Vacation Running

This is a popular time of year for vacations. We both find that vacation running can be an enormous pleasure. New paths. New scenery. New adventures. New places to explore.

Often, the best way to get a feeling for a new city or area is to run through its streets or trails. If you’re headed out on vacation soon, here are some tips that have come in handy for us over the years:

Do advance planning: Check an online weather forecast for your destination, so you know what to pack. Obviously, our central coast climate is quite unique, and other parts of the country (or beyond) probably have dramatically different conditions than you’re accustomed to. In humid climates, you’ll feel much warmer than you do at the same temperature here at home.

Expand your web search to include running routes or clubs you can find on the road. For example has running routes all over the world, and Googling “running in (your destination)” usually yields contact information for clubs and group runs. Runner’s World magazine has information on its website ( about many national and international destinations.

You can also do advance reconnaissance on your lodging. Check if your hotel has a fitness room or treadmill for those days where you just can’t get outside. Call the concierge to ask about the area surrounding the hotel. How close is it to parks, running trails, bike paths? However, take this advice with a grain of salt, as we’ll explain later.

Pack sparingly: Honestly, it is much easier to run while on vacation than to play golf or tennis or ski. All you need are your shoes, socks, shirts, and shorts, as well as a watch and maybe a cap. You don’t even need new clothes for every day of running – it’s easy to alternate two pairs of shorts or shirts if you set them out to dry after each run. Sure, they’ll smell a bit, but don’t worry about it – these people don’t know you, and they’ll probably just think you’re European.

Find a resource: When you get to town, call or visit the local running store in the area. Ask about interesting places to run, as well as upcoming group runs or special events. A local store can also advise you about areas in town to avoid in the interest of safety.

Go out drinking: Not in a bar, but throughout your trip, so that you stay hydrated while. Traveling often causes dehydration, and in areas of high humidity, your body loses more fluids and overheats much more easily. It’s important to keep drinking water and other fluids to counteract these stresses.

Look for an oval: Sometimes a great workout is as close as the nearest high school or college track. If you don’t have time for your regular 2-hour run, you can maintain your fitness level by doing short-duration speed work on the track. Tracks are great places to find other runners as well; it’s a runner’s version of the neighborhood watering hole, only without all the drunks.

Beware the concierge: We know, we just recommended using the concierge. However, we’ve also run into some difficulty after taking advice from desk clerks or other hotel staff. Just because a local point of interest is a short distance away doesn’t mean it’s safe to run there. We’ve both had encounters with the fringe element of society after being steered towards certain parts of various cities by well-intentioned concierges.

In some cities, local running stores provide hotels maps of popular routes, so ask the concierge if they have anything like that. Better yet, ask if he or she is a runner – you can trust the advice a lot better if they are.

Be flexible: Vacations almost always create daily schedules that vary from your regular routine - especially if you are travelling with kids or other friends. You’ll probably have to switch up your regular running times in order to fit in a run. Don’t worry about the change – just take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves to fit in a short workout.

Sightsee on the run: In many cities, you can check out local attractions or visit historic districts or tour scenic parks wearing nothing more than your running shoes. Sometimes a quick early morning run will help you decide what to visit with family or friends later. You’ll know the best route, where the restaurants are, or where the best views are. And let’s face it – sometimes, there’s not much to those local attractions other than what’s visible on the surface anyway. So even if you don’t spend an hour gazing at the world’s largest ball of mud, you can still come home and tell people that you saw it.

Join a race: Occasionally it’s fun to see how you match up against the local competition – so if you were able to find a race in your pre-vacation research, we’d definitely recommend signing up. Racing against strangers is far less predictable than running in your hometown races, where you know before the race even starts how high you’ll place in your age group based on whose cars are in the parking lot. You might enjoy some nice post-race food or make some new acquaintances as well.

The next time you travel out of town, instead of bailing on your training plans, use them to enhance the overall experience instead. It’s relatively easy to plan for, and the results can be very rewarding.


Let's Put On a Race

A few columns ago we lamented the passing of several local races - 28 to be exact. So why is it so hard to maintain a road race, anyway?

For the answer, let’s eavesdrop on the town council of Pancake Flats, as they discuss putting on a local 5K. Maybe we’ll learn a bit about race economics and politics. The Mayor is presiding.

Ms. Mayor: “Let’s schedule the 5K for the first Sunday in May in order to show off our city, bring in tourists, and get our families fit and healthy. Let’s try to get 300 people.”

Minister Brown: “But Ms. Mayor, Sunday is the Lord’s day. We don’t want people staying away from Church.”

Ms. Mayor: “Can we do Saturday then, Rabbi Ginsburg?”

Rabbi: “Vell, I von’t run … but it vill be ok, ve’ll suffer through it.”

Ms. Mayor: “I thought we’d start at the town square and run south on 2nd street and turn around and come back.”

Mrs. Smith: “Then no one will see our businesses on the north side of town! Let’s start at Northside Mall and run to the Town Square instead.”

Ms. Mayor: “If we do that, we’ll need buses to take people back to the start area when the race is over. I’m sure the school district or the transit company will donate them for such a fine cause.”

Mrs. Williams (Head of the School Board) and Mr. Richards (President of the transit company) both speak at the same time: “Hey - times are tough, budgets are restricted, gas is prohibitive, insurance is expensive, we have to pay overtime on Saturday, and you’ll need 8 buses and drivers and the minimum rental is 4 hours. The best we can do is - and this is a bargain - $6,500.”

Mr. Randazzo (head of the Town Council): “While we’re talking about money, even though this is a city event, you need to pay the City’s event fee of $500 and the use fee for the Town Square of $500.”

Mr. Badge (Chief of Police): “For all those road closures, we’ll need a dozen officers for overtime on Saturday to handle traffic control. That will be $2,000. And don’t forget you’ve got to close the freeway offramps at 2nd street, so you’ll need State Dept. of Transportation permits for $500.”

Mr. Clean (Chief of Sanitation): “Make sure we have enough porta potties. They’re $50 each and $100 for the disabled ones. You can never have too many potties. I’ll provide 10 of each at the start and finish areas, and 3 at each aid station. There’s also a cleanup fee at the end. Total cost will be about $2,000.”

Ms. Mayor: “Why do we need disabled porta potties at a race?”

Mr. Clean: “State law, for spectators, and you might have some wheelchair participants. And I almost forgot - we want a Green race don’t we? That costs another $750.”

Ms. Mayor: “Green race?! What makes our race Green?”

Mr. Clean: “We leave no environmental footprint. Just let me worry about that. That’s what you pay me for.”

Mr. Fabrizzi (union representative): “I’ll make you a deal - we’ll charge you rock bottom for setting up the tables and awards stands and everything you need at the finish line. I can get my guys for $3,000. Set up, take down. No worries.”

Ms. Mayor: “This is getting out of hand. Why can’t we just have some volunteers set up the tables?”

Mr. Fabrizzi: “It’s a Union town. That’s how you got elected, Ms. Mayor. No one sets up an event without Union workers.”

Ms. Mayor: “How about you Mrs. Smith - you’re the Pancake Flats running club President. What do the runners want?”

Mrs. Smith: “We expect the Pancake Flats 5K to have all the usual amenities of other races. The course needs to be USATF certified ($1,800) and sanctioned ($300). We want long sleeve technical-fabric shirts for all participants ($4,500), and finishers medals for everyone ($1100). Awards 5 deep in each 5 year age group for both men and women from under 15 to 85 and over ($3,000) are standard. We need large, highly visible mile markers ($1,000). Rock bands at each mile and at the finish area ($2,500) would be great. We also need chip timing and timing mats at each mile so we can see our splits on the Internet the next day. ($10,000). That’s about it.”

Ms. Mayor: “Is that ALL?”

Mrs. Smith: “Well, that’s not counting food - coffee at the start, and a buffet at the finish. Not just the usual bananas, gatorade, and power bars – but maybe free beer, bratwurst, pancakes, or sandwiches. Great food gets you a lot more runners for sure. ($3,000)

Ms Mayor: “And I’d like to ask the City Attorney, Mr. Litigation, what do you think?”

Mr. Litigation: “We need race liability. I’d say about $1,000 for race day insurance. Don’t forget medical support and two ambulances and doctors on duty just in case anything happens ($3,000). And we need communication systems to make sure this all works ($2,500).

Ms. Mayor: “Wow. Is there anything I’ve forgotten?”

Mrs. Smith: “We haven’t mentioned basic race expenses: advertising ($1,000), race bibs ($200), printing of race brochures and entry blanks ($1,500), creating and managing a race website ($1,500), start and finish banners and traffic control signage ($3,000). Most races collect money for charity as well, maybe $10,000 donated to some local causes.”

Ms. Mayor: “I’d like to ask Mr. Balance, our City Treasurer, based on our discussion today to compute what our race entry fee would be to break even.”

Mr. Balance: “Well, we have around $70,000 in expenses and I’m sure we’ve forgotten some so let’s round it to $75,000. We’re expecting 300 runners, so we’ll have to charge $250 for our 5K in order to break even.”

Mrs. Smith: “That’s CRAZY. No runners will show up at that price. The city of Rolling Hills has a 5K that’s only $25.”

Ms. Mayor: “Yes, but our Pancake Flats will be the BEST 5K EVER!”


Listen to Your Doctor

Most of us, at one time or other, have been given the advice “listen to your doctor.” We agree completely, but not the way you think.

It is amazing how many medical doctors and PhD’s in our community are runners. We know running makes you smarter, but in this case it’s the running that comes AFTER the education. These educated individuals know that running is healthy and improves quality of life so they become runners.

So when we “listen to our doctor”, we are usually running beside them, rather than being treated for an illness in their office. Some of our best running advice comes from their experience as a runner.

It’s not the usual advice you would see in any running magazine. They may not even remember dispensing this advice and they certainly didn’t charge us for it, but it has certainly made a difference in our running lifes.

Doctor of Chiropractic, Jay Cook, suggests that as you get older you should always put on and take off your socks standing up. This promotes balance and strength as you are forced to stand on one leg or the other.

He also recommends a subtle technique that we use while running. When you are tired during a run or race, mentally think of relaxing each leg when you lift it between ground strikes. Try this; it really works to give you extra energy during a tough run.

Dr. Jay is the first person that recommended cold water immersion after a long run to speed recovery. After the Saturday morning Carmel run, Jay always wanders in the ocean at Carmel Beach to promote healing his legs. Make sure you take your shoes off before doing this and don’t go too deep.

Dr. Marc Lieberman, when asked how to run a fast race, always says “go out as fast as you can for the first half and then come back faster the second half.” We learned that total effort is required to run a fast race. You have to commit early and pay the consequences by feeling some pain in order to do your best.

Dr. Lieberman, during training runs, is known for grumbling about how tired he is, but always seems to have enough energy to run as fast as he can in the last mile. He says it’s “the horse smells the barn” technique and it definitely makes you a tougher and better runner to try to run hard when you are tired near the end of any run.

Dr. Les Waddel, also a Doctor of Chiropractic, suggests self massage for preventing injuries. We both have tight muscles and Dr. Waddel, many years ago, suggested that after a run it’s great to massage your own muscles that chronically get tight, like the calfs and hamstrings. This promotes blood flow to the area, breaks up scar tissue, and loosens up tight tissue after a run. Don’t care about what people think when they see you doing this. This self-love definitely keeps you injury free.

PhD Jon Geller, is a true student of the sport and is always up to date on the most current and scientific training methods. His source? The internet – . Yes – take a look at Flocast for videos of elite runners and how they train. You can incorporate it into your own training. There are workouts, drills, exercises, nutrition, and a lot of other tips. You can’t run as fast as these elites but you can certainly watch them and learn.

Dr. John Ellison is a medical doctor you want to run with but you definitely don’t want to see him anywhere else. He’s in the emergency room at CHOMP and is the Big Sur Marathon’s chief doctor in the medical tent. The most frequent running problem he sees is dehydration. According to Dr. Ellison make sure you hydrate correctly; not too little and not too much.

Dr. Don King, and PhD Jim Eagle, are the yin and yang of local runners. Dr. King is Mr. Downhill and Dr. Eagle is Mr. Uphill. Dr. King is known for speeding up to warp speed on every downhill while yelling, “no more lolligagging”. Dr. Eagle is known as Mr. Hill Surge and makes a point of running hard on every uphill. He leaves everyone else behind him yelling four letter words. These surging techniques, both up and down hill, really help prepare your legs for marathons and other races.

PhD Doug Colton was the first to recognize that when a runner talked about something that made them angry or agitated they started running faster. We’re sure that you have all noticed that when a running friend starts talking about politics or work or a bad date they naturally speed up; sometimes when particularly agitated your running partner can even exhibit Olympic speed. Dr. Colton realized that he could use this to his advantage in races so he consciously thought of things that made him angry. Try this in your next race and we guarantee a P.R.

Dr. Catherine Hambley is a clinical psychologist and a “super” mom. With four active kids she still manages to balance being a wife, mom, having a career, and running. How does she do it? Dr. Hambley says that Running provides the outlet, health, and energy to make her better at all her other activities. She gets much needed alone and reflective time as well. She prescribes running to her patients and to everyone else as well.

PhD Glynn Wood has been running for 60 years. When you receive an e-mail or letter from Dr. Wood the complimentary closing he uses is “run run run”. So instead of “sincerely”, Glynn Wood, it says “run run run”, Glynn Wood. This closing has all sorts of meaning. It is Dr. Wood’s way of saying keep running, stay healthy, be your best, enjoy your life, do good things for your body, I share your passion, and love. What better way to end a letter and a Running Life column.

Run, Run, Run.


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