My Ten Components for Running Success at Any Age

I’m borrowing this idea from a recent Another Mother Runner Podcast, which you can listen to here: https://anothermotherrunner.com/running-success-at-any-age/. Two AMR coaches came up with a list of ten components that they called building blocks for running success at any age. Their building blocks were: resilience, patience, strength (physical and mental), curiosity, energy, community, perspective, purpose (including how it can change), discipline, and joy. I thought I’d come up with my own list and see how mine compares to theirs. So here are my ten components for running success at any age.

First, I’d like to define “running success,” since it seems like a vague idea to me. What is running success? Is it winning races? Is it running with little to no injuries? Is it having friends to run with and just having fun? Is it losing weight and getting in shape? Is it the ability to run for decades? The idea of running success may be different for different people, depending on their age and what they want to achieve out of running. As someone who has run for decades at this point, I define running success as the ability to run without pain for as long as you would like, whether it’s a few years or 50 years. It’s being able to choose to run and having a feeling of satisfaction after running.

This was after state number 50- New Mexico! I needed a lot of patience to run a half marathon in all 50 states, which took me 21 years!

The first word I would choose is patience. Running takes patience, whether you’re a brand new runner or you’ve been running for many years. Everyone has peaks and valleys, highs and lows when they run and it’s perfectly normal. If you can be patient and allow for the process to happen, you’ll see you can eventually achieve your goal.

My second word for running success is grit. Grit is a word that sometimes gets over-used but I think it’s an important part of running. Grit can go by other words like determination, resilience, or having guts but I like the word grit. Running is often hard, especially if you’re a new runner or if you’re trying to get faster. If you can’t learn to not just push through the barriers but embrace the fact that running is sometimes hard, you’ll never have grit. Grit only comes after we experience hard things, when we’re able to look back and see for ourselves that we’re capable of doing more than we thought we could.

Another word I would choose is open-mindedness. You may tell yourself you’ve only ever run a 5k and there’s no way you could ever run a marathon. Or you may think you’re too old to get faster and you’re past that point in your life. Unless you’re able to keep an open mind and consider the possibility of what you may think of as a lofty goal, you will prove yourself right. Remember the Henry Ford saying, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Of course there are limits but my point is if you want to achieve a new goal, at least keep an open mind about it.

Priority is another word I would choose for running success. Unless you make running a priority in your life, it’s not going to happen. Like everything else in life, you have to prioritize what you get done in a day and running is no different. Figure out a time or times and days of the week that would work best for you to run and put it on your calendar. It’s fine when other things come up and you’re not able to go running, just make sure that doesn’t happen all the time.

Putting in the work, even on vacation

Consistency is also important for running success. This is probably one of the most important components of running if you’re training for a race. If you’re supposed to run 5 days a week per your training plan and you find yourself skipping scheduled runs every week, your running will inevitably suffer. Depending on your fitness level and age, you may be able to get by with skipping runs every week but if you have a goal to get faster or run longer than you have before, come race day, you’ll reap the consequences.

My next word is preparedness. What I’m referring to specifically is being prepared with the right apparel and gear. If you don’t have a clue what kind of running shoes would work best for you, don’t just go to a sporting goods store and choose shoes based on their color or style. Go to a running store that can measure your feet and run tests to determine what type of shoe would work best for your anatomy and will take into account things like the surface you run on and weekly mileage. The proper types of running clothes are also important, which you can also buy at a running store. No one wants to have chaffing so badly from a sports bra that you’re brought to tears when you jump in the shower after a run (I’ve personally experienced this) or to have the wrong type of shoes that actually cause pain in your Achilles and calves (I’ve also experienced this). You shouldn’t be hesitant about running because of pain caused by improper running apparel.

Awareness is hugely important for long-term running success and more specifically body awareness. I try to be hyper-aware of what’s going on with my body. Before I go for a run I’ll do a quick scan to make sure nothing feels off, then while I’m running I try to do a body scan starting at my head and working my way down to my feet to make sure everything feels like it should and I’m running loose and limber. When I get home from a run I’ll do some foam rolling and stretches and check again that everything feels good. Sometimes when I’m running I’ll have a sudden, short pain that will quickly subside but if it doesn’t, I either slow down or stop completely and walk home if necessary. I made the mistake once of pushing through the pain when my IT band was irritated and ran a half marathon when I shouldn’t have. That cost me a few months of complete time off from running after the race, when I probably could have minimized my time off if I would have backed off instead of pushing through the pain.

My eighth word for running success is mindset. Having a positive mindset goes a long way when it comes to running. One of my favorite running books is Deena Kastor’s book “Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory.” I wrote a post on her book that you can read here if you’d like (Book Review- Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton). Deena is a huge proponent of positive mindset for running (and life in general) and her book flows with her knowledge and personal experience with this.

Community is a word that I don’t think is essential for running success but can certainly make running more fun. For most of my running life I have primarily ran by myself. When I was in my mid-20’s I joined a running group but never felt like I fit in and quit after several months. Ironically, just before the pandemic started, I decided to try a different running group, but I had to wait until social running was back again, so I’ve only been running with this group for a little over a year. Now, I love my running group and miss them when I’m not able to go. There are a couple of people from the group I would consider my friends (not just acquaintances) and one person in particular has become someone I’ve hung out with outside the running group. I also try to pop in on Fleet Feet group runs when they have them and I enjoy just meeting new people and chatting while we run and afterwards. While I still do the majority of my runs by myself, I definitely appreciate my group runs and have enjoyed meeting many runners through them.

My ninth word is flexibility, in the physical sense like being able to touch your toes (it still counts if you have to bend your knees some). I’ve only had two major running issues, shin splints and iliotibial band syndrome, or ITBS, relatively early in my running history. Both were caused by my lack of awareness (see above) of my body and not picking up on the signals early enough to prevent them from becoming worse and from not being prepared (also above) with the proper shoes. I also was not stretching and foam rolling when I had those injuries. Now I foam roll and stretch after every single run. Before the pandemic I went to yoga class once a week and did some on my own during the week but honestly, I’ve dropped off since yoga classes were stopped at my gym. I know I need to do it more regularly but yoga seems to be one of those activities I just do much better in an in-person class. Still, I’ve never stopped stretching and working on my flexibility.

My final and tenth word is fluidness. What I mean by this is the ability to go with the flow when life throws us a curve ball. Things often don’t go as you think they will and sometimes you have to suddenly attend an early meeting before work, then immediately after work go straight to your kid’s soccer practice, followed by going home to make dinner for the family, after which you have to put the kids to bed. It may not be possible to run before work or during your lunch break so maybe you squeeze in your run while your kid is at practice. I found myself running laps around the swim facility many times while my daughter was at swim practice or running around the outside of the soccer field when she played soccer. You do what you can, when you can, instead of sitting around just waiting for practice to end, scrolling numbly on your phone. This also goes hand-in-hand with making running a priority (see above).

Those are my ten words for running success! What top word would you choose for running success, either one from my list or one of your own?

Happy running!

Donna

Faro, Sagres and Lagos, Portugal

First a little geography lesson for anyone who has never been to the southern part of Portugal known as the Algarve. Lagos and Sagres are both on the western end of the Algarve, with Sagres on the very tip of southwestern Portugal. I had read that the further west you go in the Algarve, the less populated it is and I found that to be true. There also wasn’t as much to do as far as shopping and restaurants on the far western part. Faro is about an hour and a half drive east of Lagos and is where the Faro Airport is. All three cities are unique in their own right, each offering something worth checking out. I’ll break down the three cities one-by-one here.

Sagres

One of the major attractions in Sagres is the Sagres Fortress. This is part of the Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Natural Park and includes a lighthouse (Farol de Sagres, where “farol” means lighthouse in Portuguese) and A Voz do Mar, which I’ll explain in a minute. There is a very large parking area where you’ll park and walk to the entrance of the fort and pay 3.50 Euro. Although you enter in an enclosed area, the vast majority of the fort is outside.

One of the amazing views from the Sagres Fortress

The views from the fort are amazing and there are markers along the walkway describing the fort and the flora and fauna in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. A Voz do Mar (“Voice of the Sea”) is a circular labyrinth that was originally going to be a temporary exhibit but was later made permanent. It was designed by the famous architect Pancho Guedes and is one of those places you just have to visit to understand but suffice to say when I was there, I exclaimed, “Whoa! That is so cool!” In short, it has just the right acoustics with its design to capture some of the sounds of the surrounding ocean. There’s also a tiny little church you can walk through on the grounds. Apparently one fortress and lighthouse wasn’t enough to the people in Sagres because there’s also the Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente and Fort of Santo António de Belixe, both about a 10-minute drive from Farol de Sagres and Sagres Fortress.

I had a hard time finding much to do in Sagres other than visiting the forts. There were plenty of surfing shops and several bars but not a whole lot else. The restaurants seemed to be clustered together in the same area; one we liked was Three Little Birds, a large restaurant with an outdoor seating area in a garden-like setting. The service was slow but they were also pretty much at max capacity and the food was excellent.

Can you tell it was windy at the fort?

Lagos

Driving toward the east from Sagres, Lagos is only about a half hour drive from Sagres and has much more to do, including one of my favorite walks, the Fisherman’s Trail (Trilho dos Pescadores) with Ponta da Piedade, which I wrote about on my previous post on Portugal (A Week in the Algarve- Southern Portugal- Outdoor Adventures). There are also streets that you can wander around on and get lost and discover some cute little shops, stopping to eat when you get hungry. Plus there are also some historical sites, including a Roman bridge, a fort complex, Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, and a castle.

I did have a hard time finding a parking spot in the center of town in Lagos but part of the problem may have been because it was Easter weekend. There was a street festival going on so there were probably more people than usual out that day. I got yelled at in Portuguese by an elderly gentleman who thought I was taking his parking spot in front of a church. I was on a tiny one-way road that suddenly ended and I was trying to turn around when he came over to my car and started pecking on the driver’s window. It was obvious what he was saying even though I didn’t understand a word he was saying. I tried to use my hands and arms to gesture and let him know I wasn’t parked but was turning around (which I would have been able to do sooner had he not approached my car) and finally I was able to get out of his obviously important (to him) parking spot. After much driving around, I lucked upon a tiny park with just one parking spot left and I happily took it.

The water along the Fisherman’s Trail was so pretty!

Faro

Compared to Lagos and Sagres, Faro is a bustling city, with a population of around 41,000. The Faro Airport serves the Algarve and is well-situated geographically, although it is a bit closer to Spain than the far tip of Sagres. On the day we went to the nature park, Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, we also stopped at Faro since they’re a short drive from one another.

While in Faro, we went to the Municipal Museum of Faro, a former convent, where we walked around for maybe an hour. Admission was 2 Euro per person but is free on Sundays until 2:30 pm (check their website to be sure that’s still the case before you go, (https://www.cm-faro.pt/pt/menu/215/museu-municipal-de-faro.aspx). I also wanted to go to Faro Municipal Market. I’ve always enjoyed checking out local shopping areas when I go to other countries and this one did not disappoint. There were plenty of local vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, chocolates and pastries, and flowers plus some restaurants and cafes and a large grocery store on the bottom level.

We got some pastries and sat outside to enjoy the nice weather while we ate. When we got to the rental car, I noticed a parking ticket on the windshield. It had a link to a website so later that evening I went online and saw I had inadvertently parked in a time-limited spot and had to pay something like 4 Euro, which I did right then before I forgot. Honestly, for the amount of time we had been parked there, 4 Euro seemed like a fair deal and it was quick and easy to take care of.

Photos from the Faro Municipal Museum and nearby

Despite getting yelled at by the elderly Portuguese man in Lagos and getting a parking ticket in Faro, I enjoyed these cities plus Sagres. Driving around Lagos wasn’t my favorite, with so many little one-way narrow roads and many parking signs saying parking was for residents only (which I fully understand and am not saying they shouldn’t offer this for their residents), but finding shops with parking spaces was difficult. Ultimately, when I did find a parking spot I found it was easier to just walk around and find shops and restaurants on my own rather than try to drive directly to them like I would in the US.

I know the Algarve is mainly known for its beaches (and for good reason) but I wanted to bring attention to these three cities as well. After all, not everyone just lounges at the beach all day. It’s good to have other options too.

Have you been to any of these cities or anywhere else in the Algarve? Do you want to go to Southern Portugal but haven’t made it there yet?

Happy travels!

Donna

Book Review- Run Like a Pro (Even If You’re Slow). Elite Tools and Tips for Running at Every Level by Matt Fitzgerald and Ben Rosario

Have you ever been curious about what it’s like to be an elite runner? I personally have never wanted to run for a living but I know many runners who are at least curious about that type of lifestyle. This book claims that elite runners aren’t as different from us mortal runners as we might think.

Matt Fitzgerald has written over 20 books and has been a contributor to many publications like Runner’s World and Outside. He is a runner and while in his late 40’s he had the opportunity to run with the NAZ elite Hoka team in Flagstaff, Arizona for three months. Another of Fitzgerald’s books, Running the Dream: One Summer Living, Training, and Racing with a Team of World-Class Runners Half My Age (which I have not read) is apparently partly about his experience in Arizona and trying to achieve a lofty goal time at the Chicago Marathon. In this book, Run Like a Pro, Fitzgerald also discusses some of the things he learned from that experience in Flagstaff.

Ben Rosario, the co-author, is the head coach of the Northern Arizona (NAZ) Elite team, which he and his wife Jen founded in 2014. The NAZ elite Hoka team is considered one of the best distance running teams in the United States. Rosario’s contributions to the book includes Coach’s Tips at the end of each chapter.

The book is broken down into 14 chapters but the last five chapters are training plans, starting with beginner’s, intermediate, and more advanced levels each for the 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, and ultramarathon distances. Several of the chapters include topics you would expect like nutrition, recovery, and managing mileage but there are also chapters on mindset (Think Like a Pro) and how to learn to pace yourself (Pace Like a Pro). I believe mindset is a huge divider between “middle of the pack” runners and “faster” runners. If you think you aren’t capable of running fast, you likely won’t be. Of course you have to put in the work but if you don’t think you can ever get faster, chances are you won’t.

Some points from the book that I thought I’d highlight here includes one that shouldn’t be surprising but really drives home the difference between faster runners and slower runners. In a 2017 study in Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine with 97 marathon runners, they found the faster runners trained much more than the slower runners, and there were incremental increases with a link between training runs and marathon times. In other words, if you run 30 miles a week on average and run a marathon, you’re probably going to be considerably slower than someone who trains 60 miles a week for a marathon, and someone who trains 60 miles a week will likely be slower than someone who trains 80 miles a week. Of course there is a limit and everyone needs to find that sweet spot of enough miles to be challenging but not too many to break down the body.

Another point Fitzgerald emphasizes is we should be measuring our runs by time, not distance. Like he says, on marathon day, someone running 10-minute miles will take longer to finish than someone running 7-minute miles so you need to prepare by spending that time on your feet. He also says to consider your event focus, but not too much. If you’re training for a 5k, your first thought might be that you don’t have to run that long of long runs since a 5k is only 3.1 miles. However, he says elite runners stay in shape for running anything from a 5k all the way up to a marathon, with the mindset that if you’re fit enough to run a marathon, you should be fit enough to run a 5k as well.

One of the most important points in the book and one that I really need to get better at is the 80/20 intensity balance. This means you should run 80% of your training runs at a slow enough pace that you can carry on a conversation and the remaining 20% of your runs should be at a high intensity. He says too many runners fall into the moderate intensity rut, where you don’t slow down for the majority of your runs so that when it’s time to focus on speed work, you don’t have enough left in the tank to run them as fast as you would if you would have slowed down on the other runs. It’s emphasized to sit down and calculate the paces you should be running for each run to make sure you’re meeting the 80/20 balance.

As you might expect, there are pages and pages of what I’ll call body work exercises, like form drills, plyometrics, and strength training exercises. Form drills (like butt kicks) are important for good form, plyometrics (like box jumps) increase running economy, reduce ground contact time, improve running performance, and increase leg stiffness. Form drills are usually done during a warm-up but sometimes during a run and plyometrics should be done on their own a couple of times a week. Strength training moves are also included and should be done once a week to start, building up to twice a week. There are also corrective exercises in the book such as foam rolling, hip flexor stretches, balance exercises, ankle mobilization, and toe yoga.

The book is rounded out with subjects like rest, sleep, stress, and nutrition. One thing to note about rest is that it means sitting around and playing board games or something similar, not running errands for a couple of hours in a day or doing housework. As you’ve probably heard before, most elite runners sleep around 9-10 hours a night with a nap in the middle of the day. I’m not sure about you, but it’s just not feasible for me to just run, eat, nap, do exercises, cross-train, and sleep, with little to no stress or other obligations in my life, like the elite runners are supposed to do. But then again, that’s their job, not mine.

Bottom line, this book has some useful tips for us “ordinary” runners and reminders for stretches and exercises that would be good to do but is it really that simple that if you follow the advice in the book you’ll become as fast as an elite runner? For most of us, of course not. We’ve got jobs, families, housework, and a million other things, while running is just something we do on the side. Is it possible to get faster if you follow the 80/20 balance, incorporate some of the stretches and drills in your running, and do your best to eat healthy, get a good night’s sleep most of the time, and keep your stress level manageable? Absolutely.

Have you read this book? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an elite runner?

Happy running!

Donna

A Week in the Algarve- Southern Portugal- Outdoor Adventures

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: In 2020, I was supposed to take a big vacation and then all of a sudden this thing called Covid-19 hit, causing worldwide shutdowns. I know I’m not the only person who had to cancel plans when the pandemic started. I’m also not the only person who thought, “Surely this will be over in a couple of months and I can just postpone my trip until then.”

I was supposed to go to southern Spain and southern Portugal for a week each in June of 2020. When borders were closed I pushed back those plans a couple of months to August, only to finally cancel indefinitely. Once vaccinations and treatments were available and borders were starting to open again in 2021, I made plans to go to just Portugal (so no Spain this time) for a week during my daughter’s spring break in 2022.

I’m not going to go into detail here about all of the COVID testing requirements and regulations since I already wrote about that here: International Travel as an American During COVID Isn’t Easy but needless to say it was stressful. It turns out the stress didn’t stop there. When we arrived in Lisbon we were told there was too much fog that morning to fly safely into Faro. The airline, TAP Portugal was going to bus us all to Faro, or we could rent cars ourselves if we chose to do so (on our own dime). The ironic part is the fog lifted fairly quickly and we could have easily flown to Faro and we would have gotten there sooner, even with waiting a few hours. We were told it would be about a three hour bus ride.

After much standing around in the Lisbon airport for hours and being told time after time, “We’re still working on getting the buses here,” we finally boarded the buses (we all fit in two buses after many people left and rented vehicles on their own) and began the drive to Faro airport. Of course there was a lot of complaining by passengers in the meantime but I was just happy to get to Faro that same day. They could have easily told us we would have to wait until the next day to fly out.

I should mention never once did anyone from the airline (TAP Portugal) tell us we were entitled to any form of compensation or even a free lunch for our troubles, despite many people angrily demanding something in return. I know when it’s a weather-related delay airlines can pretty much do what they want. Since our flight from New York was an overnight one, I was exhausted by now and slept on the bus most of the way. The few times I did look out the window there didn’t seem to be much to see anyway other than normal highway sights.

Our temporary home in Portugal was perfect!

FINALLY in Faro (that should have been the title of my post), I picked up the rental car and about an hour later we arrived in Ferragudo at the Airbnb, a beautiful townhouse with several balconies including a rooftop balcony with bouganvillea spilling over the front of the property. Ferragudo turned out to be the perfect area to stay because it was a fairly central location in the Algarve, only an hour from the southwestern tip of Portugal and an hour from the southern border with Spain.

Things to Do- Hiking

Since the water was still chilly (I saw surfers wearing wet suits and children in the water but that was it) the plan was to spend most of our time hiking and generally checking out all that we could in a week without spending a ton of time in the car. We were very close to two incredible trails, The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail (Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos) and Trail of the Headlands (Caminho dos Promontórios).

The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail has been voted the best trail in Europe and I can see why. It’s around 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) and stretches from Praia da Marinha to Praia do Vale de Centeanes (Praia means “beach” in Portuguese). The trail is one-way so either you have a car pick you up at the end or you turn around and go back the way you came. Along the way you go past one of the most famous beaches in Portugal, Praia de Benagil. The trail was a little difficult to follow at times so pay attention when you come to businesses, since one part of the trail goes right through a restaurant at one point, and bring water, snacks, and sunscreen. There are some restaurants along the way but if you’re there during the winter they may not be open.

Hiking along the coast was one of my favorite things to do- it was so beautiful!

The Trail of the Headlands is about 6 kilometers and you can park at Praia do Molhe in Ferragudo to begin. There’s a wonderful restaurant by this beach that we ate dinner at on both our first and last days and I highly recommend it (the restaurant is called O Molhe). The trail is another out-and-back trail where you’ll see the rugged limestone cliffs with the azure blue water below but it was notably less busy when we were there than when we hiked the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. Although many of the beaches along this trail are inaccessible, you can reach Praia do Pintadinho and Praia dos Caneiros.

A bit further west near Lagos is the Fisherman’s Trail (Trilho dos Pescadores). This 11-kilometer trail goes from Luz Beach to the train station in Lagos and like the other trails in the Algarve discussed here, has views of limestone cliffs with the blue water below. You’ll go past a famous area called Ponte da Piedade with its rock formations, caves, and grottos. There was once a Roman temple, a Moorish temple, a Christian hermitage, a fortification to protect Torrinha’s fishing tackle, and even a lighthouse here.

Beaches

As I mentioned earlier, the word beach in Portuguese is “Praia.” Honestly, I could never say here, “These are the best beaches in the Algarve” because 1) I’m certainly no expert on this and 2) That’s a pretty subjective matter. I will say this, two of the more popular beaches, Praia do Carvalho and Praia da Marinha get crowded. We managed to find a tiny beach one day, Praia da Afurada, that was near where we were staying in Ferragudo and not a single other person was there the entire time we were there, reading on the beach. It’s hard to go wrong with the over 100 beaches in the Algarve.

Ria Formosa Nature Park

The Ria Formosa Nature Park is near the town of Olhão. I suggest you stop in town first to get cash if you don’t have any since the nature park has an entry fee and they don’t accept credit cards. There’s also no food or drinks for sale in the park. We were there just before lunch so I found a small restaurant that turned out to be interesting. I asked for a menu and the person working there pointed to a small chalkboard with three things written on it: carne de porco, frango, and peixe (pork, chicken, and fish). Good thing my daughter and I are adventurous eaters! I chose the chicken for both of us and we received steaming plates of tender chicken with a creamy yellow sauce and fried potatoes on the side. It was delicious and tasted a bit like yellow curry but I honestly have no idea what it was and we didn’t get sick later.

Flamingos but not pink. Not sure what the birds in the trees were (upper right).

The Nature Park has a small parking lot where you park and pay for entry then it’s all self-guided trails. I didn’t find the trails especially well-marked and got turned around a few times, despite having a map given to me at the entrance. It’s full of a bunch of loops that go around one another so while it’s virtually impossible to get completely lost and not find your way back, you may end up like we did going in circles the wrong way a few times. We saw some flamingos and many other birds that I have no idea what they were since I’m not familiar with Portuguese birds but no other animals. We went past some salt pans but they were disappointingly not picturesque, unfortunately. It’s a nice place to walk around for a couple of hours, especially if you’re a nature-lover, and this doesn’t seem like a place that gets overly-crowded.

I’m going to end my post on southern Portugal here since it seems like a nice place to end. I’ll pick up with a post on some of the restaurants, shopping, and other things we enjoyed and some other things that happened to us (not all good) on our Portuguese adventure!

Have you been to Southern Portugal? If so, where did you go? Happy travels!

Donna

Catching Fireflies 5k- My First Night Race!

First I have to give a little background info. Even though I’ve run somewhere around 60 races in the past 22 years, the Catching Fireflies 5k was only my fourth 5k, and two of those were with my daughter so this was only the second 5k I ran by myself. Of those two 5ks that I ran by myself, they were 22 years apart and this race in 2022 was 2 minutes faster than my first 5k. Granted, the first 5k was the first race I ever ran as an adult but still, I was happy that I haven’t slowed down, despite the fact that I’m now in a much older age group than when I ran that first race. Anyway, on to the race report!

The Catching Fireflies 5k in Raleigh, North Carolina caught my eye when I saw it advertised a few months ago. Start time was slated for 8:25 pm on Friday, May 20. The charity for the race was the Cancer Shucks group, https://www.cancershucksfoundation.org/. Luminaries could be purchased in honor of a loved one who was effected by cancer and their name would be written on the luminary. The race course was lined with what must have been hundreds of luminaries.

Photo from the race Facebook page

Packet pickup was from 5 to 8 pm at Wakefield High School in Raleigh on race day (no option to pick up earlier). We got cotton t-shirts, our bibs, and glow sticks to wear while we were running. It was great to have real bathrooms to use before the race and not have to walk far to get to the race start since we all parked in the school parking lot. My 16-year-old daughter was also running the race so we hung out for a little while inside the school since it was so hot out. The high for the day was a record high for the year- 99 degrees!!!

Fortunately when the sun started to set it began to feel noticeably cooler, but it was still pretty humid. By the time the race started it was around 86 degrees, still hot but at least it wasn’t in the 90’s any longer. We all kept saying how it was just too hot too soon but there was nothing to do about it. Surprisingly, there were around 650 runners and walkers that night, according to the announcer.

Everyone started lining up around 8:10 and the race started promptly at 8:25 after the national anthem was sung. The beginning of the race was a terrible mess with walkers at the front, mixed in with people with strollers and small children scattered everywhere. I expected that might be the case and planned on staying toward the edge but even that wasn’t enough so as soon as I could I jumped onto a sidewalk until I could get around a big group of people.

Also from the race Facebook page

Fairly quickly, the course thinned out and I was finally free of the mob of people. The race was entirely though a neighborhood, Wakefield Plantation, one of those super-nice neighborhoods with a country club and golf course and enormous houses. As I said earlier, the course was lined throughout with luminaries. I wasn’t sure how dark it would get so I brought a clip-on light but didn’t really need it except for one tiny little stretch where there no street lights for a bit.

This neighborhood is also hilly, which I had been told ahead of time. The course began downhill, so of course I knew that meant we would be running uphill on the way back. I tried to take advantage of that fact by running the first mile a bit faster than I normally would, but still being a bit conservative since I wasn’t sure how the heat and humidity would effect me. My first mile was at an 8:20 mile pace.

When I was about halfway through the race, I felt like I should slow down or I wouldn’t have enough left to get me up the hills at the end. My second mile was at an 8:44 mile pace, which is around what I thought I would run the entire race at, prior to the race. There weren’t many spectators on the course and I didn’t see anyone cheering on runners from their front yards or anything like that. Water was on the course but there weren’t any porta johns, at least not that I saw.

I really didn’t have any finish time goal in mind before the race, other than trying to finish in the top three in my age group, whatever that meant. With only a mile to go, I had to really push myself mentally to not walk up the final hills. I saw people walking all around me and it was tempting to walk along with them but I didn’t and told myself even if I was running slow I was still going faster than if I walked. My final mile was at an 8:42 mile pace, with the final sprint to the finish (the 0.1 mile) at a 7:57 mile pace. My finish time was 26:53.

Immediately after the race- I was so hot and sweaty!

There were children handing out medals at the finish and a big container full of warm bottles of water (WARM water after a HOT 5k is just wrong!). Bananas, pretzels, and cereal bars were further down on a table. I did find a table with cups of cold water being dispensed from those big orange Gatorade containers you see at races and cross country meets and I greedily gulped some down.

The awards ceremony was supposed to be at 9:10 but the announcer kept talking about the music being played and other random things. Finally around 9:25 they began the awards ceremony. I thought my daughter might have a chance of cracking the top three in her age group but she was fourth. I was first in my age group and collected a gift card to a restaurant near the race. The day after the race I checked the official finish times and saw that I was only three seconds behind the third place overall masters female. But then I looked again and actually I was three seconds ahead of her. There was a mistake. I should have won third place overall masters. This had never happened to me, finishing in the top three overall masters.

I sent an email to the race director and he replied back within a couple of hours, which surprised me since it was a Sunday. He said they go by gun time for overall awards and chip time for age group awards. I had always thought chip time would be more accurate so awards would always be based on that, but I guess you live and learn.

I’ll admit, I was a little bitter; after all it was only three seconds. I could have easily moved up closer to the front at the start, had I been able to somehow predict this and have known then what I know now. Or if the race director would have put that information in the awards section on the race website. But then it just gave me a bit of fuel for my fire for my next 5k (no, I haven’t signed up for any at the moment). Knowing how little training I did (basically no speed work) before this race, it gave me hope of what I’m capable of if I truly train for a 5k.

I never thought I’d be saying it but I’m actually looking forward to training hard for a 5k now and seeing what I can do. Now I just have to find a race! That’s going to be difficult since we’re also heating up quickly here so races always thin out this time of year.

Would I recommend this race? Yes. It truly is a unique race, in that it’s at night and has luminaries lining the course. It was much hotter than it normally is the end of May so I would hope the weather was just a fluke and next year would be back to normal temperatures. The hills aren’t going to go away, but they really weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. I would have rather had something other than a cotton t-shirt, like socks or a hat but it was a cute shirt and I’ll wear it to the gym. The medals were cute too. And like I said earlier, best of all, it’s for a great cause.

https://fsseries.com/event/catching-fireflies-5k/

Have you ever run a night race? If so, care to share your experience?

Happy running!

Donna

International Travel as an American During COVID Isn’t Easy

I was supposed to go to southern Portugal for a week and southern Spain for a week during June of 2020. When the pandemic started I thought surely I would be able to go later that summer and postponed the trip until August. When I saw the pandemic wasn’t going to be over any time soon I postponed the trip indefinitely.

Finally after vaccinations were available and countries started opening up for Americans I changed my travel plans to include a week in southern Portugal in April of 2022. This was in July of 2021. I knew I was taking a chance things might change again and borders could shut down before April but I also knew I could cancel my airline and Airbnb reservations with no change fees.

As spring was approaching I started checking the Portuguese travel website weekly along with the CDC guidelines for international travel. Many European countries dropped their requirements for COVID tests for Europeans but the United States held steadfast. Because there are often reciprocal agreements between countries, since the US required testing before entry, other countries also required Americans to be tested before entry. For Portugal that meant I would have to get a COVID PCR test within 48 hours of arrival.

I scheduled a PCR test at a small pharmacy a friend of mine had gone to for his test when he went to India the month prior. He said he got his results back in around 30 hours. Because I would be arriving in Portugal on a Sunday morning that meant I had to get my test results back sometime between Friday morning and Saturday evening. My insurance paid for the test so at least I didn’t have to pay for it. Still, I began to get nervous that my results wouldn’t come back in time. Although I was arriving in Portugal Sunday morning I was flying to New York Saturday morning and flying from there to Portugal that evening, meaning I really needed my test back by Friday evening for my peace of mind.

After obsessing about what I would do if I didn’t get my PCR test results back in time I scheduled another test with the county where I live and spoke to someone who told me on the phone the PCR tests were free (no insurance cards were even asked for) and I would get my result back within 4 hours. It turns out I got the pharmacy test result back much quicker than I thought I would so I ended up with both test results that Friday. I breathed a sigh of relief.

One step done, I now had to figure out what to do about the testing requirement for Americans upon arrival from another country. After much research I determined I would “only” need an antigen test, which usually costs around $25-$30, compared to the much more costly PCR test, which I’ve seen can cost anywhere from $100 to $150 and I didn’t think my insurance would pay it if I was in another country. Big difference. Even though I was able to get free PCR tests in the US, I knew that wouldn’t be the case in Portugal and I would have to pay for the tests out-of-pocket. I found a great Portuguese website that listed every place in the Algarve (where I would be) that did COVID testing and included the name, address, phone number, email address, cost, and hours. I did all of this before I even flew to Portugal so I would be prepared once I got there.

The only photo I had from an actual COVID test, although not one from this trip

Since there were literally dozens of places in the Algarve that did COVID testing, I felt confident it wouldn’t be a problem finding a place for that on the day before I would be flying back to the US. But then while I was in Portugal it hit me that I would be there on Good Friday and Easter weekend and I was flying back on Easter Sunday. That meant some places would likely be closed over the holiday weekend. Shit. I started to panic. I should have brought some test kits with me, I thought. What am I going to do if I can’t find a place that’s open on Saturday, the day before Easter?

I started scrolling down the list from the Portuguese travel website I had found earlier and saw many of them were not only closed on Good Friday but were closed the entire weekend. Shit. Hands shaking, I began going to website after website for each company (usually pharmacies) until I finally found one that stated they had openings for reservations that Saturday. Yes! Even better they had openings for late that morning, which would be perfect since I was flying out early Sunday morning. Not only that but they were only 15 minutes away.

The antigen tests were $30 each and within thirty minutes I had an email with both my daughter’s and my test result- negative. Yay! Now I could finally breath a sigh of relief. Not only had I managed to get our PCR tests before our trip to Portugal in time, we had also managed to get the required COVID tests in time before we flew home.

I have to say, the whole process was nerve-wracking. The fact that I was not only vaccinated but double-boosted didn’t mean a thing to anyone. I wished I could have just shown my vaccine card and skipped the whole testing process entirely, like so many other people in other countries can do, or even better, skip any requirements at all, like many countries are now dropping all requirements at all when it comes to COVID, thanks to the drop in hospitalizations and good treatment options.

Do you know, too, after all of my fretting and worrying about finding a place to get tested in Portugal before I flew home the airline I was flying home with (British Airways) never once asked for my COVID test result? Basically I did all of that for nothing. I’m glad I did it and would have done it again because I guess you never know if someone will ask for the result. Had I not had the test done and they asked to see the results they could have denied boarding to me.

So, was it worth all of it? Absolutely, 100% resoundingly YES! Would I do it again? Yes, especially now that I’ve gone through it and am a bit more educated about the process. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t still be nerve-wracking, with all of the timelines in place but it would be worth it.

Have you travelled internationally lately? If so, where did you go and what were the requirements for travel? Have you been waiting for the restrictions to drop before you travel out of the US again? If so, I can’t blame you, as it’s certainly not an easy process!

Happy travels!

Donna

How My Motivation for Running Has Changed Over the Years

I started thinking about this some time back when I was listening to a podcast and they were talking about how their motivation for athletic activities they do has changed over the years. For example, one person was talking about their motivation for doing triathlons and the other person was talking about their motivation for running. When I started running what I would call in a more regular way in my late 20’s (I phrase it this way because prior to this point I would just run whenever and wherever with no real plan or intention and no races), my motivation was simply for the sheer joy of running, truthfully.

I didn’t need to lose weight or get healthier nor did a friend talk me into running with them. In fact, my boyfriend at the time was motivated by me to run and we would often run together. He ended up doing a sprint triathlon but shortly after that he ran less and less. His heart just wasn’t in it and it was obvious he was just doing it to spend time with me but he had no real motivation to run.

No longer with a running partner, I ran by myself and eventually trained for and ran my first 5k and gradually built up to a half marathon then eventually I ran a marathon. I enjoyed the solitude of being alone with nature and I liked how I felt after a run- accomplished and satisfied. My motivation to continue to run eventually became seeking out more half marathons. It was about more than just running the race, however; all of those training miles became my new normal and a part of who I was.

One thing that helps with motivating me to run is having beautiful places like this to run

Many years ago after I had run a half marathon in several states and I made the decision to run a half marathon in every state, that became my goal and my motivation. Never once did I doubt if I could make it happen. I knew I would eventually get there, no matter how long it took me.

It was definitely always about the journey for me and just enjoying myself along the way. I always made it a priority to spend at least several days in a state, usually more, preferably after the race and take in as much as I possibly could. With only a couple of rare exceptions did I not care for a place I visited. Some places were just OK, as well, but the majority of places I went to far exceeded any expectations I might have had.

Speaking of expectations, one thing I’ve learned over the years but still have to work on is to have zero expectations. This can be about a place I’m going to, about a race, about a person, or about anything coming up in my life. I’m a realist and optimist by nature so it doesn’t work for me to have really low expectations for a place or person but I’ve found if I go into something with no expectations at all, that usually works out well for me. But back to my original topic.

Now that I’ve finished my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, my motivation has once again changed. After my final race in November 2021, I was asked by many people, “What’s your next big goal? A marathon in all 50 states?” or other similar questions. I always just laughed and said, “No. For now I’m just soaking it all in and trying to enjoy the moment.”

After my half marathon in November 2021, I needed a break from running so I took two weeks off from running completely and only went on walks and hikes. Historically when I was still in the midst of my 50 states quest I would almost always take two weeks off from running after a half marathon to let my body heal completely so that wasn’t unusual for me. What has been unusual is for the first time in a couple of decades, I don’t have a half marathon in sight and I’m perfectly OK with that.

I’ve found myself going back to my roots, if you will, when I ran for the sheer joy of running. There is zero pressure for me to find another race to train for, at least in the near future. I had signed up for a local race in February that would have involved something entirely different for me but it was made into a virtual race with the option to defer to 2023, which I did. I ran the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run in Washington, D.C. in April, (Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run) and loved it. For now, I’m just seeing what races seem interesting and going with that.

What’s your motivation to run/cycle/hike/swim/multi-sport/other? Has it changed over the years?

Happy running!

Donna

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.- Is It Worth Going To?

Although I have been to Washington, D.C. many times over the years, I had never been to the International Spy Museum, which opened in 2002, until recently. To give you a little background on me, I was a huge James Bond fan as a kid and have seen every Bond movie multiple times. I’ve seen all of the other popular spy-related movies and have always loved them. In fact, at one point in my life I wanted to either be an FBI or CIA agent.

I knew when I was going to be in Washington, D.C. in the spring I wanted to finally go to the International Spy Museum. In fact that was really the only other thing I wanted to do besides check out the cherry blossoms. The real reason I was going to D.C. in the first place was to run the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run so I thought it would be a good way to spend the rest of the day after the race.

If I’ve learned anything when it comes to visiting museums during the pandemic, it’s check the website first to see what the requirements are. I also knew most museums prefer people to buy admission online and some don’t admit you without a pre-purchased ticket. The International Spy Museum was no different and had openings for days and times for tickets to purchase online.

I’ve also learned the hard way that sometimes museums (and art galleries and other places that now require you to purchase tickets in advance that didn’t used to have that policy) often sell out, especially if it’s during a busy time of year (Cherry Blossom Season is hugely busy). I checked the International Spy Museum’s ticket status online weeks before I flew to Washington, D.C. (still during Cherry Blossom Season, though) and it didn’t seem to be too terribly busy so I felt confident I could still get a ticket the weekend I would be there for that Sunday. Since the tickets are non-refundable I waited until that Friday and I had arrived in the city to buy my ticket, just to be sure.

So what is the museum like, you may be asking? Is it worth the admission of $30.57 for adults? How much time should I allow when I go?

First, a brief word about the price of admission. I paid $30.57 but when you go to the website, it lists admission for adults as $26.95. What’s the discrepancy? Well, there’s a $2.00 online fee and sales tax of $1.62, so when you add all of that together you come up with $30.57. That all adds up and for a family of four if you have two young children, for example, you’ll be paying almost $100. This isn’t exactly a cheap place to visit, especially if you will be buying multiple tickets.

Back to my first question- what’s the museum like? I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you. If you got that joke, you’re probably a good candidate to go to the museum. But seriously, the museum experiences are on the 4th and 5th floors of the building, with the gift shop on the ground floor. When your ticket is scanned, you’ll go up the elevator to the 5th floor for “briefing.” The museum is immersive so the idea is to pretend like you’re a spy that has been given an identity and a mission. When you see certain kiosks relating to the spy mission, you scan the badge you were given at the beginning, answer some questions, and see if you pass the test so you can move on to the next step of the mission. There are hints along the way and reminders if you forget your spy name or information given to you at briefing. This part is also optional so if you’re just not into that you don’t have to do it and can still walk around and look at the displays.

Also on the 5th floor, there are displays on different spies from around the world, some of the gadgets used over the years, different codes used by spies, and covert missions. I found the information on this floor extremely interesting since I’ve always been intrigued by spies and I enjoyed seeing all of the gadgets that were used along with the background information behind how they were made. Reading about all of the covert operations, both the successful ones and the ones that failed was also interesting.

The 4th floor includes displays on spies from the American Revolution all the way up to modern spying methods including cyber spies. There are displays with spy information before the Berlin Wall was removed and other historical information. One of the more controversial subjects of spying is also on this floor, torture methods and there is information about how the laws for this have changed since September 11. You can also watch a video on how to decide if spies have gone too far. Finally, there’s a debriefing center with hands-on kiosks where you answer questions and find out if you completed your mission or not (I did, in case any of you are on the edge of your seat wondering).

Like I mentioned in the beginning, I’ve always been intrigued by spies and international espionage so I loved this museum. If you’re not a big fan, you likely won’t enjoy it nearly as much. I had 2 1/2 hours with my ticket to explore the museum and I spent that entire time doing just that. If you just skim the displays and don’t engage in the hands-on kiosks and skip the mission you could potentially only spend an hour or less here.

Display with spy-related toys and other items

I saw many young children here, which honestly surprised me since a decent amount of the material might be considered inappropriate for children under 12. I’m sure they also wouldn’t grasp many of the more complicated concepts at the displays and videos at a young age. Perhaps parents see the lure of the mission and think that will entertain them but I would think parents with children under 12 might want their children to skip this museum, in my opinion. This is no “Disney” Epcot Center adventure game, in other words, but to each his own.

If you can’t tell by now, the answer to my question of is it worth going to, my answer is yes if you’re a fan of spies and spy-related information but probably not if you could take it or leave it. You likely would be bored with all of the displays if you don’t care about the information. It would be like when I went to the Football Hall of Fame in Ohio despite having zero interest in football- it bored me to tears and I only went because I was with someone else who wanted to go there.

For tickets and more information, go to their website: https://www.spymuseum.org/

Have you been to the International Spy Museum or have you wanted to go but haven’t made it there yet? If you’ve been, tell me what your experience was like.

Happy travels!

Donna

What Can Happen In a Decade- Part 2

In case you missed it, I began this travel down memory lane with my 40th birthday in 2012 (What Can Happen In a Decade? Part 1). I’ll pick back up here beginning with February of 2018. As before, I’ll focus on the races I ran and places I traveled to during the latter part of the decade I’m going over.

As had been the case for several of my previous birthdays, my birthday in 2018 was also spent while on vacation, this time in the Canary Islands. That vacation began with Carnival in Gran Canaria, where we spent a few days before taking a ferry to Tenerife for a week. Shortly after getting home from the Canary Islands, we took a quick trip to Williamsburg, Virginia for some time at Busch Gardens, ax throwing, and touring the historical grounds of Colonial Williamsburg. Then we were off to my first half marathon of the year in beautiful Boise, Idaho in May. I was blown away by the beauty in Idaho and would love to explore more of the state, especially Coeur ‘d Alene.

June of 2018 included a long weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, one of few places I’ve returned to many times over the years. In August, I ran my second half marathon of the year in Anchorage, Alaska. We also spent time in Denali National Park, saw glaciers, dog sleds, bears, puffins, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. That November we went to a tiny town in Arkansas where I ran my fastest half marathon at the time and from there went to Hot Springs National Park. We finished off November with a week in Grand Cayman Island where we saw iguanas, caves, swam with sting rays, and relaxed at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Finally, we went to Asheville, North Carolina to tour the Biltmore House, all decorated to the hilt for Christmas.

Denali National Park after the half marathon in Anchorage

In February of 2019, I got to spend my birthday week in Hawaii where I went to Oahu for the first time and back to Kauai. I did plenty of hiking on both islands, went ziplining, ran, spent time on the beaches, and discovered standup paddle boarding. That May, I ran a half marathon in Delaware where I finished second in my age group and my daughter finished first in hers. I also went to my first float tank and found it worked wonders for my post-race recovery. Two months later I was off to Peru where I acclimated to the high elevation in Cusco for a few days before doing a multi-day hiking and camping trek to Machu Picchu, followed by a day hike to famed Rainbow Mountain, and several days in Arequipa. This trip was truly a trip of a lifetime and one I’m glad I did when I was young and healthy enough to easily handle the difficult hikes and elevation.

Machu PIcchu!!!

With the year only half over, in July of 2019 I was able to spend time in yet another wondrous area of our country, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. But first, I ran my fastest half marathon to date in tiny little Thayne, Wyoming. I’m not sure which I liked better, Grand Teton or Yellowstone but they were both undeniably beautiful. The summer of 2019 was filled with as much standup paddle boarding as possible at home (and I also did some in Grand Teton NP) plus a bonus long weekend in Hilton Head, South Carolina. That October I spent some time in Omaha, Nebraska for a half marathon and exploring the city.

Little did I know what hell would soon be unleashed when I took a vacation in St. Petersburg, Florida in February of 2020. It’s a good thing that was such a fun trip, full of standup paddle boarding, museums, running, and of course beaches. In March shutdowns related to the pandemic started happening and we still had no clue when this whole Coronavirus pandemic would be over nor did we have any clue how to protect ourselves, at least not in an educated way; everyone was merely guessing what the “right” thing to do was then.

I was supposed to run my final three half marathons from my 50 states quest, beginning with New Mexico in April then Minnesota in June and Iowa in September. All three races were postponed or cancelled and my planned vacation to southern Spain and Portugal in June was pushed back to August before being completely cancelled. After being stuck at home for so many months I felt safe enough to plan a trip to Greenville, South Carolina in June for a long weekend, knowing the vast majority of that time would be spent outdoors. This was a place I could drive to and like I mentioned, we spent our time in parks hiking, running, and walking along the waterfalls there.

Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

My daughter and I went hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in July of 2020. We saw several bears, one up-close, and put in some major hiking miles on the many trails there. Later that month we took another road trip and went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, specifically Kill Devil Hills. It was right before my daughter started her junior year of high school and was a nice break for her and me as well. We ended the year going to Christmas Town USA in quaint little McAdenville, North Carolina, a suburb of Charlotte. The entire town is decorated for Christmas and you can stroll around looking at the lights while you sip hot chocolate. I tacked on a trip to see the Tanglewood Festival of Lights in nearby Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s in a large park with more than a million lights and almost 100 displays that you drive though slowly.

Hopeful that 2021 would be better than the previous year and being vaccinated against COVID-19, that March my daughter and I flew to Tampa, Florida for her spring break. Tampa is right beside St. Petersburg, which was ironically the last place I had flown to before the pandemic began. We swam with manatees, saw dolphins spontaneously splashing around in the water by a park one morning, came across peacocks in someone’s front yard, went running many days, and spent as much time as possible outside.

In June 2021, I ran my first half marathon since the race in Omaha in October 2019. That was my half marathon for Minnesota and I also had my first blogger meet-up for lunch with The Travel Architect and her husband. My daughter and I spent a day in St. Paul and Minneapolis, a few days in tiny Lake City where the race was, then after the race drove to Duluth for several days where we went to state parks and did plenty of hiking. The weekend of July 4th was spent in Atlanta, Georgia to run in the Peach Tree Road Race, the largest 10k in the world. My daughter and I both got in through the lottery system for the race and it was one of my favorite races ever. We also went to the botanical gardens and went hiking at Stone Mountain.

Hiking and backpacking in beautiful Yosemite National Park was incredible

My daughter’s Girl Scout troop had been saving up money for a backpacking trip to Yosemite National Park for a couple of years and thanks to the pandemic we had to push it back from 2020 to 2021 but we were finally able to go in August. We carried everything we needed for the next five days on our backs and with the help of the outstanding guides at Lasting Adventures we all had the adventure of a lifetime hiking and sleeping under the stars.

I had my first solo vacation in October 2021 when I flew to Des Moines, Iowa for a half marathon in my 49th state. This was also my fastest half marathon to date and one of my favorite races ever. Just a few weeks later I flew by myself to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a half marathon in state number 50. Compared to the race in Iowa, this was a bit of a letdown, which is a shame considering it was my grand finale. Still, I was happy to have the experience as a whole, not just the race in New Mexico but the experience of running a half marathon in all 50 states. I topped off that race with some time in Santa Fe (mostly hiking), a place which I absolutely loved. When I got home, I was greeted with helium balloons galore throughout the house, homemade cupcakes, and a nice card from my daughter congratulating me on completing my 50 states quest.

January of 2022 began with some good news, that I had been selected for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in Washington, D.C. through the lottery. That was followed by some bad news that the Krispy Kreme Challenge I was supposed to run in February had been changed to a virtual run. I opted to defer to 2023 instead. My 50th birthday in February was a special one that I spent with friends and my daughter, with celebrations and gifts spread out over the week. Turning 50 bumped me into the next age group for races and I’m curious to see how that fares for me.

Well, that’s it! A decade full mostly of running, travel, and hiking! I’ve had so many once in a lifetime experiences during the last decade of my life it’s been incredible and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next decade of life brings me!

Happy running and travels!

Donna

What Can Happen In a Decade? Part 1

I’m borrowing this theme from a blogger named Judy I follow whose first post on the subject is here: https://chocolaterunsjudy.com/2022/02/15/what-can-happen-in-a-decade/. I liked the idea so much because similar to Judy, I also hit a milestone birthday in 2022. I’ll focus primarily on running-related happenings in my life during the last decade but will sprinkle in some travel and personal things that happened in my life as well.

What better place to start than with my 40th birthday party in February 2012? I normally don’t throw myself birthday parties but I thought it would be fun to go indoor rock climbing and invite some friends. When I say “fun” what I really mean is I wanted to do something big for my 40th and not just go out for dinner and drinks.

I’ve always been terrified of heights but for some reason I wanted to challenge myself for my birthday and indoor rock climbing came to mind. I climbed all the way to the top of the wall while most of my friends just watched and cheered me on (a few people joined in and went climbing as well). It was the perfect way for me to say “Bring it on!” to my 40’s.

That March I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach and it was every bit as fun as I had been told it would be by someone I knew had run it. Then in June we went to Chicago for a very hot half marathon but had fun exploring the city and doing all of the touristy things like taking pictures by the bean and stuffing ourselves with Chicago-style pizza and hot dogs.

In July I went to Munich, Germany and some little towns around Salzburg, Austria. One of my bucket list trips was to see the waterfalls in Badgastein, Austria and I was able to experience them plus hike all over the area, see castles, caves, glaciers, and museums. I finished out my racing for the year at a half marathon in Newport, Rhode Island in October and fell in love with the beautiful towns in the area. That November, we got a puppy, a lab mix rescue that was definitely the calmest and sweetest puppy I had ever had or even been around.

Believe it or not, seeing this waterfall from Bad Gastein, Austria in a magazine is what prompted my wanting to go there!

2013 included my first half marathon of the year in Knoxville, Tennessee, one of my hilliest and hardest races to date that April. That June I took another epic trip that began in Seattle and from there I took a ferry to the San Juan Islands where I ran a small half marathon with almost no bells and whistles but at least it was beautiful. If the trip to Washington wasn’t amazing enough, that was followed in July with a trip to Greece, beginning in Athens and ending in Crete. The food, beaches, museums, hiking, and people were all incredible. In November, I went to Boston and a small town about an hour away where I ran my first all-women’s half marathon. I enjoyed the race and our time in Boston but when a cold front moved in the evening of the race I was glad to be going home to warmer weather.

My first race of 2014 was a half marathon through Queens in March. It was my daughter’s first time to New York City and she was young at the time so we took the obligatory trip to an American Girl store for afternoon tea, strolled through Times Square, and some other museums but weren’t able to get tickets for the Statue of Liberty. In July, I went to Maine for the first time and ran a half marathon in Portland. After the race, we visited some other cities like Rockport, Camden, and went to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. That October, I ran the inaugural Roller Coaster Half Marathon in Branson, Missouri, where I ended up with a first place age-group finish, my one and only time that has happened. I was literally in tears when I found out I had won my age group.

2015 turned out to be one of my best years of travel and began with a trip in March to what is now one of my favorite places in the world, New Zealand via San Francisco (long layover before the flight to New Zealand with enough time to explore the city). We were in the North Island and did a loop, stopping in places that were so diverse you would have thought we were in separate countries around the world. We hiked through a Redwood forest, took a boat tour of Glowworms in a cave, went to Hobbiton where it looked like the English countryside, saw black sand beaches, went to an area with hot springs, geysers, and mud pools. New Zealand- My family’s North Island Adventure/

I always tell everyone if you ever have an opportunity to go to New Zealand, JUST GO! It’s amazing! This was taken at the Hobbiton movie set.

In May of 2015, I ran a half marathon in Fredrick, Maryland and we spent some time in Annapolis after the race. I had never been to that part of Maryland but I liked the area and enjoyed my time there. Then in July we went to South Dakota for another half marathon and visited several national and state parks in the Rapid City area. I discovered South Dakota is nothing like its neighbor to the north and I especially loved Badlands National Park. September was a busy month with a beach trip to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and a day trip from there to Savannah, Georgia. I had been to Hilton Head before but it was a first for me to Savannah. Like Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah is also a foodie town with gorgeous sweeping trees and mansions. It made me wish I had run my half marathon in Savannah instead of a suburb of Atlanta for my race in Georgia. A couple of weeks later we were off to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere in northern New Hampshire for a half marathon (where I finished third in my age group) followed by some time in Quebec, Canada, which I absolutely loved. I ended the year by running a 5k with my daughter, her first 5k, sponsored by Girls on the Run and the spark for her love of running.

I ran my first half marathon of 2016 in March in Eugene, Oregon (not sure how I pulled out a second place finish in my age group there) and spent some time in Bend, Oregon as well. That trip to Oregon left me wanting to go back and spend time in Portland and along the coast. In June I ran one of the toughest half marathons of my life in Boulder, Colorado because of the elevation and I later caught up with an old friend who lives there. The rest of the summer was filled with trips to the mountains, Carowinds Amusement Park, and a weekend trip to Charleston, South Carolina. In November, I spent three amazing weeks in San Diego, California where I ran a half marathon, went to Coronado Beach, explored museums, went to Balboa Park and Knotts Berry Farms Amusement Park, and soaked in all of the sunsets and scenery.

A couple of days before my 45th birthday in 2017 I flew into Las Vegas (because it was cheaper than flying into Utah), spent a day just walking around and going through some of the most extravagant hotels, then drove to St. George, Utah where I ran a half marathon for state number 39. We hiked in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, volunteered at and spent the night at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, went to Antelope Canyon, and Grand Canyon National Park before driving back to Las Vegas to fly back home. In May we went to New York City and this time my daughter was able to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I ran a half marathon in New Jersey and we went to a farm with cute little pigs, sheep, chickens, and a baby calf. We flew straight from New York City to Santiago, Chile and spent a little over a week driving around the country, stopping in Vina del Mar and a lake area where we were (at least it seemed that way) the only English-speaking people in town. I would love to go back to Chile and go hiking further south into Patagonia.

After the half marathon in Utah

I was fortunate enough to experience the solar eclipse in August of 2017 in Charleston, South Carolina and it was something I will always remember. In November, I ran a fun half marathon in Huntington, West Virginia and we spent a few days in the area but I didn’t feel obliged to spend more time here since I grew up in southern West Virginia and had been to Huntington and the surrounding area many times before. My travels for 2017 weren’t over, though, as I spent about 10 days in one of my favorite places, Malta and the tiny island of Gozo. As if all of that wasn’t enough, we flew straight from Malta to Miami, Florida for a few days to stay with a friend of mine. She drove us to Everglades National Park where we took an airboat tour, which I had done before but my daughter never had.

I’m going to stop here so this post isn’t super-long and continue with part two later. Hopefully you’ll continue along my running and travel journey. I’ll just hint that great things were in store for me!

Happy running and travels!

Donna

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