Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Rest of Utah

Time to wrap up our Labor Day Weekend visit to Utah. Here are a few of the other things we experienced while in the Park City area.

We checked into our Park City hotel, the Hyatt Escala Lodge, which was part of The Canyons Resort area. Canyons encompassed about 8-10 other resorts. The rooms and property at the Hyatt were nice, but the hotel services were lacking. The restaurant (and more importantly the bar) was closed Sundays and Mondays and when they were operating they were only open until 10pm. This is Utah - it's hard enough to get a drink as it is - why make it harder?  Other low-service encounters occurred the entire stay. At least we caught a deal - Buy 2 nights get 1 free.

We took a lot of cabs from the resort to Old Town Park City. We had a rental car, but given the bad dining options at our hotel we wanted to have the luxury of spending more time in town enjoying the local establishments. The town did offer a free shuttle to-and-from the resorts - but it was a far distance from our lodge to the bus stop....

Our first cabbie suggested we try The No Name Saloon. It was a dank bar with high ceilings and classic rock playing. The motif:  bikers took over a cowboy saloon. Kinda fun. No Name offered a rooftop bar as well, but since we weren't sure if we could drink there without eating (strange Utah laws) we just sat at the bar.
Post-marathon dinner was at 350 Main Brasserie. This restaurant had a nice modern decor with a pleasant bar area and windows that opened fully to the outdoors. We split the crispy gnocchi mac and cheese appetizer. Honestly if they doubled the portion size this could have been their signature entree. Really delicious. Dave had the lobster and grits while Holly had the fried chicken. Both were very good, but unfortunately altitude, 3 hour drive, and marathon caught up with us so no dessert. We went back to the hotel and had a nightcap at the fire pit.

The next morning we trekked over to the Deer Valley resort area to have brunch at the Stein Eriksen Lodge. In our typical fashion we got there way too early. We killed time by walking around the resort and taking some photos of the mostly overcast grey morning. By the time brunch came we were ready to eat and enjoy a mimosa. "Not for another half hour". Utah laws - no liquor before 11:30 on a Sunday. The buffet offered an amazing assortment - breakfast, lunch, desserts, you name it. We ate outside so we could hear the jazz band better. By the time we left we were stuffed. This was a good thing since the next stop was the Utah Olympic Park.

We hit a couple of local establishments before our dinner at the Riverhorse on Main. We were really looking forward to this one. Research online led us to believe it was one of the best places in town; confirmed by our cabbies. They weren't ready for us immediately and showed us some bar seats. We ordered some nice signature cocktails and waited about 20 minutes for our table. We were seated in one of two dining rooms and it was nicely decorated. There was a guy singing and playing acoustic guitar.  Very pleasant.   Our appetizers of shrimp and potstickers arrived. Shrimp were awesome, potstickers horrible. They were drowned in the soy ginger sauce. The main dishes - halibut and pork shoulder were good, but not great. Other than the decor, shrimp, and opening cocktails we were disappointed in this meal.

Another cabbie gave us the tip to drive out to Brighton ski area. He told us there were a couple lakes in the area we could hike around. We took his advice.  Before heading out we stopped in Old Town Park City for the Running of the Balls. This was a charity event where participants "buy" a numbered golf ball. They put all those balls in a big hopper for a race down Main Street. It was fun to watch over 6,000 balls bounce down the street.

The way to Brighton followed mostly narrow windy mountain rows. No guard rails. Beautiful scenery the whole way. We got to Brighton and found the park area packed. Lots of families out for a hike, picnic, or a little fishing. We went to the info center and the guide told us the walk around Silver Lake would be an easy 0.7 miles. He could point out some other more difficult trails, but we declined the offer since 0.7 sounded like the amount of effort we wanted to put forward.

Half-way around the lake we came to another trail with some signs pointing to some other trails named after different lakes. The Twin Lakes trail was a mile long. We thought "we drove all this way......" And decided to see what Twin Lake looked like. After a minute we gave some thought to other points made on the sign. Our current elevation was about 8,700 ft. Twin Lakes was a 710 ft elevation gain. That's equal to Machu Picchu's elevation. The steepness of the hike plus the elevation was doing us in. This wasn't a fifteen minute walk. Once we got to the top we saw a small lake and a concrete reservoir. Going down the mountain was much more fun.

By the time we got to the bottom of the hill we we so ready to eat something. We made the trip back to Old Town and headed toward High West Distillery. They make their own whiskies and vodka here. High West had a great menu and was pretty crowded at 3pm. We had some snacks, samples of their booze straight, then some signature drinks.
With this being Labor Day liquor stores were closed in Utah. Our hotel bar was closed.   Clearly this was poor planning on our part.   Luckily a stop at Wasatch Brew Pub gave us the chance to buy a warm 6-pack of their kolsch style beer. We finished up downtown shopping and headed back to the hotel. Dave chilled the beer by pouring it over ice, then strained the ice and poured it into coffee cups appropriated from the cafe. Good enough..... We decided we were done trekking to town so we dined outdoors by the fire pit at Drafts. We asked our server what would happen if we ordered a bottle of wine and couldn't finish it.   The answer was it could be corked back up and taken with us. We skipped the formality of having a sip of wine and were able to get the whole bottle to go. We finished the night by our hotel's fire pit.
Before our flight back to Chicago we had lunch at Squatter's Pub. We enjoyed some great burgers and beers. The pub was located next to some 2002 Olympic monument where Holly took one final photo.
We have a few minutes of video from the brunch, ball drop, and Brighton hike. Park City was a great summer destination. We decided we'd return someday to see it during ski season.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Barefoot Bandito

Some things you find that a lot of runners have in common is their generosity and willingness to take up a cause. Attempting physical feats give many an opportunity to raise money and awareness for causes close to their hearts. As you know Team Tizzel is part of Team AllEars: a Disney-centered running team focused on raising money to fight breast cancer. We'll talk more about our fundraising efforts in the upcoming weeks since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In today's post we're going to focus on a person we met in Pocatello, Idaho that has a unique goal.

We mentioned that Holly ran a few miles with Eddie Vega in her Pocatello Marathon race report.  Holly discovered this barefoot runner was doing so to raise awareness for his cause - Soles4Souls - a non-profit organization focused on clothing impoverished children in order to help curb illness and disease. We thought running Pocatello barefoot was amazing in-and-of-itself, however we were more inspired by Eddie when we read the personal message on his fundraising page:
In honor of my late mother and father, Rita Vilbar Vega and Charlie Macuto Vega, I will attempt to run a marathon (26.2 miles or 42 kilometers) completely BAREFOOT in all 50 United States and 7 Continents to raise awareness for the poor children who have no shoes. My plan is to complete this goal in five years by June 22, 2018.

Through the Soles4Souls charity program, every $1 donated will provide one pair of shoes to an impoverished child living in the Micronesian Islands and the Philippines. Currently, there are an estimated 300 million children all over the world who lack basic footwear, and you can help provide them with valuable protection from harmful wounds and infectious diseases. 
My goal is to generate enough donations for 262 pairs of shoes for every marathon I run BAREFOOT in each of the 50 United States and 7 Continents for a grand total of at least 14,934 pairs of shoes. However, my journey will not end here because there would always be a poor child somewhere around the world without shoes to wear and, according to the United Nations, there are 196 countries in this world. I think you can pretty much guess what my next goal would be. 
By the way, if running a marathon seems daunting, imagine running it BAREFOOT. That's what I initially thought until I finally had the guts to run my 68th marathon completely BAREFOOT. It was then that I noticed how much attention it garnered from other runners and spectators which kind of made me feel like a "Rock Star". That's when it occurred to me that I can actually use this as a way to bring awareness and raise funds for my favorite charities. 
If I succeed, I will become the first person ever to run a marathon BAREFOOT in all 50 United States and 7 Continents. Note, that there are currently only 62 persons in the world that have completed such a feat and that's with wearing a pair of SHOES! On another side note, as of June 22, 2013, I completed a marathon in all 50 United States wearing Vibrams "Near-Barefoot" Shoes.
Over the weekend we saw a post on Eddie's Facebook page stating he finished his 13th barefoot marathon - in Australia (continent number 4 for him). Want to help out? Go over to Eddie's page on and make a donation.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Utah's Olympic Park

The day after the Pocatello Marathon we visited Park City's Utah's Olympic Park and Winter Olympics Training Center. The Center is still an actual training facility, but has a lot of activities for tourists to participate in during their visit. Activities include the museum, bobsled rides, ski jump show, alpine slide, zip lines, ski lifts, adventure courses, etc. You can pay for activities individually or under bundled tickets. We bought a silver pass that gave us access to one ride on the zip line/drop tower, extreme zip line, alpine slide, plus unlimited ski lift rides for $45/pp.

When we were planning our trip out west we originally planned to take the bobsled ride - at speeds of up to 70 mph. About a week before the trip we altered our plans and nixed the bobsled because 1) we didn't want to sit through an orientation and 2) we didn't want to have our heads banged around for a minute. 

After watching a few minutes of the ski show, we took the ski lift to the extreme zip line. This was going to be our first zip line experience so why not make it extreme? The line starts at the top of the ski jump ramp and takes a sharp angle downward to the base. Riders sit in a sling chair vs. hanging from the rope. According to the website it is one of the steepest in the world and riders will reach speeds up to 50mph. The setup allowed us to ride on separate lines running side-by-side. Holly is a little predisposed to having some height anxiety so the build-up to launch was a little tense. Dave could hear her telling the attendant that he was going to be killed for this idea. Overall the ride looks more intimidating than it actually was. It's super-fun and gives a great view of the valley.

Next we rode the alpine slide. This version was a stainless steel single track ride that sent sleds down the mountain at speeds up to 30mph. There were a few sharp turns so riders had to be conscious of their braking. Dave's ride was better than Holly's ride - she had two little kids on the slide in front of her that didn't weigh enough for them to maintain speed, so she had to basically stop midway.

The final event was the zip line to the drop tower. This is how the park's website describes the attraction: "This advanced-level adventure is designed to test the thrill-seekers with a 377-foot long zip line high above the treetops finishing at the 65-foot high Drop Tower. From the Drop Tower there is ONLY ONE WAY DOWN – simply step off the platform for an exhilarating, 65-foot free fall. The Drop Tower will challenge the mental fortitude of even the toughest participant."

The zip line took riders over a bunch of trees with leaves starting to turn their fall colors. The landing area is on the drop tower where you wait and watch several other riders gear up for the drop down. We were tethered to a winch-like apparatus that would help deaccelerate us when we jumped off the tower. The guy working the tower was great at trying to help folks get over their fears to take the plunge. Dave went first with no hesitation while Holly enjoyed a very short conversation with the staff member about Disney. We survived....

We spent about three hours at the park with most of that time walking or standing in line. Prices were reasonable for the experiences we had and values seemed to improvedas you bundled more activities. Here's the video from our visit.

Once we made it back to the hotel we needed a snack and a beverage. We walked over to the Sundial Lodge and found our way to Drafts - a beer-focused bar. We got to sample a few nice beers from Utah including Uinta's BaBa Black and Shades of Pale 4-Play Porter.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pocatello Marathon Race Report and Video

After our quick visit to Salt Lake we drove north for about 3 hours to Pocatello, Idaho. We checked into the host hotel, which was also where the expo was located. Since this wasn’t a very large race the expo was pretty small. The pick up was easy and included a very nice Adidas gear bag, and best of all, a 5 lbs. of Idaho potatoes! After the expo we headed out for lunch at the Portneuf Valley Brewery. We were meeting some friends of mine and I was very excited. I have known Carolee and Doug for about 10 years through an online fitness group but have never met them in person. What a treat. The beer was delicious as well. After lunch we were pretty much at a loss as to what to do. We should have planned a bit better and went to one of the local hot springs. Dinner was at an Italian Restaurant in a gas station and tasted about as good as you could expect it to taste. 

It was an early start for race day with a 5 am bus up a mountain to the start in the pitch black darkness. The buses were nice motor coaches and all the runners were very chatty. We get to the top of the mountain and we get off at a farm. I had the most pleasant port o potty experience of my racing career. Super clean, smelled wonderful and had a nice tile floor. They had a runner sing the National Anthem and fired a gun to start the race. The gun scared the crap out of me, as I wasn’t expecting it and it got my heart pumping early. 
The course started at an elevation of 6,000 feet and would drop down to 4,500 feet by mile 13. I knew I didn’t want to go flying down the mountain and beat myself up so I tried to hold back. I started slow and started running with another Marathon Maniac, Mary. She was great to talk to and made the first few miles go quickly. I was a bit concerned as I am pretty sure we were last and I was surprised my pace wasn’t faster. We were right around 12:35-12:45. I was worried about the effect of the higher elevation on me. The course was beautiful as the sun was coming up over the mountains all around you. The horses up on steep hillsides were amazing to me. I wasn’t feeling too bad and the foot felt great. I think the constant downhill was good for it as I wasn’t constantly pounding on my heel. Dave was doing his typical astounding job of following me on the course. He was doing so well that it was getting a bit embarrassing. 

I made it to the halfway point and ran into another Maniac, Ed. He is running a marathon in all 50 states as well. Barefoot! He is doing it to raise awareness for kids who don’t have shoes (supporting Soles 4 Souls). I had a lot of fun with him for a few miles. This was where I fell in love with marathoning again. I realized how lucky I was to run in these beautiful parts of the country and to run with some really amazing people. 

Unfortunately that feeling didn’t last and I got to mile 18 and just got tired, hot and thirsty. It was definitely more mental than physical. I just gave up. We were on a long open road that just went on for as long as you could see. I really need to work on my mental game from miles 16-20. This is where I give up my pace and start saying I can just walk from here and make it in. Then I get to Mile 20 and get reenergized and speed back up. I need more consistency. 

The same thing happened in this race. I got to Mile 20 and felt better. My mood improved and I started battling back. I wanted to finish under 6 hours. I almost missed it because Dave distracted me with a beer at Mile 24, but I persevered! The foot was bothering me now that I was on the flat section of the course. It was also getting warm. Thankfully there was no humidity but the temperatures were climbing into the high 80’s with no shade. I finally made it to the finish area and saw the finish line. I ran it in and made my “goal” of under 6 hours. 5:57. Whew. 

The medal was nice and post race area was good if you wanted a substantial meal. They had pulled pork sandwiches and a baked potato bar. I can’t stomach that right at the end, but I did have an ice cold beer. 

The Pocatello Marathon was a first class event for such a small town and the size of the field. I am glad I chose this one for the state of Idaho and I’d recommend it highly. Now it’s time to work on miles 16-20.
Here's our video from the race, followed by Dave's comments.

Dave's Comments

There were good reasons the race organizers discouraged spectators at the start line.  It was pitch black out there with no street lights.  I was wondering about bobcat danger.   The race was also on a 2-lane lane road open to traffic.  It was in the runner's best interest that I wasn't there.   After the start of the race I lingered around for a few minutes to give them lead-time before driving through them.   It didn't take too long until I hit a few groups of runners taking up all the road and decided not to pass them.   So I inched my way along the course.  It was cold for the first part of the morning, but then became tolerable.  During the race I ended up becoming the personal photographer for a group of women running together.   The first snack opportunity was a Sinclair gas station at mile 15 - good thing I self provisioned.....  I had fun on this course because there was a lot of pretty scenery and high desert landscape is new to me.  Took lots of pictures.   I was maybe one of 10 spectators I saw on the course until the finish area.  Overall a pretty fun morning - especially getting the beer at mile 24 - if that bar was in my town I'd never go into it.  But the bartender and one client were very nice and showed a sense of pride in their town when I told them how many people from across the country travel to Pocatello for their race.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pocatello Idaho and Portneuf Valley Brewing

Our visit to the city of Pocatello, Idaho was short but long enough. We arrived at our hotel, which was also the site of the Pocatello Marathon race expo, a few minutes before the expo started. This allowed Holly to get her registration squared up and visit the half dozen vendors within 15 minutes.
We were meeting friends that lived in Idaho Falls for lunch. We told them we wanted to meet at the Portneuf Vally Brewing restaurant. They had informed us that it was in an interesting part of town. Hmmmmm..... Actually, the brewery is in the industrial section of town near factories and warehouses. The back deck overlooked a Union Pacific train yard and the desert mountains.
On the inside the brewery had lots of charm. The first floor was long and narrow which created two separate seating areas. They had a nice crowd for a late-lunch Friday. We tried the Nut Brown, Cocoa Porter, and Midnight Satin. Holly proclaimed the Nut Brown one of the best, if not the best, she ever had. The food was excellent as well.
Later in the day we were trying to figure out how to occupy our time until dinner. The town had a zoo and a small museum, but we wanted to keep Holly off her feet. Dave wanted to visit the "revitalized" Old Town Pocatello business district. The website billed it as a 12 block area of shopping and dining. This was not the case. One out of every three buildings had a business in it - most appearing to just be hanging on by a thread. At 5pm on a Friday it was desolate. Lost for something to do, we headed back to the brewery. Dave sampled the seasonal Red Bucket Red Ale while Holly watched and enjoyed some water.

There were two Italian restaurants in town that are not chains. We originally were going to eat at one in Old Town, but we were underwhelmed by the looks of it from our earlier walk-by. Some of the locals at the bar vouched for the town's other Italian restaurant - which was attached to a gas station. The only good thing about the place was Dechutes' Black Butte Porter was on tap. Based on our experiences Italian food is just different west of St. Louis.

Before turning in we spent a few minutes in the hotel's bar - Whispers (where Holly had another sample of the local tap water). We got to spy on the race pacer orientation, which was actually quite fun. The next morning we had an early wake-up call so Holly could run the Pocatello Marathon.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chain Livin': Chain O' Lakes Brewing

It's been awhile since we had a Chain Livin' post so we thought we'd interrupt our reports from Utah and Idaho to talk about the new Chain O' Lakes Brewery in McHenry, IL.
Chain O' Lakes opened in the home of the defunct McHenry Brewery. Apparently that company was around from 1860's - 1950's. Never heard of it until now.
Right now there's a taproom open for a few hours a day offering 2-3 beers made onsite and a rotation of guest taps. The day we visited the two flagships were available: Fox River Scotch Ale and The Colonel's IPA. The Oktoberfest was coming online the next day. The owner/brewmaster said that beer would likely last two days because of the size of the batch and the amount of traffic they have been getting. We sampled the IPA - which you know we don't usually like. This one was decent with a relatively low IBU in the 40's. We had pints of the Scotch Ale and enjoyed it!
We talked to The owner/brewer (Curt) for a minute and he told us he prefers malt beers to hoppy beers. YES!!!
Since they have been opened for just a few days the taproom still has time to develop its character. The seating available was one long bench along a wall and several kegs turned into stools. Each keg was hand painted with a different design.
Curt is a retired Marine and has a wall dedicated to those currently serving or killed in action. You can bring in a 5x7 photo and he'll hang it up. Nice touch. There are a few nods to the former brewery in the taproom as well as a full line of merchandise.

This won't be our last visit. Shocking.....

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Few Hours in Salt Lake City

Travel is never easy, and Thursday's travel day to Salt Lake City proved that. About ten minutes before boarding our American Airlines flight from O'Hare was cancelled. We scrambled on the phone and with the gate agent and got ourselves on a United flight. We had trouble tracking our suitcase for transfer since American's new self-print machine cut-off the number of our bag code. Lots of running around between two terminals to ensure the transfer took place. We land in SLC to find no suitcase. It never went to United. It ended up coming in on a later AA flight, then was transferred in Salt Lake to United, whom then delivered it to our hotel.

By the time we finally got in the rental car and to our hotel we were tired and hungry. Luckily, Dave booked our hotel in the downtown area and we had a 2 block walk to a few microbreweries. Not-so-lucky was the fact that we were on the "fringe" of downtown and our long 2 block walk showcased the social-economic issues plaguing Salt Lake City.

We compared the dining menus of Squatter's Pub and Red Rocks and chose Red Rocks for dinner. This was our first introduction to Utah drinking laws. If you looked on-the-border of 21 the server had to write down your ID information into a log book. Beers on tap were a maximum of 4% alcohol. If you want something stronger it's coming from a bottle. We tried their Stout and Nut Brown on tap first - impression was they were watered-down. Tasted ok, just weaker versions of the styles. Dave stuck with the taps and tried their amber - same thing. Holly got another brown ale in a bottle and it was much better.
We ordered individual pizzas: The special of the day had pineapple, pulled pork, BBQ, and Serrano peppers. We also ordered a Gorgonzola, pear, candied walnut pizza. Both were very good.
Overall not a bad experience, just kinda average. The place had the charm of an Applebee's without all the flair on the wall.

Our next stop was over to Squatter's Pub. This place had a lot more charm and seemed to be a bit more popular with the Univ. of Utah students (campus was a mile or two away). We didn't stay long - just enough time to have a beer and prepare for another walk back to the hotel. We tried on tap the famous Polygamy Porter and Dirty Bastard Oatmeal Stout. Both had a lot more body vs. Red Rocks products. Liquor was on display here, whereas Red Rocks bartenders had to go to a backroom to make a liquor drink. Overall would have been a fun place to hang out for a few rounds. One thing to note, Wasatch Brewing and Squatter's are two separate businesses that got together to produce beers in a more cost-effective way. Both businesses have each others beers on tap, but not the full list. At Park City's Wasatch we had an Oktoberfest - which was not available at Park City's Squatter's.

The next morning we were planning to head out of the city early to get to Pocatello, Idaho in time for the race expo start (Holly was running a marathon) but had a couple minutes to spend touring Temple Square. This area is home to the Salt Lake City Temple and Tabernacle (where the Mormon Choir perform) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Other surrounding buildings make up the rest of the square and serve as the church's headquarters. Temple Square is Utah's #1 tourist attraction.

Couldn't they put the trash can on the other side of the organ?
Once you left downtown the landscape slowly turned from mountain to desert. The 3 hour drive to Pocatello was desolate, but at times very pretty.