Some of the Worst Travel Advice I’ve Ever Heard

We’ve all gotten bad advice from other seemingly well-meaning people. People just love giving out advice, which can be a good thing when things turn out well, but when it’s bad advice, of course we all wish we never would have followed the advice. Over the years I’ve either personally gotten bad travel advice or heard others giving it out, including everywhere from in person to podcasts to blogs to social media. It seems like everyone likes to give out advice on all things travel-related. Here are some of the most memorable pieces of bad advice I’ve either received or heard given to others.

“You should leave your child at home when you travel. They’re too young to appreciate it anyway.” When I asked my daughter in an interview for my blog, “What would you say to parents who say their child is too young to appreciate a place?” She replied, “That’s not true. Even if they don’t remember it later, they’ll still enjoy it in their own way when they visit it.” Appreciation is an extremely personal and difficult to define abstract thing anyway. Who’s to say that a 2 year old boy doesn’t appreciate an art museum just because he can’t properly vocalize his feelings. Just because he’s cranky doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy what’s before him. Perhaps it’s simply that he’s hungry or tired. Even an adult may not appreciate something that another would find beauty in but you don’t hear anyone tell another adult not to travel or go somewhere because they won’t appreciate it. I once heard someone say about Yosemite, “What’s the big deal anyway? It’s just a bunch of rocks and trees.” Let that one sink in for a moment.

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I’m sure there are people that would say The Grand Canyon is just a big hole in the ground

“Bring the two biggest suitcases you can check with the airline without paying extra for weight so you can bring more stuff.” There are so many things wrong with that statement to me, but I’ll just refer you to my blog post on packing light, which you can read here:  Never Check a Bag with an Airline Again.

“Wait until you retire to go to places outside the United States.” My thinking on this is the following, what if something happens to my health between now and when I retire and I’m not able to get around as easily as now or I can’t physically fly for long distances?  It’s far and away easier to travel when you’re younger for many reasons like jet lag is harder to deal with the older you get, many people have mobility issues when they get older, some rental car agencies won’t rent cars to people 70 years of age or older, many people have health issues that require them to see their multitude of doctors sometimes as often as every week, and the list goes on. Travel when you’re young, people. Don’t wait or it might never happen.

“Just fly with your infant in your lap as long as she’s under 2 years old since it’s free.” I’ve flown both with my daughter in my lap and I’ve paid for a seat for her before she was two years old and technically I wouldn’t have had to if I would have had her in my lap for the flight. My rule of thumb for this is if it’s a short flight (say 2 hours or less), it should be fine to hold them but for a long flight and certainly for an international flight, you and your baby will be more comfortable with their own seat. That’s not to say you can’t still hold your baby at times but when you need a break, like to eat or drink, go to the restroom, or just to give yourself a break, if your child doesn’t have their own seat, either you or your companion (if you’re traveling with one) will have to hold your child for the entire duration of the flight. Just know that most airlines recommend always purchasing a seat for your child primarily because of turbulence.

“Why travel to Japan (insert other countries here as well like Germany, Norway, etc.) when you can just go to Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center and experience the country there? In place of Epcot, I’ve also heard this about Las Vegas in regard to some of the themed casinos like Paris, in other words, Why go to Paris when you can just go to the Paris casino and hotel in Las Vegas.” This is obviously spoken by people who don’t travel much. Seriously, anyone who thinks going to the Italian section of Epcot Center in Florida is like visiting the country of Italy is sorely mistaken. Yes, you’ll find “Italian” food and “Italian” scenery, but it’s all Walt Disney’s version of what Italy should look like and the food should taste like. I’m sorry but I would take some food from a street vendor in Italy over the over-priced Americanized food in the Italian section of Epcot Center any day!

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The Venetian in Las Vegas is nice but I’d rather go to the real Venice myself!

“You should let a travel agent plan everything for you. That’s what I always do.” When I started planning my vacation to Peru, I thought of this and how I’ve heard it before. I’ve been planning vacations for my family completely by myself for about 15 years so this is nothing new for me, but Peru is one of the most difficult vacations I’ve planned for my family simply because of logistics in the country. For example, the conditions of the roads and the amount of crime in certain areas make it not so easy or even recommended to rent a car, so I’ve had to figure out alternate ways to get around. Of course people in their twenties just take buses all over Peru but I’m a bit older than that and honestly don’t really want to be crammed in a bus on someone else’s schedule for hours on end. Long story short, I’ve figured it out on my own but it did take some time. With all of the resources available online (some good, some bad information so read it all thoroughly) there’s really no reason why anyone can’t plan their own vacations. My advice is to start small and work your way up from there so don’t go and plan a three week trip to the Amazon rainforest if it’s the first trip you’ve ever planned by yourself. It’s like everything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

“It’s better to try to go to multiple countries instead of just one or two when you travel internationally. In fact, I always try to squeeze in as many places as I can.” I know many people, all Americans, who do this all the time. They don’t just go to Italy, but they go to Italy, France, and England. In one week. Maybe that sounds great to some people but that sounds a bit frenetic to me. When I travel, I prefer to spend more time in a country to get more of a feel for it and to be able to relax, rather than just hitting the “hot spots” like Paris, Rome, and London on a whirlwind tour. Of course that means I have less countries to brag about where I’ve been, but I’m OK with that. Sometimes it’s easy to cross the border and combine countries but in general, for me, slow travel is the way to go.

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When I went to Chile, I just went to Chile not Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina!

“An hour will be plenty of time for a layover in Madrid coming from the United States.” I was told this one by an Iberian airline agent over the phone when I called about changing my flight after I was notified of a change in flight times by the airline a couple of months before departure. Of course I highly doubted this was true and should have trusted my gut instinct, but I listened to the agent and of course I missed the next flight. There’s no way you can get through customs and get to your next gate in one hour at a big airport like Aeropuerto Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas and probably not for any airport in the world unless your gate is right next to where you come out of customs and you get extremely lucky!

What about you guys? What bad travel advice have you received?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

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Running in Kauai and Oahu Hawaii

If you follow my blog, you probably know I’m running a half marathon in all 50 states and am up to 46 half marathons in 44 states. Hawaii was actually the second state I ran a race in, Kona Marathon and Half Marathon, Hawaii-2nd state, so no, I didn’t run a half marathon in Hawaii this time. I have now run on four different Hawaiian islands, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed running on every one of them.

I often run when I’m on vacation, especially if I’m training for a race. Since I have a half marathon coming up in May and am thus in training mode, I knew I would be running while on vacation in Hawaii the end of February and first part of March. Sometimes I’ll look online beforehand to try to figure out the best running route but since I knew I’d be in Kauai for a week, I decided to just see what my choices were when I got there. I should have known better.

The first day I ran in Kauai things didn’t go so well. I just started off from my hotel and started running along a walking trail between the hotel and beach but ended up hitting dead-end after dead-end and ultimately ended up running along a busy 2-lane road on the way back to my hotel. I looked up Google maps to find a running trail and found one less than a mile from where I was staying (near Kapaa). This was the Ke Ala Hele Makalae multiuse trail and it turned out to be absolutely perfect.

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The Path that Goes by the Coast

Ke Ala Hele Makalae is Hawaiian for “The Path that Goes by the Coast,” and it hugs the eastern shoreline for about 7 miles in two segments that will eventually be connected and the path will ultimately go for 17 miles when completed. This is an asphalt/concrete rail-trail that partially follows a former railroad line once used to haul the island’s sugarcane. One section connects Lydgate Park to Wailua Beach Park, and the rest links Kapa’a to Ahihi Point. There is a 2-mile gap between the two segments (between Wailua Beach Park and Kapa’a), which you can bridge via road although the road is busy and the shoulder is narrow.

I ended up running the Ke Ala Hele Makalae trail on four mornings while I was in Kauai and I have to say after the first day, I looked forward to running there on later days. I’ve always loved running along a coastline where I have views of the ocean as well as rocky formations and sandy beaches and this trail had all that and more (like feral cats and chickens!). It was a bit crowded at times but not enough to bother or hinder me in any way. There isn’t any shade either so be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat and bring some hydration with you.

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I saw dozens of feral cats and chickens when running in Kauai!

Logistics:  for the southern segment, parking and restrooms are available at the north end of Lydgate Park off Nalu Road. For the northern segment, parking and restrooms are available at Waipouli Beach Park at the Lihi Boat Ramp on Kaloloku Road, as well as at Kapaa Beach Park at the end of Niu Street.

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Ocean views like this made it easy to run in Kauai!

After spending a week running in Kauai it was time to fly to Oahu. I have to admit, I was a bit sad to lose my beautiful running route in Kauai but I looked forward to finding one just as good in Oahu. However, history repeated itself and my first run in Oahu didn’t go very well. I tried multiple ways to find a good running path near my Airbnb before I was supposed to run but despite all that, I once again ended up running along a busy 2-lane road. This time at least there were mountains all around to admire and keep me distracted. Still, I knew there had to be a better place to run.

I went back to my room and tried researching running trails in Oahu but all I could come up with were places near Waikiki or Honolulu. Since my plan all along was to spend as little time in Waikiki as possible, that wasn’t going to work. I needed to find a place to run either on the east side or northern part of the island. I didn’t want to have to drive 45 minutes each way just to reach a good running path either.

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Part of the North Shore Bike Trail in Oahu

Finally after much debate and attempts at researching trails suitable for running online, I stumbled upon the North Shore Bike Trail, which is about 2.6 miles long. I added this to Waimea Bay Beach Park and made it work although there were parts in-between where I ran along the road. The bike trail is shaded in parts and has views of beautiful Pupukea Beach and Shark’s Cove. My daughter and I ran here and we rarely saw other people on the trail so it certainly wasn’t crowded and I can’t imagine it ever really being crowded.

After doing more research, I found the Kawai Nui Hiking Trail that’s on the southeastern side of Oahu but read that it can get muddy and since it had been raining a lot recently I didn’t attempt it, but that’s another option. Close to Pearl Harbor is the Neal S. Blaisdell Park that has biking and running paths. Just be aware that there are many homeless people in the area so you wouldn’t want to run there by yourself or when it’s not daylight. I personally didn’t feel unsafe during the day, but I wasn’t by myself and it was during the day.

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Running by Shark’s Cove in Pupukea in Oahu

Although I enjoyed running in Hawaii, I know it’s not for everyone. To some people, it would be too hot but I seem to do better in warmer temperatures than most people (and worse in colder temperatures). Also, not everyone would want to run while on vacation, but I truly enjoy running and look forward to it rather than dread it. Besides, the scenery certainly helped get me motivated to get out the door!

How about you guys- do you think you’d like running in Hawaii or do you tend to not run while on vacation? Would it be too hot for you to run comfortably? If you do run on vacation, how do you find your running routes?

Happy running!

Donna

 

My First Time in Oahu, Hawaii- Even Better than Expected

Many months ago when my husband and I were discussing where we wanted to go during our daughter’s school break the end of February/first part of March, Hawaii came up. As much as I’m dying to go to Portugal, I want to wait until the weather is more ideal than it would be the end of February. Hawaii, on the other hand, has perfect weather year-round. The last time we were in Hawaii, which was the second time for each of us, we went to Kauai and the big island and these had become our collective favorite islands. I think it was assumed we would return to the big island and Kauai this time as well.

At the time of our trip planning, the big island was having its most recent massive volcanic eruption. Sections of the island were closed and the air quality was poor. I knew of course things wouldn’t always be like that but I had no idea how long the lingering effects would go on. For example, would Volcanoes National Park or parts of it be closed when we wanted to go there? How long would the poor air quality linger? Not really wanting to take a chance and perhaps being overly-cautious, I suggested maybe we should skip the big island but go to another island instead, along with Kauai. Perhaps we should go to Oahu; after all, Oahu is the most-visited of the Hawaiian islands.

Although he didn’t say as much, I could tell my husband was highly doubtful of my suggestion to go to Oahu. He had been to Oahu many years ago with his mother and sister and had been less than impressed. He tells stories of having to step over body after body on Waikiki Beach and only having barely enough room to put his towel down. Pretty much all he remembers doing on that vacation is going to Waikiki Beach multiple days, driving to the North Shore for the day, and taking a day trip to the big island.

Nonetheless, I began researching Oahu and talking to some co-workers who I knew had been to Oahu several times. I decided we would go to Kauai for a week and Oahu for four days. However, I was adamant that we wouldn’t stay in the Waikiki or Honolulu areas. When I found this gem of a place on Airbnb, I was sold. Since it’s actually part of Paradise Bay Resort, you get resort amenities (more on that later) and free breakfast through Airbnb. We would be staying on the east side of Oahu in a bay, close enough to drive to plenty of good places to hike and pretty much anywhere else on the island we wanted but far enough from the massive crowds to enjoy some peace and quiet.

Flying into Oahu, I immediately noticed the colors of the water seemed somehow prettier than the other islands. The turquoise was more vivid and there was more variation in colors. Then I saw the sprawl of Honolulu and all of the buildings, homes, and hotels crammed together and I was glad I had found the resort in Kaneohe Bay. After we landed and collected our rental car, we drove to the Crazy Shirts outlet and got some lunch nearby. Then we went up to the top of the Diamond Head State Monument and the fun really started.

Diamond Head State Monument is undoubtedly one of the most crowded places I’ve ever been to but absolutely worth it for the views. From the trailhead to the summit of Diamond Head Crater is 0.8 miles one way with 560 feet increase in elevation from the crater floor. There are hundreds of stairs and you go through a couple of tunnels. If you don’t like crowds or small spaces, I wouldn’t advise going here. However, if you don’t mind pushing your way through hordes of people (sometimes you literally have to do this), you’ll be rewarded with amazing views like this:

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View from top of Diamond Head State Monument
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Another view from Diamond Head showing the masses of people around but amazing views

For the rest of our time in Oahu, we mostly spent our time hiking but we also went to the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). One thing we discovered about the PCC is that you don’t in fact have to buy a ticket to walk around the grounds if you get there after 6 pm. General admission ticket prices (which are the cheapest offered) are $64.95 for adults and this includes a visitor’s center tour, self-guided tour through six different themed areas (like New Zealand), hands-on activities, a canoe ride, a brief movie, and a canoe show. However, if you’re content to walk through the themed areas on your own for a couple of hours in the evening, you can do so for free. There are also options that you can add on things like a luau, reserved seating, an evening show, and on and on with the most-inclusive package priced at $242.95.

Another non-hiking activity we did in Oahu was visit the Byodo-In Temple in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. The Byodo-In Temple is a non-practicing Buddhist temple often used for weddings, funerals, and cremation services. I found the temple and grounds to be beautiful and peaceful. There is also a small gift shop on-site.

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Byodo-In Temple

Some of our favorite hiking spots were Waimea Valley and Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park. Waimea Valley also has a botanical garden with thousands of different types of plants from around the world and a waterfall that you can swim in. This valley has historically been home to kings, chiefs, and high priests. You can see many archaeological sites throughout the valley. Admission for visiting adults is $16.95 and you can arrange for complimentary tours and activities depending on the day and time (check the website).

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A Looking Glass Tree at Waimea Valley (as Alice in Wonderland fans, my daughter and I loved seeing this)
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Waterfall at Waimea Valley

Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park was established to nurture and foster native Hawaiian cultural traditions and the cultural landscape of rural windward Oʻahu. Established as a “living park”, there are thirty-one families living in the ahupuaʻa of Kahana. These families assist with interpretive programs that share the Hawaiian values and lifestyle. There are two hiking trails available to the public, Kapa’ele’ele Ko’a and Keaniani Lookout Trail is a one mile long loop trail that begins at the Orientation Center and takes about one hour. The trail passes two cultural sites and offers stunning views of Kahana Bay. Nakoa Trail is named for the koa trees found along this 2.5 mile loop trail through a tropical rain forest. The loop hike takes about 2 hours. The total length of the hike is 5 miles from the Orientation Center.

My family and I are all about trails with views, so we chose the Kapa’ele’ele Ko’a and Keaniani Lookout Trail. As per our former experience with hiking trails in Hawaii, this one was extremely muddy and slippery in parts. The trail wasn’t too difficult other than navigating through the mud until we reached one of the viewpoints of the bay. At this point, the trail became what I would call pretty dangerous, with sharp drop-offs on both sides of a thin walkway. My husband went up that section to take some photos but I chose to stay behind until he came back and we went back the way we came. Also, if you go on this trail, wear bug-spray because we didn’t and got eaten alive by mosquitoes.

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View from Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park

The final thing we did in Oahu that was a ton of fun was to go standup paddleboarding for the first time. Remember that awesome Airbnb we stayed at- well, Paradise Bay Resort offers free standup paddleboarding and kayaking lessons once a day on certain days. After a quick lesson of what to do (it’s pretty simple, honestly) we began paddleboarding around the small body of water (I guess you’d call it an inlet) directly behind the resort. Once I felt confident on my knees, I stood and pretty quickly felt like I had the hang of it. However, the winds were really strong that day and every time I tried to go out into the bay, the wind would push me backwards. Finally, I decided to just stay in the inlet. There were mangroves and I could still see into the bay so it was still scenic.

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Standup paddleboarding!

On our final day in Oahu, we tried to go to the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout but unfortunately the Pali Highway was closed when we were there. All was not lost, though. We made our way to Leonard’s Bakery to try some famous malasadas, which are Portuguese donuts without the hole. For the three of us, we ordered two each with Li Hing, cinnamon sugar, and original coating but when I opened the box in the car, I discovered they had given us several extras. We also got some of the custard-filled ones and extra ones of the others as well- bonus!

We decided to walk along the harbor area of Honolulu before heading to the airport and it was a nice way to end our time in Oahu. I know I for one was very glad I decided to take a chance and come to Oahu and I feel pretty sure my family would agree! Since we’re not really ones to go where the crowds are (with some exceptions like Diamond Head in this case) but we prefer to go a bit off the beaten path, the windward side was perfect for us.

Have you been to Oahu? Did you stay in popular Waikiki or somewhere else? Tell me about your experience in Hawaii.

Happy travels!

Donna

Running a Half Marathon or Marathon in All 50 United States? Here are the Races in States that I Recommend

Thanks to some suggestions by regular followers, I’ve compiled a list of half marathons (most of which have marathons or other distances as well) in states that I’ve personally raced in. So far I’ve run 46 half marathons in 44 states so while my race history isn’t complete (sorry Delaware, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, New Mexico, and Minnesota), it’s pretty close to the full list. I’ll do an update when I get further along (maybe up to 47 states and again at 50 states).

I’m not going to list races that I either don’t recommend or races I ran that no longer exist. If you have a specific question about a state or race not listed here, feel free to ask. I realize recommendations are based on opinions, which means while I may not have enjoyed a race, perhaps someone else would like it and vice versa. Still, I feel like by now I have a pretty good feel for “good” races. Also, while not all of these races come recommended on Bibrave by people other than myself (yes, I checked each and every one of them) the vast majority of them are recommended on Bibrave (I think only maybe two on my list here were not reviewed on Bibrave). Finally, I’ll list them in order of when I ran them, not in order of personal preference. I’ll link to the race site first then to my blog post.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hawaii- Kona Marathon, Half Marathon. My post is here: Kona Marathon and Half Marathon, Hawaii-2nd state. You can see it was only the second state I ran a half marathon in, before I even had the goal of running a half marathon in every state. My notes aren’t the greatest because it was so long ago and all I have to go on is the scrap book I started keeping for races. I think the fact that they’re having the 26th annual race in June 2019 says something. You’re basically running through paradise.

South Carolina- Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon, South Carolina-4th state. This is a race that came recommended to me by other people who had run it a couple of times and raved about it. Now entering its 42nd year, this race doesn’t disappoint. Although there are sometimes some strong winds, this seems to vary from one year to the next. It’s one of the best winter half marathons in my opinion.

Vermont– Covered Bridges Half Marathon. My post is here:  Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Vermont-9th state. Beware if you want to run this race which is the first Sunday in June, it sells out in a mere minutes when race registration opens online due to the race cap. It’s hugely popular for a reason. Even though I ran it so many years ago, this is still one of my favorite races ever.

Indiana– Evansville Half Marathon. My post is here:  Evansville Half Marathon, Indiana-13th state. Where is Evansville you may ask? It’s a small quintessential midwest town along the Ohio River in southern Indiana, about 2 hours from Louisville, Kentucky. I found a fun vibe to this race and absolutely loved it. Sure, I could have run the bigger race in Indianapolis but I doubt it would have had the same small-town vibe this one does, which I appreciate.

Michigan– Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Traverse City Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon, Michigan-15th state. This is another race that came recommended to me by other runners and it did not disappoint. It’s also a race with caps on runners which means it tends to sell out early.

Kansas– Garmin Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Garmin Marathon, Kansas-18th state. Good course on the border of Kansas and Missouri. As expected, Garmin puts on a great race and the race just seems to get better every year. The food is spectacular in Kansas City so it’s worth coming here just for that. Some of the other races in this area can be super hilly, and this one is not, which is another reason I chose this race.

Wisconsin– Madison Mini Marathon. My post is here:  Madison Mini-Marathon, Wisconsin-19th state. Yes it will be a hot one since it’s in August. As long as you know that going into it and don’t worry about getting a PB you’ll be fine. Stay for the post-race party!

Montana- Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Missoula Marathon, Montana-22nd state. Don’t just take my word for it; this race was chosen as number one on the Bibrave 100 in 2018. Be prepared for a chilly race start and bring layers especially if you’re a southerner then enjoy the scenery!

Alabama– Kaiser Realty Coastal Half Marathon. My post is here:  Kaiser Realty Coastal Half Marathon, Alabama-23rd state. Scenic, flat race held on Thanksgiving weekend. Some of the best post-race food I’ve ever had at a race.

Virginia– Shamrock Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Shamrock Marathon, Virginia-24th state. This is one fun race with tons of swag and very well organized. Don’t let the fact that it’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend deter you if you’re not a big partier. Although you may hear some people on the streets the night before the race like I did, I didn’t find it to be a big deal. If you are a partier, you’ll have a great time! Just be sure to book your hotel well in advance because it’s a big race and many places sell out.

Rhode Island– Newport Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Newport Marathon, Rhode Island- 26th State. Honestly, I don’t know how there aren’t any reviews for this race on Bibrave. Maybe because it’s in October and that doesn’t work for some people’s schedules or maybe because it’s in tiny little under-rated Rhode Island. Whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this race and recommend it.

Maine– Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon. My post is here:  Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon, Maine, 31st state. Yes, it’s hot and yes, it’s hilly but the course is beautiful. Just go into it knowing you won’t PR unless you kill it at hot and hilly races. Do lots of hill repeats when you’re training for this race. I highly recommend working in some extra days after the race to check out the beautiful state of Maine.

Maryland– Frederick Running Festival. My post is here:  Frederick Half Marathon, Maryland- 33rd state. One of the best-organized races I have run. Beautiful course with nice swag. Early May in this part of Maryland (about an hour from Washington, D.C.) is a great time of year to run a race.

South Dakota– Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon. My post is here:  Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state. This is one of my favorite half marathons ever. It’s a low-key race without much swag but one of the most scenic and fastest courses I’ve run. Fly into Rapid City, which is about an hour away, and drive your rental car all over South Dakota after the race. Just be sure you stay close-by the night before the race.

West Virginia– Marshall University Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Marshall University Half Marathon, West Virginia- 41st state. I grew up in West Virginia and went to undergraduate school there (though not at Marshall University) so I’m pretty familiar with the state. I was extremely happy with my choice to run this race for my race in West Virginia and highly recommend it. Running on the university’s football field at the finish with a football that I could keep was so much fun!

Idaho– Famous Idaho Potato Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Famous Potato Half Marathon, Idaho-42nd state. Gorgeous race through a canyon at the start with the finish in beautiful Boise. How can you go wrong with a potato bar at the end of a race? Seriously, this one ranks pretty high on my list.

Arkansas– White River Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  White River Half Marathon, Cotter, Arkansas-44th state. This is the last half marathon I’ve run and it’s one of the fastest courses I’ve ever run. Admittedly Cotter isn’t not the easiest place to get to but just fly into Little Rock, Arkansas; Springfield, Missouri; or Branson, Missouri (compare prices) and get a rental car. This is a small, low-key race with tons of post-race food and some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. If you’re into race bling, the medal is enormous and race shirt is nice.

Runner-up:  North Dakota– Bismarck Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Bismarck Marathon, North Dakota-16th state. Why a runner-up you may ask? Well, to be completely honest, I didn’t care for Bismarck or the parts of North Dakota that we saw. I found the race to be pretty average; not bad per se but nothing special either. For those reasons, I’ll include it here. Like I said in my post on the race (link above), if you happen to find yourself in Bismarck and would like to knock off a race in North Dakota, this one’s not a bad one. Or, if you’re a 50-stater and need to run a race in North Dakota, this one will fit the bill.

Yes, there are several states not included here. As I said, some of the races I ran no longer exist and those that are still around are ones that I wouldn’t recommend. Have a question about a specific state and/or race? Feel free to ask! Have a comment about a particular state and/or race? Please share your thoughts!

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

Rediscovering Kauai, Hawaii and Some of My Favorite Things

I’ve been to the Hawaiian island of Kauai twice; the first time my daughter was almost 2 years old and more recently with my teenage daughter. I feel like the island remained pretty much unchanged in those eleven years with the exception of more traffic and people on the island. However, my experiences both times were vastly different.

The first time I went to Kauai I went with my husband and his parents (and as I mentioned our daughter) and I felt like I was just kind of along for the ride. My mother-in-law had been to Kauai before and pretty much set our itinerary for Kauai and also our time on the big island, which we combined for our 12-day vacation. At the time, I had no problems letting someone else plan what I did on vacation and I don’t remember really even looking up things to do.

We went to the pool at the resort, went to some beaches, a luau, my husband and I hiked in Waimea Canyon while my in-laws watched our daughter, and one day we drove up the coast to see Princeville and the surrounding area. Honestly, I don’t remember much from that vacation other than what I just typed here. Don’t get me wrong. I had a fantastic time but looking back I feel like it was all kind of a blur of beaches and swimming pools with the luau and Waimea Canyon mixed in.

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My family’s first time in Kauai

Flash-forward to my more recent vacation to Kauai and there are quite a few differences. This time the three of us hiked in Waimea Canyon State Park, hiked part of Sleeping Giant Trail, and Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail with a sweet dog we took on a field trip from the Kauai Humane Society. We snorkeled on our own and swam through schools of fish, saw a spiny lobster, crab, and colorful fish of all shapes and sizes. We crawled through a small opening to get to Makauwahi Cave. We went ziplining and even flew through the air superman style on some of the lines (some of us went upside-down on some of the lines). My daughter and I also ran together several days and were rewarded with ocean views, volcanic rock formations, and sandy beaches along the way. Oh, and we also went to a luau complete with delicious local foods, musicians, several different Polynesian dances, and a fire show.

We’re an active family when we’re at home so it’s not surprising that our vacations are also active. That’s a good thing too, with all of the shave ice we ate! This was the first time I had ever tried Hawaiian shave ice. I always just thought it was like a snow cone. Oh how wrong I was! There is a difference in the quality of shave ice, as I found out. The best kinds are hand-formed with macadamia nut ice cream or vanilla ice cream on the bottom, with two or three flavors that evenly saturate the shave ice from top to bottom and sweet cream poured on top. The ice cream on bottom and cream on top sometimes cost extra (depends on the place) but they’re absolutely worth it.

Here are some of my favorite things in Kauai:

Koloa Zipline Tours– 8 lines, some of which you can go head-first superman style, tandem, upside down, or traditional. Tour lasts about 3.5 hours and you get a snack and water on the tour. Our guides were laid-back but safety-conscious so I felt like everything was completely safe and secure. The last line is the longest, at about 0.5 mile, with views of the reservoir, farmland with cattle, and of course trees below.

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We were actually much higher up than it looks like here!

Makauwahi Cave Reserve– free guided tours or go on your own. Although you do have to enter through a small opening, there are carpets on the ground and it’s very short, so you’re through it before you know it. You can view the caves from above, but can’t really get good views inside the cave from that vantage. If you get lost trying to find the entrance, just walk down to where a river meets the ocean and you should find it shortly after that.

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Makauwahi Cave Reserve

Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail– close to the Makauwahi Cave, this trail runs along the southern part of the island with views of limestone formations, cliffs, and ocean. The area has sharp, jagged rocks everywhere so it’s not a trail where you want to be wearing flip-flops. Bring sunscreen and water as there’s no shade and the sun is relentless. When we were there, signs were posted that the water at Maha’ulepu Beach was contaminated with bacteria and therefore unsafe to enter. All that being said, this place is truly beautiful and worth seeing.

Kauai Humane Society– field trips for well-behaved dogs can be arranged simply by showing up at the shelter, choosing a dog, doing a brief meet-and-greet with the dog, paying the $25 suggested donation (or more if you’re inclined), filling out a form, and taking the dog out along with some supplies in a backpack. Our dog, Priscilla, was truly one of the best-behaved dogs I’ve ever been around. She wasn’t afraid of anything and happily walked along the Maha’ulepu Trail and Beach with us. I hope sweet little Priscilla has found a home by now because she deserves it. One note if you do this, get there promptly at 11 am. The first day we went, we got there around 12:30 and there were no dogs left, so we went back the following day at 11 am and  had no problems getting a dog. I was told they usually have around 8 or 10 dogs per day that can go on field trips so often all of the dogs go out and are taken well before 1 pm.

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Walking the Maha’ulepu Trail with Priscilla from the Kauai Humane Society

Waimea Canyon State Park and Area– called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” this park is enormous and is adjacent to Koke’e State Park, Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, and a few Reserve Areas. What all that means is there are plenty of trails in this area. This time the 22 mile Kalalau Trail (my husband and I hiked part of it the previous time we were there) was closed so our daughter chose our trail to hike, the Awa’awapuhi Trail, which is in Koke’e State Park. The Awa’awapuhi Trail is a downhill hike 3.25 miles each way. When we were there it was extremely slick and muddy and we were glad to be wearing our Merrell hiking shoes. If we were really smart, we would have brought a change of shoes for when we got to our car. The trail isn’t terribly scenic until you reach the end but the ultimately the views are great and worth the hike.

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Waimea Canyon

Beaches for snorkeling- Lawa’i Beach and Poipu Beach Park. Conditions for snorkeling change throughout the year so check with locals to see what their recommendations are for snorkeling. Also, we found the best beaches for snorkeling are not good for swimming and vice versa. The coral shelf often extends close to the water’s edge so you need to watch your footing carefully. We went in with bare feet and got some cuts and scrapes on our feet and legs but nothing major. Water shoes would have been a better idea. We also didn’t have fins but just the mask and snorkel and that was fine for us because we’re strong swimmers but we saw plenty of other people with fins.

JoJo’s Shave Ice- I especially liked the Colada Special and Locals South Shore. My daughter said the Rainbow was one of her favorites. The 28-oz serving is huge and can easily be shared (or you can keep it all for yourself!). We also liked Uncle’s Shave Ice but theirs wasn’t hand-shaven and I read some spotty reviews. No matter where you get your shave ice, just be sure you get the sweet cream “over” and ice cream “under.” It really makes a big difference.

Have you been to Kauai before? What are some of your favorite things in Kauai? Have you revisited a place many years later and had vastly different experiences?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

Running Gear Review- Turtle Running Mittens

I had been searching literally for years for some good running gloves. All of the ones I had tried either were too thin and my hands didn’t stay warm or they were too thick and my hands would get sweaty. I was browsing on Instagram recently and came across a post where someone was wearing Turtle running mittens and I was intrigued. I had never tried running mittens before. These claimed to wick sweat away as well as being convertible (you can pull down the tops if you don’t want full coverage).

After chatting with a friendly representative from Turtle’s customer service department, a pair was sent my way gratis. I couldn’t wait to try them! Would they live up to the hype?

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I received not only the mittens but some other Turtle goodies as well in a very timely fashion. My first impression was the mittens seemed very soft and comfortable. I tried them on and they fit well and were easy to fold down. All I needed was to put them to the test- would they not only keep my hands warm but also be breathable?

The weather for my next long run was cold and rainy- perfect for trying out my new Turtle running mittens. Honestly, if these mittens could keep my hands warm in these awful weather conditions, then they truly lived up to the hype. I set out for a 7 mile run in a light mist and around 35 degrees. After a few miles the rain picked up and went from a light rain to a pretty steady rain. Everything on me from my hat to my windbreaker pants to my running shoes were soaked by mile 5. Amazingly, my hands were warm and dry even though the mittens were getting pretty wet on the outside by this point.

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I stopped a couple of times to drink from my water bottles and found it a bit cumbersome to do that wearing the full-on mittens so I peeled them back to make grabbing my bottles easier. Over time I may get used to wearing the mittens and not have to do this, but we’ll see. It was quick and easy, though, so even if I do have to still fold them back it’s not a big deal.

When I got home, I took off all of my wet clothes to warm up. I was shocked at how dry the mittens were despite being so wet on the outside and my daughter even remarked about this when she picked them up. More importantly, my hands weren’t red and numb like they had been on my last long run in the cold rain with my old running gloves. My hands actually felt great despite being out in the cold rain for an hour.

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These are also great for keeping the wind at bay. My hands get cold pretty easily so even when it’s not cold and rainy or even not all that cold I like to wear gloves. These are great for those times because if I do get a little warm I can always just fold them down for less coverage. Finally, these running mittens are affordable. You can buy them online from Turtle Gloves for about $30. They also have fingerless gloves, mitten hoodies, and scarves. I tried the TURTLe-FLIP running mittens in lightweight. I don’t typically run in temperatures below freezing. If you do, you probably want to get either the midweight or heavyweight mittens.

Winter isn’t over yet! If you’ve been struggling to find a good pair of running gloves like I was, do yourself a favor and get a pair of Turtle running mittens now.

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton

Even though most runners have probably heard of Deena Kastor, I’ll give a bit of background here to begin with. Deena Kastor is one of the best-known American long-distance runners in the world. She has won numerous marathons and other distance road races, she was the national cross-country champion eight times, and won the bronze medal in the women’s marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. She has been running races since she was eleven years old and had immense potential at a young age, mostly winning the events she entered.

In Let Your Mind Run, Kastor describes how she was offered and accepted a scholarship at University of Arkansas where she went on to become 4 time SEC Champion and 8 time All American. However, it wasn’t until she was running professionally that the mental aspect of running began to click with her. After college she moved to Colorado to train with the infamous Coach Vigil (or simply “Coach”), where she trained with the men Coach was currently training.

Even though Coach constantly emphasized having a good attitude and finding the positive in everything, things didn’t begin to come together with Kastor until she began diving deep into the subject of philosophy, not just in relation to running but to life in general. She borrowed and read Coach’s book Road to the Top, and was told it would give her a better understanding of his training methodology. From there, she began paying more attention to attitude and how it related to training and recovery.

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Deena and Andrew Kastor at the Mammoth Track & Field facility. Photo Credit: Joel St Marie

All of the books Kastor read on the study of the mind eventually enabled her to shift her thoughts consciously from negative ones to more positive ones. For example, instead of thinking how tired her body felt before that jolt of caffeine first thing in the morning, she began to replace thoughts of fatigue with ones of getting outside with her dog. She noticed her energy shifted and she was indeed more alert. When her legs began to feel tired during practice, she shifted her negative thoughts to those of realizing her legs were getting stronger and this was a good thing.

Kastor began to notice that her workouts improved thanks to her positive attitude and in fact her whole day was more productive and enjoyable. All throughout the book, she shows clearly how her life evolved and how her running was effected as a result of having a positive attitude. She does this in a natural way and I didn’t feel like she was forcing anything or being too “preachy.”

She tells the story how she met her now-husband Andrew Kastor and how their relationship came to be. From the start, he was one of Deena Kastor’s biggest supporters and eventually he went on to be a massage therapist and running coach. Finally, toward the end of the book, she writes about her pregnancy and birth of her daughter, Piper. Shortly after the birth of Piper her coach Terrence Mahon decided to move to the UK; it was then that Deena and Andrew Kastor took over the Mammoth Track Club and jumped into coaching full-time.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and how it was written. Even if you’re not a runner, you might enjoy reading about Ms. Kastor’s story and all of the trials and triumphs she went through. I believe everyone could benefit from having a positive attitude in life, so for that alone, the book is worth reading.

Check out this book from your local library or here’s a link on Amazon.

Have any of you read this book? If so, what did you think?

Also, I have a discount code for Nuun hydration. Use code hydratefriends25 for 25% off your online order. Shop at nuunlife.com/shop or nuuncanada.com/shop. Valid through March 6, 2019.

Happy running!

Donna