BTG is back for 2014

My apologies to all time
For all the world I overlook each moment

Silvershield Trail - Ouray, CO

My apologies to all readers
For three years of absence.

It’s tempting to disappear into the mountains.
It’s good to return to what I love

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BTG Running the World with Matador Network

BTG is in the news again! Check out our following roundup on obstacles you might encounter while running the world. It was published last week on Matador Network, the best resource for independent travel ideas and stories. Happy trails!

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Beer: Burlington’s Sweet Reward

You’ve probably heard the rumors swirling the athletic community about whether one of the world’s most popular beverages – beer – is actually a good performance recovery beverage. The jury is still out on that one, but you should take the time to do some personal research the next time you are in Burlington, Vermont. Vermont has the most microbreweries per capita of any state in the U.S. When in town you’ll have ample opportunity to hit up a local establishment and sample some of their varieties.

Beer #9, a popular brew from Magic Hat Brewing Company

Magic Hat is a local brewery that ranks high among BTG’s Burlington-based researchers. A tour of their premises takes about five minutes, and is followed by unlimited sampling of the beers. While we highly enjoyed their #9, a not-quite-pale ale, the Single Chair was our favorite. This golden beer is sold only in Vermont, and is named for the U.S.’s last single-chair chairlift, which operates at nearby Mad River Glen ski area. The Single Chair’s warm flavor instilled in us a deep feeling and commemorative love for old ski lifts and the good days we’ve had out on the slopes.

Switchback is another well-known brew from the area. Its brewery is located right in downtown. This reddish-amber ale goes down smoothly at the end of a long summer day.

In addition to these better-known brands, however, there are many up-and-coming breweries, and innovative young brewers, in the area. Keep your ears open and tastebuds primed for the work of Tudyke’s Brewing Company. Tudyke’s fresh honey ale and crisp Belgian witbier are infused with a special ingredient – love – that fills you with a warm contented feeling. The ladies who craft this beer make sure you get a good shot of that stuff in every glass you get.

Although we're not gonna lie - the brewers are a little crazy.

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Rollerblading the World: Quebec, Canada

Salut de Quebec! Terrasse Dufferin in Quebec City, stop number 5 of seven on Blaze's 2011 research odyssey.

“Have you really run every route on the Blaze website?” I get these questions all the time, whether I’m on a research trip or at home in Colorado. Well, I confess: I haven’t. I’m an avid runner, but my body can’t take the ceaseless pounding that would be required to run the world. And to be honest, my brain couldn’t either – I need to spend at least a minimal amount of time soaking up other aspects of culture while on my travels.

Of the places I’ve researched, I’ve probably run 70% of the runs I’ve published. But I have personally researched all of them. What does it mean to research? In many cases, I’ll head to a running spot and spend 2-3 hours walking it, exploring it, getting a feel of the stretch and the territory so that I can advise my readers of what sort of run to expect. Often I conduct this work on a bike, which is nice, because I can cover three times as much ground as I can on foot in one-third of the time, and give my joints a break in the process.

And sometimes, if the weather is good, the day is bright, and the asphalt is smooth, I’ll trade in my two wheels for eight, and hop up on some rollerblades.

Bladers and cyclists near Quebec's Vieux Port (Run #2).

Rollerblading is a dark-horse activity in the United States. Sure, there are plenty of people who do it. But rollerbladers often clash with other non-motorized entities around them. They don’t fit into the bike lanes, and cyclists often curse under their breath when they come upon a blader in their path. Pedestrians don’t like them either – the quiet swoosh of the wheels can sometimes be hard to hear until the rider comes flying by them at twelve miles per hour.

Here in Canada, however, rollerbladers are a much more visible part of the active culture. Credit it to this hockey-crazy country and its people, who require some sort of skating outlet during the summer. When you’re out on the paths here, you’re more likely to come across an eight-wheeling peloton than you are to find a group of cyclists or runners.

But that’s okay in Canada. One of the best things about rollerblading in the cities we’ve researched – Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec – is that you’re able to check out quite a bit more of the paths than you’d be able to if you were only running. For example, this morning I was able to string together an epic blade along the St. Charles river down to its conjunction with the St. Lawrence, and wrap the route around Quebec’s Vieux Port to continue along the coast. On my ten-mile spin I was able to check out BTG Quebec routes #2 and #3 (coming soon to a website near you) and work some different muscles in the process. You could do something similar in Montreal by combining a workout along Canal de Lachine with a loop around Parc Jean-Drapeau. And in Toronto you could check out the entire scope of the magnificent Waterfront Trail, and not wear yourself down the same way you would if you ran.

On your next trip to any of these other cities, I definitely suggest taking a couple of hours to get some rollerblades and check out two or more of our routes. Many of the individual runs I’ve written up can be linked together to create one epic rollerblading workout. You’ll be able to explore many more areas of the cities your visit, and you’ll be able to give your quads a rest in the process.

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Running Tajikistan: Jode Brexa’s Perspective

Last night, I had a run!
Brexa from Sarband, 6/11/2011

Boulder teacher Jode Brexa surrounded by students in Sarband, Tajikistan.

Running is a lot more than a workout. When we go for a run, we step our of our doors and make the conscious choice to engage with the wide world around us. We don’t always know what we will encounter and discover out there on the streets, but we often create connections with what we find.

This isn’t news for Jode Brexa. The award-winning teacher at Boulder’s Arapahoe Ridge High School has traveled to and taught on three continents. She’s currently in Sarband, a small town in a corner of Tajikistan, working with students and teachers on a digital story project. The project allows students from this oft-forgotten part of the world to use narrative, photos, and music to tell their stories. The finished product is a digital piece that can be shared with others in Sarband, in Tajikistan, and around the world.

In addition to exploring Tajik culture through her professional work, Jode has also been able to actively engage with the environment around her. What follows is an excerpt from an e-mail she wrote describing an evening run she took in the town:

Last night, I had a run!  The first run for three days, and Firuz, a 9th grader, took me running through the village, people out walking, kids in the street who stare at me and say Ruski, and I say Russe nastam, Amerikoi astam.  And they just stare.  At the end of the run, we had to stop because of big dogs, mongrels, who prowl and  we walked through a little orchard and he picked apricots for me and green apples, and we walked back to his house. It was late in the day, sunny,still hot but less so, and I stretched and sweated and I felt so much better.

Her narrative gives us concise insight to the benefits of running and traveling. Not only was Jode able to take some time to relax away from the school and get out on the streets, but she got to interact with the people around her. Amerikoi astam. I am American. She may have been one of the first Americans these people ever saw. And what they saw was a phenomenally inspirational woman full of enthusiasm to explore their city and understand their world. It was too bad about the dogs, but that tends to be a problem in post-Soviet republics (see BTG’s upcoming article on the Matador Network). She even got to sample some delicious fruit at the end of her endeavor.

High five, Jode. We love you!

The run Jode described was just one of many she has taken overseas, and the encounter with local culture just one of thousands of such experiences. With each step she takes, and will all the work she does to back it up, she is helping to bridge the gap in understanding between different countries, and she is helping to make the world a better place.

Jode will continue her cross-cultural digital story projects in the coming months and years. Keep track of her on her blog, at BTG will also keep you up to speed on her happenings.

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Running The World: Montreal, Canada

“You have to watch out for people in Montreal,” said Mark, one of BTG’s two stellar researchers on this trip. “On the roads, the pedestrians think they have the right of way. But the cyclists also think they have the right of way. The rollerbladers are convinced that they have the right of way. And the cars could care less about who has the right of way – they just go.”

Minor traffic on the paths at Parc de Lachine.

But once you’re out of traffic and on the running trails of Montreal, you’re in for a treat. The avid hill climber can get in inclines galore on Montreal’s “Mountain”, the Parc du Mont Royal. The marathoner desiring a long, flat path can hop on the one next to Canal de Lachine and take a leisurely 14K jaunt out to the Lakes. And the runner who desires both experiences can head on out to Parc Jean-Drapeau and incorporate both types of terrain into a workout.

You can then enjoy gret views of the city such as this one, taken from the Tour de l'Ile at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Running is a great way to experience Montreal, but also keep your ear open for city events that will take place during your stay. From the Jazz Festival to Formula One racing to community bike rides through the streets, there’s an active way to get out and hang out and be around the locals. Make sure you save enough time and energy to participate in them!

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Bicycling The World: Toronto’s Midweek Cycling Club

At Blaze Travel Guides we use physical activity as the means to introduce our readers to international culture. Our first series of guides is focused on running, but in many ways cycling is actually the best way to immerse yourself in new places.

I relearned this lesson during my recent Toronto research trip. Not only was I able to cover a lot more ground on two wheels than I was able to on two feet, but the social aspect of the sport allowed me to meet some locals who gave me a comprehensive introduction to the city’s sporty culture.

One of these people was Steve, an active member of Toronto’s Midweek Cycling Club. Road cycling is rapidly growing in popularity across Canada, and in the country’s largest city this group organizes numerous events that allow riders to really get into riding. In April, at the start of the cycling season, the club runs workshops that teach beginning riders how to draft, how to corner, and proper pack riding etiquette. This group work gives riders the skills they need to participate in a series of summer races, which include weekly criterium and time trial events.

This year is an especially big year for Toronto bike racers, as Midweek is hosting the Canadian Road Cycling National Championships in the city on June 23-26. Make sure you check out the event if you’re in town that weekend! You’ll be able to scope the skills of some of the world’s most elite cyclists. You’ll also be able to find a Torontonian riding buddy or two.

And no matter your travel schedule, consider incorporating a ride or two into your Ontario stay. Cycling is a great way to explore Toronto, learn about the city’s people, and have a great workout in the process.

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Running The World: Hammondsport, New York

Keuka Lake and the vineyards surrounding Hammondsport, New York.

Nestled in New York’s Finger Lakes region is one of the most remarkable small towns you’ve never heard of. Hammondsport sits on the southern tip of Keuka Lake and anchors the country’s fastest-growing wine region. There are only 730-ish permanent residents in this cozy village, and close to 70 wineries in the surrounding area. That makes for a 10:1 winery-to-resident ratio. Most small liberal arts colleges can’t boast nearly as impressive faculty-to-student numbers.

The award-winning wines and unforgettable paintings of Lime Berry Gallery and Wine Estate.

You might be tempted to spend your time here traveling from one small, welcoming, pristine winery to another, or sampling the fare at one of the nearby amazing restaurants. But if you’re an active traveler, you’ll be captivated by the plethora of running, cycling, and swimming opportunities just beyond your doorstep! Keuka Lake is perfect for cooling off under the summer sun, and a great place to work on your open-water swims. There are miles upon miles of rolling country roads that cater to cyclists of all inclinations. And the running? Well, let’s just say that this is prime hill-training territory. BTG’s Hammondsport Run #1 takes you up road 54A and towards fantastic views of the lake. For those in the mood for flatter territory, a quite lane takes you out towards Pleasant Valley Wine Company, one of the oldest establishments in the region.

And, at the end of the day, there’s no better place to enjoy the colors of the area than at Lime Berry Gallery and Wine Estate. Owners Melissa and Joe Carroll moved out to this area three years ago, and brought with them a spectacular medley of paintings, jewelry, and rugs from all over the world. Over this past year they’ve also released a selection of award-winning wines that you can purchase at liquor stores and restaurants in the area. Lime Berry’s Chardonnay wins BTG’s 2011 Award for Best Performance Recovery Beverage in our international competition. But I might be a bit biased. After all, Melissa and Joe played an integral part in the founding and formation of BTG, and without the good energy produced by their personalities and their business, I would not be here – in Hammondsport – or here – in my professional occupation – today.

There's no place like home - and definitely no place like Lime Berry!

Hammondsport is just another reminder that sport and active travel opportunties are everywhere around us, no matter how large or small our destinations. It is also a great place to remember that the most amazing people we will ever know are never far away, and always close to our hearts.

MSH, Melissa and Joe! BTG loves you!!!

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Running The World: Toronto, Ontario

As I sat on the plane at Toronto’s airport and waited for the passengers in front of me to disembark, I couldn’t help but look out the window. I was sitting near the wing of the plane, right where the baggage handlers were removing luggage from the galley below. One of the handlers was using the bar along the bag removal car to do some pullups and knee-ups. That scene instantly let me know that Toronto was an active city, and I was in for a treat. But I had no idea what a treat it would be.

A runner works in a late-afternoon workout on the Waterfront Trail, with the CN Tower in the background.

Welcome to Toronto. This is one workout-crazy city.

My inundation with the athletic started from the moment I arrived at my Toronto hostess’s house. Liz was an avid cycling fan who previously traveled to France in order to personally check out a couple stages of the Tour. From the start our ideas about travel, sport, and life aligned perfectly, and we got along famously. Liz lent me a bike, so within three hours of my arrival I was in my shorts and off to pedal around the city.

I am a firm believer in travel karma, and I find that karma finds you better when you are on two wheels. The day was warm and sunny, and I followed one of Toronto’s many bike paths into the city center. At one point I paused to check the map, and see where my route was taking me.

Toronto's beaches and city center, where I stopped to get my bearings.

As I stood by the water, with my large cycle map flapping into the wind, a fellow peddler pulled up beside me. “Can I help you find something?” he asked.

“Why, no,” I responded. “I don’t know what I’m going.”

We laughed, and then he offered to help guide me through the city and on to Toronto’s Waterfront Trail (Run #1). His name was Emilio. He was originally from Bern, Switzerland, but had resided in Toronto for many years. We chatted a bit as we pedaled through the streets. At one intersection another cyclist joined our mini-peloton. Steve, as it turned out, was an active member of Toronto’s Midweek Cycling Club, and was also helping to organize the Canadian Road Cycling Championships, which are coming to the area later this month. We looked a bit ridiculous riding together – him on a sleek road bike, and me on an old steel 1970s relic. But through him I got to check out the Humber River Trail (Run #6) and High Park (Run #2). He also showed me a prime spot where Toronto cyclists do their hill repeats. It was a bit smaller than Flagstaff, but my legs were feeling the workout by the time I got to the top!

Anyway. Within seven hours of my Toronto arrival I’d already come up with 7 routes to research. And the trip had just begun!

Day 2: the duathlon continues. Cheers to Adam, my official Toronto research assistant!

The next morning I got up with a full agenda of research before me. After a nice 10K along the Eastern Waterfront Trail (Run #3) I returned to the house and got back on the bike. Happily, I had a partner in research for the day. Adam was Liz’s housemate – he was a bike mechanic who had previously worked for Liz’s daughter’s shop before moving to Toronto. We hit the road and pedaled it up along the Don Ravine Trail (Run #5), grabbed lunch at Toronto’s classy St. Lawrence Market, and hit the Toronto Islands in the afternoon (Run #4). With our conversations of bike culture, healthy lifestyles, and lots of laughs, we had an awesome day.

A view of Toronto taken during our island jaunt.

To sum up: Toronto is a fantastic city. Its cultural diversity is rivaled only by its open-mindedness and plethora of physical activity opportunities. For active travelers of all origins, you will find few places on earth that will cater so well to your body, your mind, and your sense of adventure.

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Bolder Boulder 2011

Be it ever so humble / There’s no place like home.

Run Start - 10K between T&T and beer.

It’s been a tough spring at Blaze Travel Guides.

My dedicated readers have probably noticed my dearth of posts in April and May. This was in part due to an all-out push to finish up the European content before I head to Canada tomorrow. This was in part due to many things which were out of my control. The absence of writing has been reflected by the absence of miles I’ve run on the road. While I’ve been able to keep up my fitness on the bike, the reality was I came into today’s race uncertain of my conditioning, uncertain of my motivation, uncertain of myself.

On the bright side, I came into this race with my friend Tanya. After two years away from running, this spring Tanya dedicated herself to a couch-to-5K training program, and continued to work her way up to a solid 4-mile circuit before this race.

We came to the Bolder Boulder starting line with two different running histories behind us.  And yet, we came to the starting line with the same excitement, nervousness, and anticipation that many of today’s 55,000 runners also harbored in their hearts.

As we stood in a clump, jumping up and down and waiting to go, I couldn’t help thinking about all the places I’ve been in this past year, all the people I’ve met, all the runs I’ve taken. On so many of them I was alone. For the most part I’m okay with that – I’ve learned to embrace the loneliness of the long-distance runner. But there’s something special about days when the roads are closed and the mountains stand tall, and the home course is decked out with fans and entertainment along its entire 10,000-meter length. There’s something nice about days when you aren’t alone, and you’re surrounded by the friends and community you love.

There’s something nice about Bolder Boulder Day.

The gun went off, and we set off to run the route in the shadow of the Flatirons and the heart of the Republic. After the yelps of excitement and the first few quick steps, I grabbed Tanya. “Let’s slow this down,” I said. “It’s too early to go too fast.” Tanya had been working on a run-four-minutes-walk-one-minute regime, and when our first four minutes were up, I said, “Let’s walk it. If this is what you’ve been doing, we have to keep doing it from the start.”

Six months ago, I wouldn’t have had the discipline to say this too myself. And I didn’t. I remember all too well thinking I was rocking the first 12 miles of the Nice-Cannes marathon, and then suffering for the next 14. While the scale of the 10K is different, the running strategy is still the same. Start slow. Pace yourself. And above all, enjoy the flow of the people, and the beauty of the scenery along the way. It’s not about the number on the clock when you reach the end of the run. It’s the things you see, you learn, and you appreciate along the way.

That’s not just good running. That’s smart running. That’s also smart living, and the two are inexorably intertwined.

Having a running buddy made running a smart run all that much more doable. Tanya kept me engaged, motivated, and happy. We checked in with each other. We talked. We yelled. We sang “Whip it good!” at the top of our lungs as we ran up the first hill, and belted out “Don’t stop believin’!” as we moved through the streets of North Boulder and turned into town. We high-fived approximately every 700 meters, and laughed every single time we did.

Interestingly enough, our running splits reflected our good humor. The times we took to go from one mile to the next got shorter and shorter, and I knew we were on pace for a great finish if we could end the race as well as we began.

It wasn’t easy. The temptation to let your legs go and pass the throngs of people gets tempting on this race, especially when you turn from Walnut onto Folsom and start heading towards the stadium. But we held on, and kept to our plan. “Don’t push it until we cross the Creek path,” I kept saying to her, and to me (it helps having biked that road so many times – I know exactly where the last push starts).

We crossed the bridge, and together we said, “Go.” And we flew by people and rocked that last stretch up to CU stadium. We hollared, we hugged, we took our triumphant tour around the field as so many others have done, and will do, today.

59:16. The "A" in "Tanya" and "Taylor" is for "Awesome." Tanya has two a's in her name, so she is doubly awesome.

Running is about many things to many people. But at Blaze Travel Guides, running is about community. It’s about taking a loop with the people around you through a place you hold dear to your heart, it’s about accomplishing something amazing with the people you love. It’s about discovering the world, and discovering yourself.

And it’s about not being able to wait to do it all again.

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