Denver to San Diego

Hello blog friends, I’m back! This road trip was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and I’m not gonna lie – it was a little sad to say goodbye to the West Coast. In case you missed it, last Tuesday I flew out West to meet one of my best friends for the last 1,000 miles of her cross-country road trip (she’s moving to CA). After Hannah picked me up in Denver, we drove through Colorado, stopped in Utah to visit Arches National Park, ventured on to Arizona where we peeped the Grand Canyon, fell in love with Flagstaff and Sedona, and then continued on to California where we hit up Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, and finally San Diego! 1,000+ miles and 4 days in the car left me with plenty of time for reflection. Read on for my tips/thoughts/ramblings on staying sane (and healthy!) on a road trip.

1) Pick your partner wisely. A mutual love of morning runs, coffee, and hip hop/rap music kept Hannah and I on the same page throughout this adventure. If you’re traveling with someone, think about your lifestyle preferences and expectations for the trip. If trying local delicacies (BBQ, curry, fish tacos!) is important, you may want to think twice about teaming up with someone who prefers chain restaurants. And if exercise is a priority, make sure your travel buddy knows that. Despite a day off, I still managed to run 50+ miles this week (t-minus 7 weeks till the marathon!). Hannah was an awesome running buddy – we made it a point to get out the door and run 4-7 miles each morning even if it meant forgoing a little extra sleep. I didn’t plan any speed workouts this week, but it still felt good to get in some solid runs, especially since we were sitting in the car for the rest of the day. Plus running with a buddy is a safe and fun way to explore a new place! Our easy jaunts took us through Arches National Park, Flagstaff, Palm Springs, and the San Diego waterfront.

2) Be food flexible. Hannah and I both kept our eyes open for whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, but sometimes those things just weren’t available (I’m talking to you gas station in middle-of-nowhere Arizona…). We started each day with a healthy breakfast  (stocking up on apples, nut butter, oat muffins, and greek yogurt at Trader Joe’s was a clutch move!), ate mini-meals in the car during the day, and then sought out a fun dinner. Guess what? I ended up having a burger and fries for 4 days in a row!! But instead of getting all bent out of shape, I enjoyed the change in routine. I LOVE burgers, but I rarely eat them, so it felt like a treat to have my favorite food so often. To make things a little healthier, I occasionally chose a veggie burger vs. beef burger. I also piled on the tomatoes, lettuce, and onions to squeeze in a serving of vegetables and made ketchup my condiment of choice (hey, it has antioxidants!). I also tend to skip cheese if American is the only variety available. I find that it doesn’t have much flavor, so I don’t even miss it! If the french fries are fresh and tasty (local burger joints, In-n-Out burger), I’ll order a small. I love hot and salty french fries! However, I usually bypass the potatoes from McDonald’s and Burger King – I don’t think they’re worth it. On days that we had to patch together a lunch from car snacks and gas stations, my favorite go-to was an orange dipped in almond butter, dried fruit & nuts, and some sun chips. Maybe not an ideal lunch, but have you SEEN the options in rural America? It gives me new appreciation for fresh and healthy food! Road trips are not the time for obsessing about calories and carbs. In fact, the pamphlet we received from the Grand Canyon visitor’s center advised us to “eat twice as much as usual” and “consume salty snacks along with your drinks”. Ok, so maybe they were referring to hikers, but I think road tripping is an endurance test of its own!

3) Be prepared for elevation and climate changes. No matter where you travel, you’re likely to experience something a little different than you’re used to. I do all my training at sea level (New York City), so running in Moab, Utah (5,000 feet), Flagstaff, Arizona (8,000 feet), and Palm Springs (hot and dry desert) all proved to be a little challenging. If you’re planning on running or hiking at elevation, be prepared to feel out-of-breath and heavy-legged. During our run on the trails and rocks of Arches National Park, our pace was close to 10:00 per mile. That’s a solid 90 seconds slower than my usual easy run pace, yet I was still gasping for breath. Lesson learned? Adjust your expectations! I’ve been told that after 2 weeks at elevation, you’ll be 86% acclimated. Until then, don’t try to run as fast or as far as usual. Another issue with elevation is dehydration. Because you’re breathing more (trying to take in more oxygen), you’re exhaling more moisture and losing water. And since your sweat will evaporate more quickly in the desert, you might not even realize how dehydrated you are. I’m not sure of the scientific reason for this, but I  noticed that my knees tend to feel achy at elevation (this also happened when I visited Albuquerque in July). Perhaps it’s because my joints and tendons were drier and less lubricated? Thoughts? Finally, if you’re used to cool temperatures and travel to a warm, humid climate for vacation, running is going to seem harder! My advice: scale back your exercise routine (easy miles vs. tempo runs), drink lots of water, and try to run early before it gets too hot.

Now that I’m back in the Big Apple, I’m ready to get back to my regular routine. I logged a 20-mile long run this morning (whee! recap tomorrow…) and have big plans to cook veggie-rific meals for lunch and dinner this week. After time spent vacationing or indulging, what’s your best advice for getting back to normal?

  • Your pictures are so pretty! I hope you frame some of those. I have never done a road trip quite like that, but after any amount of time not in your own food setting, I definitely go back to basic fruits and vegetables. Way to go for logging miles even in altitude and heat! And thanks for letting me guest post. Your readers are so nice!

  • Those pictures are beautiful! I’m so jealous and hope to make it out there someday! I loved reading about your trip!

  • I love this post. What amazing photographs. I love how your dedication still stays strong while being flexible and adventurous!

  • I absolutely adore that part of the U.S. – especially Sedona, the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff. Great location for hikes/runs. Though I don’t mind the occasional break from routine, after a few days away..I like to come back to home turf to get back to eating balanced breakfasts, packing my lunch, and having sensible dinners. Fruits and Veggies are definitely the star attractions.

  • yay roadtrippin’ 🙂 love all the pictures! it makes me want to take a cross country trip 🙂

  • Fun Trip! I agree with you after a trip I always crave fruits and veggies!

  • What a fun trip! I am majorly jealous of your amount of hamburger consumption–especially that photo with the gorgeous fries and paper cups full of ketchup. I have a serious obsession with warm ketchup. Just sayin’. 😀

    Looks like you had a great time! Good luck with the upcoming marathon!

  • Sounds like such an incredible trip! Beautiful pictures and great tips!

  • these pictures are magnificent. whew! kinda wish i was there 🙂

    i am all about getting back to the basics after vacationing. and by basics i mean comfy pajamas, home-cooked meals (or the uncooked pb&j) and my bed. lots of quality my bed time. yep. aaand that’s what i’m gonna do now! (a weekend away is sort of like a vacay for me. sad!)

  • Jealousy is seeping out of my pores and onto my laptop. Looks like an incredible time with good company and amazing scenery. I hope to hit those spots someday, too. Glad you were able to keep sane on the roadtrip! It can be hard, even with the best of company. But, hey, not pointing any fingers here, but you didn’t get it animal style?

  • SO fun to read this recap! That first photo is amazing – I feel like you’re going to look back on that forever!

    Also, did you get a new camera?? Photos are looking just lovely!

    Road trips are hard, but like you, I try not to sweat the change in routine but embrace it – after all, wouldn’t you rather be having adventures and packing away a few (hundred) more calories than not traveling at all?! YAY.

  • @Sarah – I totally meant to order the burg “animal style”, but after a few hours of sitting in SoCal traffic, I could barely remember my name. Hehe. I definitely want to go back to in-n-out and eat lots more burgers!

  • What beautiful pictures of Arizona! That’s smart of you to load up on staples, I’m pretty sure most gas stations don’t stock Greek yogurt!

  • Gorgeous, gorgeous pictures man!! While it’s not always doable, I always find an extra day off of work after coming back from vacation allows me to settle and get everything back to normal.

    Sounds like you had the best time ever – can’t wait to hear about it 🙂

  • Awesome. Glad you had a great time:)

    Getting back? I’m still a bit lagging from my trip out west that I returned from over 2 weeks ago! Oops.

    Generally, I try to do NY things which bring me back to loving it again:)

  • Looks like an awesome trip, and I can appreciate your tips. I always try to be patient with myself in getting back to normal. I think allowing adequate sleep right off is critical and I always make an effort to get right to the grocery store, so I have no excuse to continue living on bars and eating out 🙂

  • I’m sorry I missed you guys! It sounds like you had a pretty spectacular adventure! When I get back to “real life” I always just try to fall back into my routine. Any time I try to make up for lost time I fail miserably!

  • I’ve never commented on your blog before, but here goes – Flagstaff, AZ is a little piece of magical heaven. It’s high elevation brings the snow to the already awesome, hippie climate, which makes for one great ski resort town. And it’s summer is gorgeous, especially when you get out of town and see the fields of yellow flowers amidst the mountains. Love.

    And In n Out has a special piece to my heart. Now that I’m living in CA (from OR to VA to CA), it has to remain a special treat. Otherwise I have to go shopping for bigger pants. 😉

  • Wow, you got some awesome pictures! Sounds like it was a really fun road trip- those are the best kinds of trips! Getting back on track is tough (especially when there’s a time zone switch to deal with) but I find that trying to get back into my normal sleep pattern as quickly as possibly helps more than anything.

  • Wow some of those pictures are amazing! What a fab sounding road trip!
    You are so right; holidays arent about obsessing about the tinyest thing, but finding a balance and giving your body a break from routine too!
    Well done for fitting all those runs in too

  • I always give myself at least 1-2 days to get use to the lttle things around me (laundry, groceries,etc.) and then I hop right back into routine. I love the pics! In & Out is one of my favorites places!!

  • Oh my gosh, I’m so jealous of your road trip! I love your tips, too. I think it’s really important to have a travel buddy that’s like-minded when it comes to food and exercise. I mean, how much would it suck if you wanted healthy eats and your friend wanted to stop at Wendy’s every time. (Not that Frostys SHOULDN’T be consumed on a road trip!) And 4 burgers in 4 days=awesssome! 🙂

  • Wow what amazing pictures! I think getting tons of veggies and fruit along with less sweets helps me get back on track post vacation.

  • Great travel tips! And I second the advice on 1) lots of fruits and veggies and whole grains when you get back, and 2) on return, take a couple of days to take care of the little things and re-orient before planning anything big.

  • i can’t wait to hear more about your road trip – i’ve got to get out west one of these days. your pictures are gorgeous!

    after vacation, i just try to get back to my usual routine. it’s amazing what just a few simple meals, some normal exercise, and sleeping in your own bed can do. of course, i also try and do what you did – make healthy choices while enjoying things i might not normally have while i’m on vacation, because it keeps me feeling my best while i’m away.

  • GORGEOUS PICTURES!! When I get back from a vacation we are definitely on a eat at home/no eating how spree for a good 1-2 weeks. I also eat a lot of fruit and veggies after vacations as well is making sure I jump back into my workout routine if that got lost on vacation (which it actually usually doesn’t).

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  • i am insanely jealous of your road trip…next time, can i come?!?!

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