Tag: driving

Travel Swellness: How to make a destination race less stressful

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Running a marathon is a stressful endeavour. As a first timer, you’re stressed about evening being able to complete the distance. As a regular marathoner, you may be focused on trying to run a personal best and there are so many factors you can fret about (getting enough sleep, fueling properly, whether you put in the training that’ll get you that PB, etc.).

And when it’s a destination race you’re running, a whole slew of other factors come into play. You’re not sleeping in your own bed, the travel may have tired you out, you’re eating foods in a different city—there are simply a lot more unknowns to contend with.

My most recent destination race, the Detroit Marathon (where I ran a great race and tried to BQ—check out my race recap) I incorporated a lot of factors to help make the trip less stressful (and learned a few new things that’ll be sure to keep in mind for future destination races):

1. Drive a comfortable, safe car for your road trip. Bonus if it’s sleek and luxurious, too. General Motors Canada let me test drive the Buick Enclave Avenir to Detroit for the race. I’ve driven the Enclave before but not the Encave Avenir. It had so many features that made the drive so much more comfortable and stress-free (more on that later) but the car was so spacious and luxurious (the leather interior is sleek and the seats were so comfortable for our five-hour drive to Motor City). The temp dipped in the evenings, so the heated steering wheel was much appreciated, too. I’ve been on a few road trips where we’ve run into car trouble and you do not need the stress of that when you’re heading to another city to run 42.2k!

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2. Have a GPS you can count on. I have zero sense of direction (anyone who’s traveled with me can attest to how horrible my sense of direction is!), and I know I’d be so much more stressed driving without a GPS. And they’re not created equal. When I drove from Calgary to Jasper, the GPS in the car rental often couldn’t find the destination I was looking for (and if I had a signal, I had to resort to using my Google Maps on my phone). The one in the Buick Enclave Avenir is reliable and gives plenty of advance notice of when you need to make your next turn (I’ve had ones that would only notify you when you are right at the intersection, which meant we always drove right by our turn). The Enclave was also equipped with OnStar, which we didn’t end up having to use, but I always feel safer in a vehicle that is equipped with it.

3. Feel confident about your safety as you drive. When I got my driver’s license when I was 18, cars were very different. Test driving this Buick Enclave Avenir, I appreciated the modern features that allow you to feel really safe. I’d say in general, I find driving to be a bit stressful, but with features like blind-spot assist and the safety-alert seat, the vehicle is helping you to drive more safely, and more safely translates to less stress. Also, not only was the Buick Enclave Avenir equipped with WiFi, it also features wireless charging, and as I count on my phone way too much (that’s another story for another time), nothing stresses me out more than my phone being low on battery and wireless charging is so convenient!

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4. Have great playlists for your road trip. Music plays such a big role in setting the mood. For the first time ever, I created a playlist for my race (mostly a mix of Backstreet Boys, NKOTB, a few 80s hits, 90s hip hop and R n B) and in the Enclave, we had Sirius XM, which for most of the time in the car we had on hip hop but the day before the race, I just needed to chill so switched to a station with low key indie music. I don’t need thumping beats to go with my pre-race jitters! I need to do whatever little rituals I have to do to quiet those nerves about the race, and the SirusXM in the Enclave helped to do that.

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5. Stay in a cozy hotel room filled with natural light. I know some people thrive on being surrounded by runners and the excitement for the marathon, but I prefer an environment that’s relaxed and serene. We were hosted at the Element and it was an ideal place to call home for race weekend. Other runners were also staying here, but not huge groups of runners (or not that we saw anyhow) so I didn’t have the nervous energy of other marathoners to make me feel more anxious about the race. Our corner suite was so spacious, and had so many windows it was filled with natural light and we were able to wake up to the sunrise (well, except for race morning when we got up at 5 a.m.!). With a full kitchen, it would’ve been an ideal spot to prepare a simple pasta dish for dinner before the race rather than wait way too long at the Italian restaurant we went to (which doesn’t take reservations, hence the crazy long wait). I also loved that there’s a Drought juice spot just a few steps from the hotel, and you can stash those cold-pressed juices in the kitchen’s fridge (we indulged in this beet juice post-race, delish!). The Element is a Westin hotel, so it features that Heavenly bed that is so comfortable (we had no problems falling asleep!). The hotel is also nice and quiet; it’s peaceful and serene, but if you’re in need of some white noise, the room also is equipped with a white-noise machine. Oh, and parking the Enclave? It’s simple as a guest at the Element with the valet parking. Parking is not my strength (I will park blocks away rather than parallel park) so I was more than happy to pull up to the Element and hand over the keys!

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I could just as well have gone in a regular car, stayed at an budget-friendly Airbnb and probably could’ve run just as good a race, but having this sophisticated car and a great place to call home while in town for the race made this marathon weekend so much simpler and stress-free.

Thank you to both General Motors Canada and the Element for helping make this Detroit Marathon weekend (and my first visit to Motor City!) an incredible one.

 

Leave a Comment October 29, 2019

Travel Swellness: Testing performance with the 2019 Ford Edge ST

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“Karen, how would you like to try something terrifying?”

Okay, okay, that’s not what the invite read. In April, Ford Canada approached me with a fun challenge. They wanted to know if I was up for testing my performance through a fitness performance adventure such as rock climbing or trapeze, while also testing the performance of the 2019 Ford Edge ST. And, of course, I said yes (hello, have we just met, I love semi scary adventures, hahaha!).

My gut reaction was to try trapeze…but then I got kind of nervous as I thought about it some more (I don’t mind heights per se, but I don’t like the sensation of free falling or being upside down much) and thought “Oh, I’ll just do rock climbing.” But I’ve done rock climbing several times (in CEGEP I did several rock climbing gym intensives (when you could get your gym credit completed in one weekend, so convenient!), plus I’ve been climbing since then both out in nature and at climbing gyms). And I knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t push myself to try trapeze, so I decided to go for it. And then I had to think carefully about which friend would be up for this as well, and sure enough, my friend Amanda, who’s always up for just about anything, said she was game.

I drove us out to the trapeze class in Scarborough in the Ford Edge ST, and we were laughing on the way there because we knew the teacher would think we were a bunch of injured misfits who’d signed up for trapeze: Amanda was having knee surgery two days after our class, and I have a pinched nerve in my neck that’s been plaguing me with a sore shoulder for weeks. Not exactly peak performance mode for either of us! Also funny: we both had to google to confirm what trapeze actually is. We watched YouTube videos and fretted about actually being able to do it.

After some quick instruction, we were apparently good to go. Even just climbing the ladder up to the platform was nerve-wracking, but that was nothing compared to when they tell you to grab hold of the trapeze with one hand. It’s so taut that it feels like you’ll be pulled right off of the platform. I very much thought “I don’t know if I can do this!” I might have even said it out loud. I was doubting the decisions I’d made that lead me to be standing on this platform. Then, I grabbed it with my other hand when they said to and then (gulp) stepped off of the platform…

Whoosh! Once I was actually in the air it was less terrifying. I had a hard time hearing the instructions being shouted from the ground on my first try and didn’t quite understand when I was supposed to do what (with the first swing out is when you start to try to move the trapeze bar to behind your knees). I entirely missed it my first try, got closer the second try and by my third try I completed the movement! And I am entirely hooked. It was such an exhilarating feeling to be smoothly flying through the air, and also so satisfying to be able to complete the acrobatic move of moving your legs onto the bar, hanging down upside down and then moving your legs off of the bar to flip off of it. I only managed half of a flip off of it the whole class (I think my dismount is too slow, so I lose the momentum that’s necessary to do the flip).

I wholeheartedly recommend trying a trapeze class if you’ve ever been intrigued by it, I think you’ll love it. I hope to go back some day soon! Amanda and I still rave about it!

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We left the class totally high on adrenaline and piled back into the Ford Edge ST, and since we were so pumped, we got the ST’s 12 speaker B&O Premium Sound System by Bang & Olufsen going with some high-energy music to match our mood.

That was Friday night, and I used the car over the weekend, too, and took full advantage of having some wheels in the city and took it out several times each day. Since I was out and about a lot, having a fully charged phone is always an essential. And the Edge is the first car I’ve test drove with wireless phone charging. You just place your newer phone (like my Google Pixel 3) in the designated charging space, and your phone gets charged. No wires to fuss with. That is truly a life-changing feature, in my opinion.

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The Ford Edge features a dial to change from park to drive, and I think that’s a new design that would take some getting used to (I would always automatically go to look for a stick over the days I had the car) but I’m sure after a week, it’d become the norm. I did test the car’s performance once by hitting the S to put the car into sport mode. Now, I was only doing a slowish drive of the car on the Gardiner (thanks Toronto traffic), but I did sense that the car sort of stiffened up and was ready to GO, but driving in the city didn’t really allow me to do much with the feature, unfortunately. I should’ve planned a drive on a less busy country road to better test drive the 335 hp, 380 lb.-ft. of torque,  and the 2.7L V6 turbocharged EcoBoost engine (but I’d have had to bring a more car-savvy friend to help walk me through how those features were contributing to our drive, because short of a car having good ergonomics and visibility, and maybe how smoothly I feel it drives on a basic level, I am not, as I have mentioned before, super knowledgeable about those details; I assess cars more on comfort, safety and lifestyle features). The Ford Edge ST, by the way, is the first SUV from the Ford Performance Team.

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Always a bonus in a car is an sizable trunk, which I got full use out of by doing errands and picking up bulky grocery items (namely dog food and cat litter, those pets require lots of heavy lifting!). And I threw in more fitness fun with a hike at Dundas Peak in Hamilton, and a few foodie outings with friends (and driving with the Edge’s GPS is such a relief for someone like me with zero sense of direction; it got us to our destinations every time with no issues). The car also features Ford SYNC 3 AppLink with Waze, which we put to use when we ran into traffic on way to dinner on the weekend.

Oh, and the steering wheel in the Ford Edge ST is heated, which was fantastic when I test drove this vehicle because as you may know, it’s taken a very long time for spring temps to arrive in Toronto, and in fact, it snowed on the weekend I had the Edge ST and that heated steering wheel warmed up my frozen hands after a long hike. What an ultimate luxury, right? I think once you go heated steering wheel, you can’t go back.

The Ford Edge ST is both slick enough for urban life but rugged enough for those fitness-fueled outings, which is essentially how I live. Thank you Ford Canada for nudging me to try new things and the opportunity to put such a sweet ride to the test.

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Leave a Comment May 27, 2019

Travel Swellness: Camping with the Cadillac Escalade

Escalade for camping weekend

A couple of weeks ago, I went camping for the second time this summer and thanks to Cadillac Canada, I got to test drive a Cadillac Escalade for the trip.

Escalade in Killbear Provincial Park

It’s actually the first time I’ve driven an Escalade, and I was pretty stoked about it. Actually, I was pretty stoked right up until I got in the car and realized how enormous it is. As I’ve only been in an Escalade a handful of times as a passenger, I didn’t realize there are two rows of seats behind the driver, and just how much more massive it is than the other SUVs I’ve been driving (like the Chevy Equinox, GMC Acadia and Buick Envision). How big is it? I didn’t even have to do anything (such as wave to ask them to let me go through) and drivers readily made room for the Escalade so I could get by; people in my neighbourhood could see how this vehicle was not going to make it through the narrow two-way street I live on.

Escalade with Bun and Billie Jean

I was pretty intimidated and nervous behind the wheel at first, and especially so when parking underground (where space is tight and there’s all sorts of columns to maneuver around). I did eventually feel more comfortable driving it once we were out of the city (where traffic was less hectic).

The things I came to like about the Escalade as I drove it and had it for our camping weekend?

  • While you may not think of an Escalade and camping as going hand in hand, camping calls for so much gear, and we were three people and two dogs, and once we put the last row of seats down, we were able to easily fit all of the piles of gear and food. And we were all seated comfortably even with all of our supplies, which was great as we ran into traffic heading out of the city making for a long time in the car.
  • The sharp lines and boxiness of the car; I’ve always been more partial to more boxy cars versus ones with more curves to its silhouette. So aesthetically, it resonates with me.
  • Our Escalade colour, the Crystal White Tricoat, is a gorgeous, almost pearly, white.
  • The luxe, buttery interior. I  jokingly told my friend it made our camping trip into a glamping trip. Also, because it is so spacious, in an emergency, we could all sleep in the vehicle if we came across a bear.
  • The head’s up display on the car’s windshield. Not having to glance at the screen but having my speed and the GPS directions on the windshield (the head’s up display is when this info is projected onto a film on the windshield) so that I can keep my eye on the road is very helpful. I especially found it helpful in the Escalade because I found you could easily be driving quite fast without it feeling like you’re speeding. Being able to have my speed in front of me on this display helped me stay within the speed limit.

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So while the size was intimidating to me, the vehicle did turn out to be a great option for our weekend in the wilderness at Killbear Provincial Park. And I will say, the size of the car and how smoothly it drove did make me feel safe.

As for how camping itself went, I’ll be blogging about that soon. Spoiler alert: we (thankfully) didn’t encounter any bears.

Escaled with Billie Jean chilling

Leave a Comment September 6, 2017

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