Berlin Marathon Training: Week 4

If there’s anything that illustrates the giant chasm between my pre-running days and today, it’s my attitude toward exercise on vacation. Pre-running, vacation was an excuse to skip my routine elliptical session and, for that matter, all exercise besides walking for the duration of the trip. Now, it’s an excuse to take in the local scenery from the multi-use paths, bodies of water, and other recreational venues — the more, the better.

So: Berlin Marathon training week 4 should probably be known as The Week I Didn’t Leave the Water. I ended up in a lake — be it Crystal or Michigan — at least one more time each day from Monday to Thursday, swimming easy freestyle laps and jumping off the Frankfort breakwater and perfecting my handstands and underwater backflips. I even briefly contemplated twisting our schedule in knots to squeeze in one more swim before Friday’s drive to Chicago, though a desire for more than three hours of sleep won out over sunrise laps.

Vacation ended with a long weekend in Chicago with college friends. When we met, they were both athletic — a swimmer and a soccer player — and I was decidedly not; now our trio is two triathletes and a marathoner, a boggling evolution from 12 years ago. We spent the weekend exploring some old college haunts by foot and by boat, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Chicago River kayaking

Monday: 1600-ish yards of swimming in Crystal Lake, in between the docks that seemed so far apart the first time I visited Crystal three years ago. I’m not sure if my stroke count was slightly off or if I really lose *that* much time on the wall at the pool — either seems possible — but I saw some times for 100s that I haven’t seen since the heart of Wildflower training.

Tuesday: Four miles — two comfortable and two steamy — on the road that rims Crystal Lake. After swearing not to run at noon again while in the midwest, I headed out for this run a whopping 15 minutes earlier. In my defense, it had been pouring for much of the morning but the storm didn’t seem to be doing much to cool things off, so I figured I’d rather get out while it was cloudy than wait till later when I’d be contending with the sun. The plan half-worked.

Wednesday: Another 1600-ish yards in Crystal Lake, this time exploring the whole far buoy line before retreating to the docks (the far line stretched roughly a quarter-mile, all the way to the shallows at the end of our little beach, but it was too shallow to be really enjoyable). This was the day all my relatives got swimmer’s itch from the warm, still water; I either didn’t get it or didn’t react as strongly, but it soured me on Crystal for the rest of the trip, and I was happy to spend the rest of my water time in Lake Michigan.

Thursday: In the morning/early afternoon, a 24.5-mile ride around Crystal Lake with Pete and his mom. The 2009 version of this ride is the one that convinced me a triathlon wasn’t an unreasonable reach, and it’s good I had such fond memories, because had I really remembered the horridness of the gravel-and-sand stretch that makes up the second quarter of the ride, I might not have been as enthusiastic about doing it again. Regardless, it’s mostly a beautiful ride, flat except for a few hills into downtown (a challenge on my borrowed hybrid), and excellently laid out to provide for a Cherry Hut lunch stop at the halfway point. After a couple of hours of recovery, we drove to the little lakefront town of Empire, ran four late-afternoon miles, changed into swimsuits, and plunged into Lake Michigan until we cooled down.

Friday: Rest — including an appropriate number of hours of sleep in an actual bed (not an airplane seat).

Saturday: 90 minutes of kayaking on the Chicago River. Highly recommended. We’d thought about doing a tour, but the tours were all booked, so we opted to rent three single kayaks by the hour and forge our own path. Given the size and (lack of) speed of the groups we passed, I think we chose well. We barreled through our rental place’s suggested route and then some, collectively losing one iPhone but gaining one coconut and a lovely new perspective of Chicago.

Sunday: A long run of 8 miles — five with friends, three solo — on the lakefront path. This is the path where I routinely rollerbladed double-digit routes in college; I know it well. So I was a little embarrassed that I forgot how to get onto the bridge to Navy Pier, leading to a 1.5-mile detour (including a stretch of the Magnificent Mile) before we could get back on track. We ran north past the Oak Street beach (where the waves were rocking and crashing over the retaining wall; I was getting seasick just looking at the handful of swimmers), turned and ran past the Drake, and took the right route to catch the Navy Pier bridge on the second try, where we hit the five-mile mark and I bid my friends farewell. My goal for the final three miles was to get to see my favorite view of the city, even if it meant running a little more or a little less than planned.

Not from yesterday. From 2004. Still lovely.

As it turned out, I hit 1.5 miles right at my favorite spot at the back of the Shedd Aquarium — even more of a favorite on this run because the Shedd was running its sprinklers. Dazzled by the view and cooled by the spray, I wrapped up the run with an average pace of 10:01/mile — still too fast, but pulled a bit by a 9:10 mile we logged while dodging and weaving through throngs of strolling tourists.

Week 4 by the numbers:

  • 16 miles of running + 2 miles of swimming and 24.5 miles of biking
  • 23 total vacation miles (including last Sunday’s 7)
  • 1 new blister … on my thumb, from kayaking.
  • 7,038 bug bites/swimmer’s itch bumps.
  • 2 breakwater jumps … first and last, most likely, because that is some scary business.
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