Friday, February 27, 2015

Be a Rolemodel for Others

I recently heard a story about a runner who had gone from couch potato to training for their first 5k.  They did their best putting a lot of hard work into training their body to be able to go that 3.2 miles.  They knew they'd end up having to walk part of the race, but since the race allowed walkers they figured they'd be in good company.


This runner was doing their best, even though they knew they were almost at last place, but with determination to finish their first 5k ever they pressed on.  As this runner neared the finish line another runner who had already finished the race, made a comment to this runner from the sidelines that they were at the end of the pack and going to come in last.  Then proceeded to loudly make a comment that he didn't understand why people bothered entering races if they couldn't race, he said he saw no purpose in walkers and those who don't train hard for a race to do their best.


What that man didn't realize, this runner did train hard, months of training.  They'd gone from not being able to walk the block, to being able to walk/run a 5k.  For this runner this was in incredible accomplishment.  All this faster runner did, was steal another runners smile and their glory and make them feel bad about themselves.  When this runner finished thee race, they said they never wanted to enter a race again.


What is wrong with coming in last?  Absolutely nothing! 
What is wrong with a faster runner telling another they have no business entering a race?  EVERYTHING!


When I heard this story, it broke my heart! 
Not that its possible, but I wish we could ban negative personalities like this from running races, they give runners a bad name!



Yes it's true some people enter races and don't train.  But is it really up to us to decide who does and who doesn't?  Just because someone doesn't fit "your" idea of the size of a runner, or the pace that a should be in a race, is it up to you to decide if they belong there or not?
It isn't, and frankly never should be!


Truthfully, those runners/walkers at the end of the pack might be those that have some incredible and inspiring stories behind why and how they got to that race.
The fact is, runners/walkers come in all shapes and sizes.  I have had runners who weigh considerably more than me, pass me in a race like there was nothing to it.  I've also had times where I have passed smaller runners who look like they should be in the lead and not behind me.
The thing is, you can't judge a person by their size or speed.
I've talked to runners in races who have told me their normal times are much faster, but they pulled something early on and just wanted to walk/slow run the race and finish.
My point is, you just never know. 


A person could receive a hundred compliments and cheers, but it just takes one negative comment to ruin everything.  In my opinion, making a rude comment or sharing a negative opinion you have about another runner to them in a race or from the sidelines is a form of bullying and it is very, very wrong on many levels!





Once ran a marathon in Idaho and when I was in line at the famous runners port-o-potties, I was having a little chat with another runner.  The topic came up, of how will you do and so on. 
She said to me, I plan on coming in last. 
I said to her, I doubt that, people say that, but I doubt you will be.
She said, oh I could probably finish around 5 hours if I wanted too.
Then she said, I actually travel around and enter marathons and I do come in last, on purpose. 
Of course I asked why???
She told me, because someone has to.  If it's me and I want it, then that is my choice, and that way everyone in front of me, doesn't have to fear being the last one to cross the finish line.
I remember at the time, not quite sure what to think about it.  But as I was running that race myself, I realized that is a pretty selfless thing to do.  She has fun with being the last person, and quite possibly she's doing it for a good reason! I decided, all power to her!


Why I don't recommend others do this, unless it makes you happy.  What I would recommend is this.
If you enter a race, any race, any distance, any speed.
No matter if you finish at the front, middle or back of the pack.  Make a conscious effort to make sure you are not putting anyone else down because they are "too slow."
You don't know their story, you don't know if they didn't train and coming in at the back is what they get for it.  Or if they trained their heart out, and coming in towards the end is the absolute best they can do!



Be an example to both runners and spectators of our great sport.  Take on the role as role model for others.  Cheer for everyone the same, no matter if they are first or last. 
Even when you are not at a race, make sure you are always speaking highly of all who are attempting to do any sport.  I'll quote Ellen Degeneres "Be Kind to One Another"


So let me ask you, what would you do if you heard another runner putting other runners down?  Or if you're okay in saying, have you ever been a victim of a rude runners comments before?





Thursday, February 26, 2015

How to make money blogging

This month I am focusing on sharing tips and suggestions on how to grow your blog.  If you missed my other posts, here they are if you'd like to check them out.


If I could give you a set of things to do to guarantee you will make money blogging I would.  But the truth is, there is no exact process to make money blogging.
Some bloggers may make a fabulous six figure salary, most may never make a dime.  Some who end up making money blogging, generally don't end up making enough to leave their day job.
Others, have no desire to make any money, and do it purely for fun.  That is awesome too!  I think no matter your choice as long as you have fun with it, then your making the right choice!

There is one true fact, there is money to be made by blogging.  How much, and how you do it really comes down to you, and how much work you can put into it.



The truth is, for the most part the difference between someone who makes money blogging and someone who doesn't is a person who is willing to put a lot of time and dedication into it.
If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Blogging is fun, wouldn't it be fabulous to call it a job?  But those that reach that status are a pretty small number, when you consider how many bloggers are out there.

I am NOT a six figure blogger, not even close.  Not a lot of bloggers will be honest with you on what they make.  But for this posts purpose I am going to give you the true facts on what I make currently. Mostly so if your wondering why I am writing this post, what I am basing it on.
About a year and a half ago I decided if there was money to be made blogging, I was going to see what it would take to earn a little of it.
I went into it realistically, but I knew it was going to take hard work and time.

My first month I made $2.68 you may laugh at that.  But at the time I was pretty darn proud of that, to me it was a great starting point.  Proof that it was possible.
Lot's of hard work, lots of trial and error the last year I made quite a bit more.  Nothing to quit the day job over.  But I was learning and things were happening.

I don't make a set amount each month.  Right now I make anywhere between $200-$350 if I only put basic efforts into it.  Months I have more time to spend, I tend to make a little more.
My best month ever so far was last fall, where I made a little over $800 in one month.  (Oh, I was super thrilled about that month, I can't even tell you how cool that was!)
Turning this profit, in over a year and a half in timing was pretty incredible at least I think so!

HOW DO I DO IT?

Well I should mention I do have a pretty good background in online advertising.  I won't go into my past job history, to much.  But it did give me a little insight to everything from small mom and pop shop advertisers to some of the biggest fish in the market.
Did this help me much with blogging, yes and no.  I believe it will help me more in the future, but it gave me a realistic understanding of what different types of advertisers are looking for.  Which helped me decide which avenues might be the best for me to pursue to start out with.

Do you necessarily have to have an online advertising background to make money blogging? Absolutely not.  But for me, it hasn't hurt.

What is needed to get started:
A blog
1-2 social media platforms with a decent following base
Know how to install HTML code into your blog
Know your blogs Analytics and understand what it all means

A blog: It doesn't have to be a self hosted blog.  Clearly I am still on free blogspot as I am writing this.  I do have plans to move over to self hosted.  But I have to wait for a few more months, for reasons that don't really matter:)

1-2 social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest are good choices because you can link your posts/tweets/pictures to your blog.  Instagram is fun and popular, but you can't link a picture to click to your blog directly, so if your just starting out.  However, a lot of advertisers love Instagram right now, so it's not one to skip.  Make sure at least one of them can directly link to your blog.  If you can, go ahead and sign up for as many as you can, it can't hurt!

Know & understand your Analytics: Some blog platforms (blogger) give you your blog site states, in their own analytics.  Truthfully, most of these are terribly inaccurate and list far more page views than reality. Most companies won't accept them as creditable forms of verification.

I use Google Analytics, it is the most popular and widely accepted by pretty much anyone.  There are others, but if you are going to take the time to install it, I'd go with Google because then you won't have to worry later on about its acceptance to the masses.
Then learn how to use it, learn the difference between a Page View, Unique Visitor, Session etc..  It may sound Greek to some, but it's not that hard to understand and there are lots of tutorials out there that can make it really simple for you.

AMBASSADOR PROGRAMS

The important tip on this is, wait until you are ready.  Once you are fairly established and have the hang of things.  Once you have time to move onto something new.

Apply for Ambassador programs in the different niches of your blog.
Make sure you are picking companies and programs that make sense for your blog.
Ex. if you blog about Homeschooling and you apply on travel companies programs because you think it would be cool to get paid to fly around.  Your probably not going to get it, because there is no direct relation to what you blog about.

Don't go crazy, don't apply for a dozen or so of them at a time you'll get overwhelmed and never be able to give each of them the time that is needed to succeed in their programs.
When you have time to invest into it, try applying and get the hang of things, using their program to your full advantage before signing up for others.
Some bloggers apply for anything and everything, and then end up realizing they can't even give one 10% of their efforts, which is kind of a waste!

WHAT DID I DO?
You can actually see some of the companies and programs I am affiliated with on my right sidebar as you scroll down my page.  I've made some great relationships and have received a lot of paid opportunities through these programs.  Not to mention have learned a ton about the blogging world, participating in them.

APPLY WITH COMPANIES DIRECTLY

If you are really ambitious, you can contact companies directly.  To do this, you need to know your worth, you'll want a media kit that displays what your blog is and about, and your monthly stats. What you can offer them, and why they should pick your blog to advertise on.

Some find this to be tedious, but if done consistently this can actually end up bringing you some of your highest revenue and guaranteed monthly revenue... an income!

Why?  Because you are throwing out the middle man (ad agency) you will get to collect and keep the full cut of what the company is willing to offer you.

How? Get your media kit ready, start researching companies, find their marketing department who who is in charge of advertising and email them your media kit and a short but eye catching email. You tell them why YOU are a great choice to bring them more traffic or boost their sales.
Generally if you send out 100 of these, you'll probably see a response from about 1-4 of them.
Might sound like a lot of work for such small numbers.  But if just one of those is a big campaign and you could book them for a year, that could be some decent guaranteed low maintenance earned income for each month.

Relationship Building - Some may even respond and tell you to contact them at a different time or tell you they don't budget again until October etc... Most companies do their advertising budgets quarterly, so they may tell you to contact them in 3-6 months. Do it, write their name and keep that contact info handy, that is the beginning of a relationship even if it is an automatic email response they send!

HAVE I DONE THIS?
Yes, but very little on my blog, so far....  I will though!
I mentioned I used to work in online advertising, I did this daily.  Yes, it is tedious, yes it takes a lot of time.  But after you get a system it doesn't take quite as much time.  But it is worth it.  I took a sales desk that was only bringing in $28K a month, into one that brought in $250K a month in less than a year.  A lot of that was attributed to contacting companies large and small directly using this same method!

ONLINE AD NETWORKS

One way to start making a little money immediately is to install ads from ad networks into your blog. There are lots and lots of them out there.  You might even find a lot of them contact you first.  Don't jump the gun too quickly on these.  Look them over, see what they are paying you for.  Are you getting paid for each ad impression or each click thru?  Do you have to have so many before you even start making money?  (Make sure you understand the difference between an impression and a click.)

I am not going to tell you which is the right and wrong way, but I will say if you don't know what your doing you can easily get suckered into running free ads for someone.
If you find the right one, if you do install them, you will likely make a little money over time.  Just keep in mind you may only make a few dollars a month when first starting out.

FYI You can't ask for clicks on the ads you run on your blog, and you can't click on the ads themselves otherwise you will be penalized.  That is a big NO NO rule of running ads on your site!
But as you grow your blog, you'll notice others will click and the amount you make will grow.

WHAT I DO
I like to use Google Adsense, they are run through a feed that fits relevant ads to each individual person.  Meaning I may see one type of ad, but you might see another type depending on what you do online.  Adsense is click based, so I only get paid on how many times people click on the ads on my page.



USING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWING

There are lots of advertising companies out there who find companies for bloggers to run ads for them.  They do all the work and hassle to obtain the contracts for you.  If you are the right blogger with the right following you can make some pretty decent easy money.
But with these, you need to have a decent social media following.  The most common are Twitter & Facebook ad campaigns.  However, I have seen a growth in Instagram campaigns lately as well.
Technically, you don't even need your blog for these campaigns.

MY EXPERIENCE IN SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNS:  If you want to know how I earn a good portion of the money each month I mentioned.  I will be honest, they have been on Twitter campaigns. That is where I have my largest social media following.  I have legitimate follower accounts, who interact.  When companies pull your social media accounts, they can tell these things.
Due to contracts I have signed I can't tell you how much I make with them.  But to give you an idea for X amount of tweets or mentions I get X amount of dollars.

*That is why it is NOT a good thing to buy into those programs where you pay for followers, they are not legit and will only hurt you.

If you'd like tips on how I started to grow my social media followings, visit the link at the top of this post.



SHOULD YOU DO FREE PRODUCT REVIEWS FOR PRODUCT ONLY?

The controversial topic of blogging, should you do free product reviews or only paid reviews?  The truth is, the choice is yours.
If you are contacting companies to do product reviews and you have the numbers and blog stats to back up what you are asking them financially for, then do it, go for it get paid!

If you are a small blog, low numbers and a company offers you a product review opportunity you might not be able to ask for money.  But that is okay, do a good job with that review anyway and use it to help build your blog.
A lot of times companies if they like your review, they will link to your review on their blog.  This could bring you future traffic, which could turn into dollars later on.

The choice on this is yours, and don't let other bloggers tell you that your ruining the blogging world because you aren't charging for your post and review.  We all have to start somewhere, and if they go back to their roots, they probably have to admit to doing a few free themselves.
When you do them just make sure no matter paid or for product you follow all FTC rules!

A key thing to keep in mind is, blogging takes time.  Eventually you may realize it's not worth the time to do something for free.  Even if you do only want to do things for free, remember your blog is valuable and you have ever right to charge for things, if you have the page views to back it up!

WHAT DID I DO/WHAT DO I DO
When I first started out I did do reviews for free product, not many but I did a few.  I took care to do a good job on them, even if the product was small.  They actually became the building blocks for paid reviews.  Companies can see my work, they are part of my media kit.  They see that I take time, I am thorough and they won't be getting a short blurb, but a full report.  Basically, they can see what they would be getting for their money.

Now that I have been blogging for a few years, I personally rarely do a product review for free.  Not because I think I am too good for it, its not that at all.
Doing a good review takes time.  It can take an hour or so just to write the post, and to edit and add pictures, can take another 30 or so minutes.  Not to mention the time it takes to do any required social media mentions.  That is time, a lot of time!  
I value my time, and at one point realized I have put a lot into my blog to build it to where it is now.  I value my time and I feel I am creating a good product (my blog), and there is not a whole lot of spare time.  Which is why I really had to start thinking time is money.  

* I can't give you a set figure on what to ask for posts.  It really depends on what your monthly page views are.  It also depends on what they want you to do, some have a series of things you need to do.

Another VERY important thing to remember.  By law, you have to declare the net worth of the product you received for free on your taxes.  If you are doing $100's to $1000's of dollars a year in FREE reviews, for product only, you will be paying money to the government to review those.


PAID PRODUCT REVIEWS

If you have a good following, and blog page views.  You can actually get paid to do product reviews.

A few things to keep in mind when doing this.  Your audience trusts you, you should be honest. You should only want companies who want your honesty!!!

Review only products that may be of interest to your blog audience.  Don't review things just because your getting them free or paid.  Review it because it might be a product of interest to you and your readers.
Companies are asking for an honest review, it's your job to give it.  If you don't like it, or a particular feature on it, then say so.

Reviews help companies in several ways, the SEO it can provide them with.  Even bad reviews still get their name out there to the public and can bring their website rankings higher, it's all about branding.  A lot of companies actually make improvements based on reviews.  Most do them to build their SEO in a low cost way.

You need to think of them as you would any job.  If you are going to do it, do it well.
If you try a product and you don't like it if you are working with the company directly you could ask them if they'd still like you to review the product, but most right up front ask for an honest review, so give it!

One thing a lot of bloggers find after a while, is companies will contact you to do a review.
A few things to keep in mind.  They are sending out a mass email, they are likely hoping for as many FREE takers as possible.  They'll get them, that is why they do it.
The method above I mentioned about sending out 100 emails to company a week to find advertisers. Well companies do it too.  They research find blogs, and send out mass emails.
Don't be afraid to ask for compensation, but be realistic and send them your kit as to why you don't do free reviews.  They may pass up on you, but that's okay, you've established your worth, and they may not take you, but a bigger fish might!
Many do have budgets, but they are saving those budgets for certain bloggers, you might as well try and see if that blogger is you!

* As well as declaring the product cost you are reviewing, you also are required to declare all funds you make.  These companies do file on their records that they sent you these things.  Keep that in mind before you go and spend every dollar you just made:)

A FEW AD NETWORKS I RECOMMEND

I would love to give you a list of all of them.  But there are far too many to list.  Each blogger who used ad companies has their different preferences.  Instead of giving you just a random list, I'm going to list the ones I actually use and have found the most success with.

BLOG HER
They have various opportunities, but I really like their platform, they pay you exactly when they say they you will get paid.  It's easy to keep track of your campaign and it's progress.  They are great to work with.  You can actually learn a lot from them as well as attend blog conferences.

THE SITS GIRLS COMMUNITY (MASSIVE SWAY)
They are also on my high recommend list, you get paid exactly what they say you will.  They have a good platform.  But for a smaller blog, you may want to wait until you have a good following before applying, as a lot of their campaigns have some pretty high requirements.

SOCIAL SPARK
Here you can get paid to blog.  But you can also get paid to tweet, as well as a few other options.

TAP INFLUENCE
You fill out the application and enter your info and they put together your media kit for advertisers. Higher your numbers the better your chances.  But they have both blog and social media opportunities.  They are pretty well known in the blogging world, even some of the companies I am an Ambassador with run their campaigns through them, to pay you better based on your blog stats and numbers.

INFLUENSTER
This is really a fun opportunity for bloggers who like to try out free things.  There are not really any requirements when they send you things.  But if you do go back after you receive them and do some of the optional feedback and social mentions, you'll be able to continue to receive occasional opportunities from them.  I am not aware of any paid opportunities with them however, they do have contest for those who do reviews and I have seen them offer cash prizes, it could be you, you never know:)

IZEA
They do have paid opportunities and work with quite a variety of different companies!

TOMOSON
I've done several campaigns with them.  I do like their platform, it's easy to complete the ad campaign projects.  However, when you first enroll they will not allow you to set your status as paid.  You have do do a few, establish a ranking with them (how quickly you fulfill the requirements) before you can set your account as paid.  But they do have lots and lots of products and companies, there is a little something for everyone.

GOOGLE ADSENSE
If you have a basic understanding of how to install HTML code into your blog, then you can easily run Google ads on your site.  I believe your blog or site has to have been up for more than 30 days, before applying as it needs time to gather your sites feedback.


Like I mentioned there are many more and I have tried a few others this past year and a half.  But these are the ones that I have stuck with the most and actually recommend as great companies to work with.

GETTING STARTED

Start out small and do one thing at a time.  If you try to do it all, you'll get burned out before you even get started.  If you need to work on building your blog, building your following then start working on that today.
If you feel you have an okay following, then start applying for campaigns or contacting companies.

MY TIP - Set a few goals for yourself.
Maybe your first goal is to obtain X amount of social media followers.  Or X amount of monthly blog page views.  Give yourself a realistic time frame to do it in.  Then write down what you need to do to get there.  Figure out how much time it may take a day/week to get this goal.  Manage your time and keep yourself dedicated to your goal.
If you start to get burned out, hold back for a while maybe a few weeks, or a month. Until you feel you can put the time into it again, while still enjoying it.
Keep it fun, and keep active goals and you just might see some great success!

THE FACTS

The fact is this, there is money to be made on your blog.  But just because you have a blog doesn't mean that is all you have to do to make money.
If you want to turn it into something that you can make an income off of, it won't happen over night. It's going to take hard work and time.
Above I listed some tips and suggestions to consider when deciding if getting paid to blog is right for you.  But if your serious about it, I will promise you can make it happen, I just won't offer any guarantee's at how much you will make.

First you need to Build Your Blog, and Build Your Social Media Following.  Network with other bloggers, create your own blogging tribe.   You can treat your blog like a business, schedule your time so you can use it to your best advantage most wisely.  Remember that a lot of it is trial and error, and sometimes you'll have to try a lot of things that don't work to find the thing that does.  Don't change your blog to fit what you think others want or business want.  You'll have far more success if you blog from the heart.

Keep creating great content and being unique.  Always remember to blog first and foremost for fun and because you love it!  That way you'll never be disappointed about your results!


So tell me, do you make money blogging?  Is it something you hope to work toward?  If you do, I'd love to hear what things work best for you!  Or do you just blog for fun, and want to keep it that way?  Nothing wrong with either goal or objective!!!





Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The 100 by Kass Morgan a Book Review

This is one of those unusual times that what first grabbed my interest to read a book series was a T.V. Show.  I caught a few episodes of The 100 on the CW.  I really enjoyed them, and then I realized there were books out on them.  I thought, why not read the books and find out what happens before I watch it on T.V.

It only took about one chapter into the first book to realize, the books are entirely different than the Television series.  Granted the background and subject matter are the same.  However, although some characters are in both, many of them are very different.  Ones that exist on the television series are not in the books, visa versa for the books.
After I became used to this, and realized that other than a few similarities they are completely different story lines I really started enjoying them!

I hate to write a review and compare it to a television series, but in this instance I can't really help myself.  For the most part, I am going to give my opinion on the first two books in the series.  The 100 and The 100 Day 21 by Kass Morgan.

Generations after generations have lived in space.  No one has been to earth in centuries.  Not since a massive nuclear world war forced humanity to abandon earth and seek refuse on space stations.
The problem is, the space stations are running out of resources and oxygen far faster than they predicted.

In their society to help control and keep others in order, if a crime is committed and the individual is convicted if they are over 18 they are floated into space.  However, if they are a juvenile, they are kept in prison until they are 18 at which time a committee decides if they deserve a second chance, or if they are to be floated into space for their death.
With resources running low, those in charge make a decision.  They decide to send one hundred of the juvenile delinquents, on a secret one way trip to earth.  They place tracking bracelets on them, so they can read their vital signs and determine if earth's radiation has faded enough to become habitable again.

Clarke was arrested for one crime, even though she harbors a second that no one knows about.  She believes she is being sent to earth to die.
Well's, is the Chancellor's son, had himself convicted of a crime just to go with The 100 and convince the girl he loves that he is worth a second chance.
Bellamy, was never convicted of a crime and only fought his way onto the ship to save his sister. Since the colony's rules only allow one child per parent, they are unique and are believed to be the only siblings in the entire universe.  The only problem is, what he did to get on that ship, means he can't ever let the colony's come to earth and find him.
Just as Bellamy fought his way onto the ship. Glass fought her way off and used a distraction as a way to get back onto the ship to find the man she loves.  The only problem is, she realizes staying may have put her in worse danger than leaving.

They each have unique stories and backgrounds.  But they also have incredible roles to play in the survival of civilization.  When they step onto earth seeing tree's, sky and smelling earth, dirt and rain for the first time.  They soon realize earth is habitable, and they aren't going to die.  At least not from radiation.

Both The 100 and The 100 Day 21 are the stories of how a bunch of prisoners have to make a choice to work together or against each other in a fight for survival.  Unknown enemies come into play, and secrets of earths history are revealed unlike anything they could have imagined.

I really enjoyed both books and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, in fact I already have it on hold at the library.
One of the differences between the books and the television series.  The television series besides entirely different story lines for each character it has a lot more action in it.  I found the books to have some action, but nothing quite as graphic as the television series.

I thought they were both seriously fast reads, I read each one of them in pretty much one sitting each. Although they were nothing as I expected overall I really enjoyed them.
Although they are written for a YA audience, I believe adults will enjoy them, even if not more! Because of some of the subject matter (sex) which isn't much.  I personally thing they are better suited for an audience over the age of 16.

If your looking for an interesting science fiction dystopian read, then I recommend The 100 series!  I think the main reason I enjoyed them so much, is because they are a little different than I have been reading and sometimes different is good, really good!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Glacial Landing and Mt McKinley Air Tour

Today is Travel Tuesday

Just want to say Thank You to all of my followers who enjoy my Travel Tuesday posts, also welcome to my new blogger friends visiting from the Grow Your Blog, Hop. 
Originally for today I was going to showcase something entirely new.  But then I started thinking about it, and since today is my Spotlight Day in the Hop, I realized I would like to show you one of my all time favorite adventures.  Since I showcased this on my blog a couple of years ago, I figured it has been long enough my current followers might not be annoyed with a little throwback post:)



If you're thinking about following me, every Tuesday I showcase a great place I have visited, hike I have taken, adventure.  Most are in the United States, but occasionally sometimes in another country.  I give you a few details in case it's something you want to add to your bucket list:)  Sometimes I go for great sights and other times I like to fulfill my adventure junkie need:)  
In short I truly believe the world is meant to be explored, and even if you never leave the United States there is so much adventure it would take a lifetime to even make a dent!

This glacial landing tour trip will probably be in my top 10 most amazing things I have ever done in my entire life. The thing is, it almost didn't happen.  It was a last minute idea on one of my last days in Alaska.


This was the best view of our trip of Mt. McKinley before we took the Glacial Landing Trip

They say only 30% of the people who go to Alaska have the opportunity to see Mt. McKinley, from the distance in the picture you see above.  
Even if you are standing right in front of it inside Denali National Park, looking right at it, 70% of the people who visit never see anything.  

The reason for this is, the mountain has it's own weather system and is very unpredictable.
When I was touring Denali NP, I was not able to see the beautiful mountain.  But on one of my last day's I was traveling the area of Talkeenta, Alaska.  Which might I add, is a hikers paradise in it'self:)  
We had no plans that day, so when we saw the signs to book the Airplane tour of Mt. McKinley we decided, what the heck.  Just in case we never made it back there again.



Right from the start as the small plane takes its time touring the mountain range as
it works its way up in elevation.
We assumed it would be a fun, but had no idea we were about to be amazed and experience some of the most amazing breathtaking views and have an experience of a lifetime.

We departed late afternoon, early evening (However; June in Alaska it doesn't matter, since the sun doesn't really go down there in the summer. You can take these tours almost whenever the air companies are offering them.)  



Once you arrive, and sign the waivers and stuff, they fit you with good boots that fit right over our other shoes, so you can get out and walk around on the glacier.  A glacier landing was part of the tour deal we purchased.  You can actually take the air tour and see only small sections, or skip the glacial landing.  But if you're going to go, as you will see it is definitely worth the extra bucks!



Then we were off, right from the start you flew over the beautiful Alaskan Wilderness, massive forests, mountain and glacial lakes, and beautiful rivers.  Amazing views, that you can only see by air.  Not only that, but you really get an idea of how big Alaska is.

In this picture you can see a moving melting glacier, 
it is several miles long and over a thousand feet deep.
Our tour guide a.k.a pilot was amazing, he told us lots of history and fun facts about the mountains and all the different names of all the peaks we were passing.  (I love that in a tour guide!)  We were in a small plane, and I took the back seat since it was a single ride seat, and this gave me plenty of room to take pictures out both sides of the windows.  Which is why you see the plane wing in some of these pictures.  It is also why the pictures are not exactly the highest quality because I some are taken through the window:)


Not only do you see Mt. McKinley, but you also will get up close and personal views with many glaciers and peaks (pilot chooses your exact flight) We lucked out and were able to get up and close to them all.  Including Mount Foraker 17,400 peak.  Our pilot was in a great mood, and he threw in several extra peak and view flyovers.  So when I say we lucked out, we really did, because he took us to see what would have normally cost us almost a hundred more to see.


The pilot explained that several of these glaciers move quite a bit each day some 1-3 feet a day.  When you think about how big some of them are, like Ruth Glacier which is more than 10 miles long, and several thousand feet deep of ice with amazing cliffs shooting over 5,000 feet on the sides of this massive moving glacier it's really quite awe aspiring when you think about how massive and huge these glaciers are. 
Sure some glaciers are melting, but opposed to what a lot of people believe when they are thinking on the term "global warming", they are not all melting, some are even building each year.  


Just imagine there is around 2,000 feet of ice under this massive glacier
it may look kind of like a road, but it's not its just the long path of the moving ice.
I show you this next picture just to give you an idea of the magnitude and size of things.  Yes you'll see several big glacial lakes and cracks.  But what you don't realize is how big these lakes and cracks on this mountain are.  Some of these cracks can open up one day and close the next, although this picture was taken from high up in the air.  I can tell you as we were coming in for a landing, those cracks could fit the entire plane into them and then some.  That is how big some of those open up.




Could you imagine being out hiking on this terrain?  Out exploring and experiencing these glaciers from the ground.  Seeing the hanging glaciers above you from the mountains above?  All I can say is, oh my gosh I loved it!!!



Well that is exactly what people do every year.  They take up to a month out of their lives to go up here and climb to the top of Mount McKinley and some of the other peaks.
I have to be honest, if ever given the opportunity I would SO BE THERE!!


Hard to see in this picture unless you know what you're looking for, but you can actually see the trails these
adventurist take to scale these mountains.
People climb to the top of this peak (below picture), Mount McKinley 20,237 feet, the Highest Peak in North America.
An interesting fact, because the base of this mountain is only a few thousand feet above sea level.  When you look up at this mountain from base to top you are looking at an 18,000 foot rise.  This is actually the largest mountain in the world situated above sea level.  Yes, you read that right.  Mount Everest is the highest in elevation, but this mountain is taller from top to bottom.  So as your looking up at it, you're seeing the highest mountain rise in the world.


This is a close up view of Mount McKinley - 
They climb to the top of that tip top peak you see in the picture.
This is a view from further back.  
Compare this to the first picture I put up in this post - amazing isn't it!
The views from the plane alone are spectacular!  On my particular tour our pilot was in a great mood and he decided to take us around and show us the entire loop of the range instead of just one side of it.  At the Mount McKinley base camp when we looked down and saw all the tents and people, the pilot said it looked too crowded, and he wanted us to experience the true beauty of these mountains.  - Thank you Pilot!!
So he took us onto another spot to land.


I loved the views of these amazing hanging glaciers affixed to the sides of the beautiful granite mountains

Well if you pay a little extra, okay so quite a bit extra.  I think it cost us $80 more per person.  The pilot will land the plane on a glacier, and you can get out and hike around a little.  We figured, why not!  We may never get to do this again, so why leave with any regrets.
SOOOO WORTH IT!!!!!  The HIGHLIGHT of our Alaska Trip.  We had decided to do this before we even got into the plane.


Yeah, ignore the fact that I decided not to wear make-up this day!

Now to be honest, you may not have this exact experience.  Our pilot picked a glacial landing at a little over 12,500 feet for us to get out.  He picked this area because the weather was great on this side of the mountain at the time.  Plus, the ice looked good to land on.  He also picked it because he loves to show people what it means to experience the saying "It was so quiet it was loud".

The other plane was leaving just as we got there, 
so we were able to be the only ones up on the glacier at the time!
We landed up against these massive granite mountains, it was like being in a glacial bowl, mountains all around us except for the snow in the picture that you came in on.  After we got out of the plane and walked around a bit (we knew why they gave us the snow boots - so we could keep our feet/shoes dry).  
At a point, the pilot said, okay now just stand still and don't speak just listen.



It was an amazing experience.  It seriously was so absolutely quiet, that the quiet was loud. I can't really describe it, its nothing I have ever experienced before.  Not even in a cave, the quiet alone was amazing!
Not a bird, or bug or sound of wind or water in the air.  You just looked around and it was absolutely beautifully peaceful!  Occasionally you'd hear in the distance a loud long crack as the ground opened up somewhere.  A few times in the distance the loud rumbling cracking sound of a large hanging glacier breaking off and falling to the ground.  But for the most part, you heard absolutely nothing, and it really was the loudest quiet I have ever had the amazing experience to listen to.



Seriously an amazing experience!  I may have been wearing my jacket when I landed, but I quickly threw it into the plane.  The jacket was really only needed for the cool plane ride. The temperatures up on the glacier that day were t-shirt weather for the most part. 
Honestly, if I had the money I would have paid to have the pilot drop me off with a tent and come and pick me up the next day.  I would love to spend the night in such a magnificent peacefully awe inspiring place!  Of course, there is a chance where I am standing could be a giant crack the next day:)  But still...  
If I ever do it again, I am so going up to camp over night!

Me and the parents - 
I took them to Alaska for their Christmas and Birthday Presents that year
Yeah, I know, I'm an awesome daughter:)
Words can't describe how magnificent this all is, and the scale of it all.  This is one thing IF you can in your lifetime, you'll want to add to your bucket list!!!  
It was worth it more than I can say, and once I stepped foot on that glacier, the cost to do it pretty much left my mind.  I can't imagine visiting Alaska and not doing this, at least once in my life!


I hated having to leave the fun of walking around in parts of Alaska that most people don't even realize exists, and only a few ever get to see.  But we couldn't stay there forever.
The plus side, when you leave you still have a beautiful flight ahead of you as you make your way back to Talkeenta.  I loved our pilot, I know I said that before, but he really was awesome!  We took a different way back so we were able to see entirely new views than before, nothing was the same!






Slowly as you fly back down and around, the color of the ice starts changing again.  The picture below, is a moving glacier, but this is part of the first few miles of it, at a lower elevation.  So the dirt covers it, which is why it doesn't look like a white ice flowing river:)





Eventually, you begin to leave the massive mountain range in Denali Alaska



And the ice begins to melt back down to those massive glacial rivers and streams that flow through the beautiful state.



After our tour, we headed back to this beautiful cabin I rented.  I have to say this was one of the nicest places we stayed during the entire trip.  
We stayed in a nice cabin for a week in Denali, but it didn't even compare to this!  This cabin had a wrap around porch so you could sit out and enjoy the evening and midnight sun:) Also right in front of us was a massive river so you could just relax and enjoy the river flow, watch for bears and other wildlife!  The perfect way, to end the perfect day!  




I highly recommend this trip to anyone who loves Adventure and the chance to see what most people can't even imagine!!!!  I showed the pictures in a bit of a progression on how the trip went, but to be honest I only showed you about 2% of all the things we saw and the photo's I took on this trip.  They don't really do it justice, but they do give you a bit of an idea:)  Hopefully!

IF YOU GO:
*  I took my tour out of Talkeenta Alaska, we took the Talkeenta Air Taxi Tours
*  Tip - We were able to secure a bit of a discount on our flight thanks to using my parents Military Discount
*  Tip - If you aren't military, you can still find a discount by booking a last minute tour.  However if you do this your risking availability.  However, if you are flexible with your dates you might be able to save a few $$.
*  We flew into Anchorage and rented a car.  But you could also take a scenic train ride to the area.  Or fly into Fairbanks.

*  There is lots of hiking, fishing and animal sight seeing opportunities in the area.
*  Denali National Park is just down the road from Talkeenta, I believe it was a 2 hour drive for us.
*  Bring a camera!!!!  I took hundreds of pictures on this trip, I only selected a few above to show:)  
*  It is a hefty price tag, it cost more than our flight from Utah to Alaska.  But honestly it was worth it, I promise!!!  I'd share the costs, but the flight companies probably change rates frequently, so I would just suggest checking their sites first to get a current price quote.

If you like adventure, I have spotlighted over 50+ different awesome places to see. You can always take a browse by visiting my Travel page HERE.

So tell me, what has been one of your greatest adventures you have taken to date?


Monday, February 23, 2015

Just My Luck

If you've read my blog for a while, you probably have already realized the past couple of years, I seem to be cursed with a little bad luck. Apparently, that hasn't stopped as of yet.

Last Wednesday I went out for a run, the first 4 miles I felt a little tightness in my right foot that extended slightly into my calf, but I have been noticing off and on lately so I stretched it out a little like I have been doing, and then went on.
Haven't ever been able to figure out what causes it, and it always goes away and hasn't bothered me much after I stretch it out or walk or run it out.  In all my years of running, I have never had pain or tightness come on while running so this is a new thing for me.

True to it's mystery, the tightness went away around mile 5 so I decided to continue on and finish with a little over 11 miles that day and it was one of those feel great run days!

I had this dumb idea after the run that maybe I should stretch a little more, because of the early on tightness.  I did so, and then noticed I had to return a work call.
I was standing leaning up against a wall while I talked, and noticed a slight twitch or ping of some kind in my foot while I stood there.  I didn't even think anything of it, but I remember noticing it.

When I got off the call I went to step away, and caught off guard by a huge amount of pain that surged through my foot I literally fell face forward, catching myself on all fours.
Yes, apparently I am the weird person who can get a horrible injury just standing in one place for a min, seriously??

This was so excruciating. Oh my, I was so close to tears.  I gave it a minute before trying to walk again and found I could not put any weight on it at all, otherwise I sharp stabbing pain seared through it and my leg would just give out on me.
So I crawled around.  A while later my dad came, and got me some crutches so I could get around.  I literally, just went straight to my bed and aside from getting up to eat and use the bathroom.
Another thing, I had to be super careful, it hurt to the slightest touch, even my finger brushing up along the pained side of it, caused huge pain and discomfort.

Wednesday I lay with my foot propped up, icing it every 20 minutes and just started praying it would go away in the night and I would wake up healed. (I'm a wishful thinker, it's in my nature I can't help it:)

That didn't happen.  The rest of the story, I have spent now the better part of three days completely off it, and doing the ice, compression and elevation thing.
(I've read a lot of good books, and have gotten seriously bored with nothing on T.V.)
It was starting to bother my now almost healed left foot with the work injury.
I decided to mostly just stay off my feet, I can't risk undoing everything I spend over 2 years to heal, to limp around with a new injury. I'd rather just stay in bed!

I almost cancelled the post I ran Friday on injuries, LOL  I wrote that over a month ago and had it scheduled, but seriously it's timing for me was a little more than ironic!

No idea what caused it. Since it happened a few minutes after I walked away from stretching, that is my guess of what caused it.
I called to get into a Dr., but with specialists around here I was told I would have to wait almost a month to get in.  I won't go into that annoyance!  I made an appointment, that I hope I can cancel!

My original guess was either something tightened up on me, or I strained something.  I think I might be right on my assumption.  Based on how it happened, how it feels and how it seems to be lessening in pain. I am leaning toward something inside the foot tightened up too much...

How is it now? It no longer hurts to the touch, unless I push on the spot.  I can put my full weight on it.  If I lightly stretch it before taking a step, I don't get that searing pain any more and sometimes it can even be virtually no pain.
Since the pain originated in the side arch of my foot, and went just into the inside of the first part of my heel (2 inches in total.) It handles well to walk around on my tip toes, so I have dropped the crutches.  If I wear a good supportive show or a heel, I can even walk fairly normal now.

I'm a bit baffled by it all, but clearly running is going to be out a few more days, possibly even the rest of the week.  I have never had anything like this happen to me before so I am airing on the side of caution.

I may start walking on it, a little more each day, until I am absolutely certain whatever happened to it, has gone away.  Then I will start running on it again.  I know it might be okay to run on it sooner, but I don't want to risk it,  I'm just going to be smart about it!
Funny how I just a week ago cancelled my March marathon, clearly it wasn't meant to be in many more ways than one:)  At this point I am going to see how things go, it seems ridiculous to be picking a new marathon right now when things are slightly uncertain.  On another note, in a way it was a miracle that the wedding I had last weekend called it off last minute too!

So ya, it's just my luck!
I won't lie, when it first happened I was pissed, devastation running through my mind.  But after that initial really bad afternoon of being baffled and angry.  I remembered that it's not the end of the world, no matter what it is.
Attitude is everything, and a good attitude is what got me through the last two years and a good attitude is working now.  I can honestly say, I haven't shed a tear over it, I know it will be all right eventually.

I am curious, if this sounds like anything that has happened to you before.  Or if this sounds like something your familiar with with those of you who are into physical therapy and coaching?  If so I'd love for you to tell me, so I can maybe ask you a question of two.

So yeah, that's my week!
I didn't mean to take up my whole post on it, but I guess I couldn't help myself. Sorry if it was a bore to read!

IN OTHER NEWS
I did book three more weddings this past week, two of them very large ones.  I realized Saturday that, I am pretty much booked out now until June.  I might accept one more in April but that's it, I am almost fully booked out for the first half of the year! YAY
(For those who live outside of Utah, brides in Utah leave things to the last minute.  While in most states brides call a planner or a decorator six months to a year in advance.  Here they call at times two to three weeks before their date.  On average I get two to three months notice.  I have grown up here, and I still can't figure out why so many leave it to the last minute?)  Crazy huh!
But ya, I need this foot healed quick because I have weddings just about every weekend now, and these feet walk 8-10 miles per wedding carrying lots of heavy equipment!

Last if you're thinking of hosting a Giveaway in March, you should consider joining the 2nd Annual Spring into Fitness Giveaway Hop I am hosting with Just a Mom Who Tri's, you can find the details and sign up HERE.

FYI: I am only going to host 4 of these this year, instead of 7.

Just a quick note, I have changed some of the rules from how I did them last year.  So make sure you read over them and are okay with them before signing up.  I was more lenient the past two years, but going forward I am going to be a little more strict and drop those who aren't following the rules. Just to be fair to everyone who participates.

LAST, what do you think about the new blog look?  I participated in some constructive critiques with a few other bloggers last week, and I like some of their suggestions so I took a few to heart.  I may mess around with the boarder a little.  But I'd love to hear what you think, even if you don't like it! I am not 100% sold on anything yet:)




Friday, February 20, 2015

When You Should Stop Running



It's an important question.  
When is it okay for a runner to stop running?


As anyone who reads my blog knows, a few years ago I was an avid marathon runner, 13-14 full marathons a year, and my days were spent training and getting ready to take off for the next race. Although I am currently getting ready to race again, I have been unable to run a marathon for the past 2 years.
I had a work injury, I won't go into it, because the injury I received is not really the point.
But I did want to add this, so when you read my post below, you don't roll your eyes.  I speak on this topic because I've lived it and I truly believe I might have the chance to help someone else from ruining their running life and missing out on a life of a sport they love.

When should you stop running?

Any time there is any pain.
I am not talking about the sore muscles and tired normal achy feeling runners have.  I'm talking about the, something is wrong.  My ankle has been hurting, my knee is hurting, I have a pain in my hip that won't go away, my muscle feels like its being stabbed, sharp pains when I put pressure on the, etc...
Most of the time, a day or two or even a week away from running will likely cure minor problems, or keep a bigger problem from happening.

If the pain has been going on for more than a week.
I know how you feel, you have a race coming up and you think taking time off will ruin that and mess up your training plan.
But the truth is, and I speak from experience.  If your already in shape, unless your an elite runner, a week or two off running isn't going to hurt your chances at the race.  But it just might be exactly what is needed to heal what is hurt and get back to doing what you love and not cause long term problems.

When a Dr. tells you to take time off.  
Now I refuse to go to any Dr. that isn't a runner, and I prefer distance runners.  Regular Dr's who don't run, generally may just tell you to stop.  But if you visit a specialist or Dr. that is a runner and they tell you to take some time off.  You might just become an idiot for not listening to them!  Because a Dr. who is a runner, will do everything they can with your injury to help you keep running or get back to running as soon as possible!

I want to touch on Self Diagnosis...

If you've been a runner for years, this might be something you can do, to an extent.  But if you are new to running, or breaking into new distances and your having repeated or long term problems.  I personally do not suggest Googling it!  Most of the things you'll find online regarding medical diagnosis, are probably not even written by real doctors.  It's best to visit a medical professional and get a correct diagnosis and opinion!

What can you do on your own to fix things?
Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, we all know those.
Depending on the problem, you may need to buy new shoes.  Just because you just paid $150 for a new pair of shoes and had a person at a running store fit you for those shoes, doesn't mean they are the right shoes for you.
Although, those running specialty stores do their best.  Most of them are just high school or college students, and they are just suggesting shoes based on the best of their knowledge.  Sometimes you have to try a few different shoes out to find the right type for you.  Yes, that can be costly, but a new pair of shoes could be far cheaper than MRI's and PT and things that will be required later on if your running around in the wrong shoes that are causing problems.
Believe it or not, the most common running injuries are actually caused by wearing the wrong shoes.
You can try switching things out on your own, but if the pain persists and a week or two goes by with no signs of improvement, its time to realize you might not be able to fix this on your own.

I can't stop, I have a race coming up,
I've spent a lot of money on it. 
I've been training for it all year and my friends will be there.

This is a tough one, and as a person who has had to NOT show up at the starting line for a race I traveled and spent a non-refundable $1800 to be there for not to mention the training time to do.  I understand the pain in this decision.
This is when common sense needs to take over from your desire.
It's probably going to be the hardest decision to make.
But, let me ask you;
Do you love running?
Do you want to have many, many more races in your future?
Do you have many dreams and goals that revolve around running?

Well if you answered yes to even just one of those, then you have your answer.  If you are injured or having pain, and it's not been getting better and you've just been keeping it at bay or numb my icing and drugs.  Then you probably are going to have to do the hardest thing, and not run the race.
Like I said, I have done this.  It's not easy, but now that I look back it was the best choice I could have ever made!

Their are some runners who decide to just run anyway because they are hell bent on being there no matter what.  Maybe or maybe not depending on the injury it works out or ruins them...
But I also like to ask myself this.  If this was the last race I was ever going to run, is this the one and the way I would want to go out?  Sometimes the smartest decisions are the toughest to make!

What can happen when you keep running on an injury?

Well, I'll tell you this.  The particular work injury I had, could I have kept running on it?  For a while, yes! But what would have eventually happened?  Things would have become so inflamed, scar tissue would have built up, and I may have got a year or two if I am lucky in with running with pain.  But eventually, I'd be done and the damage would have been possibly not correctable at that point and eventually I would never be able to run again.

The fact is, some injuries running related or other may take a lot of time to heal.  You may have to put your passion of running on hold for a temporary time so that you can have a life of running ahead.

Some injures especially those that linger (I don't want to get into specifics).  But if they are causing pain, stiffness, soreness or inflammation on a constant basis.  You may be slowly damaging a joint, muscle or tendon and not even know it.  The longer an injury (pain) goes on, the more damage you are doing (scare tissue) and each day you push it, you might as well consider it a possibility that each day pushed, is going to be less and less of a long future in running!

Injuries are tough, heck most of the injuries I have received that had to take me from running, weren't even caused by running.  They occurred doing other things.
We may be runners, and in great shape, but we are vulnerable so its best to remember to always treat your body with care, especially if you have plans on using it to run most of your life!

The hard truth.

I've had many injuries even if they were not from running, and usually like I said above a day or two or even a week or two off was all that was needed to rest and correct the problem to continue on.
But sometimes although I would wish my situation upon no one.  Occasionally you could be out a year or more.  I've spoken to several runners who have had to go through what I did, that have been out 2-3 years or never were able to start back up again.
Why the recovery difference?  Well when I've had the conversations with them, I always ask them. Did you keep running, what did you do?

(And I hope this doesn't hurt any one's feelings who may read my blog, that I've had this conversation with.)
But the ones that were out the longest, and the two that I spoke to who can no longer run.
They did it to themselves and they know it, they kept on running, kept on pushing, hoping that it would just go away on its own.
They would only take care of the problem half way, do what the Dr's said to a point and them made up their mind on the rest on their own.
Now they suffer the consequences of their choices.
If you become injured in any way, the question you need to ask yourself is, do you want to be like those who ruin their bodies and can't run anymore.  Or do you want to be a runner who has to take some time off, but in the end can come back into it better than ever before?

________________________________________


So I write this post, not because I am a Dr. (because I am not, nor am I any kind of medical professional.)  But I write it in the hope that if you are ever in the situation of an injury that has gone on more than a week, and isn't getting better, and you're keeping on running.
My hope is that you re-evaluate and decide what may really be best for you, not just what you want! Seek correct medical advice at the beginning and second opinions when needed.

I have hopes that I am running marathons in my 90's.  But that won't happen if I don't take care of myself now.  Having to stop running temporary or long term isn't easy.  If you are as passionate as I am about running, it's actually darn right miserable to hold back or stop.
But I'd rather look back at my past as say, yeah I had a miserable year (or two).  Instead of looking back and saying, if only I had let it heal, I might still be able to run....

I wish injuries upon no one!  But if you ever find yourself in this situation, maybe the words you read today, will help you make the right choice so that you too can have a full life of running!