Tag Archives: Travel

36 Hours in Nash-Vegas

One of many enormous boot stores in Nashville.

One of the many enormous boot stores in Nashville.

Last weekend a group of friends and I went to Nashville, TN, for a bachelorette party.  What we didn’t know was that every other bachelorette party in the world was also going there.  Apparently Nashville has eclipsed Las Vegas as the #1 bachelor and bachelorette party capital of the U.S.  Despite this, we still had a good time.  Oh, and we spent more than 36 hours in Nashville… (But yes, I’m doing a play on The New York Times36 Hours In… series, which actually covered Nashville, but to no one’s surprise, the Times seemed to have quite a different experience from us…)

 

Friday

1.  Up and At ‘Em | 4:40 am – Wake up and get a car to LGA for my 6:30 flight.  There were four of us going on this trip but we all flew separately due to geography and airline/ticket considerations.  Spoiler alert – we all had various major and minor travel problems to and from Nashville.  One girl missed her flight on Friday, and my flight was cancelled on the way home so I had to spend an extra night in Nashville.  Not sure if that always happens if you try to go to or from Nashville, but it’s worth considering if you value your sanity.

 

A quiet Broadway on a Friday morning in Nashville.

A quiet Broadway on a Friday morning in Nashville.

2.  Most Important Meal of the Day | 10:30 am – Two of us have arrived in Nashville, and we hit Broadway to scope out the neighborhood and eat ice cream as our first meal of the day!  (Ok, it was my second meal…)  Mike’s Ice Cream was pretty good, but a lot of flavors were sold out at 10:30 am – maybe because little else seemed open at that time in that area?

 

The steak salad at Etch.

The steak salad at Etch.

3.  Etch a Sketch | Noon – The bride-to-be has arrived and the three of us wander back down to Broadway for boot shopping and lunch.  We take a break from shopping to have lunch at Etch, which turns out to be excellent – really good food, big portions, nice ambiance, friendly service, and low prices for New Yorkers ($15 for large steak salad entree, for example).  We later hear it’s a favorite of many visitors and locals, and I’d definitely recommend a visit to Etch if you’re in town.

 

So many boots.

So many boots.

4.  These Boots Were Made For Walkin’ | 2:00 pm – After a big leisurely lunch, we continue boot shopping on Broadway.  We stop in almost every boot store we pass, and I’m determined to buy a pair of boots for only about $100.  I succeed!  But I also buy a second pair for a lot more.  I get endless grief for this, but I still maintain it was a totally different thing.  The bride also buys a pair at Big Time Boots, and a girl who wasn’t buying boots at all buys a pair at Broadway Boots.  Every boot store was similar, but each had a different feel and a surprisingly diverse selection, so if you’re on a mission to buy boots in Nashville, it’s worth stopping in a lot of the stores to get a sense of what’s out there.  And yes, you can get boots for around $100, but your selection will be a lot more limited.

5.  Naptime | 5:00 pm – Back to the hotel to nap (for the girls) and do PT exercises (for me).  We pushed back our dinner reservations in hopes the final girl would make it in time, but unfortunately she wasn’t able to arrive until about midnight.

 

Not our pedal tavern, but they were ubiquitous.

Not our pedal tavern, but they were ubiquitous.

6.  Pedal to the Metal | 7:00 pm – Our Nashville Pedal Tavern Midtown tour starts.  Yep, it’s one of those giant bike-vehicles with bike seats and pedals on the sides to power the moving “tavern.”  We had heard the pedaling was just for show and that they all have motors, but the pedaling was a lot harder than we expected!  When we were on a hill, we were basically standing up on the pedals to push down – more resistance than I ever use in spin class.  Downhills and flats were almost no resistance, however.  The pedaling was the best part, as our guide was surprisingly surly and totally unhelpful as a guide (he didn’t point out a single sight or tell us a single fact about Nashville).  The other guests were almost all other bachelorette parties, and since they didn’t have black souls like we did we were so much older and more boring than them, they hated us.  And the “guide” blasted music which just caused the other girls to scream even louder.  The bar stops were fine, but the bike was BYOB and you couldn’t see anything since you’re facing in while seated.  I’d put this in the “skip” category if you’re ever tempted.

 

No picture of Husk - instead enjoy this neon boot sign.

No picture of Husk – instead enjoy this neon boot sign.

7.  Tusk Tusk Husk | 10:50 pm – We finally get seated 20 minutes after our 10:30 reservation at Husk.  Don’t get the bride started on Husk.  She was not a fan.  We were not fans.  No one should be a fan.  The food wasn’t that good, was mislabeled (“pork prime rib” was actually fatty pork belly), was crazy expensive for what it was (e.g. $30 for a small plain chicken breast and side of corn), and we were seated late with a disingenuous apology (despite arriving at 10 pm).  But the biggest problem was the service.  If you enjoy being served by pretentious bearded hipsters with horribly condescending attitudes, you’ll love Husk.  The only good thing about Husk is the historic mansion it’s housed in (although the dining room is ear-splittingly loud for such a small room), but the building is definitely not enough to make it worth a visit.

 

8.  Reunited | 12:15 am – Our final friend arrives and we are complete!

 

Saturday

I still kinda regret not getting this pastry.

I still kinda regret not getting this pastry.

9.  Panera Dreams | 8:00 am  – Why are we up so early?  Maybe because there is a 1 hour time change between Nashville and NYC that none of us realized until we landed.  Oops!  Regardless, we are up, and get some breakfast at Panera Bread one block from the hotel.  I get a chocolate chip bagel and have my NYC card revoked.

 

The pool and outdoor area at the Renaissance Hotel.

The pool and outdoor area at the Renaissance Hotel.

10.  500 | 10:00 am – We exercise our minds by trying to learn the card game 500 while sitting on the outdoor patio next to the hotel pool.  (It’s like a dumbed-down version of Bridge or a more complicated version of Euchre.)  It starts to rain and our brains start to hurt, so we decide to get lunch.

 

11.  Salad Days | 1:00 pm – Lunch at The Southern Steak & Oyster is noisy but fun, features amazing grits, and their hot chicken salad is a tasty way to eat fried chicken for lunch while also being “healthy” because you’re eating a salad.

 

Part of the Corsair tour.

Part of the Corsair tour.

12.  Corsair Don’t Care | 2:15 pm – We grab an Uber to take us to the Corsair Distillery and Taproom on Clinton Street for our 3 pm tour.  It’s good that we get there early as it gives us time to get some marshmallows at the Bang Candy Company (they taste like marshmallows, nothing that special, but I love my new t-shirt), and browse the knickknack shops along the row where the distillery’s located.  The tour is very short (basically just a peek into the back warehouse area) but worthwhile for the knowledgeable and friendly tour guide and for the tastings (1 gin and 3 whiskeys – none of us could finish the tiny pours).  They also served the most delicious whiskey-lime-ginger cocktail at the bar there, which made me a happy camper.

 

No pictures of Escape room so here's another of Corsair!

No pictures of Escape room so here’s another of Corsair!

13.  Trapped in Nashville | 5:00 pm – We arrive for The Escape Game Nashville at 3rd Ave North in Downtown Nashville.  I’ve done 4 different escape rooms with 3 different companies across the country (in NYC, Portland, and San Francisco) and this Nashville room was the nicest and most high-tech.  We chose the Nashville music producer room since it had a Nashville theme and was the “easiest” room for 7 people (we booked the entire room for the 4 of us).  Unfortunately, we were one clue away from escaping when time ran out!  So frustrating!  But we still had fun and another girl and I are addicted enough that we’re planning another attempt on a different room in the near future (but we were not so crazy as to book another room for the next morning, although that thought did cross our minds…).

 

Huge main dining room at 5th and Taylor.

Huge main dining room at 5th and Taylor.

14.  It’s Located at 5th & Taylor | 7:30 pm – Dinner at 5th and Taylor, a gorgeous modern American restaurant housed in a former warehouse in Germantown.  It was packed with diners but had great service and good food and cocktails.  The homemade ice cream was delicious and helped me forget the pain of not escaping.  We all had a great time and even stayed after dinner for a drink at their outdoor bar.

 

Sunday

15.  Away in the Night | 5:00 am?? – Our first departure.  The rest of us were still asleep.  She actually gets delayed at the airport for several hours.

 

16.  Union Jack | 9:00 am – A simple diner-style breakfast at 417 Union.  The grits weren’t nearly as good as the ones at The Southern, nor was the service, but it was in a cool old building.

 

There.  You've seen it.  Saved you $20.

There. You’ve seen it. Saved you $20.

17.  No Photos, Please | 11:00 am – We have our second departure and the two of us remaining in Nashville tour Ryman Auditorium.  I’m glad we saw it, but I gotta say it’s such a rook.  $20 per person for a self-guided tour is ridiculous since all it gets you is a(n admittedly good) short film on the history of the auditorium and then just a walk through the place with employees yelling at you not to take pictures near the stage.  Everything is an upsell ($20 or $30 for a photo?) and there’s not much there.  But, again, glad I went, since it was the only museum-type experience I had in Nashville, and now it means I’m cultured.

 

Hot chicken with a local beer flight.

Hot chicken with a local beer flight.

18.  Count Your Chickens | Noon – We take an Uber to Hattie B’s for hot chicken, but the line is crazy long so the driver recommends Party Fowl which has no wait.  There are both regular sit-down tables and two separate bar areas. The famous Nashville hot chicken was good, but basically it’s just spicy fried chicken (the spice is in the breading for the chicken) served on top of a slice of bread.  I think it’s just an elaborate excuse to eat fried chicken (not that one should need an excuse).  A couple of guys at the bar told us Hattie B’s was actually a lot better than the chicken at Party Fowl, and that we’d have to come back and get it again.  Hard sell on the hot chicken in Nashville, but if it means I can try Escape the Room again, I’m in.

 

Of course I re-visit the candy store and get ice cream after my fried chicken lunch.

Of course I go to the candy store and get ice cream after my fried chicken lunch.

19.  Kid in a Candy Shop | 1:30 pm – My friend leaves for the airport, leaving me all alone in Nashville, since my flight is delayed due to “aircraft maintenance.”  I head back to Broadway to visit some of the shops and bars we didn’t get a chance to visit (like Savannah Candy Kitchen for some banana and chocolate chip ice cream), and I keep getting texts saying my flight has been delayed again.. and again… and again… and then cancelled!

 

20.  Airline Fun | 3:00 pm – I rush back to the hotel to get on the phone with Delta to try to get on another flight out of Nashville.  Any flight!  Any airline, any city, even if it means a connecting flight… nothing.  I’m on the phone with them for almost 2 hours.  I ask about them putting me up at a hotel etc. and the guy says just submit the receipts to Delta and I’ll get reimbursed.  (A week later and I’m still waiting on reimbursement…)  I’m rebooked for a flight out at 7:00 am the next morning.

 

My second, unexpected room.

My second, unexpected room.

21.  Lock In | 5:00 pm – I check back into the Renaissance Hotel and sit in my lonely hotel room.  I flip channels on TV.  I’ve failed again at Escape Nashville.

 

22. De-Hermiting | 7:00 pm – I force myself to go out to dinner because I know I’ll regret staying in the room all night.

 

This photo, nay, any photo could not do this dish justice.  It's heaven on a plate.

This photo, nay, any photo could not do this dish justice. It’s heaven on a plate.

23.  #blessed | 7:30 pm – Dinner at Rolf and Daughters, a place the guy at the front desk recommended.  It’s a small-plates type restaurant which I usually hate (small portions for too much money, too chic for old people like me, and get off my lawn!), but the food is excellent and I have the best pasta of my entire life – “Sweet corn agnolotti, lime, pecorino, jalapeño.”  They were little pillows of pasta filled with sweet corn cream that burst in your mouth, and there was also some heat from the peppers – just amazing.  I’ve seriously thought about it every day since.  Skip the carrot starter and even skip the olive oil cake dessert and get two orders of the pasta with the sourdough and seaweed butter starter on the side (it’s half a loaf of amazing chewy crusty bread with delicious butter and salt).  Ugh, now I’m depressed I’m not eating it this very moment.

 

Monday

24.  Sound the Alarm | 4:45 am – I get up early and rush to the airport to make sure I’m there in plenty of time for my flight.

 

25.  Overslept | 6:30 am – Flight is delayed because there was some confusion and a flight attendant is “at the hotel.”

 

26.  Putting on Makeup | 7:15 am – Flight attendant is still “at the hotel.”  Apparently the hotel is not in Nashville.  I’m still failing at Escape Nashville.

 

27.  Home Sweet Home | Noon – I finally arrive back in NYC when I should have been home at 7:30 the night before.  But I’ve finally escaped!  Good thing or I might have missed the wedding.

 

If you go…

The Renaissance Hotel ($704 for two weekend nights, guaranteed 2 queen beds, with tax) was perfectly fine and they were really nice when I had to check-in again on Sunday (only $221 with tax for 1 night, 1 king bed), although one of our two original rooms had a faulty A/C (and I swore it smelled like piss the first day – I blame the bachelor parties).  It was really nice that our rooms connected (via the internal door) which in retrospect was key for the weekend.

 

Lots of Ubers were taken over the weekend, but almost every trip was only $5 (except for the airport, which was about $20 for an Uber and a $25 flat rate for taxi, not including tip).  And if you’re not going to Nashville for a bachelor or bachelorette party (or even if you are), just prepare yourself to be surrounded from the moment you get on your flight to the moment you escape.  And if you do ever find yourself in Nashville and can get to Rolf and Daughters for that corn pasta, just know I’m jealous of you.

 

Have you ever been to Nashville?  Have you ever gone on a bachelor or bachelorette trip?  Have you ever visited Bachelor in Paradise?  Share in the comments!

Packing “Light” for a Fall Marathon

Yes, this is packing light for me.

Yes, this is packing light for me.

I haven’t done a normal marathon packing post in a while, and since I have four fall/winter marathons coming up, all (?) of which I’ll be traveling to without renting a car, I thought I’d share my experiments with packing “light.”  For this trip, I’m flying out to Minneapolis on Saturday morning, running the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, and flying back on Monday night.

 

I plan on visiting the Mall of America (to ride a roller coaster!) on Monday before my flight, so I’ll have all my luggage with me then (they have lockers for rent at the mall).  I’m also using the metro system a lot (to get from the airport to downtown (where my hotel is, not far from the marathon start), from downtown to the expo and back, and probably from the marathon finish back to downtown (unless I use one of the race’s buses)) so I decided to go with a small roller bag plus an expandable briefcase-style bag that will slip over the rolling bag’s handle for ease of carry.  I considered using my normal roller but I wanted to see how two smaller bags would work, and I also considered using just one large backpack and skipping a roller altogether, but I thought I’d get tired shlepping all my stuff through the airport and on the trains.

 

Ok, so what’s all in the picture above?  Starting from top left and working (sorta) down and across:

Packing stuff left side

  • Lipault Wheeled Pilot Case – fits two packing cubes, all my toiletries, socks & underwear, massage tools, two sandwich Ziplocs of gels/gummies and Clif bars, and a Garmin watch in a case.  Unfortunately it does not fit my shoes along with all those other items.
  • Nike Studio Kit 2.0 (almost invisibly sitting on top of the roller case) – to use as my “purse” but it’s big enough to fit my kindle, tablet, papers/notebook, snacks, etc.
  • Herschel Supply Co. Packable Daypack – to bring to the expo so I can carry all the expo goodies back
  • Socks and underwear (in Ziploc bags)
  • Hoka One One Clifton – I just got these but they’re actually the Clifton 1 from last year – I loved them in the 10-Miler and hopefully they’ll hold up for the full 26.2 (and beyond!)
  • Road ID (on the shoes)
  • Adidas Adipure Slides – This is the most important new thing I will always pack – slides!  I realized after South Dakota that once I was back in the hotel room, I really didn’t want to put my sneakers on after the race, so I actually just stayed in my room the whole afternoon.  Slides won’t hurt my toes post-marathon, and they can also be used as slippers so your feet don’t have to touch nasty hotel carpet (but can be used as actual shoes unlike slippers).  The Adipure slides are very lightweight.
  • CEP calf compression sleeves – just in case it’s really cold the morning of the race (it effectively transforms my capri running tights into full length tights, although it looks terribly dorky)
  • Garbage bag
  • Assorted head and neck warmers (e.g. Bondi Band, Buff, headband)
  • SPI Running belt
  • Hat (black and grey) – from Target, I think
  • Gloves (pink) – also from Target, I think
  • Oakley sunglass case & glasses (on hat) – I’m actually packing my training sunglasses instead of my fancier photocromatic ones because for some reason I want to wear them.  I got them years ago, but I think they are the Radarlock version?  Or maybe the Radar Path Asian Fit?
  • Packing stuff middle“Regular” sunglasses (on American Flag soft bag – great deal on Amazon – ‘MERICA!) – to wear while not running (I could have downsized here and just brought a single pair, but I splurged and am packing two).
  • Gas Cap Hat
  • Clothes – Zoot Sports IceFil shirt (in case it’s hot), long-sleeved pink shirt (for expected temps), white rain jacket (stained, to toss), pink rain jacket, CW-X Stabilyx 3/4 tights, “Everything Hurts And I’m Dying” cotton t-shirt and comfy black pants to wear Sunday night/Monday, pj shorts, cheap grey fleece to toss, and grey sweatpants & animal-print fleece for bag check (to wear after race).  The weather is supposed to be perfect running weather (partly cloudy and temps in the 40s to a high of 60) so I’m not packing as many “contingency” clothes as I sometimes do.
  • Koss Fitclips headphones
  • Charger and cables
  • Kindle and Samsung Tablet (Galaxy 4)
  • Footstar massage ball and a massage tool (I got the tool at some expo and it doesn’t have the brand on it – sorry I can’t remember! You could try this or this.)
  • Garmin 620 – with charger in a hard sunglasses case (otherwise I find the buttons get pushed in transit and the watch does weird things and dies).  BTW it’s been finding satellites much faster recently in NYC – more satellites up there now?
  • Pink flower, blue flower, and hot pink long gloves (back up at the top of the photo) – I don’t have a great costume for this race, so I’m just going with a pink theme.  No real reason.
  • A. Saks Expandable Tote Bag – only $35 on Amazon right now, this bag will swallow everything you own, so you have to be careful not to overpack (to leave room for Mall of America goodies!).
All packed up!

All packed up!  It’s a surprising amount of stuff, even still!

 

Also, yes, I PACK my marathon shoes.  A lot of space could be saved by simply wearing them, but after I was vomited on twice on airplanes, I pack my precious, precious shoes.

 

The Twin Cities Marathon elevation chart.

The Twin Cities Marathon elevation chart.

 

And now for my expectations!  I always try to include my expectations because I think a lot of how someone feels about a race depends on what they were expecting.

  • I’m expecting it to be “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America.”

    Twin Cities Marathon elevation miles 20 to 23

    A three mile hill!

  • I think the course is mostly flat to rolling, except for a crazy 3 mile hill between miles 20 to 23!
  • Potentially cold (temps in the 40s at the start), but secretly I’m expecting it to be perfect weather.
  • Easy walk from my hotel to the start, but I’m expecting a long wait for the bus or train back to the hotel, so I’m checking sweatpants and a sweatshirt so I don’t freeze while waiting.
  • I’m aiming for 12-13 minute miles (ideally between 12:00 and 12:30 – or a 5:15 to 5:30 marathon), but I’m not sure how realistic that is considering my training (longest run was a single 16-miler at a much slower pace) and recurring knee pain.
  • And finally, I’m a little worried I’m sick – I’ve felt bad all day today, with a headache that won’t go away and a slight loss of appetite (only slight – I’m not dead!).  I even took a nap but the headache didn’t go away.  So…. yeah.  If I’m sick, I’m sick, and that’s gonna suck and change all of my expectations.  Hopefully I’m just tired and can go to bed early tonight and feel better for my big travel day tomorrow…

 

Have you ever visited the Mall of America?  What’s your favorite flavor of Clif Bar?  Do you have any packing tips or tricks?  Share in the comments!

Ecuador Multi-Sport Adventure – April 2015

A view of Quito, Ecuador, with unknown dog.

A view of Quito, Ecuador, with unknown dog.

The Wisconsin Marathon is 4 short days away so I decided to spend last week traveling around Ecuador, hoping that the high elevations (from 3,000 to 14,000 feet) would substitute for the training which I did not do.

 

Actually, I had booked this trip months ago via the discount website The Clymb – $725 for a full week tour, activities and most meals included (if you wanted your own room at the various hotels and home stays, the single supplement was $350, and tips for the guides and drivers was also extra, adding about another $160 or so).  The company that provided the trip, Ecuador Pure Life, normally sells the trip as “Ecuador Multisport Once In a Lifetime” for $1950 and says it’s 8 days but it’s really a full 6 (the first and last days are simply arrival/departure days in Quito with no activities planned).  The company will also arrange transport to/from the Quito airport for $45 per person, each way, which was fine for me but if you’re traveling with someone you can save quite a bit by just using a taxi (about $30 or so one-way).  Regardless, it was all very much worth the experience, and I’ll just have to cross my fingers it’ll help me finish in Wisconsin.

 

Since this is a post about multi-sport travel and not about running, I’ll try to keep it brief, but I did want to share the trip with you since I think the Venn Diagram of “People Who Like to Run” and “People Who Would Like This Trip” overlap greatly (as evidenced by the fact that two ultramarathoners and many other runners were on this trip).

 

Day 1 – Horseback Riding & Cotopaxi Volcano [Stay at hotel in Baños]

They provided us with the standard helmets and the not-so-standard alpaca ponchos and furry leather chaps.

They provided us with the standard helmets and the not-so-standard alpaca ponchos and furry leather chaps.

The first day of the trip was the most stunning – we rode horses in the mountains while a storm threatened in the distance, then walked a bit in the shadow of Cotopaxi Volcano, the highest active volcano in the world.  None of my pictures could capture the stunning beauty of this place.  We were at about 12,500 on the “highland plain” at the base of the volcano that reaches 19,347 feet.  I could barely breathe and questioned for the first of many times the wisdom of going on a trip that included professional ultra-runners.

On the plains by Cotopaxi - usually there is no snow at this level but the storm was actually hail that created a beautiful frozen effect.

On the plains by Cotopaxi – usually there’s no snow at this level but the storm was actually hail that created a beautiful frozen effect.

Day 2 – Bike Ride in Llangantes National Park & Visit to The Swing At The End of The World [Stay at the same Baños hotel]

The courtyard of our hotel in Banos - lush and beautiful, with mountains rising up behind it.

The courtyard of our hotel in Banos – lush and beautiful, with mountains rising up behind it.

There is no way not to look like a dork while wearing a bicycle helmet.

There is no way not to look like a dork while wearing a bicycle helmet.

The biking was thankfully mostly downhill, otherwise my lungs would have exploded.  There was some beautiful scenery along the way, and some not-as-beautiful scary barking dogs and donkeys that liked to stand in the middle of the road.

 

Tungurahua Volcano in Banos, Ecuador

Tungurahua Volcano in Banos, Ecuador – one of Ecuador’s many active volcanoes.

 

The Swing at the End of the World in Banos, Ecuador.

The Swing at the End of the World in Banos, Ecuador.

The swing (at La Casa Del Arbol, aka The Treehouse) has been greatly modified since it became famous and added to all those “1,000 Things You Must Do Before You Die” lists.  The tree itself has been fortified with a steel beam disguised to look like a trunk, they added two swings which now hang from steel beams instead of tree branches, they built a platform to help you gain momentum, and they even have a little rope “seatbelt” that clips you onto the swing.  That’s not to say you still couldn’t slip off the seat or break the rope, and it was still the scariest thing I did during the entire trip, but it’s a lot less death-defying than before.  Also, they charge you $1 for admission and our guide says they pull in thousands of dollars per week now.  All-in-all, it still makes for a very cool pic.

Day 3 – Zipline/Cable Car across Pastaza River (Bride’s Veil Waterfall), Short Hike to Pailon del Diablo waterfall, & Waterfall Hike in the Amazon Jungle [“Home Stay” in Amazon Jungle Lodge]

This is the waterfall we ziplined over.

This is the waterfall we ziplined over – you can’t see the cable but it’s there somewhere.

Day 3 also triggered my fear of heights with a zipline across a canyon and waterfall.  Normally a zipline wouldn’t be quite so scary to me, but this one was so high and exposed and you flew “superman-style” across with no control over speed or brakes or anything.  It ended up being less scary to me than the swing, even with all that.

 

Pailon del Diablo Waterfall (aka Devil's Cauldron)

Pailon del Diablo Waterfall (aka Devil’s Cauldron)

You get a better sense of why they call it the Devil's Cauldron from this picture.  Instant drowning if you were down there.

You get a better sense of why they call it the Devil’s Cauldron from this picture. Instant drowning if you were down there.

 

This was the "jungle lodge home stay" in the Amazon - surprisingly comfortable but no electricity in the rooms.

This was the “jungle lodge home stay” in the Amazon – surprisingly comfortable but no electricity in the rooms.

Sorry for the terrible pic, but this does somewhat capture our waterfall hike experience.

Sorry for the terrible pic, but this does somewhat capture our waterfall hike experience.

The waterfall hike in the Amazon was many people’s favorite experience of the trip.  After getting our faces painted with traditional symbols so the jungle would recognize us, they tied woven palm fronds around our heads that made everyone look like a badass.  They also gave us tall rubber boots that immediately filled with ten pounds of water.  The hike itself was basically hiking upstream in a small creek/river in the dark jungle.  There were a couple sections with rope “handrails” and one larger waterfall we had to climb up using a rope, so it was a bit of a challenge but not overwhelming.  The air was warm and muggy, the water cool and refreshing, and I wasn’t swallowed by a snake, so the hike was a big win for me.

We also made chocolate that night from cocoa beans - this is a shot of fresh beans with their sweet fruit coating, before being dried, roasted, ground, and roasted some more.

We also made chocolate that night from cocoa beans – you can imagine my excitement!  This is a picture of a cacao pod of fresh beans with their sweet white fruit coating, before being dried, roasted, ground, and roasted some more into chocolate.

Day 4 – Whitewater Rafting Down the Jatunyacu River & Soak in Hot Springs at Hotel [Stay at fancy Papallacta Resort Spa]

Our rafting guide, Diego, on the Jatunyacu River.

Our rafting guide, Diego, on the Jatunyacu River.

The Jatunyacu River is considered Class 3 in Ecuador, but the Americans thought it was a solid 4.  Translation – it was awesome.  Maybe the most fun I’ve had rafting, not the least because of the great people on our boat and our amazing rafting guide Diego, who had us doing tricks I’ve never done while rafting (including tipping the boat up on its end and balancing it like that while floating downstream).

Hot springs at the Papallacta Resort Spa.

Hot springs at the Papallacta Resort Spa.

We ended the day soaking in the hot spring pools just outside our hotel rooms.  It was incredible but the altitude and heat combined to make me feel not so good that night.  Several people got sick or slightly injured during the course of the trip (including one that required a late-night visit to the hospital) but supposedly that’s rare on this trip.  I’d advise you bring a full arsenal of OTC meds if you do go, though.  And lots of hand sanitizer and baby wipes.

Day 5 – Short Hike Behind Hotel, Shop at Otavalo Indigenous Market, & Roast Guinea Pigs [“Home Stay” in San Clemente]

In the morning after breakfast we did a short hike behind the hotel before hitting the road for a quick stop for pictures on the equator line and then to Otavalo Market where I did some fast and furious shopping.

All the goodies I got at the Otavalo Market, including gifts so maybe avert your eyes.

All the goodies I got at the Otavalo Market, including gifts so don’t look too closely…

The market was fine and about what I expected from the reviews I read online.  I’m not much of a bargainer since a few dollars for me matters less than for the seller, and as my dad says, if you can’t take advantage of tourists then who can you take advantage of?  So my main “strategy” was to buy two of everything.  Perfect for the hoarder in you!

First they're cute little pets...

First they’re cute little pets…

...Next they're dinner.

…next they’re dinner.

We reached the “home stay” in San Clemente and after milking a cow and feeding some alpacas pure salt and sugar, we roasted guinea pig (cuy) over an open fire.  I love trying strange new animal meat, but this is one of those I won’t be having again – I found the meat greasy and slightly fishy and overall unpleasant.  But I’m glad to check that one off!

Day 6 – Hike Around  Cuicocha Crater Lake & Short Boat Ride on the Lake [Stay back in Quito]

Cuicocha Crater Lake at almost 12,000 feet elevation.

Cuicocha Crater Lake at almost 12,000 feet elevation.

Our original itinerary had us hiking 9 miles for about 5 hours around this lake, but there was a new road that allowed us to skip most of the uphill portion, leaving us with only 2.4 miles of relatively easy hiking (“relative” to my wheezing lungs, “easy” to everyone else).  2015 is the year of failed circumnavigations of crater lakes for me!  The shorter hike did allow us time for a quick boat ride on the lake to see the little islands up-close (so many bromeliads everywhere!), make a wish passing between them, and to watch the sulfur bubbles rising from the bottom of the lake.

Bonus – Departure Day

Seven of us (from the original group of twelve) did a half-day tour of Quito on Friday ($45 per person booked through Pure Life).  We visited Old Town, several churches, an anthropology museum, and El Panecillo hill above the city (aka where the virgin statue is), where I took the first picture above.

Interior of the Basilica in Quito.

Interior of the Basilica in Quito.

Now I’m back in NYC and need to finalize my plans, packing, and cheese-themed outfit for Wisconsin, despite being bone-tired from Ecuador!  Where’s that coca tea when I need it?!

 

Have you ever visited Ecuador?  Does high elevation bother you?  Did you run Boston or London recently?  Share in the comments!

Fun Things to Do in Austin

Austin, Texas, in B&W glory.

View of Austin looking northeast from mid-river/lake. (Arty B&W effect thanks to Google+, which edited this photo for me without asking, like the world-dominating AI it is.)

Since crossing off Texas with the Houston Marathon this January, I have no plans to run the Austin Marathon anytime soon, so I can’t recap that here for you (besides repeating the rumor that it’s hilly).  But if you’re curious about things to do in Austin (besides the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail reviewed here), I’ve laid out what I did this week during my four-day visit.

DAY ONE

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Chuy’s on Barton Springs Road.

I arrived Monday afternoon, checked into my hotel (the W Austin downtown), then ate a very huge, very late lunch of beets and pizza at Due Forni, which was not the greatest decision since it was only ok and I had dinner plans about 2 hours after that at Chuy’s, pictured above.  Apparently Chuy’s is a chain but it doesn’t feel like a chain, and I had never seen one before.  They had an amazing happy hour special where they provided a FREE nacho bar with unlimited chips, different salsas, refried beans, nacho cheese, and seasoned ground beef.  I don’t know how they stay in business.  Anyway, it was great, even though I almost died of heatstroke walking there.  Note that about a week ago I was camping in the snow.  Moving on!

DAY TWO

bluebonnet in TX

The bluebonnet is Texas’s state flower, and despite common belief it is not illegal to cut (unless you’re trespassing or some such).

The next morning I took a 90-minute driving tour to get a sense of the city and the surrounding area (which is still technically the city).  My biggest takeaway from the tour was that the highways were covered in wildflowers (some pictured above, but really impossible to capture all the many kinds and colors).  It was very beautiful.  Also the house from Spy Kids is in the hills, and Andy Roddick plays tennis sometimes at a club up there.  Moving on!

Shopping haul from SoCongress

 

After the tour I walked from the Austin Visitor Center (really nice bathrooms there, BTW) to the South Congress shopping and eating district, where I had some great fish tacos at Guero’s Taco Bar and purchased the fun things pictured above at various shops.  I resisted buying any cowboy boots, but I did buy a lot of candy at Big Top Candy Shop, which as far as candy shops go was pretty excellent.

vegetable tasting menu at Qui

The vegetable tasting menu at Qui in April 2015.

I resisted getting a scoop of Amy’s Ice Cream on the walk back to the hotel only because I had 5:30 reservations at Qui, which is probably the best restaurant in Austin (according to people who know these kinds of things).  You might know it as the restaurant from that guy who won Top Chef recently.  I used to watch Top Chef, but I haven’t in several years, so I didn’t know who this guy was, but he put out a tasty menu, pictured above.  At $55 for the full tasting ($65 for meat, $100 or $110 with wine pairings) it was a relative bargain, as a similar meal in NYC would have easily been over $100 without beverages.  I recommend!  After dinner I strolled back along the infamous 6th Street, where I bought a pretzel at Easy Tiger (for my run the next morning) and stopped in at a bar that had some live music going (the Dirty Rooster).  It was still so early it was light outside and the crowds were sparse, so it was a good time to visit 6th Street without having to deal with the crazy drunkies.  I recommend!

DAY THREE

The next morning I did my long slow run around Town Lake, reviewed here.  I was so tired afterwards I barely managed to get a salad at Jo’s Coffee before falling into a deep, spiderweb filled sleep.  That night I had meatballs and brussels sprouts at Malaga Tapas a block from my hotel, which were ok but I think I should have waited for a spot at La Condesa to open up.

DAY FOUR

horse in Driftwood TX

Fastest walking horse I’ve been on, and he’s like 29 years old or something.

On Thursday I drove down MoPac Highway to Driftwood, where I rode a horse with Texas Trail Rides.  We saw three snakes during the ride, including one HUGE rattlesnake.  The guide kept talking about how there were a lot of water moccasins around, and how she hated them so much because they chased you.  Needless to say I never got off my horse until we were back in the parking lot.  I recommend!

bbq at Salt Lick

 

Since I was already down there, after my ride I went to The Salt Lick for their famous BBQ.  The turkey and brisket were my favorite, but overall this meal was only ok.  I preferred Chuy’s and Guero’s, so I think I just like Mexican more than I like BBQ.  I did appreciate that The Salt Lick offered free refills on soda.

 

I drove back into Austin, making a quick stop at The Whole Foods grocery store downtown, because while I’m not a fan of Whole Foods per se, the tour guide had told us it was the “second largest Whole Foods in the world” and that Whole Foods actually started in Austin.  (The internet indicates that the largest Whole Foods in the world is in London, but that the largest grocery store in NYC is in fact the Whole Foods on Bowery.  I’m not 100% sure any of that is correct.)  It was a pretty standard Whole Foods, but I splurged on a cup of mixed berries that I ate that night and they were the best berries I’ve ever had in my life.  So, there ya go.

Inside capital at Austin

Some impressive room at the Texas State Capitol. House of Representatives, I think? I was not a good tour guide for myself.

 

Finally, after dropping off my car at the hotel, I walked down to the capitol building, where I enjoyed the A/C and felt awkward watching the people in business suits going about their work while groups of sweaty, t-shirt wearing tourists gawked around them.  Or, rather, I felt awesome that I was not one of those people in business suits, because I bet a lot of them were lawyers and would rather be on a horse, eating BBQ, or buying berries at Whole Foods than wearing a black poly suit on a beautiful spring day in Austin, Texas.

 

While I was in Austin I really wanted to walk around the UT campus, tour the Bullock Museum, and maybe stop at the Blanton Museum of Art, too, but I was just too wiped out from the heat and the touring and the running on the days before.  So I wandered back to my hotel to swim, except the pool was like ice water, so I just sat next to it reading some John Scalzi.  The next morning I packed up and went home!

 

Have you ever toured Austin?  Did you manage to visit Hula Hut, swim in Barton Springs, eat breakfast tacos, or climb up the stairs to Mount Bonnell?  What do you like to do when you travel?  Share in the comments!

On the Road in Houston (Pre-race Hubris)

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Lots of free stuff at the giant Houston Marathon Expo!

I woke up at 4 am today and arrived in Houston by 11 am (with the 1 hour time difference, huzzah!). Since it was too early to check into my hotel I dropped off my luggage and went straight to the expo where I encountered the longest line I’ve ever gotten into in my life – no exaggeration. Even though I got there at 11:10 and they said they opened at 11:00, the line wasn’t moving. Luckily I chatted with some other lady runners and the time passed quickly (and once the line did start moving it also moved quickly enough).

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I could not capture the enormity of this line with my cell phone camera. It was about 3 city blocks long when I got in it (and of course my route started at the front so I passed everyone in line while searching for the end).

Bib pickup was also a bit of a pain (a very long & slow line for 5k pickup) but I got all my materials (5k bib and cotton tshirt, marathon bib and cotton tshirt) and then wandered the expo for fun and profit. I was not the most aggressive collector, but even still I walked away with all the free stuff you see in the photo above. It’s probably the most I’ve ever gotten at any expo, and repeat runners said it was the stingiest one yet. Everything really is bigger in Texas!

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Front and back of both the 5K and full marathon tshirts – just boring cotton tshirts. Supposedly there are finishers shirts for the half and full on Sunday (no second shirt for 5K). And of course the medals – 3 total medals if you run the both the 5k and the half/full!

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Idyllic ice skating scene just outside the convention center – slightly less crowded than Rockefeller Center.

One of the runners I met in line told me to go to the Phoenicia grocery store for lunch. I headed there (only a few blocks away) and was immediately overwhelmed by their selection. It made Whole Foods look like a crummy bodega. I kinda chickened out and got a flatbread with feta and veggies instead of the hot schwarma, which I still don’t know what is (despite it being discussed in Iron Man or Avengers or something).

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I also got all this candy. So! Much! Candy! (Large bag of chocolate covered pretzels not pictured.) I limited myself to candy bars I hadn’t tried before (and I left some on the shelf) but it’s still a bit much even for me. When in Texas!

I chatted with another runner at lunch (a 76-year-old multiple marathoner from Boston) who also encouraged me to try finishing the whole thing (but also emphasized that there’s no shame in a DNF, nor does anyone care what time you get in any race). Chatting with all these runners, walking around the expo, visiting a new city, buying lots of snacks and getting my outfits ready — all this has once again gotten me all hyped up on marathoning. I love this part!

So this evening, two nights before the marathon, while I’m full of chocolate and happily resting in my hotel room, I feel more optimistic about going for the full than I was a few days ago. It will still be a game day decision, but I’m not going to sabotage myself by going out too fast or not carrying enough Gu (I stocked up on some fun salted caramel, caramel macchiato, and espresso flavors at the expo).

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This is it – the marathon course “circled” at the half/full split. Yes, the 5k is tomorrow morning, and it’ll be a good test to see how I feel after basically not running for a month, but my mind is on Sunday. Sunday. Sunday…

What are you doing this holiday weekend? Have you ever tried any of the candy bars pictured? At which expo have you scored the most stuff? Share in the comments!

Boudin Bakery Display Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco

A San Francisco Treat

I went for a 3 mile run in San Francisco today – my first since the Chicago Marathon.

I saw a pretty beach.

San Francisco Beach

I saw a cool boat.

San Francisco Harbor

Then it started to rain.  I ducked inside the Boudin Bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf.

Boudin Bakery Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco

Boudin Bakery Display Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco

And got a bunch of treats.  The end!

Treats from Boudin Bakery

Have you ever been to Boudin Bakery in San Francisco?  Occasionally, is your only motivation to run so you can buy treats?  More than occasionally?  Share in the comments!

Blerch costume 2014

Race Recap – Beat the Blerch Half Marathon, Sept 21, 2014

Beat the Blerch 2014 Washington

I am The Blerch while I beat The Blerch.

Before my recap, I want to send my condolences to the friends and family of Evan Sebenius, the young man who passed away during the Beat the Blerch half marathon.  I stopped and left candy with the runners with him, but without medical training I couldn’t do anything else.  I never thought he would pass away, and it’s truly sad.  If you want know more and how you can help, read the Seattle Times article or visit Evan’s Memorial Race’s Go Fund Me page.

 

The inaugural Beat the Blerch race had just about everything it promised.  It had cake, it had Nutella sandwiches, it had couches at the water stops, and it had nice medals (and a surprisingly nice long-sleeved 1/4 zip tech shirt).  We lucked out on the weather (sunny and in the 60s to low 70s), and overall it was a beautiful day in Washington state.  Yes, there could have (should have?) been more water stops (they were about 3 miles apart), but for an inaugural race I thought it was very well-done.

 

Me and Ben at Beat the Blerch 2014

This is my friend Ben. This was his costume for the race. Ladies, I think he’s single right now…

For those who don’t know, The Blerch is a fat little winged character created by the comic artist known as The Oatmeal (aka Matthew Inman).  It essentially represents the fat little beast inside all of us who tell us to eat more snacks and to skip that run.  My Blerch is particularly large, particularly loud, and particularly convincing (as a lawyer’s Blerch should be), so the concept immediately resonated with me, and when my friend Ben told me about the race, I set my alarm for the registration time and was one of the few (approx 1,700) lucky runners to snag a spot before the race sold out in 30 minutes (they ended up adding the exact same event on Saturday so twice as many people could partake, plus they had a virtual option where you got a goodie bag and medal and were supposed to Beat the Blerch on your own time and without the travel).

 

I planned the trip months ago (mostly to visit my parents), so when I realized my injuries weren’t going to let me run the full marathon, I was disappointed but dropped down to the half instead of canceling the whole thing.  I was impressed and glad that the option was available (you could also transfer/sell your spot, which very few races allow).  There was is a very active Facebook group for the race, too, so even though I typically never Facebook, I was checking it frequently for info about the race, weather, costumes, etc.

 

Blerch goodie bag and shirt

The race shirt, magnet, & sticker from the goodie bag. Really nice shirt but not a lot of “goodies.”

On Saturday my parents and I drove up from the Portland area straight to the packet pickup location in Seattle.  At least, the address was technically Seattle, but it felt like the suburbs to me.  The pickup was quick and easy, and the shirt is really nice (some people mentioned it runs a bit small, which maybe it does, but these days womens’ XL t-shirts are tight on me, so I almost expect it by now).  The author wasn’t at pickup on Saturday to sign his books since he was running the race, but he did sign after the race on Sunday (I didn’t stay because of the enormous line and my weary legs), and he signed at packet pickup on Friday (at the end of another enormous line, or so I heard).

 

We stayed at Hyatt House in Redmond, next to a ton of “mushroom” apartments (apartments that look like they sprang up overnight) and enough chain restaurants to satisfy any car-less New Yorker (we ate at Red Robin and Claim Jumper, my first time at either of those establishments, and they were both delightful).  Because of the late race start time (9:00 AM for the Marathon, 9:30 for the half, and 10 for the 10k), I was able to grab some yogurt and a banana from the free hotel breakfast (which had a lot of other food, too, and was nicer than most free hotel breakfasts).

 

Blerch costume 2014

Getting my costume ready for the next day. I ate all of that candy and more over the weekend.

I haven’t travelled for a non-full marathon in a long time, and while I did spend an absurdly long amount of time getting my costume together and laying out my stuff for the next morning, I noticed I was much less than half as nervous for the race than I would have been for a full.  A half marathon I can finish without much worry and know that I’ll be able to walk and drive and shower and go out again without a problem.  For a full marathon I’m never 100% sure I’ll be able to finish, let alone do anything afterwards besides lie on a hotel bed flipping through bad TV.  The relative ease of half marathons makes me both want and not want to change my 50 states goal – running half marathons would be a relatively simple task, but maybe too simple.  But it would allow me to run in more complicated costumes, so there’s that, too…

 

Porta potties at Blerch

Some of the porta potties at Beat the Blerch. Only some.

After breakfast, it was an easy 20-25 minute drive to the race in Tolt MacDonald Park in Carnation, Washington.  There was ample parking with many helpful parking attendants directing the cars.  The start/finish line area had lots of Blerchandise for sale, a photo backdrop with giant Nutella jar props, a foam rolling area, plus lots of porta potties.  One runner saw The Oatmeal taking a picture of the long line of porta potties and saying to himself “I created an event that requires 40 porta potties.”

 

Matthew Inman and WTFinish at Beat the Blerch

Two Blerches about to run a race.  Yes, he wore that the entire 13.1 miles, and ran much, much faster than I did.

Matthew (we’re on a first-name basis) wore a giant inflatable green Blerch costume for the race and posed with fans before it started.  I was able to get a picture with him and he commented on the Grape Hi-Chews pinned to my shirt.  I told him it was my magical grapey beverage substitute.  Then I ran away because I was afraid of seeming like a crazy fan, because even though I was wearing fairy wings made for infants, duct tape nipples and fat rolls, and candy pinned all over my shirt, I thought I would seem not crazy if I quickly ran away from our brief interaction.

 

The course started on asphalt but quickly turned into a mostly flat trail that featured only a few larger, sharp rocks, but those few rocks had an excellent ability to find their way under runners’ feet.  One woman said “if I step on another sharp rock I’m gonna…!”  Unfortunately that was all she said and she was faster than me, so I never found out what she was going to do nor if she ever stepped on another sharp rock again.

 

Cake and Nutella at Beat the Blerch race

They never ran out of either.

I ate four pieces of cake during the race and one more large piece plus three Nutella sandwiches after the race.  I drank two small cups of magical grapey beverage (which I think was purple Gatorade) and lots and lots of water at each water stop.  Even though it goes down easy and was surprisingly tasty and desirable during the run, cake makes you thirsty.  I did not eat any of the many proffered gels, and one of the gel distributors bemoaned “I can’t give these things away!”  No sir, no sir you cannot, not as long as there is cake and Nutella as the other options.

 

When the race started I was still a little bummed I wasn’t doing the full, but at mile 10 I was about ready to be done with running for the day, and by mile 12 I was very ready to be done and could not imagine having to run another 14 miles.  It definitely made me nervous about Chicago, because I don’t know how long it would have taken me to cover another 13 miles that day, and it wouldn’t have been pretty.  Plus, they would have run out of cake.  But I managed to finish, and spotted both my mom and dad at the finish, and overall it was a great day to Beat the Blerch.

 

 

Thinking of Running Beat the Blerch?

Back of shirt and medal for Beat the Blerch Half Marathon

The back of the shirt and the medal (for the half marathon, obviously).

If this race continues (there are rumors they might bring it to other states), I’d recommend trying it out.  Obviously if the race is in a different location it might be a very different experience, but it’s clear that Matthew Inman knows his races and knows what makes for good ones, so I’d imagine any Blerch race would be worthwhile.  They are doing a free 4 mile fun run in Central Park on October 8th, and I will be there (but will there be enough cake??).

 

All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 5/10 – I flew into Portland’s PDX, but most would fly into Seattle.  Either way, you’ll have to rent a car to get around, and Carnation is as much in the middle of nowhere as you can get only 45 minutes outside of Seattle.  Being near Seattle also means a lot of traffic, which we seemed to hit no matter what time of day.
  • Staying There – 6/10 – There aren’t a lot of hotels in Carnation, so you’ll probably have to stay in a neighboring town like we did in Redmond, and while I love chain restaurants and such, if you’re looking for something unique you’d be better off exploring Seattle (which will involve traffic).
  • Cost & Registration – 5/10 – Registration was probably the most stressful part.  The site kept freezing and crashing and it was pure luck that I got through and was able to register before it sold out.  They did add Saturday for people on the wait list, and besides a lottery (which I hate), I don’t know how else they could have done it, so it is what it is.  It was $100 for the full marathon, plus $5 for a parking pass and another $15 in taxes and fees (so about $120 total), plus $12 to transfer from the full to the half.  The shirt and medal, as I mentioned, were both excellent, and the cake and Nutella were really tasty.  Oh, and all the race photos were free!  Huzzah!!
  • Organization – 8/10 – All the necessary info was online, packet pickup was simple, parking was great, and the aid stations were well-run (even though they were packed with runners eating cake and taking pictures).
  • Course – 8/10 – Beautiful course and the easiest “trail” race ever.  Crowding was surprisingly not a problem (there were 208 full finishers, 816 half finishers, and 636 10k finishers – and they started the larger races in waves).  The race was chip timed so it didn’t matter when you started.
  • Crowd – 1/10 – I think I saw two people along the entire course (not counting volunteers).  It was as expected for a trail race.
  • Other Factors – 8/10 – If you are a fan of The Oatmeal, you’ll want to do this race.
  • Overall Rating – 8/10 – It was a great race with a lot of little touches that I’d want to include if I ever create a race (e.g. free race photos, race transfers available, multiple distances, chip timed, mostly shady, costumes, nice personalized shirts and medals, cake) and I’d do it again.

 

What sort of foods have you eaten while running?  When is the last time you had Nutella?  Did you know they have a Nutella-esque Pinkberry flavor and that I ate some tonight?  See the site for more photos & share in the comments!

Dork who finished Flying Pig Marathon

Marathon Recap – Cincinnati Flying Pig – May 4, 2014

A very literal flying pig statue at the Cincinnati airport, wearing a slightly larger version of this year's marathon medal.

An airplane-themed flying pig statue at the Cincinnati airport, wearing a slightly larger version of this year’s marathon medal.

I finished the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon last Sunday, knocking off Ohio and my 12th state.  My goal was to finish strong and not completely devastate my body, since this was only the first of 5 marathons in the next 6 months for me.  I’m happy to report that I met that goal, as by Wednesday I’m practically not sore anymore, just a little tired and recovering from some new blisters and (oddly) bruised toenails.  With that, let the recap begin!

 

THE TRAVEL – BRINGING HOME THE BACON

 

Planes turning in sync ahead of us on the runway at Chicago

Planes turning in sync ahead of us on the runway at Chicago.

The trip had an inauspicious beginning – my direct flight from Newark into Cincinnati was both delayed and oversold.  But then the gate agents announced they needed one volunteer to give up their seat for a $500 travel voucher and a connecting flight through Chicago, which would ultimately arrive in Cincinnati about 2.5 hours later than the original (now delayed) flight.  I decided to snag the offer since 2.5 hours wasn’t that much later, plus I didn’t have any immediate plans besides visiting the expo that Friday.  I was pretty psyched about the voucher since I’m obviously flying a lot for the 50 States and the flight to Missoula alone looks like it’ll cost about $650.  But when there were mechanical problems with the plane in Chicago and I was delayed yet again, I thought that perhaps I shouldn’t have tempted fate considering what happened when I tried to fly to my last marathon.

 

Luckily, they found Continue reading

8 Years of marathons for the 50 states

A Schedule to Run the 50 States

To finish a marathon in each of the 50 States, I’ve had the vague idea that I’d run about 4 marathons a year and finish in about 10 years, give or take a few years.  That’s not to say I haven’t been doing research on how to accomplish this.  In fact, I’ve spent countless hours reading reviews of marathons, listing races in a Google spreadsheet, making notes, and choosing my favorite(s) for each state — but I’ve never written out an actual schedule.  I knew that I wanted to finish in Hawaii (with, ideally, some friends & family to celebrate), and I also wanted to save Alaska for the end (ideally as the 49th state but knew that might be difficult with scheduling).

 

Last night I finally unleashed the hyper-planner in me and mapped out exactly which races I could do in which years, and how fast I might be able to cram the approximately 40 necessary marathons into the next several years.  You can see my schedule below.  The marathons that are in bold simply indicate races that I’m particularly keen on doing for one reason or another (could be because of location, or race reputation, or just something stuck in my head probably because I saw some commercial somewhere).

 

8 Years of marathons for the 50 states

 

It turns out I can cram all my needed marathons into 8 years, assuming I run 5 marathons each year for 8 years in a row, which is a huge, GIANT assumption, especially with my tendency towards injury.

 

On paper, my biggest hurdle was Continue reading

Cancelled flight means no marathon

Cancelled!

Cancelled flight means no marathon

The winter from hell has cancelled my entire weekend.

I knew this weekend would result in a story – I just didn’t know it would be so soon, nor so brief.  My flight this morning was cancelled, and United couldn’t re-book me on a flight that got in on time to make the expo to pick up my bib, so after some scrambling trying to figure out another way to get to Little Rock in time and realizing there was no way, I had to pull the plug on the whole weekend before it even started.

 

So now it’s 4:30 am, and I’m supposed to be on my way to LGA, but instead I’m staring at my packed luggage in frustration and relief – but mostly frustration.  Since I had decided to attempt the marathon I was in it whole hog, and was excited to see what 26 miles of wet suffering would teach me about marathoning and this crazy 50 States quest I’m on.  I could taste that 2.5 pound medal and all the guilt-free chocolate and Pop Tarts that would follow.  Instead I’m up in the relative middle of the night, sitting on my couch, writing a post about how the winter from hell cancelled my chance at misery and glory in Little Rock.  Does this mean I have to start training for my next marathon (Flying Pig on May 4th) now?  Yes, yes it does.  But just not right this second.

 

What are you doing this weekend?  Wanna hang out and complain about the weather?  Share in the comments!