Vacations are different for runners—especially in the middle marathon training. Trying to fit in a long run or speed workout may be next to impossible but skipping out on these necessary building blocks of your training plan could cost you down the road.
In March, I visited Portland, Oregon and wanted to knock out some decent mileage while I was out there. I looked at a few maps before I left and had the expectation of running through the park for at least a few hours.
On my second day out there, I woke up at the crack of dawn and plugged in “Forest Park” on my GPS. Once I saw that I was only a few blocks away, I found a parking spot and began running toward where Google Maps had said where the park was.
For the next 20 minutes, I ran around looking like a chicken with its head cut off. I couldn’t find the trailhead for the life of me. I finally found a local there who pointed me in the right direction but when I finally arrived, I didn’t have any particular trail planned and ended up popping back out into neighborhood streets 30 minutes later. At the point, I was frustrated and called it a day.
With this trip in mind, I decided to plan out my running schedule ahead of time a few days before I left for California.
Fortunately around the same time I was planning my running schedule for my trip, Amanda Hicks of AmandaRuns.com found out I was headed out to California and recommended the Dipsea trail. And to my benefit, she blogged about her Double Dipsea experience when she took a trip out there last year. After getting a few pro-tips from her and reading the step-by-step guide she posted, I couldn’t wait to check it out.
I arrived at the start of the trail around 8 a.m. and was pleasantly surprised with the cool temperatures that filled the morning air. The first few miles were packed with three flights of stairs as tall as a fifty-story building and up some windy hills. Thanks to the DCA November Project, I have some stair experience and was able to run up most of them but by the last flight, I was drenched in sweat and chugged down half of my water bottle already.
After the stairs, I weaved in and out of quiet trails until I hit Muir Woods. I topped off my water and continued on my way. After another mile of a pretty tough climb, I opened my water bottle pouch to eat a gel and noticed my credit card was missing. I realized my credit card must have fallen out of the pouch while I kept taking my phone out for pictures. I retraced my steps and after a few minutes, I saw my credit car lying on the side of the trail staring at me. Luckily, I can say that was the only hiccup during the entire run.
A few minutes later, I reached the highest point and made my way across the trail in and out of clouds. For at least 20 minutes I could only hear the sound of my feet hitting the dirt. The air up there was nothing like I had ever experienced: clean, quiet and cloudy. My entire body relaxed on the unknown trail and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.
After gliding through the clouds for about 20 minutes, I reached a forest-like part of the trail and made a steep climb down hills and stairs for another few miles. Finally, after I’d been running for 90 minutes, the trail opened up and I could see Stinson Beach. Once I made it to the town, I grabbed some Gatorade and slurped down water from a fountain then ran back the way I came.
If I hadn’t planned ahead or taken a step-by-step guide with me on this trial, I probably would have turned around after the third flight of stairs. Actually, I’m not even sure if I would have found the stairs. But by planning ahead, I don’t think I could have gotten lost out there even if I tried. This “double Dipsea” run more than made up for all the other times I unsuccessfully ran in a different part of the country.
So for future trips, I decided to make a checklist of items I’ll need to cross off before running in a new place:
–Research ALL Your Options: Though I planned ahead on my Dipsea trail adventures, I realized day three of my vacation that I hadn’t done much research on other trails in the area. So I stuck with mostly neighborhoods the rest of the days only to find out on my last day that there was this beautiful trail nearby that I could have run on several times. Oh well. Next time.
–Load Map/Step-by-Step List on Phone Ahead of Time: Having this information will avoid future situations like the one I had in Portland.
–Bring Money (cash AND credit card): If I didn’t have money with me, I’m not sure I would’ve made it the entire way back on Dipsea. I bought several gels and Gatorade at the beach and that really came in handy the last few miles on the way back.
–Lower Your Expectations: If it’s not reasonable to get a 20-mile long run or a speed workout in on a trip, then it’s not reasonable to set that expectation. Be realistic about your time and options on the trip. This may also allow you to sneak in that long run or speed workout right before you leave.
–Have a Back-Up Plan: If something falls through on the trip or if the internet gives you false information, have a back-up plan. The worst (or best) thing that can happen is you won’t end up using it!