 runners, all receiving a medal after the race, and a huge chunk of them going through the airport with their medals.

My point is every single time I fly, I never know what to expect from TSA. The rules are so fluid and vary depending on the airport and the agents working. Maybe that’s part of their plan, to have everyone off-kilter, never knowing what to expect, nothing ever the same. I doubt it, however.

Anyway, start making plans to go to Malta this summer and have at least a portion of your hotel room paid for! Just make sure your sunscreen is less than 3.4 ounces or put it in your checked luggage.

Have you recently heard some travel news you found exciting and would like to share?

Happy travels!

Donna

Book Review- Exercised. Why Something We Never Evolved To Do Is Healthy and Rewarding by Daniel Lieberman

I haven’t posted a book review here in what feels like years even though I’ve been reading more than ever since the pandemic started. I just really hadn’t been reading any running-related books, until I heard about this one, Exercised. Why Something We Never Evolved To Do Is Healthy and Rewarding by Daniel Lieberman. Dr. Lieberman is Edwin M. Lerner Professor of Biological Sciences and professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University.

Drawing on Dr. Lieberman’s field experience studying hunter-gatherer tribes plus many other studies and scientific articles, this book has more scientific paper references than most running books. In fact, the “Notes” section is a whopping 74 pages! If you’re the type of person who likes something to back up a claim, this is the book for you.

The book is divided into four parts- 1) In Activity, 2) Speed, Strength, and Power, 3) Endurance, and 4) Exercise in the Modern World. The premise of this book is that evolutionary and anthropological perspectives can help us better understand the paradox of exercise and why and how something we never evolved to do is healthy, as the title states. Dr. Lieberman also uses a play on words in the title by referring to exercists as, “People who like to brag about exercise and who repeatedly remind us that exercise is medicine, a magic pill that slows aging and delays death.”

Many myths are discussed such as “Sitting. Is it the new smoking?” He puts forth such questions as how sitting is quantified and how it’s not always black and white. For example, what if you’re sitting but doing something active like playing a musical instrument or making an arrow? The myth that we all need 8 hours of sleep each night is also discussed in detail, with studies to back up his claims and five questions to ask yourself if you’re concerned about your sleep.

Walking is also discussed in length, both in the context of people in non-industrialized countries who walk out of necessity, in comparison to people in industrialized countries who walk for exercise. The effect of walking on weight loss is also discussed. Dr. Lieberman states that even if you walk an additional 10,000 steps a day, or about 5 miles extra, that will only burn an extra 250 calories a day. His point is that walking by itself won’t promote massive weight loss, and further, to burn significant calories, one would have to walk for hours every day, something most people either wouldn’t be willing to do or wouldn’t have the time to do.

Endurance and aging is also discussed and the science behind the headlines. Dr. Lieberman shows using graphs and figures how that exercise not only extends one’s life span but perhaps more importantly expands one’s health span, which relates to quality of life. He also discusses ways to coerce others to exercise and gives an example of a CEO of a company in Sweden that requires his employees to exercise together weekly.

Concrete examples are given how to make exercise more fun like exercising with friends or groups, listen to podcasts, music, books, or watch something if you’re on a treadmill, get outside, dance or play sports and games, mix things up, choose realistic goals for yourself, and reward yourself for exercising (although not with vast amounts of food so that it negates the effects). He also has tips on how to make exercise a habit.

Dr. Lieberman gives exact numbers of how much we should exercise. According to a 2018 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for “substantial health benefits,” adults should do a minimum of 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or a combination of the two. Children need an hour of exercise every day. Finally, weight training twice a week was recommended. Why the vast difference in numbers between adults and children is not discussed, but I found it striking.

Final words of wisdom in the book are to “make exercise necessary and fun, do mostly cardio but also weights, some is better than none, keep it up as you age.” Those are pretty solid words of advice, in my opinion. Although the book mostly isn’t filled with anything I hadn’t heard before, I found it interesting, especially reading about the hunter-gatherer tribes and the comparisons to the average American or European. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it, especially if you like reading about different societies or the evolutionary and historical background behind exercise.

Have you read this book? Any interest in reading it?

Happy running!

Donna

Travel to Tampa, Florida- Great Food, Water Views, Museums, and Culture

As I’ve mentioned before, the one and only time I flew out of my home state of North Carolina in 2020 was to go to the St. Petersburg, Florida area. I tried to cram in as much as possible but wasn’t able to go just north of St. Pete to Clearwater or Tampa. This year for my daughter’s spring break, I planned a vacation back to that area because I loved St. Petersburg so much, but this time I wanted to spend more time in the Clearwater and Tampa areas. You can read about my time in Clearwater here: Peacocks, Dolphins, Manatees, and So Much More In and Around Clearwater, Florida.

Tampa is a city on Tampa Bay, along Florida’s Gulf Coast. For reference, Clearwater is due west of Tampa and St. Petersburg is south of Clearwater, with both cities on the Pinellas peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico and connected to mainland Florida to the north. Tampa is more than just a vacation destination; it’s also a major business center, has a thriving international airport, world-famous Busch Gardens amusement park, plus it’s known for its museums and other cultural offerings.

Restaurants in Tampa

You just need to see a list of restaurants in Tampa to understand what a diverse ethnic population lives here. Not only can you find everything from Korean to Cuban to Italian to Jamaican just for starters, the food here is exceptionally good. Of course we were only there a short period, but I’ll list some of our favorites that are also consistently ranked high by others.

Armature Works Heights Public Market https://www.armatureworks.com/heights-market/ is a food hall with a wide range of restaurants with an open floor plan, making it easy to browse around each place. This would be especially great if you’re with a group or have picky eaters in your family or group. You can choose from pizza, sushi, burgers, empanadas, tacos, fine dining, plus there are places for coffee, sweet treats, cocktails/beer/wine. Once you pick up your food, you can take it outside where there are picnic tables as well as chairs to eat and/or drink on the lawn that overlooks the water. There’s also a cute general store, A.W. Mercantile to do a little shopping. After we ate our white pizza from Ava, we sipped on beer for me/soda for my daughter and dog-watched from the lawn overlooking the Hillsborough River.

For authentic Cuban food, we went to La Teresita one evening and got massive amounts of food here especially for the price. The pork I had was so tender and full of flavor, it was still good when I had it as leftovers for lunch the next day. We also went to La Segunda, a cuban bakery and got the guava pastry, which was excellent. They had some good-looking Cuban sandwiches but we had already had lunch that day. I later heard La Segunda has great breakfasts as well.

I wanted a local breakfast place that wasn’t a chain and found Brunchery Restaurant. My daughter got to try Cuban coffee for the first time here and really loved it. Most of the food here is fairly standard but good and the service is good; also, the prices aren’t inflated like at some of the chain sit-down restaurants.

Speaking of chain restaurants, you will find some of those at Hyde Park Village, but it’s still worth going to in my opinion even if you’re a chain snob. Hyde Park Village is a wonderful place to stroll around and you can check out stores like Paper Source, Francesca’s, Lululemon, and Sunni Spencer. You can pick up a coffee from Buddy Brew, a smoothie from Clean Juice, a cupcake from Sprinkles, or have dinner at the Wine Exchange or Timpanos. This isn’t where you want to go if you’re on a strict budget, unless you just window-shop, however. https://hydeparkvillage.com/

Finally, a hidden gem that I was lucky enough to discover is the Korean restaurant Sa Ri One. I had a soup with ramen noodles, kimchi, an egg, and vegetables and my daughter had pork bulgogi and we both inhaled our dishes. We also got a plethora of side dishes that came with our meals, like kimchi and other fermented vegetables, which were amazing. Both dishes were enough for about three adults each and we were sad we couldn’t take our leftovers with us, but since we were flying home the next morning, there would be no time for that.

Museums in Tampa

Tampa has at least 10 museums, which is probably more than you would want to see in a few days or even a week, if you’re like most people, so I suggest choosing what would personally interest you. I’ll group the museums together here, for easier reference. I should note we did not go to all of the museums, but I’ll still mention them all.

Tampa Museum of Art, https://tampamuseum.org/ has contemporary and modern art with some ancient art and artifacts, mostly European and other paintings. There are permanent and traveling exhibitions, like at most art museums around the world. When we were there, we saw a temporary exhibit of high school art that I found extremely creative and even thought-provoking.

An Alice in Wonderland-themed art submission at the Tampa Museum of Art

Florida Museum of Photographic Art, https://www.fmopa.org/?gclid=CjwKCAjwj6SEBhAOEiwAvFRuKPwF04iKAqZZ4NCPOMFnMiXIWce7znGkCbxtf7uKV3JP3ktmAtVaxBoCTHIQAvD_BwE is small but worth checking out if you enjoy photography. I found a Groupon online before we went and used that, but I’m not sure the full-price of $10 per person would be worth it to me to be honest.

USF Contemporary Art Museum is located next to the USF College of Arts. We did not go here because at the time it was only open to faculty, students, and staff, and I’m just not that big of a fan of contemporary art either. I read that you can find the 106 original Polaroid photographs and 50 gelatin silver prints by Andy Warhol here, if you’re interested in that. http://cam.usf.edu/CAM/cam_about.html

I say if you only choose one museum to go to and you enjoy history at all, go to the Tampa Bay History Center, https://www.tampabayhistorycenter.org/. This is one of my favorite history museums I’ve been to anywhere. Not surprisingly, the museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute (based in Washington, D.C., which I love going to). I loved seeing early maps on display and all of the errors and assumptions the mapmakers of the time made, like putting mountains on maps of Florida just because they assumed there must be mountains there. It was also interesting to see the displays on the native people of Florida and the timeline of Florida and how it has changed over the years.

Another museum on a university campus is the Henry B. Plant Museum, http://www.plantmuseum.com/ at the University of Tampa. This was a former hotel and is a national historic landmark. If you like World War II, Korean, or Vietnam War history or like exploring former war ships, you can check out the American Victory Ship and Museum, https://www.americanvictory.org/. For parents with children who love fire trucks or if you enjoy fire fighter history, you’d love the Tampa Firefighters Museum, https://www.tampafirefightersmuseum.org/.

There is one museum I didn’t visit that I wish I would have and that’s the Museum of Science and Industry, https://www.mosi.org/. The reason I didn’t go here is simply because of COVID. I’ve been to other museums of science and industry in other cities (even in other countries) and loved them, but to truly experience a place like this, you have to be willing to literally put your hands on the exhibits and participate. I had no interest in that during the pandemic, so this museum will have to wait until my next visit to Tampa. According to their website, “guests can lie on a bed of nails, build a robot, explore optical illusions, challenge themselves with hands-on brain puzzles, explore another world in our NASA-funded Mission: Moonbase lunar colony, touch the future in Connectus and learn about planets and our solar system in the Saunders Planetarium.” As a scientist, I love doing those kinds of activities, just not currently given the state of things.

Other Activities

When I was a kid, I went to Busch Gardens Amusement Park in Virginia and only when I was older did I realize there is also a Busch Gardens in Tampa. Although both are similar with thrill rides and they both have a water park (Adventure Island in Tampa) that you can buy a two park ticket for, it seems Busch Gardens Tampa wins out with their animal offerings. Not only is there a zoo, there are experiences like Serengeti Safari in an open-air touring vehicle. https://buschgardens.com/tampa/

ZooTampa at Lowry Park (not a typo, by the way) https://zootampa.org/. The zoo has endangered, threatened and vulnerable species from climates similar to that of the Tampa Bay region and emphasizes conservation and education. There are also some rides but only a handful and mostly geared toward small children. Seasonal activities are offered year-round in addition to events like Toddler Tuesdays once a month.

In a similar vein to the zoo, the Florida Aquarium, https://www.flaquarium.org/ places emphasis on conservation, education, and research. If you want to add on more experiences, you can take a Wild Dolphin Cruise or purchase a 20-minute VIP experience behind the scenes interaction with African penguins.

Beaches?

There aren’t really beaches in Tampa even though there is the small Ben T. Davis Beach with views of Tampa Bay, but the best beaches by far are in the Clearwater and St. Petersburg areas. Thanks to a system of highways that stretch across Old Tampa Bay, you can get from downtown Tampa to these beaches in about 40-45 minutes as long as there isn’t too much traffic.

Transportation

If you really want to explore not only Tampa but also Clearwater and St. Petersburg, I recommend renting a car. Parking especially in Tampa can be expensive and even more so if there’s a hockey, football, or baseball game going on but luckily there are plenty of garages and other parking options. Of course there’s always Uber and Lyft. Also, the TECO Line Streetcar System runs between downtown and channelside to the historic Ybor district.

Have you ever been to Tampa? Didn’t really know much about it until now? Are you surprised by anything I mentioned?

Happy travels!

Donna