Travel

How to Travel: #BlueRidge Marathon Edition

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!


Let me get something out from the onset. This post was supposed to go live last Thursday night and I thought for sure I had hit publish late Thursday night. I did not. Boo on me. As a result, you’re now in for a treat – my pre-race travel tips…from the future…about the past. Don’t worry, I’m confused as well. Enjoy the post!


If you’ve been following me (here, Instagram, Twitter, etc), you probably know that I’m heading to Roanoke, Virginia this weekend for the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon. I won’t lie – I’m excited AND slightly terrified for this one, the reasons for which are best summed up in my OTHER preview post. However – and again, no big surprise – it really was only a matter of time before one of these race weekend preview posts inevitably focused on the travel aspects associated with such a trip. So, here are some of the tips, tricks, and best practices that put into action to make my race travel as easy as possible.

Plan Ahead

Once I’ve finally determined what race I’m going to do, I have to figure out two basic things: 1) how to get there, and 2) where to stay. Without these things sorted out in advance, the trip can get more hectic and more costly. For this particular trip – happening TOMORROW mind you – I sorted out both of these details more than a month or two ago.

First, how to get to Roanoke.could have opted to fly, but that would have involved leaving (and paying for) a car at the airport, being at the airport 2+ hours early on BOTH ends of the trip, checking a bag (I usually don’t, but depending on the trip it could happen), renting a car, and navigating from the airport to my accommodations. I’ll pass on all that, thank you very much! I’ve opted instead to drive the 6(ish) hours from my home just outside of Columbus, OH. It will allow me to travel on my terms and take breaks when I like, eat what I need/like, and so on. The obvious downside is being awake and driving for 6 hours, but I’ll take it. All it costs me is gas and a little money for the West Virginia turnpike – thank goodness my car gets pretty decent gas mileage!

So, how’d that whole driving thing go? It wasn’t too bad. The drive down felt like it went fairly quick. Minimal stops, no delays on the roads, decent weather. The trip BACK to Ohio, however, was the driving equivalent to watching a sloth – slow and not very exciting. LOTS of stops to stretch, hydrate, and walk. 

After making that decision, I have to figure out where to stay. The initial and probably more obvious option is a hotel relatively close to the center of the action. While this is great and probably offers more amenities, there’s also very likely a higher price tag that comes with it. For such a short trip and for as little as I’ll actually be in the space, I don’t need all that a hotel offers. For the Blue Ridge Marathon, I secured a really fantastic location via AirBnB. I’ve had really great success in the past – we used the service for our honeymoon in 2014 – so it was definitely worth a look. My rental is less than a mile (a 15 minute walk) from the start/finish line and for less than $90 for one night. This is HUGE for me because proximity to the start/finish, overall cost, and ease of access were paramount. Obviously, everyone’s preferences are going to vary and specific needs will dictate what type of accommodation work the best, so do your homework and find what works for you and your specific situation.

How was your AirBnB? It proved to be a GREAT decision. Perfect location in reference to the start/finish and super simple. There were the essentials and that was it – bathroom, shower, tv, bed. I was only there for a night, so that’s all I needed. Hands down, one of the best AirBnB’s I’ve ever booked.

Have a Plan? Good. Be Prepared to Throw It Out Because Things Happen

This piece of advice applies to many aspects of life – not just travel – but it does bear repeating. Whether you are a seasoned business traveler or a casual leisure traveler, being unfriendly or just plain rude can come back and bite you. If your flight is delayed or you get stuck in traffic, etc. – trust me, there are other people experiencing the same issue(s). Know your plan, but be ready to ditch it. Thankfully, I didn’t need to do this. I had things laid out in such a way that there were contingencies in place, but didn’t need them at all. The plan actually workout and I had an amazing weekend! Be patient even when your patience is tested to the max. Finally, be flexible. Sometimes the best experiences come when you have to call an audible. Keep these things in mind when traveling, because occasionally, you may find yourself being rewarded for it in the end!

Whether you are running the Blue Ridge Marathon, the Boston Marathon, or anywhere in between – here’s wishing you all a fantastic weekend of racing!

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Blue Ridge Marathon Preview

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!

Want to take on the challenge of “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” yourself? Click HERE to register and use the code BLUERIDGEBIBRAVE save 20% on registration.


In less than 2 weeks, I’m going to make the trip south/southeast to Roanoke, VA for the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon. It’ll be my first big road race of 2019 and, as a preview, I thought I’d briefly jump in and talk about the things I’m excited about for race weekend…and maybe a few things I’m less than thrilled about…so let’s go! Just a heads up: you can continue to follow my journey to Roanoke and how race weekend goes over on Instagram and/or Twitter.

Excited #1 – New State.

About a year or so ago, I laid out a goal to run a marathon in each of the 50 states. To date, there truly has not been much traction to get this goal knocked out. However, I did get state number 2 – New York – in 2017, which will make Virginia state number 3. It should be noted that I have been to Virginia before, just haven’t run a race there of any kind. Definitely still have a long way to go on this one, but the fact that I’m no longer at one anymore is definitely a plus.

Excited #1a – Running on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Did I mention we get to run on the Blue Ridge Parkway? I’ve never even DRIVEN on that stretch of road. I’m always up for visiting another iconic American motorway – even if I’m not necessarily going to drive it!

Excited #2 – HILLS.

I know – this one seems out of place. Hear me out though. What good is a race if it doesn’t offer a challenge? This course offers some pretty tough hills that will absolutely challenge my climbing ability as well as probably make my quads feel like someone took a meat tenderizer to them when it’s all said done. It should be noted though that my current marathon PR was on one of the hilliest marathon courses in Ohio…so, here’s hoping that hill magic carries over to Blue Ridge!

Excited #3 – Bo-Berry Biscuits.

Let’s be honest, this has NOTHING to do with the race itself. Having lived in the south (North Carolina) for a few years, I fell in love with FOOD. One particular treat my wife and I thoroughly enjoy is the Bo-Berry Biscuit from Bojangles. We love them so much that we picked up 3-4 cases of them on the way back from vacation on the NC coast a few years back. So, my apologies to the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon for this last one not really anything to do with the race, but we don’t have the privilege of Bojangles locations in Ohio AND you have to know I’m going to want to eat everything I can find after the race!

Not-as-excited #1 – The inevitable BONK.

Throughout January and February, my training was pretty on point. I was diligent as far as ensuring that I got a workout in and, for the most part, stayed on schedule with the training plan. Then March arrived and the wheels came off and the plan got pushed aside. No definitive root cause here, just a lack of discipline this time around. With that in mind, I know that at some point on this course I am bound to experience a pretty gnarly BONK which does not excite me. However, I’ve run enough races at this distance to know how my body reacts and how to overcome. It’s not so much that I’m anxious about the BONK (trust me, I am) – it’s being anxious over how I’ll tackle it.

Not-as-excited #2 – HILLS.

Speaking of things to tackle at this race…HILLS. Let’s be honest here, they aren’t hills so much as they are MOUNTAINS. Look at a map of Roanoke – they’re called MOUNTAINS and there are THREE of them on this course. This race has the most elevation change of any road race in the US – 7,400 feet! I thought a certain marathon in Cincinnati was a good primer, but everyone I talk to says that’s not quite a valid comparison. If my training had gone a little more according to plan, I may not be as concerned, but it hasn’t. Now I just have to wait and let the race play out.

Not-as-excited #3 – The drive.

This one, I did to myself. I opted to drive to Roanoke, which I’ll do the day before the race after a full 8-hour shift at work. However, it didn’t make sense to fly and all the hullaballoo that goes with it would just add to my stress level. Driving, though, allows me to make my own course corrections en route if needed and allows me to travel at my own speed – not dependent on an airline schedule/delays. It’s not exactly a short drive, but far from the longest amount of time I’ve spent in a car at one time. On the brightside, it does allow me to stop and snag up some biscuits…

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So, there you have it – my brief mid-afternoon preview of my trip to Roanoke next week. I’m looking forward to keeping you updated on prep leading up to the trip next week as well as all the happenings of said trip.

Until next time – keep striving!


Want to take on the challenge of “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” yourself? Click HERE to register and use the code BLUERIDGEBIBRAVE save 20% on registration.

Review: 2017 Akron Marathon

Originally shared over at BibRave.com, the following is my review of the 2017 Akron Marathon – with some slight alterations here and there. Enjoy!

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OVERALL: First and foremost, this race – nay, the entire Akron Marathon Race Series – is incredibly well organized. I can not express how amazing the organizers were at communicating information, updating their web presence, ensuring that the race series app was ready to go – the list goes on and on. It seemed like every little thing you could think of was thought of and planned for.

EXPO: The expo was a streamlined event for sure. Runners collected their bibs and “swag bag” in the first of two large convention halls, before moving on to take the obligatory photo with their bib & the race backdrop. After this, participants moved on to the vendor side of the expo. SO MANY VENDORS! Great showing from a TON of upcoming races, local universities, non-profit organizations, and so on. Near the end of the serpentine path that wound through the expo was where runners collected their official race gear, which included a 1/4 zip finisher pullover and lightweight running hat for the marathoners. Just being honest, I’ve worn my pullover every chance I had since race day!

BONUS: Three words: KARAFREAKIN‘ – GOUCHER. I had the opportunity to meet and chat with one of my favorite runners of all time. She’s incredibly humble and does so much for the sport. Hands down, one of the absolute highlights of the weekend!

RACE DAY: 
Parking – There’s a fair amount of parking, set up by which event you are running (full, half, or relay). My wife and I drove past the first marathon-specific garage (a block from my corral) and had no problem accessing the next one, only two blocks from the start line. Easy in, easy out.

Start Line Area – Unlike the two prior events in the race series, the Akron Marathon holds to a strict corral system. This ensures that runners start where their ability level dictates! Minus some minor bottlenecking getting INTO the corrals, moving around the start area was very easy. Lots of music and (thankfully) an abundance of porta-potties! Race started on time without incident and we headed out!

The Course – thriving with spectators at all points, offering boundless encouragement, cheers, smiles, and hi-fives! However, the course is also a challenging one, with varying elevation changes throughout – especially in the second half. There are definitely more significant hills on this course than what I am used to in the relative flatness that is the Columbus, OH metro area. This fact alone had me quite nervous about how this marathon was going to pan out! Thankfully, coming around a corner at just before mile 24, I realized that the 16-weeks of training had put me in unfamiliar territory – coming VERY close to cracking 4 hours. Ultimately, I finished in 4:06 – setting a nearly 40 minute PR. I think it’s safe to say I was ZIPPING (nod to the Univ. of Akron there) through Akron!

The Finish – First off, you finish the race on the home field of the Akron Rubber Ducks – a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians – which is pretty darn awesome.

Canal Park in Akron, OH on race day

Echoing my previous statements about the crowd support – there is an AMAZING crowd to cheer you in at the end! Always makes for a great feeling. Navigate away from the finish line, snag up your medal, and head over to the post-race party – or Finisher’s Festival – which was AWESOME. Live music on stage, beer, pizza & other food all out on the outfield. Can’t ask for too much more than that. On your way OFF the field, you can snag your SERIES FINISHER medal (and medal hanger) if you’ve completed all three events (1-National Interstate 8k & 1 Mile, 2-Goodyear Half Marathon & 10K, 3-Akron Marathon, Half Marathon, & Team Relay).

Walking away from the finish with my wife, I was racking my brain to identify anything I could critique about this race – and I couldn’t! Almost two weeks removed from the race, I still can’t. If you’re looking for a well-organized, friendly, and challenging event – come check out the Akron Marathon. I truly believe that you will NOT be disappointed. Thank you, Akron Marathon, for a great event and an even better race series!

 

Honeymoon Chronicles: AirBnB

For our trip to Europe, we had a lot of decisions to make – such as where to visit, how to get there, and so on. One of the bigger decisions was deciding where to stay. Rather than go with hotels, hostels, or camping, we decided to try something completely new to us – AirBnB.

AirBnB Explained

AirBnB is quite simple – you’re traveling and need a place to stay, but you don’t want to stay in a hotel. Individuals list their apartments, private rooms, or couches on the site and you can browse the listings to find what suits your needs.

Another way I’d explain the concept of AirBnB is to utilize the idea of home-swapping – where you and someone at your destination swap living spaces for a set period of time. The difference, however, is that a full home swap isn’t necessary. The video clip below from the movie “The Holiday” gives a fun (yet not entirely realistic) example of the home-swap concept. Obviously, for more specific information about how AirBnB works, check out the AirBnb website.

Our Criteria

There are a lot of really fantastic places listed on AirBnB by some rather fantastic people. On the flip side, there are also a lot of…well…not so great listings as well. As mentioned prior, listings on the site are for 1) entire apartments, 2) a private room, or 3) a couch to crash on. When it came time for Tammi and I to decide on where to stay – seeking out apartments, mind you – we looked primarily at the following as our deciding criteria:

Pictures / Description – “You only get one chance to make a first impression” and the first thing one sees when searching through the listings are photos. What does the place look like? Is this a place in which we would feel comfortable actually living for an extended period of time? Is it welcoming or does it make us cringe? Are there multiple photos or is it a one photo and floor plan? Additionally, there should be a decent description of the property. Does the description match the photos? What is the neighborhood like?

Amenities – We really weren’t super picky here, but we did have three non-negotiables that needed to be met in order for a listing to move forward.

  • Washer – Backpacking our way through this trip means packing as minimalists. No dryer is fine – clothes can air dry after a wash. No washer, though, could smell…er, spell, disaster.
  • WiFi – Tammi was just offered a new position prior to our departure from the states, so she needs to be able to keep in touch – especially with her school year starting quickly upon our return. Additionally, I’m still searching for a new position myself (higher ed, non-profits, etc). So yes, we should be disconnected for this trip, but it just wasn’t feasible. However, we’ve managed to keep our online time to late evenings and travel days, allowing us to really enjoy our trip to the fullest. Another plus of having access to wifi in the apartments? It has made uploading photos to our Dropbox backup much easier!
  • Bed Size – Honeymoon jokes aside, we wanted beds that we could both easily sleep in without a fear of 1) smothering the other or 2) falling out on to the floor because of a tiny little bed.

Distance from Public Transport – Our travel through Europe is via train, so we needed to find listings that are close enough to public transport to make our trip a little easier. We’ve defined public transport, in most cases, as a metro line (subway). In other cases – such as our stops in Amsterdam & Munich – it was more a question of how far the apartment is from the central train station.

Overall Cost – We could have easily stayed in nice hotels the entire trip. However, by using AirBnB, we actually ended up SAVING money. I’m not going to go into great detail on the particulars, but know that on average, we saved probably close to $50-100/location by avoiding hotels. Plus, this gave us the added bonus of actually living like locals for a few days.

…and finally, Reviews – It should come as no surprise that we looked for places with positive reviews. We wanted to stay in places where people had positive experiences and had great things to say. No reviews at all? Thanks, but no thanks.

Our Experience (so far)

We’re still on our trip – currently on the train from Berlin to Munich – and thus far our experience has been great. Our hosts have been fantastic about responding quickly to our messages and, in some cases, have been good about checking in with us in advance of our arrival. A few of our hosts have even surprised us with a bottle of bubbly in the fridge – their way of congratulating us on our marriage!

Your AirBnB experience might differ from ours, and that’s okay. We’ve enjoyed it and would recommend giving it a shot – even if you just use it for a weekend getaway in the states.

Until next time…

Honeymoon Chronicles: “WiFi Guy”

A few nights ago during our final night in Paris, we stopped for dinner at a cafe that we had enjoyed the first night we were in town – Cafe le Dome. What made it even better was that we had the same waiter again! But that’s not the point of this post. The point is what we witnessed while sitting at our outside table.

A young man, perhaps in his mid-20’s(?), was walking by and fiddling with his phone. He approached a member of the wait staff, as if to inquire about a table for a bite to eat. However, what came out of his mouth instead just kind of shocked us.

“Can you give me the WiFi password?”

That’s it. No request for a table. No please or thank you. Not even an attempt at asking in French. Just a very blunt and arrogant request. Of course, and without losing a beat, the waiter in question responded as one would expect – with a very direct “NO”.

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Now, before I go any further, let me say that Tammi and I have not been completely disconnected on this trip. She has needed to keep up with things related to her new teaching gig (WOO!) and I have continued my job search. We’ve also been utilizing Dropbox as a dumping ground/back-up for all of our photos. The difference between us and this fellow as it would seem is that the vast majority of our online activity on this trip has happened at the end of our day, when we’re back at our place and about to pass out – not while wandering the streets, possibly missing out on awesome moments.

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But that’s not the end of the saga, as it got kind of weird after that. The young man, who I will again refer to as “WiFi Guy”, then proceeded to ask the waiter if he could access the WiFi if he made a purchase. He just seemed desperate at this point. The waiter ignored him, I think – my back was to both of them by this point, and the young man persisted once more to no avail. He left soon after, frustrated, mumbling and still in search of his precious wifi. Tammi and I were just dumbfounded by the whole exchange.

Now, in his (limited) defense, “WiFi Guy” could have had a very legitimate reason for seeking out access to the web. It could have been for any number of reasons, but it just seemed as if he had taken an epic selfie and was desperate to post it.

Moral(s)of this story?
Make an effort to disconnect while abroad as much as possible. I say this as I blog, but again – this is during our down time before or after heading out for sightseeing. Enjoy what is happening around you.

Oh yeah, almost forgot – Don’t be a dick to locals in a foreign country over a wifi password. Your selfie can wait.

Until next time…

Honeymoon Chronicles: Our European Adventure

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As some of you might know, I got married (just shy of) two weeks ago to my amazing partner-in-crime, Tammi. The whole weekend was fantastic and the day of the wedding went incredibly smooth. We are truly thankful for the friends and family who joined us in celebration as well as for those who couldn’t join us, but who celebrated from afar.

A few days after the wedding, Tammi and I left the tiny hamlet of Lodi, Ohio and headed toward Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to begin our honeymoon. We decided that we did not want to go on a cruise or even to a location in the Carribean. We don’t see anything wrong with these locations at all and we know plenty of people who have had amazing honeymoons in these places, but they just weren’t for us. Instead, we chose to trek across Europe – which is where I am right now, writing to you from our apartment in Amsterdam.

So far, our travels have included:

  • Cleveland to Detroit to Boston
  • Boston to London
  • London
  • Paris
  • Amsterdam…with Berlin, Munich, and Switzerland up next prior to returning to London and then heading back to the states.

Tammi is, by far, the primary travel blogger for our trip – having composed a series of posts documenting our travels and experiences. If you’re interested in checking those out, go ahead and click here. As far as my own writing, I have a few posts still in the queue – term I definitely look forward to continue using once we get back home – that need to be finished and posted. Some of those are honeymoon related, some are not. But I digress…

As you’d probably expect, we are definitely taking quite a few photos of our travels. To date, we have easily snapped over 900 photos between our DSLR camera and our two iPhones (in permanent airplane mode until we’re back in the states). If you are linked to either one of us on Facebook, you can look forward to seeing a pretty decent chunk of those photos upon our return.

Well, I think it’s time to go find a local watering hole and enjoy the evening sights and sounds along the canals of Amsterdam.

Until next time…

Convention Recaps

It’s March and that means convention / conference season for many people. And yes, there are actually other things happening in the world right now besides college basketball – though you wouldn’t be able to tell based on my location (Dayton & Indianapolis). But I digress…

March is prime conference season and this means attending professional development conferences such as ACPA – where I am now in Indy – as well as attending regional conventions of Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma – where I was this past weekend in Dayton and two weeks ago in Atlanta. Busy to say the least, but definitely learning a great deal throughout.

What I hope to do is recap some of the information I’ve gained as a result of attending all of these events over the last few weeks. As an alumnus of Kappa Kappa Psi, I still find that I learn more and more about my organization and how I can help it grow. As a student affairs professional seeking that next gig, I’m building on my existing knowledge base and figuring out how that will allow me to better serve students.

So I hope that you’ll stay tuned over the next week or so as I clean up my notes, put thought-to-keyboard, and re-live some of the highs (and hopefully not many of the lows) of the convention season.