Fall has just barely started and already there are less daylight hours. We haven’t even turned the clocks back yet, either! It won’t be long when it will be dark both in the morning and early in the evening so there will be no escaping running in the dark unless you’re lucky enough to be able to run in the middle of the day.
With today’s technology there are many things you can do to stay safe on the road when it’s dark. Here are some of my top tips and specific products for running safely in the dark.
Wear reflective gear and lights. There are at least dozens of different kinds of lights alone that you can wear. Some of my favorites include NoxGear and this vest I got from Amazon:
Although I don’t own any myself, I’ve been told Oiselle has some super-reflective running gear. It’s best to place lights and reflective gear on both your front and back and focus on your head, arms, and ankles since these areas move the most when you’re running and are more likely to alert drivers. Blinking lights are also great for helping get the attention of drivers who may be drowsy if it’s early in the morning or if they’re distracted by their phone. Don’t forget to wear a light that not only lights your body up but also one that illuminates your path so you can see where you’re running.
2. Let others know where you’ll be running if you can’t run with someone else. There are many good apps for letting a family member or close friend track you by GPS when you’re running. Strava recently made Beacon, their version of this free; it was previously only available for those on the premium plan. Some Garmin watches also have this feature that allows others to follow your running route in real time. You can also always just go old-school and tell someone where and when you’ll be running and what time you expect to be home.
3. Choose your route wisely. If there are no street lamps where you run it will be considerably darker, even with car lights going by. The safest place to run is on the sidewalk but if you have to run in the road make sure you’re running facing traffic, never with your back to oncoming cars. I cringe every time I see someone running or walking in the road with their back to oncoming cars.
4. Be aware of your surroundings. If your wear headphones that go over or in your ear, leave one ear open so you can still hear around you. I love AfterShokz, which are bone-conducting headphones, which means I can hear both my music or podcast and my surroundings at the same time. They were truly life-changing for me as a female runner who is hyper-alert to my surroundings but still likes to listen to podcasts and music when I’m running.
Also, don’t assume a driver sees you, especially if they’re making a right-hand turn. I’ve seen so many drivers not even turn to look my way on their left when they were making this turn. It’s scary to think about how many people have been hit by drivers this way. I always assume the other person doesn’t see me and will go out of my way to avoid getting in their direct path.
5. Be prepared to protect yourself if necessary. This tip isn’t just for running in the dark but any time. There are multiple ways to protect yourself in the event someone approaches you and you need a form of self defense. Pepper spray is readily available at many running and outdoor supply stores, as are small alarm devices. You can also look up self defense classes in your area. It’s always a good idea to learn some prevention techniques, how to spot dangers, and gain self confidence.
That’s about all I have on safety tips. What about you- do you have a tip I missed?
I grew up hiking in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia and as an adult I’ve hiked all over the United States from Maine to California and most places in-between. In Europe, I’ve hiked in the Spanish Canary Islands, Austria, Germany, and Greece, to name a few countries. Although there hasn’t been that much hiking in the various Caribbean islands I’ve been to, where there were mountains or even trails in natural parks or preserves, I’ve hiked them. Hiking in New Zealand probably afforded some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen just because it’s one of the most beautiful countries I’ve seen. In South America, I’ve hiked in Chile and Peru, which were also amazing places to hike and left me with an urge to go back and see more.
I know many people have done much more intense hiking than I have, just as others have done hardly any or no hiking in their lives. What I’d like to discuss here is more for beginners because I feel like that’s the group that I’d like to persuade. I understand for people that have never been hiking or maybe only gone once or twice, it may seem a bit daunting to go out on a several hour hike in the woods. I’ll cover things to do before you ever leave your house to go on a hike so you feel completely prepared and actually look forward to the amazing views you’ll see on your hike.
First off, choose a place to hike. This can be a state park near where you live, a national park you have plans to visit, or a place you’re going to visit soon on vacation. If you don’t want to hike up a mountain, there doesn’t even have to be a mountain in the area since many trails are along lakes, rivers, or other flat areas.
Once you have a place in mind, pull up the website for the area and see if they have a list of trails. I’ll give you an example to go on for better reference here. Say I’d like to go to Arches National Park in Utah (which I really would like to visit someday). Go to the U.S. National Park Service website for Arches National Park, then click on “Plan Your Visit” then “Things to Do” then “Hiking.” Under the hiking section, you will see all of the trails at the park, listed from easy, moderate, to difficult. There are trail names, round-trip distance, elevation and estimated time to complete, and descriptions. These descriptions are thorough and accurate so if it says a trail is difficult, you should believe it is and not go out there if you’ve never hiked in your life, even if you are in good shape physically.
Just like runners gradually increase the distance ran, hikers should do the same and gradually increase in intensity and distance covered. Choose easy hiking trails to begin with and as you become more comfortable over time, work up to moderate and eventually more difficult trails. Remember that distance isn’t the only factor in the trail rating system. How quickly the trail increases in elevation and the general condition of the trail are also factors in rating a trail (if there are large areas of loose rocks going downhill especially, a trail would be rated as more difficult for example).
OK. So you have a trail or maybe even a couple of trails in the same park in mind and you’re ready to head out for a couple of hours to go hiking. Now what? First, check the weather for the day. Really, you should do this a day or so before you plan on going hiking. If there’s a good chance of thunderstorms you definitely shouldn’t be hiking in that. If there has been rain recently in the area, you should know that many trails will be muddy and slippery. That may be fine if you’re an experienced hiker but if you’re new, you probably shouldn’t go out under those conditions.
Next you need to pack a backpack to bring along on your hike. Here are some things you should always pack for a day hike:
fully-charged cell phone (download the area in Google Maps before you go out so you have it offline)
small first aid kit (that includes matches or a lighter)
printed map of the trail if possible for a back-up
bear spray if there are bears in the area or pepper spray
Also, familiarize yourself with the area you will be exploring as best as you can beforehand. If you are going to an area where flash floods are a possibility, you should be prepared for that and know what to do should one happen. Websites are great but speaking to a park ranger when you get to the park is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the park. Ask specifically about trails you were planning on hiking but also ask about other areas of the park.
Make sure you wear proper footwear for hiking. Many times I’ve been amazed at how many women wear flip flops and dressy sandals on trails. With so many great hiking shoes available now, there’s just no excuse for not wearing appropriate shoes on a trail. I personally like Merrell’s hiking shoes because they’re fairly light-weight, comfortable, have great traction and they’re not bulky like traditional hiking boots. While plenty of people go hiking in regular athletic shoes/running shoes/tennis shoes or whatever else you want to call them, they just don’t have as good of traction as hiking shoes unless they’re specifically trail running shoes, which would of course be fine for hiking.
You should also be appropriately dressed for your hike. This will be dictated partly by weather conditions, but you’ll be more comfortable if you wear “wicking” fabrics basically made to speed-up the evaporation of sweat from your clothes. Cotton, by the way, does not do this but actually holds moisture in the fabric. While it may sound crazy to some people, merino wool socks are great year-round (not just when it’s cold outside) as they are great at quickly evaporating moisture. A hat and sunglasses are also good for sunny days. Long pants will of course protect your legs better than shorts if it’s not too hot for pants. Layers are always a great idea especially if you’ll be going up in elevation since it’s cooler at the top of a mountain than at the bottom.
It’s a good idea to let others know where you’ll be especially if you’ll be in a more remote area, so let someone else that won’t be hiking with you know where you’ll be hiking and what time you will be on trail. Likewise, after you return, send them a quick message so they know you’re no longer hiking. Some parks also request that you sign in at a trailhead.
Sometimes a permit is required to hike a certain area. Check online as soon as you know you will be hiking in a particular area to see if you need a permit because some permits are only available during a certain time frame. There will be a link on the website for permits if they are necessary. Usually this is for longer, overnight hikes but some places do this to limit the number of hikers per day.
Keep your distance when (if) you see wildlife. If you come across a bear, moose, elk, or even deer and you’re pretty sure it doesn’t see you, slowly and quietly back away (facing the animal so you can still see it) the way you came until you’re well away from the area. What ever you do, don’t run! The animal will think you’re prey and chase you. If a mother has her babies near-by, she will be extremely protective of them and will be willing to fight you to the death. There’s a trail near where I work and several years ago a runner came upon a mama deer and her babies and made the mistake of approaching them. The woman was kicked in the face by the deer and was so badly beaten up that she looked like she had been in a boxing fight.
Finally, if you want to go hiking in a new place and want to take along your dog, make sure dogs are allowed first. Some places allow dogs on specific trails but not others and other places don’t allow dogs at all. Be extremely cautious about letting your dog off-leash on a trail even if you do it all the time near your home; you certainly don’t want to lose your dog in a huge park and/or a place you’re not familiar with.
Do you like to go hiking? Did I leave any other important information out? If you don’t like hiking, I’d be curious to know what you don’t like about it. If you have any questions for me about hiking, I’d be glad to answer them.
I have two lab-mix rescue dogs that are the sweetest dogs in the world. I also love to travel. Since my family and I miss our dogs when we travel, whenever possible, we’ll bring our two dogs with us when we go on a road trip. They’re way too big to fit in a carrier under an airplane seat and I would be terrified to put them in the cargo section, so they’ve never flown. Plus, the price for bringing them along for a 2 or 3 week vacation would be outrageous and silly. So I’m just going to talk about bringing your dogs along with you on road trips.
Before you ever leave your house, you’ll want to pack several things for your dog. Here’s a packing list of things that I bring:
1 bowl for water, 2 bowls for food (they can share water but not food)
I don’t bring a dog bed (or in my case two dog beds). Beds for large dogs take up a ton of space. My dogs can “rough it” for the time they’re away from home and just sleep on the floor.
I always check Airbnb for dog-friendly places but I also check BringFido for dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and activities. One really nice feature about BringFido is when you type in an area and look at hotels, you can see at a glance if there’s a pet fee, if big dogs are allowed, and if there’s a limit on number of dogs. You can also choose which site you want to book through, like Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, or directly through BringFido. You can also see BringFido Traveler Ratings, as well as TripAdvisor Traveler Ratings. A similar website that I haven’t personally used is Official Pet Hotels.
You don’t want to feed your dog a full meal then have them go on a long car ride so keep feeding to a minimum until you get to your final destination. The same goes for water, though you can offer them small amounts of water along the way if you’re traveling during hot summer months or driving a long way.
When you stop for gas, have someone else walk the dog to stretch their legs and let them go to the bathroom.
Make sure your dog has an identification tag with current information.
If you need to stop along the way for a meal, just remember you either have to stop at a place you know for sure is dog-friendly or you’ll be limited to drive-thru. Leaving the dog in the car while you go inside for a sit-down meal is not an option.
Be sure your dog doesn’t get car-sick by taking them on a short ride (or even a couple of short rides) before you plan a longer road trip. The last thing you want is to have to clean up dog vomit when you have a 4 hour drive planned and are only 30 minutes into the trip.
Although I don’t personally have any, a car seat tether or car harness is a great idea especially if you have a dog that wants to move around in the car.
When you reach your hotel or Airbnb house/apartment you’ll want to make sure your dog uses the bathroom before entering your accommodations. If they get muddy paws on the way in, here’s where your dog towel will come in handy, so you can wipe off their feet and not leave muddy tracks all over the place. Help them get settled by getting their food and water as well. They’ll want to sniff and check out the place and you can let them know that’s OK, but keep an eye on them.
If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure the front desk has your cell phone number so they can call you if your dog is barking or there’s another issue while you’re away. This should all be done at check-in when you make it clear you’re traveling with a dog. At many places, even dog-friendly ones, if you omit the fact that you’re traveling with a dog, you can be charged a hefty fee for not being up-front with them.
Also, even if your dog doesn’t bark much at home, they sometimes hear other dogs or people in the hotel and bark more because it’s a strange environment to them. Fortunately I’ve never had anyone complain about our dogs barking and the front desk has never had to call, but you never know.
Your dog will need to be walked during your vacation, so make sure you factor that time in when planning things to do. This may mean stopping whatever you’re doing mid-day and going back to your hotel to walk the dog, but that’s just part of being a good dog owner. If you know your dog can make it through say five hours without having to be let out at home, then you can plan for four hours away on vacation with them to be on the safe side.
Traveling with dogs is a bit like traveling with children. As long as you come prepared and bring the right supplies along with some patience and understanding for their needs, you’ll be glad you brought them. While our dogs have a wonderful dog sitter that they love when we fly somewhere, I know they’re happiest when they’re with us, their family so we bring them along when we can.
Do you have a dog that you travel with? Do you have any advice for others traveling with their dog? Anything I left out here?
For 2018 I was chosen to be a brand ambassador for nuun hydration, Honeystinger, and Zensah. My first experience as an ambassador was with nuun in 2017. Honestly, when I applied to be an ambassador the end of 2016, I didn’t fully understand what being a brand ambassador entailed, hence my post “I’m an Ambassador- Now What?”
Yes, I was naive when it came to being a brand ambassador and I’m sure I still am in many ways to be honest. Many of you that follow me have been brand ambassadors for many companies much longer than I have. By no stretch of the imagination do I mean to pretend to be an expert on all things related to being a brand ambassador.
What I would like is to tell my story and what I’ve experienced as a brand ambassador because not everyone knows about being a brand ambassador. I should also state that I’m talking about brand ambassadors that don’t get paid, as opposed to event marketers, who are basically brand ambassadors who get paid and usually travel around promoting a product or brand. Side note- technically it’s “brand advocate,” meaning you don’t get paid and “brand ambassadors” are paid, but honestly, most companies use the term brand ambassador when you’re not paid so that’s what I’m going with here.
When I first began to pay attention and noticed that many fellow bloggers were ambassadors for different companies, I questioned what that really meant. I googled “ambassador” for “x product” and pretty quickly realized it meant these people are representatives for companies to help promote their products. In return, the average person gets discounts, often an invitation to a private Facebook page, sometimes webinars and other free advice and information, free or discounted race entries, and entries to win products.
So what should you do if you want to be an ambassador for a particular company? Google the company name and ambassador and see if the company has an ambassador program. I suggest choosing products you already know and love, so you can fully promote the product in an honest way.
Many companies ask you to complete an application online to request to become an ambassador and this is often done at the end of the year for the following year, but some have “rolling” applications where they take applications throughout the year. This will usually be stated on the webpage you find after doing a google search as stated above.
When you fill out the application, you can expect to provide links to your social media pages such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and any webpages or blogs you have. There are also usually questions about how you plan to promote the product, what you love about their products, and lifestyle questions like your favorite forms of activities and interests. Once you submit your application you can expect to hear back within a month if you’re accepted into the ambassador program (usually within a couple of weeks). If you don’t get a response, you can safely assume you weren’t chosen to be an ambassador.
Once you’re accepted into the ambassador program, you’ll get links and/or codes to buy their products at a discount and often you can join their private Facebook page, as mentioned above. You will also be sent logos that you can download and put on your blog and post to social media. Sometimes there are no minimum requirements for how often or where you post to social media about the product, but sometimes there are. This should all be spelled out clearly in the application so you know what is expected of you.
Throughout the year, you can connect with fellow ambassadors either in your geographical or online community. Think of it as growing your connections. The idea is since you’re all passionate (well, maybe that’s too strong of a word, so let’s say enthusiastic) about the product you’re helping to promote, you already have something in common with these people. You can expect to get support and encouragement from fellow runners, for example, if you’re an ambassador for a running-related product.
Besides running-related companies that primarily sell one main general product (say socks such as with Balega), you can also be a brand ambassador for races and running stores such as Fleet Feet. By no means are product ambassadors limited to running-related companies, however. You can also be an ambassador for Target, Starbuck’s, credit card companies, office supply stores, and the list goes on. Obviously the more followers you have on social media platforms, the more likely you are to land a brand ambassadorship. For example, some companies require you have a minimum of 5000 Instagram followers.
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).
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.
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.
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?
I first heard about this book through the Another Mother Runner podcast several months ago but I only recently borrowed it from the library. Why the long wait? Honestly, I just didn’t really think it could be that good. I’ve read other books written by female athletes, although not a ton, but I just wasn’t that inspired by them. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t anything special either.
“Roar” is not only a book for female runners but for female athletes in general and I can honestly say it’s one of the best books for women that I’ve read. Dr. Sims is not only a nutrition scientist and exercise physiologist but also an athlete herself. One quote I really like from the book is “You are not a small man. Stop eating and training like one.” This sums up the book well.
There are 17 chapters in “Roar,” covering everything from pregnancy to menopause to the female digestive tract, although there is some redundancy in places, but I found the book to be laid out well and easy to follow. “Roar” is filled with scientific information and while I’m a scientist and may be a bit biased, I thought it wasn’t too scientific for most non-scientists to follow. I also liked the “Roar Sound Bites,” brief summaries at the end of each chapter.
Not only does Dr. Sims lay it all out there for women by explaining how hormones effect athletic performance, she gives advice on how to control hormonal effects on our bodies. For example, women should take in protein high in leucine before exercise and within 30 minutes of exercising to help maintain muscle when hormone levels are high. One thing I learned about myself is I need to be consuming even more protein than I previously thought. Dr. Sims recommends 1 gram of protein per pound per day for athletic women (this is much more than is recommended for non-athletic women).
Dr. Sims also has examples of daily diets for athletes of all kinds including triathletes, cyclists, and runners. She sometimes will give comparisons of their current diet vs. what Dr. Sims recommends they eat. There are also exercises with photos that take up two chapters of the book that she recommends for female athletes. A not-so-fun fact is that women who don’t strength train lose at least 3% muscle mass per decade after age 30.
There are also of course large chunks of the books devoted to diets, sports-specific fueling, and hydration. In addition to specific examples of recommended daily diets for athletes, there are recipes for snacks. Not surprisingly, women’s hydration needs are different from men’s because of hormones. One interesting tidbit is that Dr. Sims partnered with nuun hydration to help re-formulate nuun performance hydration powder in 2016; the partnership was announced shortly after “Roar” hit the publication stands but there are no references to any of this in the book.
There are also sections on how women can deal with extreme temperatures and high elevation including specific ways to cope and a section on recovery after a hard workout. One interesting point is that when men take an ice bath, they can start shivering and get microspasms in their already-fatigued muscles, which leads to more soreness and stalled recovery. Women, however, need help speeding up vasoconstriction after a hard workout, so women can still benefit from ice baths.
The chapter on supplements was interesting to me because it’s part of what my field of study has included for my job. Many women may be surprised to read that the only recommended supplements mentioned in the book include iron, vitamin D, and magnesium. Calcium and antioxidants such as vitamin C are not recommended and in fact can be harmful. Dr. Sims’ opinion on supplements is in agreement with what I’ve also read from other scientists but this information doesn’t seem to have trickled down to the mainstream yet.
Finally, the last couple of chapters are about how men’s and women’s brains are different and how we can use this information. For example, women tend to have a greater ability for social interaction so we would benefit from things like group runs or cycling sessions. Also, positive thinking and mindfulness can be especially important for women who often need help in these areas. The final chapter is about biohacking (looking inside your physiology) and discusses everything from pee sticks to blood testing to the simple but often overlooked question, “How do I feel?”
As I said earlier, I feel like “Roar” is one of the best books geared towards female athletes that I’ve read, and I do recommend picking up a copy. I read a review on Amazon that this book isn’t for the average athlete, but is more for elite athletes, and I disagree. I’m by no means an elite athlete and there was plenty I could take away from this book. OK, now I need to go eat more protein!
Have any of you read “Roar?” If so, what did you think? Are any of you intrigued about the book now and would like to check it out? You can see if you public library has it or Amazon has it for sale here.
For those of you that consider yourselves world travelers and stay at properties through Airbnb all the time, you may think everyone else also uses Airbnb all the time. Lately I’ve discovered more and more people who have never stayed anywhere with Airbnb. While I don’t consider myself an expert, I have stayed at multiple properties around the world and would like to hopefully shed some light on the company for newbies.
Since Airbnb was founded in 2008 it has grown to include over 3 million properties worldwide and over 200 million people have stayed at an Airbnb property. Airbnb is in over 191 countries and is constantly expanding. From what I’ve been told by people who have never stayed at an Airbnb property, there seem to be some common myths or misconceptions.
First misconception: it’s easier to just stay at a hotel. Truth: it’s just as easy to make reservations through Airbnb as it is with a hotel. Simply go online, put in your destination and dates and see what’s available. You can even tailor your inquiry with specific requests but more on that later.
Second misconception: I’ll be staying at someone else’s house. That would be weird and uncomfortable to me. Truth: you have the option of choosing the entire property (house, apartment, condo for example), a shared space, or a private room in someone’s house. Some options work better for some people than others.
Third misconception: wouldn’t it be cleaner to stay at a hotel than through Airbnb? Truth: Airbnb owners thoroughly clean their properties (most pay for a cleaning service rather than cleaning the place themselves), just as a hotel would. I’ve found just with hotels, you get what you pay for. If you go for the cheapest property on Airbnb, it’s not likely to be nearly as clean or in as good of overall shape as a more expensive property.
Fourth misconception: it costs more to stay somewhere with Airbnb than to stay at a hotel. Truth: sometimes it can be cheaper to stay at an Airbnb property than to stay at a hotel. I always check both and compare my options.
Fifth misconception: the host is only there to take your money and won’t be available to help you if you have questions or problems during your stay. Truth: in my experience, the hosts have always gone out of their way to help make me feel comfortable, offering advice on things to do in the area, places to eat, etc. One time the heat wasn’t working where I was staying and I sent a message to the host through Airbnb, and she responded within a few minutes, with step-by-step information how to turn on the heat (I was in another country and the system wasn’t one I had ever used before). She followed up several times after that to make sure everything was OK.
Now that we’ve cleared up the most common misconceptions, let’s move on to actually making a reservation. The first step of course is to go to the website, Airbnb.com. You should see choices for “Homes,” “Experiences,” and “Restaurants.” Choosing “Restaurants” allows you to make reservations at restaurants throughout the US. The “Experiences” option includes a plethora of options that basically put you in-touch with someone from the local area to do anything from go hiking, biking, surfing, wine tastings, cooking lessons, and the list goes on and on. “Homes” is just what it sounds like and includes single-family homes, apartments, cabins, and even camping sites.
Let’s start simple and choose “Homes” first. Then put in dates, how many guests, and room type to start. You can fine-tune your search by putting in minimum and/or maximum rates per night and selecting from the list of options under the “More filters” button at the top. If you’d like to bring your well-behaved dog along with you, choose the Pets allowed option. If you really want a swimming pool, check pool under Facilities options. Just know that the more filters you check, the fewer your options will be. I suggest only choosing filters that are extremely important to you, or your dream property might not show up because of something you checked that really wasn’t a big deal to you.
There is also an option for “Instant book,” which means you don’t have to get approval from the host before booking. I don’t usually check this, but it is an option. If you’re not sure where you want to stay, you can also search using the map and zoom in and out of areas around the world. You may also notice some hosts are listed as “Superhost.” This means the person hosted at least 10 trips, has a 90% response rate or greater, has 5-star reviews the majority of the time, and didn’t cancel reservations that were confirmed.
Finally, to give you a little peace of mind, if there is a problem during your stay that you can’t work out with your host, you can contact Airbnb to have them help you resolve the problem.
For those of you that are now convinced they should join the millions of other people who have used Airbnb, I have a little incentive for you. If you use the following code, you’ll get $40 towards your first rental and I’ll get $20 in travel credit after you travel. This is only for first-time Airbnb users.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
I guess if you travel enough, you’ll inevitably end up sick or injured during your vacation. Over the years, I’ve been sick or injured or someone in my family has been and I’d like to hope I’ve learned a thing or two about what to do. There are of course some things you can do to prevent getting sick or injured but sometimes things just go wrong and there’s not a single thing you could have done to have prevented it.
One of the most memorable examples was when my husband and I were in Costa Rica many years ago and toward the end of our vacation we decided to take one of the resort’s ocean kayaks out for a paddle. We were having a grand time when suddenly the tide changed and our kayak began to get pushed into the nearby coral reef. After being thrown out of the kayak we were tossed around by the waves and struggled just to hold onto the kayak. Neither of us were wearing water shoes or any shoes at all and both of us got some deep cuts on our feet from the coral.
Suddenly my husband screamed out in agony and let go of the kayak. I held onto the kayak and fought against the churning waves to get back to shore as my husband told me what happened. He felt a sharp pain in the heel of his foot and thought he might have stepped on something other than coral. His foot was gushing with blood and he said he was beginning to see stars. We knew we had to get back to our resort quickly and hoped there was someone that could help us.
Fortunately the resort had an on-site doctor and nurse so we immediately made our way there. Although the doctor spoke no English, the nurse spoke a little English so along with my limited Spanish we were able to communicate. The nurse told me the doctor suspected my husband stepped on the barb of a stingray and she said the poison released is typically very painful. They administered morphine to my husband for the pain and cleaned up both his and my cuts from the coral. The lesson from all of this? Wear water shoes when ocean kayaking where there is coral? Sure, that would have helped. Make sure you know the language of the country where you’re going on vacation? Well, that certainly was helpful but maybe more importantly, make sure your health insurance covers you when you’re away from home. Call your health insurance company before you go out of town, even if it’s just to another state within the United States, to make sure you will have coverage if you’re injured or hurt. Ask what your limitations are as well. Fortunately for us my husband’s health insurance paid for all of the charges for this.
Depending on your personal health insurance plan, or lack thereof, you might want to purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance is more than just health insurance; your airfare, hotel, baggage fees, and other travel-related expenses will also be covered in the event of an emergency, with varying levels of coverage depending on the plan you purchase. I know a lot of people that travel internationally are big fans of Travel Guard, an American travel insurance company. They provide three levels of coverage called Silver, Gold, and Platinum Plans.
Several years ago my husband, daughter, and I were going on vacation to Hawaii with my in-laws who were older and in poor health and I purchased travel insurance in advance of this trip. This was a two-week expensive vacation and I didn’t want to potentially lose all of the money spent on our airfare and other costs if one or both of my husband’s parents fell ill and we had to cancel the vacation. The money I spent on travel insurance gave me peace of mind so I didn’t have to worry about cancellation fees, so it was money well-spent, although fortunately no one had to cancel the vacation.
A good thing to do before you travel internationally is to check online to see if you need any specific vaccinations. The CDC website is a good source for recommendations in each country. Some vaccines require multiple shots spread out over time, so do this in the early stages of planning your vacation. I’ve heard some people say they just asked their doctor what shots they needed before traveling to a specific place, only to be told, “Oh you don’t need anything to go there,” which was incorrect information, so always check online to be sure. Depending on where you’re going you might want to get hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines to protect against contaminated food or water.
If malaria is a risk where you’ll be traveling, you can take a prescription medication before and during your trip. When you arrive at your destination be sure to cover up exposed skin and use insect repellent with DEET to protect against mosquitoes.
Not drinking the tap water is easy enough but there are some additional steps you need to do to avoid getting diarrhea from the local water. Only drink bottled water that you personally open yourself. Don’t worry about seeming rude by refusing water from a bottle that is already opened. Your health is more important. Also don’t eat any uncooked vegetables or fruit that have been freshly washed, including salads. Finally don’t forget to skip the ice cubes in drinks.
In the event you do end up with “Montezuma’s Revenge,” despite all your best intentions there are things you can do to feel better faster. Pack some Immodium in your carry-on so you don’t have to worry about finding a pharmacy when you can barely get off the toilet. Activated charcoal tablets can be taken for gas from GI distress and can be found at most major drug stores as well.
I also like to pack pain reliever such as ibuprofen, allergy pills, band-aids, and even a thermometer is good to have if you’re traveling. Most of these things can easily be purchased at drug stores in the US, but if you’re overseas it might not be so easy to buy them, especially if the language is different and the packaging won’t be in English. Also, it’s much easier to just pull out the needed medication from your carry-on bag than find a pharmacy and buy the medicine then get back to your hotel to take the medicine and rest. When we were in Oregon, our daughter was so sick with a cold she was vomiting phlegm. I had forgotten to pack some tested and true Mucinex so we had to schlep to a drug store to buy some for her. After that she began to feel much better but it would have been so much easier and quicker if we would have already had it with us.
Over the years I’ve also experienced food poisoning, migraines, bizarre rashes, and cuts and blisters but thankfully nothing life-threatening. Sickness and injuries are bound to happen at some point when you’re traveling but there are some things you can do ahead of time to give you peace of mind and you can arm yourself with a few things that will make you feel better quicker.
What about you all- have any tips or stories to share?