Exploring Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii

The region of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii lies on the northeastern part of the island and is quite different in many ways from the other regions. Hilo used to be a bustling fishing and farming town and evolved into an industrial area for the sugar cane farms. With its annual rainfall of 127 inches of rain per year, Hilo is the wettest city in the United States. This is in stark contrast to Kona, which lies to the southwest and only gets around 26 inches of rain per year.

It may come as no surprise given all that rainfall that Hilo is famous for a couple of things: waterfalls and rainforests. There are a couple of rainforests you can visit but I went to Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden. When you’re driving to this place and are getting close, you immediately feel like you’re in another world. There is an earthy smell in the air, there’s greenery all around, the air feels heavy with moisture, and the roads are narrow switchbacks with one-lane bridges. My daughter was sleeping in the car pretty much from the time we left Waikoloa Village and she when she awoke, we were about 5 minutes from the Bioreserve and Garden. Her eyes got big and she exclaimed, “Whoa! Where are we?!”

Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden is open most days except major holidays from 9 am to 5 pm and costs $25 per adult. You can also buy wipes with bug spray when you buy your tickets, which I read online by others is recommended and I bought them but I didn’t see any insects while we were there. There’s a small gift shop with the typical shirts, mugs, and a few other items. Other than the steep walkway at the beginning, the paved trail is easy and is well-marked. Each area is marked with numbers and you can follow along with the guide they give you. I loved seeing all of the flowers and plants and was amazed at the variety growing in the garden. Apparently there are over 2000 plants contained in the 20 acres of the bioreserve. This was one of my favorite places we visited on the Big Island and I highly recommend it. https://htbg.com

Another scenic park in Hilo is Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens with Japanese Gardens said to be the largest outside of Japan. There’s also Kaumana Caves, which are giant lava tubes you can walk through; bring a flashlight and wear sturdy shoes. A popular spot is Rainbow Falls, although if there’s no rainbow, like when I was there, it may seem a bit over-rated. Nearby Rainbow Falls is Boiling Pots, another area with waterfalls that we didn’t spend much time at, as it’s only a viewing platform but no trails. Richardson Ocean Park is a popular spot to go snorkeling in Hilo and has a black sand beach.

Rainbow Falls, still a beautiful waterfall even if there’s no rainbow

Another one of my favorite things to do in Hilo was visit the Hilo Farmer’s Market. We bought a white pineapple, which I was told by someone who lives in Hawaii is sweeter than the yellow or gold pineapples, and indeed it was when I cut into it later that evening. There are basically two areas of the farmer’s market, one with fresh produce and another with other goods like koa wood products, soaps, jewelry, and other locally-made products.

There are a couple of restaurants and a food truck near the Farmer’s Market and a shave ice place. Eat at Poke N’ Sides (they have much more than just poke so don’t be put off by the name if you don’t like poke) but skip the shave ice place next door. Instead go to Wilson’s By the Bay for shave ice, just a short walk from Poke N’ Sides. I read that Wilson’s has the best shave ice in all of Hawaii, and while I have tried my fair share I haven’t tried anywhere near all of the places, but I have to say it’s the best shave ice I’ve had anywhere.

A word about shave ice. This is not shaved ice, nor is it anything like a snow cone, when made properly. True Hawaiian shave ice can rarely be found on the mainland but I did manage to find a place in Florida that although I was skeptical, they had the real deal there. The main difference in Hawaiian shave ice is it’s made by shaving a block of ice, versus using crushed ice for a snow cone. The difference is a lighter, almost fluffy texture rather than with crushed ice that you still have to chew and will have small chunks of ice. The last time I was in Hawaii, when I went to the islands of Kauai and Oahu, I learned the best shave ice, in my opinion, is made with macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom, shave ice in the middle, and sweet cream drizzled on top, aka “mac nut on bottom with sweet cream on top.” My personal favorite syrup combination is coconut, lime, and pineapple but I also like many others. Also, plan on a HUGE serving and ditch your diet for the day. I don’t even want to know how many calories there are in a shave ice with the ice cream on the bottom and sweetened condensed milk on top.

This shave ice was ENORMOUS but oh, so good!

If it’s just to rainy for you to spend much time outdoors in Hilo, there are some museums you can explore. The Lyman House Memorial Museum, also known as the Lyman Museum and Lyman House, is a history museum built in 1838. Admission for the Lyman Museum is divided into two separate bookings: the Lyman Museum admission (self-guided tour, $7) and the Mission House Tour (guided tour, $3). Mokupāpapa Discovery Center is an aquarium and educational center. It’s small so you can get through everything fairly quickly. The Pacific Tsunami Museum is a museum dedicated to the history of the April 1, 1946 Pacific tsunami and the May 23, 1960 Chilean tsunami which devastated much of the east coast of the Big Island, especially Hilo. There are limited hours Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday and admission is $8 per adult. Finally, there’s the Imiloa Astronomy Center with a planetarium and exhibits about Hawaiian culture and history. Admission seemed a bit pricey to me ($19 for adults) and I read it’s on the small side, so I skipped it.

You can easily see the highlights of Hilo in a day, or two, depending on whether you go to any of the beaches or museums. I had never been to Hilo before because I honestly didn’t realize everything there was to do there but I was glad I went and would go back again to explore a little more and maybe spend more time at the beaches. Still, I most likely wouldn’t spend more than a day. Also, when I was there, it didn’t rain at all the entire day but maybe I just got lucky. We did come prepared with rain jackets just in case.

You can read my other posts on my recent trip to Hawaii here: Hawaii, “The Big Island,” Third Time’s a Charm While Discovering Waimea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Have you been to Hilo? If so, what did you do and see there? Would you like to go someday?

Happy travels!


Book Review- Born to Run 2. The Ultimate Training Guide by Christopher McDougall and Eric Orton

When I heard Born to Run 2 was coming out, I was excited to get my hands on a copy. I had read Born to Run when it came out more than a decade ago and loved the stories and characters in that book. For anyone who hasn’t read Born to Run, it’s more of a story about the Tarahumara people who live deep in the canyons of Mexico and who run seemingly effortless in flimsy sandals. The book spawned the enormous barefoot running industry. I’m surely not doing the book justice because that wasn’t the author’s intention and there’s much more to it than the involvement of shoes, so if you haven’t read it, I recommend reading it for yourself.

I heard McDougall speaking on a podcast about this follow-up book and he explained why he wanted to write this book. He said he kept getting compliments on Born to Run and people asked how they should begin barefoot running or sometimes just running in general and he had no answer for them. Although he was himself a runner for many years, he didn’t have enough sound advice to give others on how to take up running. Thus, the origin of the book.

Born to Run 2 is by and large a training guide, as is in the title. There are illustrated pages on how to prepare your body to efficiently be a runner. The authors call some of these exercises “movement snacks.” They are meant to be done to prep your mind and body using playful and easy range-of-motion activities that will alert you to any hidden or maybe not so hidden trouble spots. Although they are primarily written to be done with a partner, to incorporate the community aspect of running, they could just as easily be done solo. I like that there are also explanations of the purpose of each exercise.

Part 2 in the book is called The Free Seven. Diet is discussed in-depth but with other athletes’ points of views and their stories and includes a variety of recipes. There are leg and foot strengthener exercises, a section on running form and a promised “Five-Minute Fix.” Music as a way to monitor your cadence is discussed, which I thought was a creative way to cover that topic.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Born to Run book without a section on footwear. I like how it’s not just MacDougall and Orton’s opinions on running shoes, however, and there is space for other people’s opinions when it comes to running shoes.

There were a couple of sections I found surprising, like the information about using scooters as a form of cross-training. I also found the story about the Amish running couple interesting. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is how stories are intertwined throughout, so it’s not just another training book on running. There are stories that relate back to the particular topic at hand and many of the stories have the theme of “fun,” in that running should be fun or otherwise why do it.

The book is rounded out with discussions on running with your dog and finding a running community. Like the rest of the book, there are heart-warming stories including people running with rescue dogs (that are adopted after the run) and the importance of running clubs. There are tips and advice whether you want to form your own running club or join one. The authors emphasize the importance of the community aspect of running and how it’s immensely more fun (back to that word) to run with others than just by yourself all the time.

A story is told toward the end of the book about how Caballo Blanco aka Micah True, from “Born to Run” was missing and eventually found dead in a canyon. A section in the book reads as follows, “No wonder a rebel like Caballo loved running so much. If you were humble enough to go back to basics, and learn from the quietest teachers in the world, you would soar…. Follow in his footsteps. Run freee.”

This book, in addition to the two-week “reset” diet and many exercises, also includes a QR code to download a 90-day program app. The app has videos and will track your progress. The 90-day Run Free Program is also printed in the back of the book and has each day of each week broken down into food (for the first two weeks), fitness, form, and focus run with the appropriate exercises or information for each.

Finally, there’s one last section of the book that seemed out of place to me or perhaps like it was included as an after thought but is nonetheless an important subject: injuries. The most common runner injuries are listed, like plantar fasciitis with a description of how it feels with a diagram of where on the body the cause is and where the pain usually radiates. There are possible causes listed, remedies, and long-term strategies.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. When I told some running friends at my run club I just finished reading it, one of them rolled her eyes but after explaining what the book is about she said she “might actually consider reading it, just so long as it’s not another book about minimalist running.” Of course there is some element of minimalist shoe running in Born to Run 2, but that’s only a tiny fraction of the book. I look at it like a helpful book for beginner runners to help them get started on their running journey or for more seasoned runners it’s a book with plenty of useful reminders of exercises and other things we all could spend more time on to keep us running healthy.

Have you read Born to Run 2? If not, did you read the first one? Are you interested in reading this “follow-up” (although I hesitate to call it that)?

Happy running!


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

If you like volcanoes, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii (The Big Island) is a place you’ll want to visit. This park has not one but two active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Since its first well-documented eruption in 1843, Mauna Loa has erupted 34 times and last erupted in November through December 2022. When I was there in January 2023, it was Kilauea’s turn and it was actively erupting so much that I could see lava spewing and flowing during the day just using the zoom lens on my camera.

A live-stream video of the lava lake from Kilauea is available at: https://www.youtube.com/usgs/live. This is exactly what I saw when I was at the park. Park rangers have clearly marked the best spot to see the eruption, so you just follow the signs marked “Active eruption” from the visitor center and it’s a short, easy walk (or at least it was for me). The best advice for anyone, which I was told upon entering the park, is to go straight to the visitor’s area to talk to rangers there about current eruptions and trail conditions.

Active volcanoes aside, there are many trails at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and other unique areas to explore. One of my favorite parts of the park is the Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube). It’s incredible to see a rainforest in the park in juxtaposition to all of the black rock from past lava flows and a giant lava tube formed from an eruption 500 years ago so big you can easily walk through it. The tube is lit from 8 am to 8 pm but you need to bring your own light outside of those hours. Another one of my favorite trails is the Kilauea Iki Trail, where you walk along the solidified lava lake on the floor of Kīlauea Iki crater.

The giant lava tube is just behind me

You can see (and feel) steam vents and sulfur banks along the Ha’akulamanu Trail. At Puʻuloa Petroglyphs there are 23,000 petroglyphs in the area. You can safely (for the protection of the petroglyphs) see many of them from boardwalks. For something perhaps unexpected, walk in a huge rainforest on the Halema’uma’u Trail (the phrase from destruction comes creation comes to mind). Another example of this is the Kipukapualu Trail. The walk will take you through a “kīpuka,” an area of older vegetation surrounded by a more recent lava flow from Mauna Loa.

There are also backcountry camping sites at the park. You just need to purchase a permit for $10 that covers up to 10 people up to 7 nights, on top of the park entrance fee. I think this would be an awesome thing to do but you would need to pack in absolutely everything you’d need since you’d be completely on your own (no food, no fresh water, no shelter, etc.).

You can also stay at the Volcano house, which has 33 rooms, albeit they’re pricey, at around $300/night before taxes and fees. They also have rustic cabins with just beds inside and a fire pit outside for $80/night. There’s also a restaurant, The Rim at Volcano House, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner especially can be quite expensive, as you can imagine. There are also rental properties in the nearby village of Volcano that are more reasonably priced and within a short drive of the park.

If you’re not really a hiker, no worries, there are two driving tours and none of the roads in the park require four-wheel drive vehicles. The first is the Crater Rim Drive. After you enter the park and go past the visitor center, begin your tour at Kīlauea Overlook and work your way clockwise along Crater Rim Drive. There are many well-marked overlooks and other stops with little walking needed.

The Chain of Craters Road goes north to south in the park, beginning at the Kīlauea summit and ending at the Holei Sea Arch. I had never been to the sea arch before (this was my third time in the park) and it’s worth going the extra bit to see it. Basically the road ends and there’s a parking lot from which you walk to the viewing area for the Holei Sea Arch. I’m a sucker for jagged cliffs off the ocean and this has that plus an arch of black lava rock extending into the water. It was much more beautiful in person than the photo can do it justice.

Holei Sea Arch is worth the drive to the southern part of the park

One final word of advice: be sure you check the National Park website before you go. Roads and trails are often closed either because of weather conditions, active volcanoes, or to protect animals in the park. You can also check on various parking lot conditions; many fill up by 10 am. You will be given a map to the park upon entry so keep that to help navigate because it’s a large park and it would be easy to miss something. Also, wifi and gas stations are spotty so download the area on your phone first and fill up before heading out to the park. https://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm

Do you like volcanoes? Have you been to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

Happy travels!


The Krispy Kreme Challenge

I realize most people haven’t heard of the Krispy Kreme Challenge unless you live in central North Carolina like I do. But around these parts, this race is well-known. For the best description, I’m going to quote from the website:

“Participants begin the Challenge at the Memorial Belltower on the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. Runners then travel 2.5 miles through historic downtown Raleigh to the Krispy Kreme [donut store] located at the intersection of Peace and Person Streets, where they attempt to consume one dozen original glazed doughnuts. The hardest part of the Challenge awaits them as they run 2.5 miles back to the Memorial Belltower.

This is the Krispy Kreme Challenge.

As you can imagine, many college students from NC State University and other local colleges participate in the challenge. That seems fitting but you may be asking why on earth anyone beyond college age would choose to do something so crazy as this? Well, in my case when I finished my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states in 2021, I wanted the following year to be filled with unique and fun races. I got in the lottery to run the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run in Washington, D.C. that April and I was signed up to run my first night race, a 5k, in May. I was always intrigued by the Krispy Kreme Challenge. It certainly fit the bill as a unique race. Fun would be another story. I signed up for the 2022 race but it was cancelled a few weeks prior due to rising COVID cases in the area so I deferred to 2023.

Race packet pickup on Friday, February 3 (from 9 am to 8 pm) would have been quick and easy had there not been a major accident on a road by the campus. Traffic was bottle-necked and didn’t move since the roads around the student union, where packet pickup was, were one-way roads so there literally was no other way to go. When I finally found a parking spot, I went into the huge student union building, which was well-marked with signs for packet pickup, got my bib, then my t-shirt, and was on my way. There was other merchandise for sale but I didn’t buy anything else or stick around since I knew it would be a nightmare getting out of the campus and back home given the current state.

Unfortunately for me, the weather did not cooperate for this year’s race. A rainy cold front moved in on Tuesday and continued all week before the race. From Friday morning through that night, the temperature fell from a high of 47 to a low of 23 degrees. At 8 am when the race started, it was 25 degrees. I know most people in the northern states are perfectly used to running in temperatures below freezing, but in these parts, that’s downright frigid especially for running. Never would I have gone out for a run on my own that morning had it not been for the race.

I had on wool thermal underwear (top and bottoms), a pullover, a fleece jacket, double-lined pants, two pairs of socks with a pair of wool socks on top, two pairs of gloves and hand warmers under the first pair, oh and two hats and a buff around my neck. All that and I was still cold. My feet were especially cold and I couldn’t feel them for most of the race. Many people wore costumes and the smart ones wore onesies or other warm gear. One of my favorites was a group running together dressed as bumble bees and one person wore a beekeeper outfit. I saw four guys wearing only their underwear- CRAZY!

The race started promptly at 8:00 and we ran the 2.5 miles from campus to the Krispy Kreme store in downtown Raleigh. It was a mix of downhill parts with some rolling hills but nothing too challenging. Since it was so cold and I don’t do well in the cold since it hurts my lungs, I took it easy and didn’t push too hard. I didn’t want to cause an asthma attack (I don’t have asthma but had cold-induced asthma as a child and had one near-asthma attack a few years ago when it was super cold out and I was on vacation in the mountains).

My plan was to run by feel so I didn’t look at my split times on my watch. I wanted to get to the Krispy Kreme in 22 minutes or less and I believe it was around 21 minutes. Since my watch died sometime during the race, I don’t know what my split times were exactly, especially for the last half of the race because that’s when my watch suddenly went black. My teenage daughter who said she had zero interest in running this race (smart girl) agreed to be my emotional support and photographer so after she snapped a quick photo of me at the start, she ran to the Krispy Kreme and waited for me.

A mouthful of donuts! This was when I was almost halfway through eating all 12 of them!

When I got to the Krispy Kreme store, it seemed like pure chaos but upon further examination, it was more like controlled chaos. There were stacks and stacks of boxes of donuts and volunteers handing them out to runners. Some runners were sitting on the curb or on the ground eating their donuts, but I thought if I sat down I might not ever want to get up, especially after eating a dozen donuts so I chose to stand and in fact, I walked around a bit to try to find my daughter. Luckily she was wearing a red shirt that stood out so I found her within a few minutes.

My hope was to finish all 12 donuts in around 10 minutes but that didn’t happen. Even with my method of squashing a donut in my gloved hands (I had washed them the night before), folding it in half, and in half again so it was quartered, then shoving that into my mouth and chewing as fast as I could, it took some time to get the donuts down. They were supposed to have water by the store but I didn’t see it so I asked my daughter to try to find it for me. Within a couple of minutes she came back with a bottle of water, saying it was hard to find and she had to ask a few people where it was.

The water really was the key to getting the donuts down. After my flattened and quartered donut was shoved in my mouth, I would take a sip of water, just enough to get it to be more easily swallowed, and that seemed to help. I heard many people around me saying there was no way they could finish all 12 donuts but I was determined. I kept shoveling them in and finally around 20’ish minutes after arriving at the Krispy Kreme store, I had eaten all 12 and was ready (maybe?) to run the 2.5 miles back to the finish line. Honestly, it took sheer mental strength to finish those last 3 or 4 donuts and I kept saying to my daughter how hard it was. She kept saying I could do it and giving me other words of encouragement, all the while shivering in the cold (she’s the best!).

Finishing all 12 donuts by yourself was on the honor code, since it’s not like there were enough volunteers to watch each and every runner finish all of their donuts. They did have two different chutes by the store, one for runners who had finished their donuts (you showed them your empty box and tossed it to the side), and one for runners who had not finished all of their donuts. At first it was all I could do just to walk but since it was so cold I just wanted to be done, I started a slow jog to the finish.

Never had I been so happy to see the finish line in sight and I finished in 1:07:54, which turned out to be fourth in my age group. Although there were ten people that started in my age group, only five of us completed the challenge, meaning we ate all 12 donuts and ran back to the finish line. According to the results online, my “donut split” time was 42 minutes, so that means it took me almost 26 minutes minutes to complete the final 2.5 miles, which is a 10-something minute mile, not too bad given I had just eaten 12 donuts!

When I checked the results on race day, I could see the number of Challenger participants who had signed up versus those that actually ate all 12 donuts and finished on the results page but that has since been revised so it only shows finishers in the Challenger group. I believe it was around 300 people from all age groups who did not complete the challenge, however. By the way, the top male Challenger finish time was 33:15, which is a 6:38 pace. That means this guy managed that blazing fast overall pace including stopping to eat a dozen donuts, because after all, the clock doesn’t stop while you’re eating. Incredible! The first woman finished just under 40 minutes, which is still amazingly fast especially considering she ate a dozen donuts.

I should note there were two options for the race, Challenger, which means you try to eat all 12 donuts, and Non-Challenger (aka Casual, which was on their bibs), which means you could eat as many or as few donuts as you wanted. According to the current results, there were 2878 Non-Challengers registered with 2277 finishers from that group and 1066 Challengers registered with 1066 finishers from that group. That seems confusing and backwards to me unless perhaps there were Challengers that were moved to the Non-Challenger Group during the race (meaning people who didn’t finish all 12 donuts) but regardless, there were a whole lot of people who did not technically “finish” the race, a much higher percentage than you would see for a “regular” 5 mile race. There were also Challenger Teams and Non-Challenger Teams.

So happy to be done! One quick photo by the belltower after the race before we took off!

At the finish, I saw no water, no bananas, honestly, not a single thing to eat or drink, but then again, I’m not sure who would want anything to eat after eating a bunch of donuts and running afterwards. Still, water would have been nice. Well, maybe. My stomach was seriously upset, and although I never threw up, my daughter said she saw all kinds of people throwing up while she was waiting on me at the Krispy Kreme. There could have been water at the finish and I just didn’t see it because I didn’t feel like walking around trying to find it. Once we checked my results online and saw I was fourth in my age group, we left. Medals were extra and I hadn’t bought one so I didn’t get a medal either.

As soon as I got home, I took a nap. The rest of the day I felt absolutely terrible. My stomach was so full and bloated and I kept burping up the taste of donuts. I didn’t even want to drink water but I forced myself to drink hot peppermint tea. Lunch was out of the question and I thought I might not even eat dinner but by around 5:30 I started to have a bit of an appetite again so I had a small salad and some salmon (I felt like I definitely needed something healthy after consuming 2400 calories in donuts). This was by far the worst I had felt after any race, including the marathon.

Now that a couple of days have passed and I’m looking back, I ask myself, “Was it fun? Would you do it again? Would you recommend this race?” My answers are, “Yes, the beginning of the race was fun, but it would have been much more enjoyable if the weather had been warmer. One of the best parts was seeing the costumes and everyone’s high energy and excitement at the beginning of the race. The race was well-organized for the most part,” “I would absolutely not want to do this again, even as a Non-Challenger. This is a one and done race for me,” and “I would recommend this race if you’re curious about what the experience of running 2.5 miles then eating a dozen donuts then running 2.5 miles back is like, because it most certainly is a unique experience and of course it’s for a great cause, UNC Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill, so it’s worth doing for that reason.”

Have you ever heard of the Krispy Kreme Challenge or a race like this one where you have to eat something in the middle of the race? Would you ever run a race like this? Do you think I’m crazy for running it and eating all 12 donuts?

Happy running!


Hawaii, “The Big Island,” Third Time’s a Charm While Discovering Waimea

Even though I had been to the Hawaiian island of Hawaii two other times, with this being my third time, I didn’t feel like I truly explored the island until this time. Let’s get to the name first, though. The island of Hawaii is also called The Big Island because the official name Hawaii can be a bit confusing since all of the Hawaiian islands are collectively called Hawaii. As you may guess from its nickname The Big Island, it is also the biggest of the Hawaiian islands, of which also includes Maui, Kauai, Oahu, Lanai, Molokai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe.

Even though I had been to the Big Island twice before, I had spent most of my time in the area called Kona. I would even sometimes refer to the Big Island simply as “Kona” when I would talk about it. What a mistake that is because the Big Island is so much more than just Kona! For my third time, I wanted to branch out and see more of the island. There are four major areas (although technically there are more, I’m simplifying here) of the Big Island: Waimea in the north, Kona in the west, Hilo in the northeast, and Volcano and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the southeast.

This time I stayed in Waimea and found it to be much less touristy and more quiet than the Kona area but still with plenty to do in the area and within a reasonable drive of other parts of the island. The farthest I had to drive in a day was two hours to get to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and since I went all the way to the bottom of the park where it meets the ocean, it was two and a half hours to get back. Hilo was an hour or less away, depending on what part I went to and Kona was around thirty to forty-five minutes away.

Waimea is also known as “Cowboy country” with the Hawaiian word for cowboys being “paniolos,” which goes back to 1793 when five cattle were given to Kamehameha the Great. Now there are two major ranches, Kahua Ranch and Parker Ranch, where you can arrange horseback rides and watch rodeos. I had no interest in either so I can’t say what they’re like but I did enjoy the beauty of the area. It’s not as hot and dry as Kona nor as cloudy and rainy as in Hilo so the weather was perfect every day as well with highs around the upper 70’s and lows in the low 60’s. This isn’t seasonal weather but is typical year-round.

The Ala Kahakai Trail

Where to Stay, Things to Do

There are two airports on the Big Island, one in Kona and one in Hilo. The one in Kona is about a 30 minute drive to Waikoloa Village (the one in Hilo is over an hour away so unless it’s a lot cheaper, you don’t want to fly into that airport), and Waikoloa is where most of the hotels, shops, restaurants, and golf courses are in Waimea. For “just” $900/night, I could have stayed in the fancy schmancy Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. Or even better, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for a “mere” $1300/night. I walked by both hotels while I was hiking the Ala Kahakai Trail, which I do recommend as it has stunning ocean views and I can attest both hotels are luxurious massive places to stay right on the beach. There are more affordable hotels and Airbnb properties in Waimea, although you likely won’t be right on the beach for anything less than $500/night. No worries, though, there are plenty of beaches within a short drive of more affordable accommodations.

There are so many things to do on the Big Island I couldn’t possibly cover it all here. I’m going to start with things to do in Waimea and work on other posts with things to do in the other areas of Hawaii. I already mentioned the ranches and golf courses in Waimea. I’m not a golfer but I walked, ran, or hiked by several golf courses during the course of my stay and the views from some of those holes were incredible! As you might imagine, Mauna Kea and Hapuna golf courses look like the most beautiful and are the highest rated if you do a search. There are about 15 golf courses in the area so you’ve got plenty to choose from.

Some of the best beaches in Waimea include Hapuna Beach, Waialea Bay Beach, Samuel M. Spencer Beach Park, Kauna’oa Beach (also known as Mauna Kea Beach, behind the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel), Kapa’a Beach Park, and Anaeho’omalu Beach. Many of these beaches are rocky and/or sometimes have riptides and strong currents or big waves, so be aware. You should heed any red flags that are on a beach, as they mean danger, usually due to strong currents but sometimes for other reasons. Even though I saw red flags at some of the beaches I visited, there were still people swimming in the water, but not me! Some of these beaches have wonderful shade provided by trees so they’re nice and relaxing to sit and listen to the waves with a good book.

One of my favorite trails in Waimea is the Ala Kahakai Trail, as mentioned earlier. It’s a well-marked trail that winds along the coast but has some spots that are a bit steep and rocky so I recommend wearing hiking shoes. Also wear sunscreen and bring water because much of it is exposed to the sun. This trail is 175 miles long but it’s easy to just walk bits and pieces of it. The Puako Petroglyph Park is an interesting place to see many petroglyphs and is a short hike. Kalahuipua’a Historic Park was also one of my favorite walking paths because it goes past some fish ponds full of colorful fish and eels and there are tons of birds flying around and singing; it’s a paved easy trail.

The Kalahuipua’a Historic Park was incredible! Such a gem!

A must-see site is the Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. This is where many Hawaiians consider to be their capital, according to the film shown at the site, since it has major significance to the local people. Here, the story of King Kamehameha and his first cousin, Keoua Ku’ahu’ula is told. I had heard of Kamehameha before but I had never heard the entire story about how he united all of the Hawaiian islands. You can scan a QR code at the center and listen at your own pace to the history behind the site as you walk along the easy walking path. There’s a temple that’s still in use by some local people, so it’s off-limits to visitors but you can see the outside. At the water by the site, some people have seen sharks and even whales but we saw neither while we were there. No admission is charged but donations are accepted.

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site

There isn’t much else besides hiking trails and beaches in Waimea. You will find a cluster of restaurants in Waikoloa Village and some galleries and a couple of shops further inland, including Gallery of Great Things, Anna Ranch Heritage Center, and Paniolo Heritage Center. You can also arrange helicopter tours over the Big Island and rent a bike or arrange a bike tour with Big Island Bike Tours and Rentals. One nice thing about the Big Island is it’s biker-friendly because many of the roads have extra-wide shoulders that are designated bike lanes.

Would I recommend staying in Waimea on the Big Island? Absolutely. It’s perfectly situated for some day trips to Hilo, Kona, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and there are plenty of outdoor activities if you want to stay in Waimea. It’s not nearly as crowded or expensive as Kona and is just as beautiful, plus the weather is perfect year-round.

Have you been to the Big Island? If so, have you been to Waimea? If you haven’t been to Hawaii, is it on your list?

Happy travels!


Running Shoe Reviews Are a Waste of Time (Mostly)

I remember several years ago when I subscribed to Runner’s World magazine and I loved when their annual shoe review issue would come out. Excitedly, I would pore over each review, reading each little detail including the shoe weight, sole material, and type of cushioning. I would write down my favorites or tear out the page from the magazine and include why I thought they would work best for me.

Was I a shoe geek? Maybe but since I’ve only ever owned three pairs of running shoes at a time, I never thought I was. I’ve known other runners with 20 or more pairs of running shoes at a time. But then again maybe how many pairs of shoes you own at a time doesn’t make you a shoe geek but just a hoarder (no offense if that’s you!).

I thought it was fun to research my favorites (at least in theory) and look for the best deal. I enjoyed getting to try entirely new running shoes. It worked out pretty well in the beginning but then I started having issues.

For someone who hates photos of other people’s feet, I have a surprisingly large amount of photos with my feet (well, at least they’re not my bare feet)! And that first one got chopped off in the collage!

One example of how trying entirely new shoes turned out poorly for me stands out in my mind. Several years ago, I bought a pair of On running shoes. I had never even heard of the brand On before but they looked cool and had good reviews by Runner’s World so I tried a pair. Not too long after that I also tried a brand-new-to-me pair of running shoes by the company Topo Athletic. I loved both my On running shoes and my Topo running shoes; they were cool-looking, felt good, and they were different from any other brand I had tried before. Different is not always better.

I started to notice my calves were a bit tight after I would go for a run so I began making sure I would stretch and foam roll after every run. The calf tightness got worse and worse and one day on a run I had to stop and stretch my calves a few times before I finally just called it a day and went home, stopping my run early. I thought, “Surely it’s not my shoes that are causing my calf pain. They’re brand new.”

When the pain got so bad it hurt just to walk, let alone run, I started digging deeper to try to figure out what the problem was. At first I thought it was my On shoes but then I realized that both my On shoes and Topo shoes had a low heel-toe drop ratio. The heel-toe drop is the difference in stack height from the heel to the toe box of the shoe. Minimalist shoes have a zero drop, meaning the heel is at the same height as the toe box. Both my On and Topo shoes had a 3 or 4 mm heel-toe drop, meaning the heel was either 3 or 4 mm higher than the toe box (one was 3 and the other was 4, I’m not sure which was which at this point).

Upon even further digging, I determined that my previous running shoes, a pair of Asics had a 10 mm heel-toe drop and in fact all of the shoes I had run in for the last few years had anywhere from an 8 to 10 mm heel-toe drop. I had NEVER had calf or Achilles problems before. I threw both pairs of those shoes in my pile for Goodwill so quickly it was ridiculous and immediately got a pair of new running shoes with a 9 mm heel-toe drop. My calf pain miraculously went away. Lesson learned. I need running shoes with an 8 to 10 mm heel-toe drop.

The real lesson here was that what works for some people does not work for others. Just because a shoe review claims a particular shoe is a “soft, cushiony ride great for long runs and shorter runs as well” or whatever they write may seem appealing doesn’t mean it’s a good shoe for you. I know lots of people rave about HOKA shoes but I personally don’t think they would work for me. They’re at the opposite end of the spectrum from minimalist shoes and are often referred to as “maximalist” shoes due to their ultra-cushioned soles. I need shoes that are neither minimalist nor maximalist but somewhere in the middle.

Now when I see a shoe review, I just look at the one thing that I’ve found matters to me, heel to toe drop. If it’s not in the right range for me, I don’t even bother trying them. Everyone’s different, though. For some people, they can get by with shoes with a much lower heel to toe drop, like 4 or 5 and be fine. The most important factor for someone else might be the toe box and if it’s wide or not. For someone else it could be how wide or narrow the shoe fits overall.

My point is, figure out what matters to you personally in a running shoe. I like to track my shoes on Strava and I still have older shoes listed on there that I can look up the stats from. If you don’t use that app, there are plenty of others where you can track your running shoes like Garmin or you can always go old-school and log your miles and shoe info on a spreadsheet or on paper if you’re really old-school.

There’s nothing wrong with shoe reviews per se, but armed with your own personal needs, you can make much better decisions when buying new running shoes based on these reviews. Doesn’t that sound like a better idea than just randomly choosing a pair of shoes based on how they look? Another great way to buy a new pair of shoes is to go to a local running store and try them on and have a person working there help you figure out if they would work for you or not. I did that with my daughter when she first started running on her high school cross country team and that worked out well.

Do you read running shoe reviews or just skip them entirely thinking they’re a waste of time? How many pairs of running shoes do you currently have? If you have a lot, do you consider yourself a running shoe geek or a hoarder?

Happy running!


50 Free or Practically Free Things To Do On Vacation

Funny background story here. I was taking a bath on a Sunday afternoon and decided to put on a face mask. That reminded me of a time when my daughter and I were goofing off while wearing face masks on vacation (we often bring face masks with us when we travel). Then I started thinking about how that’s a fun way to relax on vacation and it doesn’t cost anything (at least not while you’re on vacation although you do have to buy the face mask either before you leave home or while you’re on vacation; still, face masks are generally not that expensive). Then I started thinking about all of the many things I like to do on vacation that are free or cost very little.

So now I’m sitting here at my computer post-face mask and bath beginning my list of 50 free or practically free things to do on vacation. I will also add that at one time or another I’ve done every single one of these things while on vacation. I’m always looking for ways to save money, whether I’m on vacation or not, most likely from my upbringing by a single mother without much money. Anyway, here’s what I’ve come up with for my list. I’m sure some will come as no surprise but maybe some things will surprise you. Some things do depend on where you are so you need to make the appropriate assumptions. Here goes!

Walking this sweet dog from an animal shelter in Hawaii was a great experience (#44)!
  1. Go for a walk along the beach and look for cool shells along the way.
  2. When you’re done with your beach walk, put all of the shells you collected into a pile and decide which one is your favorite. Keep just that one as a souvenir.
  3. Go for a hike up a mountain.
  4. Find a small, local grocery store and pick out one snack to buy that you’ve never seen or heard of before.
  5. Find out where the best place is to watch the sunset and do that one evening.
  6. A couple of days after watching a sunset, watch the sunrise one morning then decide which you enjoyed better, the sunset or sunrise. Did they even look different from one another?
  7. Take a blanket or towel(s) with you and lie in the grass to stargaze one night.
  8. Find an antiques store and browse all of the unique finds.
  9. Have a picnic lunch at a place where there’s a water or mountain view.
  10. Find a state or national park and see how many of the trails you can walk or hike in a day.
  11. Go out your hotel or Airbnb property and walk in one direction with no real plan in mind other than to explore the area (make sure you’re in a safe area first).
  12. Strike up a conversation with a local shop keeper.
  13. Find a small local bookstore and browse their section on local books. Bonus if you’re in another country where English is not the first language!
  14. Get a cup of coffee or tea and people watch from an outside table.
  15. Find one of the most expensive clothing stores you can in the area and be amazed at the $4000 pair of wacky pants and $6000 dress you would never in a million years wear.
  16. Eat breakfast from your hotel or Airbnb patio/balcony.
  17. Go for a run with the intention to learn the area where you’re staying better.
  18. If you’re in another country where they speak another language, watch local TV and try to follow along.
  19. Put on a face mask, either one you brought from home or one you bought at a local drug store.
  20. Do your own manicure and pedicure instead of paying someone else.
  21. Go on a free walking tour; remember to tip your guide.
  22. Buy a pastry from a bakery and find a spot outside with a nice view to enjoy your treat.
  23. If it’s a hot day, find a cool stream to dip your feet in.
  24. Play “Pooh sticks” if you have a child, where you each drop in a stick from a bridge over a fast-moving body of water and see whose stick makes it to the other side of the bridge first. Heck, you could do this with someone else even if they’re not a child. It’s still a fun game!
  25. Swim in the ocean.
  26. Find out what the highest point is where you’re staying and hike to the top.
  27. Go shoe shopping but don’t buy any shoes.
  28. Take a series of photos one day with something from each color of the rainbow represented (indigo is hard).
  29. Read a book.
  30. Have your own mini book club if you’re traveling with someone of the same reading ability as you and discuss a book you both read while on vacation.
  31. Find a playground with swings, slides, etc. and play like a child even if you don’t have children.
  32. See how many bridges you can spot in one 30-minute walk through the city.
  33. Have breakfast in bed.
  34. If you’re staying at an Airbnb, make pancakes for dinner and eat them in your pajamas.
  35. Binge watch a show on Netflix or whatever streaming service you subscribe to.
  36. If it’s winter and snowy, go for a walk through the snow.
  37. Savor a cup of hot chocolate by the fire.
  38. Browse the hair care aisle of the local drug store and see if you can find a product you’ve never seen before. If you’re feeling really brave, buy it and see if you like it.
  39. Visit a small local farm and watch as the chickens come running out when called by the farmer (true story; they came running like puppies when the man called out to them. Apparently it’s a thing with chickens).
  40. Walk through the farmer’s market and buy some local produce.
  41. Go to some local art galleries to check out the art work.
  42. Visit an art/science/history museum.
  43. Visit a small local winery that gives free or low-cost tours.
  44. Walk a puppy or dog at a public adoption place that encourages this, otherwise volunteer there for a couple of hours.
  45. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  46. Volunteer at a running/biking/swimming/triathlon race (you’ll probably have to sign up in advance).
  47. Browse a local running store and see how it differs from your own local running store.
  48. Join a local running group for a run (check Facebook or Meetup).
  49. Buy a postcard and mail it from the local post office. See if you make it home before your postcard arrives at your friend or relative’s house.
  50. Practice your drawing skills with some paper and a pencil.
The chickens that came running to greet us when the farmer called them (from #39 above)

I could probably go on, honestly but that seems like a lot so I’ll stop here. Have you done any of these things or do you regularly do any of them on vacation? What is your favorite free or low-cost thing to do on vacation?

Happy travels!


Book Review- Fast After 50. How to Race Strong For the Rest of Your Life by Joe Friel

The author Joe Friel begins this book by stating he was 70 years old when he began writing this book (published in 2015). He is also the author of Cycling Past 50, which he wrote in the mid-1990’s when he was 53 (and many other books since then). He claims there wasn’t much research on aging in the 90’s, which I take to mean there wasn’t much research on the aging athlete. Much of Friel’s writings are based out of research studies and what that research says about older athletes’ performance, training, and lifestyle.

This book is arranged into two parts, with part I describing the rather depressing “challenges” the aging athlete faces and part II proposing some solutions to said challenges. The first chapter of part I begins with the author asking the question, “What is aging?” and expands from there. There are some rather dismal graphs depicting the big drop-off in performance for swimming records, cycling time trials, marathon world records, and Ironman Triathlon World Championship records. For women, the trends for increasing finish times are even more dramatic.

Chapter two dives deep into the science and discusses research on animal models and how they might relate to humans. Acknowledging that aging is complex in humans, the author discusses the role of diet and genetics on aging. The next chapter goes heavily into VO2max , aerobic capacity and the effects of muscle and fat on these two things.

Part II begins with chapter 4 and offers some solutions to the problems brought up in part I. Friel goes into the importance of balancing high intensity training and finding that Goldilocks sweet spot that works for you and strength training. The next chapters cover the different ways to measure your efficiency, aerobic-capacity testing, and lactate-threshold testing. There are specific training details for high-, moderate-, and low-dose workouts. These workouts are part of the seasonal periods for the older athlete.

Friel also emphasizes many older athletes would benefit from a longer than usual training routine. For most people that follow a training plan, a week is 7 days, but Friel suggests athletes 50 and over might benefit from extending that training week to 9 or 10 days. This means your long run wouldn’t always be on a Saturday or Sunday, as it is for most people. One week your long run would be on a weekend but if you’re following a 10-day training week, let’s say that’s a four month half marathon plan, the days of your long runs will vary from week to week. The whole purpose of a longer training week is to incorporate more rest days, which becomes even more important as we age. There are many examples on how these training weeks would look for someone training for a specific event to help you figure out how to incorporate it into your training plan.

To round things out, there are chapters on rest and recovery and body fat. In the final chapter (body fat), Friel goes over hormones, menopause, diet, medications, and the effect of high intensity exercise on body fat. I should say that each chapter also has insets by experts, some of whom are aging athletes themselves like Amby Burfoot, a runner who finished the 2014 Boston Marathon 49 years after his first Boston Marathon in 1965. There’s also an inset written by John Post, MD, a six-time Kona Ironman Triathlon finisher who writes about arthritis and some things athletes with arthritis can do.

In the epilogue, Friel states that not everyone wants to or is able to achieve high performance in sport, regardless of age but this applies perhaps more so in the older athlete. He goes on to say that some people are content to do easy workouts and they are happy with their current regimens. Not everyone wants to lift heavy weights or run fast intervals and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I like that he included this part in the book because no one should feel like they “should” work out harder or what they’re doing isn’t “good enough.” Like he says, as long as they’re eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep, they’re promoting a long and active life. “Keep it up!” he says and I agree.

As someone who recently turned 50, I appreciate this book and will definitely look into some of the workouts he suggests. I already lift heavy weights and make sleep and a healthy diet a priority in my life. With my full-time job and teenage daughter’s schedule, it would be difficult to lengthen my cycle to say a 9-day cycle where my long runs wouldn’t always be on the weekend. I also run with two different running groups on specific days so that mean I would have to stop running with them on some weeks. Obviously a longer cycle would be easier for someone who was retired or worked from home with a flexible schedule.

Here’s a link to Joe Friel’s website: https://joefrieltraining.com/book/fast-after-50/. You can find training plans (for a fee), his many other books, blog posts, and other services.

What about you? Are you 50 or older or approaching 50? Have you begun to see changes in your athletic abilities as you age or are you still going strong? Would you consider making changes (or have you made changes) in your workouts by including aerobic-capacity and lactate-threshold intervals, lifting heavy weights, getting more sleep, and changing your periodization routine to a longer cycle than the typical 7-day cycle in the hopes of getting faster or having more power?

Happy running!


Beyond Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Photo Challenge

I borrowed this idea that began as a photography challenge to post photos that were transportation-related and I expanded on it a bit. For my photo challenge, I wanted to post photos from anything that could be considered a form of transportation, meaning something that gets you from one place to another. These all had to be forms of transportation that I personally took, not just ones I saw other people using.

Since I only have photos in Google Photos that go back to 2001, that’s what I had to work with. It took quite a while to scan through all of my photos, too! What I came up with are photos of forms of transportation that were memorable and/or unique and like I said, ones that I personally took to get from one point to another. For some of these, I realize I may be taking the term transportation a bit generously, but for all of these, they did take me from one place to another.

Although you can’t see the ferry I’m on, this is one of the views from the ferry to San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. You can faintly see another ferry to the left of the tree line.
This convertible sports car is what I was given at the car rental agency in Las Vegas to drive from there to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Maybe it would have been great in the summer but not in February when it was snowing in Utah and I was concerned about the condition of the roads (and yes, I know it’s a car but I had to include it here)!
The views from the ferry in Malta from Gozo to the main island were incredible!
I’ve taken an air boat tour in Everglades National Park in Florida a few times but it never gets old!
This hand-driven pulley car in Alaska was so much fun and I wasn’t scared at all even though I’m scared of heights!
Ziplining in Hawaii!
Check out these amazing views from my stand up paddle board in Grand Teton National Park!
I don’t often rent bikes when I travel but Hilton Head Island was the perfect place for a bike ride around the island!

Now I challenge you to do your own version of this transportation-themed photo challenge! Be as creative as you want. I’m interested in seeing what you come up with so please share your post with me if you do take the challenge.

Happy travels!


Running Goals for 2023

Every January I like to figure out my running goals (which I used to call resolutions but from here on I’m going to call goals) for the upcoming year. Let’s take a peek at how my goals from last year went. Running Resolutions and My Word for 2022. My first goal for 2022 was to do more hiking on my off days. How did that go? Not so great.

I only went hiking while I was on vacation in Portugal, Costa Rica, and Asheville, oh and I did go hiking locally once. Even though I originally wanted to go hiking about once a month, that just didn’t happen. I guess I should be happy for the hiking I did do and don’t get me wrong, it was in some beautiful areas around the world so even if it wasn’t frequent, it was pretty fantastic when I did do it (see photos below from hiking in Portugal).

My second running goal for 2022 was to run different distances than the half marathon and just see what I was capable of at that point in my life. I did pretty well on that account, having run a 5k in May (and a night race at that), a 10-miler in April, and another 5k in November. I would have liked to have run a couple more races but shin splints and other things in my life put a halt to that. Still, it had been many years since I had run 5k’s and a 10-mile race so it was fun to push my body at those distances that I wasn’t used to racing.

My final goal for 2022 was to start running the Canadian provinces, with the ultimate goal of running a half marathon in all of them eventually. That didn’t happen for various reasons but I haven’t given up on that goal. When the time is right, it will happen. It may take me another 21 years to achieve that goal like it did to run all 50 states (hopefully not!) but if it does, so be it.

On to my goals for 2023. For some inspiration, I worked on a worksheet sent out by Honey Stinger, in conjunction with pro-runner and coach, Neely Spence Gracey and GRC, which I’m going to attach here if any of you want to fill it out for yourself. https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0498/2374/4162/files/Goal_Setting_Worksheet_1_Editable.pdf?v=1671219861

I’m not going to include the answers from my entire worksheet here but I’ll put a couple of things that stood out to me. One section had the questions “Why do I want to set a new goal? What goals have I already achieved?” My answer was “I’ve already achieved my goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states but I don’t feel the need to “top” that.” In other words, I don’t feel like I need to run the Canadian provinces any more than I felt like I needed to run all 50 states. It was always a goal that I felt like I would someday achieve but I also knew life sometimes has unexpected things pop up and it might take some time to achieve that goal. To me, this is a fun goal that since it includes travel and is thus more complicated since there’s time off work, money, and many other factors involved, I’m in no rush to achieve. It does give me motivation, however.

Another section of the worksheet has the questions “What gives me FOMO? Who or what inspires me? What do I value? What brings me joy?” My answer was simply, “What brings me joy is running in new places or different settings.” I almost never have FOMO; when I see other runners post online about races they ran that I didn’t, I don’t feel left out but I’m genuinely happy for them. I’m constantly inspired by other runners doing big and small things (what’s small to one person may be big to another and vice versa but it’s all important). I value my health and I know running is good for my mental and physical health. One thing that brings me joy in life is to travel to races and not only run the race but also experience that part of the world after the race.

So what are my goals for 2023? I have two goals, one of which I teased out while working on the worksheet, with the first goal being to simply have fun when running and to run races in different places when possible. There’s really no more limitations or specifics set other than that.

More runs in places like this (Hawaii) would be wonderful!

My second goal is to practice yoga more regularly. Before the pandemic, I used to go to a yoga class at my gym once a week and incorporate some of the basic stretches into my post-running stretching a few days throughout the week. When my gym closed and I was doing workouts at home I told myself I would continue doing yoga on my own but that got less and less often until I wasn’t practicing yoga at all. I later joined a different gym but they only offered classes online, which I’ve never been great at following regularly.

Recently my daughter asked me to do a 30-day yoga challenge with her that someone from YouTube was doing, starting on Jan. 2. While I don’t expect to continue practicing yoga every single day, especially after January is over, as long as I can continue doing yoga once a week, I’ll be happy. So far, it’s going well and we both are amazed at how quickly the time flies by during these yoga sessions together.

So that’s it! I’m keeping things simple for 2023 when it comes to running goals. What about you? Do you set running goals or intentions for the new year? If so, care to share one of your goals for 2023?

Happy running and Happy New Year!


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