Hey, we can’t all live in Seattle, where Puget Sound is ten minutes off the freeway, islands are quick ferry trip away, mountain rivers are accessible after an easy hike, and camping at the seashore is an easy weekend activity. Sorry Midwesterners (oh, and we don’t have mosquitoes either. Not to rub it in). Anyways, if you don’t live on the coast or are too lazy to leave the city you’ve still got some water-based options. Since swimming pools are passé, most cities are creating splash parks, kiddie pools and fountains. Grab your plastic watering toy and head out.

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Splash Parks

Avoid if:

  • You have small toddlers who don’t like to be splashed or knocked over: Splash parks are a bit rambunctious. My little ones and I tend to find the smallest spout and hang out there, but even that can get over-run pretty quickly.

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  • You prefer to do your splashing in the morning or evening: Most parks keep afternoon hours, and some have an off period during the middle of the day.
  • You have one kid who loves water and another who loves swings: Most splash parks are part of a larger playground. This is part of the appeal for my kiddos – we start at the swings, dig in the sandbox, and then cool off at the splash pad. However one of my kids isn’t old enough to voice her opinion yet so things may be more complicated next summer.

Go if:

  • You’ve just bought your kid an arsenal of water guns.
  • You are in charge of your children and all of the friends. They’ll be somewhat contained at a splash park and you won’t have to worry about anyone drowning.

North acres

Check out:

  • Willis Tucker Park: Technically in Snohomish, but it’s north of the valley behind Silver Firs. There is also a sandbox, covered picnic tables, a playground with a rope jungle gym, trails, off leash dog park, playfields, a community center and a farmer’s market on Friday evenings in the summer.
  • North Acres: This is a good one for keeping watch over a bunch of kids because the splash park is in a little bowl and parents perch on the grassy hills above, stadium style. This park also has trails and two playgrounds – one for toddlers and one for older kids.

Small fountains

Ballard Commons

Avoid if:

  • You have older children, as these are pretty lame according to the kindergarten and above set.
  • You actually want to play in the water as well.

Go if:

  • You are headed somewhere else and you don’t want the kids to get totally soaked.

Check out:

Wading Pools

Avoid if:

  • You have a little one still crawling. The bottom is usually concrete. Plus my little one would have happily crawled in over her head if we let her.

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Go if:

  • You want to get in the water and cool off too, but you don’t want to wear a bathing suit.
  • You like water! I’ve seen toddlers, young kids, and pre-teens all have fun at these little wading pools.

Check out:

  • Wallingford Playfield: The pool has a shallow (think 2 inches) and “deep” (less than a foot) end. Playfields and a playground are part of the park.
  • Green Lake Wading Pool: By far my favorite place! Tons of grassy areas next to the pool are shady, so it’s great for a picnic on a hot day. It’s also great if you have a tiny baby who can snooze in the shade while the other one plays in the sun.

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1. You get to run a 200+ mile race without having to run all 200 miles. You and eleven other people assign yourselves three legs and each runner covers around 9-20 miles. The race consists of 36 exchange points where you pass your 80’s style slap-bracelet onto the next runner.

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2. You’ll have eleven new best friends. I signed up for my first Ragnar after begging my parent’s neighbor to find a spot for me on her team. She came through and pretty soon I was part of a facebook group of strangers, planning out who was bringing diaper wipes and bananas for our Blaine to Langley trek. On Friday morning I met that group of strangers and we headed north. We were all friends by Bellingham.

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Van 1

Ragnar team

3. Running at different times a day. You get to run at…

…sunset…

Sunset

…sunrise…

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…middle of the night…

Night running

…and the blazing heat of mid-day.

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4. Your team is responsible for you, and you them. There are (practically) no water stations so each van is responsible for keeping their runner hydrated and happy. This meant stopping every few miles and waiting for your runner so you can offer…

…laughs…

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…hugs…

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…water…

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…and photography skills to take that picture at the top of the gnarly hill you just conquered.

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5. You need a diverse skill set. It’s not enough to just be a good runner. A successful Ragnar team must have the skills to…

    • Decorate the vans.

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    • Maneuver be-dazzled vans through crowded exchanges.

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    • Be able to fix car glitches while on the run. When our driver was running we somehow turned all the dome lights on. Despite scouring the owner’s manual we couldn’t get them off. When we met up with him in the middle of his run he barely broke his stride as he reached through the window and turned off the lights, yelling “This is the opposite of support!” as he continued on.
    • Read maps (and owner’s manuals) and give directions. U-turns are your friends.
    • Analyze and update data. You are constantly calculating pace and mileage to figure out where your van needs to be when.

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    •  Be a social media pro. Our data plans all felt a little shutter over the weekend. #RagnarPNW

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6. You do get to sleep!

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7. Side games: These include keeping track of kills (runners you pass) and tagging other cars with magnets featuring your team logo.

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8. Running bonding moments

Kira

9. After you finish as a team, all your medals fit together. Awww…

Ragnar medals

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It’s gorgeous here.

The view from cabin 108

The view from cabin 108

But the view comes at a cost. For $3,370 you can stare at this view ALLLL week long. My family (aka my parents) forked over the payment and met us at the lake as our Christmas present. It’s the same resort they took my brother and I as kids. As soon as I started having babies I was anxious to take them there as well.

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And the weather was perfect, the lake was crystal clear, and we had a great time. But when it was time to re-book for next year I just shook my head at mom. The price is just too astronomical. It is the exact same price that my husband and I paid for out all-inclusive condo (food, drinks AND wedding included) in St. Lucia. For $3,370 I expect things to be perfect. There were a few imperfections:

The beach: We had our own little beach in front of our cabin, complete with a fire pit for roasting s’mores. It was about twenty steps away from our cabin, which was great. However, the staff doesn’t rake the beach regularly so our sand castles were full of little twigs and bottle caps. It wasn’t rare it find a broken piece of glass in the sand. But the main problem with the beach was the infestation of yellow jackets.

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The bees. They were EVERYWHERE. After one stung our baby, my husband armed himself with a flip flop and went on a seek-and-destroy mission. He killed about twenty of them, barely making a dent. Hill’s Resort has bee traps every two feet surrounding their lodge and patio, but none on the beaches. They should put some out while raking the sand.

The cabins: On one hand, it was kinda sweet that the cabins were the same ones my family stayed in thirty years ago (GOD, I’M OLD), but maybe replacing the carpets wouldn’t be a terrible thing. Or fixing the drain in the shower, siding on the bathroom walls, replacing window screens…

This place is NOT all-inclusive. It’s simply a cabin rental. Huckleberry daiquiris are not free with the wave of a drink flag. You are lugging all your own food up, and doing all your own cooking and cleaning. There is no maid service. Naturally, I got around this as my parents did most of the cooking and cleaning and my brother mixed the drinks. But still. No maid service?

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So will we be going to Priest Lake next year? Absolutely. But instead of paying $3,370 to fix our own burgers and sleep in sandy sheets, we’ll be staying next door at Luby Bay Campground.

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I managed to sneak a few runs in last week while my husband, kids and I were visiting our extended family in Oklahoma. Because FAMILY > RUNNING, I was unwilling to sacrifice any family plans in favor of a run, but I still found a bit of time here and there. This was NOT the case last April when we had our wedding/honeymoon/family vacation in St. Lucia.

There are some definite drawbacks to running while on vacation with your family. Here are some perfect excuses to throw your training plan out the car window and take a nap in a hammock instead. In case you are feeling responsible, skip down toward the end.

Suitcase space is at a premium.

Only room for one set of stuff

Only room for one set of stuff

Nothing forces you to pack light like the knowledge that you’ll be toting children and their car seats through the airport along with your luggage. Southwest might allow two checked bags, but my arms strength doesn’t. When I was packing my one suitcase for St. Lucia, I decided that wedding favors, blue high heels and sequined white dress took precedence over bulky running shoes. So I made the executive decision that I would not be running, which was fine because of my next point:

It’s supposed to be a VACATION

A vacation from work, doing dishes, texting, and yes – running. Since St. Lucia was a very expensive vacation, I made up the rule that if you spend more than $300 a night on a hotel room you should not leave it unless you are doing something really, really fun like eating, drinking, making sandcastles, or saying “I do.” Soaking up every relaxing minute that I could wasn’t being lazy: it was being fiscally responsible.

St. James Morgan Bay

You won’t have a jogging stroller.

I typically try to assuage my I-should-be-parenting-instead-of-running guilt by throwing the kids in the jogging stroller and taking them along for the ride. This isn’t an option on vacation because if you can’t fit shoes in your luggage allotment, you surely can’t fit a jogging stroller. And pushing a double jogger through a busy airport does not seem like a good solution to this problem.

However…

There will be family members around who are dying to babysit your kids.

Take advantage.

Grandpa time!

A shake-up of routine can be a good thing.

I never run in the mornings at home, but while we were visiting family, the best time of day was to get the run in during the morning before we headed out for the day’s activities. It turns out I love running the in morning! It was a quiet and cooler time of day, and I didn’t have to spend the rest of my day wondering when/if I could sneak a run in. Plus that satisfaction of completing a good workout stayed with me throughout the whole day. Maybe I’ll start running in the morning once I get back home too. Plus, running in a new location brings new challenges – whether it’s battling the heat in Oklahoma, the hills in Seattle, or the height in Denver.

“Maybe I can qualify for Boston.”

These six words ran though my head for the first time (okay, the first time I actually believed them) three miles into the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon last March. Guys, I ran FAST. Those first three miles were at 8:15 pace and I didn’t let up much. To qualify for Boston I’d have to run a marathon at 8:12 pace.

After the finish, I took the bus from Issaquah back to Redmond where the race had started. It was naturally filled with people who’d finished around the time I had, and I couldn’t help but notice these people were mostly men. Fast looking ones. My seat-mate amiably asked me if I had any races coming up. He was clearly hoping I’d ask the same question in return because when I did he tried to tuck away a proud smile as he mentioned that he was heading to Boston in April.

Maybe some April I’d be heading to Boston too.

Because here’s the thing: I hadn’t really been training for a fast race. I’d signed up for the half a few months before as a way to force my post-partum self into shape before my beach wedding. I’d vaguely hoped for a sub-two hour half. My training times were a bit on the slow side (which in retrospect were due to the 20-40 pounds of babies that I was schlepping in front of me), so I was mentally unprepared for how physically prepared I was for the race. I ran the first few miles figuring my GPS was off. The next few miles I connected the dots and started thinking about Boston, and the last few miles I just tried to hang on.

So clearly I need to qualify for Boston NOW, while my kiddos are still young enough to cram into a jogging stroller.

Babies in the stroller

Luckily, Runner’s World magazine read my mind. Their July 2015 issue featured a training plan that Alicia Shay (a Run SMART coach) concocted for Meghan G. Loftus’s (the author) Boston qualifier. As with all training plans, I can’t quite keep up. I’m on week three and have missed a workout every week. And I’m headed out of town with my family and without my jogging stroller tomorrow, so things probably won’t improve on the whole schedule-following-front.

Marathon schedule

But maybe I’ll still qualify for Boston. Or maybe not.

I need to stack up my excuses now so that in September when I run a non-qualifying 3:40 I can look back and point to the reasons why, because maybe I won’t qualify this September. Babies and family and school and writing might throw too many workouts off track, and that’s just fine because I love all those things even more than running. But some day, I’ll qualify for Boston.

It’s been two years since my last blog post. On a totally related note, I met my husband two years ago. As much as I loved blogging, I loved our baseball games, trivia nights, and pancake weekends even more. After those first few falling-in-love months, I figured that I’d return to writing soon. After all, love and blogging go well together. But other things quickly took precedence over blogging, like… 

…this (yes, again!)

Baby Girl

and this,

Wedding ring

and buying this,

New House

New House

…to make room for these two,

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and celebrating everything with a wedding in St. Lucia.

Married!

So these two years have been the BEST two years, but they have not been blogged about. I miss how blogging encouraged me to seek out little adventures and take more pictures. I miss having an in-the-moment record of life. I miss writing for me. So I’m back to blogging. I’ll still be running through this world, just now with a double jogging stroller.

Typically if you have a 2,000 mile road trip ahead of you, I would recommend making it further than 150 mile on day one. Unless you have a baby with you and there happens to be a cute town 150 miles away and you were still packing up your house until three o’clock even though you’d planned on being done by 9am at the latest.

However short that first day was, it set a good precedent for the rest of our Denver-San Francisco-Seattle trip. This wasn’t my first road trip with the baby, so I headed off already armed with my own traveling-solo-with-a-baby tips:

Don’t book ahead: Normally, it’s good to plan stops ahead of time. This allows you to book the best hotels online, search for fun restaurants and activities, and ensure that don’t inadvertently leave twenty hours of driving for the last day. But if you are traveling with an infant, you need some flexibility. Go ahead and make tentative plans (five hours of driving a day worked best for us) but definitely don’t book anything ahead of time. Suppose that the baby falls asleep right before you reach your planned destination for the night – you’re not going to want to waste that precious quiet time by waking up the kid to check into a hotel. Keep your foot on the accelerator and make it to the next town before nap time is over. On the flip side, be prepared to cut the driving short if that scream from the backseat isn’t going to end anytime soon.

When traveling from Denver to San Jose, I hit my intended destination about the half the time, stopping in Steamboat Springs as planned, just outside of Heber City (instead of Salt Lake City), Battle Mountain (past the intended Elko, Nevada), Reno, and then San Jose. After a week-long stop in the Bay Area, I managed to make it to Seattle in two days instead of the planned three to four, stopping for the night in Weed, CA.

Motels, not hotels: Even if you have a limitless budget (as most single parents do, you know), it is still a way better idea to stay in motels rather that hotels. If you stay at a hotel, than getting to your parked car involves traipsing down a hallway, past an office, and maybe even (heaven forbid) up or down an elevator. The genius motel design involves parking your car RIGHT OUTSIDE the door to your room. Even if you try to pack everything you and the baby will need in one bag (see tip below), you will fail at this task and be very happy that the car is right outside. I once had to wake up Aubrey so I could go get my contact solution from my car. Terrible.

In Steamboat Springs I stayed at the lovely Rabbit Ears Motel. It was much nicer than may hotels that I’ve frequented – pricier too, this being Steamboat Springs. Rabbit Ears is perfectly located, right on the edge of downtown, across from Old Town Hot Springs (the motel has discounted tickets, if you plan on going) and next to the river.

Rabbit Ears Motel
One hotel bag: It’s impossible to pack everything you’ll need for the night in one bag. Good luck.
Swimming and Fitness clubs: Stopping at every 24hour Fitness club on route was my best road-tripping discovery. I was worried about staying in shape while traveling because my jogging stroller didn’t fit in my car and even if it had I didn’t really want to take Aubrey out of her car-seat only to strap her into a stroller. So I mapped out all the 24hour fitness clubs and stopped at all of them. Since I pay for the all-month childcare (which is good nationwide), I could pull into a club and workout for two hours while Aubrey crawled around and checked out all the new toys. This was not only my key to staying in shape, but it was a perfect car break for the baby. She’d be ready for her second nap after all that playtime. Just be sure to double check the kid’s club/daycare hours. I stopped at the Salt Lake City club only to discover the daycare was closed Sundays.

Small towns are not known for having nationwide fitness clubs, but often they still have a YMCA or rec center with babysitting available. At Steamboat Springs I spent two hours swimming at the Old Town Hot Springs. I kept Aubrey with me (she loves swimming!), but there is a daycare option there during the daytime.

Old Town Hot Springs

Picnics, not restaurants: Again, crawling time is important. When you stop to eat at a restaurant your kid is subjected to being strapped into yet another seat. Pack a lunch and bring a big blanket. Most little towns have parks that are a lot nicer than rest areas.

Picnic at Hot Sulpher Springs

 

Think twice before camping: I had thrown my tent and sleeping bag in the trunk of my car more out of habit with any real plans to use them, but in the Wasatch foothills, I thought I had the perfect time to use them. We were twenty miles outside Heber City and there was no hope of reaching town with my eardrums still intact. Aubrey was DONE. I saw a camping sign with an arrow pointing to Strawberry Reservoir and made a quick left turn.

At first I thought that I had made a good decision. There were tons of families camping nearby. There was a general store selling ice cream and snacks that would work for my dinner. Aubrey loved crawling around in the tent, and nighttime temperatures for the nearby Salt Lake City were in the 60’s. However, temperatures dipped much lower in the mountains. At ten I changed Aubrey into her warmest pajamas, and at eleven I just decided to hold her for the night. Since infants aren’t supposed to sleep with blankets, camping even in slightly cold weather is tough. Also I was kind of cold but I didn’t want to go get an extra blanket in the car for fear of waking up Aubrey. To make matters worse, I felt bad when she woke up in the middle of the night crying because I’m sure all the other campers heard us. That’ll be my last camping experience for the year.

Camping

Have AAA roadside assistance: I would never survive without AAA. They’ve given me new batteries, unlocked my car (AAA guy: “What store are you in front of?” Me: “Um…the liquor store.”), and they have come especially in handy the numerous times I’ve needed a new tire. Miraculously, I haven’t needed a new tire in six months (a record!) and the last time one went out I was with two friends, one of whom (Fix-It-Tom) could actually change a tire! However, I usually travel alone, so until the baby learns how to change a tire I’ll keep my AAA membership.

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