“Okay, but can I do my long run there?”
A phrase used often in conversations between my boyfriend and I. For the last four years, I’ve lived and traveled full time in an RV. Four years of training for races while waking up in a new place every few weeks, or sometimes every other day.
A life of complete adventure is something I deeply crave, and a house on wheels does a pretty good job of satisfying that craving. I was a runner before I lived on the road, but it turns out the two complement each other quite nicely. The absolute best way to see a new place is on your own two feet. Add in an unknown trail and some La Sportiva’s and it’s an epic exploration.
I know it sounds dreamy and very REI ad esque, but things get a little tricky when you have to get serious and actually train for a race. I’m not a competitive runner by any means (well, not professionally at least), but if I commit to a race I’m not one to slack on the training part. There’s something so addicting about pushing your body to its limits by choice and competing against your own times.
So, you can imagine how this might complicate the “wild and free” lifestyle we chose. A 20 mile run can’t just be done anywhere! When we planned routes and places we wanted to stop and explore, I always had to line it up with my training plan. Of course sometimes it would work out perfectly, like that time I did an 18 miler on an endless trail system in Spokane, Washington. Or a shorter “hill” run on a loop in the Redwoods. 15 miles right along the beach in Port Aransas, Texas. A breath taking (literally, can anyone breathe easy at 7,000 + feet above sea level?) seven miles on a mountain trail in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Intervals next to a frozen lake in the middle of nowhere in Yukon Territory, Canada. And can’t forget a super strong 22 miles through the San Antonio River Walk.
But, it’s not all pine trees and perfectly paved stretches. Throughout my time on the road I’ve learned just how dedicated I am to this sport I love so much. Sometimes it’s just not possible to park your home near ideal running conditions. The occasional sleep in a Walmart or Cabela’s parking lot is a very real thing. And sometimes it’s not a perfect 65 degrees and partly cloudy (every runner’s dream, right?). Sometimes living a full-time life of adventure means running in bone-chilling cold during a snowstorm (I’m an AZ girl okay?! Give me a break!) in a trucker lot. Yes, that is correct. A truck stop parking lot that we had to stop at because the weather was too risky to keep driving. And guess what, I had a training run planned that day, and it could not be skipped. So I ran my freezing butt back and forth in that parking lot for a solid hour. It was far from glamorous, but I got it done.
There was another time when we were driving the long Alcan Highway through Canada to Alaska (epic) and I was right at the peak of marathon training, naturally. We were in a teeny tiny “town” along the highway, parked for the night near a soccer field. But it wasn’t your average soccer field. It was about half the size of an actual field. More of a small square than anything. But it was raining and I needed to get a run in before bed, so of course that soccer field became my five mile route. I don’t even want to remember how many laps I did around that grassy patch.
I do what I can to find the best routes, but sometimes you just have to work with what you have! I love to use AllTrails app to search for options. Another tip I’ve learned along the way is to call the local running store whenever you get to a new city. You don’t have to be a seasoned RV’er to use this one! The locals will always know the best spots whenever you are traveling and need to get a run in, so just call and ask! Even REI will be able to help. You might even get lucky and stumble upon a running group.
When it comes to traveling (and really just running in general!), safety can not take a back seat. Sometimes you have to go the extra step to search out a safe running route in a foreign place, and ask around for some local advice just to be sure. Thankfully I have my beast of a German Shepherd, Kobuk (that #dogmom life), as my bodyguard. But assuming everyone doesn’t travel with a fur child, please get yourself a small pocket knife or pepper spray to run with! You can keep it in your zip pocket or water bottle pouch, and you’ll feel a bit more at ease knowing you have a means to defend yourself.
Along the lines of safety, I use an app called Road ID. It lets you choose a time for how long you’ll be running, and choose a contact to alert. When you start the timer as you start running, it sends a message to your chosen contact saying you are heading out to run, and also sends them a message when you finish. Then if at any point during the run it senses (through your phone) that you are idle for five minutes, it will send an emergency alert to your contact. How cool is technology guys?! So if you take a poop break during the run and sit still for a few (I know it happens runners), make sure to stop the emergency message from sending to your contact or else you may get a concerned phone call!
And we can’t forget about nutrition. We all know that our appetites become that of a baby dinosaur when logging some serious miles. Keeping me fed is pretty important in general (hellooo hangry), but especially during marathon training! When we are in a city or even a smaller town and the grocery store options are plenty-no problem. All the fresh veggie pasta, berries for protein smoothies, and brown rice of my dreams. But what about when we’re in a more deserted place and I’m ravenous? This is when planning ahead is key. Of course we always have food, but having food and really HAVING FOOD to feed a hungry runner are two different things. My favorite kitchen appliance to stay on top of my fueling game is the freezer! You can pretty much cook anything ahead of time, freeze it properly, and heat it up when it comes time to eat. Having sweet potato salmon patties pre-made then froze to be used to carb load the night before a Texas desert race in the middle of nowhere was brilliant.
If you find yourself traveling and don’t exactly have the means to cook and freeze a whole meal, bringing protein powder with you can be a life saver! You can buy small travel packets of your favorite protein brand, then have it on hand to add to milk or water after a run when you’re in a pinch! It might not be a beautiful salmon entree complete with appetizer, but it’ll at least hold you over and help with recovery.
The most important tip I can offer for hitting the pavement or dirt while traveling, is to embrace every situation that comes your way. Go with the flow! I know how important race training is to you, dear dedicated runner, but it’s not ALL that life is about. Sometimes you just can’t get that run in, and it’s okay. Always remember to give yourself grace and know that tomorrow is a new day. Run the mile you are in-on and off the trail!
Yes, living the life I dream of in every aspect takes some extra work. I might find myself lacing up my Asics just to run back and forth next to semi’s or literally in circles every now and then, but snagging a new PR and knowing you trained for it all while exploring all the raw beauty this world has to offer, makes it SO worth it.