New town, new workout: Bridge repeats

This week found me traveling to various cities throughout Europe.  First Switzerland—Zurich and Basel, then Germany—Dusseldorf and Frankfurt.  It’s a part of my job about which I have mixed feelings.  While I enjoy seeing new places and like the variety it offers, I also missed home.  Luckily I was thinking of the kids as I left Switzerland…just in time for the chocolate.

Our work schedule was hectic and busy, so I didn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing.  I also didn’t have much time to work out, so I managed to slip in what I could.

Yesterday we arrived in Frankfurt earlier than planned, so we had a bit of extra time.  I dumped my stuff in my hotel room, unpacked my running clothes and got out for as much time as possible, which turned out to be just over an hour.

Frankfurt sits on the Main River in Germany.  After a few wrong turns, I made it to the river.  It reminded me of Boston or Philadelphia—crew teams rowing boats, people sitting by the river enjoying a beautiful spring day.  A bunch of bridges span the river in the downtown area.  It was beautiful.

At that point I wished I had a real camera (other than my cell phone).  It was really cool.

I was feeling as good as I’ve felt in a while.  My original plan to run at a low intensity was fading in favor of a hard workout.  After all, it would be short.  I figured I’d just run the way back to the hotel at a high intensity.

Then I looked at the bridges again and it hit me—bridge repeats.

I decided that my run back to the hotel would be over all the bridges.  When I hit the start of each bridge (usually steps up to the bridge), I’d run as hard as possible until I got to the other side of the bridge.  I’d snake my way back to the hotel over the bridges, running hard on the bridge spans and using the distance between bridges as recovery time.

It was a fun workout.  The combination of climbing steps  quickly, then running hard up the bridge incline, then running hard on the downhill was challenging.  I did seven repeats, one on each bridge that spans the Main River in downtown Frankfurt.  On average, I was running hard for about two minutes per bridge.  I also got a chance to see the city and the river from a lot of different angles, which was neat.

This was just the kind of workout I needed–spontaneous, fun, different, but also with some intensity.   It was a great way to wind down from a hectic trip.  I have no idea how that bridge workout found its way into my brain, but I’m thankful that it did.

I know I need to get ready for Pikes Peak, and I need to build specific strength for that race.  But I also want to continue creating these kinds of spontaneous workouts that are fun.

After all, if I don’t enjoy running then why in the world would I do it?

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Pennsylvania Riding and TED

Yesterday I rode to this place.

It’s the Delaware River, which separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey.  I actually rode over the river into PA, then back again.

It’s an amazing, majestic thing.

I’ve been itching to increase the distance of my bike rides, and I’ve also been enamored with this notion of riding into different states.  I can get into PA with a ride of about 50 miles, and I can get into New York with a ride of about 110 miles.  This particular ride was 65 miles or thereabouts.

I was shocked when I saw the river.  I’ve crossed it hundreds of times, but always in a car.  This was the first time I’ve ridden so close to it.  I recall climbing up the road that hugged the river, getting to the top of the banks, and looking down on this awesome spectacle.  It felt right to me.  I felt like I belonged in that place, that I had earned the right to see that view, that through my own power I had gotten myself to that high place on the banks of the river, with the hills of northwestern NJ in the background.  It was beautiful.

This morning I dove deeply into TED talks.  I’m late to the TED party for sure.  I had discovered them a while back, but this week I decided to listen to a few.  I got pretty engrossed in it today.  It’s great because they’re only 20 minutes long – a great length.  There are lots of great topics, and the speakers that I’ve seen are good.

This one by Susan Cain on introverts really resonated with me.  There is no doubt that I’m an introvert.  The word that connected most with me was “solitude.”  It actually brought me back to the previous day, when I was riding along that river, with nobody but me out there.  Not too many feelings better than that for me.  Listening to that talk on introverts made me feel pretty good today.  Once again the notion of being myself and being happy about it.

Then I stumbled onto this talk and this talk by Dr. Brene Brown.  These also hit home, but in a much more fuzzy way.  The words “vulnerability,” “shame,” “courage,” “authenticity” are a bit scary to me.  But I think there is something really profound and powerful in the concepts that Dr. Brown introduced.  I’m definitely going to peer into the dark, dusty corners of my soul with these concepts.  I don’t claim to have any answers, but I’m excited to explore that stuff.  If I can learn anything or improve even a little in the areas that Dr. Brown mentions, it’s going to be a big deal.

I’m hoping I don’t develop a TED addiction.  One thing I’m trying to do is reduce the constant sensory assault that comes from information.  I’m an information junkie, so TED has the potentially to really make me crazy.  I’m needing some quiet time, so hopefully I can put TED in the proper place.


Miscellaneous thoughts

Didn’t do a run today, but I feel like I got a few pretty good workouts anyway.

Girls soccer this morning…I always feel exhausted after one of these games.  As coach of a team of 6-7 year olds, I spend most of the game running around trying to get them in the right positions.  I’m tired and hoarse by the end of the game, but it’s always fun.

Lots of yardwork these days.  That’s what happens when you live in what is essentially a forest.

Lots of trees = lots of firewood = lots of strength work

Leaves are my nemesis for the next two months.  I’m using the industrial strength leaf blower twice per week just trying to keep the leaves at bay.  Of course it makes for good fun for the girls…I can make nice big piles of leaves for them to jump around in.  Always a good time!

I also got some strength work in.  With temperatures dipping into the 30s tonight, it’s almost time to get the wood stove cooking again.  I can never get enough firewood for that thing.  Luckily we have firewood on the property; I just need to cut, split and stack it.  It’s much better to work with firewood than spend time at a gym.  Kinda like CrossFit I suppose.  I’m forever throwing wood around, and it’s heavy.

There are too many football games on right now.  I’m trying to figure out which one to watch.  Notre Dame?  Wisconsin?  Stanford?  Maybe I’ll just stick with the baseball game; I’ve been really into the World Series.  I suppose it’s been long enough now that I’m over what happened with the Phillies.  The World Series has been some great baseball.

I caught this post from Coach Jay Johnson.  It was really interesting advice that could benefit any youth coach (like me with the soccer team).

It also got me wondering what it would take to create a culture of running in my local area.  I’ve always been a solo runner, but I’ve heard so many good things about running with others.  And there are some great examples of towns (mostly in the west) that are like meccas for runners and other fitness people.  I wonder what it would take to create something like that where I live.  I’m sure there are runners where I live.  I don’t know if they run fast or slow, or even if that matters.  We also have some great places to run here.  I’m not saying our little patch could be as neat as those places in Utah or Colorado or California, but we do have some resources here.  It might be interesting to see what I could do to create a running or fitness culture.  Maybe a long term project once I create a running culture within my own life…


Great New Jersey Running—Columbia Trail

Good view of the crushed gravel trail

New Jersey isn’t just football stadiums and oil refineries.

I think a lot of New Jersey’s reputation came from people watching football on TV.  The camera would pan out and all you’d see is the stadium area.  The stadium area is not New Jersey’s most scenic location.

In fact, New Jersey has an incredible amount of variety.  Beach, mountains, farms, open space, small towns, large cities and everything in between—you can find it in New Jersey.

I live in Northwestern New Jersey among farms, fields, mountains and small towns.

One of my favorite places to run is the Columbia Trail, a 16-mile rail trail created from the former Central Railroad of New Jersey (High Bridge Branch).  It’s called the “Columbia Trail” because the right-of-way is owned by Columbia Gas Company, who purchased the right-of-way for an underground gas pipeline.

The Columbia Trail is excellent for running.  Most of the trail is crushed gravel, so it’s nice and soft.  It’s very flat and well-marked (mile markers every quarter mile).  At the southern end, the trail meanders through Ken Lockwood Gorge, a park with a great fly-fishing river.  I haven’t tried fly fishing yet, but I just bought both my girls fishing gear…

South Branch of the Raritan River running through Lockwood Gorge

My typical run on the Columbia Trail is a 23-miler that takes me from my home town (Long Valley) to High Bridge.  On most days, I’ll make this 23-miler a serious tempo run where each mile is faster than the previous mile.

Today was different.  It was quite possibly the best day of the year for running.  Brilliant sunshine, cool temperatures and a refreshing breeze.  I intentionally slowed down so I could take it all in.

There’s a great trail race series that I’m hoping to run more in 2012—the NJ Trail Series.  If you’re in NJ, it’s a pretty neat concept.  Lots of races with various distances, from 5K to 100 milers.  Worth a look if you’re in the area.

Photo Credits:

Columbia Trail by Rock NJ

Lockwood Gorge by GeoffGarcia