How to Plan a Vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, Part 2

In ““How to Plan a Vacation to Charleston, South Carolina-Part 1” I went over how to decide when’s the best time of year to visit, based on your interests. I also went over some of the best places to stay, also based on your interests. Now I’m going to dive into some of the best places to eat and things to do.

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To say there are no shortage of top-notch restaurants in Charleston would be an understatement. Charleston must have some kind of record for most “foodie-friendly” restaurants per capita or something. If you want southern classics like fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits, Hominy Grill is a popular choice. I personally had some of the best shrimp and grits I’ve ever had at High Cotton. There’s also the ever-popular Fig, Husk, Poogan’s, Magnolia’s, and I could go on and on. For something a little different on our last vacation to Charleston, we went to Leyla and had some truly delicious Lebanese food.

Many of the restaurants in Charleston are upscale but there are also some great casual restaurants. The Grocery is great for brunch and lunch, with a wide array of meals to choose from. Brown Dog Deli  has great chili, hot dogs and sandwiches, and you can try She Crab soup here if you’ve never had it before. If you want to try chicken and waffles go to The Early Bird Diner.  This is just a sampling of some casual fare in Charleston. On our last visit to Charleston, we had milkshakes at Kaminsky’s and they were some of the richest, creamiest milkshakes we had in a long time.

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I’m a big fan of staying in Mt. Pleasant when I go to the Charleston area, so I would be remiss to not mention some of my favorite restaurants in Mt. Pleasant. It seems like every year there are more and more great restaurants in Mt. Pleasant. One of my favorites on my last visit there was The Obstinate Daughter. We also had some great BBQ at Home Team BBQ, which has locations in Sullivan’s Island, downtown Charleston, and West Ashley but we ate at the one in Sullivan’s Island.

Just like there is a long list of great restaurants to choose from, there is a long list of activities in Charleston. If you enjoy history, Patriot’s Point is home to the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier, USS Laffey Destroyer, USS Clamagore Submarine, Vietnam Experience Exhibit, aircraft, and a museum. You can even sleep on the USS Yorktown, like my daughter’s Girl Scout troop did one year.

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USS Yorktown

The Old Exchange is another great historical site to visit. My daughter enjoyed being able to handle replicas of historical money thanks to a volunteer who gave us a bit of information about each piece.  She also got to sign a replica of The Declaration of Independence. We all thoroughly enjoyed our guided tour of the dungeon and learned quite a bit about the area. If you have younger kids (around 4-6), the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry might be a better fit for your family. America’s first museum (from 1773) is also in Charleston, The Charleston Museum, with a focus on the Lowcountry’s cultural and natural history.

Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie are great options for families as well.  Although Fort Sumter does not charge a fee for entrance to the national monument, it is only accessible by boat and there is a fee for that.  Fort Moultrie is accessible by car at 1214 Middle Street, Sullivan’s Island and you can buy a family pass that covers up to 4 adults for $5, with free admission for children 15 and younger.  See more information here National Parks Service.

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If you’re interested in seeing a historical plantation, Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Included in one fee ($24 for adults, $12 for children), you get a presentation about the Gullah culture, a house tour, plantation coach tour, black history exhibit, slave history presentation, butterfly pavilion, and garden tour. There are also special events throughout the year such as for Christmas, a strawberry festival, and oyster festival to name a few. There are several historical homes you can tour, such as Nathaniel Russell House and Edmondston-Alston House.

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There are also many different tours to choose, from carriage rides, walking food and/or drink tours, ghost tours, and general walking tours. One of my personal favorites is a nature boat tour offered by the company Sandlapper. We took their guided nature tour and cruise of Charleston harbor recently and it was a highlight of our vacation other than the total eclipse. You can read more about our nature boat tour here if you’re interested in more details.

If it’s shopping that interests you, you can shop for everything from jewelry at Crogham’s Jewel Box, shop for unique gifts and sign up for a candle-making class at Candlefish, or browse fine books and gifts relating to Charleston’s history at the Preservation Society Shop.  To meet with locals and shop their wares, stop by Charleston City Market, which is busy day and night.

Finally, the Charleston area has some beautiful beaches. Two of my family’s favorite beaches are Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island. They are completely free and open to the public.  Another option for a beach near Charleston is Folly Beach. Lifeguards are on duty mostly during the peak summer months of May through part of September. Check out more info at Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission.  A word of warning about the waves, as they can be quite rough.  We found the water to be considerably calmer at an inlet we were able to walk to at Sullivan’s Island going through neighborhoods to the far end of the beach.

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There are also some options for side trips if you have several days in Charleston. If you’re a runner like I am, the Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon is a great race that I’ve personally ran (read more about that here if you’d like) and I have friends that have ran it multiple times. It’s only about a 45 minute drive to Kiawah Island from Charleston. Another fun city full of fantastic restaurants and southern charm is Savannah, Georgia and it is about a 2 hour drive from Charleston.

Well, I think that about covers the highlights anyway!  I once heard a podcaster talking about Charleston and she said to allow two days to spend in Charleston, and I couldn’t believe it.  There’s so much to see and do in Charleston, there’s no way you could even scratch the surface in two days. I would recommend spending 4 or 5 nights in Charleston, adding another day if you do a day trip. You wouldn’t have to have a rental car especially if you’re staying in the historical area, but if you want to be able to get out of downtown Charleston and explore on your own, a car is highly recommended.

Hopefully I’ve piqued some of your interests about Charleston and you’ll see for yourself why so many people voted it number one city in the United States by Travel and Leisure.

How many of you readers have been to Charleston?  Do you love it as much as I do? How many people have never been but would like to go now?

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The 2017 Tunnel to Towers 5k in North Carolina and Why it Sucked

Sometimes you just need to vent after a race. I’ve never written a post like this before, about a race I didn’t even run. My daughter ran this race last weekend and there were so many things about it that just rubbed me the wrong way I felt the need to get some things off my chest. I hope you all don’t mind if I vent.

I signed my daughter up for this race because she recently decided to switch from swimming year-round on a swim team to focusing her time and energy on running instead. She can’t try out for her school track team until February. I knew giving her a goal race would keep her motivated to get through the last of the summer heat. She was doing great in her training and I had a feeling she would do very well at the race.

A few days before the race, I emailed the contact on the website to ask about a course map. Two days later, I got some kind of response that was like, “In order to ensure the best possible race for the runners, we are still working on the logistics of the race course.” In other words, there was no set race course yet. That was when my first alarm bell went off.

At packet pickup (which consisted of getting a t-shirt and bib) there was still no race map. The day of the race, still no map. When I asked a volunteer if there were any course maps, I was told there were only a few print-outs available but volunteers had them. OK. So I told my daughter to just pay attention on the course and hopefully it would be well-marked. Note, I did later find out the Facebook page had posted a course map the day before the race, but I was unaware since I didn’t follow the Fb page.

Promptly at 9:45 am, the runners were off. Here’s another reason why I didn’t like this race. 9:45 is too late to start a race in central North Carolina in September. The sun was blazing hot and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Just pushing up the start to 7:45 am would have made a huge difference.

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Toeing the line at the start

Fifteen minutes into the race, I decided to walk up to where the runners would be coming back through towards the finish line. Two volunteers were questioning the position of cones, which were there at the start so runners wouldn’t make a wrong turn. It turns out the cones should have been moved, because the runners were supposed to go down that road to the finish. Unfortunately, the mistake wasn’t realized until after the first three finishers had already gone through, adding at least a tenth of a mile on, if not more. This was yet another case of poor organization.

I saw my daughter coming through and cheered her on to the finish. She looked hot, sweaty, and tired, but strong. She told me there was some confusion about where to go on the course, because it wasn’t well-marked and had some strange turns. There was also a big hill at the end they had to run up. It wasn’t the most scenic course and there’s certainly nothing memorable about the area, but I don’t necessarily fault the race director for that although the overall course organization could have been better.

There were no medals given out to finishers but there was water, well until they ran out of water. This race only had about 250 runners and walkers and they still managed to run out of water. The problems with this race just kept piling on.

We decided to wait around for the awards ceremony, thinking my daughter may have finished in the top three for her age group. But first, they retired the flags, the insurance commissioner of North Carolina spoke, a woman sang “America the Beautiful,” and the announcer spoke for a while. Did I mention it was blazing hot? I fully understand the race is being held for a cause and they really wanted to drive that point home, but I felt it could have been organized better.

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Many firefighters ran in full gear, like this woman shown here who jumped into the race after snapping a few photos

Finally they began the awards ceremony. A group of firefighters were given a really nice trophy for the fastest group of “Heroes” on the course. They called up the top male finisher overall, the top male finisher for ages 10-14, and the top male finisher for ages 15-19. Then they called the top female finisher (who had already gone home) and concluded the awards ceremony. Wait a minute. What about the rest of the females?

Everyone started going towards their cars, and by now, I was so angry I was shaking. I went up to the race director and asked, “What about the rest of the females? Why weren’t they recognized?” The race director actually told me, “The males got awards because they were the fastest to finish.” WHAT? Did she seriously just say that? I told her at every single other race I’ve been to where awards were given, both males and females were recognized, not just the males. There was another parent of a young girl who had ran, backing me up.

The race director told me that Fleet Feet, who had done timing for the race, would have the official results and the top three finishers in all age groups could pick up their awards at the store. I told the director part of winning an award at a race was the recognition. After several minutes, the race director made an announcement that they had made a mistake, and awards would be given out for the top females. By this point, there was literally only maybe 20 people still there.

Need I tell you I was furious by this point? Never before had I been so thoroughly upset with the poor organization of a race. They did announce my daughter’s age-group win, and gave her a medal (medals were only given out to age-group winners). I didn’t even see it, because I was at the timing tent, looking up her finish time, as I was told to do by the director.

It turns out she finished first in her age group. I should have been excited, but at that point, all I felt was angry. Angry that the race director was so clueless that what should have been a momentous occasion for my daughter was ruined. It all left a bad taste in my mouth.

Although we hadn’t planned on going there the day of the race, we drove to Fleet Feet since it was in another city from where we live and we wouldn’t normally shop there with my daughter. After another 20-30 minutes of waiting while the person working at the store was on the phone with the race director trying to figure out what the gift certificate amounts would even be for the age group winners, we were finally told it would be $15. Why on earth the race director hadn’t already worked this out with Fleet Feet is beyond me. I also don’t know why the gift certificates weren’t on-hand at the race and given out to age group winners. I guess that just goes along with the rest of the poor planning and poor communication with this race.

What gets me is this race is part of a series held in several cities. We were told the one in New York City has 30,000 runners. I would have expected more out of a series that’s been going on for at least a few years now and is in several cities to be better organized. Maybe it’s just this one, and the others are great. Who knows. All I know is, we won’t be doing this race again, which is a shame because I do think it’s for a good cause.

Tunnel to Towers 5k

What are some of the worst-organized races you all have participated in?

 

How to Plan a Vacation to Charleston, South Carolina-Part 1

Once again Charleston, South Carolina was chosen best city to visit in the United States by Travel and Leisure for 2017. In fact, Charleston often makes the top ten list for many travel companies, whether chosen by the editors or readers. However, to make the most of your visit to Charleston, some planning is involved. Hopefully that’s where I come in.

While I don’t claim to be an expert on all things Charleston, I have been there many times through the years, both before kids and with my daughter so I do have the perspective of what young couples and families might be interested in. When it comes to planning a vacation anywhere you first have to ask yourself what are you interested in doing or seeing there. For Charleston, what you do may be dictated by what time of year you go.

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The walk along Battery Park is lovely no matter what time of year it is!

If you’re not familiar with the weather of Charleston, the summers get quite hot and humid. The average highs in July and August are 91 and 89 F and the lows are 73 and 72 F. For someone coming from a much cooler climate, this might be a bit much, even for relaxing by the beach. You might want to wait until October when the average high is 77 and the low is 57. The water would still be warm enough to swim in the ocean this time of year as well. The average highs in December and January are still quite comfortable, at 62 and 59, respectively, with average lows then 40 and 38 F. This is definitely too cold for most people to swim in the ocean and even relax at the beach in a swimsuit, however.  All that being said, my family and I have taken our annual beach trip to Charleston in August several times and we’ve always had a great time but we are from the south, so we’re used to heat and humidity.

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The beaches are very clean with soft sand and dunes scattered about
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Morris Island, an uninhabited island accessible by boat

What if you’re more of a foodie and are primarily interested in partaking in some of the fabulous restaurants that Charleston has to offer and have zero interest in going to the beaches? In that case, November would be lovely, or alternatively you’ll find near identical temperatures in March (70 for the high, 47 for the low). These times of year would also be great if you’re a history buff and are interested in seeing historical sites in the area.

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USS Yorktown at Patriot’s Point

Now that we’ve got time of year down, we can move on to specifics, like where you’ll stay. There are no shortage of hotels and inns, such as the number one rated hotel in 2017 by Travel & Leisure The Vendue. Other highly rated accommodations are Zero GeorgeFrancis Marion Hotelthe Meeting Street Inn, and Governor’s House Inn. There are literally dozens of inns and bed and breakfasts in the area, so if this is where you’d like to stay, there are no shortage of this type of accommodation. Many of the inns are in the heart of the historical district of Charleston, so as you may guess, they are not exactly for the frugal traveler. The advantage of staying in the historical district is you can walk to many restaurants, shops, and art galleries so you don’t  have to worry about parking which can be difficult to find and/or expensive.

If you’re traveling as a family with young children, be advised, some bed and breakfasts do no allow children to stay at their establishments, so a hotel would be a better option. Basically, the further you get from downtown Charleston, the more affordable your accommodations are. However, I do not recommend staying in North Charleston, which is also where the airport and convention center are. North Charleston is very residential (which that alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing) and the stores and restaurants there are generally not independently-owned so you would be spending much of your time in your car to get to places of interest and the better (in my opinion) independently-owned restaurants. Unless you enjoy eating at chain restaurants and shopping at chain stores, in which case, you’d be very happy here.

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City Market

Personally, I like staying in Mount Pleasant, which is located in-between downtown Charleston and the beaches of the area. I’ve stayed in both hotels and Airbnb lodging and was always happy with my choice. No matter if you’re going to historic Charleston, Sullivan’s Island, or Isle of Palm, you won’t be any further than a 20 minute car ride there, and often it’s only about 15 minutes. However, if you have no interest in going to the beaches in the area, I would stay closer to downtown Charleston. Again, there’s no shortage of hotels or Airbnb properties.

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Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge connects Mt. Pleasant and Charleston

Now that we’ve worked out the when to go and where to stay, we’ll move on to where to eat and what to do in my next post.

How many of you have been to Charleston or would like to go there someday? If you have any questions or comments about Charleston, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

Trying to Change my Running Gait aka Training Myself to Run with a Bent Knee Again

I know that sounds like a strange title for a blog post. The fact is, I had been running with a bizarre running style these past few years and it was a long road to figuring out how to correct it and even how to diagnose the problem. I noticed a few years ago that my running gait was somehow “off,” but I couldn’t really figure out what was going on. I even had a co-worker make a comment on my strange way of running when she and I crossed paths (literally) on a run one weekend, so it was obvious to other people as well.

Still, I continued like this for years. One evening when going through photos online I found a video my husband has recorded of me running a race in New Hampshire. My gait was flat out terrible! I looked like I was hobbling and this was only in the first couple of miles of the race, and I wasn’t injured.

It was time to seek advice of others so early last fall I found a physical therapist who could at least tell me what the problem was. At my first physical therapy appointment, the therapist watched me walk and immediately saw the issue I had tried to describe to her. I didn’t even know how to put it into words other than “I straighten my right leg when I should be bending it.” Apparently that’s knee hyperextension. Of course it makes perfect sense in hindsight.

In a case like mine when knee hyperextension isn’t caused by an (apparent) injury, there are three main causes:  postural habits, weak muscles around the knee, and having very flexible knees. In my case, I think all three apply to me. Also, this is the same leg I broke when I was 7 years old and since then I’ve always felt like it was weaker than my other leg. See my post Biking, Broken Leg, and a Bribe- How to be a Better Runner by Cycling.

The physical therapist had me do several exercises including single-leg ball squats (so as to not put so much pressure on the knee as regular squats), lunges, single-leg leg presses, and other exercises to strengthen my ankles, and relax my tight IT bands. In addition to the exercises I did during physical therapy I was sent home with a list of other exercises including diagrams and instructions how to do them. That first couple of weeks of therapy, I was exhausted by the end of my hour of PT. I quickly realized just how bad the imbalance was in my legs and just how much weaker my right leg had become than my left leg over time.

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My strange gait at the Super Hero Half Marathon in New Jersey (I’m wearing a white hat)

In addition to all of the exercises I was prescribed, the therapist also used Graston technique around my knee and on my quadricep. This technique is a trademarked method using a set of stainless steel instruments of various sizes and shapes, to essentially loosen adhesions in tight muscles and tendons. Chiropractors and physical therapists often employ this method with their patients. A tool is used to “scrape” over the effected area to help break up scar tissue, move toxins out, get rid of tendonitis, while increasing blood flow to the area. I found it uncomfortable but not painful until she did it to my quadricep. That was very painful and it reminded me of the first time I had a massage therapist do deep tissue massage on my iliotibial band when I had iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) many years prior.

After going to physical therapy for four weeks and doing the prescribed exercises daily at home, I began to question at what point do I stop going to physical therapy. My knee definitely felt stronger at this point. I could do things on that leg that I hadn’t been able to do in years, like hop up and down just as easily as I could on my left leg. Five weeks after my first appointment, I told myself I would see how I did on my next long run and then talk to the physical therapist about ending my therapy. That weekend I ran 10 miles with no problems during or after running.

Six weeks after starting therapy, I mentioned to my therapist that I felt like I didn’t need to come back any longer. She asked me how my running was going and told me if I had any problems come up I could always come back. As I mentioned earlier, that was last fall and I haven’t been back.

Another thing that I’ve been trying to work on is to improve my gait mechanics. That’s been the most difficult of all of this. At first, it was pretty easy to try to maintain a slight bend in my right knee when walking, but the really difficult thing was to do this while running. The first few times I practiced changing my gait when running, I felt so out of breath and so utterly exhausted that I questioned whether it was worth it. I started doing this way back when I was training for the half marathon in San Diego and honestly, I gave up and went back to hyperextending my leg. After that, I ran another race in New Jersey with my same hobbled gait; that’s me at the finish for that race in the gif above.

This summer when I wasn’t training for a race, I decided to try and work on my running gait again. I’d like to continue running for many years to come and I was worried if I don’t change my gait, that may lead to other problems such as with my hips until I eventually wouldn’t be able to run. After a full summer, it’s definitely gotten to the point where I feel like I can run about the same pace as I used to with a hyperextended right leg without getting out of breath, so I think it’s getting easier. By the time I run my next half marathon in November, hopefully there will be enough muscle memory there for me to be able to run the race with a bent knee, the way it should be!

Have any of you tried to change your running gait?  How did that go?  Have you tried any apps or devices that analyze running gait?

 

The Top of My Travel Bucket List

I feel like I’ve traveled a lot in the United States but not nearly as much throughout the rest of the world. Sometimes I envy people in Europe because they have so many other countries at their fingertips. I’ve only recently been to Chile, my first adventure in South America and I’ve never been to Asia, Africa, or Antarctica, which means I’ve been to four continents. This also means there are a whole lot of places I’d like to go to. I’m only going to give details here about the top three places on my bucket list, otherwise this post would be way too long!

One place I’m extremely curious about is the Canary Islands. It’s kind of funny because I’ve never been to Spain but I want to go to the Canary Islands, which are a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Africa. Some people might ask, “Why aren’t you going to Spain? Why the Canary Islands instead?” I guess my family and I just don’t travel like most Americans. We don’t go to Disney every summer or the same beach house every summer. We don’t always go to the usual hot spots (although we have been to many of the more popular places too including Disney); we like to veer off the beaten path a bit, however. I have no doubt I will eventually go to mainland Spain, but it’s just not a priority on my travel bucket list right now.

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Canary Islands- photo credit theculturetrip.com

So why the Canary Islands? The weather for starters. The Canary Islands have near-perfect weather year-round, perfect for spending time outdoors. Each of the islands are also diverse from one another, with subtropical greenery on one island, another has mountains and waterfalls, another has lava fields, and still another has plains and cacti. There are of course the beaches but I’m looking way beyond lying on the sand all day. I’m looking forward to hiking and exploring all day, then maybe relaxing by the water with a cocktail in the evening. Now that’s my idea of a perfect day.

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Photo credit thomson.co.uk

I’d also love to go to the country Georgia. I’ve heard other people rave about how beautiful it is, how friendly the people are, how delicious the food is, and how affordable it is. It’s no secret I love mountains, and the bigger the better. The highest mountain range in Europe is actually in Georgia (not the Alps). The Caucasus Mountains, which separate Georgia from Russia, look stunning.

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Georgia- photo by David Jafaridze
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Photo credit:  YourAmazingPlaces.com

Another place that most Americans probably aren’t dying to go to but I am is Malta. This is another place similar to the Canary Islands where the weather is (almost) perfect year-round. The lows in the winter are only around 55 F and the highs in the summer average around 90 F, so the summers are a bit hot, but nothing too terrible, this coming from someone who hates winter but loves summer. Malta is an archipelago off the coast of Sicily full of diverse history, great food, gorgeous beaches, and beautiful architecture. An advantage of going to Malta is the majority of people speak English, so other than a few key words and phrases, I won’t need to learn Maltese.

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Malta- photo credit davidsbeenhere.com
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Photo credit slh.com

There are so many other places in the world I’d love to go to and I have no doubt I will eventually go there. Some of those places include Uruguay, Montenegro, Croatia, South Island of New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, England, France, Ireland, Thailand, and Japan, for starters. I’m always discovering new places and/or hearing about places I’ve never been and my interest will be piqued.

What about you all? What’s at the top of your bucket list? Have any of you been to the Canary Islands, Malta, or Georgia and have tips or suggestions for me?

Review of Arctic Cool Shirt

Disclaimer:  I received a shirt from Arctic Cool. I was intrigued by the technology and asked for a product to try, and was happily sent a shirt. How cool is that (I couldn’t resist the pun)? All opinions expressed below are entirely my own.

OK. I saw Arctic Cool on Twitter and was intrigued. A shirt with cooling technology? I’ll admit I’m a heavy sweater, so the idea of a running shirt that would help keep me cool sounded like something I needed to try. I wrote to them and asked if they would consider sending me one of their products, thinking they would send a towel or headband, but no, they said they would be happy to send me a shirt. Yes!

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When I received the shirt in the mail, I wanted to go run in it that very day but my next long run was only 2 days away, so I waited until then. First impressions of the shirt were that it seemed like an ordinary running shirt by all appearances. It’s made of 94% Polyester amd 6% Spandex. The difference is in the “Hydrofreeze X Technology.”

How does all of this work? According to Arctic Cool, the material wicks moisture from skin, moisture is dispersed, Hydrofreeze X activates, and the fabric keeps you cool and dry. One little tidbit I missed before my run is it says to activate cooling with a spritz of water and recharge as needed.

For my first test, I ran 7 miles and even though it was a bit cooler out that day than it had been, I was still sweating like crazy. Like magic, though, my shirt was mostly dry even at the end of my run. I did spill some Nuun on my shirt accidentally, so if you see moisture on the front, it’s most likely from that. You can see sweat on my face and neck, though.

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After test 1:  long run

Similar to my previous run, I still felt like I was sweating quite a bit but I also felt like the shirt was getting cooler, the hotter I got. It reminded me of a slogan I think I heard a long time ago, “We work hard so you don’t have to,” or something like that anyway. I definitely like this shirt. While it won’t stop you from sweating, especially if you sweat a lot like I do, it does help cool you off. Normally when I get home from a run I take off my wet, sweaty running shirt, but I left this one on for a bit, to let it help cool me off.

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After test 2:  hill repeats

I was intrigued about what would happen if I were to wet this shirt entirely and then put it on for a run. Before I did speed work on the treadmill, I wet the shirt under the faucet then put it on. It was wet but not dripping. It turns out this wasn’t a great idea. I don’t think the shirt is meant to be that wet before wearing and I didn’t feel like it helped cool me off any better. In fact, I felt like the best was when I flicked the shirt with some water and ran hill repeats.

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After test 3:  speed work

Arctic Cool also has long sleeve shirts, hats, headbands, towels, and shorts for men (alas no shorts for women). I’m seriously thinking about buying a few of these shirts for my summer running shirts. A hat would be great too.

Here’s the link if any of you would like to try Arctic Cool for yourself. Unfortunately I didn’t even think to ask for a discount code to pass along to you guys so I don’t have one. Their stuff seems very reasonably priced, however.

Happy running! Donna

How to Stay Sane on a Long Flight

The mere wording “long flight” is a subjective one, I’ll admit. For one person, a long flight might be anything more than 2 hours, and for another it might be anything longer than 6 hours. For me, a long flight would be anything more than 5 or 6 hours, so for the purpose of the rest of this post, we’ll go with that length of time.

The longest flight I’ve ever taken was when I flew to New Zealand, which was really two consecutive long flights. I flew from North Carolina to San Francisco, California, then from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand. The flight to San Francisco was 6 hours and from San Francisco to Auckland is a 13 hour flight. These were both long flights, but surprisingly, they didn’t seem that long. I’ve also flown across the United States many times including going from the east coast to Hawaii twice, flown from the US to Europe multiple times, and from the US to Chile. What are my secrets for surviving on long flights?

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12 hour flight time to get to Chile but we got views like this in return!

I always try to book direct flights whenever possible. Stay with me here. I realize this makes for longer flights than if you have a couple of shorter flights with layover(s) in between, but you get to your destination quicker with less layovers, and that’s the ultimate goal for me. If I have to pay less than $50 per person more for a direct flight versus one with a stop, it’s a no-brainer that I’ll take the direct flight. When it’s more expensive than that, it gets a little trickier. I will say that very rarely have I ever had more than two stops on a flight to anywhere I’ve flown. I avoid flights with four or (god forbid) more stops like the plague. I’d rather have one stop (or less) on a plane and drive for 4 hours in the car than two stops on a flight and not have to drive when I got there. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s how I roll.

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11 hours flight time to get to Hawaii- so worth it!

In my smaller carry-on (I never check my bags) I pack my tablet, a paperback book (I’m old-school and prefer paper to electronic books), and a magazine or two. By the end of my vacation, the magazine will be finished and recycled, and if I finish reading the book, that will either be recycled or donated before I return home (less to carry back). Between all of this I always have plenty of reading material for the plane and rest of my vacation. I always watch a movie on the plane as well, but usually one is plenty for me unless it’s a really long flight.

OK so reading material and the in-flight movie should come as no surprise. I also adjust my watch to the time zone I am flying to as soon as I get on the plane and have found this to be extremely helpful. When I flew to New Zealand I ate when it would have been dinnertime in New Zealand (versus Pacific time where I flew out of), and I slept when it would have been my bedtime in New Zealand. That way when I landed I had already given my body a head start on the new time zone.

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19 hours flight time to New Zealand!  Worth it?  YES!

I swear by my eye mask and wear it not only on long flights but every night at home as well. Ear plugs, ear buds, or noise-canceling headphones are all great for long flights as well. I’ve tried various travel pillows and none of them have really worked for me, but they are an option as they do work for many other people. I usually just crumple up my jacket and use that as a pillow. A window seat is great for leaning your head against too. All this being said, I think I’m going to try an inflatable travel pillow again since it’s been a while since I’ve used one and I’d like to see how it goes.

My daughter and I have also passed the time on long flights by playing card games, coloring when she was younger, playing Pictionary, and just goofing off being silly. My husband is a much better sleeper on an airplane than either my daughter or me so it helps that she and I can help entertain each other.

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Photo taken from the plane somewhere over the midwest en route to Colorado

I limit alcohol consumption on a plane to one small glass of wine with dinner at the most. Your body doesn’t process alcohol as quickly on a plane as on the ground so you feel the effects more profoundly and I have no intention of getting drunk on a flight. I also limit the use of sleep-aids on flights and only use Benadryl when I’m exhausted but just can’t sleep at all. Most of all, I have low expectations for sleeping on a long flight. If I get a couple of hours of sleep, that’s good for me.

Another thing to pack in your carry-on is plenty of snacks. I like to pack nuts, Kind bars, and dried fruit for just about every vacation I go on. Depending on the regulations of the country you’re flying to, dried fruit may not be allowed into a foreign country so if you bring it just be sure you finish it before you get off the plane.

Wearing comfortable clothes is also a must-do for long flights. Since airplanes are usually freezing cold, I’ll wear comfy pants and a short-sleeve shirt with a nice, soft hoodie or sweater so I can adjust if I get too warm. Compression socks are also great to have for long flights to help with circulation in your feet and lower legs. I personally like CEP compression socks and have found them to be some of the best ones out there.

The final thing that helps me survive a long flight is actually what I do when I get off the plane. As soon as I get off the airplane I adjust completely to my new time zone. If it’s time for breakfast at my destination, I will eat even if I’m not that hungry.  I don’t drink coffee but a cup of tea helps me stay alert. One of the worst things you can do is check-in your hotel and sleep for a few hours. A 20 minutes nap would be fine but any longer is just going to make it harder to adjust. If it’s nighttime then of course go to bed and try to sleep until it’s as close to your usual wake-up time as possible.

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Las Vegas is one of our “shorter” cross-country flights at 5 1/2 hours

What about you all? What tips for surviving a long flight do you have? I love to hear tips like this from fellow travelers so please share.