Vincent Van-Go, Spring Break Road Trips, and Boston Marathon Training: a #vanlife story

It’s been a while since my last post, and it’s not because Trish and I have been idly sitting by the window of our home drinking tea and watching the rain, although that sounds lovely. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Trish and I have been crazy busy over the past few months working, training for the Boston Marathon, making home improvements, vacationing, and dreaming up summer plans. With so much activity, I’m splitting this post into three parts: 1) the creation of our newest investment – Vincent Van-Go, a cargo van turned camper van, 2) a Boston Marathon training update, and 3) Our Spring Break Road Trip to St. George. Here we go!

2019 Spring Break Road Trip to St. George from Ben Handrich on Vimeo.

The Creation of Vincent Van-Go

Over the dark and dreary winter months, Trish and I made the nerve-racking decision to drop some serious cash into a van conversion. As in, outside of our house, this is the biggest investment we have ever made. It was a long process, but we couldn’t be happier with the end result. Before getting into Boston Marathon training and our first epic van-life trip to St. George, Utah, here’s a brief synopsis of the decision-making and creation of Vincent Van-Go.

As Trish and I talked in the fall and winter about investing money in a camper van for future vacations, we had been initially eyeballing the California-based company Recon Campers. Recon Campers are built around the very small Nissan NV200, and we initially liked this as an option because of its versatility, maneuverability, and for the ability to use it as a daily driver as well as adventure-mobile. However, Recon Campers had MAJOR communication problems from the very start.

First off, their site claimed that Nissan dealers would be offering the Recon Camper builds on site, but after calling around, none of the Nissan dealerships in Oregon had ever heard of Recon Campers.

Second, we reached out to Recon Campers on multiple fronts: their facebook page, their ‘Contact Us’ email, we signed up for their ‘newsletter,’ which I’m putting in quotes because their newsletter NEVER sent out any actual updates or news, and in the end, we weren’t able to get a real answer about getting set up with a salesperson for one of these vans. Do they look cool on paper? Yes. But their communication with interested buyers is absolutely atrocious. So we began looking elsewhere.

One of my MTB friends that works in the same school district as me had just bought his own camper-van through a small builder in Portland, Oregon, and I told him about our own struggles with Recon Campers. He invited Trish and I over to check out his van and, after getting the tour, were sold on the larger van size and comforts it provided. After looking into the three big vans being used for such builds – the Ram Promaster, the Ford Transit, and the Mercedes Sprinter – we decided to go with the Promaster for a number of reasons not worth getting into in this post. Maybe in a future post… but not now. My MTB buddy also told us the name of his builder and said we should get in contact through his website. So we did.

And that’s how our relationship with Dustin – the owner of Overland Van Project – was born. As soon as we contacted Dustin, he helped us come up with a solid build-out for a Promaster, while also taking our ideas for some unique features and making them a reality. In the end, we had a completely customized van build that was exactly what we were looking for.

The Spring Break Test

After a few weekender test runs to fine-tune our setup in Vincent Van-Go, Trish and I decided to plunge right into our first major trip after about a month of ownership. We headed out of Salem Thursday night for a 10-day vacation in St. George, Utah. Staying at Truck Stops like the Flying J while on the way to our destination was actually pretty fun, and it turns out that the #vanlife movement that has gained so much traction in recent years fits perfectly with Trish and my active lifestyle. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking here, but Trish and I both agreed that this was one of the most enjoyable vacations we’ve been on in our married life. The van is truly a game-changer for people willing to embrace the semi-dirtbag life for multiple days in a row.

If you’re interested in any of the runs and rides I did during my time in St. George and Hurricane, just check out my (Ben Handrich) Strava or Ride with GPS history from March 23-March 29, 2019.

A common afternoon occurrence after Trish, Bryn and I had all gotten in some pretty legit workouts.
And the me version of the previous image.

Boston Marathon Training Update

With the Boston Marathon about a week away, my training has tapered down to virtually nothing. Along the way I’ve run a handful of 20-milers, gotten 3rd in a half-marathon (averaged 5:51 splits) and 3rd in a 30k trail run (averaged 6:11 splits), and had no major injuries throughout training. That’s a pretty good place to be, all things considered.

My only frustration was during peak week. We arrived in St. George late Friday evening, and my ‘longest’ run of the training was scheduled for the next day. I slept in on Saturday, and had a little 3 loop course mapped out on the extensive trail systems in St. George for my run. However, while I hoped to run around 24 miles for this run, I ended up getting to 21 miles and cutting myself off.

Me getting pumped for my long 21 mile trail run.

I think the lower mileage was a combination of a long day of traveling the day before, my body being unaccustomed to the dry climate and heat of St. George, and the technical nature of the loop I mapped out. The loop had a lot of elevation gain, and there were sections on the run where I was literally hopping around boulders and climbing with both hands on rocks. This was not something that had been part of my training at all, and I was completely beat after 21 miles. However, that was the lowest point of my marathon training, and I am not going to let it fool me into thinking I’m unprepared.

Here’s a link to the 21 miler in case anyone else wants to give the route a shot: Peak Week Run.

Things to Come

With so much activity over the winter months, it’s hard to believe our spring and summer are even more jam-packed with activity. After the Boston, I personally switch gears and will start my own little bike race circuit, including the Skull 120, the BC Epic 1,000, the High cascades 100, and the Cream Puff 100. Plus, Trish and I will be spending a lot of time traveling in the van to all of those races, either making a long weekend out of it or making it part of an extended Oregon tour we’ll be doing this summer for about two weeks.

All told, we have a lot to look forward to and a lot to be thankful for. I’m personally just glad that Trish and I both continue to remain healthy and are willing to use our healthy bodies for active adventures. We’re both so lucky.

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Categories: Pedals and Packs, Van Life

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