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Visit Indiana: The Ride of Your Life at Schooner Valley Riding Stables

Jacqueline Harbin at Schooner Valley Riding Stables with Sassy in Nashville, Indiana

If you’ve never been horseback riding you should go.

If you’re ever in Indiana, you should go horseback riding at Schooner Valley Riding Stables.

A short hour and a half drive Southwest of Indianapolis in Nashville, IN, Schooner Valley Stables is an absolute gem.  A far cry from the staunch, void-of-personality experiences that most other riding businesses provide, the guides of Schooner Valley Stables are fun, engaging and happy to accommodate guests.

Expect a laid back approach from the minute you pull into the charming driveway leading back behind the house to a makeshift parking lot that affords you a view of the barn – and of course, the horses.  Chestnut, bay, black, pinto, gray and everything in between, the personalities of these magnificent creatures are just as varied as their coats.  The guides will pair horses with people based on the riders experience and confidence and the horses temperament and personality.

Suitable for someone who has never been on a horse all the way up to experienced riders, Schooner Valley Stables provides something I have not seen at other stables across the country:  two different rides are available based on skill level.  The beginner is just what it sounds like – first time riders or for those who haven’t been on a horse in a while, this ride builds your confidence with walking and trotting.  The advanced ride will give you an opportunity to canter – something you don’t see at most stables.  Almost every other riding stable you go to will offer the nose-to-tail experience with slow, easy walking.  It’s fun and a nice way to take in the scenery but not in any way a challenge (for you or the horse) and it gets tiresome quickly.  Schooner Valley Guides take an assessment of the group to see how everyone is feeling about their abilities – assuming everyone is feeling confident there are several sections that the horse will trot – think of it as a jog for the horse.  If you booked a run ride or you’re in a small group and feeling confident, you’ll get a chance to let the horse canter – a flat out run which is an experience you’re not soon to forget.

It’s the staff that particularly sets itself head and shoulders above other establishments.  Luke, the owner and operator, is a warm, hands-on kind of guy with a personality who has never met a stranger.  At 6’7″ you can’t miss him and he’s more than happy to share information about his horses and how the stable stays running in a smooth fashion.  Guides Anna and Brian along with volunteer Panda are shining in their own right; they may not be from Texas but they’re certainly cowboys (and girls) in their own right.  It’s easy to see how passionate they are about the horses and riding and they are more than happy to share their wealth of knowledge with those who are interested.  Expect to feel like part of the family from the moment you introduce yourself.

What started out as a scheduled 11am-noon trail ride turned into an all day adventure that I never could have dreamed of.  Over three hours worth of riding interspersed with hands-0n stable experience – removing horseshoes, spreading hay, putting away saddles, oiling stirrups and, of course, scooping poop.  I’ve never felt so welcomed by strangers in my entire life.

Next time you’re in Indiana and itching for an experience you can’t get anywhere else, schedule a ride at Schooner Valley Riding Stables.  I promise you’ll make some unforgettable memories.

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Adventures Lifestyle Sports Training

(Trail) Run Indy

Trail running tips for Indiana - keep it simple

You’re in a new state.  You wanna go trail running.  My best piece of advice?

DON’T OVERTHINK IT.

Seriously.  It was the first thing I wanted to do when I landed in Indy and in hindsight, my logic was flawed from the start.  Googling “trail running in Indiana” pulls up practically nothing.  (Although hopefully this article with help change that some.)  There is only one National Forest in the entire state – Hoosier National Forest – and it’s about two and half hours South of Indianapolis.  While the website is pretty extensive, the hiking section just gives you list of trails and nothing is particularly close to, well, anything.  And maybe you don’t want to drive 2+ hours just to go run.

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Adventures Travel

Indiana: A Place for Adventure?

Welcome to Indiana Sign

Learning to sleep on a 6+ hour flight is a learned skill.  A valuable one.

Living in Hawaii means that it takes at least five hours to get to the mainland and rarely is the first stop your final destination.  A word to the wise:  hop a red eye from the islands and sleep the evening hours away on the plane.  You’ll arrive in the mainland early the next morning and it’s the easiest way to get your body on the correct time zone plus you only waste half a day on airplanes instead of an entire day.

But that sleeping thing.  It’s easier said than done for some folks.  Bring layers, something to use as a pillow and, if light bothers, an eye-mask (yes that’s an acceptable thing, I promise).  Oh, and headphones.  But you already had those right?

Recently I hopped a 10:30pm flight to Phoenix in route to Indianapolis and happily slept the entire first flight and all but the last 2 hours of the final leg.  The best nap ever?  Not exactly, but I did wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on rental cars and a new city.  Which brings me to my point.

Who actually lives in Indiana?

I remember hearing the song Flyover States a few years back.  It’s catchy but I’m not sure that it made me want to visit Arkansas.  I did quite a bit of research before heading out here.  I’m an outdoorsy kind of girl and adventure should have been my middle name.  I don’t care much for boring so Yelp’s wine bar and family-fun suggestions don’t really do it for me.  Fly-boarding.  Zip-lining.  Trail running.  An indo-yoga class.  Paddleboarding.  You know, stuff that burns calories and makes you break a sweat.  (Wait, does zip-lining burn calories?)

There’s potential there.  You’ve got to dig a little but it’s there.  I’ve got three weeks to convince you that Indiana is a cool place to visit.  That you can find adventure even in the most unexpected places.

So what are we waiting for?

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Adventures Travel

Hiking to Waimanu Valley

Sometimes you just need to pack and go on an adventure.  Long weekends are perfect for that!

Over the 4th of July, Jess, Tom, Jonathan, John and I hopped a (very early) flight to the Big Island, rented a car, drove an hour and a half to the North face of the island (after stopping for a quick booze run – seriously, camping is way more fun with a little happy juice), left from the Wiapio Lookout with our packs and headed out towards Waimanu Valley.

It’s close to 20 miles roundtrip with plenty of switchbacks and some elevation gain to get you to the campsites (fair warning, you need a permit to camp there) and there are some amazing waterfalls an hour or so from where you’re going to call home for a night or three.  You can’t beat the scenery and while I could try to describe it to you, it’s more fun if you watch it.  Enjoy and check back soon for campfire recipes!

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Adventures Sports Training

My 5 Year Race Plan

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

It’s one of those funny questions that pop up every now and then.  It usually takes me completely off guard because, unless I was interviewing for a job, it was rather unexpected.  And it’s yet another reason to have a training/race buddy.

Jess and I sat down one afternoon and planned out our “A” races for the next 5 years and while I could just list out the names, I thought this might make things a little more interesting.  Check back to read a full write-up on each of the races in my upcoming 5 part series – Planning Your Race Future.  Until then…here’s a little sneak peek.

What’s your 5 year plan?

Infographic for races - Xterra Trail, Otillo Uto, Back to Back Challenge, 50 Mile Ultra Marathon, 100 Mile Race, UTMB, Barkley Marathons

       Where do you see yourself in five years?

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Sports Training

How Trail Running Made My Long Run Fun Again

Trail running in North Shore Oahu Hawaii with Jaci, Jess and Tom

BRRRRRRR!  BRRRRRR!  BRRRRRR!

It’s not even 4am and my alarm has never been more obnoxious to basically-a-hibernating-bear Mr. Harbin as he groggily turns it off and half-hands, half-drops my iPhone in my general direction.  I hop out of bed and my brain fog lifts almost as soon as my feet hit the floor and I feel my way to navigate the dark bedroom.  I grab a quick swig of water as I mindlessly pull on the running shorts and the shirt I laid out the night before and then Rio and I are out the door.

It’s long run day.

That’s my life every Sunday morning.  Up and at it before the sun comes up to avoid the Hawaii heat.  Some variation of the same main route that has one big hill, two bike paths and more traffic lights than I would like.  It can get a little tedious and sometimes I find it difficult to motivate myself, even if I do get to train in paradise.  Although in my defense, running next to the ocean isn’t the same if you can’t really see it. Ya know, because it’s freaking dark at 4am.

If you’re a runner, I’m sure you’ve been there.  Same-ish time, same-ish place.  So how do you get the thrill of the long run back?  The euphoria of running down the road, finally maintaining your target pace, lost in enjoyment and time flying by?

Maybe you try something new.

Jacqueline Harbin trail running mud

Sometimes you need war paint.

Last Sunday my alarm didn’t go off until 4:30am and instead of heading down to the bottom floor of my building and starting on the same route, I jumped in our trusty Jeep and drove an hour to North Shore to meet Jess and Tom for something I used to do all the time:  hit the trails.  Somewhere halfway up a mountain there’s a park that has miles and miles of trails.  From the “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” entrance to the first two miles being uphill to the somewhat totally questionable trail markers, I’m glad I went with someone who had some working knowledge of the paths.  It’s not the Maine portion of the Appalachian Trail but it’s definitely possible to get turned around and end up with twice the mileage you were shooting for.

Trail Running GPS Track Map in North Shore Hawaii

10.7 miles of trails – you can see how it might be easy to get turned around!

But something magical happened.  The miles racked up without me even noticing.  It was partially the fact that I had someone to talk to, to laugh and joke around with and partially the fact that I had to concentrate on where I put my feet.  One of the best (and worst) things about the long run is that it’s almost hypnotizing.  You can forget what you’re doing and that can make both the time and the miles drag on.  Trail running forces you to focus due to technical terrain, potentially slick, muddy portions and low-hanging branches that would like nothing more than to smack you in the face.  Eight miles in, we found the bunker and were taking in an incredible view of the North Shore.

North Shore panoramic view on Oahu, Hawaii

The view is always worth the work.

On top of making you pay attention, trail running offers a different challenge – not only will it strengthen your feet and ankles due to the terrain, it offers a chance to tackle hills in a way that you don’t normally find on paved roads.  Rolling trails are interspersed with steep sections, both up and down, as well as hairpin turns.  It’s exciting.

Redheaded Racing Twins Jaci and Jessica take on Hawaii's North Shore Trails

When you plan to race Otillo, you train like it – trail running attached to each other isn’t near as difficult as you might think!

It’s even more exciting when you’re tied to one another with 550 cord.  Check back soon to see what that craziness is about!

The take-home point is to get out of your routine.  Stop doing the exact same thing week in and week out – consistency is huge but boredom is the killer of motivation.  Try out a completely new route.  Embrace the trails and see how muddy you can get.  Remember why you started running in the first place.  We’re never too old to enjoy ourselves and have a little fun.  Don’t forget that.

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Major thank you to Tom and Jess for inviting me along, bringing water, slowing down (woah bear!) and taking photos.  Much love.

Adventures

The Right Person Can Push You Over the Edge

Redheads Jess, Rio and Jaci - triathletes and miniature Australian Shepherds

Wait, no, not like that.  Why are edges always considered a bad thing?

I like to think of anything leading up to the edge as a comfort zone.  And comfort zones can be boring.  It’s the equivalent of eating the same thing for dinner every. single. day.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know I’m well into #firstworldproblems and there are many things WAY worse than being bored.  But, bear with me.

Thrill seeking and pushing my limits are things that I enjoy.  Trying something new.  Something that makes your heart race.  Mr. Harbin is an amazing man, but he doesn’t share my love of long distance running, climbing steep mountains or jumping off said mountains.  And that’s totally okay because if everyone were the same it would be incredibly boring.  And my mountains would be crowded.

But it can get lonely sometimes!  When that happens, you can’t help but think you need someone to join in on your adventures.  A kindred spirit if you will.  My adventure pup is an irreplaceable companion but she’s really bad at conversations, so in this case, spirit animals sometimes work better if they’re of the human variety.

Rio, the red-tri Miniature Australian Shepherd who goes on all Copper and Rust's adventures

#riothemini – the “rust” half of Copper and Rust

My point is, when you meet someone who you instantly recognize as a potential adventure buddy, don’t think twice, don’t ask questions – just lace up your running shoes and go for it.  Literally.

Meeting my twin was a simple matter of fate – she runs the vet we started going to in Hawai’i.  Not only do we both have red hair, we both love to run, hike and chase crazy dreams, we both have red tri Australian Shepherds (one mini, one standard) and our wedding anniversaries are less than two weeks apart.  It’s safe to say we hit it off from the word go.

Redheaded look-a-likes who love to run, bike and swim.

Twins!

Aside from our physical and personality parallels we inspire one another.

Go Big or Go Home.

It’s been a mantra of mine for a while and it has held true the entire time.  When you’re passionate about running you can’t stop, won’t stop at 5k, half marathons, back to backs.  You shoot for the moon.  It will take years but the Barkley Marathons are calling my name and I want Jess right next to me when we tackle the monster (partially to share the experience, partially to make sure if we do get lost, at least we’re together).

I’m not sure where exactly I’m headed in life but I have a general path mapped out.  SwimRun, UltraMarathons, Triathlons…we’re tackling it all along the way.  Sure, you could do it by yourself…but it’s so much more fun to have someone who shares your passion and embraces the suck with you.

Stick with me over the next few weeks as I profile the races (and corresponding trips) we have planned and how we train.

“If you’re dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”

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Adventures

Life Underwater

It’s a whole different world down there.

If you’ve never gone below the surface it should be on your list of things to try.  There is nothing quite like coming face to face with these magnificent creatures that you can’t find anywhere else – an aquarium just isn’t the same thing.  Peaceful and surreal at the same time, you never know what you may stumble upon next.