Monday, April 11, 2016

A Run In Singapore!

Happy Tuesday! Well, for some of us at least. I am in Singapore this week, traveling with my wife, Darcy, as she attends a trade show here.

Let me tell you, the trip here is an absolute haul. Our flight left Chicago at noon on Thursday, and the first leg of the trip was a 13 1/2 hour flight to Tokyo. We were only there a couple of hours but it gave me the chance to try sushi for the first time, as well as sake.

Both were really good, especially the sake. But man, it certainly doesn't take much to hit you pretty hard!

Next was a 6 1/2 hour flight from Tokyo to Singapore, and we arrived at just after midnight, meaning we spent around 23 hours traveling and experienced a 13-hour time change.

I'm still adjusting to the jet lag, but it's getting better, I don't have the desire to sleep ALL the time, so I'm adjusting.

After spending Saturday getting accustomed to my surroundings, I was up at about 6:30 on Sunday morning and decided to go for a run.

Our hotel is just across the street from the Singapore River, which has a riverwalk that connects to the marina, a place with a ton of things to see and do, along with beautiful views of the skyline.

I had found an old blog someone had written in 2012 where the author described several great places to run in Singapore, and he specifically mentioned the riverwalk. The great thing about the riverwalk is that it connects to the Marina, which has a lot to see and do and has some fabulous views as well.

I made it across the street at about 7 a.m., and I saw that there was a lot of activity going on already, with several people running and riding their bikes.

Actually, if you are going to do any sort of exercising done you have to get it done either early in the morning or late at night. Singapore sits about 90 miles or so from the Equator, so it is hot and humid year round. When I got started on my run it was already 82 degrees with a heat index of 88, and by the afternoon we were sitting at 93 and 106, respectively.

Here is my view when I got started. You can see by the skyline that it was really hazy. When I started running I crossed that bridge and ran on the other side of the river.

I felt the heat almost immediately, and was sweating inside of a minute or so from when I started. I set an easy pace and stopped to take a lot of pictures to try and help myself, but when you have run through a Midwest winter, it's tough.

About a mile into the run I came across a place called the Clarke Quay. It's a long stretch of bars and restaurants right along the river. I'm posting a picture I took when we went back later for dinner. We have actually now gone back there two nights in a row and have had a lot of fun both times!

As I got closer to the Marina, I started to get a much better look at the skyline. Like most international cities, there is a lot of interesting architecture that shows a lot of creativity and vision that I wish we had more of in the US. Between here and Dubai, both of which are "newer" cities in terms of their growth, there is a lot in the design of the buildings that is so inspiring.

Just as I arrived near the Marina I saw a ton of runners as a half marathon was going on! Actually I knew about the race and had been tempted to enter, but couldn't make up my mind before registration closed. In hindsight I'm really glad because even though the race started at 5 a.m. to help with the heat, it would've been a huge struggle for me in these conditions. By the looks of the people running, it was a grind even for those who lived here and were used to it. Although I will say the course would've been pretty cool to have run, it was super flat.

From here I pretty much followed the runners to the finish line of the race -- I didn't blend in, there were barricades up -- as it ended close to parts of the circuit for the Singapore Grand Prix Formula 1 race.

The Singapore race is run on a "street circuit", meaning the city streets are utilized to form the track. The race is also run at night, which is cool as well. There are some permanent structures, though, and they are always accessible, in fact the race's starting line was the starting line for the half marathon. If it stops raining at some point today I'll probably go back there to check it out some more.

 My run pretty much ended there. I had hoped to have run there and back to the hotel, but the heat and humidity had really gotten to me. I took a lot more photos -- which I'll post below -- and took a cab back to the hotel.

All in all, it was a great run and a great opportunity to see the city (or is it country?) from a different perspective. So let's add another one to the list!

States Where I Have Run

Illinois
Iowa
Wisconsin
Minnesota
Indiana
Michigan
New York
South Carolina
Mississippi
California
Colorado
Virginia
Florida

Countries Where I Have Run

United States
Mexico
England
United Arab Emirates
Singapore

Continents Where I Have Run

North America
Europe
Asia



































Wednesday, April 6, 2016

State No. 13 -- Virginia!

I'm going a little bit out of chronological order on this one, since it actually happened a couple of Saturdays ago, but back in mid-March I added another state to the list of places where I have run.

As I have mentioned before, my son Matt attends Benedictine University, and this year their basketball team had a run for the ages, advancing to the Division III Final Four, which is held in Salem, Va.

Since this was such a special thing, Matt and I decided to make the 700-mile trip to Salem to follow the team. We had a great time, and even though the Eagles lost to St. Thomas (Minn.) in the national championship game to finish the
season 31-1, it was certainly an experience we will always remember.

I definitely wanted to get a run in, so I did some research on the trail system in and around the Roanoke-Salem area, and found that there was a place to run just a few minutes from the hotel. It turns out that the area has what's called the Greenway system, which consists of miles and miles of running different routes.

I have to admit, when I woke up in the morning, I was really tempted to bag the run because I was tired and wasn't feeling all that well. It was also really rainy and dreary outside, which made it even more tempting to just stay in bed. In hindsight, I am glad I made it up because I would've really regretted not running.

I messed up the directions so it took me a lot longer than I had hoped to get there, but I made it! It turns out I was at the Hollins Trailhead and was running the Tinker Creek Greenway. Kind of complicated I know, but you can read the details here.


When I pulled into the small gravel lot, I was confused because I didn't see anywhere to run. So I got out of the car to look at the map and realized this was A TRAIL! So not only was I running in Virginia for the first time, I would be getting my first experience on a trail too.

Oh yeah, and one other thing I was doing for the first time was paying to go on a training run. The trail goes into the Carvins Cove Reserve, so there was an honor box and a bunch of envelopes. It was no big deal, only $2, so I fished some change out of the car and away I went.

The beginning of the run goes through a small field and then you reach the woods. Wow, was the trail beautiful! Since it was still mid-March it was just starting to green up, and I tried to imagine what it would look like when all of the grasses and flowers came to life.

The trail wasn't too "technical" as far as trail running goes, it was pretty straightforward and there weren't a lot of rocks and roots to deal with, but it was HARD! I really struggled the first mile, and while the first mile isn't always my best, this was even tougher than usual. It was really hilly, so I stopped a couple of times for some photos, but even had to walk a little bit. It was a little frustrating, but later on I figured out why!

I reached the top of the hill and the view was stunning! The top of the
hill was the entry to the Carvins Cove reserve, and from up there it was a pretty cool sight. It was a bit of a bummer that it was so overcast, but I don't have any views like this where I live, so I stopped to take it in.

Before I made my descent back down the other side of the hill, I had to wait on a couple who were coming up. They were the only people I saw on the trail during my run, and while they were very nice I also liked the fact that I had a couple of "comrades in sweat" on the trail!

I was really liking the trail running thing, and as I got going back down the hill, I realized why trail runners do what they do...for the downhills! That was LOTS of fun! I can't say I was flying down the hill, like my friend Noah, who would've taken it at about a 5 minute pace, would, but I was cruising a little bit.

That part of the trail was a lot of fun, not just because of the downhills, but I also had to navigate across a couple of small creeks and over a couple of logs they hadn't been out to clear yet. I reached the reservoir, where I would turn around, and I had gone about 2.4 miles.

I took a couple of pictures before I started back, and stopped to read an information board that talked about Carvins Cove. It turns out the area was settled by a man named William Carvin in the mid-1740s, and while the town of Carvins Cove had long been abandoned, it had been made into a forest preserve and 270 years later people were still enjoying the area.

During that time it started to rain pretty hard. Honestly, the rain added to how much fun I was having! Heading up this side of the hill wasn't as demanding as the other side, so while it was tough in places I could still keep running, even at a slower pace.


At the top of the hill, I stopped for one more look at the reserve, and also checked my "Height Finder" app on my phone to see how far the climb was from the lake. The app said I was at 1,728 feet, meaning I had climbed about 250 feet from the lake.

I started back down the hill, and the fun continued. The rain had softened up the trail in the spots that were a little more exposed, so I was running through some mud and a lot of puddles. I thought back to what I had just learned about the area, and wondered if William Carvin had as much fun traversing this area almost 100,000 days ago as much as I did.

I'm probably guessing no...after all, he was probably wearing clothes made out of animal hide and was wearing ill-fitting shoes, not to mention he was probably carrying a bunch of gear with him. Maybe he wasn't having a blast, but those early trailblazers and settlers were certainly badasses.

When I finished the run I had gone 4.82 miles in 1:04:44, so about 13:25 per mile. Not bad for a run like that. When I got back to my car I checked my Height Finder app and it read 1,336 feet. No wonder the first mile was so hard, it was almost a 400-foot climb!

Well, that made me feel better about that first mile! And besides, going down was 10 times as much fun as going up, so all things considered I think I showed that hill who was boss!

Getting a run in while on that trip was well worth it, and it added another element to the experience. One thing I decided is that I would love to run in Virginia again and no doubt I'm not going to wait very long to do another trail run!

So here is my updated list, which will be updated again in a few days when I add to my country count with Singapore! Stay tuned for that one!

States Where I Have Run

Illinois
Iowa
Wisconsin
Minnesota
Indiana
Michigan
New York
South Carolina
Florida
Mississippi
California
Colorado
Virginia

Countries Where I Have Run

United States
Mexico
England
United Arab Emirates

Continents Where I Have Run

North America
Europe
Asia






Saturday, April 2, 2016

Viking Half Marathon

Welcome back!

Of course, I'm saying this to myself just as much as I am to you, since this is my first post in six weeks, but I thought a post about my first race of 2016 would be a good place to get started again.

Last weekend Darcy and I traveled to Greenwood, MS for the Viking Half Marathon. I didn't have as great of a day as I did last year, which you can read about here, but it was certainly a fun adventure anyway!

It all started on Thursday. Darcy was in Miami for an investor day, and I was in Bartlett. We had arranged our flights in a way that I would be in Memphis a little before her, which would give me time to get the rental car and pick her up and we would be on our way. Easy, peasy, right?

Unfortunately, weather issues happened! My flight left over an hour late and hers was cancelled, which left us scrambling a little bit. It meant I had to stay in Memphis overnight and pick Darcy up when her flight arrived at noon on Friday. The night didn't end badly, however, as the rental car person must have felt sorry for me as she let me drive away in this Dodge Challenger!

Man I loved driving this car!

Anyway, it was mid afternoon by the time we got to Greenwood, which gave us time to get settled before heading off to a cooking class I had signed us up for. Greenwood is home to Viking Range, and they offer all sorts of cooking classes that are very, very popular. It was a nice coincidence that the class the night before the race was called "Pasta Party", so it was an easy decision to sign up.

What a great class! We made pasta from scratch, made our own spaghetti and Alfredo sauces, meatballs, and we even stuffed our own ravioli. Talk about an amazing meal! All of that was good stuff for the race the next day, but I kind of counter-acted that by drinking a ton of wine, probably not a good idea, but it was for a good cause.

We also met some new friends, the Wombles -- Tom, Rosemary, Tom Jr. and Mary Ruth. They were are partners during the class and were a really fun group to hang out with. Tom Sr. was really goofy, so we hit it off right away, Tom Jr. worked in a restaurant and liked food, so we had that in common, and Rosemary was really funny and she and Darcy had some good conversation.

The Wombles live in Batesville, which is about an hour from Greenwood, and all of them are Ole Miss grads, so they had plenty to say about the food and restaurants in Oxford.

They said when we came down for next year's race we need to meet them in Oxford and taste some of the food from there. I'm definitely down for that.

They are wonderful people and were so much fun to participate in the cooking class with. It was kind of a random thing to be paired up with them, and, no disrespect to the others in the class, I'm glad we were because no one else in the class had as much fun as we did.

They were also there to run as they were all running in the companion 5K race. As we left for the night
Tom remarked that I'd see them at the finish line, which I thought was nice but figured they would be done long before me. More on that story later, but let's just say they cemented their place as true Southerners the next day.

I didn't sleep well, and race morning came a little quickly for my taste, but I've run some great sleep-deprived races before, so I wasn't worried. We got to the finish line about 15 minutes before the race and met up with Brent, who lives in Greenwood and works (or should I say worked -- past tense) for Viking.

I have mentioned Brent several times in this space, and if you read the link from the race last year, I describe how big of a help he was in my race last year.

Brent actually wasn't planning on running the race as he hadn't run more than eight miles since December, when he had IT band issues while running the St. Jude Marathon. He ended up registering the night before,
though, which I was happy about, one, because I was looking forward to running with him and two, Brent is starting a business and moving to Huntsville, AL, so I thought he HAD to run his hometown race!

The race got underway and I could tell pretty early on that it wasn't going to be my day. No doubt I probably hadn't fueled up as well as I should have the night before, but I also had done little training leading up to the race thanks to some knee left pain that had been nagging me for a few weeks.

I had planned on approaching the race as more of a training run anyway, but even with that philosophy going it was tough to find a pace that I was comfortable running. Fortunately, the Viking course is pancake flat, and most very beautiful, so I tried my best.

One of my favorite places on the course is a bridge that goes over the Yazoo River. Runners cross the bridge twice, once at about the 5K mark and again at the end.

It's just one of those old, historic looking bridges that seem to fit well with its surroundings. As you can tell, I can't really explain it, I just like going over the bridge.

The bridge also leads to Grand Blvd., which is the main street in town and has lots of neat old homes. What makes it even more beautiful is that, unlike at home, the leaves are coming out and everything is starting to green up, so it has a nice, fresh look to it.

I wish my running was looking as well as Grand Blvd., but I just wasn't feeling it and I could tell by
my splits that I was beginning to slow down. I was walking through the water stops, which were at each mile marker, but by mile 7 I was walking in between the water stops too.

It was OK, though, it was such a beautiful day (temps were in the 60s) and I was having some good conversations with Brent, and by that point I decided I was just going to enjoy the day and the course and make the most of it.

Around mile 9 I could tell Brent wanted to pick up the pace a little bit, so I told him to go on ahead. I ended up doing a bit of walking between mile 10 and the finish, but I also stopped and took some photos and talked to the locals along the course.

One house was really funny as there was a family sitting in their driveway and a little boy was there tooting an air horn as each of the runners came by. I stopped and cheered for him -- and gave him a lot of encouragement
-- and he gave me two or three blasts. He was really cute!

I also took some photos of a couple of houses along the route. The first one was just a house I saw as stunning, and the second because it was a house that appeared prominently in the movie The Help, which was filmed in Greenwood in the summer/fall of 2010.

I've only seen bits of the movie, so I'm not sure what all of the locations represent, but Brent pointed this one out to me last year. He said the owner doesn't
have the time, money -- or inclination -- to keep the house up like it was in the movie, which is kind of unfortunate, but understandable.

I took another long walk at the mile 12 water stop to talk to a guy who recognized by my accent -- or lack of one -- that I was from up north, and it turned out he had lived in the Chicago area for a long time before moving to Greenwood over 20 years ago. Small world.

Anyway, I just kept plugging along and the end of the race drew near. I
crossed the bridge again and made the left turn onto a brick-paved road to the finish. I immediately looked up and saw Darcy (who had met up with me at three different places on the course), Brent, and the Wombles, and they were all cheering loudly! I gave them a wave and it was a nice way to finish the race.

The Wombles had cleaned up in the 5K as both Toms and Rosemary won age group awards! I was really happy that they stuck around to cheer for me

Overall I finished in 2:34:29, which was a bit disappointing but I'm not going to dwell on it. Unlike back in my past, I can now run a race that, although I may not be totally happy with, I can still enjoy the race and my surroundings and the process. I had a great time last weekend, and a tough day on the course doesn't change that.

I mean, come on, I had a great new adventure with my wife, drove a sweet car, learned more about how to make Italian food (my favorite), caught up with an old friend and met some new ones. Can't have a weekend much better than that!