Monday, July 28, 2014

A vacation doesn't mean a vacation from running

Virgin River at dawn

We spent last week on the Oregon Coast. We spent our days playing in the tide pools, exploring lighthouses, flying kites, and eating ice cream. And before the rest of the family rose from their beds, I went for a run on the beach.

For many people, a vacation is a time to take a break from the rituals of everyday life. For me, as a mom, I love having some time off from cooking and making beds, but one ritual I try to stick with is exercise.

I have a couple of rules of thumb when it comes to exercising on vacation:

1) Get out there. My very favorite part of going on vacation is exploring a city on foot. And going on an early morning run gives me a chance to
Not a tourist in sight
scout out locations to take the family later in the day. The added bonus? There are no crowds at five or six in the morning. In the last year, I've seen the sun rising off South Beach in Miami (where I also had the chance to run with the Raven). I've run on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco when the only other people out there were actual fisherman, and across the Golden Gate Bridge when the only other people I saw were the security guards. I've seen the first boats getting out on the Columbia River, with Mount Hood as a backdrop, run for miles along the banks of the Virgin River in St. George, and circled Central Park when the streets of Manhattan were eerily quiet. I even did a long run along the rim of the Grand Canyon, where my headlamp only slightly minimized my fear of either falling off the side or being picked off by a hungry cougar. In my opinion, there's no better time to explore the Vegas strip than at six a.m., when my only companions are those staggering back to their hotels after
Sunrise at Ghirardelli Square
having fun all night long.

Of course, sometimes this approach backfires. Last summer, we spent a few days at Sundance, and I went on an early morning trail run on some of the hiking trails. I picked one I thought was relatively easy for the family to explore later in the day, and the kids spent at least two hours cursing me, as I'd misjudged the distance on our "easy" hike. I also thought it was perfectly acceptable to take my seven-year-old on a walk from Times Square to the Guggenheim and back. She wasn't quite so sure, and needed some ice cream to give her strength about halfway back to the hotel.

2) Just get it in. While I love to get out and explore a new place, there are times when hitting the hotel gym is more practical. When Annie and I
6am, Golden Gate Bridge
were in Las Vegas in the winter, I didn't want to leave her alone in the hotel to run the strip, so I put in some time at the gym at Vdara. When we
travel to China, I am way too chicken to run on the streets (the pollution, the language barrier, and the likelihood that I might get lost all make the gym look like an extremely attractive option). Once, while marathon training during a cruise, I did an eighteen mile run on a cruise ship treadmill.

Last week, I was too lazy to venture out one morning when it was pouring, and found myself doing speed work on a treadmill that afternoon (in a very, very hot room with no fans where none of the windows would open) while the rest of the family had some down time at the rental house. When we were in Miami, I mixed up my normal running routine by taking some of the fabulous classes at the Fontainebleau, and Annie and I
112 step cool down 
went to a yoga class together in Vegas. When my mom and I travel together, we climb hotel stairs, and walk halls when there's no gym or the
treadmill gets boring. When we went to Alaska on a cruise a few years ago, people on our ship nicknamed her the "walking lady" because she spent so much time walking the decks. While the gym can get crowded and an unfamiliar machine always takes some getting used to, it's definitely better than nothing, and even if I get kicked off a machine before I get my regular eight miles in, it's still worth it to do as much as I can.

3) Go with the flow when it doesn't happen. At home, I don't miss runs. I get twitchy and cranky if I can't run before the kids wake up, and 99% of the time, I will get a workout in sometime during the day, even if it means I have to stop a hundred times to break up fights or I have someone
Grand Canyon Rim Trail
sitting on my back while I'm planking. It's super fun for all of us. (Did the sarcasm come through in that line?) But on vacation, sometimes it's
impossible to get a workout in. When we went to New England in June, I only ran one day. My friend Leslie, who was hosting us, lives in a town where all of the roads are narrow and twisty, and we were usually getting out to explore early, and Ed wasn't with me to keep the babies, and all of those things made early morning runs more effort than they were worth. On Saturdays, I usually do longer runs. This Saturday, we got in the car at 5am, and finally pulled into the driveway at 8pm, and there's no way I was going
Sunrise over Miami Beach
to hop out of the van and run twenty miles at that point. Other days, getting in a vacation workout might inconvenience our travel plans or the rest of the family's fun. So sometimes even I
can be flexible, and I do my best not to lament the loss of my run, or to skip out on ice cream and wear a long face when everyone else is indulging.

Exercising on vacation can be tricky, but for a regular runner like me, I know that I feel better when I make the effort to work out. And on the days when I can explore a new place, it often turns out to be the highlight of a vacation.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Review: The Painter by Peter Heller

Title: The Painter
Author: Peter Heller
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Library Copy
Content Alert: Violence, a sex scene, some strong language

For the first time in his life, Jim Stegner seems to have found a bit of peace. He grew up rough in a family of loggers in the Pacific Northwest, and found unlikely success as a painter. He did time for shooting a man in a bar fight, divorced the love of his life and the good friend who followed her as his wife, and still hasn't recovered from his teenage daughter's death. But now his work is selling well, he's not drinking, and his cabin in Colorado is a place where he can work and fish. Then he comes across a man who's beating a horse, and the old Jim temper flares, and he soon finds himself running for his life and risking others along the way.

There's plenty of action and drama in The Painter, but it's ultimately the story of Jim Stegner's character and of his ghosts. The writing is lovely and poetic, and the story is gritty and powerful, and I was completely engrossed reading about his process of creating art. Jim is a fisherman and a painter, and I found that both of these occupations worked as metaphors for the writing in the novel. It's patient and unhurried, and a reader must be patient and unhurried to enjoy the story. I'm glad I took the time The Painter deserved.