Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “vacation”

KISSing The Holidays

If you are like me, part of the appeal of a training schedule for any particular goal is the routine that it creates. I always know when I’m running and approximately how far I’m running, and I can plan my day accordingly. In general, I have a tendency to plan my life out quite a bit. I rely pretty heavily on Google calendar, and my iPhone 5  tends to help run my life on many different levels. This propensity for an organized and regimented life lends itself to a great deal of productivity, and typically works really well during normal daily activities. However, sticking to a routine is always a bit harder during the holidays, and I am certainly guilty of making a few adjustments to my calendar during the holiday season. I’m sure many of you are having the same thoughts!

The beautiful epicurean and I are doing plenty of travel this holiday season, and have been thinking quite a bit about how to adjust our schedules and our diets to accomodate for our travels. Yesterday, I was able to get up early and squeeze in a chilly but quiet and relaxing 16-mile run around my parents’ neighborhood in Minnesota. They’ve already received far more snow than our paltry dusting in Iowa, but Minnesota knows how to deal with snow, so the roads and sidewalks were easily runnable 🙂 However, as Christmas looms, and we prepare to engage in multiple family celebrations (we are able to celebrate together for the first time, which is exciting), I know that being able to disappear for 3 hours to head out for a run isn’t always going to be possible. This is why I’ve decided to KISS the holidays.

A calm and quiet morning for a run!

A calm and quiet morning for a run!

Keeping it simple (Stupid) makes a lot of sense for my varied schedule. Instead of locking myself into a rigid training schedule, I’m planning to dedicate a smaller block of time every day to heading out for a run or some other form of cardio workout. When I combine this with some brief upper-body work during breaks in the day, I’ll be able to keep my fitness level up without sacrificing valuable time with family.

Eating healthy during the holiday season is always a consideration as well, and the key is moderation in my opinion. Avoiding everything you love to put in your mouth just doesn’t seem reasonable, and will leave anyone more crabby than anything else. So, instead, I’ll still be allowing myself some tastes, without going overboard. The only exception for me will be continuing to avoid dairy, which has been HARD, but I decided to finally come to terms with the fact that I’m lactose intolerant.

Family = upper body workout?

Family = upper body workout?

So, no matter where the season brings you, who you visit, or what you celebrate (or not), I wish everyone the best this solstice season! Take some time for yourself and KISS your way into the new year 🙂

Why Do You Run?

It’s December, which means the new year is right around the corner, and a new crop of folks will list “start running” as their resolution for the new year. As with so many resolutions, the odds are stacked against them as time/work/motivation/family/time/work (yes, purposefully listed twice!) get in the way. Ultimately, I’ve realized that the motivation, desire, and will to not just start running, but keep running takes a bit more than simply writing it down on a piece of paper or announcing it on Facebook (although peer pressure can be a powerful tool!).

Photo Credit: lulumon.com

Photo Credit: lululemon.com

In the short time that I have been running, one of the things I enjoy the most about the sport is meeting and engaging with other runners and listening to their stories. Perhaps it’s the former Residence Hall Director in me that loves connecting with people on that level. I’m constantly amazing by what I learn about people while we are running, whether I’ve met them for the first time during a race, or I’ve known them for years. Running brings to the surface a whole new crop of thoughts and running together with someone seems to make being a bit vulnerable somehow ok. I’m sure you’ve had plenty of interesting and at times very personal conversations with folks while out on a run as well. I simply love getting back from a run,  and having that “huh!” moment as the gravity of what I learned sinks in. People run for a lot of different reasons, and those reasons change over time.

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The beauty of such a simple sport is that you don’t need to be a professional athlete, and you don’t need to be on a noble mission or part of a larger organization in order to decide to participate. We talk about competing during races, placing in our age groups, or challenging our friends, but ultimately we are simply there to compete against ourselves (and perhaps the clock). Although I wish I had the speed and ability of Ryan Hall, I’m still quite satisfied and proud of my own accomplishments.

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I started running as a stress reliever, and a way to shake off some pretty heavy things going on in my life. In the process, I found friendship, and grew to love it for how it made me feel and the opportunities it presented me with every time I leave the house. Now, I run because of love and addiction. That may change tomorrow, and that’s ok.

So, I toss the question to you- why do you run?

“Running” Into Art

I’ve mentioned before that I love traveling to new locations and exploring an area on foot. Heading out for a run after a quick survey of available routes is one of the best ways to explore a large area in a short amount of time. The abundance of running social media sources (Strava, MapMyRun, GarminConnect, etc.) means there are always routes already posted and shared no matter where you are staying. You get a chance to scope out shopping, restaurants, parks, and other unique aspects to a city, even if they don’t appear on any readily available descriptions. Outdoor art is one of the most interesting aspects of any major metropolitan area.

Ben Franklin High School

Ben Franklin High School

In recent years, many cities have attempted to breathe new life into neighborhoods, and one of the best ways to do that is with outdoor art installations and murals. Not only does it add an exciting design element to any space, but it allows the city to incorporate the work of local artists and further reinvigorate the area. I just got back from a trip to Philadelphia for a professional conference, and my running adventures allowed me to discover those interesting pieces!

The game is afoot!

The game is afoot!

Everyone is familiar with the ‘LOVE” sculpture in Philadelphia, but as it turns out, there is quite a bit more to be discovered in the city of brotherly love. I stayed at a hotel in the Center City neighborhood, which was a great location for some excellent restaurants and coffee shops (my two other favorite parts of traveling to a new location). It also happened to be very near several universities and an art school. As you can imagine, there was plenty to see during my morning runs.

The city as a canvas :)

The city as a canvas 🙂

I truly believe that the beauty of a city lies not just in its traditional and historical cultural areas, of which Philly has plenty, but also in the abstract and unique art. Heading out for a run allows you to see the beauty of an area in those hidden areas. The murals on the sides of buildings, the small sculpture installations near office buildings, the architectural features of an area, and the simple ways that folks have made the city their own, all add to the visual interest of a new location. Needless to say, Philadelphia did not disappoint!

The black monolith?

The black monolith?

Changing Direction: Making the Old New Again

For me, one of the best parts of running is traveling to random locations for races and the opportunity to run in those areas. Inevitably, I end up seeing a version of an area that I just wouldn’t get to experience if I was driving through or committing to a normal tourist experience. In a sense, I’m in part motivated by the opportunity to travel, and often extend a race trip into a full-fledged vacation. However, these trips account for a very small percentage of the miles I log, which leaves me to run a majority of my miles close to home.

As many of you can no doubt attest, you’d love to be able to travel to new locations for each of your training runs. There is just something much more magical about running in a new location and exploring as you run. For me, the miles seem to melt away as my senses are engaged in the surroundings. I’m constantly cataloging the sights, sounds, and smells for future reference. However, like most of you, I’m relatively busy between work, friends, and my new-found mandatory passion for home maintenance and upkeep. Thus, I regularly leave my house with the intent of “squeezing in” a quick run so I don’t fall behind on my training and I don’t waste any additional time that could otherwise be spent attending to the 100 other things on my to-do list. The result is a regular regurgitation of the same routes I know and am comfortable running.

Do you know where the path leads?

Before I started running, I couldn’t give you directions in my small midwestern town to save my life. Unless you were asking how to get somewhere on campus, I was clueless. I regularly remind friends and family that I consider myself directionally challenged and they probably don’t want me navigating. However, since running, I’ve discovered just about every corner and every hidden street, alley, backroad, cul-da-sac, and dead end that the town has to offer. If you ask me how to get somewhere in town now, I’m more likely to giving you running/walking directions than driving directions. This new found expertise also means I can plan out a route very quickly for just about any distance because I know the numbers so well.

My familiarity with just about every street and every route around has lately left me feeling a bit bored with the scenery of my runs. I’ve started to give thought to how I can mix things up without going out of my way to get in the car and drive somewhere new to run. Ultimately, I realized it might just be as simple as changing direction. I’ve started to run some of my normal routes backwards and with new short-cuts and long-cuts, altering my path just enough, and it has been great! The result has been seeing the things around me through new eyes and from a new perspective. I’ve noticed things about the world around me that I had taken for granted before, and it has been a lot of fun in the process.

Better than a cow bell along the route 🙂

This change to my routine got me thinking about the bigger picture and the challenge of keeping my running fresh, and I realized that the idea of changing direction applies much more broadly as well. We all end up getting a little stagnant every once in a while after running for so long and training so hard for various races. Sometimes we don’t feel as motivated, or the weather isn’t exactly as we want it, or something came up in our day and we don’t have as much time. Those are the moments when it’s even more important to get out on the road (or trail!). Those are the moments when escaping into a new world we’ve never seen before but was right under our noses the whole time can be just what we need to keep the spark alive. Sometimes making the old new again is the refreshing reminder of why we run in the first place!

The best place to end up after a long run!

Racing Vacations

This coming weekend will mark the anniversary of my first long-distance race, Dam to Dam, a 20K road race in Des Moines, IA. However, I’m adding a follow-up marathon the next day up in Minneapolis to make things interesting (we can discuss my sanity once I see how I feel on Sunday afternoon)! Although getting up at 3:45AM to drive down to Des Moines doesn’t exactly constitute a running vacation, the subsequent afternoon drive up to Minneapolis does count. Although only a brief, 24 hour “vacation” of sorts, it got me thinking about the constant debate in my head- do I organize races around vacations, or vacations around races?

I’ve done both, and I certainly enjoy vacationing without any races on the calendar as well. However, my quest for unique and enjoyable races around the country means I have the opportunity to visit some great places that I wouldn’t otherwise consider as vacation spots. To this point, the most memorable of those vacations was to Eureka, CA for the Avenue of the Giants Marathon. This was quite possibly the most beautiful race I’ve ever run, and it ended up being a wonderful vacation as well. Having the opportunity to run a small race amongst the redwood forests is like nothing else I’ve ever done, and had I not decided to run the race, I’m not sure it’s an area of the country I would have gotten to any time soon. I would have missed out!

Gorgeous Views: Avenue of the Giants!

Sometimes throwing a race into an already established vacation can be a lot of fun as well. The Twin Cities 100% Irish for a Day 10-miler earlier this year is a perfect example. I’ve also gone up to Lake Okoboji with friends the last two summers for a nice weekend get-away and tossed in a 1/2 marathon for good measure (probably my least favorite race to date, yet I still run it!). My trip to Washington D.C. last summer for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K was another perfect example of a race and vacation melding together. After running the race, we had another week in D.C. and Maryland to visit family and friends, and had a great time (although the staples in my head that I earned on the course did mean wearing a hat the rest of the trip!).

Northface Endurance Challenge: A nice run along the Potomac River 🙂

Ultimately, my goal is to run a marathon or ultramarathon in all 50 states, so I am attempting to tailor my race schedule such that I don’t duplicate any more than I need to with destinations. Sometimes this will mean traveling to a great location for a race and vacation, and other times, it will mean driving in the night before, and driving home right after the race. With all of these races, the additional challenge becomes remembering to take vacations just for the sake of the vacation and not worry about the next race, and I’m constantly reminding myself to do just that!

In the end, I cherish my racing vacations and enjoy all of the opportunities they provide for seeing a different side of the country that I wouldn’t otherwise visit. However, sometimes you just need to fly to Trinidad in January, because you have a friend there, and it’s cold in Iowa…so we are doing just that as well! (Maybe I’ll go for a run along the beach 😉 )

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