Tagged in: Exploring

Running in Reykjavik

It might not get a lot of love as a runners’ destination, but Iceland offers a lot to like. Varying terrain for trail runners. Long, sweeping paths that stretch for miles for endurance aficionados. And incredible scenery in nearly every direction. While I didn’t get to do much running while I toured around the country, I took a few great hikes and enjoyed exploring Reykjavik by foot on a windy day.

I visited Iceland during a shoulder month, when the main scenic attractions were less busy, but some of the trails and viewpoints were closed for the year. I was still able to check out some great trails. There are two trails that I highly recommend to trail runners, even though I only got to do short hikes on each.

Skogafoss Waterfall Skogar Iceland

First, Skogafoss is a well-known, beautiful waterfall located just off the ring road in the south of the country. If you climb the steps to the top of the waterfall, you’ll find a small ladder that takes you over a sheep fence. From there, you’ll find a spectacular trail that winds along a beautiful river and waterfalls that never seem to end. Every turn and hill crest rewards runners and hikers with a new surprise. We saw hikers, runner, and mountain bikers. We made a short hike out of it, but you can extend it to 55km via the Laugavegur Trail. This trail was the best part of the entire 10-day trip for me. Check out the Strava data for this hike.

The next trail begins at Dettifoss, a mind-bending, powerful waterfall that will make you feel very small. You can take the trail on the west side of the falls more than 30km to Ásbyrgi in the north. While we were able to do a small loop here, we were rebuffed due to the seasonal trail closure and didn’t get to run this spectacular river trail. There are some great views and beautiful waterfalls on this trail. If you go in summertime, take advantage of it.

Dettifoss Iceland Waterfall Trail

Finally, I got a run in on the second to last day of the trip, while staying in Reykjavik. The wind in Iceland can really get whipping sometimes, and this was one of the windier days of the trip. I was staying in downtown on the main strip, Laugavegur. From there, I was able to make a short jog to the waterfront. Despite the wind, it was a beautifully sunny day. I ran along the water and soaked in the sights of the fishing and trading boats that line the docks. There is a path along the water. I ran it nearly to the lighthouse on the far West tip of Reykjavik before returning on pretty much the same route. The city opens up to the North Atlantic Ocean here and the views are striking. Mountains across the water on another peninsula, seabirds, the city that seems to rise up out of nowhere amongst the harsh landscape. Strava GPS is here.

On a final note, if you’re looking for gluten-free food in Iceland, you can do pretty well in just about any restaurant. They understand gluten intolerance and I ate so much amazing seafood. There is a chain called Joe and the Juice. There are two locations at the airport and one in downtown. I’m sure there are more, but those were the three I came across. Try the spicy tuna panini sandwich. For finer Italian eating, try Rossopomodoro. Sure it’s touristy, but the gluten-free pasta was very well done. I encountered several restaurants, especially pizzerias, who advertised gluten-free online, but had no idea what I was talking about when I called or visited. If you’re really hard-up, there are a couple Domino’s locations. On Route 41 on the waterfront, look for Icelandic Fish & Chips, where you can enjoy a reasonably priced fish soup. Finally, if you’re looking for gluten-free beer, good luck. The only place I found it was a great little underground place called Micro Bar. As luck would have it, they had two gluten-free beers I’d never had before from Mikkeller and Brewdog.

If you’d like to see more of Iceland, have a look at the video below and see if you’re inspired to plan a running vacation.

Kentucky Marathon Finish Line Marker

Running in Louisville, Kentucky

I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Kentucky to stand up in a friend’s wedding. We like to go for a run on those rare times we get to see each other and I was happy to get in one of my Louisville runs with a little company. To my knowledge, Louisville isn’t known as a runner’s city, but I certainly saw plenty of runners while I was there.

The waterfront seems to be changing all the time. Green spaces are popping up more and more. And you can run right into Indiana if you like, which I did a couple of times.

Brown Hotel Bar Ceiling

Beautiful Ceiling at the Brown Hotel Bar

I stayed downtown at the Brown Hotel. From the hotel, it’s a quick trip to the riverfront. Head north on 4th Street and make your way through the very strange Fourth Street Live! area. It seems like this area transitioned a few years back and they want it to be a hip, appealing area for shoppers and visitors. It was mostly plugged up with chain restaurants, which didn’t appeal to me, but I suppose they would to some people.

Moving along, I stayed on 4th Street and headed past the convention center until I got to the stairs that led down to the waterfront. I turned right (East) when I got to the river. This is a pretty area with lots of historic things to look at and a nice view across the Ohio River into Jeffersonville, Indiana. I took my time running past the Belle of Louisville sternwheeler and underneath the Clark Memorial Bridge.

Ohio River Louisville Highway bridge

Eventually I came to the Louisville Waterfront Park’s Great Lawn. Kitty corner from here, you can see the famous Louisville Slugger Field. I continued under the I-65 highway bridge until I got to a beautiful bridge simply called The Walking Bridge or The Big 4. There is a long, sweeping, circular ramp to get up to the bridge, which is a nice challenge. Once on the bridge, there are historical markers and great views. I took this bridge into Indiana and enjoyed exploring Colston Memorial Park and Big Four Station. There are a few waterfront routes to run on this side of the river, although I didn’t run on them. There are restrooms and drinking fountains in this park. Strava data for day 1 run is here.

This was the midpoint of my run and I explored some other areas on the way back, but the riverfront was the highlight. If you go to Louisville and you’re a runner, be sure to check out the waterfront, the fresh green spaces, and this terrific bridge. Strava data for each day 2 run is here.

Chicken Feed Hood River

Trail Running East Fork Hood River #650

My wife and I recently took our first trip to Hood River, Oregon. The reason for the trip was two-fold: run a trail together and tour Hood River’s breweries. Mission accomplished on both fronts.

We left early on a Saturday morning in the first week of June and headed for the Polallie Trailhead. This was a quick, 80-minute drive from Portland. The trailhead does require a Northwest Forest Pass. Ours had just expired, but we lucked out because apparently this was a no-fee day. There is a ranger station down Highway 35 where you can scoop up a pass, so be sure you’re up-to-date before you arrive at this trailhead.

We headed across the street to the actual trailhead and started uphill. We were aware of a certain amount of elevation change, but the first mile alone included a startling amount of elevation. We quickly switched to hiking mode on uphills to save our energy. It was a very hot day and we didn’t want to overdo it. To add a bit of interest to our run, we decided to visit Tamawanas Falls. This added a couple of miles to the run, but was well worth it. The trail in and out from Tamawanas Falls is generally wide and easy to run. Most of it is single- or double-track dirt, with just a few areas of technical, rocky terrain.

Away from the falls, the trail was single-track dirt and gentle, undulating hills. For beginners or professionals, this is a fun, relatively easy trail. The elevation gain wound up being a surprise, but didn’t cause any great difficulty. Our goal for the day was 10 miles total, so when we were satisfied that we had gone far enough, we took a side trail to the river for a quick bite to eat while enjoying the lazy river flowing in front of us.

After closing out the remaining 5 miles of our out and back run, we headed for Parkdale, Oregon. We wound up hitting Solera Brewing, with it’s spectacular beer garden view of Mount Hood. After a quick beverage, we went to Apple Valley BBQ for a very hearty lunch. From there, we headed for our AirBnB, which happened to be on an amazing little farm, where the owner let us hang out and feed all the animals. Beyond that, we headed for downtown Hood River and wandered from coffee shop to brewery to shops to restaurants. We spent a fair amount of Sunday copying our routine from Saturday, including a stop on the Washington side of the Columbia River at Everybody’s Brewing. Again, this is a stellar place for a beer and some food with a spectacular Mount Hood view from the patio. I highly recommend the quick trip to White Salmon, Washington for this brewery.

This was a terrific two-day trip that could easily have been a single-day running adventure. But if you’re going to drive to Hood River for a trail run, do yourself a favor and spend some time in this lovely city. It’s worth your time. See the video below for some shots of the trail and the farm.

Jackson Square

Running the Big Easy

I recently had the opportunity to visit New Orleans with a group of friends from back home in Chicago. My physical therapy has been paying dividends and I’m back to putting in decent mileage and comfortable speeds without too much worry about my ankle. I have been to New Orleans before, but I had never run there. I was excited to see the riverfront and explore a little bit.

My wonderful triathlete friend Jen joined me for the first run on the morning of our second day. I love running with a companion and we enjoyed a comfortable conversational pace. It’s always a strange feeling waking up and cruising party central so early in the day. The bizarre combination of smells struck me as the ghosts of the night before. Some good, some bad, some horrible.

We started running as we passed Bourbon Street, heading for the Mississippi River. Almost immediately, I stepped into a crater on the sidewalk and twisted my ankle. I managed to stay upright and was shocked to find no residual pain or weakness. This physical therapy stuff really works! We continued all the way to the riverfront. There was a small wall lining train tracks. If you are in this area, be extremely careful. It is difficult to see the trains coming until you look around the wall.

We crossedNOLA Run to the levy and started on the path. The riverfront path is busy. Like, always busy. Between walkers, runners, cyclists, homeless wanderers, and oblivious tourists taking selfies, awareness is critical. The path is made of mostly slate tiles, so running can be a bit treacherous here as throughout the city. If you try to run on roads, you’ll find many potholes. Some of the streets alternate asphalt and old brick. The sidewalks are all tiles, many of which are broken. I found it best to take my runs slowly, enjoy the scenery, and soak in the city.

The riverfront path is quite short. I am not even sure it was a full mile. We wound up circling from the end of the path, back to the aquarium area, and back several times. The breeze off the river was wonderful and it was fun to see so much maritime activity so early in the day. At some point, a very long freight train pulled through the area and blocked our access back to the city. We simply continued to run until it was clear.

Getting back to the hotel was a bit of a chore because of the hoards of beignet-devouring tourists waiting to get to the riverfront in the other direction. We jogged through Jackson Square and snapped a couple photos before winding through a few more blocks home.

NOLA Run 2On our last day in New Orleans, I went out early in the morning for a solo run. I pretty much followed the original path to begin and started cruising down the riverfront path once again. A disheveled-looking man and woman were sitting on a bench as I passed by. The woman croaked at me, “Hey man, you can’t run away from all your problems!” I quickly responded, “How do you know? Have you ever tried?” We all laughed and I continued on my way. This was typical of New Orleans on both of my visits. Everyone I met was really friendly and outgoing.

I thought I would extend my run a little bit, but wound up getting lost somewhere near a casino. I accelerated my pace because time was getting tight and I was concerned about getting to the airport on time. With a little GPS help, I found my way back and everything worked out fine.

Though I don’t find New Orleans the best city for a run, it was relaxing enough. It was strange to run on flat land again after so much time spent in the Pacific Northwest. I am curious about outlying areas. I never did locate any off-road trails or parks to run in. I’m sure we’ll go back soon and I look forward to exploring a bit more. Any suggestions on where to run are certainly welcome.