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.

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.