Running and traveling – the perfect combination

One of the greatest things about running (and to me there are so many great things, so this is big) is how it is the perfect compliment to traveling.  Not only does your running experience benefit by having new routes, sites, smells and temperatures, but your travel experience benefits by seeing places and things you otherwise wouldn’t.  I always feel less like a tourist and a little more a part of a place when I run there.

Last weekend my husband and I went to Miami for the weekend without kids.  We were going for a paddle board race which he had entered, but of course we both expected to do quite a bit of running.

Day 1: We landed on Friday afternoon.  We were coming from Toronto where temperatures had been hovering around zero degrees or just above for way too long.  We landed smack in the middle of thirty degree hot humidity.  It felt sooooo good.  Especially in our air conditioned hotel.

Cool, classy lobby of The Cadet hotel

The first thing we decided to do to get a good feel for the place was to go for a run.  We also wanted to take advantage of the freedom of having all the time in the world without kid duties, so we immediately agreed on an hour and a half run.  And we did an out-and-back.  Probably not the best decision when you’re running in a 30 degree variance from what your body is used to.  By the end we had slowed down quite a bit and were feeling quite limp, hot and dehydrated.  Luckily we had the ocean to jump into at the end, and we did get to see parts of Miami we would definitely not otherwise have seen.

Also this happened to my fingers:

(For some reason they puffed into little sausages.  My hands have about a five degree window in which they are comfortable running – somewhere between 12 and 17 degrees.  If the weather strays too far outside this window they will either go numb or puff up.  I should really look into my circulation issues at some point.)

Of course when you travel it’s good to really get into the local scene.  We tried our best by sampling the local cuisine and drinks.

Post long run beer

Day 2: The main reason for our trip (apart from adult time and free running time) was the Kommona paddle board race.  Luckily I was lent a board by the very kind c4 rep who we’d met the night before so I had a chance to jump in the race as well.  I had a great time, came second in my class (out of two) and second last overall.  What a great sport.

At the finish line of the 5 mile Kommona paddle race

Next up was our second run of the trip, but first we had to recover from our morning paddle and wait out the main heat of the day.  This is how we accomplished that:

Relaxing pre-run #2 in South Beach

Later that afternoon we went out for run #2 of the trip.  This time we went the other direction to explore a different area.  It was still hot but we were a little more cautious with our pace and our ambitions.  We’d decided on one hour for this one.  About 25 minutes in it started to rain.  It was actually quite enjoyable as the rain made us feel a tad cooler.  It still seemed like warm rain though.  It got interesting when the rain got harder and harder and seemed to turn into a flash flood.  Sidewalks completely disappeared and we were up to our knees in water at some points.  This wasn’t at all bad as we now had the entire boardwalk to ourselves where before we had been dodging crowds of people.  We finished run #2 soaking and happy, and the storm passed as quickly as it had come.  What a great way to experience it.

Day 3: This was our final day on vacation.  We didn’t have a lot of time before our mid-morning flight, so I set my alarm to run early.  My husband opted to sleep in and get his run in back home.  I couldn’t forgo the warm running opportunity after having complained about the cold for about six months straight.  I decided to do a fartlek workout in order keep myself occupied since I didn’t have my running buddy.  At 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning the streets were deserted and the look and feel of them gave the sense that we’d missed a wild night of partying.  As I ran, the city started to come to life with the early morning cleaners and by the end, some fellow runners.

On my way home I sat on the plane  satisfied knowing that I’d gotten three enjoyable and memorable days of running because of my vacation, and an amazing travel vacation experience because of my running.

The Phases of Running in My Life

I’m not generally the type of person who looks back sentimentally at old things, nor am I a pack rat so I tend to purge things from my past which I consider “clutter” fairly regularly.  However, my parents are moving and doing the typical “take your stuff or it’s garbage” routine that goes along with that.  To most things I said “dump it” including a pile of old trophies and medals.  But my son wanted them so my dad dutifully dropped them off in a paper bag.  After looking through a few I was reminded of how long I’ve been running and I started to think about the different phases it’s taken throughout my life.

I didn’t keep the “Participant” ribbons from elementary school, but that’s pretty much where the story began.  Then in high school I became more serious in terms of training and racing, and received a few of these:

Most Valuable Player Girls Track and Field Team, Lawrence Park CI 1990/1991

Burlington Road Race Female Relay 14-17 1st 1990

Back then running was a passion, yes, but also a source of stress.  Every effort was about a result and I worried about how I would be judged or evaluated by others.  It would be fair to say it was a love/hate relationship.

Then came my university running years.  Unlike some of my friends I did not go south on a track scholarship (to be honest I didn’t have many appealing offers) and so the track team became a great social circle and did not carry any high pressure stakes as no one knew me.  I would say that in University I ran for fun and mixed it in with a number of other pastimes (ie. studying, partying and meeting my future husband).  I ran well enough and was captain of the team and MVP in various years, but I’ve often looked back and wondered “what if” I had the drive and focus that I discovered later.  My memories from university comprise about equally of this:

Lead pack of women at Naionals in Etobicoke

and this:

Kingston Classic Beer Mile 1997

Post university my running became a little more structured and serious.  It was at this point that I realized I was doing it only for me and I was the only one who really cared about my results, and ironically this is when I became the most motivated to train hard.  There was a 5-7 year period here where I trained pretty religiously and set all of my current standing PB’s including in the Ironman.  I was working full time, but was married to a runner who understood and encouraged me, and basically running filled all of my spare time (that time which I wonder what people do with now that I am so busy with two kids!)

Finishing a race in Australia where I traveled (and ran) with my future husband for 6 mos

It wasn’t having kids which brought on my next phase in running.  I would say it was the next phase which precipitated my having kids.  I got a little bored and tired of the constant structure and chasing of times.  I didn’t want to give up running, but I wanted to scale it back.  My heart wasn’t into putting in great efforts anymore.  “There must be something else to life” I thought.  And so… we moved on to having kids.  I ran throughout my pregnancies and resumed quickly after both births, but never with any more purpose than staying fit and enjoying my runs.  That lack of focus was so freeing.  I had a built-in excuse for not training seriously or racing fast – the fatigue and time constraints which come with having kids.  The reality is that I’ve seen people get back to training hard and racing fast immediately after having babies, so really I just didn’t want to.  I continued to enjoy running as much as I could whenever I could, sometimes hard, sometimes not, just in order to keep myself happy and healthy.

Here are some examples of activities which have been taking up my time where running (and recovering) used to fit:

Skating                                                                Swimming

Indoor games                                                                   Playing at the park

I would say that this past year I’ve entered yet another phase in my running.  I appreciate and love it more than ever as I no longer take the time I get to devote to it for granted.  I make greater efforts to carve out time for it as I rely on it for so much.  Running is my social time, my alone time, my stress release, my confidence builder, my time to focus on problems, my time to allow my mind to wander and dream, and my physical outlet.  It truly is one of the only things I do only for me.  I’ve stepped it up a notch this past year as the competitive desire to race has returned.  Where it came from, I have no idea, and I’m not sure how long it will last, but I do know that there will be many more phases to come.  More than 23 years of running and counting!

Race review – from a different perspective

It is not often that I go to races to cheer.  Simply because often it is a bit of an effort and coordination to get to a race, and if I’m going to be at the location for the duration of the race, most of the time I just race it.

This time was different.  I had no need or desire to race due to still recovering from Around The Bay and the Catalina Marathon, and my sister (and loyal 5 a.m. training partner) was racing – along with a number of other friends.  The race was the Harry’s Spring Run Off 8 km.  A great course around High Park, and viewing it as a spectator allowed me to appreciate many different experiences than usual.  Here are a few things I noticed as a spectator which I don’t tend to as a racer:

  • The mellow vibe of those there to complete, not compete.  As I finally found a parking spot a few miles away from the start with under half an hour to go, I was already getting slightly panicky about getting to the start in time to watch it.  And I found myself walking towards the start along with quite a number of other people who were going to run it.  Who are these laid back people who get to the start just in time to go???  I assume they have way less stress and adrenalin coursing through them on race day than I normally do.  Very different and very cool.
  • I would like to say I enjoyed not getting nervous (most spectators probably would), but for some reason the sights and sounds still brought forth my physical gut response of fight-or-flight.  Luckily I was able to channel my adrenalin and had one of my best runs in a while later that afternoon.
  • I got to enjoy the crowds, booths, announcing and ceremonies which are there to make the runners feel welcome.  Normally all of this is just background noise as I find my space to warm-up and get into my “racing zone”.  This was the first time I’ve ever followed the piper to the start.

Piper leading the runners to the start

  • I saw many familiar faces before the race, and was able to wish them a heartfelt “good luck” and cheer them on throughout (instead of being focused on me, me, me).

Friend and running mate Ali Drynan pre-race

  • I was able to watch the actual race play out as the winners flew by (the course was a great spectator’s course as we could watch the races pass by four times)

Lead woman and eventual winner Krista DuChene

Lead man and eventual winner Sami Jibril staying ahead of second place finisher Josephat Ongeri

  • I could pour all of my energy and emotions into cheering as loudly as I could to try to help runners find a little extra strength and speed which might net them a couple of extra seconds in time.  I really do think cheering makes a difference in this.  It better – I sure felt exhausted enough afterwards!!

My hero of the day Tanis Feasby as she crested the brutal hill at the finish for a PB time (I screamed very loudly here)

  • The final thing I was really able to observe differently and more completely was the coordination and efforts of all of the volunteers.  Standing near them at a table for minutes allowed me to appreciate their duties a lot better than when I just run by over the course of a couple of seconds.  They are amazing, spend a lot of time and effort, and probably don’t get nearly enough thanks.  My next resolution is to volunteer at a race sometime in the coming season to get an even better perspective and appreciation for their roles (and to give back of course!)

Congratulations to all runners, racers and volunteers who took part in this event – it was by far my favourite sporting entertainment event of the year so far.