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Triathlon Tips From Kona Qualifiers



ironman world champs

They may be racing in the most well-known triathlon, but that doesn’t mean these athletes weren’t once just like you—struggling to get through the swim-bike-run and make it to the finish line. Before they raced at the IRONMAN World Championship, they were newbies, intimidated by the swim and doubtful they could actually succeed.

But they’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Whether you’re just getting started in the sport or shooting to toe the line on the Big Island yourself, take a minute to read this helpful advice from fellow triathletes that have been in the same spot you’re in now.

Believe in Yourself

“Sometimes people doubt themselves too much, and they’re too afraid they’re going to fail, too afraid of what other people think. Set a goal and believe in yourself that you can do it and not being afraid to fail.” – Rochelle Arko, single mom and two-time IRONMAN World Championship finisher

Find Your Tribe

“The biggest thing is finding a group of people that support you and are excited about it too. If you have friends and a tribe that can push and motivate you, it makes all the difference. It’s an accountability factor.” – Remi Williamson, IRONMAN World Championship participant

Keep a Positive Attitude

“We all have bad times out there on the course, but if you can find a smile and keep your positive attitude, that’s the biggest thing. When you see people getting down, pretty soon they’re done.” – Dexter Yeats, oldest female competitor at the 2019 IRONMAN World Championship

Train How You Need to Train

“I train with other friends a lot, but they have their workouts and I have mine. It’s about taking care of yourself and doing what you need to do even though it doesn’t always involve your friends or your teammates. If you have a goal in mind, you have to focus on that goal. Include your tribe of people that you train with, but also at the same time remember what your goal is.” – Arko

Learn From the Wisdom of Others

“Learn from those that have already done the training or qualified for Kona. There are so many layers to triathlon besides just swimming, biking and running. It takes a village to build the foundation to prepare you for an IRONMAN.” – Amy Fuhrmann, IRONMAN World Championship qualifier

Have Fun

“Whether Kona is your goal or you’re doing a sprint, you shouldn’t be out there if you’re not having fun. When I’m griping and griping about the training or waking up early, I remind myself that I do this for fun.” – Williamson

READ THIS NEXT: IRONMAN Training Plans for All Fitness Levels

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Kid’s Guide to Winter Plant Identification



kid with leaf

Familiarizing your kids with the diversity in plant life right outside your door doesn’t have to begin with formal scientific names and descriptions. In fact, building up to a point where your child might find a genuine interest in knowing the different genus and species names of a plant is much more authentic, and it starts with simple, daily observations–tuning their eye to the range of plant life around them. 

Is the plant woody or herbaceous? What makes one leaf shape different from the next? How does the plant physically change from one day to the next? Do some change more than others? How does the surrounding animal life interact with the plant? 

You’ll find that once you and your kids head outside and start asking questions, it’ll be hard to stop! At some point you’ll likely want to go out and find a good field guide for your area (as questions you don’t know the answers to are likely to come up quick), but you don’t need one to get started with simply noticing the unique plant characteristics right outside your door. 

While winter may not be the first season that comes to mind when someone mentions plant identification and observation, plants don’t disappear in the winter–they still surround us. In fact, to be able to identify some plants, it helps to notice the way they change from each season to the next. 

From leaf shape and bark type to flowering or non-flowering plants, there’s endless play in watching, noticing and ultimately understanding the greenery that surrounds us. Helping kids see these details will not only help them continue to wonder and learn, but also stay safe (away from the poisonous plants) and fulfilled enjoying the outdoors. 

Pick a Place

A local park, your neighborhood common area, a bench in a shopping center, a wilderness hike and the garden section at a local store are vastly different and yet all great places to start a plant identification journey with your young observer. The trick to getting started is to find a place that’s convenient and engaging! To make it easier to commit to observations routinely over a long period of time (to track changes), pick a place nearby that you’ll be able to easily visit on a regular basis. 

Designate a Notebook

Describe, draw, take pictures–help your child take ownership in their observations by providing a space to jot down their thoughts. Whether you consider it a “science observation notebook” or a “nature journal” of sorts, the point here is for them to record what they see. This will help them track changes over time and have notes to compare things to when they see something again (or get around to comparing notes with a more formal field guide)!

Having them write things down will help them start to notice similarities and differences on their own, eventually pointing out plants you’ve identified with a certain name or category in places other than your designated starting space. 

Emphasizing Sight and Sound for Safety

Plant observation should be limited to the senses of sight and sound before you know with certainty it’s safe to touch. It won’t take long before simply eyeing the plants and surroundings won’t do anymore, and they’ll want to incorporate the less-safe senses when it comes to interacting with unknown plants. 

Make sure to carefully integrate the other senses into the observation experience, by limiting some (like taste and touch!) before actually looking up the plant in a field guide to be sure of any potential toxin or risk. 

Deciduous vs. Evergreen

Now, here’s where the winter months come in. The easiest time to notice a deciduous tree versus an evergreen tree is in the winter. Once you and your kids are in your observation place with the materials you need to record what you see, it’s time to start asking questions to narrow in on the diversity. Starting with the trees around you gives you a chance to break a type of plant life into one of two categories: those with leaves (evergreen) and those without leaves (deciduous). 

Help your child count how many of each type surround you (and record their count in their book). From there, see if they have a favorite or if there’s one that is particularly unique (or common) to look at more closely. Let your observations drive the inquiry! Just don’t forget to make time to write things down as you hone in. 

Seed Pods and Leaf Shapes

Narrowing in on specific trees and plants in your observation spot will begin to highlight details of growth on and around the plant. Use the journal to note safe-sense observations: things you see, hear and smell around the plant without touching or tasting it. If described well enough (or if you use photography), later you can look these plants up to see if they’re safe to touch. Describe the shape, color and size of the seed, as well as if it’s locked in a pod or individually identifiable. 

With leaves, do the same–have your child draw the shape and find similarities and differences from one to the next. Noting these increasingly detailed similarities and differences lays a strong foundation in the field of plant identification.

Flowering or Non-flowering

Determining this during the winter months will likely lead to mere predictions–as flowers often show their colors in the spring and summer months. However, there are a significant number of winter-flowering trees and plants (including a number of fruit-bearing trees) in more inclement areas. Noticing what trees produce flowers in the winter months can help set the stage for the question of “why flowers?” moving forward. 

Defense Mechanisms & Textures

Looking at the texture of plant leaves, stems, bark, seedpods and more is another clue into the identification of a plant. For example, the fuzzy or “hairy” leaves on a berry plant are one of the major ways to discern between the three-leaved berry plant or the three-leaved poison oak or poison ivy! This is yet another reason to carefully integrate the sense of touch after visual observation and field guide research. 

Help your child look and ask, “How does this plant protect itself? Is it sending a warning in any way?” Record observations carefully–this is the practical part of plant identification and the first rule of safety for any young ones interested in exploring the great outdoors.

Looking Beyond Just Getting Started

There’s so much to observe and so many questions to ask about the natural life that surrounds us, so you and your child might want to invest in a field guide to look up scientific names and additional details. This should be encouraged, but don’t forget that getting started with plant identification in the winter months sometimes requires more patience as the diverse details of your surrounding plant life slowly come to life. 

With spring just around the corner, your kids’ winter plant identification observations will provide more context when witnessing some of the biggest changes of a plant’s lifecycle in the coming months. Once hooked, plant identification fosters a lifelong love of learning and nature, so help your little one put together their favorite observation recording tools (notebooks, pencils and a camera if you have one), and find a spot to sit and enjoy!

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Inspiring Female Figures in Art and Science


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Family Movies That Will Inspire Your Young Artist



family movie night

Films for aspiring athletes are easy to come by—it’s hard to have missed the stories of incredible coaching and teamwork in baseball, basketball, football and more—but what about movies for the aspiring young artists in your family? We took on this popular question and came up with a list for you to consider as you plan your next family movie night!

This list includes films with widely applicable themes and messages, including resilience in the face of adversity, challenging boundaries to reach success for the whole, helping others, using your talents, developing discipline to reach goals and the power of good mentorship. Any one of these is likely to spark a thoughtful family conversation that will support the positive growth of your young artist!

From the popular Disney/Pixar to more independent films, we’ve organized this list to include films best suited for young elementary first, building up to more mature films due to language, content and length for early teens and adults alike.

Finally, despite ratings and popular opinion, we recognize that family values are unique and individualized, so it is always a good idea to screen these movies ahead of time if you have any potential concerns.

Ratatouille (G)

“Anyone can cook!” is the message of the beloved and famous chef in this film. Is it true? You should watch to find out, and along the way you will surely fall in love with none other than Remy the rat, who’s an inspiration to anyone who feels their dream is impossible. As an inspiration in the culinary arts, even you will likely find yourself wanting to try a new recipe (ratatouille?) or flavor combination in your meal prep after viewing this film. Cuddle up to watch, and then crack open the cookbooks!

Happy Feet (PG)

In the spirit of embracing all types of art, this film’s message on embracing individual talents no matter how well you do or don’t measure up to the accepted norm, comes with entertaining dance, song and beloved characters that will keep the whole family smiling! The main character realizes that while all of the other penguins have beautiful singing voices, he has the ability to dance like no other penguin.

Coco (PG)

History, culture, music and coming-of-age—the themes that run throughout Coco are as thoughtful as the music is engaging. Protagonist Miguel finds himself in the colorful Land of the Dead as he works to prove his talent, realize his dreams and uncover the reason for his family’s generation-old ban on music that stood in his way. Your young artist may find inspiration from this Disney/Pixar film to pick up a stringed instrument and sing along.

Moana (PG)

While it’s not a film directly about art in the traditional sense, Moana’s love for the sea can be likened to a love for any art. A unique soundtrack compared to other Disney films, Moana is sure to leave you and your family humming these tunes for days. The female protagonist, Moana, faces the biggest of challenges in order to save her island, and to do so, Moana follows her heart and her passion for the sea. She’s a strong character who stretches her boundaries to save her people and make a positive difference in her world (just as an artist has the power to do, too)!

Dolphin Tale (PG)

Based on a true story, Dolphin Tale chronicles the events around helping a wounded dolphin work its way back to swimming strength with a prosthetic tail. The main character is a young boy who develops a particularly strong relationship to the dolphin and his journey to success. While it’s not your typical art film, it is a story highlighting the power of the art in science applied through design and innovation, human strength and the connectedness between animals and human beings–a sure winner among young animal lovers and innovators!

Akeelah and the Bee (PG)

With some harsh language and more mature content, this is a movie better suited for older kids and definitely one you should review before watching. With a message related to setting and working toward goals, Akeelah and the Bee is a movie great for any aspiring artist, athlete, scientist or student. This film especially highlights discipline in working toward long-term goals, be they artistic, academic or athletic in nature. The message is one for any age, as this famous quote highlights a pivotal point in the film: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Ballet Shoes (PG)

A lesser known film with one of the biggest known names of today’s young actors, Emma Watson stars in this film based on a novel by Noel Streatfield. The story is based in the 1930s, and is an intriguing story for any aspiring dancer or theater artist. As the plot goes, three young orphaned girls work their way through the challenges and harsh criticisms of the performing art community. Talented, they all find their own way to success, one (who follows her heart to escape dance entirely) in the area of aeronautics, the other two in life and dance. Ballet Shoes includes some mature content relating to life and death and has a pace better for slightly older kids.

August Rush (PG)

Another film with the message of music’s ability to inspire, connect and help people thrive, August Rush is about a young boy in search of his birth parents. He finds his voice, identity, connection and ultimately, his parents through the cultivation and expression of his musical talents with a little help along the way. With slightly more mature content and a slower overall pace, this film is better for older kid audiences.

Music of the Heart (PG)

A music teacher at an inner-city school teaches young students to play the violin. It’s no easy feat as she faces the challenge of motivating, funding and maintaining support for her program. However, the students who stick with it are changed for the better. This is a movie about succeeding in the face of adversity and the value of the musical arts to human health and happiness. Some language and mature content make the film better suited for older kids, so review before sharing with the entire family.

READ THIS NEXT: 8 Creative Drawing Ideas for Kids

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Spring and Summer Half Marathons Across the Country



Horsetooth race

If you’re looking for a half marathon to run this year, your search may be over. These races offer options for both beginners and seasoned runners alike, all across the country.


We know where the most people are running–and that’s in middle America. So here’s to a great road race season for those of us logging quiet miles along a country road. These hand-picked half marathons offer a mix of urban and scenic courses–all in America’s heartland.

Hoosier Half Marathon
April 18, 2020 in Bloomington, Indiana

The Hoosier Half starts off at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, regularly voted one of the most beautiful in the country. Though the campus is mostly flat, the race features challenging hills in the outlying neighborhoods and has a time limit of 16 minutes per mile. All runners receive a finisher’s medal and are encouraged to explore the charming college town post-race.

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Naperville Women’s Half Marathon
April 19, 2020 in Naperville, Illinois

The City of Naperville will play host to the newest community event for female runners of all ability levels with the Naperville Women’s Half Marathon and 5K. This unique format, offered to women only, will again turn the streets of Naperville into a show of force as the fitness movement continues to expand because of their involvement.

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Oshkosh Half Marathon
April 26, 2020 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

The Oshkosh Half features some course diversity, with part of the race taking place downtown and other parts by the river. Proceeds from the event benefit local charities, including the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh, Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Service and the Oshkosh Area Humane Society.

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Lake Region Run
June 6, 2020 in Fergus Falls, Minnesota

If you’re a runner and you haven’t been to Minnesota, you’re missing out. Why not visit the land of lakes to check out the Lake Region Run half marathon? You’ll be delighted by the beauty of the Fergus Falls area and the ideal temperatures in early June. Don’t be scared off by the challenging hills of the half marathon course–they are well worth climbing.

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Heartland Series
Various Dates and Locations

The Heartland series, put on by Mainly Marathons, features runs in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Fulton race features an out-and-back course that runners loop eight times, with scenic parts along the east bank of the Mississippi River. Not overly competitive? This race is perfect for you as it has no time limits.

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Spring is in the air and it’s time to sign up for an amazing race. The half marathon is the perfect distance for anyone looking to get back after taking the winter off. Or if you’ve been training during the cold snap, these events will give you the chance to show off your fitness.

We picked just a few of our faves in the Eastern part of the country. Why not run 13.1 miles along the coast, through a war reenactment, or even in two countries in one day? These races are just what you’re looking for.

Shoreline Sharks Half Marathon
March 28, 2020 in West Haven, Connecticut

This annual half marathon sells out every year according to race organizers, who no longer even list race day registration as an option. The course is a beautiful one, following Long Island Sound much of the way, giving you a great view of the water. Family members can track runners’ stats on Facebook and Twitter, and all participants receive a gender-specific tech shirt and goodie bags.

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Petersburg Half Marathon
April 18, 2020 in Petersburg, Virginia

Nothing says history like racing through a war scene reenactment. Yes, we’re serious. That’s what happens as you run through Petersburg National Battlefield. History buffs will delight in a race that runs you back in time through the Revolutionary and Civil War. The course is designed specifically to show off the quaint city streets of historic Petersburg.

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Babcock Gristmill Grinder
April 18, 2020 in Clifftop, West Virginia

This popular run takes you through the best of West Virginia scenery, including rhododendron tunnels, waterfalls, cliffs and bridges–all set against unforgettable spring colors. Much of the course is on trails in Babcock State Park, so be ready to get dirty. The race only has limited slots, usually sells out and is a DEAL at 50 bucks, so be sure to register early.

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Bay of Fundy International Half Marathon
June 28, 2020 in Lubec, Maine

Ever run in two countries on the same day? Starting in New Brunswick, Canada, the course winds across the U.S.-Canada border into Lubec, Maine. You’ll run alongside the Bay of Fundy, which offers cool breezes making this June race feel an awful lot like early spring. Local artists handcraft all awards, so you’ll earn a trophy that differs from the traditional hardware you usually receive. You must have a valid passport in order to run this race.

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