Theresa Ferguson, a first-time marathoner who is part of the Saucony 26 Strong team, spent much of this summer camping with her young family. She’s back home in Wheaton, Ill., now and resuming her normal training schedule. She offers this story to help others hoping to balance training with traveling:
As a novice distance runner, I am by no means an expert. But I can tell you a thing or two I’ve leaned traveling across the country the past couple summers, about a month-and-a-half each time, while still trying to train for a distance race each time. The biggest contenders for attempting to fit in running with your travels, I have found, are: missed workouts, timing of your race, pre-planning, safety and resuming upon your return.
1. MISSED WORKOUTS
Know there will be missed workouts: How many runs will you let yourself skip? What will it be like when you pick back up with your training plan when you return?
When our family left for vacation this summer on a five-week journey across the country, I knew my running would take a back seat to the adventure. I went from running at least five days a week to only two days a week during our trip, plus what I refer to as my “cross-training” with the mountain hikes on which we ventured with our daughters. As in life, my husband and I have a goal to keep balance and perspective with everything we do. Especially because our summer traveling has been years in the making, I was prepared for this modified schedule. We have always dreamed of taking our daughters on cross-country trips to see this beautiful nation of ours. I couldn’t let my desire to run a marathon alter those plans we had made as a family. It is important to decide what expectations will work for you.
Select a race that fits with your travel schedule. My decision to run a late fall marathon was based on the timing of our trip. Returning early August meant I would need enough time to get in the long runs required for the 26.2 for my first (ever) marathon in November. Helping me set up my running schedule is an amazing mentor and coach, Olympic Trials Marathoner Kate DeProsperis, with whom I have the incredible opportunity to be matched through Saucony’s 26 Strong project. As a new mom she also understands the balancing act between family and running, and that it’s all about timing…as well as finding the time!
Pre-planning is key to selecting the days to run, determining your routes and, in my case with tent camping, how and when to shower. We traveled to 11 states, driving more than 6,000 miles in 5 weeks, from Chicago to California. Some days we were on the road for longer than 12 hours. Most of the time we camped in a tent at national parks. First, it’s not easy running on days you have to set-up camp and break-down camp. Secondly, when tent camping, there is little access to showers at many of the national parks. I had to be creative about when I ran in conjunction with how I would be able to shower. Particularly when it was frigid high up in the mountains, I moved pretty quickly to use the solar shower (a 5-gallon bag you fill that is supposed to heat up from the sun).
Before we left on our trip, I also mapped out a couple runs (www.usatf.org/routes) because I knew cell/internet service would be unavailable in most areas we traveled. This helped a little, but I wasn’t always sure when I would be able to get my run in. If you know where you are going to be and have the showering thing figured out, pre-mapping your routes is really helpful. Otherwise, I went just by time and how I felt compared to what I needed to accomplish that day. Each week I tried to get in one speed workout, which ended up being a tempo run, and one longer distance, which also included being a hill workout since we were in the mountains at 8,000 to 9,000+ feet much of the time.
Whether on the road or on trails, safety is a huge concern when running while traveling. Since I run solo on much of our travels, I always have my “running buddy” on hand, which is a heavy duty pepper-spray gun made by UDAP. This makes me feel a little safer in case of any incidences with humans or animals, especially because we have encountered everything from bears to elk to moose.
I have also tried to stick close to our campgrounds and in less remote areas. While I don’t want other campers to be awakened by my heavy breathing thanks to the higher elevations to which my Midwestern body was adjusting, I would try not to go too far off the beaten path.
5. RESUMING THE SCHEDULE
As your trip will likely involve a modified running schedule, the expectation should be modified upon your return. Here I am, three weeks after the return of our journey, and I am just now getting back on track. Thankfully, my mentor, Kate, prepared me for the fact that it would probably take a couple weeks to do so. While I am not at the peak I had reached just prior to leaving, I am within seconds of being there.
In my inexperienced and non-elite perspective, my best advice for anyone wanting to travel while also hoping to train for a race is to find that balance. With that in mind, I am a firm believer that you can achieve your running goals without letting the training run your life…or travels!
Read more about Theresa, Kate and the rest of the Saucony 26 Strong team at 26strong.com