After leaving Jasper via the Icefields Parkway, our first stop in Banff National Park was the small settlement of Lake Louise, most famous for its ski area and storied Fairmont hotel. The hotel sits directly on the glacial lake, but the shore area and trails behind the hotel are open to the public. We headed to the lake the evening we arrived in an attempt to avoid tour bus crowds, and we were rewarded with a parking space close to the water. The lake was pretty, but the light wasn’t quite right, and the scene didn’t measure up to either of our expectations nor to other lakes we encountered. Moraine Lake in Jasper and Maligne Lake, just a few miles away from Lake Louise at the end of a windy mountain road, were arguably more picturesque…at least on the days we visited them.
We spent the night at the HI hostel in Lake Louise, conveniently located near the center of town. Actually, town is an overstatement. It’s more like a small tourist village within the national park, with one main intersection, a gas station, a few inns, several overpriced restaurants, and a gazillion tour buses. In short, nowhere we wanted to be. We went to bed early, much to the chagrin of the 20-something German guys with whom we shared our 4-person bunkroom. (more…)
Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you have it. Today is day 38 on the road, I’ve run 169 miles since we left, and my first treadmill run didn’t happen until yesterday. We were in Amarillo, TX, there were severe storms in the area and the only roads nearby were too busy to run. So I pumped out a sweaty, boring five miles on the treadmill in the cramped hotel gym. On the heels of my treadmill run, I thought it would be appropriate to give a shout out to the multi-use trails I grew accustomed to while we were out west.
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
“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! (more…)
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. (more…)
So we’ve been in our new apartment for exactly two weeks, and we’ve been going a bit nuts. In fact, we may have each lost our minds completely at one point or another. But we’re slowly reclaiming them, and along the way, claiming this space—and this life—as our own. We’ve unpacked, organized, purchased, assembled, recycled, and figured out exactly where everything will live here. Our new apartment is less than half of the size of the house we sold in May, and it’s the perfect size…perhaps even a little too big, if I dare say that. But it’s home. It’s also a bit loud (an adjustment to communal living in an old building) and quite scenic (the river and myriad sea birds are right outside our windows). We walk out our front door and cross the street to our favorite coffee shop and breakfast café. We’ve returned to our favorite New Hampshire farmstands at peak season for zucchini and cabbage and peppers. And although we last lived in this town just a few months ago (and for years before that), our time on the road has given us new perspective on things. Our standard running routes, which we tirelessly and willingly logged hundreds of miles on from the old house, now seem like new roads we’ve never run before since we’re approaching them from a different direction. We are having trouble finding a groove. Last weekend, we ran in a 5K race here in town and both posted PR times (personal records, or the best time we’ve each run in a race of that distance). And then today, I went out for a routine 4-miler, while M set out on his longest run to date, a (crazy hilly lousy) 17-miler. But there were no PR’s today; we both came up a bit short on both speed and distance. I think part of it was the weather—hot and humid and stormy–but part of it was also our mental state. Neither of us is centered. We’re off. We are unpacked, but we are not settled. We’re antsy. We miss the road. We’re not cut out for settling down. Or so I think. And then things happen to make me wonder if I should take a deep breath and (ugh!) settle down for a while. After we returned home from our runs and rehydrated and showered, it started to downpour, and my first mill rainbow appeared across the river. And then we walked upstairs and across the bridge to a fantastic new restaurant in our complex where we ate local brie cheese and beet salad and a smoked cheddar and butternut squash panini that were perfectly paired with a few local beers on tap. When we arrived back at our apartment, there was a package waiting by the front door: a new reflective running vest (so we each have one for the Reach The Beach NH relay event we just signed up for…) and a textbook we ordered online yesterday: Essentials of Personal Training, 2nd Edition. We both recently started studying to become personal trainers, part of a career switch and grander plan still in the early stages of formation. But even with that direction, we’re not settled. We leave next week for another stint on the road, two weeks across Michigan and the Midwest, visiting friends and checking out graduate schools. At this point, we are exploring our options. We have no idea what we’ll be doing in a year, and we’re not in a rush to figure it out. But we are on a mission, because if we don’t keep moving, we just might go insane. –J