Travel

(I’ll Be) Back Home Again In Indiana: Indy Mini Preview – Part 2

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (and Delta Dental 500 Festival 5k) 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!

Make sure to download the Indy Mini app (iOSAndroid) to track me and my fellow BibRave Pros on race day (May 4)!


Growing up, kids and their parents share a lot of special bonds. For some, it’s special bond made from the shared love of travel. This is true of me and my mother. Our travels, and the subsequent stories, are world famous. The special location trips (like Niagara Falls, San Francisco, Mexico) and road trips across the country. Or that time we went to Europe for a few weeks – her first trip to Europe and I got to be the guide. Yeah, those were some damn good times.

For many though, it’s the special bond that is built with one (or both) parents by going to a major event – like a concert or a sporting event. As someone who grew up in southwestern Ohio, my dad and I built one such bond of our shared love of watching the Reds in Cincinnati. In 1994, our focus changed – at least in the month of May – from baseball – as dad was able to obtain tickets to the Indianapolis 500 and we found something else which became not just a shared love for US, but for anyone we had the opportunity to share it with.

Dad and me at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

From our first 500 in 1994 until our last in 2002, the Indy 500 became our annual tradition. I haven’t been back to the track in MAY since 2002. 17 years. So, when the opportunity came to opt-in to run the OneAmerica 500 Festival Indy Mini, there was no way I was going to pass that up. NONE. 

I get to run 2.5 miles of the course actually on the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? 

I get to take in the view of our old seats from the freakin’ track itself? 

I get to cross (and likely, stop, kneel down, and kiss) the fabled “yard of bricks”?

Bonus: I (might) get to snag a moment with Olympic Marathon gold-medalist, Frank Shorter?

YES PLEASE. However…

Beyond all that, this race – and specifically the lap around the track – is more than a novelty to me. It brings back fantastic memories. EARLY morning wake-ups, breakfast via McDonald’s drive-thrus, parking under a PNC Bank drive-up window, and the long walk from 38th & Georgetown down to the Speedway. It reminds me of the people we used to share the seating area with – the same people around us for 8 years. While we didn’t really know each other or even connect outside of the 500, we always felt connected on that one Sunday in May.

The last 500 we attended was in 2002. That was a week before I graduated from high school and I was fortunate to share that last race with both mom and dad. I was able to have the best of both worlds – the love of traveling (definitely got that from mom) and my love of all things racing (thanks for that, dad). As a runner trying to run all of the World Marathon majors, a marathon in all 50 states, and a race in all 88 Ohio counties – I’d say the special bonds I built with my parents have carried over into my love of running for sure.

***

Tomorrow, I’ll run the Delta Dental 500 Festival 5k (7:00am) and then the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon (7:40am). Want to track me and my fellow BibRave Pros? Make sure to download the Indy Mini app (iOSAndroid).

Indianapolis was never my “home”, but this weekend it almost feels like a homecoming of sorts. All because of 250 laps, 33 drivers, 8 races, and one amazing race course.

Time to start your engines! See you in Indy!

 

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Indy Mini Marathon Preview

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (and Delta Dental 500 Festival 5k) 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!

Make sure to download the Indy Mini app (iOSAndroid) to track me and my fellow BibRave Pros on race day (May 4)!


25 years ago on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, I wasn’t sleeping in or reading the funny pages on  Sunday morning. Instead, I found myself experiencing one of the greatest thrills of my life – sitting in the stands at the 1994 Indianapolis 500. To my 10-year-old self, the Indy 500 was HUGE. The race course – massive. The drivers – giants of racing. It was phenomenal. From my first 500 in 1994 until the last race I attended in 2002, Indy was my “home” for one awesome day in May. 

The view from one of my first Indy 500’s, as evidenced by the OLD pagoda!

I’ve been back to Indiana and even to Indianapolis in the years since 2002, mostly for conferences, but this trip though will be different. This weekend, I’ll be “back home again in Indiana” to take on the Delta Dental 500 Festival 5k AND the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. I’ll get to run in a place that means a lot to me – which I’ll dig into later in the week. Like with any race though, there are always things for which I’m excited – and here are just a few!

Running the Double

Those familiar with IndyCar should also be familiar with the term “double duty”. This refers to a driver attempting to complete the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 – 1100 miles of driving – on the same day. That’s comparable to driving from Boston to St. Louis (approximately 1180 miles) with only a 2.5 hour nap after the first 500 miles. I think I’ll pass…

Apply that idea of pulling “double duty” to running? Runners eat that up. So why not run a 5k (3.1 miles) and then follow that up with a half marathon (13.1 miles) immediately after? Well, that’s what I intend to do on Saturday. I’ll start my race day at 7:00am with the Delta Dental 500 Festival 5k, which I’ll likely approach as a warm-up, and then get right back to the start line for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.

This will mark the first time I’ve ever run more than one race distance on the same day since I competed in track in high school. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about it, but I will get it done! Perhaps I’ll even lock down a PR in the half (sub 1:40 would be fantastic)!

Orange is the New Orange

The Indy Mini is one of the most popular races around – heck, it was voted #1 Half Marathon in The BibRave 100! Speaking of BibRave, that’s the reason I’m running this weekend. This will be the 3rd event I’ve run as a BibRave Pro and every time I have had an absolute blast. Aside from the races themselves, the best part of race weekend is getting to link up with my fellow BibRave Pros that are also on site. Whether we are running officially to help drive the orange brand or just happen to be running and wearing BibRave gear, being able to put faces to names in person is awesome. This weekend, I’ll get to run with William, who I met a few weeks back at the Blue Ridge Marathon, as well as a few others who I haven’t met IRL, but we’ve chatted back and forth in our Slack channels. My experience as a BibRave Pro – testing & reviewing gear and running & reviewing races – has been fantastic, but being able to have a core group of people to connect with and share our love of running has made it something I truly enjoy.

2.5 Miles

I’m okay with running on flat courses, hills, trails, tracks, and so on. It should be noted that aound the halfway point of the Indy Mini, the course gets PANCAKE FLAT. Why? I saved this one for last for a reason – we get to run a complete lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! I’m sure you figured this out by now, but I had to put it to text.That 2.5 mile track is one of the greatest sports facilities in the world and I get to run there. Excited is a freakin’ understatement! I am going to attempt to go for a decent time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I let up just a little to enjoy the view and the experience or running around IMS for a bit. Plus, the MEDAL has some MASSIVE references to the race – can’t wait to earn it and perhaps even the bonus medal for being one of the first 500 across the line!

Back Home Again…

Indiana was my home for a hot minute in the late 1980’s. My family moved to Ft. Wayne, not far from where I was born in western Ohio. I don’t remember much about those years, but what I do remember always made me feel like I was at home. My time in Indiana as a “resident” may have been short lived as a youngster, but I will always feel at home when I hear “Back Home Again in Indiana”. Even though that particular song isn’t necessarily part of Indy Mini weekend, it is the first thing I think of anytime I find myself back in Indianapolis.

Back home again in Indiana
And it seems that I can see
The gleaming candlelight still shining bright
Thro’ the sycamores for me
The new mown hay sends all its fragrance
From fields I used to roam
When I dream
About the moonlight on the Wabash
Then I long for my Indiana home

From the 1994 Indianapolis 500 Pre-Race Ceremonies – my first 500:

 

Will YOU be back home (again) in Indiana this weekend at the Indy Mini? If so, let me know on social and perhaps we’ll be able to link up as well! See you in Indy!


Looking for some other things to get excited about for this weekend’s Indy Mini? Check out this list of 13.1 things to look for during the Indy Mini from 9-time finisher & 3-time ambassador, Chris Day!

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!

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…

***

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.

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…

Three’s Company

Don’t be confused. This post has nothing to do with the once popular television show of the same name. However, it does have everything to do with the number three.

Two weeks ago, I began what I refer to as “3 trips in 3 weeks” (or #3t3w for my Twitter friends). It started with a trip out west to visit my mom, followed by a trip to Oklahoma for the annual Bedlam football game between Oklahoma State and OU. I’m actually completing this post on the aircraft back to North Carolina as we speak and, by the way, Oklahoma State won 44-10. The end of #3t3w is next weekend for a graduation celebration. While the first two trips have been great, and I am sure the third will be as well, I have picked up a few travel tips (3 to be exact) to share which have made my own trips much easier and enjoyable.

    TIP 1–Forget Checking a Bag

Unless you are planning to be traveling for more than 5 days at a given time, you can likely get by with just a carry-on sized bag or combination of large carry-on (check at the gate) and a smaller one (take on the plane). How is this helpful? First, it helps you avoid the need (or want) to overpack. I am notorious for packing more than I’ll actually use on a trip. However, when using just a carry-on, I definitely getting better at identifying essentials. Secondly, utilizing only carry-on luggage will help you avoid paying obnoxious bag fees AND/OR almost guarantee that you will never come close to going over the “50 pound” rule. Third, and finally, a carry-on bag is with you throughout the trip. With the possible exception of waiting in the jetway for a few moments to retrieve your bag (remember, you may have checked it gateside), you can grab your bag and head to your connecting flight or straight to the exit. How about that – 3 tips within one tip.

    TIP 2–Download Apps Dedicated to Travel

Depending on the platform (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc), you should be able to download some type of travel related apps to help keep you organized for your trip. Of course, this tip is useless if you’re still using that Zach Morris phone from the mid 90’s. Keeping with this post, I would recommend 3 in particular. The first app I would recommend is TripIt. It’s not perfect, but this app scans your email (once set-up) for travel related content and then places all necessary information in one convenient location, which is also available offline. The #2 app I’d recommend is actually a tie between Wi-Fi Finder and AroundMe. Wi-Fi Finder does exactly what it says, locating paid and free wi-fi locations. You can also download the compete database for offline use. AroundMe is a great app to highlight the most searched for services in a given area, especially if you have never been to your destination or want to try something different. Finally, the final app I would recommend is the app for whatever the airline you happen to be utilizing for your trip. Some carriers, such as Delta, allow for check-in right from the app. Better yet, there is a digital boarding pass, which can be scanned at security as well as at the gate. I used this app today and found that it worked quite well. Hey Delta, how about that for positive review. You’re welcome.

*break from writing -landing to catch connecting flight*

    TIP 3–Do Your Homework

There is nothing worse than not knowing your way around, especially in a new city. The same can be said for amusement parks, visiting your great aunt Rose’s house, and airports. Case in point: a gentleman a few rows behind me on my connecting flight, who flew into the airport we just left for the first time ever, was extraordinarily grumpy because people could not answer his questions in the terminal. I feel for the staff in the terminal more than the gentleman on my flight because he could have easily done his homework about the airport ahead of time and avoided his frustration. While I am almost certain there is more to the story that I am reporting, it presents valuable advice – do your homework, know your options, and be patient. Hey look, another set of 3.

Well, at least for this trip, this ends my dive into “travel blogging”. Regardless of where your travel plans take you, enjoy the journey and safe travels.