Travel: Fruits, Wines, and a Weekend Half

Two years ago this past weekend the world was a very different place.

The world was different enough that we had no issues hopping into the car, driving for nearly ten hours straight, and wending our way across the prairies, over the rocky mountain passes, and into the verdant Okanagan Valley in nearby British Columbia.

for whatever one photo is worth:

The official travel excuse was that I had signed up for an October half marathon in Kelowna. Yet my wife has a healthy collection of extended family who have located to the micro-climate over the past ten years and we were due for a visit.

As much as Canada sometimes deserves its reputation as a vast semi-arctic wasteland, even the locale in a radius hundreds of kilometers from where I sit writing this (which is frozen and snow-covered for half the year), there are places in this vast and diverse country which are fertile and lush.

One of those less-often-frozen zones is the Okanagan Valley, a longitudinally positioned string of deep lakes tucked between the high peaks of the continental divide rocky mountains to the east and the lusher coastal mountains nearer to Vancouver to the west.

The weather-stabilizing effects of this location and the nearby water features means that a climate zone amenable to ample fruit tree orchards and sprawling vineyards exists and makes the region both desirable as a home for hundreds of thousands and a tourist destination for multiples more.

I would move there in a heartbeat given the right opportunity, but two years ago we merely wedged ourselves into the tourist category.

Two days in the area was barely enough to get a taste of everything, though.

On Saturday we visited the local famer’s market in the morning, ate lunch on the pier, collected my race package in the park, wandered through a corn maze on a hobby farm, and visited a wine tasting at a vineyard (pictured) along the road to the house where we had set up camp.

On Sunday I toured a twenty-one point one kilometer stretch of waterfront and urban streetways on foot and recorded one of my better half marathon times in the perfect autumn weather, before slipping back to shower, change and pack the car for the push back across the mountains and home.

Our intention was to make it an annual trip.

A run.

A visit.

Good food.

Fresh fruit and great wine.

Somehow though, the last two years has made the world a very different place and, like so many others around that world, even nearby adventures have fallen to the bottom of our possibilities list.

Boston Pi (Virtual)

Most everyone I know in the running community knows that in addition to Canadian thanksgiving, this weekend is also the Virtual Boston Marathon.

At least five people I know signed up for the race, which thanks to the pandemic was a once in a lifetime opportunity to run through your own streets, track it on the Boston Marathon app, and call it an official run.

I did not sign up.

… but I did go out on the dawn trails with a trio of friends who had signed up to run the pandemic version of the famous race.

When three of us tag-alongs met up with them early on Saturday morning near a local park, the sun was just peaking over the horizon and they had been at it for almost ten kilometers already.

We trotted into step with their route, followed it as it wend its way along the river, up in the neighbourhood, down into a local recreation area, and around the back side of a golf course. After about eight kilometers of support running, we turned back to where we’d left our cars … and ultimately logged just over thirteen klicks total even as we zoomed past a half dozen other virtual Boston’ers with their race bibs or support cyclists or multi-coloured tutus plodding along with fierce determination through the morning trails.

Our thirteen was not quite a marathon. Obviously. Not even quite a half marathon. I later calculated that my logged distance of 13.43 km as per my GPS watch, worked out to almost exactly one pi of a marathon. Weird. After all, forty two point two kilometers divided by thirteen point four-three kilometers equals three point one-four, or pretty much as close to one pi of a marathon as my technology can measure.

Mathematics and adventure collide on a Saturday morning in a curious way, it seems.

And then the event ended, and we cheered in the actual racers across the finish line via text message, as they completed their virtual distance … and won their real medals.

Travel Run: Dopey Disney Florida Whimsy (Part One)

Way back at the beginning of 2014 I found myself standing on a strip of asphalt road outside of Epcot center in Walt Disney World in Florida preparing to run a series of four consecutive races across four days.

How I had decided many months earlier to take on the Dopey Challenge, a four race series consisting of a 5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon in four days, is a long, winding tale full of hubris and running confidence tangled up in my wife’s love of all things Disney.

In retrospect, and now knowing numerous people who routinely run eighty-plus kilometer single-day ultra races, my seventy-eight point two kilometers of theme park jogging hardly seems as epic in comparison.

Yet, for me, running through Disney World (four times) was probably one of the highlights of my running life.

A five kilometer run with my family around the walkways of Epcot.

A ten kilometer jog in the rain on a similar but longer path a day later.

A half marathon that led us all to the Magic Kingdom and back with poses in front of the castle and along roadways cluttered with a dizzying array of Disney decor.

And on the last day, a full marathon through all four Disney World theme parks, a race track, a ball diamond, taking dozens of photos, and crashing across the finish line to hang multiple finisher medals over my neck.

I rested with a much slower, much more meandering wander through Disney World over the following days.

Fast forward to early twenty-twenty and with no intention of running on another vacation, we had booked a two week Florida trip over spring break… due to leave just days following rumblings that a global panic had started to emerge around a novel coronavirus and a contagious outbreak was leaping from country to country.

Disney World closed the Friday before our flights were due to leave.

The Canada-US border slammed shut a few days later.

Our flights were cancelled for credits.

Our hotel was spun into a chaotic series of emails and phone calls and future stay vouchers.

Our park tickets were suspended indefinitely.

We obviously never went to Florida in spring 2020, and we have been sitting on a heap of travel credits for the better part of two years since.

Time definitely does not fly when you’re sitting around not travelling.

Registration for the 2022 Disney World Marathon series is pretty much full up now.

While I am in no shape anymore (thanks, COVID.) to run the Dopey Challenge, at least one of those races would be another exciting way to kick off 2022, right?

So, if, say, I had been on the ball and had registered for, for example, a half marathon in Florida in January… and, say, I found an excuse to use a bunch of those travel credits… and, say, I was fully vaccinated for travel across international borders… that would make a much more interesting part two to this post, wouldn’t it?

Just saying

Fall Colours

During my exhausting trail half marathon this past weekend I may have tired myself out good and proper, but I managed to keep enough mental focus to nab some photos of my adventures through the autumn foliage.

Of course when one is running an epic wilderness race carrying proper camera equipment is out of the question.

I did have my smartphone, tho.

And when opportunity permitted I tugged it from the side pocket of my hydration vest and paused for a moment to nab some photos.