Accept It

I’m going to begin this post with a quote I found after I was mostly done writing it, but it fits perfectly with what I’m about to say:

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

I feel like so much of my life has been a series of unexpected outcomes. Despite careful thought and planning, so many aspects of my life have not turned out remotely how I thought they would. My career path for example has certainly not been what I thought it would be from when I was just starting college. I went from thinking I wanted to major in computer science to ending up with two degrees in biology when all was said and done, with a couple of diversions in between (pharmacy school and an occupational therapy program were considerations at one point during college).

My personal life has also not turned out how I thought it would other than the state I live in. When I was a young girl my family and I visited North Carolina and I fell in love with the state so much I knew one day I would end up living here. This, despite the fact that I looked at jobs in Atlanta, Georgia and the Washington, D.C. area up into Maryland in addition to North Carolina when I was finishing up graduate school and looking for a job. After visiting both aforementioned places and then visiting North Carolina, I knew North Carolina was the place I wanted to put down roots. I didn’t even have a job offer when I moved to North Carolina, but the economy was booming at the time and I was confident I would find a job in the research field soon enough, which I did. The rest is history as far as that is concerned.

Still, outside of my choice of place of residence, almost nothing in my life has turned out like I thought it would. Even my current job, which I’ve had for the past 20 years didn’t turn out like I thought. When I first moved to North Carolina, someone recommended I apply for a job where I currently work and I told them I didn’t want to do that kind of work for a living. I wouldn’t even consider it.

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After a couple of years working at a university, my boss announced he was retiring soon so I started looking for a job somewhere else. I applied for a position at the place someone had first recommended to me before and I got the job. Even then I didn’t think I would really want to stay at the job that long and I told them I was only going to work at this place for a couple of years until something better came along. I’m not even sure why I had in my head that I didn’t want to work at this place or do this kind of research.

Pretty quickly I found out that yes, indeed I did want to do that kind of research. Not only that, I love that kind of research and love my boss and co-workers so much I’ve never even considered working anywhere else and have plans on staying at my current work place until I can retire. Just another example of something not turning out how I thought it would in my life.

A few years after I moved to North Carolina, I went through a rough patch in my life. Basically, my marriage was ending but I wasn’t ready to accept that it was over. I didn’t want to admit to myself and others that my marriage was over because I thought everyone else would think of me as a failure. Because my marriage failed, I myself was a failure, or so that’s how my mind was working at the time.

Every day on my way home from work, I would cry in the car. I wasn’t ready to admit my marriage was over but I was miserable. Every morning I would throw up and that continued for a month straight. One day I was waiting to pull onto the main road from my work place and I looked at the car in front of me and read their license plate. It said, “AcceptIt.” Accept it. Almost immediately I stopped crying. It was like an epiphany hit me. I needed to accept that my marriage was over in order to move on with my life.

It was as if a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders after that. Once I accepted that my marriage was over and just because my marriage failed didn’t mean I personally was a failure, I could finally sort through my emotions and deal with everything I had been going through.

I feel like so much has happened in 2020 that has been out of my hands and my life has once again been turned upside-down. Sure, COVID-19 has turned most people’s lives around in ways they never thought possible. Races were cancelled or postponed in my personal life and travel plans were also cancelled or postponed but those things are trivial. I know many other people had to deal with more serious issues like lost jobs, deaths in the family, and the postponement of major events they had planned.

Some things have happened in my life that I’m not going to get into the details of but suffice to say someone else made a major decision for me and, I’ve had to accept it once again. Accept that everything will work out in the end so I can move on with my life. Accept that everything happens for a reason and just because we can’t see that reason at the moment doesn’t mean we won’t see the reason later in life.

I’m not sure how I feel about fate. I feel like we all make our own choices in life but sometimes other people make choices for us that also effect our lives, sometimes in a profound way. On the other hand, I feel like we all have a pre-determined path we’re supposed to follow. Maybe if we decide to not follow that path, our lives will be harder than they’re supposed to be.

All I know for sure is I’ve learned no matter what happens in life, if we don’t accept it, things will be that much harder for us. It’s like beating your head against a brick wall trying to fight changes that just aren’t in your best interest versus going with the flow and accepting your current path in life. Right now, all I can try to do to make the best of things is accept it and know that everything will work out in the end how they’re supposed to.

I know I don’t normally post things like this, but I felt the need to get my thoughts out. Times are tough right now, so maybe someone else needed to hear these words as well. If anyone reading this wants to reach out to me to discuss anything going on in their life, feel free to send me an email at runningtotravel at gmail. I know I could certainly use more friends in my life right now and I would be happy to have another person in my life to talk to.

Donna

 

 

How to Be a Runner (Borrowed from Runner’s World)

If you’ve read Runner’s World magazine, you’ve most likely seen their spotlight on a runner on the last page called “How to Be a Runner.” Over the years, they’ve featured famous runners to everyday runners. I always like to read this section and I feel like it’s a fun way to get to know other runners, which is why I thought it would be fun to do here. The idea is to choose one of the word prompts that you feel best describe you. Some of the words are vague and others are more obvious. Here’s mine with the ones I chose highlighted in orange:

Wave                Nod

Heart Rate       Feel (1)

Lead                 Follow

PR                     Finish (2)

Stride               Glide

Athleisure       Sweats

Gel                    Chews (3)

Hat                    Gloves

Morning          Night

Swift                Strong

Struggle           Slay

Hot (4)              Cold

Low Socks       Tall Socks

Shoe Store       Online

Uphill               Downhill

5k                      Half Marathon

GPS                   Naked

Stop (5)            Go

Start                 Finish

Heel                  Toe

Calves              Quads

Headphones    Inner Voices (6)

Bagel                 Banana

Treadmill         Frostbite

Medal               T-shirt

Warm Up         Cool Down

Distance (7)     Time

400s                  Hills

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My daughter picked these flowers for me during one of my races

Let me explain:

(1) I tried heart rate training before and just didn’t keep it up long enough to see results. (2) When you run enough races for as long as I have, you realize you can’t PR all the time. (3) I’ve tried a bunch of different gels and chews and the only ones I can stomach are by Honey Stinger, which I take on all of my long runs. (4) I do much better in hot weather than cold weather. (5) I stop at all stop signs, lights, and road crossings; there are far too many distracted drivers out there. (6) I like to run my long runs with my AfterShokz to listen to podcasts but the rest of the time I don’t listen to anything. (7) I like to run both by distance and time but if I had to choose one, I’d choose distance.

Have you read this section of Runner’s World? What do you think of it- a silly waste of time or fun? Feel free to do your own version of this.

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Travel in my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. What’s Changed and What Hasn’t?

When I was in college in my 20’s, I feel like I barely traveled anywhere. I won a free trip to the Bahamas, which you can read about here:  How a Free Cruise to the Bahamas Changed My Life. Like I said in the post, I feel like that trip to the Bahamas opened up my eyes to the world and whet my appetite for travel. Nonetheless, I was a poor college student through my mid-20’s and I just didn’t have the money to travel nor did I have the time when I was in graduate school.

Other than the free trip to the Bahamas in my 20’s, I went to Ocean City, Maryland for a beach trip for a couple of days one summer, I drove to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania a few times to go out with friends, went to New Jersey for a weekend with friends, and some other random places like that when I was in college. These were all low-cost, low-frills, short trips of 2 or 3 days at the most.

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A fun trip to see a friend in New York City in my 20’s

When I finished graduate school and started working, I branched out a little more and went to places like Jamaica, Mexico, and Harbour Island in the Bahamas (a far cry from Freeport in that it’s about a thousand times nicer plus it’s perfectly safe). I also went to Hawaii, and Napa Valley and Yosemite National Park in California, and some other places in the United States like Charleston, South Carolina, a city that’s still one of my absolute favorite places in the world.

Still, I don’t feel like I traveled that extensively until I was in my 30’s. My boyfriend and I went to Costa Rica and this was such an eye-opening vacation for me. So many of the people we came to contact with only spoke Spanish or very limited English. This was before the travel boom happened in Costa Rica, before it was more common to travel to the country, so things were a bit more rough and rugged. Still, we were at a nice resort where all of our meals were provided and we didn’t have to worry about figuring anything out on our own so we were a bit sheltered in that sense.

After Costa Rica came vacations to Miami (I had been to Miami in my 20’s as well), Ft. Lauderdale and Everglades National Park, a few places in California including San Francisco, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Napa Valley; my wedding in St. Kitts and honeymoon in Nevis and St. Martin; Philadelphia; several cities in Italy; Phoenix, Sedona, and Grand Canyon in Arizona; and Colorado. Then we slowed down a bit when I was pregnant through the first year or so after my daughter was born and just traveled to places a couple of hours away by car.

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Napa Valley when I was in my 30’s

When my daughter was not quite a year and a half things picked back up for us travel-wise, and we flew to Naples, Florida, then shortly after that to Vermont, and a few months after that to Hawaii. This was when I was well into my quest to run a half marathon in every state and was running about four races a year, one in each season basically. We also went to other places during my 30’s like Disney World in Florida, Disney Land in California, Key West, Marathon (Florida), Miami, Aruba, Banff and parts of Alberta, Canada on the west and Niagara Falls and parts of Ontario, Canada on the east.

Not only did the amount we traveled increase in my 30’s, the variety of places we went to also started to increase. Because of running a half marathon in all 50 states, we went to many places in the United States that we never would have otherwise. More often than not, we ended up falling in love with the area but regardless we were always glad we went because of the experience. We also began to stay in nicer accommodations in my 30’s, going from the cheaper places that my husband and I might have stayed in before our daughter was born, to nicer places in safer neighborhoods after she was born.

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Hobbiton in New Zealand

My 40’s are when I feel like I became more of an educated traveler. After planning my family’s vacation that began in Munich, Germany and had stops all over tiny little towns in Austria like Werfen, Bad Gastein, and Fusch without any trouble at all, I felt more comfortable planning our vacations in other countries. In addition to the states we were going to for half marathons, we began going to a different country about once a year (sometimes two a year) in my 40’s.

I’m still in my 40’s and in addition to the countries I listed already, we’ve gone to Greece, New Zealand, back to Canada to go to Montreal, Chile, Malta, the Canary Islands, Grand Cayman Island, and Peru. Although New Zealand, Montreal, and Grand Cayman Island were all very easy to communicate with others there and easy to get around, the other places were more difficult. However, by branching out more and more, I felt like it kept getting easier to get out of my comfort zone.

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One of my favorite places in the world- the salt pans in Malta

Our two weeks in Chile was especially a time when we were pushed out of our comfort zone, since we came upon numerous people who didn’t speak any English at all and we had no cell coverage or even Wi-Fi at times. There was no guide to help us, no one to tell us what to do or where to go. In other words, we had to figure it out on our own, and of course we did. The people were extremely patient with us and helpful and kind. I think this vacation in particular showed me that I am resilient and most people in the world are helpful and nice although there are bad people everywhere of course.

Peru showed me that the world is so much more than checking off boxes to see the “Wonders of the World,” like Machu Picchu. Not that I went there solely to check off a box, but what I mean is the experience of the trek leading up to seeing Machu Picchu was actually more special to me than the “grand finale” of seeing the ruins. As special as Machu Picchu was, it was the icing on the cake after the trek. This was the first time I ever took a several-day-long hike so it was my first time experiencing something like that.

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Machu Picchu in Peru

My 40’s is also when I started staying at properties through Airbnb. By now, I’ve stayed at Airbnb properties throughout the United States and around the world. More often than not, I’ve had exceptional stays, but there were one or two that were a disappointment. One place reeked of cigarette smoke but we stayed there anyway and I didn’t say a word about it. I re-read Airbnb reviews while we were there to see if I had missed something and sure enough, someone had complained of cigarette smoke. However, the owner rebutted by saying no one had ever smoked in the house and the person basically was too sensitive and didn’t know what they were talking about. If you’re reading reviews and come across something like that, you can either believe the person who wrote it or you can believe the owner. My lesson learned was to believe the person who wrote the review in a case like this so now I pay more attention to the reviews and don’t just skim the top couple before I make reservations.

One advantage to staying in a property through Airbnb is you have a kitchen so you can cook some of the meals and not have to eat out all the time. Not only does this save money, it also saves time of sitting in restaurants waiting for your food to come and then for the check to come. If you don’t feel like cooking, there’s always the option of picking up something from a grocery store deli. We’ve had some delicious meals this way and they’re quick, easy, and cheaper than eating out.

Now I’m looking forward to visiting some more countries, some of which my husband and I are considering retiring early to, like Spain and Portugal. I’d also like to check out some countries in Central America and maybe Ecuador as potential retirement spots. Also high on my list for places where I want to visit but not live are some places in Eastern Europe like Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro. I’d also like to finally visit some countries in Asia. Who knows if I’ll be able to go to all of these places while I’m still in my 40’s; most likely not all of them but definitely some of them.

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Croatia- eventually I will get here!

One thing that’s changed over the years for me is the amount of travel has gradually increased. We currently take about five to six weeks of vacation each year. That’s not going to change from now until I retire since that’s the maximum I can take with my job (yes, I’m extremely fortunate in that sense). The diversity of places we go to has also changed over the years. We seek out some of the more off-the-beaten path areas even in more popular areas we go to.

What hasn’t changed is my love for travel. No, I take that back. My love for travel has changed over the years because it’s continued to increase. When I was in my 20’s, I feel like travel was something I wouldn’t even give much thought to. In my 30’s, travel began to feel like it was becoming a part of me, and now in my 40’s, I can’t imagine not being able to travel because it’s such a huge part of what I do and what I enjoy. So I can’t think of anything that hasn’t changed with me when it comes to travel from my 20’s to present day in my 40’s. I guess it’s true what they say that travel truly does change your life.

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

How has travel changed for you over the years? Or should I ask, how has travel changed you? That’s probably a topic for another day!

Happy travels!

Donna

 

5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My First Half Marathon

I was extremely naive when I ran my first half marathon. While I wasn’t new to running, I was most definitely new to long distance running. I feel like I have been running since I could as a child. The only time I took time off from running was during college when I experienced the worst shin splints of my life and had to practically crawl home during a run. I decided to take some time off to heal and for whatever reason (most likely school and studying) that time off stretched into years. Finally after I had finished graduate school, gotten married, and moved to a new state, I began running again.

When I began running again in my mid-20’s, I tried to do things “the right way.” I began to gradually increase my distance, first running a 5k, then a 10k, a 10-miler, and a 15k (although I don’t think the races after the 5k were necessarily in that order). When I took the plunge and ran my first half marathon, I felt pretty well-prepared. Pretty much the only factor during the race that really threw me for a loop was the weather. The race was on the coast of North Carolina in late November and it was cold and rainy, which turned to snow eventually. By the end of the race, I was frozen to the bone, but hungry for more.

The weather that day was extremely unusual for the area so I was counting on that not happening again the following year. I knew if I could do as well as I did at my first half marathon, I could do even better the next year. You can read about my first half marathon here. It’s the only half marathon I’ve ever ran more than once. Since then I’ve finished 43 half marathons in 41 states (I ran three half marathons in North Carolina).

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Not my first half marathon, but one of my first ones. What the heck was I thinking not pulling my hair up into a ponytail?! And no hat/visor/sunglasses?!

Many things have changed over the years in the field of long distance running. Some fads have come and gone but mostly we’ve been given more options from everything like what to fuel with to apparel and shoes. When I was training for my first half marathon, there wasn’t this multitude of options for fueling before, during, and after running. There pretty much was Gatorade or Powerade. There was no Nuun, Tailwind, or Honey Stinger. This brings me to the first thing I wish I had known before my first half marathon.

  1. Try out some snacks on training runs to make sure your stomach and gut agree with them. Now I run with Nuun hydration and snacks on all of my long runs including my half marathons but back then I just drank and ate whatever was offered on the course. Maybe some people are fine doing this, but if you have a finicky stomach like I do, it’s not a good idea. I also love Honey Stinger waffles for a pre-run snack and haven’t had any gut issues after eating them but experiment to see what works for you.
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My running belt and tube of Nuun for a recent race

2.  Don’t get caught up in the excitement of the race and start out at a pace you can’t maintain for more than a few miles or so. People hear this one all the time, and yet they continue to do it. It’s tough to make your legs go slower than they want to in the beginning of a race, but they’ll thank you later for it.

3.  Don’t let it get to you when you see older people or people that look like they’re not in as good of shape as you pass you. I eventually learned this one. When it comes to runners, you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve been passed by runners of all shapes, sizes, and ages during races. Sometimes I’ve been able to pass them towards the final miles of the race when they were walking, but sometimes I never saw them again and they left me in the dust. That’s OK.

4.  Wear what you’re going to run the half marathon in during your long training runs. Just because a sports bra/socks/shorts/shirt doesn’t rub and chafe you on shorter training runs doesn’t mean it won’t cause chafing on 13.1 miles. I always wince when I see people running in the shirt they just got at packet pickup. I was pretty badly chafed by my sports bra after my first half marathon, most likely because I hadn’t worn it enough in long training runs to know how it would perform on race day.

5.  Do some push-ups and other arm exercises to strengthen your arms and shoulders as part of your half marathon training plan. I didn’t do this and could barely lift my arms over my head after my first half marathon. I had no idea my arms would be the most sore part of my body after running a half marathon, but they were. Since then I appreciate how hard my arms work during a race and have made sure I work on them in addition to my core and legs.

What about you guys?  What things about long distance running have you learned the hard way and wish someone would have told you?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Some Things I Do Simply Because I Run

I was thinking about this when I was running the other day. There are a lot of things that I do simply because I’m a runner that I most likely would never do if I didn’t run. As I was running, I started making a mental list of some of those things. Some are maybe a little crazy to the non-runner, others are probably not so strange.

  • I keep track of my heart rate and VO2 max. Years ago this wasn’t so easy to do but now with my Garmin watch, I can just glance down and see these numbers along with a myriad of other numbers. If I wasn’t a runner, I’m sure I could care less what my VO2 max was and most likely wouldn’t even know what it is (maximum oxygen your body can use during an intense workout).
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Running in the Canary Islands was awesome!
  • I experience so much more of an area I’m vacationing in because I run. If I didn’t run, I’d just see places we drive by from the car until we reached our destination. When you’re outside running, you see and hear things you wouldn’t if you were in a car going from point a to point b.
  • I put much more time and thought into buying a new pair of running shoes than I do any other shoes I wear. I’ve bought every day shoes from consignment sales (meaning “gently used” for those who’ve never been to a consignment sale) but would never in a million years buy running shoes from a consignment sale.
  • I also have put much more thought into buying running socks than every day socks. Over the years I’ve tried so many different brands of running socks, on a quest to find ones that don’t leave my poor toes blistered and bruised. For my every day socks, I just buy what ever color I happen to need at the time. For the record, I’m a big fan of compression socks and am an ambassador for Zensah. When I get discount codes I can share, I will!
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I know I’m not the only runner who gets excited about new running shoes!
  • I’m not above quick meals for myself and my family for dinner. I work full-time. It’s extremely hard to work all day, drive home, run for 40-45 minutes, and make a home-cooked meal for three people. Because I’m a runner, quick meals are my friend, as are leftovers and crock pot dinners. Even if I wasn’t a runner, this one would still apply to me, I’m sure.
  • I often plan what I’m going to eat for breakfast and lunch around my run. Once I made the mistake of eating bacon and eggs for breakfast before going out an hour later for a run. Seriously, what was I thinking? I’ve also had things that didn’t settle well in my stomach for lunch and have learned I can’t eat those before running (even a couple of hours later).
  • I’ve also consumed my fair share of runner-geared gels, gummies, packets (of jelly-like consistency), bars, and other such “snacks” designed to provide fuel during a long run. Some of these products are things I would never have eaten if I wasn’t a runner, and most of the aforementioned things I don’t eat now. Honey Stinger is a star in the field here; I’d happily eat their products even if I wasn’t a runner, they’re that good. Like Zensah, I’m also an ambassador for Honey Stinger and share discount codes when I get ones I can share.

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  • When I meet someone new, my first impression of them is better if I find out they’re a runner. What can I say? Runners are like family. We watch out for each other. If I wasn’t a runner, I’m sure I could care less if the person I was meeting ever ran or not.
  • I’ve been known to judge a city by how runner-friendly it is. If a city doesn’t have sidewalks anywhere or other safe places for runners, it gets a black mark in my book. Also, if a city is full of drivers that yell at you when you’re running or try to run you over with their car, that’s a definite black mark.

These are just a few of the things I do as a runner I probably wouldn’t do if I didn’t run. What about you guys? What are some of the strange or different things you do simply because you’re a runner?

Happy running!

Donna

P.S. If you’re running low on nuun hydration, here’s a code for 30% off, good through the end of the month.

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Running Resolutions for 2018

New year= new goals, right? Well, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten fitness and running goals for 2018. Let me know what you think!

Number 1- Only runs that get posted to Facebook/Instagram/Twitter count as valid miles ran. If it’s not on social media, it didn’t exist.

Number 2- This year I will run farther. I normally run half marathons since I have a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, but this year I plan on running an ultra. 100 miles sounds about right.

Number 3- I will do more cross-training. I already do yoga, lift weights, do core work, and cycle each once a week, but I think I’ll add in the rowing machine at the gym because well, four days of cross-training doesn’t seem like enough.

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Cycling, yoga, and weight-lifting just isn’t enough!

Number 4- I will lose 20 pounds even though I really don’t need to lose that much weight. It doesn’t sound “bold” enough to just say I’ll lose a few pounds, so I’m going to go for 20!

Number 5- This year I will never skip a workout, even if it’s during a family vacation, funeral, wedding, graduation, or other “important” event. If it means running 3 miles through an airport, so be it.

Number 6- I will stretch even more. I already stretch after every run but this year I will stretch for at least an hour after every run.

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I’d better plan on doing lots more of these!

Number 7- Following up on number 6, I will do yoga even more. I’ll do yoga seven days a week, because I have loads of free time on my hands so I might as well do something productive with it.

Number 8- I will set a PR in 2018 even though I’m no longer in my 30’s and will most likely not PR again at my age, but hey, a girl can dream!

Number 9- To top number 8, I will win first place in my age group in a race. Maybe that will happen at the ultra I plan to do.

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My first in Age Group award. Think I could win at an ultra?

Number 10- I will not take myself so seriously when it comes to running and I’ll forget every single one of resolutions one through nine!

This isn’t to knock any of you that have set serious resolutions for 2018. It’s just my way of saying I plan on having fun this year and I’ll do the best I can and not beat myself up for not doing more.

Do any of you have any running resolutions for 2018? Serious or not, I’d love to hear them!

Happy Running!

Donna

 

10 Things Travel Taught Me in 2017

In 2017 my travels took me to Las Vegas,Washington, Utah, where I ran a half marathonZion National ParkBryce Canyon National ParkAntelope CanyonBest Friends Animal Sanctuary in February, and Grand Canyon National Park in March. That’s a lot right there, so what did I learn in the first few months of 2017 from these places?

1). I learned I love visiting national parks even in the winter months (and I don’t like cold weather and snow). Bryce Canyon has a special feeling when you’re admiring partially snow-covered hoodoos and you’re surrounded by utter stillness and beauty.

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Snow-dusted Bryce Canyon

2). It’s possible and fun even to have a short stay in Las Vegas  with children and not spend much money. We had fun just wandering around, going through the massive casino hotels, taking in the views.

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Vegas, baby!

3). Volunteering when you’re on vacation rocks! One of the highlights of our time in Utah was our time at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. I’d love to do more things like this in the future.

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Hiking with our little overnight buddy at Best Friends

After some time at home, we were back out on our next travel adventure, beginning with New Jersey in May. I ran the Superhero Half Marathon  in Morristown, and I finally got to visit the Statue of Liberty in person. From New Jersey we were off to our first visit to South America, beginning in Santiago, Chile. After spending the night in Santiago, we spent a few days in Vina del Mar, which we fell in love with, and spent a week in the Las Cabras Region of Chile. This final place in Chile is where I learned so much about myself in relation to travel.

4). Sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. Not being fluent in Spanish, not having wi-fi (mostly for maps and things to do), and not knowing the area well will force you to interact more with local people and figure things out on your own. I found I was more resilient than I thought I was.

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Chile in all of its splendor!

5). I learned so much during my time in Chile, I made a list of 15 lessons I learned there. Probably the biggest thing I learned was to learn as much Spanish as possible before visiting the country. Don’t expect others to speak English, especially in more remote and smaller towns. This is a lesson for many other non-English-speaking countries as well.

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I loved hiking on this trail in Chile

6). I also learned Chileans are some of the warmest, friendliest, most helpful people I’ve encountered on my travels. We were blessed with the kindness of strangers on several occasions in Chile.

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Our little fox friend in Chile

In August, my family and I headed back to one of my favorite cities, Charleston, South Carolina. We were fortunate enough to experience the total eclipse and that was definitely the highlight of our time there. Even though we were only there for five days, I learned something.

7). Sometimes your family will get on your nerves when you’re traveling. My daughter hadn’t been sleeping well for many days before we even went on this vacation. That on top of not sleeping well because she was in a strange bed in a strange house resulted in one cranky eleven-year-old. She whined, complained, and I lost my cool on more than one occasion. I didn’t let it ruin my vacation, however. I know there will be days like this, even on vacation, when everything’s not all rosy.

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Morris Island near Charleston

In November, we had a little mini-vacation in Huntington, West Virginia when I ran the Marshall University Half Marathon. While we were only here for the weekend, I did manage to learn something.

8). Weekend or long-weekend getaways are a great way to explore small towns. You don’t always have to go away for a week or more and you don’t always have to go to exotic places to have fun. My family and I had more weekend getaways last year than this year and I had forgotten how nice they can be.

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Huntington, West Virginia

For our final vacation of 2017, we headed first to Malta then to Miami. I was very much looking forward to going to Malta since visiting the Gozo Salt Pans was on my bucket list. Malta exceeded my expectations as far as natural beauty of the islands (Malta is an archipelago of three islands), food, and just about every thing we saw and did. I have a series of posts about our time in Malta and there is one thing I learned during that vacation.

9). Mobile WiFi or MiFi can be a relatively inexpensive (roughly $10/day) but truly invaluable way to find your way around and stay connected when traveling internationally, especially if you’re driving a rental car. I have a post coming on this, so stay tuned!

Our time in Miami was spent a bit differently than many people would choose to vacation there since we were there to visit a dear friend of mine who lives there. We didn’t go to a single club or party at South Beach like many people would. Instead my friend took care of all of the planning for us and graciously took us to some of her favorite restaurants, on a tour of the Everglades, and to South Beach for the day to enjoy the ocean, play in the sand, soak in the sun, and thoroughly relax and enjoy ourselves. This brings me to the final thing I learned about travel this year.

10). Sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do all of the planning for you and just sit back and relax. You don’t always have to try to cram in a dozen “must-do” restaurants or things to do.

What about you all? Where has travel taken you in 2017 and what have you learned from it?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

What my 40-Something Self Would Tell my 20-Something Runner Self

If only I could go back in time. How many times have any of you thought that? Well, if I could go back in time and specifically tell myself about running, there are quite a few things I could say.

I’ve always said I feel like I’ve always been a runner. As far back as I can remember, I remember running through my neighborhood and later running in college. Although I was on my school track and field team for a year, I usually just ran for fun on my own. As an adult, I didn’t even sign up for a race until after graduate school, but after that I was hooked on racing and began running longer and longer distances.

The sport of running has changed drastically since I first started running regularly in my 20’s. For the most part, things have improved over the years. Take running clothes for example. It was pretty common for people twenty years ago to run in cotton t-shirts, shorts, cotton socks, and whatever pair of athletic shoes you happened to already have. At least I wasn’t running in cotton, but I didn’t have a pair of athletic shoes specifically for running. I would just run in whatever pair of athletic shoes I currently was wearing. So I guess that’s where I would start, with what to wear.

1). There are a ton (with more coming all the time) of athletic apparel companies out there. Explore! Try them all out and find what really works for you and your body.

2). As far as running shoes go, definitely explore different brands and don’t just stick with the same brand for ten years. Mix it up and try different brands every year or so.

3). There’s way more out there than water and Gatorade for long runs. Look around online and pay attention to what other runners are fueling with. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If gels, gummies, and other similarly sticky substances aimed toward runners don’t suit you, no worries. Try, try, and try some more. Even when you’ve found something that doesn’t upset your stomach and gives you energy to make it through long runs, there’s nothing wrong with trying out something new. You never know; you might like it even better than what you’re currently using.

4). Don’t train for your first marathon by yourself. It’s one thing to run a 10 mile training run for a half marathon by yourself, but it’s an entirely different matter to run a 20 mile training run for a marathon by yourself. You’ll also want the advice and support from seasoned marathoners.

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I didn’t heed my own advice and trained for the Long Beach Marathon by myself. It didn’t go well, but mostly because of the extreme heat.

5). Join a running club. If you don’t fit in with one, try another and keep trying until you find one that’s like a second family. The support you’ll get from a running club will be invaluable.

6). You can get by with minimal stretching when you’re in you’re 20’s but later in life it will catch up with you. Join a gym where they offer yoga and go every single week. Buy a foam roller and use it after every single run. If you get into the habit of doing something early on, it will be easier to stick with.

7). Strength training is another thing that you can skip when you’re younger but it becomes more important as you get older. Focus on running-specific moves such as lunges, squats, and core-strengthening movements.

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Bridge is a great exercise for runners

8). Start a running blog and follow others. Similar to a good running club, the support you’ll get from your regular readers will be huge. Also, you’ll learn a ton from your  readers and the blogs you follow over the years.

9). Probably the biggest resounding theme for my advice to myself is to try new things when you’re training but not on race day. Be open to trying just about anything from what you wear, what you ingest before or during runs, and even who you run with. Just not on race day.

10). Finally, enjoy the ride! Don’t take yourself too seriously! You’ll still be a solid runner even if you don’t meet some goal time you’ve set for yourself. No one will judge you if you don’t finish a race in a certain time. You’re your own worst enemy when it comes to things like that.

What about you guys? What advice would you give to your younger running self?

Happy running!

Donna

What’s in my Racing (Running) Bag?

Similar to “What’s in my Family’s Luggage” post, I thought I’d write one up on what I pack for a race. Since I’m currently on my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, and am up to 41 states, I have been packing a bag for a race for many years now. The contents of my pre-race bag have certainly changed as I’ve learned what works and doesn’t work for me.

To begin with, let me just re-iterate how much I love my packing cubes from ebags. I have the 3 piece set and love them so much I bought more for my daughter. If you are new to my blog, you may not be aware that my family and I never check a bag with an airline. Also, since I’m down to the last 9 states, there will be no more driving to a half marathon for me. I’ve already driven to all of ones that are within driving distance from my house and I’m not into cross-country driving before a half marathon.

I’ve always been able to condense all of my running gear except for my shoes, which I always wear on the airplane to the race, into a medium-sized packing cube. Almost always I’ll be running once or twice before the race as well, so I’ll also pack another running shirt, sports bra, socks, and shorts or other weather-appropriate bottoms in the cube.

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What exactly is in my running packing cube specifically for a half marathon?

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1. I always pack at least one sports bra and pair of socks, regardless of the weather and time of year. I learned the hard way at my half marathon in Missoula, Montana to pack a long-sleeve shirt and capris or pants even if it’s July and you think there’s no way you’ll need to wear anything but shorts and short-sleeves if you’re headed somewhere north of where you live. I consider these things my basics. I’ve been buying Zensah sports bras lately and really like them so I’m packing one of those for my next race. For socks, I’m packing Zensah Grit socks. My shirt is a short-sleeve from Arctic Cool that I reviewed and you can read that here if you’d like. My shorts are from Under Armour. The shorts and shirt obviously would be different if I was headed to a cooler race.

2. I always pack my running watch and charger. I’ve had multiple Garmins and more recently a TomTom over the years, but this is one piece of gear that’s always gone with me to my races.

3. I always pack sunglasses and a running hat. I’ll decide on the morning of the race if I actually wear the sunglasses and hat, depending on how sunny/hot/cold it is going to be.

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All my running gear neatly packed in a medium-sized packing cube

4. In more recent years I’ve started running races with my Nathan running belt. It’s got holders for two bottles, which I like better than ones that have a spot for one big bottle. I run all my races fueled by Nuun carried by me and have found that just works better for me. No surprises on what you’re going to get at aid stations, and if it’s going to settle well with you, and even better, no slowing down at aid stations to grab a cup and try to not slosh it all over yourself while still swallowing a few drops. Speaking of fuel, I also like Honey Stinger waffles. I have a finicky stomach on race day but I usually don’t have a hard time getting these down.

5. Also in more recent years, I’ve been running races with my phone and armband. After one race where the finish was an absolute mad house and I had trouble finding my husband and daughter because there were so many people (even though we agreed to meet in a specific spot ahead of time), I started just running with my phone for all races.

6. I always wear my running shoes to races where I have to fly to, so those don’t go in my packing cubes. My latest pair for long runs is the Newton Fate II, which you can buy directly from Newton here and I see currently they’re on sale. It looks like the Fate III’s are out now. Not sure if I’ll stick with Newton or switch brands. I’m debating switching brands just to mix things up.

7. I also have two things for after a race. The first one is compression socks. These are fantastic for long flights, whether or not you’re running a race. When you’re on a long flight, the blood in your legs tends to pool unless you get up and walk around the plane a lot, so compression socks help with circulation in your legs. I personally like ones from Zensah and you can buy them here. The rule of thumb when it comes to compression products is if they’re easy to put on and pull off, they’re not tight enough. These things should be difficult to put on and feel like a bit of a struggle, but in the end it’s worth it.

The second thing I have for after a race is new to me, but one I’m very excited about. I’ve just discovered Oofos sandals (thank you, Paula!) and couldn’t be more excited about a pair of sandals. If you haven’t discovered Oofos yet, they’re supposed to be great for recovery after running or just being on your feet all day. You can tell they’re supremely different than most other flip-flop type sandals the second you put them on. The support they give to your feet is incredible. I can see why they’re so popular with runners.

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I’m normally not a big fan of photos of people’s feet but I felt like my new Oofos deserved a photo!

So that’s everything. I feel like I’ve packed a bag for a half marathon so many times by now I barely even have to think about what I need to bring. It does make it a bit less stressful when packing at least.

Also, I have an affiliate link through ebags for $30 off your next order if you sign up for emails here.  I don’t often pass along links for ebags on my blog, but if you follow me on twitter @runningtotravel, I’ll sometimes post links there for discounts when they come along. I love their stuff, but I don’t want to seem like I’m too pushy (I wouldn’t be a very good salesperson).

What running gear or clothes do you all really like for half marathons or marathons? Any recommendations?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

What I’m Thankful for in 2017

Normally I don’t do this kind of post, but this year, I was feeling especially thankful, and with it being Thanksgiving in the US, it seemed appropriate. I feel like so much happened in 2017 that helped me grow as a person. I’ve always felt like we Americans often take our privileged lives for granted and I have tried to not fall into that trap. My mother was a single mother who raised my brother and me by herself once my parents divorced when I was 8 years old and my brother was 12. We were poor by most people’s standards in the US, but once I was older and visited countries outside the US, I saw how lucky we really had it. At least we had a roof over our heads and running water, which is more than many people especially in less developed countries can say.

Now my husband, daughter, and myself are able to travel considerably, especially by American standards and I appreciate this deeply. This year we began our travels for the year in Utah, where I ran the Dogtown Half Marathon, my 39th state for a half marathon. I feel extremely fortunate I’m not only healthy and strong enough to run half marathons, but also that I’ve been able to continue this journey of running a half marathon in all 50 states as long as I have. I ran the Superhero Half Marathon in New Jersey for my 40th state in May and honestly I was thankful just to finish that one because it was so tough!

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After the Dogtown Half Marathon in Utah

In June of this year, my family and I was fortunate enough to visit the beautiful country of Chile. This was our first visit to South America, and we thought we would be fine with our limited knowledge of Spanish. Although we struggled to communicate with the people many times, we did figure things out and we found out we were resilient. In the end, we were thankful we were able to visit Chile and see all of the amazing things we saw including the Andes Mountains, which are even more beautiful in person than I thought they would be.

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This little fox in Chile was so friendly!

I’m also thankful that I’ve been able to change my running gait, and get back to the stride I used to have years ago. You can read about my journey for that here. It was difficult and took many months to do the exercises necessary to strengthen my glutes and hips, along with just the focused effort of not hyperextending my right leg when I was running, but I was able to do it.

I think my change in running gait is part of the reason I had such a fun race at the Marshall University Half Marathon in Huntington, West Virginia in November. After difficult races in Utah and New Jersey, I needed the mental boost I got from the race in West Virginia. I realize not every race will be a PR, especially when you’re in your 40’s like I am, so you take all the “wins” you can get when you’re my age!

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After the Marshall University Half Marathon in West Virginia

I’m also thankful for all of the friends I’ve made from the blogging community. I’ve learned so much from reading other blogs and from the comments I’ve gotten from others. If I would have known blogging can be so much fun, I would have started a blog years ago!

Most of all, I’m thankful for my husband and daughter. They’re my travel companions, my hill-running companion (my daughter), my friends, and most of all my family. They love and support me unconditionally even when they’re not too happy with me. I know I can always depend on them no matter what and honestly I can’t say that about anyone else in the world.

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Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the US (I know no one else cares)! Even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving you can still be thankful. What are you all most thankful for?

Donna