Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Cycling

Spectating Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant

IMG_2094

Pros beginning the swim course on Lac Tremblant

Occasionally, a day is well spent just watching athletes do what they do. Rather than lining up at the start or supporting a friend through a race, its great just to observe and cheer. 

So it was today when we set out at 7 a.m. to arrive at Lac Tremblant for the 8:00 swim start of Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant. It was warm for an early summer morning when the Laurentian Mountains usually require a light jacket. 

The sparkling, flat surface of Lac Tremblant, helicopter overhead, fighter jets making a pass as the pros made their way into the water, was a beautiful and exciting start.

 

IMG_2097

 

 

 

We stayed at the beach until the 50+ women left the shore (these are my people). From the beach, we walked a trail to the base of Mont-Tremblant where the swim/cycling transition takes place. By the time we reached the transition area, the pros were already on the bike course.

 

IMG_2102 (1)

We cheered age-group participants as they emerged from the water, searched for their bike location, made any wardrobe changes and took a bit of nutrition before biking off.

IMG_2105

Some bikes remain in place for participants still finishing their swim

 

We then found our way to an excellent breakfast, lazily relaxing  until we conjectured the first finishers would begin arriving. This spectator role is beginning to grow on me. Before the finish area became too crowded, we left the comfort of the restaurant’s terrace and found a shaded view near the finish. Last year’s winner Lionel Sanders (Canada) finished first with a time of 3:47:31, nearly five minutes ahead of second place Trevor Wurtele (Canada). Trevor’s wife Heather placed as second woman  (4:17:08, 15th overall). First woman finisher was Holly Lawrence (Great Britain) with an impressive time of 4:08:53 (10th overall).

IMG_2109

Finally the finish line

 

Deciding that five hours of observing was enough and with other commitments calling, we walked back to the shuttle for a ride back to the parking area. As the bus slowly made its way on Chemin de Village, we could see many of the age groupers on the hilly run course. It’s a beautiful route, but under an unusually warm sky at 1 p.m. and little shade, runners were having a tough go. Cooling sprinklers were set up along this portion of the course and I could see aid stations and medical tents along this section of the route were well supplied. I lost sight of runners as they looped around the train station (now an art gallery) and on to the Petit Train du Nord trail to their turnaround. For the first time during the day I felt uneasy, sitting in relative comfort of a shuttle bus as runners were struggling and toughing it out through those last few miles.

IMG_2104

The sign says it all

 

Checking online results, I see two women in my age group (F65-69) finished the race (6:30 and 7:59). Were in not for a lack of swim and cycling expertise, I would love to be doing this event with them.

I hope every participant has an opportunity post-race to soak in the great food and beauty this region has to offer following their hard-earned finish.

 

Advertisements

Whirlwind Wedding Days in Montreal

How often does the opportunity present itself to enjoy a number of the most fulfilling things in life in a single weekend? Things like family, friends, flowers, food, travel, music, and, of course, running. All this was wound around wedding activities of my godson and his beautiful bride in the vibrant city of Montréal.

Wedding at La Toundra

Wedding at La Toundra

If Montréal is not on your “cities I must visit” list, please consider adding it. And since the wedding couple shared a few favorite restaurants and other locales during their Wedding Week, I will in turn share them with you.

Nil Bleu – An Ethiopian restaurant with beautifully presented food and a soft ambience.

credit:

credit:

The pre-wedding day dinner was relaxed as we casually worked our way from the appetizer tray to many other courses that followed. The details of each course escape me now as I was enjoying seeing old friends and meeting new. Never fear, though. This recent review in MontrealResto captures the ambience of Nil Bleu, as well as the aroma and flavor of the food.

La Toundra was the locations of the lovely afternoon wedding  surrounded by blooming gardens and a Grand Prix race course (we arrive not in a Formula 1 but in a taxi).

After a beautiful ceremony and reception, we called it a day and returned to Hotel de Paris, Unknown-1our charming, historic lodging. It’s a great location, modern amenities in each one-of-a-kind guest room, and close to all of the wedding venues. Should you be adventuresome enough to decide on something more interesting than what the major chain hotels can offer, this is a good choice. But, come in good shape on the off-chance (ahem) you are assigned a 3rd floor walk-up room.

Le Passé Composé A post-wedding day brunch was arranged at this wonderful corner bistro with art-covered walls, large windows, old wood flooring, and of course wonderful food. IMG_0916It was a casual morning crowd and an inviting menu. IMG_0905I stayed with the traditional tête a tête, eggs and bacon with rich brown toast and fruit on the side. My husband chose a salmon omelette. Both choices were fresh and wonderful. If I have an opportunity to return, I will try le crêpe encrusted with panko. 

As the post-wedding day finale, the party planned to meet later for potine in the parc. Lafontaine Park  has a great location

Bike share locations dotted throughout the city.

Bike share stations like this at edge  of La fontaine Park dotted throughout the city.

and offers playgrounds and ponds, as well as walking and cycling paths. I opted out of the potine, but instead (yes, you guessed it)  spent my park time squeezing in an 8-mile run. The locale offered interesting views since most of the park perimeter is surrounded by colorful residential areas and small shops.

On an overcast day, Montrealers relax in the parc

On an overcast day, Montréalers relax in the park

 

And not to overlook the opportunity for music, the evening took the mother of the groom, my husband and I for a stroll down rue Sherbrooke to McGill’s Pollack Hall (where by the way the bride and groom had spent many a day studying and practicing). An evening of string quartet performances rounded out our stay. 

And as quickly as we arrived, we were again crossing Montréal’s bridges, seeing signs of an early autumn as we passed through the Adirondacks  – and home again.

Seriously, consider visiting Montréal. We can compare notes.

 

 

 

Hometown Path through Fresh Eyes

With many travel tales and trails still untold, a run along a hometown towpath reminded me of how much I enjoy my local trails. On my first run in Wildwood since my return,  the fowl and flowers seemed as exotic as anything I experienced abroad.

The time I had planned  to run a 4-miler  was reallocated as I stopped for photos every couple hundred yards.  Movement and beauty bid me walk and watch. The 4-miler became a 2-miler.

IMG_0847

Color and form camouflage the gray heron as it hunts for food amongst the swamp waters. Armed only with my iPhone, the several photographers with long lenses, camouflaged themselves in the greenery at the edge of the path, are surely getting better results.

IMG_0856

The swamp lily is looking lovely in summer yellow.

IMG_0851

Lacking the protective coloring of the heron, this spunky great egret stared at the camera then ducked its head to troll the grasses after two of its buddies took flight. I wasn’t fast enough to catch their impressive in-flight wingspan.

IMG_0858

The honeysuckle dominates the wild grape, both reaching for light on this shaded path.

Give nature an opportunity and it will thrive.

IMG_0860

A heavily truck-trafficked street is mere yards away with an industrial park on the opposite side. The Wendy’s billboard is seen reflected on the swamp’s surface.

It’s good to be back on a familiar and favorite path – for now.

Traveling my way and looking for a nature run, walk or bike ride? Find the towpath and other trails on this link to localeikki.

Next week, its back to trails and tales along the Baltic.

 

Eating our Way to the 5-Boro Bike Tour

 

Bike New York’s TD 5-Boro Bike Tour is once again upon us, Sunday, May 4. I won’t be there this year, but am wishing good weather, a good ride and good eats to my friends who will be. Maybe I’ll consider 2015. And, maybe I can convince fellow travelers to do a repeat of some of the wonderful food stops we enjoyed last year.

A 40-mile bike ride and a 4 a.m. volunteer stint required adequate nutrition, and what better place to find some good eats than New York City.

Our culinary tour included:

Mile End Deli:   This Brooklyn eatery, walking distance from The Flea, has a walk-up carry-out window and a sit-down dining area that accommodates 20- 25 people max. Most of our group ordered smoked meat sandwiches, making comparisons with the smoked meat at Montreal’s delis.  I ordered a hot dog along with a a side order of slaw and frites, which were flavorful and plentiful.

IMG_0972

La Silhouette An evening meal took us to a Manhattan restaurant familiar to friends Phyllis and Mike from her days of living in New York. I have since heard this restaurant closed in late 2013 and no word on it reopening. Pity, because it had a wonderful ambience, a varied menu with beautifully prepared entrees, particularly seafood dishes, and service that was flawless.

Joe G’s Following a long and chilly day for our five cyclists,P1010218three of our crew opted for comfort food and a cozy restaurant.  We chose this below-street level restaurant near our hotel.  At Joe G’s you will find dark wood, white tablecloths, pleasant staff and a selection of Italian dishes perfect for four tired senior athlete travelers.

If you give any of of our dining choices a try, please let me know if you agree.  For me, I can’t wait to return to New York for the sights, the food and the athletic events.  P1010227

And maybe next time, I will step out of the volunteer t-shirt and onto two wheels.

Before I return to NYC for the 5-Boro Bike Tour, I will be making my way through the five boros at the 2014 New York City Marathon. I’m looking for some additional dining choices and will be building my list early.  I’ve already received recommendations for Brooklyn’s Grimaldi’s pizza.  Any other suggestions out there?

Lost in Amsterdam

To avoid the Capital 10-Miler post-race wrap-up chores, I’m indulging in wanderlust. Helped along in that quest by Cirsten’s blog, My Writers Block, where she explores the history of Amsterdam’s residents and buildings, my memories wander to my own brief exploration.

After my sister and I finished a river cruise through Belgium and The Netherlands, we took an extra day or two to explore Friesland

IMG_0308

Heeg Harbor, Friesland

and spend a night on dry land. An option for our last day was to stop in the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum down the street from our hotel in Amsterdam. 

I had only managed a couple of brief runs during our cruise (unless you’re counting my many laps around the ship’s upper deck).

Is this the track?

Is this the track?

While my sister enjoyed an early cup of coffee, I opted for the outdoors, letting her know I’d be returning in an hour or so. The front desk directed me down the street to Vondelpark.

Entering the park through a beautiful gate, I ran under an overhead walking bridge and took a look back to identify landmarks for my return. The park path appeared to be a circle, a circle of beautiful old residences, inviting outdoor restaurants, people walking dogs, more people riding bicycles.  Bicycles loaded with children on the handlebars and on extra seats, bicycles with business riders – briefcases stashed in their pannier, bicycles with spandexed riders.

After admiring some of the wildlife in the park,

IMG_0333

Blue Heron enjoying breakfast in Vondelpark

I noticed I was seeing the lovely homes and inviting outdoor restaurants a second time. How had I passed my landmark exit with the beautiful gate?  I turned around, backtracking. How does one get lost on a circular path? One more time around and still no gate in view.

O.K. Now the panic begins.  Is my sister looking at her watch wondering why I haven’t returned? Will I find my way out of this beautiful but perplexing piece of land in time to make our flight? Am I feeling a little panicked? Do I pick an exit and hop in a cab back to the hotel?

I spotted a park diagram posted nearby. While trying to identify my exit, an Amsterdam native out for a run and speaking fluent English asked if I needed help. Oh yes, I need help. Please point me to the ornate gate with the park name. We jogged together back to that somehow hidden gate, comparing running histories, families and travel.

Why hadn’t I seen the overhead walkway or the gate? Well, my entrance was not  actually on the circle, but was a dog leg leading to the circle.images

Waiving good bye to the kind stranger, I returned, once again passing under the overhead walking bridge and through those beautiful gates. I returned to find my sister packed up and dressed, relaxed, reading a magazine with no idea that my outing had been a bit adventurous. She looked so calm, it would have been unkind to share.

If you must get lost, Vondelpark is a beautiful place to carry it out. I had eaten up extra time for a museum visit, but sometimes running in a beautiful

Vondelpark gate

Vondelpark gate

park, even in a state of panic, trumps a museum.

Local, Global – or Both? Holiday Shopping for the Senior Athlete

While writing a follow-up to last year’s walk through the athletic wear closet, I picked up on a NPR Radio series from the program Planet Money.  It shed new light on my process of identifying where my clothing, particularly my athletic wear, is made.

globe, world GlobeIn this series, Planet Money follows the making of a men’s Jockey T-shirt from cotton fields in the U.S. around the world in Asia, with finishing in Columbia, South America.

A quote from one of the interviews went right to the heart of the matter:

“There is a saying that is going to sound horrible,” Crystal’s CEO, Luis Restrepo, told me. “Our industry follows poverty.” It’s an industry “on roller skates,” he said, rolling from Latin America to China, to Bangladesh — wherever costs are lowest.”

The least percentage of cost in the t-shirt followed around the world was the labor. The Restrepo quote gives a bit of bite to my holiday shopping joy.

How this consumer (and gift recipient) fits into the picture is puzzling on two fronts.  First, am I helping or hindering by not purchasing or suggesting items made by workers earning wages that barely provide food and shelter? I struggle with that.  Second,  I’m not a numbers cruncher, but if we must go around the world to make a cheaper t-shirt, or high-end sportswear, how is it that I can buy excellent quality running apparel from companies that manufacture in the USA at a comparable price?

With those questions unanswered but worth considering,  I again provide a brief list of brands that are primarily manufactured domestically and sometimes locally and offer quality products. They are durable and nearly everything on my list is still in my closet and wearing well.  Keep your running apparel away from the fabric softener and a hot dryer and it wears a long time.

I’ve added only a few items to my closet:

Keen Footwear is located in New Hampshire and manufactures a variety of footwear items.  photoThe socks I recently purchased are made of imported merino wool and manufactured in New Hampshire. Affordable, lightweight and warm for winter running. They keep my feet warm in my running shoes and my toes stayed cozy while snowshoeing earlier this month.

Handful Bra, a company that manufactures sports bras for fitness enthusiasts, is moving operations from overseas to the United States with a base in Oregon. Their move was financed in part through crowdsourcing. Their sense of humor is apparent on their home web page.

And, a rerun of my suggestions from last year’s holiday shopping list:

Darn Tough, another sock company I love is located in Vermont.

Nuu-muu makes my list again. I wear my Nuu-muu for running, but more frequently for biking. This year Nuu-muu has expanded the line to include shirts.  They are based in Washington State. They run some very nice specials on their website.  As a senior runner, the percentage off when you turn over a decade becomes increasingly enticing

And one I haven’t yet purchased,  Aspaeris Technical Performance is a domestic manufacturing company.  Their line of  tights is designed to reduce muscle fatigue.  If anyone has tried these, please comment with a review.

IMG_1402

I shopped early and took mine into the snow and crisp winter air.

That’s my list for this year. Enjoy your gifts and the gifts of the season on your runs, walks or rides in the great outdoors.

Exploring the Ozarks Post-Mother Road Marathon

A destination race like the Mother Road Marathon isn’t complete without getting a feel for the locality.  Joplin, Missouri is cemented in our memory for the horrendous EF 5 tornado that swept through in 2011. On my post-race shuttle to the hotel, the driver pointed out blocks and blocks that were totally decimated, saying the television coverage couldn’t convey the loss Joplin suffered in lives and neighborhoods.  New housing now stands and a hospital is still being rebuilt better and stronger, as temporary buildings are used in the meantime.

IMG_1318

Newman Building now serves as Joplin City Hall

Joplin has rebuilt. This is an attractive city that has maintained its distinct personality through the loss.  While I was busy with packet pickup at Joplin City Hall, my big sister (BS) admired the facade of the 100+ year old structure.  Joplin has saved and repurposed the stately Newman Building, a department store built in the Chicago style by architect Austin Allen.

Joplin is clearly a city that loves sports and the outdoors. Along with multiple parks, the Joplin Athletic Center near the MRM finish line has rows of well cared for tennis courts, and fields for baseball and soccer invite activity.

As I ran the half through Galena, Kansas, I knew I had to return for a closer look.  Post-race shower, we retraced the race route and parked on the downtown street. Music, 1940-s style jazz, was piped in from somewhere on the square.  This was the quintissential lower Midwest small town, quiet on a Sunday with a few folks out for a stroll.IMG_1327A stop in Galena is not complete without hitting the former gas station.  At the building across the street, young women were giving tours of theHaunted Bordello.”  If you want Route 66 souvenirs and a great cheeseburger, this is the stop.

IMG_1349

I pulled BS away from her Halloween costume prep to pose with my MRM goodies

Feeling there was more to learn about this town but knowing it was time to go, we veered off to the Arkansas Ozarks where BS has ensconced herself, renovating a turn-of-the-century home located in one of the many tiny towns with funny sounding names.  This was my first return to Arkansas since my brother lured me to the area to run the Mountain Home Marathon for Kenya several years ago. (Side Note:  This is now renamed the White River Marathon, with a flat, fast course. The year I ran it was quite hilly and beautiful. )

BS took me on a tour of the local sites and towns.  The area is known for trout fishing and beautiful scenery. It’s also good cycling territory with wide berms on the roadsides.

IMG_1348

Yes, we really are in Flippin Arkansas

There is the appearance of many local businesses closing, but a number are being reimagined and reopened by a younger generation with hearts in rural and small town America.

No destination race review is complete without talking about regional food.  For this trip, it was all casual dining and home cooking.

Our first food stop was in Joplin at Pitchers Bar & Grill where I enjoyed a pre race day bowl of tomato basil soup.  BS spotted a lamb wrap on the menu and gave it a rave review.

IMG_1329

All-A-Bout Eatery

We enjoyed a fantastic home-style meal at the All-A-Bout Eatery, ice cream stand and mini-golf near Mountain Home AR. Bonnie served her home cooking on paper plates,  followed by brownies accompanied with ice cream from the adjacent bar.

My final food stop was a zesty pre-flight breakfast at Laura’s Mexican Chicken in Yellville, located in the old bank building where food is now served through the teller’s window.

If you enjoy steep hills for your cardio, a wide berm for your bike and local eateries and motels you won’t likely find on a google search, this is a good place to start.ffl