Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Seeking Boston Marathon's European Vacation

No, this is not the sequel to National Lampoon's European Vacation.  Hard to follow-up the original Vacation (movie) with such classic scenes including Aunt Edna strapped to the roof of the Ford LTD Country Squire, or the empty leash attached to the bumper of the same LTD.  This trip beat both those movies and became my "instant classic" with runs in three European cities in a span of 14 days.  All of this is within six weeks of my next marathon; the Columbus Marathon on October 20th.
Thames River Run

I have had the challenge of international work travel last year travelling to India and Barcelona whilst in the middle of a marathon training plan.  Training for a marathon is grueling in and of itself.  Heap on work travel, late nights, time zone differences and it can wreak some havoc on your training rhythm.  Try telling your body it's not really two in the morning and convincing your brain that the intervals, speed, or distance your run coach threw at you is "no big deal."  Enough with what sounds like complaining.  Onto the "Rusty" recap.

London

Brownlee slightly ahead of Gomez at ITU World
This was not my first time in London, but the first time for my wife.  I have always loved this city...perhaps something to do with the proliferation of pubs, the accents, and the "old world" architecture.  With London being the first of three cities planned on this trip, I was intent on logging some scenic runs and catching some pics along the way.  My cell phones are always considered "water damaged" by the phone companies as I normally strap it into my Amphipod Hydration belt.  We had essentially a long weekend planned in London before heading to Paris (insert "Life is rough" comment, or "pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?")  Our first hotel was in London's financial district at the Threadneedles which was a short run to the Thames river.  Prior to trip, The North Face equipped me with a number of their "Flight Series" run apparel that boasts the "better than naked" tagline.  As an aside, the last time I ran naked was in college, but that story stops here as my Mom reads this stuff.  Lightweight fabrics, cool designs and colors--I'm sold on this line.  You'll see a lot of their line in my shots taken around Europe.
Notice the Unicorn in the Coat of Arms; Buckingham Palace

In London we were able to catch some warm beer at an old authentic London pub, and catch a play in the West End; "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" at the Apollo Theatre.  Great show, and great venue to catch a play.  There was plenty of sight seeing on my runs and walking about London including Big Ben, Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace.

Part of the "dumb luck" timing was that the ITU World Championships were happening in Hyde Park our first weekend.  With a looped course, we were able to catch the bike and run leg several times on the park's looped course.  We literally had a "front row seat" to Spain’s Javier Gomez and Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee as they fought "neck and neck" with Gomez edging him out at the end to win the men's competition.  The weather was typical London weather; cold and drizzly, but we got used to grabbing our umbrellas as we'd head out the door each day.  With a couple ales in me, you'd also find me singing, "I'm King Henry the eighth, I am, I am" and (once again) embarrassing my wife.
Does anyone know what time it is?

I felt blessed as we took in many of the sights "face to face" and could only reflect on seeing much of the imagery dating back to grade school. Much different to see "Big Ben" in real life and getting to hear it strike five.

As far as running, I got out along the Thames a couple of times for some shorter stuff.  I'd knocked out my weekend long run on Thursday knowing it wasn't going to happen on the weekend.  Nevertheless, some great shots shared here.  Throughout London, I spotted unicorns (and lion counterpart) in coat of arms depicted.  This would influence some of the early architecture of Boston and explain why the Boston Athletic Association uses the unicorn in their logo.  As a result, I have lots of unicorn pictures.
My favorite bridge in London; The Tower Bridge

Paris

After our long weekend in London, we went to Paris for five days.  We stayed at the Renaissance Paris Vendome hotel.  Hard to put into words what the "highlight" was as there were so many.  The Vendome was a short walk to the Louvre where we'd spend one of our days.  We also spent a lot of time there at night taking in its beauty.  There was some amazing restaurants (including our favorite Da Rosa) and once again a convenient Irish Pub outside our front door.  If you are looking for a relaxing vacation away from work this was not it as the nights were long and it was a bit of a challenge to fit in the marathon training plan without interfering with the trip.
Famous Pierre Herme Macaroon Shop in Paris

The Louvre was amazing and massive.  You could certainly spend days upon days to see everything, but we signed up for the tour guide version that "hit the highlights."  After getting spoiled with the art and access at Rijks Museum in Amsterdam earlier this year, I'd have to say the Mona Lisa was a bit disappointing.  The painting itself is a bit on the smaller side, covered in glass, behind the "velvet rope," and surrounded by throngs of people.  Alternatively, I could get within 12-18 inches of a Vermeer or Rembrandt at Rijks.  Other notable art with better access was the Venus de Milo, and Michelangelo's "Captive, The Dying Slave."
Paris Run

As far as running highlights, I was able to get in a run along the Seine river that runs through the center of Paris, and in the park in front of the Eiffel tower.  Talk about a pair of "bucket list" runs, despite being a bit sore and rather tired, I couldn't help but feel fortunate to take in some of these sights.  The most interesting and obscure sight was the french (and much smaller) version of the Statue of Liberty which was placed slightly beyond the epicenter of town and seemed to lack any focus or crowds.  Symbolic?


Dusseldorf
Notre Dam at night in Paris

Prior to heading onto Germany for work, I spent another weekend in London staying at the Grosvenor House conveniently located across the street from Hyde Park.  Timing worked out to fit in a long run in the park with roughly three loops of the property.  This was (again) the same park used for the ITU World Championships the previous weekend with the Serpentine Lake in the center of Hyde park.  My run coach threw in some tempo miles in the middle of my 16 mile run so operating on little sleep and still not quite adjusted to the time zone, this was another tough run.  Knowing I was running in such a special place made this a bit easier to manage.
The Louvre

Not slighting Germany, but this leg of the trip was for business, so I was unable to catch much of the city, but I now know what a Schnitzel is.  It's not like a bratwurst (which is what I thought,) but a pounded and breaded flat piece of pork.  Sounds disgusting?...try tasting one.  Mckayla was not impressed.  Did I mention that trying to go "gluten free" on this trip was impossible?  Bread...everywhere.

After getting spoiled with great hotels in London and Paris, I finally drew the "short straw" and got a decent hotel, but the dreaded European pair of twin beds.  They like them firm in Dusseldorf.  Despite the boring work stuff, I was able to get my Schnitzel in a German pub one night and catch the old part of Dusseldorf on my final evening which has a high density of bars and restaurants along cobblestone streets.  Redemption night for Dusseldorf.  At this point of the trip, for some reason I was falling back on "construction Spanish" as my language.  Paris was easy to get around in terms of language as many spoke English and my wife speaks some French.  It seemed that I ran into a higher percentage of people in Germany who didn't speak English.  That's not a complaint...I wouldn't expect to learn German if they came over here either.
Rhein River Run

On the running front, I was able to make it a "hat trick" by catching my third major river run.  This time I caught the Rhein river on an interval run.  My only mistake was "hanging a left" instead of a right so I ran away from the city center and bridges.  The river actually has a dirt path closer to the river and a man-made (I think it was asphalt, but can't remember) above it.  "Coach crazy" threw some 5:35 pace short interval stuff at me and I'm lucky I didn't reciprocate by throwing up my Schnitzel in the Rhein.  Nevertheless, a memorable running trifecta.

Footnote:  I couldn't recall which movie I'd remembered hearing the actor sing, "King Henry the Eighth I am."  I was surprised to learn it was Patrick Swayze from Ghost.  (YouTube video here.)  The only comparison you will ever see between me and Patrick.  I don't have his looks and I can't dance.
Looking like a royal "dork" outside Royal Albert Hall in London

Footnote #2:  From the BAA website, "While it is popular belief that in 1887 the B.A.A. founders chose the Unicorn as the organization’s symbol due to its place in mythology (Chinese and other mythologies regard the figure as an ideal and something to be pursued but which can never be caught), it is more likely that the Unicorn was borrowed from the coat of arms from one of the B.A.A.'s first families. Still, the now iconic Unicorn stands for striving for excellence.... even it can never be achieved."

2 comments:

  1. Wow, you've been a busy man! GREAT recap. I LOVE schnitzel. I would have LOVED to have seen that ITU finish!! That must have been amazing. I've never been to London but I went to Paris last year and ran along the Siene, right by Notre Dame (what a beautiful piece of architecture). Hubby and I did an amazing run one morning along the Champs Elysee - the Christmas lights were all on and the streets were empty. It was beautiful.

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  2. I was loving all your shots on instagram from the trip and your Paris ones made me so jealous! I loved that run along the river to the tower. My only regret is not running more while I was there but there's just so much to see and do! Thanks for sharing all the highlights with us and I hope you're recovering from the jetlag ok!

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine