A long weekend escape to Tennessee. Nothing but long riverside runs, sunset hiking on Lookout Mountain, and aimless city wandering. Oh, and milkshakes for the win.


Antelope Canyon: In Words

Do you have one of those friends that you can call up anytime and say, “i think we need an adventure”? And then, next thing you know, you and your friend are running across a mesa in the middle of Arizona in February?

If you don’t have one of those friends, I recommend finding one.

My friend is named Danielle.

So Danielle and I decided that we needed a trip out west to escape our mid-winter New England blues. And we decided that we needed to run the Ultra Adventures Antelope Canyon Half Marathon because why not.

This half-marathon trail race follows a single track around the plateau of Page, Arizona and sprinkles in a few miles of desert sand and slickrock along the way. The unbelievable scenery, which includes Lake Powell, makes it tricky to keep your eyes on the trail and off the horizon. While we didn’t pause for nearly enough photos or selfies, Danielle and I did manage to capture our middle-of-the-pack finish in the slickrock ampitheatre.

And then we promptly ate tacos.

But the race itself was just one of our vacation adventures. We were lucky enough to check out some traditional Navajo dancing, as well as a fireside chat on the local geology and history of the land and the tribes. (PSA: Hats off to Ultra Adventures for their support of the local community, as well as their dedication to the environment. The race is zero waste, the aid stations run on solar, and the composting toilets create a nutrient rich soil. And if you litter on the course? You’re disqualified. Boom.)

Danielle and I also made time to visit some of the iconic sights – namely Upper Antelope Canyon (one of the most photographed slot canyons in the world), the Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River, and Zion National Park.

And if all of this awesomeness wasn’t enough to convince you to find your own friend like Danielle, we also spent plenty of time singing along to overplayed pop songs; eating peanut butter out of a jar in lieu of actual meals; and assuring each other that its definitely OK to wear the same clothes multiple days in a row.

So as Wilfred Peterson says, “A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.”

Find your own Danielle and go adventuring.


Crushing 15K

OK, OK. So it wasn’t the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. But after three failed attempts for entry, my name was drawn for the Nike Women’s 15K in Toronto.

And it was awesome.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a Nike fanatic – I don’t run in Nike’s, I’m not particularly partial to Nike clothing, and I don’t have a strong opinion on the company’s political or cultural practices … But damn, Nike knows how to put on a race.

The Crystal Coliseum, Nike’s floating barge/workout studio on Lake Ontario. Photo courtesy of Nike.
The Crystal Coliseum, Nike’s floating barge/workout studio on Lake Ontario. Photo courtesy of Nike.

From beginning to the end, they made the entire race an experience. The Nike Training Club workouts were held on a floating barge on Lake Ontario. The Nike Run Club shakeout runs coordinated with local running specialty stores and took us through the city streets. And the race itself was held on Toronto Island, which essentially became “Nike Women Island” for a full day.

Crushing the shakeout run. Photo courtesy of Nike.
Crushing the pre-race shakeout run. Photo courtesy of Nike.

“Nike Women Island” featured food trucks, music, DJs, massage therapists, organized stretching sessions, and even an entire tent packed with yoga mats, foam rollers, and tennis balls to really work everything out before the race. #bliss

Once we got started, the race wound through every type of terrain imaginable – on a road, on a trail alongside a lightnouse, on the tarmac at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, even along a boardwalk nestled between crashing waves and trees. Check out the video for a peek at the full course. 

Running along the tarmac of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Photo courtesy of Nike.
Running along the tarmac of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Photo courtesy of Nike.

And Nike made sure to keep the 10,000 runners motivated by placing drum lines, gospel choirs, kickass signage, and plenty of spectators along the route.

Maybe it was all the excitement or my new playlist (typically I listen to podcasts, but Ellie Goulding was guiding me through this 15K), but I performed well, finishing 378th out of the 1677 in my age category.

And lest I forget, the “finisher’s medal” is a sterling silver Tiffany necklace, with a pendant emblazoned with the Nike Women’s 15K logo.

It was, quite simply, the best race I’ve ever completed.

Why do race photos always look so awkward? Photo courtesy of Nike.

Snapshot of Oregon

Sometimes you just need to escape snowy New England and head to Oregon for a few days of hiking through Columbia River Gorge, yoga classes, long runs along the Willamette, hiking in Smith Rock State Park, delicious “artisan” donuts and even more delicious “artisan” ice cream.

Don’t forget that awesome accommodations and a good-looking travel buddy are both imperative.

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The Mountains Are Calling …

TrailLet’s begin by acknowledging the fact that hiking 16+ miles on any given day(s), sans coffee, is a feat.

And even though I was slow as molasses (One MPH? Seriously?), and I had a mini meltdown at one point (I thought we were hiking, not rock climbing?), and it wasn’t the most relaxing vacation I’ve ever had … I’ll admit that hiking a portion of the Presidential Traverse and summiting four 4,000 foot mountains in 1.5 days is fairly satisfying.

A little background:

The Presidential Range is a mountain range, located in the NH White Mountains, whose most notable summits are named for American presidents … and is rounded out by Mt. Washington, long home of the highest winds recorded on the surface of the Earth at 231 mph.

And thus, a Presidential Traverse is, quite simply, a hike that begins at one end of the range and ends at the other. And, in my opinion, it’s a bit tough.

According to the ever-wise Wikipedia:

“A Presidential Traverse does not merely require the absolute gain of some 4,500′ from starting point to the 6,288′ summit of Mt. Washington; it involves repeated gain and loss of elevation between individual summits along the way. …. A basic Presidential Traverse encompasses almost 9,000′ of combined vertical, doubled when difficult downclimbing is included.

Sign2I’ll admit – we didn’t tackle the entire traverse. We missed Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Monroe. But I’m still going to take credit for hitting Jackson, Pierce, Eisenhower and Washington.

Basically, we hiked the Crawford Path (the oldest, continuously maintained, hiking path in America) from the AMC Highland Center all the way to Mt. Washington, then descended via the famous Tuckerman Ravine trail   . The total mileage was about 16 +miles. And did I mention this was all sans coffee?

Highlights include:

  • Crystal Cascades 2The caretaker at our campsite ended up being an old friend of Stranded Dog. Needless to say, ending the first day of hiking on the “porch” of a friend’s semi-permanent tent structure with some whiskey in mason jars was a nice surprise.
  • When we finally summited Mt. Washington, the line to take our photo with the official sign at the summit was insanely long and packed with people who had taken the auto-road up the mountain. Where’s the express line for hikers?
  • We kept meeting the same people along the trail, including an amazing 71-year old AT section hiker who had just kicked off the last few weeks of his trip. We wish him the best of luck … on the remaining 325+ miles to Mt. Katahdin.

Basically – We hit the peaks, slept in our tent, and enjoyed some time in the mountains. So far, 30 ain’t so bad.