Thursday, October 31, 2013

Never Grow Up: A Halloween Lesson

Nothing brings out the kid in me any more than Halloween.  I often say that I'm a boy trapped in a man's body.  While Christmas tops the list of a child's favorite, it's tough to beat Halloween.  Scary movies, candy corn, dressing up in some alter-ego costume, and a gluttony of treats help create the perfect holiday.

As a kid growing up in Colorado, I would always look forward to the Halloween party at school and trick or treating that night.  We would not go out with a plastic pumpkin and flashlight, but with a pillow case which we'd try and fill by night's end.  It often snowed on Halloween in Denver. There would be snow on the ground, or frigid temperatures would challenge the quest to come home with the most candy.  I can remember all the way back to when I must have been eight or nine years old living on East Fair Place.  Running in the dark, I was tripped up by a tree wire spilling my candy out into the night.  I regrouped and would shovel the candy back into my bag and go on to try and conquest as much candy as  possible.

When I finally decided to "call it quits," I would dump the candy out onto the floor in the family room in front of the fireplace or onto my blue and green shag carpet in my bedroom to take inventory; separating the really good candy from the average to nasty.  Hopefully, you would not get the mom who handed out apples (there was an urban legend scare of biting into a razor blade so you would never eat these,) or god forbid, the "Almond Joy." #nasty

This year will mark what I think might be the first year I did not attend a Halloween party or dress up for Halloween (work threw a wrench in these plans.)  I always sported a costume all the way through college where the more outrageous the costume the better.  I was a giant package of McDonalds fries with a bunch of my buddies out of college one year.  As I often did before heading out to party as a young adult, we would stop by my grandparents house (Lela and Lyle's) to show off our costumes before the craziness ensued.

Dressed up as the GoGos in college.  Can you guess which one is SBM?
The foam french fries were fun party favors as we'd hit each other with them and throw them around on the dance floor.  I woke up with a broken hand that next morning.  Another favorite was going in character along with accents as Saturday Night Live's "Hans and Frans" (russian weight lifters.)  Another career I missed out on was doing cartoon voiceovers as I completely nailed the Austrian voice and probably won the costume contest if I could remember later that evening.

Being out of town for work this year means I missed Joe and Kimi's neighborhood Halloween party which brings out some amazing costumes and Mardi Gras type behavior among adults.  Last year, I was one half of "Two Broke Girls."  I know...a bad mental image of "Ty in a dress."  A couple of years ago, I went as a rocker and somewhere along the night, I took on the persona of Aldous Snow of "Get Him to the Greek" fame.  Once again, likely fueled by witches brew, I broke into a surly british bad boy.  I think I didn't "break character" for several hours.

Just as fond as my adult memories of Halloween are my memories of my kids over the halloween years.  Being a somewhat (understatement) competitive person, I would always try and make sure my kids' costumes were equally memorable.  As I have blogged about here before, I re-posted one of my favorites, "Robo-Boy and Rocker Girl."  I was that Dad who worked extra hard on the kids salt water map or rabbit trap for school.  I also made sure their volcano spewed more lava than the other kids.  Fairly transparent, I wanted his costume to be the best so the other kids would think he was cool.  Robo-Boy was around the time of my divorce.

I was rid with guilt that I didn't go to bed each night or wake up each morning with my children.  My son was very quiet, didn't talk much, and didn't seem to have many friends.  Despite all that, I look back and realize he was a pretty happy kid, but perhaps Dad was trying to overcompensate.  I thought if he had the coolest costume at class that day, perhaps other kids would like him more, or invite him over once the candy was all gone.  As a result, I was determined to build the coolest robot costume ever.  This was silver and gold with flashing lights in the eyes and ears, and lit up "Robo-Boy" across the chest.  One "bad ass" robot.

Ironically, I was usually in charge of the boy's costumes while Mom was in charge of the girls.  His sister went as a "Rocker Girl" which was pretty cute, but I could tell she had costume envy that year.  I felt guilty about that too. (plenty of guilt must have been related to the Baptist Church upbringing.)

Robo-Boy was a huge success that year, but I don't think he got any additional play dates out of it.  What it did provide was a timeless memory for me and hopefully for the boy inside the foil and box costume. I was chatting with him over Facebook a half a world away and asked what he was doing for Halloween.  Trick or treating with a few friends he replied.  No doubt he will hopefully follow in his Dad's footsteps and carry the same juvenile behavior one night a year when it's okay to act like a kid.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One Egg Short of a Carton: My Columbus Marathon Race Report

Sunday was my eleventh marathon.  I was trying to think of something relevant to say about the number eleven which is two donuts short of a "baker's dozen" or one egg short of a carton.  Ten is perfect, seven is a lucky number unless it's the "come out roll" in Vegas, one is special as you'll always remember your first, and twelve is a nice round number.  My tenth marathon this last April was more like a "ten" in that I turned in my most complete marathon in Boston.  I had energy at mile 20 and ran fast the last three miles.  I was hoping for a repeat of ten at eleven.

Going into the Columbus Marathon this last weekend, I had visions of breaking my elusive marathon PR set back in 2009 in Sacramento.  Unlike the week leading up to Boston, I felt rested and was not suffering from a funky bug that had sapped my energy like it did in Boston.  My marathon race week went perfect and walking the expo the day before the marathon I even picked up a 3:20 pace bracelet.  Moments later, I got my "race plan" from my coach Benita.
Optimistic at the Expo

Benita knows best and knew that I had a lot "thrown at me" over my training for Columbus.  Not making excuses, but the facts were that travel combined with nearly six weeks of being sick threw a wrench in the toughest part of my training schedule.  I had also spent the last six weeks in denial about some lower left leg pain that hampered many of my training runs.  Over the phone, Benita told me that this was not likely a PR day based on the training challenges I'd overcome.  Go out at a 7:30 to 7:40 pace (closer to 7:40) the first twenty miles.  After that, run with your heart and pick off runners ahead to pass.

As far as pre-race logistics, we'd mapped this one out perfectly staying at a Marriott Courtyard in downtown Columbus.  Very cool as far as Courtyards go in that this one used to be a bank. (Insert "take it to the bank" pun here.)  Having a kajillion overnight stays with Marriott also paid off as they upgraded us to a suite with two bedrooms.  I did not score points with my wife as I lusted after the king bed I'd have to myself without potential snoring interfering with a perfect night's sleep.  Bonus number three was that the hotel was literally a half block away from my corral entrance and actually closer than the bag check.  This also provided the luxury of a heated bathroom at my hotel vs. having to deal with waiting in a porto-potty line.
Corral Area

Wanting to minimize the "time on my feet" the day before, I spent very little time at the expo.  I'd rank this expo rather high as they had a ton of vendors, speakers, and energy to draw from the day before a big race.  I was able to meet up with the other Columbus Marathon Instagram Ambassadors along with the social media rep for the race, Megumi.  This was a lot of fun as Megumi gave us all a theme each week to post on our Instagram accounts as we prepared for Columbus.  Only regret of the expo is they had some really cool retro t-shirts that were sold out by the time I got to buying any swag. #doh

The evening prior to my race went quite smooth as we dined at Due Amici right across the street.  As I normally do, I opted for the salmon which was excellent.  Despite craving the bread, I resisted the temptation to avoid the gut gluten issues I've had in the past.  This would pay off on race day as my stomach was just fine.  I indulged in one glass of wine to relax before heading back to the hotel for final preparations.  With a room to myself, I slept probably better than I had for any other race so everything was lining up for a great race.

Race morning was somewhat uneventful, as I got dressed and went through my pre-race routine.  With slightly cool temps and lots of leg issues, I opted to race in my Skins compression tights which was only the second time I've done this in a full marathon.  I also provided some additional support for my lower left leg with some KT Tape.  Everything else went according to plan with a bit of a warm-up run and some strides and my last bathroom break.  As I normally do, I "downed" my Generation UCAN 30 minutes prior to the race.  Only issue I had to deal with was showing up fairly late for corral A which was completely packed.
"Take it to the Bank" Hotel

Once the race started, I found the course to be fairly flat and fast as advertised.  For a good portion of the first half of the race, I stayed within proximity of the 1:40 half marathon pace group.  My coach wanted me to race between 7:30 and 7:40 and closer to 7:40 up until mile 18-20.  I tried to hold to that, but roughly 4.5 miles were dipping below a 7:30 pace.  I felt good, but when my Garmin reported my pace every half mile, I would consciously try and slow it back down to the plan.  Later, I'd find that perhaps this would cost me.

Fan support was fantastic throughout the course including Children's Hospital "Miracle Mile" patients at each mile of the race.  It was difficult not to draw energy from many of these patients who were dealing (in some cases) with life-threatening illnesses.  I had studied the map somewhat and knew that around mile 17 I would get to run through Ohio State's stadium.  I also knew this was around the time that I would start running by heart vs. Garmin and the course would start to head back south towards downtown and the finish.  The stadium was impressive, but the crowd around that area was not.  I suppose I have been spoiled by the fanatic support of Wellesley and Boston College students that go absolutely crazy over the Boston Marathon runners.

Everything had gone according to plan all week, but the boost (or kick) I was looking for at mile 18-20 was simply not there.  I tried to avoid checking the Garmin, but caught occasional glances that showed I had in fact slowed down.  I didn't hit the wall in the sense that the wheels had completely come off, but my energy level was not there.  The pain in my lower left leg that had dissipated in the days leading up to the race had returned.  My hips hurt.  My thighs started to sense, this was not a triathlon, a 5K, or even a half marathon, I was running 26.2 miles.
Celebrating #11

Looking at my splits after getting back home, I had indeed slowed down at mile 17.5.  While I tried to hold under eight minutes, at least 4.5 miles were over the eight minute per mile mark.  Math is impossible somewhere after mile 18-20 in a race anyway, but self-doubt also started to enter in.  While I may have "banked" some time in the first half to 18 mile mark, that bank was being drained with these slower miles near the end.  At some point I knew that a PR was not happened.  I didn't get my finish kick until the last half mile getting back down to a 7:30 range.

As I crossed the finish line, I finally stopped.  There were no walk breaks at any point and I finished in 3:23:58.  Thank God for those two seconds because 3:23 sounds a heckuva lot better than 3:24.  I saw my wife just outside the fence as I'd seen her a few times along the course.  My walk was hobbled as I moved over to the fence.  Just as I did when I ran my first marathon and when I finally got my first BQ, I wept.  I can't explain why other than I knew I had put everything I could into the training and in the race that day.  I felt disappointed and sore.

As I often do, I was fairly critical of my race.  Did I go out too fast?  Did I not train hard enough?  As more rational thought eventually came to me over the few hours and days after the race, I realized I had one of my tougher training periods overcoming a lot of adversity.  Unfortunately, even my last long run in London was not easy as I'd tried to overcome being sick, but not getting in the quality training runs I had with my Boston race in April.  What I did realize is that this was another Boston qualifier--my fifth.  Considering the "miracle mile" patients whom many could not even run a mile, I consider myself fortunate to be able to compete in this humbling sport.  I know I have a 3:20 or better, but that will have to wait for now.  One egg short.

Footnote:  If you ran Columbus, what did your Garmin register on mileage?  I know it never exactly matches, but mine came in at 26.42.  #hmm #didIrunSerpentine?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tanned Rested and Ready: The Hay is in the Barn

On Sunday I will be racing in the Columbus marathon which will be my eleventh "mary."  Eleven is kind of an odd number.  You always remember your first.  My tenth was memorable (Boston '13) for a variety of reasons including it's impact on Boston and the world.  Eleven must be wood or paper on the anniversary scale.  What it does provide is ten marathons worth of experience.  Many struggle with the taper going from 6-7 days a week of training usually with at least two of those pushing the body to its limits.  When things wind down especially during race week, what do you do?  My top ten (or eleven) tips on race week;

1)  Ignore the temptation to run fast or long in the handful of runs you have race week.  Face it...if you don't have it by this time, you will only tire yourself by doing this. #fuhgetaboutit

2)  Diet.  Just like the above, you should stick with what you've been doing all along, but if you're like me, you cheat a little bit on diet once in awhile.  We're marathon runners after all and we burn a few calories, but resist the temptations and try to stay true to a reasonable diet.  Lots of water and healthy carbs, and if you're me, avoid the gluten succubus.

3)  Sleep.  Hoard your sleep like you're literally charging your body's battery.

4)  Get close to your time zone.  For all the challenges my work (travel) schedule presents to my training, this one works to my advantage.  Travel (if you can) as close as possible to race day.  Rule of thumb is one day per time zone.  For me, I traveled East for work on Wednesday to get one time zone closer.  I'll fly Friday morning on a short flight to be reasonably acclimated to the Eastern Time Zone by the time I land.  Coming from someone that traveled 100,000 miles last year, I know that travel can wear you out.  Plan accordingly and compensate with rest as needed.

5)  Body tune-up.  If you're 22 years old and never have any aches and pains, you can skip over this.  For me, I have a posse of people that make me feel good; chiros, PT's, massage therapists, mental therapists, orthos, snake charmers, hypnotists and the like.  Last week, I had a P.T. tune-up (see blog post) followed up by a ninety minute full body massage earlier this week.  #OMG

6)  Relax.  Relates to the above.  No doubt I was in full on drool mode in the massage table donut, and I followed that up with a hot tub that night at home.  You see a pattern here;  rest, relax, and sleep.

7)  Don't overdo the 72 hours leading up to race day.  As most of my races have been "destination" races, I have flown into some great towns. With some family normally along for the ride, it's tempting to want to entertain them and yourself.  Too much walking and staying out too late do not work for me.  Save it for post race celebration!

8)  Noah's Ark packing method.  This implies packing the primary and the backup with a small dose of OCD.  I have enough clothes to run the race three times.  With cooler temperature expected in Columbus, I've literally "dusted off" some of my cold temperature run gear.  I  mentally walk through "head to toe" on what I'll wear based on a variety of temps.  I prefer a singlet, but may opt for arm warmers for this race.  Both Garmin's have been packed; two pairs of gloves (for cold and really cold weather,) and two pairs of shoes.  I will make a "game day" decision on which pair to wear.  I have also packed my favorite nutrition; iron supplements I take,  Generation UCAN (pre-race) and PowerBar (in race) nutrition.

9)  Mental preparation.  I normally have three goals for a race.  The first is always to complete the training and arrive on race day.  This is a tough journey in and of itself.  My second and third goal are related to what time I'm shooting for.  One is a reasonable goal I know I can attain.  The third is a "stretch goal."  One I'm hoping to hit if I'm feeling great on race morning and the "moons align."  This is usually a PR or slightly more aggressive goal.  Focus on the prize, but maintain with a balance of relaxation.  Don't stress--be confident.  You worked hard, and you will do well.

10)  Have fun.  Since most of my races are destination races, enjoy the city, but don't enjoy it too much.  I've heard of runners who will "pound" a half dozen margaritas the night before a race or close the bar.  I'm not one of those runners.  Save the revelry for post race.  Enjoy the expo which is typically great for getting you "amped up" for the race, but bigger city marathons and expos can wear you out with walking  Especially on Saturday (for a Sunday race.)   Meter your walking and physical exertion.  I have even caught a movie the day before to rest my brain, relax and be ready to go in the morning.

As I complete this blog, my last work meeting for the week is done.  A few emails and phone calls remain Thursday night and Friday morning, then I will get over to Columbus.  The hay is in the barn.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Leg up on the Situation

In the Woody Allen classic, Hannah and Her Sisters, Woody (Mickey) is convinced he's going to die.

Two months ago, you thought you had a malignant melanoma.

Naturally, I, I--Do you know I--The
sudden appearance of a black spot
on my back!

It was on your shirt!

I--How was I to know?!
(pointing to his back)
Everyone was pointing back here.

I found myself in a similar situation juxtaposed between a mental state of hypochondria and serious pain in my lower left leg that had me convinced I could have something that would prevent me from racing in nine days.

As a Columbus Marathon Instagram Ambassador, our Instagram post question this week was "what is your goal for the upcoming race?"  I normally have at least three goals for a marathon and the first is always consistent--show up to the start line having completely the training and feeling healthy.  Sometimes easier said than done.

The pain in my lower leg has grown steadily over the last month or so to the point of me "feeling it" when I walk or get out of bed in the morning.  Insert, "it's a bitch to get old" statement here.  Having run the Chicago Marathon before on a stress fracture that I thought was shin splints, my rational mind prevaled over my alpha male denial state and set an appointment to have it looked at this week.  I was afraid to find out what they'd say...the worse case situation being the dreaded F word.  At this point, I felt like Mickey in Hannah and Her Sisters and envisioned all the bad things that it could be.

I have been down this path before even to the point of getting a hip x-ray before a race (see "Hip Check.")  The pain was not imagined, but I found some solice in the fact that it seemed to get better after a few miles into a run.  Previous discussions with professionals would claim that the really bad stuff would get worse, not better over a run and I certainly couldn't run 20 on a bum wheel.

My normal running PT's (option #1 and option #2) were both out of town so on a lark, I made an appointment with a new PT who had worked on my son in a tent at IronKids Boulder.  A bit of a gamble to try something new so close to a race, but ignoring it was no longer an option.  Noah Drucker works with a combination of ART (Active Release Techniques) and NKT (Neuro Kinetic Technique) which I met with a tinge of skepticism, but was hoping to hear, "you're fine."  As he tested my motor muscle strength, he identifed an area of weakness in my back that had completely disrupted my gait and lead to the leg pain.

If you've ever strolled by the Power Balance (bracelet) booth at a marathon expo, you'd seen them demonstate the "before and after" effects of putting on their miracle bracelet.  I was feeling the same skepticism, yet everything he said made sense.  After finding the problem areas, and using some NKT, I hopped off the table and walked without pain in my shin.  The good news in all that mumbo jumbo technical jargon is yes, I have some pain in my leg, I know why, I have exercises to help alleviate and no, that's not melanoma on my back, it's merely an ink spot.

I have booked my flight and will run my eleventh marathon in nine days.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Embrace the Taper

Ahhh....those wonderful five letters. T-A-P-E-R.  Many embrace it and others loath the two to three weeks prior to a marathon race where you scale back the miles and number of days running.  Me personally?  I love the taper.  Typically around the time of taper, I'm around 500 training miles under the belt getting ready to run another 26.2.  While many non-runners think that we all are in great shape and have tons of energy, half of that may be other words, we're damn tired.  I just ran 500 miles, wouldn't you be tired?

By the tale of the tape, I've logged 1775 miles this year.  That would be the equivalent of running from Denver to New York.  You tell me if I'm tired.  I'm not complaining, but perhaps justifying the fact that I need a little bit of rest.  With my European vacation (see Post) behind me, I have had no problem getting to sleep at night.  No Ambien needed here.
Common scene during this taper

At this point, I'm laying out the final details of the seven days leading up to my race on October 20th.  I have had a habit of having work travel that gets me into the time zone of my destination race so jetlag is not an issue.  At Boston this last April, I was in Montreal which sounds like another world away, but in the Eastern time zone and a short flight to Baaaasten.  I arrived Friday in Boston before noon already having slept in the EST zone the previous two nights.  Same thing seems to be lining up as I'll be heading out to Chicago next week and heading towards Columbus, Ohio on Friday morning.  It seems minor, but getting good sleep the 2-3 days leading up to race eve seems to be a winning formula for me.  A couple nights getting to bed early in a king-sized hotel bed after a good meal seem to charge my battery.

And that leads me up to the last leg of my training.  Quite literally.  I've overcome quite a bit training for this marathon; too much travel, some kind of bug, tweaking my (I try to be) gluten-free diet, and tweaking my left leg.  I've had a history of kinks and aches and pains...all which seem to be on the left.  I've got a PT appointment this week to hopefully smooth out what I hope is just shin splints.  I've had a few runs that have been tough to start, but the left leg has not been right.  Previous discussions with my ortho and PT indicate that it is (hopefully) good news that the pain seems to dissipate as the run progresses.

Anyhow...adding all that up, I am going to enjoy every minute of the taper; resting the leg, catch up on some sleep, get some treatment, and hope to knock out a healthy 26.2 miles on two good legs in eleven days.

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.


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


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?

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."

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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