5 Reasons to Run Boston’s Freedom Trail Guided Tour

A couple of years ago, Major Hubs and I had the opportunity to spend the July 4th holiday in Boston. If you are a patriot of this great nation, I highly recommend this city, especially for the Fourth of July, as a bucket list destination. It was a fabulous trip, filled with history, art, theater, fireworks, the Pops and baseball, of course!

One of the things the hubs and I always make a point to do whenever we travel is to go for at least one run through the city, town or countryside while we are visiting. We both feel there is no better way to see a town through the eyes of its locals and to get a feel for its energy than while out on a leisurely run. In the process of planning our trip, I stumbled upon this little company that provided a guided running tour of Boston’s Freedom Trail, was intrigued and therefore, signed us up.  It turned out to truly be one of the highlights of our vacation! Continue reading

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Insanity on the Manitou Incline

If you are looking for an extreme workout, one that will challenge you physically, mentally and emotionally, then look no further than Colorado Springs! The Manitou Incline once operated as the old Cog Railway used to provide access to water tanks at the top of Pikes Peak mountain. It operated until 1990 when a rock slide damaged the rail bed beyond repairs. The incline is now considered the holy grail of cardio for locals and athletes, alike. It consists of approximately 2,744 steps made entirely of railroad ties. Although it is only one mile in length, the ascension averages a 41% incline, 68% at its highest point, and a 2,000 foot climb in elevation! A lung crusher at the very least! Needless to say, tackling the incline is not for the faint of heart or those with any fear of heights.

Three years ago, the hubby and I were in Colorado Springs for one of his Army buddy’s wedding. We arrived a few days early in order to take in the beauty of Colorado and enjoy some hiking. After taking on Seven FallsGarden of the Gods and several other attractions, our “friend” (did I mention that he was in a special forces unit of the Army??) recommended that we climb the Manitou Incline. “It’ll be fun” he said. “You guys will love it” he said. “You guys are runners…you won’t have any problems!” he said. He was wrong. Well, sort of …but I’ll come back to that.

So, the hubs and I type in the address in our GPS and took off toward Manitou Springs. As we are approaching our exit off of the interstate, I see a brown trail cut into the side of mountain off in the distance. For a moment, I thought to myself ….”holy guacamole, that’s it???”  100_3467

I quickly dismissed that as a possibility, knowing that it would be impossible for that to actually be what we were about to climb. Nah, no way. Following the turn by turn directions being barked out to us by “Stella”, the endearing name by husband has given our cell phones GPS, we arrived in the parking lot labeled “Cogs Railway Parking”. My initial thought was, unfortunately, correct …that tiny little brown trail cut into the side of the mountain was now looming right in front of us! My heart sank. We walked toward the beginning of the trail and stood before it, staring in disbelief. My husband then said to me, “We don’t have to do this if you don’t want”. What??? Back down from a challenge? Never! I mean, if an Army special forces Soldier thinks that I can do this, then I will do it …even if it kills me! So, with a nod and a fist bump, we began our climb.1280458_10201357281427854_785132391_n

Things were going very well the first half of the trek up. I have to admit, I was feeling pretty “bad ass” as I tackled those railroad ties with the greatest of ease! Just past the half way point, there is a “bailout” point which takes you back down via the Barr Trail. This is your last chance to exit the incline …continue on and you’re committed to the steepest section of the climb and all of the suckage that comes along with it. We did witness a couple of people make the decision to end their insanity; but we pressed on. To the top or die trying! Insanity!

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20 ….I now know why the bailout point is where it is! Just past this point, the grade increases to about 68% and the pain begins. This is where things began to fall apart, at least for me. The difference in elevation between Mississippi and Colorado alone was taking its toll on me, let alone the additional 2,000 ft of elevation I was climbing at this point. My breathing was extremely labored and I felt as if I would pass out multiple times. I would stop and rest on rocks along the side of the trail, while 70-year-old locals would trot by me like they were taking a walk to their mailbox ….this ticked me off. The hubby would always be 10 – 15 steps ahead of me, then he would stop to wait on me, with no apparent difficulty in breathing whatsoever …this ticked me off. We continued on this way ….climbing, resting, cursing, crying, climbing, resting, cursing, crying, climbing….you get the picture. At one point of rest, I thought about our “friend” who recommended this activity ….this ticked me off as well. Who needs enemies when you have friends like this?!? I wondered if they ever performed helicopter rescue missions from this mountain …clearly, the lack of oxygen was beginning to cloud my thinking.

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Notice the parking lot at the bottom of the incline….which is at the top of the picture!

As we neared to top, the grade was so steep that I found myself using my hands as if climbing a ladder. At this point, I was beyond the anger and frustration and I just wanted to get to the top of this dang mountain! Again, the hubs being several steps ahead of me, yells out to me  “we’re almost there, I can see the summit! Keep climbing, you’ve got this!” Yes! I’m almost done. I’m not going to die on the side of this dang mountain! As I reached the summit, I looked up only to see my husband still climbing!!! What??? Yep, you guessed it ….a false summit. 1236800_10201357284787938_521388067_n

For a split second, I thought about crying again but decided it would only slow me down and besides, I was more than likely too dehydrated to make more tears anyway. (We only had one bottle of water between the two of us …again, I blame our “friend”).

Only about 300 more steps beyond the false summit and we reached the top. Lungs were screaming, quads were burning and my head was spinning, yet the amazing feeling of accomplishment overshadowed it all. The view from the top was extraordinary, like none other and we stopped for a moment to marvel at the beauty.1148834_10201357285027944_1020467301_n

At this point, you can connect to Barr Trail and either continue up the mountain to the summit of Pikes Peak or take the Barr Trail back down the mountain, we chose the latter. The return trail consists of approximately 3.6 miles of rocky switch back trails which planted me on my butt several times trying to run down it. I highly recommend wearing trail shoes if you get a hankering to tackle the incline …you can thank me later.

The climb itself took about an hour and a half, including all of my crying and cursing stops. And the trail down took about an hour.

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The trail down was a little treacherous at times as well.

I’ve read that many elite athletes incorporate this into their training regimen with many being able to reach the top in 20 minutes … now that’s insane!

The next evening, while at our “friend’s” wedding, I found myself telling of our adventure on the incline to some of the wedding guests who just so happened to be in the 10th Special Forces group. They stroked my ego just a tad by telling me that they are required to climb the incline quite often for training; however, they are not allowed  to do so by the Army for at least two weeks, allowing themselves time to adjust to the altitude. They were impressed that we were able to complete it after having only been in Colorado for a couple of days…boom! Maybe they were just trying to make this little Southern belle feel better about how long it took me to reach the top, but that’s okay…. I survived the Manitou Incline and I’m darn proud of it!

I will admit, after quite a bit of time has passed; I am itching to tackle to incline once again. Like most runners, the desire to compete against myself and beat my previous time lingers in the back of my mind. Certainly, I will not make a special trip to Colorado just to torture myself once again; but if the circumstances of life ever find me in the area again, I will face the giant …the Manitou Incline, once again.

Have you ever climbed the Manitou Incline or anything similar? If so, what was your time? If not, would you like to attempt this? What is the most extreme cardio activity you’ve ever attempted?

 

I’m linking up with MCM Mama Runs, Marcia’s Healthy Slice and My No Guilt Life for Tuesday’s on the RunTuesdays-on-the-Run-2

As well as Fit Foodie MamaFitful Focus, Fruition Fitness and Pretty Little Grub for their Wild Workout Wednesday link-up. Go on over and check these great ladies out…you will love what you find!WildWorkoutWed

Bucket List Races

Considering the fact that I’m doing good to be able to run a mere three miles these days; my dream races most likely won’t be getting crossed off my “bucket list” anytime soon. But hey, I’m only 49.75 years old…there’s plenty of time!

I love reading other runners dream races because it gives one a little glimpse of who they are, what motivates and excites them. I’m not really that into big races; I enjoy the energy of them but not the chaos of trying to navigate all that they entail just to get to the starting line. I do love to travel; however, I do not want every trip to be centered around a race. Therefore, my husband and I make a point to get a run in everywhere we travel believing that there is no better way to see a city, town or countryside better than on foot (or bike). We’ve run the historic streets of Charleston and Boston, covered just about every inch of Central Park, hiked the mountains of the Grand Tetons and explored every nook and cranny of Key West on bicycles. With that being said, there are a few races that are on my bucket list and one day will get crossed off!

1. Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon

Anyone who knows me even in the slightest, knows that I am a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur and I can’t think of a better way to spend 2 1/2 hours covering 13.1 miles!

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Isn’t this just absolutely beautiful? And of course, the bling is fabulous as well ….both beautiful and functional!dt-common-streams-streamserver

2. New York City Half Marathon

Okay, I know this sounds crazy to all of you marathoners out there who dream of running THE New York City marathon. What runner wouldn’t love to be a participant in, what I believe to be, the greatest marathon in the USA! However, I must be realistic …I will never run a full marathon and I’m perfectly okay with that. Therefore, I set my sights on things a little more feasible. While the hubs and I have travelled to NYC many times and run the streets of Central Park numerous times, we absolutely love the energy of the Big Apple and I imagine the route of this race (Central Park to Times Square and ending at Battery Park) would be filled with an energy as only New York City can deliver!NYC_Half_Marathon_-_Aug_'06.jpg

3. Grand Teton National Park Half Marathon

To be honest, it wasn’t until last year that I even knew this race existed. While planning our summer trip to Wyoming, I stumbled upon this race series and found it interesting, at the very least. However, it wasn’t until after our incredible trip to the Grand Tetons that I decided to add this one to the bucket list of races! In case you missed my vacation recap (check it out), I’ll let you in on a little secret ….I absolutely fell in love with this part of the country and secretly want to sell everything we own, pack up the necessities and move to Jackson Hole!13782222_1422419297775671_661722321431275343_n13508841_1395292297155038_1607150375752667134_n

I’m absolutely in love with this medal! Actually, the entire series of National Park races are just beautiful and would be a wonderful goal for some of you “series junkies” out there. Each finisher’s medal represents the NPS emblem for that specific park.

Now that my insatiable desire for travel has been stirred, I must go and begin researching and planning next summer’s vacation. It’s never too early!

I’m linking up with MarciaPatty and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run! Today’s topic is, obviously, bucket list races and destinations. Go on over and check out these ladies and some of the many others who have linked up …you never know which race you will be inspired to run!Tuesdays-on-the-Run-2

What races are on your bucket list?

Have you ever participated in any of these three races? If so, send me the link to your race recap …I’d love to read it!

xoxo,

Finding “Fabulous” at Fifty, one bucket list item at a time!

Wyoming Adventure

“Keep close to nature’s heart….climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” ~John Muir

When the hubs and I married five years ago, we decided that each year we would vacation somewhere new. The destination we choose must be either a place neither of us have ever been or a place that the two of us have not seen together. The only exception to this rule is New York City. We love the energy and excitement of the city too much to not visit multiple times!

In a mere five years, we have visited Paris (France), Charleston SC, Rome (Italy), Positano(Italy), Venice(Italy), New York City, Colorado Springs CO, Key West FL, Boston MA and we loved them all! We absolutely love immersing ourselves in the culture of each city and country we visit and appreciate the diversity that each have to offer. Last summer we put on our ‘patriotic hats’ and visited the beautifully historic city of Boston for their famous 4th of July celebration. What an incredible experience that was! So when we began discussing this year’s trip, we thought it only fitting that we should put on our ‘cowboy hats’ and head out West for some fresh air and mountain life. We settled on Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Grand Tetons and a day trip to Yellowstone National Park.

If you’ve never visited the Grand Tetons, I highly recommend it. Often times, playing second fiddle to Yellowstone, they are more beautiful and less crowded giving one the opportunity to ‘slow down’ and get a real sense of what everyday life is like in this quaint little town. Unlike some of our European and big city vacations, I felt as if we were able to do everything we wanted, leaving no ‘stones unturned’, without breaking the bank. There is so much to see and do which does not require a great deal of money. Obviously, airfare and lodging are the biggest expenses of any trip; but beyond that, our Wyoming vacation was relatively inexpensive and the memories are priceless!

There are many places to stay in Jackson Hole but my personal opinion is that the Fireside Resort is perfect! You are treated to your own private, yet modern, cabin with all the modern amenities of a hotel; including a microwave, stove, coffee pot and fully stocked with cookware. Each cabin has a fire pit outside for camp fires and s’mores, a bundle of wood, picnic table and gas grill. This is perfect for active people on the go! We stocked up on groceries for breakfast, picnic lunches and dinner for a couple of nights. Only having to eat out a handful of times saved quite a bit of money.

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However, the best amenity they have to offer is their Jeep rentals. You can book one through the resort for your entire stay or just a day, whichever you prefer. Honestly, I think my pictures will prove that there is no other way to truly see this countryside other than in a Jeep!

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First up on the agenda was a beautiful trail ride. AOK Corral, Ike and Pendleton treated us to a great ride with breathtaking views! Just a side note here…according to some research, one can burn, on average, 400-500 calories on an hour long trail ride. Added bonus!

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Knowing that we were only giving Yellowstone one day of our trip, we decided to go ahead and tackle it next. While it is next to impossible to truly explore this vast park in one day, we gave it our best shot! The Grand Loop alone is 142 miles and we covered 3/4 of it. Even though we were visiting just before the busy season (Memorial Day), the tour buses were everywhere making some of our stops more lengthy than necessary. I can’t imagine what it must be like in June, July and August!

Wanting to get in as much hiking as possible, we decided to hike the 1.5 mile loop to Observation Point for a “Bird’s Eye” viewing of Old Faithful …and it was much more intimate and peaceful than sitting on a bench with hundreds of other people snapping pictures and videotaping this incredible event.

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In addition to Old Faithful, the Gran Prismatic Springs, Upper and Lower Falls, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the wildlife spotted along the way were just highlights of our day in Yellowstone!

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With Yellowstone accomplished, the remainder of our trip would be spent in Jackson Hole exploring the town and hiking as many trails as possible. After approximately 16 miles of hiking and one short little “snow storm”, we had only “tipped the iceberg” of trail exploration. Our favorites were the Jenny Lake Trail and Cascade Canyon leading to Inspiration Point, Granite Canyon Trail, Taggart Lake Trail and Moose Pond. Many trails were still closed due to bear activity and the amount of snow still covering the peaks.

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We were fortunate to be vacationing while the 2016 Elk Fest was being held. Each year, an average of 6,000 to 9,000 pounds of Elk antlers are auctioned by the Boys Scouts with 75% of the proceeds going back to the National Elk Refuge of Jackson HoleThis is a must see if you are visiting in May!

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There is nothing more incredible than to see wild animals in their natural habitat and Wyoming is a great place to witness this. Elk, marmot, osprey, deer, moose, bison, bears and even a bald eagle were spotted during our trip!

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The highlight of our trip, without a doubt, had to be stumbling upon an old abandoned dude ranch, Bar BC Dude Ranchfrom the 1900’s. It is nestled alongside the Snake river and can only be accessed by four-wheeled drive (another reason you should rent a jeep during your stay). On any other day, this would have been just another historical site; but this day was special! It was our last day in Wyoming and I was pretty disappointed that we had not yet seen a moose. Upon awaking that morning, my adorable husband told me to get up and get dressed because he was going to “put me on a moose”! We drove to the information center for the Grand Teton NP where my husband explained to one of the park rangers that it was our last day and his wife NEEDED to see a moose. The ranger explained that they are often times seen near water and recommended we drive along the Snake River. About two miles in to this narrow, rocky and bumpy road meandering alongside the river, we spotted the dude ranch and decided to explore it. While walking around the fairly remote and abandoned buildings, my husband stopped and whispered in my ear “turn around”. Upon doing so, I was absolutely stunned, shocked, amazed and in awe of what I saw! Maybe fifty yards away, standing in the wide open, looking directly at us, was a Moose! She was beautiful, magnificent and HUGE. My husband kept whispering in my ear “take a picture”, yet I was frozen. I couldn’t move. I just stared at her while she stared at us. When I finally got over the shock of just how close we actually were to this creature, I reached down for my camera and with two short steps she was gone. In the blink of an eye, she disappeared into the brush and I was furious that I hadn’t gotten a picture. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when my daring husband took off into the brush to find her; and after a few moments of deliberation on whether or not that was a good idea, I followed him. We kept a safe distance, giving her enough space to not feel threatened, snapped a few photos and promptly left her to the quiet oasis she called home on the banks of the Snake River.

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As we boarded our plane early the next morning; I was, once again, struck by the pure beauty of this place. Our trip to Wyoming stirred within in me a new desire ….one that I honestly have never felt before. Upon returning home and getting back into the routine of the life I’ve always known, I assumed this “stirring” would dissipate. However; much to my surprise, it has only grown stronger. What is this “stirring”? It is a desire for a much simpler life; one where the air breathed is pristine, crystal clear water flows freely from the mountaintops, magnificent creatures roam free and the view while driving to and from work look like something from an Ansel Adams gallery. It’s a dream, I know …but dreams have been known to come true.

 

 

Happy traveling,

Finding “Fabulous” at Fifty, one incredible vacation at a time!