2014 runDisney Disneyland Half Marathon, Part II Dumbo Double Dare

At the start of the half

At the start of the half

The Disneyland Half marathon is hands down my favorite runDisney Half Marathon race (although the Tinker Bell Half Marathon is a very close second).  The Disneyland Half Marathon holds a special place in my heart for many reasons, but what made the 2014 running of the Disneyland Half so special was I would be earning my 50th runDisney medal (actually 50, 51 AND 52) at the completion of the half marathon.  Not only that, this race would also be my 30th half marathon.  Note:  Perfectly Goofy Gail earned HER 50th runDisney medal at the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon – coincidence? 

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For my 4th straight Disneyland Half and 2nd Dumbo Double Dare, I was excited to share the miles with some BRF’s – Sweaty Band Merle and Perfectly Goofy Gail. Gail and I were dressed as Dumbo the flying elephant – complete with his magic feather and the ring master. Merle’s costume was her Sweaty Band ;-)  Note:  I have a mission to get her into a costume.

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The Disneyland Half Marathon begins where both the 5K and 10K started days earlier on Disneyland Way.  We headed south past Disney’s Grand California Hotel and Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, turning left on West Katella Avenue and then another left onto South Harbor Boulevard. There we turned into Disney California Adventure for our 3+ magical miles through both Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Park.

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Our race plan was to “take it easy,” but Gail and I took off like jackrabbits pulling Merle along for the ride.  Thank goodness we planned on stopping at all the photo opportunities because we seriously needed a break to catch our breath!

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Even though the Disneyland Half Marathon spends the least amount of course time in a Disney park, it is still my favorite race because of what it offers outside the park. Yes, the course outside the park is unspectacular, however, the people of Anaheim and the community/cultural groups who come out and support the race ARE spectacular. As with previous years, there were school bands, school cheerleaders and dance teams, cultural dancers, and my favorite part – the vintage classic cars! The cars are grouped together, not only by type, but by decade.  Photo stops included a DeLorean, Herbie the Love Bug and even a hearse.

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Although many complain and see miles 4 through 12 as boring, I personally find they ‘fly by’ and remember them fondly.  My favorite part of the Disneyland Half Marathon, other than running through Sleeping Beauty Castle, is running through Angels Stadium. The stadium is located at 15K or 9.3 miles – where energy can be lacking.  Once you enter the stadium (watch the steep hill) the energy is electrifying. The stadium is filled with both Boy and Girl Scouts cheering you on as your round the bases!  New for 2014 – an announcer interviewing runners!  Gail & I took the opportunity to take an #Usie with him!

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Unfortunately, the fun of the Disneyland Half Marathon only lasts 13.1 miles and IMO is over too quickly. We soon headed towards the Disneyland Resort and on property to finish the race. After we collected our Disneyland Half medal (my 50th runDisney medal) we also collected our blue Coast to Coast medal (our 2nd of the year since we had collected our Pink Coast to Coast at the finish of the Princess Half Marathon Weekend).  We then picked up our 5th runDisney medal of the weekend – the Dumbo Double Dare.

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I thought the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon/Dumbo Double Dare was on-par with other Disneyland Half Marathons I have run (2011, 2012, 2013).  Course entertainment was stellar and there was a good assortment of photo stops:

  1. Green Army Men
  2. Mater and Lightning McQueen
  3. Firetruck
  4. Jake
  5. The Three Caballeros
  6. Lady Tremaine, Drizella, Anastasia and Prince Charming
  7. Darth Vader
  8. Maleficent
  9. Jafar and The Evil Queen
  10. Cruella de Vil and Dr. Facilier
  11. Big Thunder Ranch assorted animals

The runDisney volunteers were outstanding as usual.  The water stations were well stocked with happy and encouraging volunteers.  I also think the runDisney post-race recovery box is getting better with each race!  The tech race shirts were finally available in ladies sizes this year (YAY!!!!) and the colors and designs were pretty.  The medals and their ribbons consistent with the runDisney standards.  To me, it was a success and I cannot wait until 2015!  For a full video recap please see the link below:

What was your favorite part of the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon?  Are you coming back in 2015?

2014 runDisney Disneyland 10K, Dumbo Double Dare Part I

At the start of the 10K

At the start of the 10K

I really think the 10K is the perfect distance of a Disneyland Resort runDisney race.  It’s long enough for total immersion in the resort without having to venture too far out into the city streets of Anaheim.  This was the 2nd running of the Dumbo Double Dare and the Disneyland 10K.  This year I was running the race with Perfectly Goofy Gail, Photo-Bomb Rebecca and Pammy.  In 2013, the theme of the race was Alice in Wonderland.  Not thinking runDisney would change the theme, we decided to run as playing cards.  However, runDisney changed the theme of this year’s race to Stitch, but playing card costumes were made so playing cards we were!

One of the Elvis' on course

One of the Elvis’ on course

The 2014 course was exactly the same as the 2013 course.  However, this year the 5K was held on Friday instead of Saturday prior to the 10K.  This made for a much easier and less stressful morning for all – except those needing to take extra vacation time to #RUNALLTHERACES.

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The 10K course started on Disneyland Drive, continuing south until turning left on West Convention Way.  From there we ran past the Marriott and Hilton until turning left onto South Harbor Boulevard.  There we ran into the back stage area of Disney California Adventure.  We wound our way  through Paradise Pier, Condor Flats, Sunset Boulevard and down the tunnel under the bus parking into the gate of Disneyland Park.

Spectator sign - Downtown Disney

Spectator sign – Downtown Disney

From there we ran up Main Street USA and into Tomorrowland.  We ran around It’s a Small World to back stage and into Toontown, Fantasyland, Aventureland and Critter Country until we were once again in Downtown Disney and heading towards the finish.

10K Finisher wristband and Coast to Coast wristband

10K Finisher wristband and Coast to Coast wristband

After completing the race and being interview by runDisney for the video race recap, we added the 10K finisher wristband to our Coast to Coast wristband and grabbed our medal.  This Disneyland 10K medal was a beauty.  Although, I’m not the biggest Stitch fan, I do think it is one of the prettiest runDisney medals in my collection.

Race bib and medal

Race bib and medal

In my opinion, the second running of the Disneyland 10K/Dumbo Double Dare improved in some areas and lacked in others.

IMPROVEMENT:  I thought moving the 5K and having only one race (coupled with the Kids Races) was easier on the runDisney staff and the volunteers.  This year the water stops were ready and prepared for the racers.  The volunteers did not seem like they had survived an ambush like in 2013.  Note – this year the weather was on our side.  It was not as hot and humid as it had been in 2013. 

LACKLUSTER:  The course was great, however, I believe there weren’t as many character photo opportunities as in 2013.  I love, love, love me some Elvis, but I’m not running a race in DISNEYLAND to take a photo with ELVIS.  If I wanted to see Elvis I’d run at GRACELAND or VEGAS.  runDisney please listen up – we want DISNEY characters at runDisney events.  Please provide us with plentiful photo opportunities with characters that compliment the themeing of the race or the Disney Park which we run the event.

All in all – a fine, well-run event through Disneyland Resort, although a smidge disappointing if you were a veteran of the event.  For the complete video recap of our race please see the link below.

What did you think improved or was lacking at the 2014 Disneyland 10K?

2014 runDisney Disneyland Family 5K Race Report

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Photo credit: runDisney

There’s something really, really special about the runDisney Disneyland Family 5K’s.  In my humble opinion, I believe it is because you run the most park miles of any runDisney 5K in some of, if not, THE best Disney parks in the world.  The 2014 Disneyland Family 5K was my 3rd straight time running this race.  Running with me was my partner-in-crime, Perfectly Goofy Gail.

In Cars Land with Lightening McQueen

In Cars Land with Lightening McQueen

We had been working on our costumes for this race weekend for months and decided we were going to go #AllOut since we weren’t “really” going to “run” the 5K because it was a “fun run” and “not timed.”  We decided on the theme of our costumes based on the theme of the 2013 race – Alice in Wonderland.  Unfortunately, the theme was changed to Stitch for 2014, but since we were already committed to our costumes we kept the Alice in Wonderland theme with Perfectly Goofy Gail running as the Cheshire Cat and I as the Caterpillar (complete with hookah).

World of Color

World of Color

The Disneyland Family 5K course was not changed from 2013.  The race began heading south on Disneyland Drive.  From there we turned left into Disney California Adventure running into Cars Land and down Route 66.  Then we ran in front of Paradise Bay and The World of Color.  We then made our way past Grizzly Peak and Condor Flats turning left onto Carthay Circle and down Buena Vista Street out of the park and into Disneyland Park.

With Lilo

With Lilo

Once in Disneyland Park we made our way down Main Street USA and into the central hub.  From there we ran past Matterhorn Bobsleds turning left into Fantasyland and Frontierland.  We ran around Rivers of America into Critter Country.  Winding our way backstage, we ran until we were out of the park and into Downtown Disney.  This was the home stretch as we ran towards the Disneyland Hotel, turned right onto Downtown Drive and through to the finish line!

With Stitch

With Stitch

Here are the 2014 Disneyland 5K photo stops:

  1. Lightening McQueen
  2. Mater
  3. Mile 1 sign with Hula Girl
  4. World of Color
  5. Lilo
  6. Chip & Dale, Daisy Duck, Clarice
  7. Mile 2 sign
  8. Stitch with Hula Girl

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The Disneyland Family 5K race was great as always.  This is the perfect race to begin your runDisney obsession.  You’ll never get bored with the course entertainment.  And the race course itself cannot be beat because it stays within the Disneyland Resort!  A race belt is not needed because water is plentiful!  The water stops were well staffed with happy, cheerful volunteers.  And the medallion and personalized bib were delightful!  Yes, the Disneyland 5k is expensive for a 5K, but I believe it is totally worth the expense – a great 5k in a location that cannot be beat!!!

Here’s a video recap of the race and be sure to check out Run All The RacesWhat was your favorite part of the Disneyland 5K?

Race Report: Surftown Half Marathon

With Perfectly Goofy Gail before the start of Surftown Half

With Perfectly Goofy Gail before the start of Surftown Half

Hartford Marathon Foundation’s Surftown Half Marathon is quickly becoming one of my favorite races.  This was my second time running the course – I had run it last year.  In my opinion it’s a race that is 100% worth a drive to experience.  Please note a 5K race is also offered after the start of the half.

Prior to the start

Prior to the start – potty line…

Surftown Half Marathon takes place along the streets of Misquamicut Beach and Watch Hill, Rhode Island.  It offers beach and ocean views and a flat and fast course (except for 1 little hill at mile 10).

Napping...

Napping…

Joining me on my run of Surftown Half was my pal, Perfectly Goofy Gail, in town on business from Arizona.  We left my house, just outside of Hartford, Connecticut at 4:30am in order to get to packet pick up at 6am.  Since it was an hour and a half drive to the race, I wore my PR Soles to drive.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten to put my running shoes in the car!  It was a good thing I remember while still in town…

Race shoes!

Race shoes!

Traffic was non-existent and we made great time even stopping for gas.  We arrived a little after packet pick up opening.  We quickly picked up our number, tech shirt and bag.  We got to use the potties and then Gail & I settled in for a 45-minute nap prior to race start.

Starting line...

Starting line…

The races were both sold out.  The start-line was full of energy and the music kept us pumped.  The wheelchair athletes started racing first and soon we were off!  Having both run the day prior – Gail ran a Half Marathon and I ran a training run of 14-miles – our legs were a little tired.  We started off running 2-minutes and walking 30-seconds, but somewhere in mile 2 when we were run/walking a 9:27 mile we decided we did not have the energy to keep this pace and switched down to a 1 minute run and 30 second walk.  We managed to keep ourselves at a 11:11 pace the entire race.

Finishers of the Surftown Half Marathon

Finishers of the Surftown Half Marathon

We finished the race in 2:27.  No where near a PR, but not at all bad for racing on tired legs!  After our race, we decided to celebrate with a visit to Sloppy Waffle located on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington!

Sloppy Waffles

Sloppy Waffles

One of my favorite things about the Surftown Half is the surfboard medal.  I’m proud to add it to my collection.  I’m also a big fan of all the 2014 HMF tech shirts.  The techs are available in both men’s and ladies sizes and the designs have been exceptional this year.  I would highly recommend this race to those wanting a PR, a racecation or even a really cool medal!

33rd race of 2014 and my 31st half marathon

33rd race of 2014 and my 31st half marathon

Did you earn a Surftown Half surfboard?  Is this race on your #buck-list?

You’re Sure to Meet a Couple of “Characters” on the Course…

 

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

I experienced my first runDisney The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ 10-Miler Weekend last year. I completed both the Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ 10-Miler. I loved both races, not only for their courses and themeing, but for the variety of characters I encountered during each race.

Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run:
If you have ever experienced Mickey’s Not So Scarey Halloween Party, you’ll know the highlight is the parade opening featuring The Headless Horseman. In 2013, we experienced a similar surprise at the start of the Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run. Here are the characters I encountered in 2013.

The Big Bad Wolf

The Big Bad Wolf

 

Captain Hook

Captain Hook

Br'er Bear & Br'er Fox

Br’er Bear & Br’er Fox

Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John

Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John

Haunted Mansion Grave Diggers

Haunted Mansion Grave Diggers

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler:
Character photos during a night race can get a little tricky due to the low lighting.  Most of my photos did not come out.  So if you are “dying” to grab a photo with your favorite character, I would suggest waiting in line for the professional photographer.  Here are some of the characters we encountered in 2013:

  1.  Witch from Snow White
  2. Jafar
  3. Zombies
  4. Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas
  5. Queen of Hearts
  6. Dr. Facilier
  7. Shenzi, Banzai and Ed
  8. Stitch
  9. Wreck it Ralph

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What character stop is your MUST STOP SNAP for the 2014 race weekend?

National Parks: Exploring America as a Family – Part 3

Here’s another tip when exploring our National Parks:  journal, journal, journal every evening!  I took my laptop and tried to write down everything we saw each day, so when I finally wrote my blog entry and began to SCRAPBOOK, I would have all the details of my trip ready.  Here are day 7’s  highlights.

Day 7: 

Yes, the wolves are there...

Yes, the wolves are there…

Lamar Valley:  Woke up early and was out the door and on the road by 6:10am!  We saw bison, prawn horn deer and the highlight was 2 black wolves we saw in the distance with the help of a scope.

The Petrified Tree

The Petrified Tree

Petrified Tree:  Having been to the Petrified Forest it was a disappointment.

IMG_4990Mammoth Hot Springs:  We walked the Lower Terraces Area and drove the Upper Terrace Drive.  We spotted some Elk in the distance and were excited to cross them off our “must see” animal list….until we drove into town and we saw elk everywhere!!!  And I mean everywhere – laying in front of the buildings in the shade resting.

IMG_5005Roosevelt Arch:  We had to travel into Gardiner see the original park entrance.  We had our picnic lunch in its shadow.

IMG_5018Gardiner & Boiling Rivers:  We took a dip in the Gardiner River where the Boiling River flows into it.

IMG_4998Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel:  We had to stop in the historic hotel to take a peek at the Map Room and visit with a FaceBook friend who happens to work in the park!  We also had some exceptional ice cream.

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Blacktail Plateau Drive:  Took this 6-mile dirt road in order to see more wildlife.  We didn’t see anything except for a squirrel.

IMG_7603Tower Fall:  Enjoyed the short walk to the falls, but really enjoyed learning about the different rock layers that make up the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Have you traveled to any of these places?  What was your favorite part?

National Parks: Exploring America as a Family – Part 2

On the Beartooth Highway...

On the Beartooth Highway…

Here’s my #1 tip to remember when exploring our National Parks:  There is very little cellular service and WiFi in the parks so get over yourselves and DEAL WITH IT!  That being said, once I got over the cold turkey shakes, I ENJOYED not being connected.  I was not able to stay up-to-date with my posts while we traveled, but I did manage to take over 2,000 photos and journal!  Here’s the continuation of our trip across America – highlights of day 5 & 6!

#ElevatorSelfie down to Jewel Cave National Monument

#ElevatorSelfie down to Jewel Cave National Monument

Day 5:

Jewel Cave National Monument:  We took the 20-minute, 1-room tour included with our National Parks Annual Passport fee of $80 (per family for 1 year).  If you have time, I would suggest taking a longer tour because this 20-minute tour was a disappointment, but good enough for our family since we had already visited Wind Cave.

Lunch with a view of Devil's Tower National Monument

Lunch with a view of Devil’s Tower National Monument

Devil’s Tower National Monument:  One of my favorites because it is just TOO COOL!  Having grown up in the 70’s and having seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind Devil’s Tower National Monument is just TOO COOL!  I had visited here as a young child and again just TOO COOL!!  Did I mention that I think it is still wicked cool and takes my breath away!!!  We’ve visited Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland and Devil’s Post Pile National Monument in California and this volcanic columnar basalt takes the cake.  Next time I visit, I’m going to climb it.  #NewBucketListItem

Little Bighorn National Park - Last Stand Hill

Little Bighorn National Monument – Last Stand Hill

Little Bighorn National Monument:  The site of Custer’s last stand and epic battle.  Very moving.  Very sad.  SIGH.  I’m not even going to discuss driving through the Indian Reservation.

Inside KOA Camping Cabins

Inside KOA Camping Cabins

KOA Cabins:  Spending the night in a KOA in Red Lodge, Montana.  Clean cabin with electricity for only $67 per night.  Campground had clean shower rooms, pool, laundry, and best of all FREE WiFi.

Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Highway

Day 6:

The Beartooth All-American Road:  We took the 68-mile Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge, Montana into Yellowstone via the Northeast entrance.  The Beartooth is the highest elevation paved highway in the Northern Rocky Mountains.  It starts at 6400 feet in elevation and then the road rises to 10,947 feet in elevation at Beartooth Pass.  It ends in 7500 feet elevation in Cooke City, Montana.  We stopped at Rock Creek Vista Point for view of Rock Creek Canyon and Hellroaring Plateau, the International Summer ski/Snowboard Camp (at 10,737 feet) complete with groomer and lift, Top of the World Store and Crazy Creek Cascade.

Northeast entrance park sign

Northeast entrance park sign

Yellowstone National Park:  We entered the park via the Northeast Entrance and had a picnic lunch near Soda Butte Creek.

Fishing in Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park

Fishing in Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park

After lunch we decided to take a small hike up to Trout Lake to see the otters and fish.  Note – fishing licenses are required for adults and are $18 for 3 days (longer term licenses are available).   The hike to Trout Lake was only ½ mile, but it was steep and gave us a quick workout.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see an otters and the fish were not biting, but Jack & the kids enjoyed the experience and I got to enjoy the scenery and read a book.

Lamar Valley, bison

Lamar Valley, bison

Lamar Valley:  After fishing, we drove along the Lamar River and through the Lamar Valley.  We saw hundreds of grazing bison and then more grazing bison.  Beautiful and peaceful.

Roosevelt Lodge, Rough Rider Cabin

Roosevelt Lodge, Rough Rider Cabin

Roosevelt Lodge Cabins:  We checked into the Roughrider units – little cabins with plank floors, a braided rug and a cast-iron wood stove!  Our unit #88 – sleeps 6 and has 3 double beds.  It has a shared bathhouse.  $74/night (NOTE:  I will update my blog shortly to include more photos of the cabins)

Dinner, Roosevelt Lodge

Dinner, Roosevelt Lodge

Roosevelt Lodge:  We had dinner in the dining room.  Ribs, bison burgers and Roosevelt beans!!!  YUMMY!  Bet my bottom dollar Disney Imagineers used this dining room to inspire Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Try the Roosevelt beans!!!

Try the Roosevelt beans!!!

Have you traveled to any of these places?  What was your favorite part?  

Tips for Running Multiple runDisney Races in One Weekend:

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I’m not sure if there necessarily is an art to running multiple races in a day or weekend, but I do know it takes months of training and planning to make your races a success.  Here are my tips for running multiple races in a weekend – assuming you put in the effort into training!

092Get Your Game On:  Or mentally prepare for your races.  What I’ve learned from running multiple races on the same day or consecutive days is you must be mentally prepared for the long haul.  The trick is to take each day at a time, with the emphasis on the last and longest race.  So remember to pace yourself through the weekend, keeping your eye on finishing the weekend injury-free and smiling.  And remember it is not advisable to run all the races for time – choose 1 race as a goal race and the others run for fun!

092Layout Your Race Outfits:  When packing for the trip, it makes sense to lay out your running clothes/costumes and fuel for each day so nothing is forgotten.  I bring a pair of shoes for each race, cut my KT-Tape strips, count my bottles, count my NUUN tablets and ACCEL Gels, and prepare my race belts.  I also pack each day together so when I arrive at my hotel everything is race-ready.

My race check-list:

  • Hat/Sweaty Band/Bondi Band
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock
  • Chapstick – remember to put into race belt
  • Deodorant – I use a double mixture for races – Ladies Speedy Stick & Ban (roll-on)
  • Glide
  • Sports Bra
  • Costume top or tech shirt
  • Costume bottom or tech skirt
  • Sports watch
  • Road ID
  • Wrist sweat band or towel
  • Bib on Race Belt – gels, bottles of NUUN
  • Compress sleeves or socks
  • Shoes

340 (Small) (Medium)Be Prepared for Anything:  Anything will and can go wrong, so I like to be prepared and bring the following with me to the race:  KT-Tape, BioFreeze, Glide, Advil, Sunblock, Ban Aids, blister powder, foam roller and stick.  When running multiple races it is important not to injure yourself prior to finishing – especially when a Challenge medal is involved!!!  Remember it’s best to tape, use BioFreeze PRIOR to the onset of pain.  I also wear compression socks and always, always, always roll, roll, roll to flush out the toxins after each and every race.  Both compression socks/sleeve and rolling help aid recovery.  If you can schedule a massage the 2nd to last race that’s key as well!

Disneyland Hotel Pillow

Disneyland Hotel Pillow

Rest & Relax:  runDisney races are amazing and I love enjoying the Disney Parks post-race.  When running runDisney it is important though not to explore the parks at your normal touring speed.  Maybe the day of your middle race is a pool day instead of a touring day.  I always park tour while on a runDisney weekend, but I take it slow.  Slow your speed to a more leisurely pace, enjoy yourself, but please take time to sit, relax and recover.  Also, remember to turn in early for the night earlier than normal – you have a race to run tomorrow!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate:  Hydrate prior to the races.  Hydrate post each race.  If you are going to partake in an adult beverage, remember to replenish your fluids.  When traveling to the race, bring water with you in the car, on the plane, or train.  Carry water on your person at bib pick-up, through the expo and ESPECIALLY while park touring!  Drink early and often!!!

052Plan Your Fuel Wisely:  The rule is nothing new on race day.  That being said, remember to pack your breakfast or make sure it’s available at your hotel.  If you are racing multiple days, pack for each day and don’t be shy about packing extras.  Remember you are running multiple races on multiple days so it is vital to fuel and fuel properly.  There’s nothing easy about running multiple days – sleep, fuel and hydration are the cornerstones to a successful race weekend.  Remember to take special care when selecting your dining reservations.  There’s nothing fun about the runner’s trots.  Nothing.

What’s your favorite tip for running multiple races? 

 

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory


National Parks: Exploring America as a Family – Part I

Indiana Dunes Natl  Seashore - 1st stop on our trip

Indiana Dunes Natl Seashore – 1st stop on our trip

I’m sharing our family’s adventures as we travel across America to visit some of our Nation’s National Parks!   Some of these sites we have visited as children and now to experience them as a family is beyond exciting! I hope you enjoy as we journey in our car for 2 weeks without TV, limited WiFi and zero cell reception and I hope we all survive!

Day 1: 

Travel day was uneventful – which is EXACTLY how you want your car trips to be!  Spent the night in Toledo, Ohio.

Day 2:

On the shores of Lake Michigan

On the shores of Lake Michigan

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore:  After examining our car Atlas, I found that we were passing, literally right off I-90, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  It’s a life goal of mine to visit all our National Parks so we HAD to stop to take a quick look around and do the mandatory photo in front of the park sign and passport stamp!  We also managed to stick our tootsies into Lake Michigan and hike up a dune back to our car.  Next time I want to factor time in to take a cool refreshing swim.

Drove the remainder of the day and spent the night in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Day 3:

World's Famous Corn Palace

World’s Famous Corn Palace

Corn Palace – Mitchell, South Dakota:  The Corn Palace gets redecorated every year.  Unfortunately, their annual face-lift was in process right when we were visiting.  However, we did manage to see the sketches for the 2014 theme.

Hiking Notch Trail in the Badlands

Hiking Notch Trail in the Badlands

Badlands National Park – South Dakota:  All of a sudden you go from the prairies to eroded cliffs of the Badlands.  Winding roads take you around the Badlands with scenic overlooks and nature walks bringing you into the park.

A herd of mountain goats, Notch Trail

A herd of mountain goats, Notch Trail

Hiked Notch Trail:  The best way to see a national park is to get off the main road and hike into the park.  We took Notch Trail’s 1.5 mile moderate/strenuous hike into the Badlands.  I personally wouldn’t call it strenuous.  The most strenuous part was the ladder climb and that was it.  The trail end view was amazing and worth the hike, but the highlight was seeing a herd of mountain goat.

Historic photos, Wall Drug

Historic photos, Wall Drug

Wall Drug, Wall, South Dakota:  We had to stop.  Here at Wall Drug you can get anything – AND I MEAN ANYTHING – you need on your trip!  Kitchy and a self-proclaimed tourist trap, you need to experience Wall Drug.  My favorite part was looking at the historic photos and enjoying a cone of smores ice cream.

Blue Belle Cabins, Custer State Park

Blue Belle Cabins, Custer State Park

Custer State Park, Black Hills, South Dakota:  We spent 2 nights in Blue Bell Campground’s cabins.  $50 a night – a bargain really – will get you a cabin with electricity, AC and heat.  The cabins have a deck, grill, and bunk beds with mattresses.  You are barely able to call it camping, but so perfect for our trip!  The shower house was a few steps away and had 4 bathrooms equipped with a shower, toilet and sink.

Day 4:

Exploring Wind Cave National Monument

Exploring Wind Cave National Monument

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota:  We took the 80 minute tour into the dry cave.  The highlight of the Wind Cave is the box work formations – the most in the world.  I especially love when they turn out the lights!!!

Needles Highway, Black Hills

Needles Highway, Black Hills

Drive on the Needles Highway, Custer State Park:  Note – there is a vehicle height limit and RV’s are prohibited due to the tunnels.  Worth the drive to see the Needles and surrounding views.

Custer State Park

Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park

Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park:  We had a picnic lunch at Sylvan Lake.  This is also where they filmed some scenes from National Treasure 2.  It’s very pretty and I was kicking myself for not having packed the kids swimsuits.  The park offers kayak, canoe and paddle boat rentals.

Sunday Gulch Trail

Sunday Gulch Trail

Sunday Gulch Trail, Custer State Park:  After lunch we took the 3 mile moderate/strenuous Sunday Gulch Trail.  We started the trail counter-clockwise.  The way down was FUN, FUN, FUN!!!  Railings helped to keep us upright as we hiked down the gulch to the forest.  We got an up close viewing of the destruction of the 2000 fires.  Making the turn and hiking back up to the lake was a moderate hike with a total elevation of 700 feet.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Historic Site:  What can you really say about Mount Rushmore?  It looks EXACTLY like it does in the photos, however, man when did they build the 3-level garage and why am I paying $11 to park when I can see it RIGHT THERE?!!!!

Summer White House

Summer White House

State Game House, Custer State Park:  We took a 5-minute stop to check out Coolidge’s Summer White House.  It was a beautiful inn with a bar casual and fancy restaurants.  Perfect for those without children, so we quickly hightailed ours out of the Inn.

Wildlife Loop Road, Custer State Park

Wildlife Loop Road, Custer State Park

Wildlife Loop Road:  My daughter and I overruled my husband and son who didn’t want to finish the remaining loop of Wildlife Loop Road.  It was getting late and we were tired and hungry.  However, we hadn’t gotten our fill of buffalo.  We had seen deer, prairie dog, prawn-horn antelope and about 4 buffalo.  I knew the herd was out there somewhere and I was determined to look.  Good thing we forced them to go because we found the herd – at least a couple hundred.  You must do the loop.  Your children must see the buffalo, you’ll be glad you did.

More to share shortly!  I hope you enjoy our journey.  Have you ever visited these parks?  What were your favorite memories?

My Top 5 Tips for Surviving the Family Vacation Across America

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A family vacation across the United States to our great National Parks is a rite of passage.  Nothing says family togetherness like a spending a week(s) in the family truckster.  Here are our top tips to surviving the family trip across America:

  1. Embrace the “family truckster”: Get the kids use to being in the car, early and often.  Seriously, we started them on long car rides when they were both babies.  Driving is one of the most economical ways to see America and I highly recommend the experience (even though I complain about it every time).
  2. Get comfortable: The car will be your “home base” for the length of your vacation.  You are going to be in there awhile so comfort is key.  Bring pillows, blankets, DVDs, WiFi hotspots, books, magazines, etc.  Stop at RedBox to pick up new movies or the classics.  Nothing says happiness to parents like quiet children.
  3. Make your pit stops efficient: I have three rules for a pit stop – 1. Top off the gas tank 2.  Clean the windshield    Go the bathroom – because if one person has to go we are all going.  Nothing drags out a trip than having to stop every hour.
  4. Pack snacks: I’m a big believer in packing a cooler and eating what we have with us.  Go to the store prior and stock up on things you may not normally give the kids.  HAVE FUN!  You’re on vacation a Twinkie isn’t going to kill you.
  5. Don’t bring the kitchen sink: It’s taken me years to learn this, but Pack Light, it will help save on gas and you are never going to wear all those clothes! Do laundry on your trip.  If you forgot something – no worries, there’s at least one Wal-Mart and Target in every state.

Have you taken the family across the USA to visit our National Parks?  What’s your tip to share?  

Maker Mother Marathon Runner

Embracing life with a bit of grace, a lot of perseverance and a positive attitude.

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Aussie Girl Gone Dopey

One girls road to running 78.3 km in four days at Disneyworld, I just have to run my first marathon on my 30th birthday first!

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