Running Vacations and Weekend Shenanigans

I’ve only been on a few vacations in adulthood that didn’t center around my current pursuits, so I can’t quit understand the thrill found in sitting on a beach for a week. I want to chase my dreams, not chase a tan. I do enjoy relaxing and certainly value having downtime, but I try to get those during my weekly routine, not when I’m visiting a new place. I’m really more of a homebody anyway, so when it comes to vacations, that’s the time to get out and explore! In light of that, this past weekend checked all the boxes for me.

The Vermont City Marathon served as the backdrop of a fun-filled trip to Burlington, but it wasn’t the only highlight. The weekend started early with my second year of attending the 500 For The Fallen relay on Thursday night. The 500 mile relay supports the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation which assists with education costs of military children. With running being a mostly selfish pursuit for me, I really value the times I can actually give to others through running and what better way to do that than by also remembering veterans on Memorial Day weekend?

On Saturday morning the weekend started for real with fellow runners at my house bright and early to pick me up for the carpool to VT. We arrived in Burlington by noon and following a quick stop to pick up bibs, we arrived at UVM where I was planning on getting a track workout in. The prescribed workout was 3 x (5×400 with first 4 of each set at 5k and last rep @ 3k) recoveries were supposed to be 1 min, but I forgot and jogged a full lap after each repeat (1:40) full recovery of 4 min between sets. The weather might have been the nicest I’ve ever done a workout in and UVM’s relatively new facility is quite nice too! I was happily able to hit the pace I wanted throughout and feel like it should be sustainable in the 5k on Sat night (well… maybe)
Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/311782780/embed/65becd6a732f5794854d51531b4db03039335f81

Saturday afternoon we went out touristing in the city. Some other friends were up in VT on vacation so we all met up for lunch, dinner, taking part in street performances and walking around by the lake. The most fun I’ve ever had the night before a “marathon” for sure. We called it a night fairly late for a race night and checked into the hotel around 10. The next morning we filled up on the hotel’s continental breakfast and shuttled ourselves and some others to the race start. VCM does an excellent job with everything and we were able to easily locate our group of friends in the front corral. My buddy Austin and I were both planning on pacing some friends shooting for mid 2:50 times, and were going to try and lead them for at least the first 13. The plan when I signed up was to be pushing up with the front and racing the whole thing, but I’m very happy with the change in plans and I’m certain this will be better in the long term. I had a blast in the 16 miles I did run, laughing and talking the whole way and hamming it up for the cameras. My friend and club-mate Amanda crushed it, finishing as the 5th female overall! Alex and E-J who were also running with us both ran 2:58 or faster and Austin and I got to feel like we actually helped as pacers! After a post marathon team brunch at the Skinny Pancake we went back to the hotel to clean up. Sunday night we sampled some more local cuisine and hung out with other runners before succumbing to fatigue and crashing early.

Monday saw a lazy start to the day and a traffic free cruise back down to Hanover NH to tour some trails around Dartmouth and film some cool scenes running through the woods. Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/311779843/embed/b5d6da6e3555ca54cbee7331151fb914ba5c8a6a
After refueling at the Dirt Cowboy Cafe we made the drive home and happily closed the book on another super fun, amazing running weekend. Also, one last shout out to Burlington for awesome restaurants and coffee shops, I think I sampled 4 coffee shops and drank more than I care to admit. haha Now it’s time to plan out the details on some summer mountain running trips and a full running vacation in CA this December.

Thanks for reading!
-DJ

Hood to Coast Relay 2014

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This group of amazing, lovely people just shared a fantastic experience.

Where do I even begin? Honestly, there is no possible way I can remember every noteworthy quote, event or laugh from this weekend. I simply must write down what I can though, so more of it isn’t forgotten, this was the kind of weekend you never want to forget.

Wednesday, August 20th 2014
Started shenanigans early by crashing at my friends apt after run group the night before flying out, to make carpooling easier. Pre-travel excitement and talking meant a 2AM bedtime and only a couple hours of sleep (precursor of things to come!)

Thursday, August 21st
Another awesome run group friend brought three of us to the airport for 7AM flights out west. My flight was supposed to be a double layover in Salt Lake and LA, but Delta found room on a direct to LA, saving me some hassle. Continental flight passed without note, uncomfortable and long as always. Layover in LA was quick and I found some delicious burrito fuel in the terminal. Had my first LA celebrity spotting on the flight to Portland (Craig T Nelson) and arrived at the Budget rental car outfit with two hours to kill before the rest of the team started arriving. I stowed my luggage in the back due to the kindness of the people working there and went for a nice 9 miler after some good dynamic stretches. It felt so good to be out running in the dry western air after traveling all day and I ended up running at a quicker pace than most easy runs. Once the team arrived I succumbed to a quick bee (or was that wasp… maybe yellowjacket?) sting and we were on our way to Hood River for the night. We made a quick stop at Multnomah Falls before arriving at the cleanest and nicest 2 star hotel I’ve ever seen. The second van with the rest of our team met up with us at the hotel and we set out to find a great dinner spot. Hood River was simply too cool and thus every restaurant was packed, so we took the bridge over to Washington and drove up a bluff to find a perfect little brew pub with great food. Of special note: the best sweet potato fries in the world. Exhaustion quickly set in and we hit the bunk as soon as we got back to the hotel.

Friday, August 22nd (Hood to Coast Day 1)
With a 2PM start time we were given the luxury of sleeping in, a rarity when racing! Up by 8AM anyway a couple of us wandered into town and found some hip breakfast spots. We then rendezvoused with some teammates to stock up on food and supplies at the Safeway across from our hotel. Van number 2 had an interesting collection of snacks as the two self proclaimed selective eaters of the van ended up doing the shopping. Makena and myself came away with some real home runs though as it turned out. I also bought myself some sweet “Ironman” sunglasses to wear having left mine at home. We loaded the vans and departed for Mount Hood around 11AM, only one LED laden sword was left at a gas station on the way and Van 1 reclaimed it in time for check in at the Timberline lodge and van decoration on the mountain (I’ll include some pictures of our epic vans once they are posted) We got groovy to the start line music and explored the mountain a little before the start time was upon us and the real insanity had begun.

Run group besties, Makena and Trish. These girls came all the way to Oregon to race with a bunch of strangers! Love them! haha

Run group besties, Makena and Trish. These girls came all the way to Oregon to race with a bunch of strangers! Love them!

Friday, August 22nd Cont. The Race Has Begun!
Our fabulous team captain, Emily started us off as runner number one. The first legs was a quad busting huge elevation drop over a few miles down the mountain, but the elevation shouldn’t have affected the Denver resident at least! We quickly distanced ourselves from the trials of running down Mt. Hood as we proceeded to the first van exchange point at the end of leg 6. Tim came up with the great idea to start tagging other vans with paint pens after what someone else had done at our last relay together. He and I went around writing R DUB ( for The Road Warriors) on the windows of every decorated van we could hit without getting caught, it was quite good fun! After getting in a good 3 mile shakeout run and walking around we started to prep for actual racing and Tim got warmed up for his first leg as runner number 7, we screamed as Brian wrapped up Van 1’s first leg and passed the baton to Tim. Arriving at the transition, Makena was rearing to get started, Tim came through covered in sweat as the sun was just then starting to descend a bit. We pitied the 80’s van 1 had to run in, but we were ready to bring in the gorgeous Oregon sunset as we looked forward to running into Portland. I was so excited to run again that I didn’t even spot where my leg started from and ended up throwing in a loop through a parking lot when the baton was passed to me. I was planning on running a tempo for the first leg and after a mile on the roadside I started to really move on a nice paved bike trail. I don’t remember how that first leg ended, but for the feeling of euphoria and endorphin high that accompany every hard run and relay run. Ariel and Steve continued down the same path I had been running on, through mostly blase scenery as the night fully set in, but Trish was lucky enough to run on the trail as it wound into Portland, passing animals, strange people and general Portland oddities. Thus concluded leg 1 for The Road Warriors!

Saturday, August 23rd
We drove on ahead to the next van exchange and we starting to feel the affects of it and looking forward to 3 hour naps… Or more accurately, awkward movements and the constant shout of, “Coming or Going?” from the man directing traffic next to our van. Near 3AM we started prepping for leg 2. Some of us shoveled down some hot food at the relay, most of us had some coffee and before we knew it, Tim was standing in the transition zone being hugged by Brian and handed the glowing sword. Tim began the ascent of his leg o’ hills and we drove ahead, hoping to beat him to the transition. Makena was ready with a few minutes to spare and also accepted the sword as she continued up what we believe to be the hardest single leg of the relay ANY RELAY, It was 5 miles up the side of a mountain on the dustiest gravel road. With warm food and coffee in my stomach, I was totally ready to tackle leg two when the sword came into view. The road of dust continued, mercifully flat on my leg, but still just as dusty. The transition zones from here until the end became giant clusters, and runners and vans were rarely at the same place at the same time. I did manage to find Ariel and hop back in the van dazed and covered head to toe in dust. Running with that sword was epic and the dust made it all the more surreal, though I’m convinced I can still feel it lining my throat. Ariel had a rather hilly leg and we were able to find the transition in time for Steve to take over. Steve brought it in strong on leg 2, but little did we know that was the end of smooth roads for the vans as we sat in traffic for the next 4-6 hours. After being passed by Steve, Trish wisely hopped out to walk on ahead and eventually run some extra miles to meet Steve at the transition. We did find Steve again, but poor Trish had to wait forever at the van relay as we spent our first hour+ in traffic to make it the few miles to her. After grabbing Trish we had a van full again and spent the time between van one’s leg three and our’s in a long line of vans, blasting music and having fun. We passed Mike as he was on his leg and were FINALLY able to make it to our relay point before starting the final push to the beach! The sun was back with an intense heat by midday and we decided to leave Tim standing in it as we forged on ahead. We wanted to actually get ahead of the traffic, transition area, organizational disaster that was the second half of the race. Things did not improve too much, but we did beat Tim there. Makena took the baton and stuck it to some guys on her leg, including an epic sprint up a huge hill to hand off to me just ahead of another team. I was pumped to start the final leg, and the first one with scents of salt water, the end was getting close! I really started to feel the heat, but pushed on ahead and soon it was Ariel out there in the thick of it! She held on like a trooper and passed off to Steve, who was more than ready to go on leg three. After swapping out a dry runner for a sweaty one for the last time, we drove into Seaside and awaited the arrival of Trish! Okay, that’s not entirely what happened, we drove on ahead as Trish finished the epic relay by herself while we were stuck in traffic again and team one was on the beach already. We all hugged it out on the sand and tossed medals over our necks and then jumped in the ocean! Well, Tim and Matt jumped in and some of us waded around a bit, it was freezing! The desire for a hot shower and soft bed were just too great and the struggle was so real at that point. We loaded back into the vans and set ourselves towards Vancouver, Washington and a La Quinta. The drive took 72 days approximately, and the hotel had only given us three beds… but we hardly cared, time to sleep! Or rather keep the party going long into the night, after all, “Life is hard” was the quote of the weekend.

Sunday, August 24th
Up just in time for hotel breakfast, than cab to the airport to stow our luggage before wandering into Portland to explore and eat! The group was down to Tim, Brian, Makena, Trish and myself at that point, the others had earlier flights. We had an absolute blast in Portland and I just made my connection to LA before hopping on the flight back to Boston overnight. No sleep on the plane, but new friends were made. What a trip…

Monday August 25th
Is this even a real day? What is a sleep cycle? Where am I? Life is so stinking hard! I hardly remember getting my car and driving home, but I know I owe Brian big time for the ride from the airport. I had great intentions to only take a brief nap, post shower today, but six hours of sleep later and I barely had time to get a run in before sunset. So here I sit as my body now thinks that it doesn’t need sleep before going to work in 7 hours. Most fun race yet, can’t wait for the next one. The Road Warriors were the best, great people and great runners. This was a very condensed version of the weekend in a story format and I left out most of the funny, memorable and quotable bits to protect the parties involved. 😀 I’m sure reading it will prompt me to remember all of the great parts in between that made it so special and that’s what writing it down is for in my mind. I could never tell the full story of such a ridiculous trip, but I will update with more pictures and shenanigans as they come to me.

And What a Year It Was – 2013 by the miles and milestones.

It’s a prerequisite in the running blogosphere to write end of year reviews, so here goes! I normally hate on these things and poke fun at them, but I have to be the cliché one this year. 2013 really was something extraordinary, full of ups and downs and totally amazing. I’ve gone chronologically with the recap after scrapping my original plan of listing everything by importance and significance.

January
I got settled into life in Massachusetts by running a 5 Mile race on the first! Found a fantastic Wednesday night run group (Way up there on the ranking by importance list, btw) Made some excellent new friends. Saw my first professional runners up close in the indoor circuit. I took some time off to prepare for the next marathon cycle. Signed up for my first ultra (promptly bailed on it when the time came though and ran my fastest road marathon yet)

February
I bought my first race flats. Started training for spring marathon. I met and fell for a wonderful girl. I fell in love with running all over again too as I ran 212 miles in the month. Ran a 20 mile race in ice and sleet on an island and made many trips to NH. Got lost on a long run… ended up running 27 miles that day, oops. Saw the Lumineers for the second time and they were even better!!

March
Continued a high weekly mileage volume and started the month off with a super-fast 3 mile race, also truly learned the joy of running with someone else, many times over. I did ignore some nagging injuries that should have been dealt with (It wasn’t all fun this year 😦 ) I did finish in 2nd place in a ¼ marathon on a challenging course. I spent a lot of time in prayer and reading the Bible, as well.

April
How can I even recap April with any proper justice, it certainly deserves a post of its own, I will simply make an attempt. The month started with the welcome warmth of spring and boundless joy on every run. I started making a better work of my recovery sessions and running my ‘easy runs’ at an easier pace and managed my longest training run yet, a 50k training run. April 15th 2013 will not easily be forgotten, nor should it. As evidenced by being the most searched for thing on Google this past year, the whole country took it as a shock, tragedy and horror. I watched the marathon from the halfway point and still vividly remember the events of that day and nearly every detail, I’ll leave that for some other time though. Between sustaining my first 60+ mile weeks I also saw The Milk Carton Kids in April, second time and just as good!

May
Marathon madness for me! I ran Sugarloaf marathon and came away with a 6th overall and a big shiny new personal best as well as a nifty ceramic plate for taking first in age group! The last few weeks of training were typically underwhelming, but the race went well and I was very happy with the result. Vacationed in Maine and NH and had a blast. The month did end with a mutual breakup… and thus my summer began, full of questions and learning.

June
This will be the shortest recap as June was indeed the most boring month of the year for me. I started the month with a much needed multi-day hike with some good friends. I selected a fall marathon, chose a new training plan and started training. I did do a lot of reading, running/coaching focused and otherwise. The One Run for Boston came through on a muggy June 30th and was an excellent experience, full of positivity and resilience!

July
Started the month with injuries and the dreaded visit to a Dr. I only needed a week off  though and was able to rebound fairly quick. Saw the Bosstones! Ran a fast half-marathon on a very hot day and came in 2nd overall! In keeping with the year theme, the half-marathon was a PR, too. I really started using the adaptive running style advocated by Brad Hudson of the Performance Training Group and enjoyed a relaxed but focused training period.

August
Learned to embrace running in heat, no really, I didn’t hate every single run this summer. I had a good guy’s weekend in Portsmouth with K-West and Shirley Temple, always a highlight. Hit my “older 20’s” officially and instantly felt older. I finally bought a Garmin, life changing! Ran another half-marathon as a spec test for my fall race and came away with a big PR on a course with 2k’ of elevation gain! I finished the month with an epic quest for Heady Topper all over VT. Mmm… Heady Topper…

September
INJURIES! My first real injury and subsequent recovery time happened in September. Remember that lack of rest and proper recovery I mentioned back in March? No? Well, at any rate, my hip had been a problem off and on all year and it finally flared up so bad that I needed a couple weeks off completely and a few good ART sessions. Got in about a week of easy running again by the end of the month to prep for a now goal-less fall marathon. I learned the joys of proper recovery and back up races, too.

October
I ran a 2:54:30 marathon in some rain after a week and a half of training coming off injury. Got beat by my friend and still managed 7th place though. All sorts of lessons were learned on that one, most importantly, how to run a marathon just for fun and finishing. I made good memories all month with good running friends and non-running friends. I worked back up to full training, safely. In October I started seriously considering a move out to Oregon and spent lots of time and prayer on the idea, I also decided to book a trip out there. My good friend, Sam came out to Oregon with me and we spent a week at his brother’s house in The Yaak, Montana, too. The trip cemented my interest in moving west and though it hasn’t come to fruition yet, I’m anxiously searching for a job in Bend, OR. I learned the joy of running at higher elevation and with bear spray in my hand when I was out west and saw a million amazing and beautiful things.

November
The month started with my back-up fall marathon. The course was absolutely brutal and the weather tried to best the course’s hills for brutality. I ran out of gas worse than I ever have at 20 miles and had to grit my way to the end, my pace was all over the place due to the elevation changes. I was able to stay within 2 minutes of my PR and did not lose heart, just realized that my goals were not accurate for the course and based on my fitness level. I took a short break after the race and did some hiking and relaxing. I ran my first indoor track workouts and first track workouts with a group, something I will always look forward to now! Bounced back fast from the marathon and was able to get back to 50 a week for the second half of the month. Finished the month by Turkey Trotting across some icy fields.

December
Continued to hit 50 a week and finished a strong month of Thursday night track sessions with Greater Lowell Road Runners. I was able to get a huge PR in the 5k after all the track work and strong base building! Kept my eye loosely fixed on my mileage goal for the year that had seemed so out of reach post-injury, but now appeared reachable. On December 16th I started my training for Boston Marathon and consequently kicked off my fundraising for World Vision. I finished the year with a couple 60 mile weeks and no injuries to report. Crushed the mileage goal for the year by 47 miles, 2347! I’ve now gained 800 miles a year since I started running in late 2010!

 

I’m sure I’ve missed thousands of awesome, terrible and surprising; boring, fun and memorable happenings. This year was just too much to process at times, but so worth it for the lessons learned. As I wind this post down with Norah Jones quietly cooing on the speakers, I start thinking again of all the amazing things that 2014 will bring. I could not be more excited for this year to begin and though I’ve said that every year for a while, it’s still the truth. The west coast beckons, Boston Marathon awaits and many, many miles of running must be covered. BRING IT ON!

Big props in 2013 go out to my friends and family, both new and old; you helped get me through some very tough times and were a big part of all the good times. The shoes of the year were New Balance for racing/speed-work and Mizuno on the easy runs. Garmin came into my life and helped me with mileage and pacing. Chocolate milk and cottage cheese were the go to post run recovery foods until lactose intolerance barged into my body. Chicken was the go to food, usually in burrito or taco casings and I can’t count the number of new IPA’s that were tried. Well, that about wraps up the shout-outs and honorable mentions, so I bid you goodbye and goodnight, 2013.

Building Blocks to Boston

My body is still on “vacation” and my mileage and speedwork have been severely curtailed, what a joy! For the first time since 2010 I’ve been able to appreciate a rest period. Granted, I have still been maintaining a decent weekly mileage, it has still been quite relaxing. Not scheduling my weekend around a long run makes time for fun trips and events. For instance, I spent this weekend with my sister in NY and had a blast. My off-season will be coming to an end in two weeks, but until then I will continue to enjoy the spontaneity and low pressure runs.

Once I begin again, the training will be 100% in preperation for Boston next April. The goal for Boston is two-pronged, to run the best race my training can possibly allow me to and to raise at least the minimum amount I have pledged to for World Vision. The first part is old hat, train harder, faster and smarter than ever before. The second goal is far more important to me, however.

I have often subconsciously designated charity runners as different than those who run for speed or place. Not out of judgement or condescension, mind you, but just from general experience. I personally had the desire, in the case of Boston, to qualify and run it on my own terms. Rather than finding a charity to supply a bib number, I wanted to run it as a personal goal only. After qualifying and being registered though, my desire was altered. I realized that running for a charity, with no strings attached would enable me to run the race I wanted, while still doing much more for others. I’m well aware that my previous outlook was rather small minded and these thoughts are probably no big revelation to most, but this is the process I went through. A timely birthday gift book from my dad introduced me to Lopez Lomong’s charity, which is partnered with World Vision and I was compelled to run for them. Below is a brief description of the charity and a link to my support page. Please take a moment to check it out and consider giving. Thanks in advance to all those dear friends and family who have assured me that on April 21st, 2014 they will be cheering us all on in Boston!

World Vision is a fantastic organization that works with local communities in Africa to bring clean water, medical supplies, education and independence to the people. Lopez Lomong is a survivor of the Sudanese civil war and American Olympian. His biography is one of the most amazing books I’ve read. I will happily provide a copy if you would like to read it.

My support page is liked below. Feel free to visit worldvision.org and search for Daniel Button if the link gives you trouble.
http://team.worldvision.org/site/TR/TeamWorldVision/TeamWorldVision?px=1423793&pg=personal&fr_id=2220

Thanks all!!

PS. I will be tagging all Boston buildup and charity update posts with “Boston 2014”

On Vacation

This post is brought to the internet from somewhere deep in the woods of northwest Montana. I’m currently enjoying my last night in Montana before driving back to Portland, OR for the flight east tomorrow night. Vacation started off with a drive from Portland to Bend and a couple days scouting out my potential future hometown. I absolutely loved Bend, everything about it, from the running trails, to the restaurants, to the houses and shops. The flora and fauna in the central Oregon high desert plains are obviously quite different than the northeast, but down in Bend the trees are plentiful and the river is beautiful. I’m excited to see where my current job goes, as there is a lot up in the air, but I’m going to keep looking for opportunities in Bend in the meantime.

From Bend the trip proceeded to the Yaak River Valley in northwest Montana, where I’ve been staying with friends since last Thursday. This has certainly been the most relaxing part of the trip, enjoying home cooked meals and spending time with a family that exemplifies love and hard work. The mountains in Montana are as big as the sky here and the rivers trees and open spaces are just as vast. I am daily impressed with the amazing scenery, epic vistas in Glacier National Park and the mountains just outside the pop up camper I’ve been sleeping in. My training has been slightly curtailed due to the cold weather and hilly terrain, but I’ve only completely skipped one run. Just one run in the past week+ has been below 3k’ elevation and though they say that you don’t feel the effects of higher altitude until 5k feet, this has certainly been more aggressive on my lungs than most sea level runs. I think the combination of traveling, freezing temps and increased elevation are to blame, more than the individual issues. My speedwork and tempo runs have felt it the most, all have been slightly above the paces I was shooting for. I have only trimmed less than 10 miles out of my plan, so I still have high hopes for the race on Sunday. I’m not quite sure what to expect as I have been told that the course is hilly and did miss that time from injury over the past couple months. I currently feel great and still would like to PR even if don’t come close to my 2:40:xx goal time. Barring some unforeseen extreme weather or injury I will be expecting to finish under 3 hours for the third time this year, something I never thought possible one year ago.

Special shout-out to the 2012 VW Jetta rental we’ve been cruising in, it’s taken us through off-roading in Oregon and over a 6500′ pass in 6″ deep snow with close to 2400 miles of reliable motoring. (fingers crossed for tomorrows trip)