Keep on top of the little things. They add up to big things.
Tid bits to help you runners get the extra edge:
While travelling, I have picked up on good habits from other runners, and, more noticeably, neglected some of my old good habits that seem to get lost in the shuffle of travelling. From personal experience, here’s my list of extras (in order of importance) that runners can do to improve.
1. Massage! Find a good massage therapist. They are hard to come by. Find someone who understands the sport and a bit of kinesiology so they don’t just solve a symptom, but solve a problem.
Nathan Daggett from Portland, Oregon is new on the scene, but he is a great person and better massage therapist. He’s only been in the game for a year or two, but, because he is passionate about athletic massage, he is my go to person in the northwest region of the US. Marcus Hille
out of Boulder, Colorado is great as well. He is one of the best at understanding the body as a whole and creating a whole program of exercises and massage therapy to keep athlete-bodies in working order.
Isiah Coles is from the D.C area. He has an athletic training background so he is great at not only getting you on your feet, but helping you stay there with different exercises that help balance and improve the kinesthetic chain.
2. Stretching. I don’t mean the touch-your-toes-before-you-run stretching, but the active I-actually-want-to-get-more-flexible stretching. I personally hate this due to my inflexibility. For the past 2 years I have found a way to trick myself into stretching. Yoga. My yoga instructor at the Glowing Body in Knoxville, Jen Coffin, has really advanced my running career more than she knows. I get to devote an hour and a half twice a week to stretching and core with a mental break. Yoga helps put me in the moment, and as runners (with our life dictated by time), we seem to always live in the future. It’s win win. I don’t feel like it is related to track, so it doesn’t feel like practice, but yet I get the core and flexibility work that help my running anyway. Plus, the run/yoga/brunch combo on Saturday mornings is the best ritual ever. Side note—on the road trip, I got to team up with YOGAVIBES
! I can stream yoga online, so if I have service, I have yoga. AND Jen is on of the instructors. I will be doing some yoga under the trees in New Orleans this afternoon.
3. Core. I hate core more than stretching, but it does help. Not the vanity core that micro-crunches give you, but that deep psoas core exercises that leg raises and yoga give you. When my core is strong, I can lift heavier and my stride at top end speed feels easier and more fluid. I actually don’t do much core. I count Yoga and rock climbing as core.
4. Strides. For the non-runners, strides are 15-20 second semi-quick bursts usually done after a run or before a workout to get your legs firing. I know, they kind of suck before you do them, but as Nike says, Just do it! They make you feel better as you go. They help with the neuromuscular work and keep those much much much needed (and sometimes neglected) fast twitch muscles in order. They also help you stretch out your legs and feel the fluidity of running.
5. Recovery protein shakes (and I’m sure other supplements). I prefer 2-1-1 as recommended by Eddie from Eddie’s health shoppe.
I use it after every hard workout, specifically when I run and know I will not have a chance to get food within the hour. I can’t tell a difference daily (except in rounds), but I can tell a difference in my overall ability to handle workouts during the season.
PS. Let us know if you have any other tid bits that you find helpful to your running! Or if you want more suggestions from our not-on-the-road training
There is a dire helium shortage plaguing the world.
Not joking, Helium is a natural gas and until another major source is located there is a hold on all helium ballooning. Apparently the thought of using Hydrogen is appalling.
This is one of the many odd facts learned in the last two days.
None of us knew what to expect from New Mexico in general on the rather taxing drive through the desert to get to Albuquerque. We knew we'd unintentionally timed our visit with the yearly Hot Air Balloon Fiesta held here, but thought that, at most, we'd spend an hour or so taking cool pictures of hundreds of balloons. We had no idea that we would step onto that field yesterday and enter a dimension of intensity and cult-like obsession rarely seen outside of a professional sport arena.
Yesterday as Lyndsay (our lovely host in Albuquerque) lead us onto the field, Phoebe and Allison and I were struck by two realizations:
1. We had severely underestimated the weather, and no amount of bad coffee or breakfast burrito was going to keep us from losing our fingers and toes to frost bite.
2. We had entered a DIFFERENT WORLD.
Phoebe and I quicky realized we were outsiders looking in on a hobby/sport/obsession not unlike that depicted in Best in Show. If you've never seen it (and, yes, I am sitting here judging you all), Best In Show fictionally chronicles the exploits of handlers at a Kennel Club Dog Show. It's too hard to explain the plot and the humor so just go out and watch it now and then finish reading...
Walking out onto the inflatable graveyard that was pre-flight balloon fiesta , the frost on our hair and razor sharp nips were momentarily forgotten in favor of listening to the eccentric announcer (he would probably prefer the title entertainer). See, the mind numbing cold was greatly exacerbated by a rather extreme wind over the field that morning, which both made spectators miserable and kept balloons on the ground way past their 7:07AM sunrise launch time. This eventually lead to our successful schmoozing of balloonists to allow us onto their crew, but more on that later.
This first morning at the balloon fiesta, as the balloons continued to lay stretched out in a macabre scene of cartoon-like devastation, our dear dear announcer took it upon himself to keep the freezing masses entertained. As a blogger, I was more than happy to be treated to gems from the life of an Albuquerque-an radio host such as this:
Announcertainer: "We’ll maybe get things moving here in a moment, good people, we’ll keep you updated. You know, something exactly like this happened when I was here in 1980. You see that balloon coming up over there with that ring of hearts. That pink one. Actually that's not it, but still there was one sort of like that back in 1980 called the Sacred Heart balloon that I took a picture of. I sold it for like $50 to a post card maker. Well wouldn’t you know it that you can still buy that postcard to this day. TO. THIS. DAY. in Texas. And I sold it for FIFTY DOLLARS! Should have held out and now I could have been a millionaire! Life lessons…life lessons, folks."
Mr. Announcertainer opened our minds enough to the oddity of this ballooning world that when approached by Kenneth of the Black Magic Balloon- while watching a host of British Storm Troopers frantically inflate Vader’s head despite the wind- we barely even batted an eye. Ken's particular fondness for Lyndsay (despite the significant age gap, he barely registers on the trip’s creep-scale, but that’s another blog) lead us to meeting the balloon-team he was crewing for at the fiesta.
The team he was helping, who rocked the epic motto of Chicks Fly! , was lead by one very bad-ass female pilot. Her name, Kelly Rawlins. Her passion, miniature pigs named Patty and Link. The first day of the festival, as only the most daring balloonists and the renegades (those rebels of the balloon world not invited to the actual festival) took to the air, Kelly secured our services for the next day's flight.
We had become part of the chase crew, bound to rendezvousing with the Chase Commander RV at 5:30AM and committing to a long morning's worth of manual labor in the service of an inflatable duck. We were totally jazzed, obviously.
The next morning we rose before 5 and met with Ken of Decatur, Alabama at his heartily patriotic 4x4. We rode over the bumpy back roads of Albuquerque, heads leaning out over the "Support Our Troops" decals, through the gates and right into the heart of the ballooning world, where I venture few outsiders have been before. There were skirmishes over spread space for the deflated balloons, and grumbles from those apparently unfortunate teams who had to set up too near the pavement. We set to work immediately, Kelly delivering orders like a balloon-sweater clad Patton, her infectious intensity forcing us all to bear down like we were heading into hostile hot-air territory.
We laid out tarps, drew out balloons, packaged the envelope (put bumpers on the basket), kept the ropes away from the propane tanks, and acted as human ballast. As the zebras (jargon for balloonist referees) gave us the go-ahead, Kelly looked at her crew and told us to pick numbers for who would actually fly. I've never been more disappointed to not pick the number 13 in my entire life. Erica and I stayed on the ground as Phoebe and Lyndsay, comfortably nestled below our duckling's bow tie, climbed thousands of feet above the field into a sea of the world's most colorful nylon.
Enchanted Ducky touching down in Enchanted Hills
Back down with the Chase Commander, Erica and I raced alongside the ground crew chief to repack the tarp and leave the field in time to keep eyes on Kelly and our friends. I can't count how many times Ken joked that balloonists are professional trespassers, meaning that they rarely, if ever, have pre-determined set down sites.
Balloons aren't driven with steering wheels or ropes. Pilots pay attention to the direction of the wind at different altitudes, and use only elevation and guesswork to determine their routes. Therefore, a chase crew literally keeps eyes on the balloon and tries to get to an estimated landing spot in time to catch their compatriots. Fortunately, the second day of Balloon Fiesta had virtually no wind and Kelly was able to make an upright landing despite the Chase Commander's late arrival.
We had gone through the rather time-consuming but uneventful task of deflating and repacking the balloon when Kelly emerged from Commander with a bottle of sparkling apple juice. Lyndsay, Erica, Phoebe and I were lead out into the field where the duck had landed and told to kneel. Kelly then announced that we'd been welcomed and inducted into the cult that is ballooning. In a ceremony fitting of the cult-like world we'd stumbled into, Kelly had us kneel in front of half-filled glasses of "champagne" as she theatrically recounted the birth of modern ballooning. As the 10 minute story came to a close we were told to drink our champagne without hands. Kelly took the opportunity to pour a bottle of water over our heads, and ended what was undoubtedly one of the oddest mornings of our lives.
Albuquerque is beautiful in its own rite, but I highly recommend that all looking to visit do so during Balloon Fiesta. In parting, I'll leave you with the balloonists prayer we were given as we left the Chase Commander. (Sidenote: This was also apparently recited as Kelly dumped the ashes of Edward, a boss's friend's friend, from the side of the ballon mid-flight)
The winds have welcomed you with softness.
The sun has blessed you with his warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well
that God joined you in laughter
and set you gently back into
the loving arms of Mother Earth.
In San Fran I was walking down the Haight and this young-looking guy came up to me and said, “I’d love some food... it’s my birthday!” I was immediately like, “Bull shit. Everyday is your ‘birthday’ isn’t it?” At that point he showed me his Minnesota license, I ate my words, and he ate the pizza I bought him.
His name was Ponder—not by birth—his actual name was Jeff. He called himself Ponder, so I did too. We talked about how he’d been on the road for 4 months traveling from city to city as he gets restless. He was surprised to learn that our lives were not much different. We'd both been traveling across the country. We both declared Montana to be the prettiest state. We both love travelling, geology, live music, and 80s movies. We decided that getting out and seeing things is the most important aspect of life. And we both enjoyed the veggie pizza from Escape from New York Pizza. We then went separate ways.
Three days later I found myself in line for a slice of pizza at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Vegas with $12 in my pocket. I took out my cash looked at Kat and said, “I hope this is not one of those $12-per-slice-of-pizza places.” At that point the man beside me informed us that it was actually exactly one of those $12-per-slice-of-pizza pizza places. He bought us our slices.
Kevin (generous pizza-buying guy), his 2 friends, and Kat and I all shared a cheers of pizza and sat down to eat. We told them our back story, including how we got our swanky dresses at Goodwill, and they realized we were not who they thought we were. We looked very Vegas, which we really are very not. We started talking and found out they were solidly in the controversial 1% (their words, not ours). They were in Vegas for a financial investment conference. (They could have been lying, I do realize).
Eventually we got on the topic that all financial investors must love to talk about—money. I told him (head finance guy, not Kevin) that I don’t like how money makes people. I told him that I think it fosters a sense of greed and untrustworthiness in society—you know, all that hippie, communal, mumbo jumbo that I believe. He told me that money is good, and that he donates to charity, and that he is a good person. He grew up on welfare and now is a multimillionaire, and if he can do it, anyone can. It was interesting to get someone from the top 1%'s mindset on politics and the economic state of the country.
Basically he represented it as: if you aren’t rich, you didn’t work hard, or you worked hard in the wrong field. There was also the big one: If I made the money, the government should not take it away.
He really believed this, and it really rubbed me the wrong way for a number of reasons. However, I didn't think he was a bad person by any means, just a misguided one. He, of course, thought the exact same of me. It went back and forth in a somewhat heated debate until 4 in the morning, and we both agreed to disagree. He then added the last line of, “When you have money, expenses, and taxes, you’ll understand.”
He ate his words when he realized that I pay a higher percent in taxes than him (self-employment sucks), and that, hang on, I have to go pay my mortgage payment.
So 3 days, and 2 very different pizza dinners later, people are not always as they seem. Myself included.
America. Is. Weird.
And amazing and beautiful and terrifying.
Actually I could pretty much apply all those adjectives to the last week of traveling alone. When we last posted we were in Oregon getting ready to set out for Redwood National Forest and the rest of California. That journey through Redwood and down to San Francisco was some of the most beautiful traveling we've done since leaving Tennessee. Up until Portland we all agreed that Glacier National Park was the most unexpectedly breathtaking place we'd been to thus far. No offense to every other city/park we've been to, but we had no expectations for Montana and were obviously a bit blown away. The drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, however, kicked off a week of camping/hiking in terrain that now has us all split on what area of America wins the "I didn't know nature could make anything that incredible" award.
--SIDENOTE: The "we" I'm referring to has now temporarily expanded to include the rarely imitated, never duplicated Allison Malone (best friend and general cuddle-buddy of Erica). Welcome, AliCat, we'll miss you when you leave us in New Mexico.--
Half Dome in Yosemite
Back to our "You're wrong, THIS is the most beautiful place in the world"
Kat: Oregon coast line as seen from the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset.
Phoebe: Moon rise over Death Valley. Who knew the moon rising could rival any sunrise ever seen?
Erica: The drive down PCH...specifically the combination of the Redwoods and the coast.
Allison: If she can't say fish filet-ing at Florence Beach, OR (she can't, I disqualified it), then it has to be Yosemite - in particular the view from the top of Half Dome
In the last four days we've done a wine tasting at a vineyard in Northern California, shared a pizza with a homeless hippie in Haight-Ashbury, conquered Half Dome, and played dead in Death Valley. This morning we woke up to the surreality that is Las Vegas.
Badwater Basin in Death Valley-the lowest point in America
You know life has taken a turn for the odd when you are perfectly comfortable pulling up to a camp site in Death Valley -complete with Kangaroo Rats luxuriating in the 100+ degree heat- but virtually have a panic attack when trying to navigate valet parking in Vegas. Anyone who has ever been here can attest to the fact that the city was created to maintain a constant since of un-reality. Last night, in fact, we were so utterly overwhelmed by the place, we ate dinner walked the strip for about 30 seconds and bailed for bed before 11. Suppress that gasp of horror for a moment, and take a second to appreciate that before last night we had been camping in some of the most remote parts of the country. Death Valley is aptly named, folks, and almost as overwhelming in its barren-ness as Vegas is in its excess.
Tonight we head out to actually take in Vegas, and tomorrow we leave Sin City for Zion (literally, as in Zion National Park). Hopefully our internet access will be more consistent so our blogging will be too.
See everyone on the other side of our first and only night out in Sin City. More than likely with horrifyingly embarrassing tales I'll be happy to share with everyone, and they'll want me to share with no one.
PS our site was experiencing technical difficulties last night so it is, in fact, the morning after our Vegas night out. We did succeed in not totally humiliating ourselves or looking too out of place. We successfully manuevered ourselves into the VIP section of a club then promptly left when it turned out that very important people are genuinely pretty creepy, and spaz-danced our way through the rest of the night as everyone around us took themselves too seriously. OH! and we were almost all wearing dresses we found at Goodwill for less than $3.00. Score.
What I have learned in 3 short weeks about runners and the running community: 1. Extend a hand and a hand will be extended back.
I have never fully appreciated the term “winging it” until these past three weeks. For example, three days before we were supposed to arrive here (Eugene, OR), we had not yet found a place to stay. We were still in Seattle and I was trying to rally the troops in Eugene for a get together when I contacted Julia Lucas. I only know Julia through a couple of Flotrack interviews, and by sdaword of mouth as to how cool of a person she is. When I asked her if she’d want to join me for a run and brunch she responded with a “yes!” and an offer for a place to stay. 100% cool.
Everyone we have reached out to has had this give-you-the-shirt-off-my-back attitude. Katie and Danny MacKey housed us for three days in Portland as well as hooking us up with Jesse in Seattle (who also graciously put up three complete strangers). James Strang showed us around in Colorado Springs, and Oregon Track Club runners Aisha and Hassan took us in on short notice last night in their very sweet pad. Who knew facebook and a couple of hand shakes could foster a great mini-vacation?! 2. The running community seems very small for something so big.
Almost instantly when I meet another runner, there is an unspoken bond and trust established that I think comes from the rawness of the sport. I don’t know if it is because we can relate to one another so well or that we spend so much time in our own heads, but when I find myself with another runner, we bond. That feel of us all being a part of something bigger than ourselves unites a huge community with a small group feel. 3. Most runners are very cool down to earth people.
Every runner I have encountered on this trip has been beyond helpful, insanely fun, and mostly level-headed. I’ve thought this for as long as I’ve been in the sport, and this trip has done nothing but prove me right thus far. 4. Find your passion and build your life around it.
Lauren Fleshman and Stephanie Rothstein of Picky Bars
are prime examples. Lauren started making healthy, delicious, gluten-free snacks for her sensitive-stomached boyfriend (now husband). Eventually she teamed up with Steph to produce her creations for the public, and begin a business that they believed in. They aren’t doing it for profit, they do it because they want other people to share in on a bad ass bar designed specifically for athletes. 5. Promote other runners!
This, too, was inspired by Lauren Fleshman, who is obviously one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Track and field is a selfish sport. Point blank. It is selfish. It is highly individualized with the focus solely on YOU vs everyone else. We need to get out of that selfish mindset –something that a conversation with Lauren about her time spent at Stanford really drove home. WE need to realize that we are all going through the same things and can benefit from being united. WE should be promoting one another in order to open doors for all professional runners. I’ve learned first-hand over the last couple of weeks that in promoting others we can create a lasting bond, and simultaneously work to publicize the sport. We have been going about the sport all wrong. Right now, whether or not we want to admit it, our thoughts are all about me, me, me. Would it not be so much better for us all if our thoughts were more like track, track, track. It’s a very cool sport. Its raw, straightforward, and about continuous self-improvement. We love the sport and our chief goal should be to persuade everyone to share in that love. 6.It’s a beautiful thing when an acquaintance becomes a good friend.
The MacKeys, James Strang, the entire OTC group, Jesse—Please please come visit Tennessee. I have a house for you to crash in, and don’t think I will ever get tired of the company 7.Katie MacKey is just as much of a beast on the 90s dance floor as she is on the track.
Trust me, it’s good enough to make this list without question.
We've all been mislead.
Seattle is sunny and warm.
At least that was our experience. We LOOOOVED Seattle. LOOOOVVVEEEDDDD Seattle. Really can't emphasize how worthy of extra vowels it is.
First of all, the company -as has been the case at every stop along our journey- was the bee's knees in running shoes. Jesse WILLIAMS, another friend from the running world, put the three of us and our runner-buddies Danny and Katie MacKey
, up in his Greenlake Park pad. (Katie is also a stellar professional runner for Brooks specializing in the mile and 5K. Her lovely blog
is also worth a gander for anyone interested.)
The fellas and Katie were eager to kick our Seattle experience off with a bang, and, thus, the obvious choice was Karaoke. After a wee bit of liquid encouragement, we were all set to cross number 6 off of the official Runnin' the Streets Bucket List "Go Karaoking."
What a gem that is. Our most sincere apologies to Outkast.
The next day we set out to hit the famous sites of Seattle. We started with organic, free-range eggs at a local breakfast place. As stereotypical as that might sound, it was exactly as delicious as we didn't want it to be.
We followed amazing breakfast with fish throwing at Pike Place Market! MTV's Real World Seattle opening credits really didn't do the place credit. Famous chocolate covered cherries beside famous seafood beside famous fresh flower bouquets beside famous cheese vendors. And BONUS! they're none too stingy with the free samples. The most astounding part... this giant free for all goes up every single day by 10am and comes down again at 6. The sidewalk returns to normal, the vendors -some of whom have such elaborate set ups that it seems unfathomable that it all emerged from the big black trunks they're sitting on- pack up, and the largest market I've ever been to virtually disappears.
See below for fish-tossing excellence.
Did I mention that the birthplace of the global epidemic (with which the three of us are blissfully infected) that is Starbucks is right across the street? It's small and far more rustic than any Starbucks you'd find in Manhattan or even up the block, but the coffee is worthy of having birthed an international obsession and we were particularly charmed by our barista who was coincidently from the glorious city of Chattanooga, TN (mine and Phoebe's hometown).
The Starbucks meeting was actually the 4th oddly coincidental run-in we've had with Tennesseeans. In Montana, the bed we took over in the employee dorms had only recently been vacated by a Chattanoogan. At the border of Glacier National Park, the ranger that took Phoebe's license was thrilled that she was from her fiancee's hometown, Signal Mountain. In Canada, the three of us were taking bets in the back of a shuttle as to what VERY southern state a rather harried woman with a terribly country accent was from. Unfortunately, it was not only Tennessee, but also Chattanooga.
Moral of the story: This is the smallest world in the world.
Back to Seattle.
We ended our Seattle experience by getting stuck in an hour and a half traffic jam that once again drove home the America-needs-to-get-on-the-public-transport-bandwagon message. It's a testament to how amazing Seattle was that even after Phoebe threw up out the car door from her stop-and-go motion sickness, we were still sorry to leave.
Our journey continues through the thus far very sunny, Pacific Northwest. Next time: Portland: where the nineties did, in fact, come to die.
Now that we're down into Oregon and out of the mountains, Erica and I have had the chance to look back at the affect the altitude of the Rockies has had on our training.
I have never been exposed to altitude for more than a 3-day stint. I had a hard time adjusting for the first few runs. I noticed the even slight differences of 500 feet or less. I almost died at Colorado Springs during my 4-miler with James Strang (fellow runner and Signal Mountain native). The first time I realized I was adjusting wasn't until a long run in Denver, when I finally felt in control of my run.
As a runner, I am super body aware. I wish everyone could feel what it feels like to be fit. It’s almost like driving a BMW. You can change pace and accelerate, and your body never gets more tired. It switches gears with ease. You never have to wonder if the engine is going to die. I can tell when I’m getting in shape by how hard I have to run to get my heart rate up, and how fast it recovers once it is up. I am at the stage now where I don’t have to run super fast to get my heart rate and breathing rate up, but I recover really quickly with the slightest slow down.
It's good progress for week 4 of base running. Every run I do, I feel a little bit stronger. Right now it's important not to over do it, and have a good range between recovery and tempo run pace . It’s so easy as a runner to get antsy and expedite the getting fit process.
I am going to maintain patience, keep doing neuro-muscular speed work—strides, really focus on recovery—as I have been neglecting this aspect of training on this trip-, and continue the slow and steady progression of fall training.
Nothing says a good time like walking past two men with a crack pipe at 8pm. <-- These are the moments I wish for a sarcasm font.
OBVIOUSLY kidding in case anyone was confused, but that is, in fact, how our first night with Vancouver began. It was quite the welcome after our 14+ hour drive (broken up by a few hours of camping in an RV park in backwoods BC). And, no, we were not in a bad part of town, nor did Vancouver ever feel like a threatening place. Canadians actually may be the most helpful people three hungry, smelly tourists could ever encounter. To the crackheads' credit, actually, they were by no means the creepiest people we've encountered thus far (see: at least 10% of Denver Cruiser
riders). It was kind of like the wildlife in Montana. We observed them in their natural habitat from a respectable distance and refrained from using the flash when taking pictures. Same went for the "band" that serenaded us during dinner. We recognized we were in their territory, and tried to avoid eye contact with the girl playing the plastic flamingo and the man with the Ricola horn. All in all our first 6 hours in Vancouver set us up with some pretty high expectations for our next two days.
Canada has black squirrels. BLACK SQUIRRELS!
Those Canadians didn't disappoint.
Vancouver is listed as one of the top cities to live in by the Bob Loblaw Law Blog
or something equally as official, and it's easy to see why. We stayed in a motel (yay! beds!) about 30 minutes outside of the city, but got into downtown and throughout the rest of Canada using the skytrain. Not to sound overly European, but come on, America, get on the public transportation wagon. Our hat has even gotten with it. Sidenote: we've come to think of Canada as the jaunty bowler on top of America's super fat head. Apologies if any Canadians are offended, we can switch it up to be a top hat or baseball cap if that makes you more comfortable. Either way I think you come out on top. (buhdung ching!)
Anyway! We had a "local" guide, Rhys Parsons -who at this point is basically Maltese, but did throw in enough "eh"s to make us feel like we were getting the whole Canadian experience- show us around the harbor, Stanley Park, and Gastown. We were prepared for Vancouver to not live up to the hype, but the combination of mountains, ocean, and beautiful coastal city were pretty unbeatable. In Stanley Park rollerblading is apparently socially acceptable for people over the age of twelve which is cool-ish, and the sidewalks wind around a city harbor that smells like actual ocean as opposed to city-stench (cough
). Gastown is the bar district of downtown, and is not at all as stinky as the name implies.
After spending the day walking around the harbor appreciating the generally friendly vibe that was present pretty much everywhere in Canada, we took the chance that a Tuesday night in Gastown wouldn't be quite as lame as it can be in Knoxville and went out.
After burgers on Rhys (again, we have the most generous friends in the world), we stumbled into a pub (Canada is way more European than American so, yes, they say pub not bar) called the Blarney Stone (nothing to say just wanted to add another confusing set of parentheses). Once we took advantage -twice- of $2 off whiskey drinks, our suddenly more sociable natures led us to stumble upon a crew of couch-surfers gathered for drinks. If you've never heard of couch surfing and like traveling you should check it out here.
We spent the next three hours speaking with some of the coolest, most well-traveled people we've met yet. There were guys from Australia who had couch surfed through Palestine and Iran, and, most frighteningly, Texas, and women from Britain and Germany with whom we discussed what a bitch visa applications could be and our favorite European cities. Phoebe made one particular friend who insisted he was from his dreams when asked about his country of origin.
"Ha! No, no seriously. Where were you born?"
"Ahhh, yes. Miraculous adult-hipster conceptions. I've heard of those."
We may or may not have passed him later humming Arcade Fire songs to himself in the corner.
We left Blarney Stone with friends we may meet up with later at the Hot Air Balloon festival in New Mexico and a renewed love of Couch Surfing.
We left Vancouver the next morning with memories and a renewed feeling that America could learn a thing or two from the rest of the world... even our hat.
PS Happy 64th birthday to my dad, one of the better things to come out of America.
Perfect trail. Vancouver, CA
Time to get to the nitty gritty
When I embarked on this road trip, I realized how lucky I am to have a job that I can take on the go. Now, I am going to say that a home base with a large support staff of massage therapists, health supplement gurus (Eddie!), a coach to watch workouts (the best coach ever, J.J Clark!), a weight room, sports psych guy, nutritionist, agent, etc. is much more conducive to running fast. That does not mean that my job has to dictate my life 24/7.
The hard part of running on the go:
When I say that running is so great because you can do it anywhere, an asterisk comes with that. It's almost like saying you can sleep anywhere. And yes, you can sleep in the back row of an airplane by the bathroom with an overly chatty Kathy on one side and a man with the extender seat belt on the other. It’s the same grin and bear it gene that it takes to run down the NYC grid dodging the Starbucks-bound speed walkers while stopping at every traffic light because you can’t seem to time your pace right. Yes, you can do all that, but do you really want to?
No, absolutely not. Sometimes, though, it comes with the job description, and it fosters creativity when having to devise a route that provides some type of functional run.
Another challenge while running in unfamiliar territory, finding a safe place to run. Yellowstone is a good example. On our final day in the park, I really only had two both rather unpleasant choices:
1) Head out on the road and deal with drivers –commonly belonging to the geriatric community- slowing and generally swerving to see every point of interest ever noted by anyone. Seriously, they will pull off the road for a squirrel to snap a picture even if they’re from, say, Tennessee and see them all the time (Kat!).
2) Head off on a trail and risk dealing with bears.
At first I chose geriatric tourists in RVs. After 10 minutes, I chose bears. Trust me, you would have too.
Vancouver, on the other hand, had the most perfect running trail I have ever seen. Only professional runners can truly appreciate the 8ft wide, perfectly flat peat gravel trail through the reeds along the Strait of Georgia. Did I mention the lack of cars and just enough other athletes to be pleasant not crowded? A runner’s dream.
If only every location could be as serene as Vancouver...well, minus that man who appeared to be blatantly smoking crack on the street. I'm just gonna chock that one up to that's how they must do it here in Canada, and smile cause I know I can outrun him.
Cheers from the Fatherland!
"Hello, hikers, I shat back there. Deal with it." -Mr. Ram
WE HAVE INTERNET!
Sort of. We are illegally piggybacking off the Wifi at a resort in Glacier, but we've bought their crazy expensive gourmet coffee so I feel we deserve at least the next ten minutes.For the last 5 days we've been in what we unanimously decided is the most beautiful place in America and, as far as we've seen, Earth. Of course, it's also one of the most remote and completely without cell or internet access for miles. Normally cool, right now just inconveniently timed what with the daily blogging and all.
Still, it's been completely worth it as we can't even begin to adequately describe the mind-bogglingness of the terrain here. We'll let our pictures do that despite the fact that my Kindergarten self might as well have drawn them for all that they can capture what it's like here too. (Those will go up when it doesn't take 45 minutes to upload even one).
Instead, we'll let you in on what it's been like for the three of us "roughing" it for the last 5 days.
Let's momentarily flashback to packing in Knoxville… One would think that when our Prius was full -really doesn't take much to fill our eco-friendly clown car- the first item to ditch would have been the extra sleeping bag or perhaps the cooler. No no, for us it was the obvious choice was our tent. I mean who needs the means to create shelter when we're really only camping for 60% of the trip? It's not like it's gonna be F@$#ING FREEZING in Montana or anything.
On Tuesday night in Yellowstone as temperatures dipped to 9 degrees below freezing, and our lean-to crafted from camping hammocks -which we weren't allowed to hang due to the occasional rogue elk in the area- imploded because of ice, we began to rethink our packing strategy. Erica bailed for the car around 4:30am when ice crystals started forming on her hair, and I (Kat) followed suit at 6 when my toes lost all feeling. Phoebe somehow developed sleeping bag gills in the night and maintained above-hypothermic body heat levels by closing off all air holes in her bag with a jacket.
We'd planned to camp two nights in Yellowstone, but "accidentally" left a night early. Yellowstone was beautiful and geysers are cool, but by the time we saw the 89 millionth tourist watching Old Faithful erupt through their iPad screen, we were ready to move on.
Enter Glacier National Park, a crash-pad snuck onto the floor of a friend's dorm room, and the most mind-blowing scenery a human could possibly imagine. Yesterday we hiked out to cross off an item off of our Runnin' the Streets Bucket List "4) Eat lunch on a glacier." and were not only successful at that but learned a few things on the way:
- Rams with horns the size of car tires do not give an eff about you and your desire to not fall off of a mountain. You WILL be waiting until they are done loitering and pooping across the trail, and you will be happy about it.
- Adam Sandler was right, water directly from a glacier is, in fact, some high quality H2O.
- If you encounter a Grizzly, you're gonna need to know which way the wind is blowing before spraying your bear mace at it. Not learned from experience, but the ridiculousness of having to test the air before spraying a bear that wants to EAT YOU really sticks.
- Altitude + Turkey Chili = extreme public flatulence… Lesson. Learned. For us and every other hiker we encountered. I mean, woah.
Still, the pictures really can't do this place justice. We had no idea that water this turquoise existed in nature, or any place in America was still so untouched by humanity. Today we watched a Grizzly and her cub foraging along a lakeside from 30ft away (stop panicking, parents, we were with Park Rangers). They were completely unconcerned with us, and had no desire to do anything but rack up the calories before hibernation in a couple of months. Our place as visitors in THEIR habitat is unforgettable here. The rams and bears and goats and sheep and moose we've seen have tolerated us, decidedly not the other way around.
Them damn internets are starting to fail again so we're off do something rugged while wearing ponchos.
Heading to Vancouver tomorrow, so we'll be posting next from civilization, eh.