Exploring the world one word…and one mile…at a time

Running

Jasper National Park (Put It On Your Bucket List)

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Get your camera! (L to R): Random mountains at sunset and sunrise; scenic Lake Maligne; amazing scenery in every direction.

Greetings from Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada…our first official national park of this trip! Jasper is the farthest northwest that we will venture this summer, and it is absolutely worth the 3,000+ miles we trekked across the continent to get here. Jasper is the largest of Canada’s Rocky Mountains parks, and it’s also less trafficked than Banff and Yoho to the south.  We try to avoid clichés and hyperbole here on WPG, but truth is, since we arrived in Jasper, there has been a stunning, mind-blowing, awe-inspiring, picturesque cliché around every corner.

We’ve been here for less than 24 hours, but it feels more like a week.  We’ve visited the Miette Hot Springs, sampled local brews, stayed overnight in a rustic wilderness hostel (no running water), ran four miles around town this morning (nearly running into an elk), and hiked a bit at Lake Maligne.  We are now back in town jumping on the grid for a few minutes before returning to the hostel (with a planned visit to Athabasca Falls on the way). (more…)


An Exercise in Flexibility

L to R:

L to R: Entering Saskatchewan with a bug-splattered windshield; making a pre-run breakfast at our hostel by the river; and a stunning view of the Canadian plains from yesterday’s drive.

As we headed out for a run on the Meewasin Trail in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan this morning, the question “right or left?” immediately came up. The trail runs along the South Saskatchewan River by the hospital and the University of Saskatchewan. We had planned our stay at a small hostel-like inn near the river, knowing that we had a run scheduled for this morning and having researched the Meewasin Trail online.

Despite our research and pre-planning–the Google images of the trail and the online maps–we still had to choose a direction to run with limited information about which direction was “better.” That choice got me thinking about the concept of expectations and subsequently the need for flexibility. We could be surprised or disappointed, not necessarily because of the trail or run itself, but because of our own expectations. Had we expected a populated, well-marked trail and a sunny run, we would have been disappointed. The trail was paved and wide, but the grasses were tall, the route wasn’t always clear and it was raining. Also, since it was Tuesday morning, only a few other runners and cyclists were out on the trail.  (more…)


Reason, Season,…Race Day?

L to R:

L to R: Scenes from Charlevoix (the drawbridge and marina); M and me at the Athlete’s Meeting in the park; the marathoners at the start line; and S and me approaching the finish line.

Building a road trip around a marathon training plan takes a bit of effort.  We focused first on our long training runs, booking hotels in places that have good running routes (like urban trails or bike paths) and adjusting driving targets based on our daily training schedule.  We also contemplated signing up for a race or two to take advantage of closed roads and on-course support.  Last Saturday we were scheduled for a 13-mile drop-back week, so before we left home, we looked for a half-marathon in an interesting place and built the first week of our trip around it.

The place we selected was Charlevoix, a vacation town on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.  Saturday was the 7th running of the Charlevoix Marathon, a multi-race event which included four distances: 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon. (more…)


On The Road Again

L to R:

L to R: Outside our building on morning #1, small town NH diner, Niagara rainbow, running by the falls in ON, and exploring Charlevoix, MI

Greetings from Grand Forks! So much has happened in the last few days, making it hard to believe we’ve been on the road for less than a week.  We’ve traveled more than 1,800 miles from home in New Hampshire to this university town on the Red River.

After setting out early last Wednesday morning, we were able to connect with friends from California (who happened to be in NH on vacation) and meet their adorable five-month-old son. We stayed in Niagara, ON Wednesday night and enjoyed a misty, rainbow-filled run along the falls in the morning before arriving Thursday afternoon at a friend’s house near Lansing.  We spent a sunny few hours floating around the pool, catching up on the last year and enjoying good company.

We hit the road again Friday morning and meandered (more…)


The Countdown is On

Tools of the trade: Old school road tripping with an actual map; freshly-minted passports ready for the next 10 years of action; and a sneak preview of  our fall travels.

Tools of the trade (L to R): Old-school road tripping with an actual map; freshly-minted passports ready for the next 10 years of action; and a sneak preview of our fall travels.

Happy June, everyone!  We hope those of you in New England are enjoying this early taste of summer.  We’re staying cool indoors today, putting the finishing touches on our upcoming travel plans.  For the past month or so, we’ve been busy mapping out three separate adventures in 2013: an old-fashioned road trip through the western U.S. and Canada, a European slow-cation, and a Pacific Northwest park-bagging loop.

All that trip planning has been in addition to the task of figuring out things like where we want to live for the next year and how we want to balance work and travel as we continue down this path of self-employment.  For the most part, we’ve answered the big questions, and we can freely go forth into the universe for another round of aimful wandering.

So what’s ahead during WPG’s main travel season this year?  (more…)


Choosing Joy

Soccer shenanigans (c. 1986) and grown-up joy (c. 2012)

Soccer shenanigans (c. 1986) and grown-up joy (c. 2012)

M and I emerged from winter hibernation to attend a writing conference in Boston last month.  One of the seminars we attended was on the topic of teaching writing at community colleges, and one of the panelists, in sharing his personal experience, said that many students arrive in the classroom having had negative experiences with writing.  Specifically, in students’ pasts, writing frequently had been used as punishment.  So beyond having no current “relationship” with writing, many of them had a well of negative emotions associated with the topic.

Unexpectedly, my own latent writing memories rushed forth, strange elementary school flashbacks of writing the same phrase over and over again until I filled a piece of lined paper or writing an essay explaining why our class misbehaved for a substitute teacher.  For many students who have similar experiences, writing becomes permanently associated with negative events or emotions.  They never return to writing freely or for their own interest or benefit.

Fortunately, I had a pre-existing positive relationship with writing, even as a kid.  (more…)


“…While We’re Fit Enough to Enjoy It”

L to R:

L to R: Exploring the forts of Old San Juan, putting on a clinic in the ship’s bowling alley, hiking in the USVI National Park, and killing it with hover lunges and rows in TRX class.

We’ve talked about this time in our lives as one of self-assigned creative sabbatical.  We’ve also referred to this year as one borrowed from retirement to travel while we are young enough—and fit enough and healthy enough—to enjoy it.  This concept was evident during the last two weeks as we ventured to the Caribbean for a little pre-winter island hopping.  I’ll share the how and the why behind the trip, along with other random musings, over the next few days.  In the meantime, I’ve been meditating a bit on how the “fit enough” concept contributed to some of my best experiences on the cruise.

We knew we’d be consuming a little (okay, a lot…) more food and drink than we normally do, so we agreed in advance that we’d workout every day to keep any vacation weight gain in check.  Admittedly, daily workouts aren’t much different from our routine at home, but it was important to remind ourselves of our priorities and to keep our ongoing fitness goals in the front of our minds even as we sailed south in search of rum and reggae. (more…)


Forget 12 Days of Christmas…Here are 12 Months of Races!

L to R: January (Hangover Classic 10K), February (Mid-Winter Classic 10-Miler), March (Paddy's 5-Miler) and April (Great Bay Half Marathon)

L to R: January (Hangover Classic 10K), February (Mid-Winter Classic 10-Miler), March (Paddy’s 5-Miler) and April (Great Bay Half Marathon)

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). (more…)


Race-tober: Tear Down the Walls

L to R: Runners competing in the 2011 Smuttynose Rockfest; us, after yesterday’s 2012 Rockfest, happy to be done running in the rain; and the finish corral, where everyone wants to be!

I was lying in bed last night contemplating the start of October and thinking about an article I had just read.  The article asked, “Why do you run?  Every runner should know the answer to this question.”  I thought about it for a minute, and my first answer was that running helped me lose 160 pounds and now it helps me keep from putting it back on.  It also helps me to stay balanced (read: sane).  Then I thought on it a little further.  Running helps me test my limits, both physically and mentally.  It helps me push myself further or faster than I thought I was capable, and this gives me courage.  If I can push past things that I thought were limits on the road or trail, then I can do it anywhere.

There’s a lot of truth in this metaphor.  I haven’t learned everything in life, but I’ve learned that many things that present themselves as barriers are false.  (more…)


Chasing Pavement: Reach the Beach New Hampshire 2012

“Should I give up / or should I just keep chasing pavements / even if it leads nowhere?” -Adele

Starting our journey (L to R): Waiting to meet the team; the starting line at Cannon Mountain; life inside the van; tracking our progress; and a tasty firehouse breakfast at Bear Brook State Park

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!  (more…)