As you might know, April is National Poetry Month, 30 days during which we remind each other (and ourselves) that art and beauty and rhythm and rhyme and lyrical acrobatics and words that move us to tears are generally good things, good things that should be read and heard and experienced and celebrated. Unlike run-on sentences. And fragments.
As you also might know, M is one of 85 poets participating in the Pulitzer Remix project sponsored by the Found Poetry Review. He’s crafting one found poem per day based on the source text of a Pulitzer Prize winner in fiction—in his case, Conrad Richter’s The Town (from 1951)—and posting them on the Pulitzer Remix website. You can access all of M’s poems here; new ones will be added daily through April 30th. By the end of the month, the 85 poets will have created 2,550 new poems from old text…art begetting art in a funky-fresh way.
[A note on found poetry: Found poetry involves taking words and phrases from existing texts and reworking them into an original poem. Source text can come from traditional writing like books, advertisements, and newspaper articles, or from random places like product packaging, report cards, or receipts. You can read more about found poetry and the project here if you’re interested, in an interview of the project’s founder conducted by one of the participating poets.]
And if you or anyone you know happens to be kicking it on NYC’s Lower East Side tomorrow night (Wednesday, April 10th), swing on by the Nexus Lounge (76 E 1st St @ 1st Av, downstairs at One and One). M and three other participating poets will be taking the mic around 8 PM to read a selection of their Remixed poems. We’d love to see you there. Your ears (and your hearts and your minds) will thank you. And so will we. –J.
At the start of 2012, we decided to pursue the goal of running at least one road race per month for the entire year. On top of this goal, given our wanderlust, we set out to run races in as many different states as possible. Although we visited 28 states in 2012 (travel summary to follow in our year-end post), it proved much more difficult to find races that aligned with our schedule. First, some areas of the country have more races than others. And second, most races occur on the weekend, further limiting our race options as we traveled around the country.
In January, we established a racing budget and got down to the business of scheduling races. Although there are some races that you can register for on race day, there are others that sell out quickly. We had our eyes set on a few specific ones and were open to being flexible on others. Races can cost anywhere from $15 to $100 or more per person to run depending on the distance and level of coordination required to manage the race course. The cost is worth it, though, since most races come with race swag (t-shirts, water bottles, pens, first aid kits, coupons, you name it…) and often benefit a local charity. In 2012, we ran races benefiting community literacy programs, local scholarship funds, volunteer fire departments, state parks, the NH Children’s Hospital, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, and the Alzheimer’s Foundation, among others. It’s also fun to run on a closed course with spectators (and police escorts, traffic detours, string bands, DJ’s, belly dancers, beauty queens…the list goes on).
Yesterday’s Santa Shuffle in Manchester (complete with 3,000 runners in Santa costumes) was the closing event in our 2012 racing season, and we thought it would be a good time to reflect on our year of running.
- We each completed 14 races in 2012. This doesn’t include the one race that we didn’t start due to a visit to the emergency room to repair my ear (now healed, thank you…).
- We ran races at all kinds of distances: 3 miles, 5K, 5 miles, 10K, 10 miles, half-marathon (twice each!) and full marathon (my first-ever in Maine in October). We also had the privilege of being part of a team for a 200-mile relay event (Reach the Beach NH).
- Total racing mileage this year: 86.8 for J. and 114.6 for me
- We raced in a total of five states (MA, ME, NH, VA and CA), and we set personal best times in many of our races.
The end to our racing season was yesterday’s relaxed run on a snowy course in Manchester, and it was a fitting end to a year filled with traveling and training. J is poised to finish 2012 with 600+ miles, and later this month, I will hit my goal of 1,000+ miles on the year. Running isn’t easy, but it is definitely rewarding. Looking back on 2012, I’m glad for each time I laced up my shoes to go out for some “me time” or to head out for a chatty run with my best friend and running partner, J.
Now that winter is approaching, the temperatures are dropping and our 2012 season is over, it’s time to do what runners do in the winter: bundle up, lace up the shoes and hit the pavement! Our 2013 race season starts with a Super Bowl Sunday Mid-Winter Classic 10-miler in Maine, and I need to beat my 2012 time! –M
“Should I give up / or should I just keep chasing pavements / even if it leads nowhere?” -Adele
We went chasing pavement this past weekend, but in our case, it didn’t lead “nowhere”…it led to the beach! Hampton Beach, to be specific, the finish line for the Reach The Beach Relay (RTB), a 203-mile team relay race. We started our adventure at 7 AM Friday when half of our team picked us up in a stylin’ mini-van at our meeting point in southern New Hampshire. We cruised two hours north to Cannon Mountain where, after a brief orientation and safety meeting, our first runner set out on his 8+ mile leg a little after our scheduled 11 AM start. (They stagger the start times based on expected pace so all the teams have enough time to complete the race before the closing of the course Saturday evening.)
After our first runner disappeared down the mountain trail, the rest of us piled into two vans and hit the road. We were underway! In our team of 12 runners, M ran in the 8th spot in the rotation, while I was in the 12th. There were a total of 36 legs of the race, meaning every runner ran three times in a pre-determined order. Each leg varied in length, elevation, and terrain. M’s rotation (three runs totaling ~23 miles) was arguably one of the hardest in all categories, but it provided fantastic training for his upcoming marathon. My rotation was a moderate one (~15 miles across three runs) that also gave me the honor of crossing the finish line for our team.
And it was an honor. Our teammates—many of whom we met for the first time on Friday morning—were friendly, funny, focused, and rock-star runners. Although several of them had run together before, they welcomed us with warmth and an appropriate level of good-natured ribbing. Each one of them ran their hearts out, some clocking personal bests and some happy just to hand off the baton at the end of a grueling section. We ran through heat, darkness, rain, and sunshine as we weaved through more than 30 towns and interacted with hundreds of other teams, race staffers, and volunteers. We reached the beach around 3:30 PM Saturday, roughly 28 ½ hours after we started, and celebrated with burritos and beer.
RTB is not an ordinary race; it is an event. And it’s not the kind of event that you just wake up that morning and decide to run. For starters, you need at least five (and ideally, eleven) other people capable and willing to run on a team with you. Then there’s the training and the planning and the packing for a 36-hour adventure that is long on port-a-potties but short on sleep and showers. It’s also not the kind of event you just wake up and decide to put on. It takes months of planning and coordination to pull off an event of its size, rallying hundreds of volunteers to provide services at all hours of the day and night. And in its 14th year, the team behind RTB absolutely has it right. From my perspective as a rookie runner, event execution was flawless.
On a personal level, this event tested my endurance, my mental toughness, and my chops as a runner. I just started running two years ago, and in that time I’ve worked to drop more than four minutes off my average pace per mile (from roughly a 12:30 during my first 5K in 2010 to an 8:33 at a 5K last month). I’m not naturally speedy, but I’ve been working hard to improve. I ran two of my legs during RTB at a sub-9:00 pace, and the third was just over that. Others on our team logged impressive times in the 6:00-7:00 range, which I can only hope to attain, but I was psyched to hold my own and mix in with a crowd of runners I respected.
Because of the staggered start times and varying paces for each team, you never knew if the runners you were near on the course were going to finish ahead of or behind you in the final standings. It really didn’t matter. Everyone was doing their own thing, and everyone was generous with the weekend’s refrain: “Nice job, Runner.” I heard this as people passed me, and I said it as I passed them or cheered them on along the course. There were more than 400 teams on the course, and most of them were not in contention for any kind of place or prize; they were out there for the camaraderie, the experience and the personal challenge. They were out there to run, and they—we—were all runners.
Running is an individual sport, but events like RTB provide an opportunity to create community, even if it’s temporary. It’s a community that rallies around challenge and celebrates accomplishment with a pure joy unlike any I’ve ever experienced. There’s a magical feeling at the finish line, even as a spectator. Racing—especially in an organized endurance event—provides a forum for individuals to challenge themselves in a different way than normally available. I am grateful I had the opportunity to join a team (partially composed of folks from M’s alma mater) and stretch my own boundaries to see what I could do to help get our team to the beach.
After running alone on a dirt trail through a dark state park with only a headlamp to guide me and a teensy bit of terror to motivate me…
…after running in the only rain of the event as the sun was rising, producing a gorgeous double rainbow…
…and after chugging along barefoot in pace-sucking soft sand for the last 1/3 of a mile as my teammates waited patiently to join me across the finish line…
…well, after all that, I’m pretty sure I can tackle anything, including tomorrow’s planned 3-miler. Our next half-marathon is two weeks away, and there’s plenty of pavement to chase. -J
For the past several months we’ve been debating our next move. Not where we will go tomorrow, rather where we will go in 2013 and beyond. Once we finish our self-prescribed creative sabbatical, where will we go? Who will we be? How will we focus our time and energy (because we have a lot of energy…)? Over the past month or so, we’ve effectively narrowed our search: in addition to being happy and centered together, we’re either going back to school in search of creativity, community, higher-learning and adventure, or we’re starting our own business in an effort to help others find wellness and fitness while we make a living doing something we love. There are many pros and cons to each of these, many risks and possible rewards.
We know that we love to live in our town on the New Hampshire seacoast, and after a successful town and campus visit this week, we’re pleasantly surprised to discover that Vermillion, South Dakota is a place where we could be happy as well. I’ve always trusted my gut to tell me the best way to go (after stuffing it with much research and analysis, of course), but in this situation, my gut isn’t sending out that special feeling. The decision is too complicated, and there are still too many unknowns.
We often go back to Rilke’s advice to “love the questions themselves” as a way to help us stay sane on this journey toward a future that is grey with possibility. But we’re analysts, we’re problem solvers, and we’re determined to find an answer. The only problem is that in this situation, there may not be an answer. The only way to know where we fit best is to travel down one path or the other until more information is available. But how can we start our own business in New Hampshire and move to South Dakota for grad school? They can’t possibly exist simultaneously…
Or can they?
Tonight, we realized that one of our most common enemies is actually an ally…TIME! Going to graduate school requires an application, an acceptance, funding, etc. The deadline for applying to USD is February for admittance in the fall. That’s six months until the application deadline and eight months until we need to make a decision on whether or not to make the move to Vermillion. That’s plenty of time to get our personal training certifications and launch our business in NH. By the time we know what options are available to us for grad school, we’ll know if business is slow, booming or boring on the wellness front.
By committing to both options, we’ll travel far enough down each path to make the decision easier when/if the time comes to choose one over the other. Best case, we are choosing between amazing grad school opportunities in SD and a successful startup company in NH. Worst case scenario, we’re not accepted to grad school and the business is a failure. Then what? Chattanooga, TN or bust! I heard Whole Foods is hiring there. – M
Greetings from Michigan! Michigan is the 21st state we’ve traveled through this year, and we picked up our first Canadian province (Ontario) on the way. By the time this particular trip ends in early September, we’ll have touched ground in 26 states since March. (As for the license plate game, we’re still on the lookout for North Dakota and Wyoming, but we’re headed in the right direction…) I was hoping this would be the year I’d notch the last three states I need, but a lot has changed since we first envisioned this trip in the spring. After being on the road for three months and just recently moving into our apartment, we’re reluctant to spend an extended amount of time away right now. We also got a later start than planned (due to move-in slipping by a month), so the weather at the western national parks is chillier than we’d like for tent camping. And then there is our fall race schedule—which kicks into high gear in mid-September—and we’d like to be rested and centered by then, not car-lagged and road weary. So we culled this adventure down to two critical objectives: visit friends in Michigan and Pennsylvania whom we’ve been talking about visiting for a year and check out two graduate schools that are on M’s short list.
We arrived in Michigan Friday afternoon and spent the weekend enjoying the waning days of summer vacation with our friend T and his family. It’s just the two of us at home most of the time, so it was a fun change of pace to be part of a lively household that stretched to more than 10 people at one point during the weekend. On Saturday, we managed to fit in an early 8-mile run along a scenic, rolling dirt road before spending the afternoon exploring downtown Lansing (the state capital) and neighboring East Lansing (home of Michigan State University) with T and his youngest son. That evening, the grown-ups (yup, we’re in that category…) ventured out to meet up with another couple and see a comedian, Gabriel Iglesias, who put on an entertaining show.
On Sunday, T’s wife cooked up a breakfast feast of pancakes and eggs with assorted meats and fruits before we all piled into two cars and drove an hour to T’s friend’s lake house for an afternoon of boating and tubing. The lake was picture-perfect and scattered showers held off until we were out of the water. Most of the ladies and smaller kids boarded the pontoon boat, while the tubing crew donned PFDs and jumped into the motorboat. M had been tubing once before, but it was my first time. The older guys (including M) went first, followed by a joint ride where each of them was joined by one of the younger boys. M and his 7-year-old co-pilot got dumped at one point, which did nothing to help my nerves. But they survived, and suddenly it was my turn. I was anxious bordering on terrified before launching myself onto the giant tube, and I was terrified bordering on ecstatic during the ride. Apparently the terror part was visible on my face, since T had his friend slow down the boat at one point to ask me if I was okay. I meant “no” but evidently said “yes” because the boat took off even faster, at first going straight ahead so we were in relatively calm wake, and then bearing down hard to the right (resulting in a game of bumper boats) and then left (resulting in M and me taking a tube to the face and me barely holding on while he slid off the side into the deep). The boat stopped to allow us time to regroup, and I took the chance to swim back to the boat and, um, let someone else have a turn.
Back on land, we capped the day with grilled meats (real and faux), side salads, and good conversation. We said goodbye to T and his family this morning, and we’re now on our way to Nebraska, a short 700 or so miles from where we started the day in Michigan. Good news is we’ll pick up an hour. Bad news is we still have 10 hours to go… -J.
We’re down to the last month of training before our challenging series of fall races begins. Between mid-September and late October, we’ll each run four races ranging in length from 10K to half (me) or full (M) marathon. Our first fall event, Reach the Beach NH, kicks off in four weeks, and each of our big events takes place less than a month later. All of that means we’re in the thick of things when it comes to our training plans…and before yesterday we were in a rut, too.
Training for a long race serves multiple purposes. Beyond basic conditioning of both the cardiovascular and skeletomuscular varieties (so you can actually finish an event…), training runs help you figure out what to wear, what to drink, and what to eat during long runs. Those particulars are specific to each runner, and it’s best to figure them out long before race day. Training runs also help your mind push through walls your body encounters and your body push through walls your mind erects. They expose you to different terrain, weather conditions, and levels of physical and mental fatigue. Every runner wants conditions on race day to be ideal, but they rarely are. Training in less-than-ideal conditions makes it a little easier to handle any race day hiccups.
Our current training plans have us running four days a week, with one or two days of cross-training and one or two days of rest. Weekly mileage for me averages between 15 and 20 with a planned max of 25. M’s weekly mileage averages between 25 and 30 with a planned max of 35. Neither of us has run with such frequency or consistency prior to now, and we’re both feeling the effects, physically and mentally. We’re not injured, but we’re sore. We’re not surrendering, but we’re struggling.
Distances and routes that were routine a few months ago have become tough to tackle, and I was wondering if I would ever run more than seven miles again. So in the spirit of notching a mental victory, I suggested we take our scheduled 8-mile runs to the beach yesterday. We are fortunate to live 20 minutes from the coast where the sidewalk is long, the terrain is flat, and the views are a nice distraction.
Music was also a good distraction yesterday. I’ve been running without my iPod lately, in part to simplify my routine (one less thing to remember or carry) and in part because many races discourage the use of headphones (for safety reasons). I don’t want to be dependent on a soundtrack to run well. But yesterday called for some serious tunes to help me get my groove back, so I cranked the volume. Thumping bass and inspired lyrics and silly hooks…I heard them all and sang a few out loud (much to M’s amusement on the crowded boardwalk).
Part of the route we ran covered mileage that we’ll revisit during two of the fall races we’re signed up to run, including my final leg of the RTB relay: Stage 36 of 36, a 4-mile leg from Winnacunnet High School to the finish line on the sands of Hampton Beach State Park. By the time I start out on that journey, our team will have been riding in vans and leapfrogging each other for nearly 200 miles. Yesterday, while passing the intersection of 101A where I’ll round the corner with three miles to go, I tried to imagine how I will feel that day. Exhausted? Exhilarated? Anxious? Determined? Probably all of those things, but I still have several long runs ahead of me before I get to find out.
In the meantime, I’ll keep training. Before yesterday’s run (which was a fast and flat success, just as I hoped it would be), we were sluggish and struggling. After it, we have renewed focus and a spring in our steps. After a much-needed day off, we’ll hit the pavement again tomorrow and keep marching toward the finish line…all of them. -J
Greetings from…New Hampshire! We last posted from Prague more than three weeks ago. So what have we been up to since then? Everything except blogging, it seems. We’ve continued to wander and travel, both internationally and domestically. We’ve attended weddings and birthday parties, dance recitals and backyard barbecues. We’ve hosted out-of-town relatives (a challenge when homeless…) and danced the night away at concerts in the city and to sounds by the sea.
All of that brings us to tonight, the last night of this month. It’s also our last night of voluntary homelessness and our last night on the road for a while. Tomorrow morning we will pick up the keys to our new apartment. Construction is complete, and the crew is putting the finishing touches on the newly renovated textile mill along the river that runs through our town. We will be the first ones to live in the space, and we’re looking forward to making it our own.
Several people have asked me, “Now that you’re not working, what do you do all day?” I used to try to explain how I spent my time, as if what I was doing outside of a corporate workplace had to be justified. I have realized over the past several months that there are so many things wrong with the question, and I rarely attempt to answer it anymore. But tonight, in reflecting on why we haven’t posted in weeks, I took stock of what I’ve been doing with my time this month, and by extension, my life. The answer is quite simple: I live…as fully and authentically as I can each day. I run, I hike, and I travel. I spend time with family and friends and strangers. I cook them dinner, babysit their kids, and help them move. I attempt to speak foreign languages and eat spicy foods and finish ice cream cones before they melt. I read books that make me laugh and watch movies that make me cry. I manage my finances, plan our meals, and research topics that interest me. I plot and scheme and daydream about my next gig. I take pictures, paint, write, and create. I eat and I drink and I breathe. I live deeply, sucking the marrow out of life. And since I’m wired to be analytical, I count things…
In the month of July alone, we logged nearly 5,000 miles by air, 1,000 miles by train, 2,300 miles on the road, and 200 miles on foot. We spent at least one night in 14 different cities across 3 countries and 4 different U.S. states. That brings our tally for the past three months of wandering to 26 cities in 3 countries and 10 states. We’ve spent nights in the homes of family and friends, in hotels and hostels, and at B&Bs and campgrounds. We’ve milked the hotel points we earned during years of business travel, and we’ve mastered the perks of our rewards credit cards and travel-related loyalty programs. The longest stretch in any one place was 13 nights at a friend’s house in Virginia. The shortest—a simple one-night stay—happened in many places…11 to be exact. Everywhere else fell somewhere in between.
After all that travel, beginning tomorrow night, we will again have a place to call our own. And we plan to spend at least a few nights there before we hit the road for our next adventure… -J
On the off chance you or someone you know is in Prague tonight, send them to The Globe bookstore! M and C will be doing a reading of their work starting at 19:30 (7:30 PM). You can read more about the event on The Globe’s website: http://www.globebookstore.cz/
We arrived in Prague Thursday afternoon on a regional train from Leipzig via Dresden. C and S are traveling with us on this leg of the trip, and we are happy to have the company. (As an added bonus, we’ve been able to join them as guests in the Deutsche Bahn lounges at every train station…) After a steamy 45-minute walk to the hotel, we happily dropped off our packs and roamed the neighborhood. We stumbled upon a fantastic restaurant (Stará Doba) where we sat in a sunken beer garden and feasted on Czech beer, fried cheese, fresh bread, and roasted vegetables…all for around $12 per person. After dinner, we picked up ‘to go’ beers at a corner store and continued to wander around, getting a feel for the city and stopping only for cover under a bus stop shelter while a thunderstorm rolled through. (While we waited, M and C chatted up a Canadian couple on a bicycling trip who have already logged more than 600 miles across Europe…) We made our way back to the hotel just as it was getting dark (after 10:00 PM local time) and quickly fell asleep, exhausted from our travels and excited about the next day of adventure ahead of us.
We’ve been in Europe for over a week now and have yet to post an update. Not for lack of things to talk about, but more for lack of time to write and infrequent internet access. Tonight, in Prague of all places, we have free Wi-Fi at the hotel and are back in our room at a reasonable hour. So a quick update! We’ve had a series of amazing adventures since arriving in Germany last week, beginning with three days of family festivities surrounding M’s cousin’s wedding. We attended the civil ceremony at the town hall, or Rathaus, and the church ceremony in Aschaffenburg, where M read a passage in German during the service. There was also a garden party in the rain, complete with an outdoor viewing of the Germany-Italy semi-final game of the Euro Cup and plenty of strong beer. We next explored Berlin for two days before meeting up with M’s cousin, C, and his wife, S, at their apartment in Leipzig. After we logged an early training run through the park yesterday, C and S showed us around town, including a huge monument to the 1813 War of Nations battle at Leipzig (Google it…). We wandered around the university area and stopped at some of their favorite pubs and bookstores. At the monument, we climbed to the top for a view of the city, but the picture here doesn’t do the experience justice. We made our way back to their apartment and capped off our non-traditional 4th of July with a balcony barbecue of tofu curry wurst and grilled gouda and hours of conversation in at least two languages. It was a fantastic evening to close a perfect day. We didn’t even miss the fireworks.
After six months of anticipation–having booked our flight back in January–we are waiting patiently in Terminal E at Logan for our outbound flight to Frankfurt via a short layover in Dublin. The clouds are rolling in, but we are hoping for an uneventful departure. We will arrive at our first destination (M’s uncle’s house in the small town of Grosswallstadt) sometime tomorrow afternoon. Our initial few days in Europe will be filled with celebration…first of M’s cousin’s wedding and then of the finals of the Euro Cup, which we hope to witness from Berlin’s famous Fan Mile. After a few days exploring Berlin and Leipzig next week, we plan to roll east through Dresden on our way to Prague, where we will explore a city new to us both. We are excited and honored to be sharing in T’s and S’s wedding festivities, and we are equally excited to be embarking on another leg of our journey together. We hope you will join us on the other side…of the Atlantic!
Since we’ve started our travel blog, a pattern has emerged with the timing of our posts: First, we hit the road, blogging three to five times per week about our trips. Then, after a few weeks on the road, we return to New England and go quiet for a while. Our silence is usually because our time in New England is filled with chores, errands, and visits with family and friends. It’s not all fun and games, though…someone has to wash my stinky running gear!
We followed this same pattern after returning from our last trip to Virginia and Tennessee. Now that we’ve been back in New England for a couple of weeks, it seemed about time to get back on the wagon and get some new posts published. Of course, we leave for Europe next week, which should make for much more interesting posts than picking up dry cleaning, going to the bank and organizing our gear in storage. Stay tuned!
For now, I wanted to put a little context around an activity that will color all of our upcoming travel for the next few months. Running! I know…I know…how is this different than any other trip? Well, it’s time for marathon training! It’s almost the end of Week 2 of my 18 week training plan for the Mount Desert Island (MDI) Marathon in Maine. The marathon is Sunday, October 14th, just a couple of days after my birthday, and we’ll be spending the weekend in Bar Harbor for the event.
The race is an important milestone for me, since it will be my first marathon since I started running in late 2009. In addition, it takes place in a location that is very important for J and me. We got married on Mount Desert Island in Northeast Harbor in 2011, and (as you may know from some of our prior posts) we returned to the area this year to celebrate our first anniversary. Not only is MDI beautiful, but it carries a huge amount of sentimental value.
Anyone who has run a long race or marathon before knows that you don’t just show up to compete. You have to train. And anyone who knows me knows that I like to train hard. It’s rare for a race to go by where I haven’t set and trained for an aggressive time goal (aggressive for me anyway), and the MDI marathon is no different. I’m pushing to finish the race in under 4 hours, with a target pace of 8:30 to 8:45 per mile. I’ve run faster than this in prior races, but never anything longer than a half marathon. Also, in addition to being voted the most scenic marathon in America and runner-up for best overall marathon, the MDI marathon is hilly. One blogger who ran the race reported his GPS watch showing 1,700 feet in elevation gain over the 26.2 miles and just as much in elevation loss.
I’m loosely following a Hal Higdon training plan. Higdon is a widely respected runner and author who has been helping runners succeed longer than I’ve been alive. I chose his Novice 2 plan, since it is a little more aggressive than Novice 1. I’ve not run a marathon before, so I stayed away from the intermediate training plans. In a nutshell, the plan increases your training mileage and the length of your longest weekly run week-over-week for 18 weeks leading into the race. There are some lower mileage weeks built into the plan for recovery after the longest of the training runs, and a taper period (period of rest and recovery) for the two to three weeks leading into the race. The plan also designates the pace of each run, with several runs being completed at the desired marathon race pace (“at pace”). The longest training run on the plan is 20 miles, and for me it will take place in late September about three weeks before race day.
So far, my adherence to the structure of the training plan has been less than perfect. I have gotten in all of my training, but it has required some substitutions and schedule changes due to travel and other activities. Here’s how Weeks 1 and 2 have gone so far, with the yellow representing what’s left this week:
I moved my long run up this week because we’re running a 5K race on Saturday (part of our goal of running a race per month in 2012). I also substituted some hikes for runs in Week 1 because we were in the White Mountains and the weather was fantastic. I was comfortable with these adjustments in the early weeks of the plan, since the mileage is in my comfort zone of 15 to 25 miles per week. As the plan continues, I need to buckle down. Given the demands of the plan, I don’t want to risk injury due to over-training . Also, since the plan is designed to provide enough rest leading into the longest run of the week and enough recovery after, it’s important that I stick to the prescribed schedule to avoid getting hurt or falling short on the important long training runs.
This will make for some scenic, interesting and challenging runs in upcoming Weeks 3 and 4, since I’ll be traveling in Germany and the Czech Republic! We will be visiting with family and friends for my cousin’s wedding before taking the train to Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden and Prague. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Europe, practicing my less-than-stellar German and, of course, logging some international marathon training miles! – M
After two weeks in the Virginia mountains, we hit the road yesterday with the goal of picking up a few more “new” states and national parks before we head back to New England for a while. We spent Saturday night in Kingsport, a small manufacturing city in northeast Tennessee we first discovered on our March road trip. Upon arrival, we made full use of the hotel’s fantastic gym, indoor pool, hot tub, and restaurant. This morning, we drove to the Kingsport Greenbelt, a recently-completed mixed-surface fitness trail that traverses nearly ten miles of the town. We were a bit surprised by the hilly terrain, which was a change of pace (literally) from the flat rail trail we’d run a few times in Virginia, but the pleasant scenery helped the time and miles pass. We completed an enjoyable 4-mile run before heading back to clean up and repack the car. We took a driving tour of downtown and then hit the highway to conquer the remaining stretch of I-81. We picked up I-40 into Knoxville, home to the University of Tennessee, where we made a spontaneous decision to take a break and check out the downtown area. We parked in a city garage (free on Sundays!) and wandered around a bit before deciding on a place to eat. We enjoyed the weather and the people-watching as we ate a late outdoor brunch in Market Square. We picked up coffee for the road before driving the last leg of the day down to Chattanooga, on Tennessee’s southern border with Georgia. Chattanooga was featured in a magazine article we read last year as the best place to live for outdoor enthusiasts, and it’s been on our list of places to check out ever since. The weather is looking stormy tomorrow, so we’re off to study the hourly radar with the hopes of picking the right hour for a running tour of downtown… -J
We started our day today just outside of Charlottesville, VA (C’Ville) at Thomas Jefferson’s famous home, Monticello. The rain held off as we walked through the gardens and took in the view. As we toured the home itself, the place that Jefferson loved more than any other, a quote from Jefferson about his home struck me. “I am as happy nowhere else and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello.” This is how I want to feel about the place that I live, at least most of the time. It should be enriching and inspiring, while providing a venue for both the social and recreational activities I enjoy. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
In addition to exploring ourselves, the United States and the National Parks, one goal of our road trips has been to seek out places that we someday may want to live. Each new city or town we enter goes through a review process either openly or in our minds. All locations are ultimately compared to the New Hampshire Seacoast. Why the Seacoast? Aside from it being our current home and a familiar place, it has several characteristics that we look for in a home base: Not too crowded and not too rural (our ideal is somewhere between 8,000 and 100,000 people), great places too run (long roads with low traffic, low risk of crime, beaches and/or bike trails), an arts/music/literary scene, and a downtown with quality independent restaurants and coffee shops. Our current hometown has most of these characteristics, but given our recent freedom, we enjoy entertaining the idea of moving to new places.
One mistake we’ve made during our travels is to build up new places in our minds before actually visiting them. No town is perfect, and unrealistic expectations can ruin a place before even getting there. The first example of this for us was Portland, Oregon. We had built Portland up to be the ideal place to live: progressive, artsy, West Coast (sort of)…it sounded perfect. When we arrived in Portland, it was raining, gray, cold, filled with homeless people and nothing like the place we wanted it to be. Although we eventually grew to like Portland, we were disappointed by its inability to live up to our escapist/utopian expectations. It’s easy to overlook the flaws in one’s hometown. They are familiar, which by nature makes them less threatening. The flaws in a new place stand out, especially when you haven’t imagined there would be any.
Before we came to Virginia, a friend recommended that we check out Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia. “You’ll like it,” she assured us. We asked our host, B, about it, and he concurred, mentioning the pedestrian mall, Friday night live music, yummy pizza, etc. as highlights. Despite the threat of severe storms, we left Monticello and continued to downtown C’ville, anxious to give it a look before we headed out of Virginia for a few more stops on this leg of our journey.
We started our visit with a walk hand-in-hand down the pedestrian mall, taking in the mix of independent and chain stores, shops and restaurants. So far, so good. We stopped at the most highly recommended pizza joint in town, Christian’s, for a slice and a local beer. Lots of veggie options and definitely delicious! We sat by the window and enjoyed our late lunch while watching the eclectic mix of passers-by: business people, students, children, grandparents and homeless folks, and they all seemed right at home in this downtown center. It’s a welcoming place.
After lunch, we waited out a downpour in a used bookstore called Blue Whale Books. We chatted with the cashier, a UVA poet, and picked up two used books for $2 (a biography of Rilke for J and an analysis comparing Jungian philosophy to Tibetan Buddhism for me). We left the pedestrian mall and headed for a drive around the UVA campus where the academic buildings were right across the street from the coffee shops and pubs…my kind of town.
The final test for C’Ville, and any town, was the grocery store. As vegetarians who do our best to cook and eat healthy, local, organic food whenever possible, the quality of the grocery store is a key factor in determining the livability of a city or town. When it comes to grocery stores, a town with a Whole Foods is pretty much a sure thing. With the exception of higher prices, Whole Foods is like a candy store for vegetarians. It’s a place to buy the specialty items that most grocery stores don’t carry. Tack on a weekly supplemental trip to a regular grocery store for staples and a farmer’s market for seasonal items, and you’ve got everything you need. The C’Ville Whole Foods was clean, bustling and close to downtown, rounding out the Words Per Gallon livability checklist.
So how did C’Ville stack up? We could definitely see ourselves living there. For now though, there are so many other towns to explore, more roads to run on and more National Parks to visit. Plus, our new place on the Seacoast beckons; it will be ready later this summer. Maybe we’ll move next year… -M
Our Virginia adventures continued yesterday with a day trip into Lynchburg. A few weeks ago, while still back in New Hampshire, we had sought out and registered for a 10K race downtown. We have a goal of running a race every month this year, and due to our travels, a Virginia race best fit our schedule for May. Neither of us had been to Lynchburg before, and running the race was a great way to see part of the city. (You can read my full recap here if you’re interested…)
After the race, which had an early 8 AM start, we did a quick change of clothes at the car (tucked into a shady spot in a free parking garage) and walked several blocks down Main Street to the Lynchburg Community Market. We planned to fill a bag with fresh local produce, but first things first…specifically, breakfast. We assumed the long line at Barb’s Dream Hut inside the marketplace was a good sign, so we ordered veggie omelets and shared a side of hash browns. We also ended up sharing our table with a local couple in their late 70s. They were newlyweds, having just tied the knot last December, although their first date was actually 63 years earlier, before he introduced her to his best friend…whom she subsequently married. It was a sweet story and part of a lovely conversation.
After breakfast, we wandered around the indoor market, picking up some Vidalia relish and locally roasted coffee before hitting up the farm stalls outside. We loaded two shopping bags with onions, peppers, squash, cabbage, beets, sweet potatoes, and kale, plus a loaf of fresh bread and a tub of sun-dried tomato goat cheese. As is typical for farmers markets, we paid a lower-than-usual price for produce fresh from the producers’ trucks and a higher-than-usual price for artisan breads and cheeses. For us, this is a fair trade-off, allowing us to support the local economy (wherever we are) and satisfy our own desires to know what we are eating and how it was made.
We left the market and walked back to the car, stashing our goods before driving over to the Old City Cemetery. The cemetery is more than a burial ground, as it contains five small museums paying homage to Lynchburg’s role in the Civil War and the railroad’s role in Lynchburg’s history. Lynchburg’s location on the James River and at the convergence of three major railways led to its establishment as a major hospital site during the Civil War. The cemetery is filled with history, including the graves of more than 2,200 Confederate soldiers and numerous early cultural and political leaders from the region.
Our next and final stop in town was the Anne Spencer House for a visit to her garden. Spencer was a poet and part of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Her house is part of the Pierce Street historic district (one of seven historic districts in Lynchburg), and the garden has been lovingly restored by a local non-profit group. It is open to the public from dawn to dusk, and we found ourselves alone there on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We wandered the garden paths and sat in chairs outside Edankraal, the writing cottage her husband built for her so she would have a quiet place to write and be inspired by the beauty of the garden. The garden is filled with history, both in the stories of significant visitors that stayed there and in the plants and flowers in the garden, many of which have persisted since the Spencers first planted them in the 1930s and 1940s.
On the way home, we talked about how we would love to have a cottage like Edankraal someday, a quiet place for writing and possibly for living. For now, we are getting used to writing and living wherever we find ourselves, which this week is at our friend’s mountain retreat. After the short drive back there, we unloaded our bounty and got down to the business of making the most amazing grilled sandwiches using the fresh bread, onion relish and goat cheese. We capped the day by heading up to the second-story deck to watch the sun set over the mountains, thankful for a perfect day and the opportunity to explore places like Lynchburg. –J
After our week-long stay in Maine and a weekend stop in Portsmouth for our friends’ wedding, we’ve made our way to a friend’s house in the mountains of central Virginia. In a happy scheduling coincidence, our friend (who travels frequently) happens to be at the house for the first week of our planned three-week stay. It’s been nice catching up with him over shared meals and late night card games, and it will be nice to find a rhythm of our own once he’s on the road again. We arrived late Sunday night and have spent the week becoming familiar with the area and our new temporary home. The house is set back about a mile down a gravel road, with few neighbors to encounter and many acres of woods to explore. Each morning, I’ve taken my coffee outside and listened to the land come alive from my perch on the wooden swing. We’ve napped in hammocks and walked along winding paths. We’ve witnessed deer grazing in the front yard, turkey vultures and coyotes scavenging along the main road, and countless birds and butterflies and bats and other things with wings. We’ve also managed to keep our fitness routine somewhat intact, with some creative adjustments. When the weather’s been nice, we’ve brought our workouts to the back yard, and when it was raining, I set up my yoga mat on the covered front porch. We’ve explored sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiked to a remote waterfall swimming hole. Today, we ventured to the next county in search of a safe running route and ended up finding a converted rail trail that was perfect for today’s training run. (We’re running a 10K here in Virginia on Saturday, and it’s been a little tough keeping up our mileage on the road.) We’re now back at the house, enjoying a quiet afternoon and watching storm clouds roll in from the west. I think it’s going to be a good night to hunker down on the mountain. -J
Dry Tortugas National Park is both the southernmost park in the system and one of the hardest to reach. Visiting the park has been on my bucket list for years, and we were fortunate enough to make it there on Monday (the fifth park of this trip!). Located in the Gulf of Mexico 70 miles off Key West, the Dry Tortugas can only be reached by boat or sea plane. We traveled there on the Yankee Freedom II, a two-level passenger ferry. The first hour of the trip—out past the Marquesas—was relatively smooth sailing, but the second hour took us across a deep-water channel, so the seas were a little rough. We arrived in one piece and were happy to be on land, if only temporarily.
The ferry boat docks at Garden Key, the largest island in the park and home to Ft. Jefferson, the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. Millions of bricks from places as far away as Maine were used to construct the three-level fort during the 19th century. Construction was never completed, but the fort has been used for a variety of purposes, including a military outpost and a prison, for much of the last 150 years.
The fort is impressive, but the view from atop it is stunning. Surrounded by park waters in ten shades of blue, thousands of birds nest in the islands or make temporary stops as they fly between the Americas. In addition to exploring the fort and the island, we hit the water with snorkel gear and explored a few underwater areas, including the fort’s moat wall and old pilings from a former coal dock. (There are no services on the island, so for one all-inclusive ticket price, the ferry company provides breakfast, lunch, restrooms, and snorkeling equipment for day passengers.)
Satisfied with our adventure and just a little sunburned, we settled in for the trip back to Key West and arrived in time to watch the sunset. More on that later! In the meantime, take a peek at this video. Consider it a sneak peek of your own trip someday! -J
Skyline Drive traverses the Blue Ridge Mountains through Shenandoah National Park. The north end of the drive begins in Front Royal, VA, a surprising town that appears to be maintaining itself quite well despite the economy. The architecture in Front Royal is familiar, each building crafted of the same stones, bricks and shingles of eastern towns ranging from Plattsburgh, NY to New Castle, PA to Greenville, SC. It is the architecture of hardware stores and insurance agencies, small public libraries and aging churches. We agreed Front Royal would go on the list of potential places to live “someday.”
At the entrance to Skyline Drive, Howard, the friendly, nervous, red-headed (and bearded) ranger, sold us our $80 Interagency Annual Pass, allowing access to the many places we hope to visit across the country in the next twelve months. Armed with our pass and some park literature, we hit the road. Skyline Drive is 105 miles of winding, rising and falling road filled with wildlife, old growth forest and very few other people. (Most park facilities don’t officially open for the season until later this spring.) After getting distracted by a handful of deer, two overlooks and countless circling hawks, it had taken us nearly 20 minutes to go the first five miles. It was looking like the drive would take longer than the three hours we had estimated. (The maximum speed limit on the drive is 35 MPH.) We were all smiles and in no hurry. Today, the deer posed for pictures, but despite our vigilance, the bears were elusive. Maybe we’ll be luckier in the Smokies…preferably from the car.
At the halfway point of the drive, we parked and hit the trail for a short hike to the outlook on Stony Man Trail, recommended by the ranger as a brief but rewarding trip into the woods. At 4,010 feet, it is the second highest point in the park, and part of the summit route overlaps the Appalachian Trail. The trail was well-maintained, and we cruised to the top in 20 minutes. Once there, we surveyed the valley and took in a recommendation from a local couple to visit the “Camp David of President Herbert Hoover,” also in the park. We determined that this newly found part of America was worth a second visit and a much more thorough exploration of Shenandoah National Park. Perhaps later this spring…
The second half of the drive went more quickly than the first. At the end of the road, we opted to take the highway to Tennessee instead of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Although the Parkway is on our “must do someday” list, it wasn’t on our “must do this trip” list. We capped off our 415-mile day with a dip in the hotel pool and a tall draft beer. My first time in Tennessee has been more relaxing than expected. I’ll be enjoying the hotel bed tonight, since tomorrow night will bring the Great Smoky Mountains and our first campsite of the trip! –M
Here’s a look at what we saw from the summit of Stony Man: