Friday, December 15, 2017

Race Report: California International Marathon 2017 (AKA The Surprise PR!)

Posted by Chen

I’m going to be real trite here and say: Is this thing on?

It’s been nearly 2 years since I last posted on this blog, and I have to say – I miss the days of documenting our training and telling stories of our experiences (and mishaps) along the way! As such, I thought I’d pop back in and write a race report for my 6th California International Marathon (CIM) and 32nd marathon overall, which happened a couple weeks ago on Sunday, December 3rd.

Going into this race, I felt calm and strong, but given that I had also been run-streaking for 243 days, I had major doubts about whether I’d truly been able to taper while running a minimum of 3.1 miles every single day. I wasn’t stressing about that, though; I had very few expectations and figured it would just be an interesting exercise to see what happened when I trained for a race by streaking. After 31 marathons, it’s always good to mix things up J.

Despite my tempered hopes, I also knew that my training runs had gone pretty well this cycle. Between the Santa Rosa Marathon in August (during which it was a million degrees and I slogged through to a 3:56 finish) and CIM, I had 12 weeks of consistent tempo work and long runs, with several track/interval/hill sessions thrown in there for good measure. It was nice to see progress again after ~2 years of generally mediocre (read: lazy) running, and while I still thought my PR days were behind me prior to this race, I figured I would try for a BQ time (which for me in 2019 meant a 3:40, or a 3:36-3:37 if I wanted to guarantee a spot). Aging up has its perks!

One thing I love about CIM is that it’s relatively close to the Bay Area, making for a pretty casual race weekend routine. I’ve run this race every year since 2011 with the exception of 2015, which means I know exactly where I need to be and when. As a sometimes neurotic planner, that knowledge helps me minimize any logistics-related stress.

My general CIM weekend schedule consists of a shake out run Saturday morning, heading up to Sacramento after lunch, checking into my hotel downtown, walking to packet pick up at the convention center, and then finding delicious carbs as well as an adult beverage or two. And that adult beverage is key. Important part of training. This year, I did exactly that, and I found some very tasty Thai food at a place called Chic on Q. If you’re ever in downtown Sac-town, I highly suggest you check them out!

While we ate dinner in our hotel room, Will and I started watching a ridiculous movie (Unforgettable) with Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson that may as well have been on Lifetime. It was awesome in that awesomely bad kind of way, so I obviously had to stay up way too late to see how it ended. And it was actually kind of fascinating and I’m glad I did. But with that, it was really time for me to get my ass to bed, and I managed to fall asleep quite quickly.

Race day

Race morning came with an early wake-up call of 4am so that I could get ready and catch the 5am busses to Folsom, where the race would begin. For those not familiar with CIM, it’s a point-to-point course from Folsom to downtown Sacramento with a net downhill of ~400 feet and rolling hills throughout the first 21 miles (it levels out after that). I love rolling hills because they allow me to mix up my muscle usage, which for me means I fatigue less quickly. That said, this course is often billed as being a fast one and good for Boston Qualifying, which some people take to mean that it’s flat or all downhill. I assure you it is not! It certainly doesn’t have the hills of San Francisco, but be prepared for lots of little ups and downs.

Another thing I love about CIM is that they allow you to stay on the warm, heated busses until just before the race start (7am). That was a particularly nice feature to have that morning given that it was in the upper 30s, and we weaksauce Californians can’t hang with that. We arrived in Folsom around 5:50am or so, and I was still so sleepy that I ended up taking a legit nap until 6:20am (you know you’re relaxed pre-race when that accidentally happens!).

When I woke up and saw that I was one of maybe 3 people left on the bus, I decided I should probably get this show on the road. Perhaps the thing I love the MOST about CIM is the seemingly never-ending line of porta-potties that they have at the start. It seriously takes many minutes to walk from one end of the porta-potty row to the other, and as a runner whose worst nightmare is pooping my pants mid-race, it’s like a fantasy come true. I found a line that seemed shorter, made it through within 20 minutes, reluctantly took off my warm sweats, and bag checked my gear.

I headed towards the starting area and found the 3:37 pacer, figuring I’d stay somewhere around that group for a while. I don’t actually like running WITH pace groups, because I find people can be oddly territorial about their position near the pacer, and in crowded races with narrow streets, it can be impossible to get around them. However, I knew the CIM course well enough to know that the streets would be wide enough for me to find my own space while still having someone to follow.

The national anthem was pretty cool this year, as it was played by the trumpet player from Cake (who I never knew was local to Sac-town!). That was followed by another gem of a moment, when just before the gun went off, to pump up the crowd, they played “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. I was moderately obsessed with that song back in 2012 (just ask Rachel about the shenanigans I pulled at her wedding), and it was another hint that maybe this would be a good day.

The gun went off at 7am sharp like it always does, and I promised myself I would follow my (loose) plan of keeping it VERY easy for the first couple miles before settling into a steady pace. I clocked in at 8:16 and 8:20 for my first two, which was definitely faster than I’d planned for, but the effort level was right. After that, I naturally picked up the pace to the low 8’s, which was again faster than I’d anticipated, but it felt quite easy, so I went with it.

One thing I noticed early on was that even though I was picking up my pace, the 3:37 group was still in front of me, meaning the pacer was WAY ahead of goal time, and I knew from that point on that I couldn’t rely on him and needed to monitor my own Garmin. PSA to pacers everywhere: Don’t be like that guy.

I don't actually have any idea when this photo was taken. Let's pretend it was taken early on.

Although I was keeping my effort steady, I noticed that my pace slipped to the 8:1X’s during miles 7-9, which normally would have made me nervous, leading to all sorts of self doubt and negative thoughts. One thing I’ve tried to work on with my running lately is my mental game, and I think that played a huge role in my ability to PR that day. Instead of worrying that I was already falling apart before mile 10, I reassured myself that I was still running at an easy effort and that my slip in pace 1) wasn’t that dramatic (like, seriously, Chen – get a grip), and 2) probably had to do with the hills at that point in the race. That tactic worked – I let it go, and I subsequently saw my pace drop back down into the low 8’s after that. And if I did see an occasional mile in the 8:1X’s, I reminded myself that this entire race had already gone faster than anticipated and that I was still feeling good.

1 – 8:16
2 – 8:20
3 – 7:58 (downhill)
4 – 8:03
5 – 8:02
6 – 8:04
7 – 8:11
8 – 8:14
9 – 8:11
10 – 7:57

Mile 10 is one of my favorite moments in the race, when you make a big turn in Fair Oaks and see a ton of people cheering and screaming their faces off for you. Marathon spectators are the best (and marathon volunteers are the bestest). That turn is quickly followed by one of the largest and longest climbs of the race, but I put my head down, reminded myself that I lived in SF for 8 years and that this was nothing, and got over that hill at a steady effort.

This was definitely taken like two seconds after the photo above. Again, let's keep pretending.

After that, I fell into a groove, and things were generally a blur through the middle miles. At that point, I had thrown away the disposable water bottle that I always start with, meaning that I had to actually utilize the water stops. It's always comical during a goal race when you don’t want to waste too much time stopping, so you try to run through them but just end up spilling electrolytes all over yourself. Word to the wise: Just stop, drink, and start up again. It doesn’t actually take that much extra time, and you end up in a much more hydrated place J.

11 – 8:01
12 – 8:08
13 – 8:02
14 – 8:01
15 – 8:11
16 – 7:55
17 – 8:02
18 – 8:05
19 – 7:57
20 – 8:04

I remember hitting the area around 19 or 20 when they always have a large inflatable brick wall for you to run through, and I was amazed at how strong I still felt. This is usually the point in a race when I know if I’m going to negative split (a rarity) or if I’m going to blow up (yep, usually), and this time, I told myself that this was where the real race began.

Another part of my mental game focus has been telling myself that marathons are supposed to hurt, and that when the pain sets in, you should just expect it and embrace it, rather than let it get you down. So when I slowly picked up the pace further into sub-8:00 territory and finally started feeling the fatigue that I normally feel in marathons, I let it happen, told myself it was normal, and kept going.

At this point, I had long passed the 3:37 group and was coming up on the 3:32 group, and I started to do some mental math. A PR (which at the time was 3:31:12) still seemed out of the question, but I figured something in the low-to-mid 3:30s was still possible, which would far surpass my expectations for the day, and that gave me an extra boost.

It looks like I'm trying harder in this photo, plus it's sunnier out, so let's assume this happened later in the race.

It wasn’t until mile 24 that I realized a PR was actually possible (I was still in disbelief/shock about that even as it was going down in front of me), so I decided to give it everything I had left and ran my last 2.33 miles at tempo pace, which I never imagined I could do at the end of a full marathon. As I made the last turn towards the state capitol, I sprinted it in and crossed the line with a new PR of 3:30:51. Even as I received my medal and post-race treats, I was still in disbelief but also incredibly elated with the entire race experience.

21 – 8:04
22 – 7:59
23 – 7:53
24 – 7:54
25 – 7:37
26 – 7:24
26.33 – 7:02

Overall time: 3:30:51 (8:01 Garmin pace, 8:03 official)

Yay for free race videos from which you can steal a free screenshot!

As I said before, I legitimately thought my days of PRing were over (because let’s be honest, we’re getting old here), but after this race, I’m eager to see if I can finally run a sub-3:30. This has been a goal of mine since marathon #2 (goal for marathon #1 was to simply not die), because there was a time in my life when running a single sub-8:00 mile seemed impossible. To hold that pace for 26.2 would mean a lot to me, and I think I can do it. I just need to do what I did this time and not flake on my speed work every single week J.

In terms of what’s next, I’ve been keeping up the run streak (today was Day 256!) but plan to keep it easy until the New Year. At that point, I’ve signed myself up for a strength training program and am really eager to see how that impacts my running. I will likely sign up for Mountains 2 Beach in May and then CIM again in December (creature of habit), so I’ll have a couple of shots on goal in 2018.

Until then, I plan to consume my body weight in wine. Every week. Cheers, and happy holidays, everyone!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Review: TrainerRoad training plan - Olympic triathlon base

Posted by Rachel 

I've had TrainerRoad for a couple of years, but usually only select the workouts that I like. It doesn't mean they aren't hard, but I always pick them because I know they're doable. They're in my comfort zone even if they're painful (if that makes any sense). This year I really need to get better at cycling, so I decided to let TrainerRoad tell me what to do.

I cycled for several weeks before beginning the Olympic triathlon - mid distance base phase. It is a 6 week plan that has a mixture of workouts. There are a couple of notable workouts that I was forced to do that I never would've chosen before.

Shasta - a workout that has short 20-sec intervals at 200% FTP. I never would have thought 200% FTP is even possible, but I was happy to find that it wasn't too bad!

Galena- This is one I NEVER would have selected, 3 x 20 min intervals between 90-94% FTP. It appears twice during the training plan - the first time I almost died doing it, but the second time went pretty well!

Phoenix - 75 min at 80-85% FTP. Pretty boring, but forced me to practice aero, and much easier the second time than the first.

Overall, my FTP went from 189 W to 201 W, an increase of 6.3% in 6 weeks! I'm pretty happy with this, except for one small thing... makes the build phase SO HARD. I don't like 120% of FTP, it's not a fun place to be, but it looks like I'll be spending a lot of time there. I did the 2nd workout of this phase on Wednesday and thought my legs were going to fall off. It will be interesting to see if my FTP will increase again - I'll report back!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Biking and running in Burgundy-Beaune, France

Posted by Rachel

Happy 2017, everyone! I have a couple of posts I've been meaning to compose for a while, and this biking/running in Burgundy is one of them. I started posting about exercising in each of the spots we visited in France for many reasons: for people planning to visit who wanted to see some of the options, for any family/friends who were interested in more details about our vacation, and for my own documentation and reference. I'll probably skip posting about running in Paris because I don't think we found anything non-obvious (ie. we ran along the river). Beaune, however, was a different story. It was awesome exercising in Nice because I LOVE the ocean, but admittedly it wasn't that radically different than California. Beaune probably topped Nice in biking and running uniqueness.

Looks like wine country!

To understand why biking and running in Beaune is so much different than California even though we too have plenty of vineyards, there is a key point to understand about Burgundy. Instead of having discrete large plots of properties owned by single families or groups as we do in Napa or Sonoma, Burgundy is more "communal" where a family or group owns a few rows of vines in several of the micro-regions spread throughout Burgundy. This is important because it means that there is a lot more public access between/throughout vineyards. In fact, they basically invite you to travel through the vineyards.

Around the town, it was fairly easy to find maps highlighting the options for different run distances.

Snapshot of a map we brought with on us our phones. The map was prominently displayed in a town park.

For one of our runs we decided to follow the green route through the vineyards and it actually reasonably well-marked (though we still did take a couple of wrong turns). The run was a combination of paved and trail, and it was moderately hilly.

If you ran through someone's vineyard like this in the US I'm pretty sure you'd be asked to leave. Or shot. 

I should note that there is also a paved bike path and it's easy to run a simple out and back on that as well (more details below). But even though I'm not much of a trail runner I did enjoy the wine trail adventure.

Photo from the solo morning run I did a different day on the paved bike trail. Someone had drank too much wine the previous day to accompany me on the run, and I didn't trust myself to not get lost on the trails. 

Biking in Beaune was SO AWESOME! The paved dedicated bike path through the vineyards in shown in the picture and easy to find from the town.

Veloroute la voie des vignes

The trail goes for miles and there are small towns every 2-3 km to stop for water, food, cafe, wine, etc. I don't think there's much need for a guided tour if you want to do this ride, the signage is very good. I'm not good enough with words to describe how cool this ride is, so I'll just inundate with you captioned photos.

Vineyards for miles

Sometimes the vineyards were surrounded by brick walls built thousands of years ago - the age of everything built here is SO much older than California

Headed into one of the towns

Wine cellar that we happened upon during our ride. It was a little creepy at first because nobody there spoke english and they were just leading us into a dark basement. Luckily when we got there it was filled with wine and not torture devices or anything else creepy. And nobody stole our bikes from outside while we were down there... another bonus.

In summary, if you're in France and you like wine, running, and biking, you can't go wrong with a stop in Beaune. I'm sure there are equally awesome wine/bike/run places in France, but we can highly recommend Burgundy based on our experience. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

RnR Las Vegas Half Marathon: Race Report

Posted by Rachel

A year ago the most unlikely thing happened! My phone buzzed and it was a text from my little sister, saying "I'll sign up for the Las Vegas half marathon next year if you do it, too." WHAT?!?! Miss "I don't run unless someone is chasing me!"? The obvious answer was a resounding yes. So that's the story of why I signed up for this race.

Over the course of the year we got a bunch of people on board. My mom signed up for the half - her second. An aunt and uncle from NY had never been to Vegas and signed up for the 5k. My dad, his cousin, another aunt, and Travers (who is perfectly capable of running but just didn't want to) all came along for the ride. It was shaping up to be a fun weekend.

And it was! After a long week of drinking following the most disappointing election I could possibly imagine and my 33rd birthday the following day, we landed in Vegas on Friday night to continue the party streak low-key at my sister's place. Afterward I hit the BlackJack table with my dad and a $20 bill... and walked away half hour later with $30! Winning!

Saturday I continued to spend time with the family. The bad thing about a Sunday night race is having it hanging over your head the whole weekend, but on the plus side I had just PR'ed a half two weeks ago and didn't really care much about this one. So we walked around Vegas quite a bit, and drank, with a stop at the High Roller.

 Great views from the High Roller

Mid-day tequila + observation wheel = winning combo!

Sunday was a little less fun as I had to figure what and when to eat to avoid a total disaster in the evening half marathon. I really just felt like I was waiting for time to go by until we could run the stupid thing. Finally though, it was almost time, and I was SO EXCITED for my mom and sister to run too!

We wore neon so our fans could spot us... but it turns out everyone in Vegas wears neon

The event kicked off with a one hour Snoop Dogg concert. I wouldn't ordinarily attend a Snoop Dogg concert probably, but it was pretty fun, and he was good as far as I could tell!

Drop it like it's hot

A few classics:
1.) Snoop: So marijuana is legal here. Who is f-ing high right now?
     Me: Ummm...does this guy know what he's doing here?
2.) Snoop: What do you all like to drink while you're running?
     Crowd: Gin and juice!
     Snoop: What?!
     Crowd: Gin and juice!
     Snoop: [perplexed] Gatorade?!
3.) Snoop: expletive-expletive-derogatory comment about women-expletive-explicit comment about women
      Me: This guy should go for president! 

After managing to get through the concert without a contact high (thank you fellow runners), which is more than I can say about some of my training runs at Lake Merritt, I left for my corral. At this point I was NOT excited to run a half marathon, but as it became dusk and the strip started to light up I had to admit it was pretty cool. 

Let's go!

The plan was to just run comfortably the whole time. After running minimally since Healdsburg I was surprised to find that 7:3x pace was coming pretty easily, so I decided to roll with it. The course had a lot of entertainment which was good because there were a lot of distractions. I hadn't studied the course at all and I didn't know where the full marathoners were supposed to separate from the half, so once in a while I'd find myself surrounded by full runners and enter a brief panic that I had accidentally joined the full course. That would've been a nightmare. Luckily, I did not, and I just kept going along my way.

It was about mile 10 when a 7:3x pace stopped feeling so fantastic. If you look at my splits mile 11 is about 20 sec slower than miles 5-10, which is clearly where I was thinking "f- this, why am I pushing myself?" But then I started doing math and I realized that if I DID go back to 7:3x pace I would finish sub-1:40. I think I have some sort of compulsive disorder because there's no reason to go sub-1:40 two weeks after 1:34, but I found myself pushing it anyway. Somewhere in mile 12 I saw my family cheering and waved excitedly! (My dad said I looked like I wasn't even trying or sweating. False. Well maybe I wasn't sweating because I was super dehydrated and my face was caked with salt, but I was definitely trying.) I finished the race in a 1:38:59, for some reason stopped to have a coughing fit, and then made my way through the finisher's chute back toward my family.

After drinking several liters of liquid and going to the bathroom many times, I was getting ready for my mom and sister to run by. I am a total rule follower, but I had this grand plan to jump back onto the course and finish with them. It was making me nervous just thinking about it, but I couldn't think of anything more awesome than finishing a run with them. So my aunt was tracking and once I knew their estimated time to pass, she left to head closer to the finish. I had Travers with me - he actually stuck around to take a video of my rogue behavior. We waited and waited, both looking for my mom and sister so I could jump in, and then we got a call from my aunt saying we had missed them. I was SO disappointed :( Lesson: it's really hard to find people in a race with 36,000 runners. At least we got to meet up with them at the finish line.

We did it!

One thing my aunt noticed when we were tracking my mom and sister was that something had gone wrong with my tracking and the app said "location unknown". I definitely installed my D-tag correctly as this wasn't my first rodeo, so I'm not sure what went wrong. While we were at Shake Shack two of my training buddies texted to make sure I was ok, which was really thoughtful :) The 'unknown location' ended up with me having to submit a results correction, which after review the RD agreed to correct my time but listed by start time as the front of my corral rather than where I started. So my official time is slightly slower than I actually went, which really isn't a big deal but ever so slightly bothers my compulsive side :) 

Afterward my sister really wanted to go to the club, and she had just finished her first half marathon, so I complied.

Party time

Did I mention that I had a 6 am flight the next morning and had to go directly to work? And that we had work all day/all week and dinner plans Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after work? Needless to say, I barely exercised this week and it was exhausting anyway. 

I probably wouldn't run that race again. I always prefer to get the race over with and then have fun the rest of the trip - not the other way around! But a huge thanks to my family for coming out to support - great to see everyone! And big congratulations to my mom and sister!!!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Healdsburg Half Marathon race report

Posted by Rachel

Ok, so I know I didn't finish my 'exercising in France' series, but I have to interrupt that for my race report before I forget the details of this past weekend. Wine will do that to you.

This is my 7th (?) year running this race and it is always one of my favorites for the social part. Each year we register a big team, Running for the Win(e), and ever since a couple of our good friends moved away this is one event that they regularly return for. So no matter what happens in the race, it's always great times with great friends! The fact that the race is located in one of my favorite areas of wine country is just an added bonus.

In terms of running, I wasn't quite sure what to expect this year. I had a great summer of triathlon racing, but had a nice bout of shingles in August followed by 3 weeks in Europe in September. I ran through all of that, but just not very fast. When I returned I had 5 weeks until the race and I diligently did my speed and tempo workouts. I had a couple pretty terrible "long" runs, but more or less I figured that on a good day I should be able to be in the neighborhood of my PR from last year (1:35:37).

The day before the race I fueled up with an oreo milkshake, a nostalgic drink that I used to have before big swim meets when I was a kid (I told my mom it helped me swim faster, ha!). My rebellious husband fueled up with wine, brandy, and beer.

The key to fast swimming. Jury is still out on whether that much dairy the night before a run is a good thing.

The morning of the race was a little rainy but not too cold. After a short warmup we were off! At first I just ran a comfortably hard pace and I seemed to be in the ballpark of last year, if not a few seconds per mile faster. I met a girl, Lauren, who kindly introduced herself after she realized we were running the same exact pace for the first few miles. Not that we had the energy to chat, but she seemed really nice and running with her helped me keep pushing the pace for the majority of the race. Little did I know that my own husband was only yards behind us, using us as pacers. You're welcome ;)

Feeling good...a solid thumbs up for the photographer. Disclaimer for anyone who doesn't know us that guy behind me is NOT Travers.

There was a timing mat at the halfway point and I looked down at my watch, and I was at 47:27. Innnnteresting. An even paced race would land me a 1:34, barely. Idea planted. Unfortunately I was also getting tired, but I tried not to think about that :p

A weak thumbs up to the photographer, but I am starting to fatigue...

Sometime in mile 9 Travers caught up to me and my new friend Lauren - he said he had been trying to catch us for miles. I introduced them and we chatted very briefly before the hill at mile 10. The hill was WAY more miserable than I remembered. I ran up it with Travers in silence, suffering. As we neared the top, there was a guy vomiting his guts out for at least a minute, but all of a sudden he was done and just kept running. A terrible sight but much worse for the guy I'm sure. I thought that was the top but it wasn't. The slope eased up but the hill kept going and going and going. A strange sensation considering I've run that course 3 times before and didn't recall this much misery. When the course started angling downhill, Travers started pulling away. I felt like death. Maybe I should've fueled with beer and wine and brandy!

Miles 11.5 to 13 were really, really hard. I wanted to walk but knew I was treading on breaking 1:35. I started talking to myself and asking myself hypothetical questions: "If you come in at a 1:35:00, are you going to look back thinking you left 1 second on the course? If so, RUN HARDER." I tried to run harder by pumping my arms, but I think in reality I was just flailing wildly. I wish I had a video of myself running at this point because it would probably look ridiculous and I could caption it "A swimmer trying to run", which would hopefully explain my random arm movements. When I got to mile 12.5 I just tried to think about the hardest 800 I've ever done and kicked it in. There is a final turn and then a long straightaway to the finish chute. I looked at my watch...1:33:high...can I run that far in a minute? I was sprinting so hard and coincidentally also closing in on Travers. After another minute of misery, I finished the race in a 1:34:51 - a 44 second PR!!!!!!!!!!!! and 3 seconds behind Travers.

This face says it all - the joy of a PR wrapped up with the misery of a 13 mile tempo run

One really cool thing was that Meb was in the finisher chute giving high fives. WOOHOO! I felt kind of lightheaded and really spaced out so I said thanks to him and congratulated him on his Olympics and babbled something about him being inspirational. Hopefully I wasn't the only nonsensical babbler that had come through.

After the race it was the best part - WINE TIME. It's always a bummer when it rains during the wine festival because they move everything indoors and it's quite cozy, but it was awesome to hang out with everyone. We had a team of about 16 people or so and a few additional fans. During the awards a couple of really cool things happened: (1) my first running podium (3rd place AG) and the award was a bottle of wine! and (2) a first place team victory for Running for the Win(e) and the award was a half case of wine!! Talk about a great day!

The reason I run this race

Getting my award wine (ie. standing next to a girl who is WAY faster than me)

Running for the Win(e) teammate won his age group!

Our crew had two rental houses, and later that night we had dinner at the other rental house. It was an isolated house on the Russian River with a comically harrowing drive. Parking wasn't close to the house and the walk to the house was like something out of the Blair Witch Project, but we survived and had a great time with friends.

Wine country. Fall. The best.

It was such an awesome weekend, and we have quite a busy social calendar ahead in November! This means I'll be taking it easier on the running & exercising front, but I'll be picking up cycling and a stricter training routine again in December. But maybe not too strict because the holidays are a time for celebrating :p

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Running in Lyon, France

Posted by Rachel

As promised, I'm slowly making my way through our France vacation, specifically the most active parts (and believe me, there were plenty of inactive parts). Lyon was an interesting place. There were tons of awesome trails and parks for running. However, since it seemed like pretty much everyone in the city was a smoker, I'm not sure how they were also runners.

Lyon is a city on two rivers and the Rhone has a fantastic running path on its east side. I'm not sure how far it goes since our longest run in Lyon was 6 miles, but it seemed to stretch quite far.

If running isn't your thing, this path is also lined with barges that are actually bars. 

Heading north on the Rhone, there are a lot of cool paths next to the river. Some of them were pretty isolated, but it didn't seem to be sketchy. 

There is also a park that looked fantastic for running - Parc de la TĂȘte d'Or. We tried to find it on one of our runs and somehow missed it (don't ask how - it is gigantic). However, we walked to it later on which is when I realized it really would've been perfect for running.

From Lyon we took a day trip to Annecy, France in the French Alps. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been - HIGHLY recommended. While we didn't swim, bike, or run there, we easily could've done any of the 3.

Unless you count pedal-boating as biking

And a few more pictures of Annecy, just because. 

I'd love to go back here and bike around the lake and do some of the hikes. We'll see where our future journeys take us.

And that's it for Lyon. Next up: Burgundy!!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Swim/bike/run in Nice, France

Posted by Rachel

Last month Travers and I were fortunate enough to be able to spend two weeks of vacation in France. We went to 4 different places in France and each one was uniquely awesome for at least one of swim/bike/run, so my plan is to make a post for each place. At the rate I blog this will probably take 6 months to finish, but hopefully it will be helpful to anyone visiting the area (or anyone who is interested in our vacation).

This is an easy one. Nice is right on the deep blue Mediterranean. As far as I could tell, you could hop in anywhere other than a boat lane (which are well marked by buoys). Unfortunately for me I chose the windiest (and choppiest) day to open water swim, but despite getting tossed around it was still awesome. I went for about a mile until I decided that sitting on the beach with a drink would be more appropriate for vacation.

The little speck in the middle is me swimming out. Looks calmer than it was. The water is SO BLUE!

We rented some decent road bikes in anticipation of having to climb a few hills on the ride from Nice to Monaco. We really had no idea what to expect and I couldn't find great information about the availability of bike lanes between the two places. While it turns out that there wasn't a well designated bike lane the whole way, the drivers were very aware and respectful in terms of space. Probably better than California's drivers, which in hindsight shouldn't come as a surprise... France is the country of the Tour. The most terrifying parts of the ride were a few short tunnels we had to go through, but we made our way through them without incident. Anyway, on the bikes we were able to get some awesome views of the coastline we wouldn't have otherwise seen. The ride was ~13 miles each way with ~700 feet of climbing each way, and I highly recommend it. My only regret- wearing shorts from Old Navy instead of proper bike shorts. Chafing. 

Absolutely stunning views on the ride

Bike lane looks ok here

Here's a link to my Strava if you want to see the route we took for this ride. (Yes, I know... we weren't winning any speed awards here. We were on vacation! And also, I'm not a cyclist.)

There is a pancake flat bike path along the beach which is spectacular for running. I couldn't believe how many other runners we saw in Nice at all times of the day. Besides being a little bit humid, this place is paradise for running.

Running at dawn 

Ventured away from the pancake flat beach path to run up a hill for the views. Worth it.

Summary: This place is awesome.
Next up: Running in Lyon, France