Category Archives: travel

Travel Running: Canyonlands Half-Marathon – Moab, UT

Registering for Moab’s Canyonlands Half-Marathon was a decision-made-easy by the TAD crew, at least 5 of whom would be joining in for the fun. It was confirmed as a good life decision when we started doing some research about what areas could be explored before and after running 13.1 miles in southern Utah! What was not part of those initial plans (for me) was a one-week trip to Israel right before this race, or an additional half-marathon, or jet-lag.

In other words, this post should actually be titled one of the following:

“What not to do before racing Canyonlands Half-marathon!”

OR

How to make the most of your Canyonlands – Moab,UT weekend! No PR included.”

You choose.

Arches National Park_DOTR

We arrived late on Thursday night, because Moab is actually much further from Las Vegas than we had anticipated (but not much closer to any other major city; especially not one with a direct flight from Monterey, CA). Friday morning was reserved for some exploring in Arches National Park, and by exploring I mean choosing the longest “difficult” hike (7.2 mile round-trip trek to the Double-O Arch) and also getting lost (not recommended).

Four hours later, we finally sat down for lunch at Eklectica Cafe, which I highly recommend paying a visit to! I opted for the Vegetable Hummus Wrap and a side of potatoes, because carbs.

Moab Eklectica Cafe outside_DOTR

The rest of Friday was spent checking out downtown, the race expo (easy to find and navigate!) and our hotel room. Feet up!

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One of the tricky aspects of this race is the start time – scheduled for a late morning kick-off, at 10 a.m. I assume there must be some logic behind this, from a Race Director stand-point, but I couldn’t tell you what that is. What I do know: there’s a generous window within which you catch a shuttle to the starting line (7:30am – 8:15am) and then a long waiting period within which you try to stay warm and entertained before actually letting your feet move!

We left the hotel early and hit-up the Love Muffin Cafe (I mean, seriously – the names of these little places!) for coffee & breakfast. Then we walked over to catch an early shuttle – we were dropped off around 8am and plopped ourselves up on a rock and bundled up. There’s a DJ, water + coffee + hot-chocolate station, plenty of bathrooms, a short walk up to the bag-check and and starting line and no sunshine (yet).

TAD sweatshirt_Canyonlands Half Marathon H+M_Canyonlands Half Marathon
Team Amazing Day_Canyonlands Start

All the TAD people! Left to Right: Emma, Jeff, Ashley, Jen, Katie, Hope & me.

Canyonlands Half Marathon Starting Line_DOTR  Team Amazing Day_Canyonlands Half Marathon

Okay, let’s finally get this ball rolling…

Miles 1 –3: have a net downhill, so I had the go-ahead to let the legs be free and the strides be open and gauge how things felt. What I would soon learn I had severely underestimated: jet-lag (see: Jerusalem), altitude (see: 4500 ft) and hiking (see: 8 mile, 4 hour trek). I was pretty quickly aware of how the day would go – these miles were just under 8s, but they should have been a very comfortable sub-8. There were not.

Pleasant surprise: Beth! Oh hey, girl. Hadn’t seen her smiling face in a few days and after a full Israel-week of her energy, that’s a long stretch! She snuck up behind me like a jerk and I was all cranky like “personal space!” and then I realized who it was. That was probably the one and only time I laughed for the next 90 minutes…

Miles 4-8: were supposed to be “comfortable, but close to the edge”. It was pretty clear that for today, that blissful middle-racing-ground was nowhere to be found. It was either ease up and prolong the suffer, or keep the speed, even though it’s much closer to uncomfortable than anything else. My headphones quit but my ego was all charged up. The good thing is that this wasn’t a goal-race. It was meant to be a PR-attempt in the middle of marathon training, but then an opportunity to travel to Jerusalem popped up that I couldn’t turn down, and I got home two days before turning the suitcase inside out and leaving again. I had to have a little chat with myself that basically relayed this message:

It’s okay if you don’t PR today, but it’s not okay if you give in. It’s okay if you don’t run your fastest miles, but it’s not okay if you don’t remind yourself what it feels like to put in the effort. It’s okay if you’re tired, it’s not okay if you let fatigue wear you down. It’s okay if you have nothing left to give, but it’s not okay if you stop giving anything at all.

Canyonlands Half marathon_Running DOTR

Somewhere around mile 9: I had to pick it up, because that was the plan and because I want my legs to remember how it feels to push through that familiar race-day fatigue and maintain a pace nonetheless.

Miles 10-13: are bare and rough. Up to this point you have bouts of shade thanks to the canyon walls, but now? You have the almost-noon desert sun beating down on you. You’re out of the beautiful canyon and onto a highway. You know you’re close, but you’re not nearly close enough. Mike hopped back in to run me through that last mile (his finish – 1:30), and I immediately told him “No coaching!” (which means “no encouraging cheerleading statements about “almost there!” or “pick it up!” or whatever – nada!). Which was just a more efficient way of saying I am so effing exhausted WHERE IS THE FINISH LINE?! He caught on. As soon as the Finisher’s shoot began he hopped out but said “Catch that  guy ahead of you – you’ve got him!” and I sure as hell tried.

Canyonlands Half Marathon Finish_DOTR

2015 Canyonlands Half-Marathon – 1:47
Overall
: 278 of 2121
AG (F 25-29): 13 of 161

Team Amazing Day_Canyonlands Finish Group_DOTR

The team had a great showing – a few PRs and a lot of happy runners!

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What you should know about the Canyonlands Half Marathon:

– Moab, UT is a gorgeous town with great opportunities for hiking and general desert exploring. Plan at least a day or two to get through Arches National Park, enjoy craft beer & great food, and see the sights.

– The organization and execution of this race are seamless! All of the provided information is easy to follow and everything was on-time.

– Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts book up quickly! We stayed at the River Canyon Lodge, walking-distance to the shuttle pick-up, and the rest of the team shared a vacation rental home, also within walking distance. There are a lot of options that won’t require you to drive or park on race-day!

– Canyonlands Park is stunning. You’re in for a treat! The course is beautiful for 11 miles, and then kind of brutal at the end. But you’ll be tired during those last two miles either way, so just get through them.

– It’s chilly at the start, but you can throw clothes ‘away’ or pack them into your bag before letting it go (which we did). You’ll warm up in that southwestern sun very quickly, so don’t overdress!

– Moab’s elevation is around 4,000 feet – plan accordingly!

Where we ate before and after (and recommend!):

– Sweet Cravings Bakery & Bistro (coffee + post-race treats)

– Eklectica Cafe (Friday lunch)

– Peace Tree Cafe (Post-race Lunch)

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Add this one to your scenic half-marathon bucket list – you won’t be disappointed!

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Travel Running: After all the Mediterranean Meals!

My trip to Israel for the 2015 Jerusalem Marathon was sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Tourism. All options listed below are my own.

If you have any hesitations about traveling to any part of Israel, or probably anywhere on the Mediterranean Sea, let the following words and pictures reassure you it’s worth the trek if only to spoil your appetite for good. Our 6-day agenda was packed with historic sites, running and various other experiences, but at the end of the day we probably spent about half of our time eating.

Israel Museum Lunch

The majority of our trip was spent in the city of Jerusalem, but we ended on a high note in Tel Aviv. Our days often looked like this:

Breakfast

Prima Kings Hotel Buffet – this was no continental breakfast. The buffet had entire sections dedicated to salads, fruit, various egg options (hard-boiled, scrambled, salad, mini-quiche, etc), granola + mixed nut station, fresh breads and pastries, and all the beverages. You could also order cappuccino or lattes if preferred.

One morning we headed over to the Mamilla Hotel for breakfast, and their buffet options also included fresh juices, such as apple celery and mint + a beet variation. No skimping on the fruits or vegetables here!

On our last day in the country, we enjoyed a night and morning in Tel Aviv via the 5-star Carlton Hotel. This breakfast spread trumped the others – maybe because the restaurant sat beautifully on the water or maybe because most of us had run that morning (or were recovering from 26.2 hilly miles) and were ready to put it down – and this was just the first round:

Carlton Hotel Tel Aviv Breakfast

We were never under-fueled to start the day.

Lunch

The midday meal is often the largest here, and that took a little stomach-adjusting for most of us. The first picture above is an example of what most tables were already armed with when we sat down – just a little starter next to a basket of fresh pita bread and usually dipping oil. What would follow: anywhere from 3 – 10 more courses! I wasn’t counting, but I’m not sure we could’ve kept up anyway. Sometimes we would order our preference for the “main course”, which usually caught us off-guard because we would have already indulged in the 8 courses before that. Everything was served tapas-style and would just keep coming.

On Thursday I opted to have the “grilled fish” as my “entree” and I learned a very important lesson: ask questions first. An example may be: has the fish been beheaded? Just wondering…

Adom Jerusalem Lunch

I had to put a napkin over the head to have any chance of keeping this down.

The shock of my week: I didn’t have falafel until Sunday afternoon! During our last day, we toured and explored the city of Jaffa, which is on the edge of Tel Aviv. Our guide finally let us indulge in the Americans’ must-have and took us to a famous Jaffa bakery’s sister restaurant. We couldn’t have been happier to stuff our stomachs with more carbs:

Jaffa Mediterranean coast Jaffa falafel lunch

These hearty lunches were always followed by small desserts – just enough to stuff you and keep the stomach happy until…

Dinner

We dined at top-rated restaurants such as Eucalyptus and J’oy Meat In while in Jerusalem; we were seated at one of the only eateries open after sun-down on Friday evening, with a delicious Lebanese spread; we enjoyed tapas and paella at Vicky Cristina’s in Tel Aviv, complimented with sparkling Rose and Champagne for the table.

J'oy Meat In Dinner Jerusalem

We did not go to bed hungry or thirsty, I assure you.

Tel Aviv Dinner

Every meal was full of variety and catered to any type of dietary preference; a few times we had to mention that that were a few vegetarian + Kosher diners in the group, and everyone was gracious and generous with accommodations.

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We were all sure we’d leave the country 5lbs heavier, but I don’t feel any different than when I arrived. The only thing I know now is that with three full and balanced meals, you don’t need snacks in between. And when you spend the day touring and exploring vs. sitting and working, you burn right through that energy! I also know that Israel knows how to eat well, and I’d go back for the food and drink alone.

I can’t speak for everyone, but all the fuel seemed to translate to hill-power during the run, and sufficiently spoiled me. By the time I was served breakfast on the airplane I wondered where my soy latte, fresh omelet and fruit bar had disappeared to.

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Travel Running: Jerusalem (1/2) Marathon 2015

At the beginning of February I received an invitation from the Israel Ministry of Tourism to run the Jerusalem Marathon with a Press group. Attached at the bottom of this e-mail was a full itinerary outlining all of the places you would want to see in the country, crammed into six days. I would leave two days after the wedding, with his full support. Yep, I’m in!

Our “North American” press group was about 15 people, give or take as we had some come and go throughout the week, and we mostly arrived on Tuesday. This allowed plenty of time to adjust to the time change (+9 hours for us west coasters) and also to tour the city of Jerusalem before we ran all around it! Our itinerary covered most of the highlights before we stepped up to the starting line, which meant some of the kilometers (no mile markers here!) actually looked familiar.

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A little bit about the Jerusalem Marathon…

25,000 runners registered – four distances offered ranging from 5 – 42.2k!
2,500 runners represented over 60 countries!
The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Bakat, ran the half-marathon.
This is only the 5th year of the race & it’s growing quickly!
It is one of the best organized and designed races I’ve run to-date!

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Since we were part of the Press, we got our own tent to camp out in before the race started! This also meant we had some extra snacks, a place to store our gear and a first look at the Finishing line area.

2015-03-12 04.02.23  2015-03-12 20.40.05

A few of us opted to run the half-marathon – there’s no way I could have been 26.2-ready in 5 weeks, and I thought it’d be nice to have walking capabilities for the remainder of the trip. Both before and after the race I was happy with this decision; as it turns out, Jerusalem is no friend to flat running! Scanning the course elevation chart for a flat section is like  looking for a stretch of low altitude while climbing a Colorado 14-er. Not gonna happen. We received multiple friendly warnings from the PR crew, veteran runners and the city itself as we toured around in the days prior. This course is not for the faint of quads!

2015-03-12 21.38.06

Sharon, Kim, Lorraine & I gearing up for 13.1 miles!

Thinking about a half-marathon as 21 kilometers instead of 13 miles was the first thing that distracted my mind. I ran without music but with my camera at-the-ready to take many pics! While the endless hills will challenge you in every way, you’ll soon find yourself too distracted to care much. With every up comes a stunning view, with every down comes the glorious feeling of flight. It all balances out.

2015-03-12 22.24.04-2

My mind found entertainment and awe at every angle: meeting a pair of runners there from San Francisco (oh, hey!), running through now-familiar stretches of the city, passing our hotel, stopping through neighborhoods that bare local shops and restaurants, and looking left and right at views like this (see above). We ran through the Old City on historic cobblestone, up to the Promenade for a breathtaking 360* outlook, through multiple neighborhoods, along a running path and up, down, up and then down again. At one point I saw a sign pointing to “Bethlehem”, which almost tempted me to veer off course.

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2015-03-12 22.49.14  2015-03-12 23.01.47

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2015-03-12 23.38.07

We had perfect race-day conditions – sunny with a high of 60* – and the course was well-supported with aid stations, music, cheerers and free food! (We hear the marathoners had a hummus station!) I miraculously remembered to pack my handheld water-bottle, and was lucky enough to snatch up some Sport Beans from Sharon. I wasn’t sure how the “Isotonic” electrolyte race-drink would settle, so I got sodium and sugar from jelly beans instead.

I had every intention of taking it “easy” throughout the race so I could enjoy the views, the culture, the city and the fact that WHOA-I’m-running-an-international-race! But, I assure you, there is no taking it easy here. You’ll be in awe through every kilometer, but your cardio system will not be relaxed. It’s okay. Roll with it. Use the downhills and don’t you try to walk on the ups!

Twice I started to take a little break to ease up on the legs, and twice I was immediately encouraged by racers around me to “Keep going!” After which, I took a look around and realized something very noteworthy of the Jerusalem running community: nobody walks. My pace/corral/what-have-you was full of people who were all like these hills got nothin’ on me. Tough crowd, yo.

After one loooooong lovely incline, we were finally close to the end. The finish line was in sight! I hit a pothole and went down (that’s a first!), popped right back up and crossed the 21.1 KM mark. With a water bottle & medal in-hand, I went straight for “Medical” to get things cleaned up. That’s another first.  Once I was bandaged, I stepped out of the tent and faced what can only be described as a Finisher’s PARTY.

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With most of the Expo vendors back for more, this zone was ablaze with energy, gear on sale, food, tons of music and a great crowd.

2015-03-13 01.01.39 At the end of the kilometers, I was exhausted, a little bloody and completely elated to have just run through an incredible city. I would recommend this to any and all looking to add to their traveling + running adventures, no doubt. It was extremely well 0rganized and it’s an amazing way to see this city on foot!

2015 Jerusalem 1/2 Marathon
1:56 – AG: 46 / 347    Overall W: 78/795

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Check out my travel buddies + bloggers for the full marathon report!

Beth – Shut Up & Run
Teresa – Eat Drink & Be Skinny
Adam – Run Haven
Dax –  Dirty Running

Full disclosure: My trip to Israel and Jerusalem Marathon registration were paid for by the Israel Ministry of Tourism but all opinions and race experiences reported above are my own!

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Coming up: Our post-race trip to the Dead Sea & Tel Aviv, some of the best food in the Mediterranean and the best people to travel with!

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Wedding Teaser & Jerusalem Travels

Hello from the other side of the world! On Monday I hopped on three different planes which eventually landed me in Tel Aviv, Israel. Our days are jam-packed with historic sites, museums, running and ALL THE FOOD. (We’re slowly learning to pace ourselves through 10 course meals.)

Yesterday we toured the Tower of David; today the Old City of Jerusalem, walking the 14 points on the Via Dolorosa and ending at the Western Wall.  We had lunch and a guided tour of the world-renowned Israel Museum and ended with dinner on the Mamilla Mall. More to come….

But just two days before my jaunt across the Atlantic Ocean, we had a dream wedding weekend – perfect weather, lots of love and the best people we know, and a wedding that went off without a single hitch. My head and heart are still floating, and in denial that it all went by so quickly. Until better wifi..and the real photos from our amazingly talented photographer, the lovely Kelci, arrive,  just this.

Wedding hidden valley music 1

Hidden valley music wedding 3.7

 

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March Madness: Jerusalem & Canyonlands 1/2-Marathons

The quest to run at least one race per month continues (Jan, Feb), but March is totally throwing down the gauntlet and being like, THAT’S what’s up, y’all. In the span of 15 days I will have run two half-marathons on two continents;  a personal feat I never had on my bucket list, but will be accomplished nonetheless.

I have no idea how I so epically lucked out, but the stars decided to align so perfectly that my feet will be touching down in Asia for the first time. (Ignore the fact that two days after we get hitched, I’m jetting out of the country. He understands wanderlust and adventuring; we’re good!) Once that sinks in, I’ll be running the Jerusalem (1/2) Marathon for my first international race. And once that sinks in, I’ll actually be sinking my legs into the Dead Sea for a little recovery + cloud-9 floating.

jerusalem-marathon-2015
Image source.

To say this is a surreal opportunity is an understatement. To be honest, I had no idea there was a Jerusalem Marathon, but it seems like thousands of runners were a few strides ahead of me in their international race adventuring. To feed my wanderlust, there was no way I was passing this one up. More to come!

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Once that adventure wraps up, we’re heading to Utah! He’s never seen southern Utah or the Grand Canyon, and I never turn down a chance to gallivant around the Southwest and get back to my roots. We’re capping the trip with flights + nights in Vegas, because it’s direct from here and he doesn’t turn down a chance to hit the strip (we’re different in that way… #notmyfavorite).

In the middle of this back n’ forth, we’ll set up camp in Moab, UT for a few days to run through the Canyonlands and hike around the National Parks in the area.  A few teammates will be there, so it’s a TAD family affair!

Canyonlands Half-marathon
Image Source.

By the time we get back from all of the above, April will be creeping up and it’ll be time to start picking a distance to fill that month’s box!

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