Posts Tagged ‘travelrun’

Farewell 2016

A lot happened in 2016. Throughout the world, there was a lot of really crappy stuff going on. People are understandably done with 2016. Personally, I was pretty happy with the year as a whole. In terms of health, fitness, personal connections, and ‘life in general’, I don’t have much to complain about. I consider myself fortunate and very blessed. However, it’s now time to bid Farewell 2016! (more…)

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to North County Wine Run as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

 North County Wine Run

Two months from today, I’ll be running my 7th half marathon of 2016 – the North County Wine Run in Battle Ground, Washington. I’m very excited about this race for a number of reasons…but before I get into that, let me share a few of the important details of the race:

What? Both a half marathon and – new in 2016 – a 3-person relay option
When?
 Saturday, September 24, 2016 starting at 8:00am
Where? Battle Ground, Clark County – the south-west corner of Washington State, not far from the Oregon border

North County Wine Run

How much? $85.00 for the half marathon (increasing to $90.00 on August 25); $171.00 for the relay (increasing to $180.00 on August 25) – read on for a discount!

OK, now that we’ve got that covered, here they are…

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Running Scotland

This post is the final segment on our visit to the UK – read more about Running London and Running Yorkshire.

After departing York, we arrived late Sunday evening in Edinburgh, and upon exiting Waverley Station we were astounded by the amazing views of the old city. We settled in comfortably at our guest house, after some dinner and good Scottish ale.

The next day, the sightseeing (and running) began!

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Running England - Yorshire

Following an absolutely splendid trip to London (read all about Running England – London), we ventured into the countryside of West Yorkshire!

Yorkshire – Day One

A dear friend of ours lives in Mirfield, West Yorkshire – so we spent the next few days visiting with Anna. We arrived at Mirfield Station early in the afternoon and, afternoon a spot of tea, headed out for some local sightseeing at Oakwell Hall (c. 1583) – and got our first taste of the English countryside.

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Yorkshire – Day Two

With guidance from Anna, my first run took me along the Calder Valley Greenway, a very peaceful run that included the Calder & Hebble Navigation Canal. There were cows. It was perfection.

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We spent the rest of the day sightseeing further afield around Leeds, at Harewood House and Kirkstall Abbey (ruin dating from c. 1152).

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Yorkshire – Day Three

My friend’s stepmum, Ann, graciously acted as a running guide for me the next morning. As a local, she took me on a very scenic tour of the area, that also included some fascinating commentary and historical notes. It wove through the lanes and bridleways of Lower Hopton, and the streets of Mirfield. We conquered a few hills together, and had an absolutely delightful time!

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A bit more sightseeing at Black Dick’s Tower (no joke!) in the afternoon. That evening, we visited the Rams Head Inn – a 450-year-old pub that is perched in an isolated spot on the Pennine Mountain range. It was a stormy night, too, so just right for a cozy beer with friends.

Running England - Yorshire Running England - Yorshire

Yorkshire – Last Day

We bid a tearfully fond farewell to our friends, and made a stopover in York. We spent the day touring around the town with yet another friend we hadn’t seen in many years. It’s such a scenic place, and I wish we could have stayed on longer!

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Tune in next time as the adventure continues on into Scotland!

OH! And I almost forgot. Here’s a token picture of Yorkshire pudding:

yorkshirepudding

Have you ever had the chance to run in the English countryside?

Running England - London

We have recently returned from our first ever trip to the UK! (To be completely transparent, it wasn’t my first trip – I’ve been there three times before – but the most recent visit was at about age 8, so I’m considering this an inaugural visit.) In keeping with my usual travels, I took the opportunity to run and explore throughout our visit, and I’m excited to share those experiences. This post is the first of three, sharing my runs and sightseeing in the amazing city of London! Be sure to read my other posts about running in Yorkshire and Edinburgh, Scotland.

We purchased our airline tickets when WestJet had a seat sale last September, promoting their new direct route between Vancouver and London Gatwick. That’s 8 months of anticipation. But it was totally worth the wait! We departed YVR on Sunday evening, arriving in England at around noon the next day.

London – Day One

We checked in, and explored the neighbourhood (Marylebone) before heading down to the Thames River, where we walked along South Bank and took in all of the iconic sights of London, from Big Ben to Tower Bridge.

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London – Day Two

Waking bright and early on Tuesday morning, I donned my running gear and set off to explore. I was delighted that our hotel was just a few blocks from Regent’s Park – so, armed with a Strava Routes guide for London, I proceeded to follow the recommended route around the Park, including Primrose Hill. It was breathtaking!

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Regent’s Park has been Crown property since Henry VIII. It is named for the Prince Regent (later King George IV), who commissioned the design of the park in the early 1800s. It has several gardens, but is mostly wide open parkland – it also includes a sizeable lake, and London Zoo. Primrose Hill, just north of the park, is only 65m high, but it’s a steep climb…and the view from the top is fantastic – including the distant London Eye and the Shard tower.

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More sightseeing ensued that day: Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey…so much to do! We also went to see the Phantom of the Opera! The highlight, however, was tea with a dear friend we hadn’t seen in many years – so wonderful to catch up!

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London – Day Three

Another amazing day at the Tower of London, the British Museum, the Wallace Collection…followed by dinner with two other friends we hadn’t seen since their visit to Vancouver about four years ago.

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London – Last Day

On the day of our departure, I mimicked my route around Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill, except in a counter-clockwise direction. I also detoured slightly along Regent’s Canal.

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And then we headed to King’s Cross Station, to board the train for our next destination. Of course, I had to take a photo of Platform 9 3/4 (for all you Harry Potter fans!)

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Join me on the next part of the journey: Running England – Yorkshire – followed by Running Scotland – Edinburgh!

Have you ever run in London? What was your favourite route?
What’s your number one sightseeing spot?

Platte River Half Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Platte River Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

When the opportunity to run the Platte River Half Marathon caught my attention, it didn’t take long for me to reach out to my good friend Annmary and ask if she and her family were open to receiving guests in their home in Colorado. Thankfully, they were! We booked flights, scheduled time off work, and waited in anticipation. That was October.

As race weekend approached, I got nervous. What would it be like running at altitude? Would I pass out on the course? The answers to these questions…coming up!

Friday – Acclimatizing

Pre-dawn alarm, train to the airport, one of the smoothest security and immigration checks I’ve ever experienced, and we were in the air before 8am. Three hours later, we landed in Denver, a mile above sea level, and our long weekend had begun! We grabbed our rental car and arrived at Annmary’s place just in time for lunch. We hadn’t seen each other since we lived in Japan – could it be 15 years already? But it was like no time had passed and we were welcomed warmly into the family.

The girls – Meghan and Becca – arrived home from school and decided to join me on my shakeout run. Armed with a bottle of water (I never carry water, but Annmary cautioned me on the only way to prevent altitude sickness) and we were out the door. Half a mile and a loop of the block later, I dropped the girls off at the house and ventured out on my own.

Platte River Half Marathon Platte River Half Marathon

The Cherry Creek Spillway is an urban nature trail – I saw prairie dogs, birds, rabbits and deer along the 2 kilometre route, and then extended my run to incorporate the West Tollgate Creek Trail. Ended up going a bit further than planned – 11km. Although I drank my entire bottle of water, I had a splitting headache. I blame the elevation (averaging about 1,700 metres or 5,500 feet).

Platte River Half Marathon Platte River Half Marathon

Slept early, after taking a Tylenol.

Saturday – Bib Pickup

Not too early on Saturday, we headed off to Runners Roost (a local Colorado store) to pick up my race packet. In the downstairs community room, I got my bib, an awesome long-sleeved race shirt, and samples from race sponsors nuun and Honey Stinger. It was quick and efficient, and the volunteers were friendly and helpful.

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My only regret: I neglected to stock up on my go-to fuel – PowerGel Double Latte flavour – and despite visiting several stores, no one had it. I bought ‘Orange Dream’ instead. Lesson learned.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent sightseeing in downtown Denver. I probably walked too far, but we had a great time with the family!

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Another relatively early night, since morning would come early!

Platte River Half Marathon

Sunday – Race Day

The Platte River Half starts in Littleton, a small city south of Denver. It took us about 30 minutes to drive, accompanied by Annmary, Meghan, and my better half. After a quick porta-potty visit, I glimpsed a flash of orange and dashed over to meet fellow BibRavePro, Katherine (@MagicofRunning) – moments later, we were joined by Abbie (@AbbieMood). Thank goodness for BibRave orange! This was my first official BibRavePro race, and I was thrilled to represent with these two amazing women! We hugged, wished each other well, and headed towards the start line.

Platte River Half Marathon Platte River Half Marathon

A few announcements were happening, and despite being near the front I couldn’t hear a word – some sound system issues? And all of a sudden the countdown was on, and we surged forward into the streets of Littleton. It’s a cute, historic town – we did a loop and ended up back where we started before turning west down a small path (Little’s Creek Trail) until we reached the Platte River.

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For the next 10km, we followed the windy river route, crossing several bridges (5, by my count) before detouring into an industrial area as we got closer to the city.

Platte River Half Marathon

Highlight! The race includes a 3-leg relay – two 5-mile legs, and a final 3-mile leg. As we approached mile 5, a boy of about 6 or 7 was pushing towards the exchange point with his dad. It was obvious he was running out of steam, but a whole bunch of runners started encouraging and cheering him on, and he sprinted towards the timing mat to pass the baton to his older brother. Great inspiration!

The aid stations – and I took advantage of every one of them – were well stocked with water and nuun, and the volunteers were great. I got a chuckle out of how many pronunciations of ‘nuun’ I heard…from ‘noon’ to ‘nun’, and every diphthong in between. But it was excellent hydration no matter how you say it!

We veered back towards the river, now running alongside the highway as we crossed another bridge. The finish line couldn’t be too far away. I resisted the urge to look at my watch, and spent a significant amount of time converting miles to kilometres and back again.

Platte River Half Marathon

One more right turn, we passed under the highway – and then Mount Everest was looming in front of us. OK, it was actually just the 8th Ave Viaduct, but after running a gentle downhill slope for the past 12 miles, it looked insurmountable. It wasn’t, of course, but once I reached the top the bridge itself seemed to go on forever. I started encouraging myself – I think I was speaking aloud: “You’ve got this. Don’t give up. Almost there.”

Down the far side, a quick left, and the finish line was just a block away! I picked up the pace, and pushed myself with a finally burst of energy. Platte River Half Marathon complete!

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Everyone was there to welcome me, and accompany me to the post-race festival. In addition to a nifty mason jar mug, there were lots of freebies and samples. Best of all, I got not one but two veggie burgers from the Buckhorn Exchange, and a beer from Breckinridge Brewery! First sip of beer, and Katherine was there for a cheers and a race debrief!

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Back to Littleton to pick up the car – and the rest of the day relaxing with the family!

Monday – Hiking

Making as much as we could out of this trip, we took an extra day to enjoy Colorado. Annmary took the day off, and we headed south towards Colorado Springs. Not too far out of town, however, we caught sight of some beautiful landscapes, and pulled off into Castlewood Canyon State Park. We intended to stay briefly, but ended up delighted by the scenery and hiking for nearly two hours. Exhausting, but totally worth it.

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We finally reached the remarkable geological phenomena called Garden of the Gods. Striking red rock formations protruding from the ground – simply amazing! It was a bit foggy, and we were pretty worn out – so we just drove around and snapped a few photos before heading back to Denver.

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Hugs and farewells – and we headed to the airport. Home again after a successful race weekend!

Platte River Half Marathon – Quick Review

Social Media: I engaged very regularly with Platte River Half on Twitter, and was disappointed that I never got a response. In fact, their most recent Tweet (as of race day) was from St. Patrick’s Day. Their Facebook page was kept pretty much up-to-date, however, and they provided few (but enough) emails.

Packet Pickup: Quick and straightforward with some sponsor samples available to try out!

T-Shirt/Swag: Beautiful long-sleeved technical shirt in just the right size.

Course: Scenic views of the river for the majority of the route, and mostly downhill. The foray into some industrial areas was nothing special. The viaduct uphill in the final mile was a killer. The altitude was a challenge, but despite the ‘thin air’ I was happy with my results.

Post-Race/Medal: Excellent after party include free burgers and beer for runners, and a variety of sponsors sampling their wares. Big, beautiful medal – the largest so far in my collection! Plus a Breckinridge Brewery mason jar mug branded for the race!

Organization: With the exception of disengaged social media, the race itself was extremely well-organized. Volunteers were plentiful and friendly, aid stations were well-stocked, and everyone had a great time.

Would I run it again? Colorado is a beautiful place and I’d love to visit in the future. Given the time and opportunity, I would definitely do another Platte River Half!

Final Results

Chip Time: 1:53:15
Average Pace: 8:39 min/mile
Place Overall: 190/540
Age Category Place: 35/75
*Also, from the results page, it looks like I might have been the only runner from Canada!

Platte River Half Marathon

Have you ever run a race at altitude? Did you find it more challenging?

WeeklyWrap

And after a bit of a hiatus, happy to link up again with HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap!

Run Laughlin

Way back in January 2015, I got a private message via my blog from a race director in the US wanting to tell me about an inaugural race he was putting together. Little did I know that the Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon would motivate me to tackle the #yearofthehalf – and Run Laughlin became my ‘flagship’ race of 2015!

It didn’t take me too long to decide to Run Laughlin. Mark Villalovos, the race director, was a true inspiration, putting his heart into creating a race from scratch. His enthusiasm was infectious. As the day of the race drew nearer, I got more excited about Laughlin because it ended up being a trifecta of coolness for me:

  • It fell on my birthday!
  • It was my 12th half marathon of 2015
  • It was my 21st half marathon ever (and – just as a reminder, especially if you think in miles – a half marathon is 21.1 kilometres!)

TravelRun

We flew into Las Vegas on Friday, December 4, rented a car, and headed off to Laughlin, Nevada. If you’ve never heard of Laughlin, like I hadn’t – it’s a little spot on the west side of the Colorado River, right at the very southern tip of Nevada. It’s grown into a successful casino town (third most visited, after Vegas and Reno). And it’s pronounced ‘loff-lin‘ (rhymes with ‘cough’).

Run Laughlin

We checked in at the race’s partner hotel, Colorado Belle. A lovely and thoughtful touch was that every runner received a welcome gift, put together by Mark’s wife, Denise.

Run Laughlin Colorado Belle

Then we went to the little expo to pick up my race package. Although it was small, there was such a friendly, vibrant energy at the event. I was offered my bib and I actually requested a different number…so I got #143 since, as I told the volunteer, I would be turning 43 the next day!

Run Laughlin

I was absolutely delighted to finally meet Mark in person, and thank him for organizing the event.

Run Laughlin

Wandered to a couple of the casinos, and had a great carbo-loading pasta dinner across the street at Tropicana. Bedded down fairly early to prepare for the next morning’s event!

Run Laughlin

The desert gets cold at night, and it was very brisk as we headed to the parking lot of Laughlin Outlet Center. I struggled with what to wear, and decided to stick with just my BibRave t-shirt, along with my BMO Vancouver Marathon gloves! During the pre-race announcements, was able to shout out that I was one of the (few?) folks down from Canada, though someone from Rhode Island had certainly travelled further to get there.

Run Laughlin

Saw a flash of orange and grabbed a selfie with fellow BibRave Pro, Laurel (@RheaCycleHer)!

BibRave

To give you the full race experience, I’m going to try a different approach to describing the race when it started just a few minutes after 7am!

Run Laughlin

Now, run Laughlin with me…

The Hill

You head out along the main ‘strip’ of Laughlin, past several of the casinos. But soon, after about a kilometre, the route turns to the left, and your gradual ascent begins. Remember yesterday, when you arrived in Laughlin? Remember the view from the highway, overlooking the town and the river, and the mountains beyond? That should have been your first clue.

Run Laughlin

For three kilometres, it’s an uphill trudge. Not only that, but there’s a dry desert wind blowing. If only the wind was coming from behind, pushing you forward – but it’s buffeting you from the side, causing bibs to flap vigourously. It’s tough. It’s endless. You’re breathing through your mouth, and your tongue is dry as a bone.

Run Laughlin

Thankfully, you finally reach the peak, and make a sharp turn on the road down towards Davis Dam. There is a water station, which you eagerly take advantage of. Though the elevation is decreasing, you’re now facing a headwind, blustery and persistent. But you’re not a quitter, you forge ahead.

Run Laughlin

The Desert

At the 7km mark, you can see the Davis Dam looming to your right, but the route takes you to the left onto a dirt track. You hadn’t been sure what to expect – maybe in your mind it was a wide open space with scrub brush and cactus lining a long straight road.

It’s not like that at all. The dirt is loose and rocky, and you are surrounded by hills and outcroppings of ancient desert stones. There’s no breeze now in this sheltered canyon. The sun is beating down and you’re glad you decided to forego the long sleeves and run in a t-shirt.

Run Laughlin Run Laughlin

At one point, you are pursued by a desert bandit after you snap his picture! “You’re not gonna get no reward for me!” he drawls, but you outpace him.

Run Laughlin

At the turnaround, you realize that you’ve actually been going uphill again this whole time. Now you’re heading back, cheering on the other hearty souls who are fighting their way on unstable footing. You even get a cheery ‘Happy Birthday!’ from a fellow BibRave Pro (Laurel!) who knows it’s your special day!

Run Laughlin

And you can’t help but admire this woman from Vegas…

Run Laughlin

The Dam

Hey look! Another hill! But this one is short and steep, up to the top of the Davis Dam, holding back the Colorado River and forming Lake Mohave.

Run Laughlin

You’re slightly beyond halfway in the race when you cross the border into Arizona! Not only are you in a different state, you’re also in a new time zone!

Another hill – a kilometre up and another down – with the absolute best water/cheering station waiting for you! You’ve been taking a few photos along the way, but with the view over Lake Mohave you can’t help but snap a selfie before crossing the dam back into Nevada.

Run Laughlin Run Laughlin

The River to the Finish

Now you’re cruising! You pick up speed on the downhill, and get a fantastic view of the dam you’ve just crossed – twice!

Run Laughlin

There are fewer people around now. You’re running the scenic Colorado River Heritage Greenway Trail – overlooking the mighty river, with Bullhead City, Arizona on the far side. It’s pretty warm now, you’re glad that you thought to wear sunscreen. But you’re not really sweating – it’s weird running with so little humidity. You finally spot a casino in the distance!

Run Laughlin Run Laughlin

Unexpectedly, the path twists to the right and, oh no! you’re headed uphill again! Just a wee bit, though, enough to reach the beautiful pedestrian bridge that takes you across the highway. Then, you’re back on Casino Drive. Welcome to Laughlin, NV! One more kilometre to go!

The crowd cheers as you sprint to the finish, receive your medal, and celebrate the completion of the inaugural Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon! Congratulations!

Run Laughlin

Exhausted!

Afterward

In the parking lot of the Colorado Belle Hotel, everyone gathered for a celebratory awards ceremony. We got food – fruit and a bagel – and there was even a free beer included with race entry! A DJ followed by a live band. Festive and fun.

We stayed around for about an hour, but then decided it was time for my birthday brunch. Throughout the day, I ran into folks wearing their medals and/or I Run Laughlin t-shirts – lots of congratulations going around.

The remainder of the Saturday was spent on some local sightseeing and a bit of casino time. Even the slot machine knew what day it was!

Happy Birthday

Sunday took us into Arizona and some amazing desert driving.

Route 66

Plus one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever witnessed.

Arizona Sunset

Home again on Monday after one of my favourite TravelRuns to date! Thanks to Mark and the entire Run Laughlin team for making the weekend such a success!

Final Results

Chip Time: 1:54:21
Average Pace: 8:44 min/mile (5:25 min/km)
Place Overall: 50/295
Age Category Place: 7/19

Run Laughlin

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RACE REPORT

Overall
From the moment Mark reached out to me about participating in the inaugural Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon, I was hooked. In the months leading up to the race, communication (in the form of emails) was excellent, giving lots of info about what to expect both on course and in town. Social media activity – primarily Twitter and Facebook – was consistent and engaging.

In terms of the race itself, the event was well organized, the course was absolutely stunning, the volunteers were enthusiastic and engaged. One of the best runs I’ve done!

Packet Pickup
Held just off the lobby of the Colorado Belle Hotel & Casino, packet pickup was a low-key affair held on Friday evening. Although we didn’t arrive too late, it was reassuring that we could pick up our bibs until 10pm. Given how far we were coming from, I appreciated this fact. The process was smooth and quick, and it was fun to chat with some of the local folks and volunteers on site.

T-Shirt/Swag
Orange t-shirt! Orange gear bag! Orange medal! Welcome gift upon check in! Very happy!

Course
Extremely scenic views of the desert, running across a dam into another state and time zone, the Colorado river. Such a unique environment for me to race in. Also one of the toughest races I’ve experienced in terms of the hills we encountered, the dry desert air and the challenging winds. This certainly impacted my overall performance, resulting in one of my slowest half marathons in nearly 3 years. Nevertheless, it was a great experience.

Post-Race
The post-race party was fun, with free beer (one per runner!) and live music. I generally don’t stick around for awards ceremonies, since I never place. I stayed around long enough for the 5k awards, but was so eager to get on with my day (and brunch) that I missed awards for the half. My only ‘complaint’ is that the awards didn’t move along a bit quicker, but I understand wanting to ensure that most people have finished before doing awards.

Would I Run It Again?
On the merits of the race itself, yes! Although Mark told me post-race that there were a few ‘kinks’ to work out, I thought everything went really well. The factors that would prevent me from attending are primarily my own issues: the time it takes to get to Laughlin, and the abysmal value of the Canadian dollar. But from the perspective of a runner recommending a race – I recommend that you Run Laughlin!