So its been about another month here in London, we’re slowly settling into a routine and moving beyond the day to day of sorting the transition out. We’ve just about gotten all of our finances on one continent (stupid student loans really keep that from being done) but otherwise we’re fully set up and functional in the UK. With the development of a routine we’ve also been able to take advantage of some great travel experiences thus far and start to explore the city without the ‘mad dash’ that often accompanies a vacation or the like. We’ve started to get hello fresh delivered, just like Blue Apron in states they’ll send you three dinners worth of fresh ingredients which you then prepare. Its a nice activity to get back into and definitely makes it feel a bit more like a home when you’re cooking. Previously we had been throwing dinners together last minute or simply heating up the gourmet frozen meals from Cook down the street. Yes, that sounds crazy trashy but the meals were amazing and really well done.
The plan had always been to bring Bruno over once we got settled. Carly’s parents had generously offered to take care of him for a couple weeks while we got situated here in London and it was planned that Carly would fly back with him on her first work trip. Before we left we had Bruno re-chipped (UK requires a different chip type) as well as obtain a proper crate for him to be shipped in. Carly’s parents took him to a couple vet appointments for various shots and paperwork to get him all signed off for his flight to the UK.
He had to be dropped off at the cargo area of Logan four hours before the flight left and wouldn’t be ready to be retrieved in London till 3-4 hours after it landed. Once you add in the six hour flight thats a long time for a dog to be locked in a crate. We weren’t allowed to put any toys or other items in there with him so I have to imagine it was a pretty terrifying or boring experience for the dog. Once Carly landed and made her way back to the house we grabbed a zip car and drove out the Heathrow to get him (it didnt make sense for Carly to just sit out there for four hours waiting). The pickup experience was easy and when Bruno was brought around he was no worse for wear. He wasnt totally catatonic (or dead, a very real concern) from the flight and seemed to only be a bit tired. After getting him home and starting into a routine he’s now happy in our place and seems to be liking the change of scenery. We cant go running to the back door to look for squirrels anymore but he does enjoy looking out the front window at people on the street below and he still barks at the grocery delivery guy so some things never change.
Early in June Carly, Cayla and I went to Badminton for the day to watch the cross country portion of the Badminton Horse trials. This was the first “real” event that I’ve watched (or so Carly told me). The trials were set at Badminton House, the seat of the Duke of Beaufort. I rented a car (ended up getting an upgrade to a nice Ford Mondeo wagon) for the two hour drive out there. This was my first right hand drive experience (and I just haven’t been driving much in generally over the last few months) so the drive was a bit of an experience, but after few minutes I was an old pro. We brought Bruno out for the day as well. This initially proved to be a great idea. He was enjoying the atmosphere, playing with other dogs and being outside. However, the major flaw in the plan was that Bruno has never seen a horse before…. So once they started flying by on their runs he went nuts.
Which isn’t ideal given that custom that observers remain quiet as the riders and horses navigate the tricky barriers. The afternoon digressed into a series of games of stealing his attention just before they rode past, holding his mouth shut and running away (thankfully he’s really fast). But the day was fun either way, there was a ton of places to watch the riders and they had a great concourse with food options (score) and good drinks.
The next weekend Carly and I went to visit two of her colleagues that were vacationing in Italy for the weekend. We flew from Stansted (a new experience for me) to Pisa. Making the weekend as economical as possible we flew on Ryan Air which operates out of Stansted airport. Its about an hour from the city (no further than Heathrow really) but it seems like the moon in comparison, but a short two hour flight later we landed in rainy Pisa. We picked up our rental car a little two door Lancia (which we later discovered was actually a four door) at 11:30pm and were off into the night. Carly had never been to Pisa and wanted to see the sights (mainly site) so we booked a hotel in the city for Friday night before heading up to meet our friends. I had smartly downloaded some offline maps of Pisa and the surrounding area before we left London so we found the hotel pretty easily and promptly crashed. Tommy (my coach) had originally scheduled a tough group of workouts for me this weekend so that kinda went out the window a bit with our travel but I made the most of it and did my Saturday morning interval run along the river.
I think I saw maybe two or three people the entire time I was running, not many early risers in Italy it seems. After a nice breakfast at the hotel we walked into the city center to see the leaning tower and surrounding complex.
We walked over right around nine and there were a few tourists starting to mill about and take pictures, by the time we left the area (maybe 45 minutes later) the place was swarmed. It was hilarious to see all the tourist groups with their leaders walking around holding umbrellas or wands with scarfs attached to them. We jumped in the car and drove North to the small town of Reusa. Now, when I say small.. its small, fourteen people live there. The most exciting thing that happens is the cheese truck comes and you can buy cheese out of the back of some guys u-haul.
The place we were staying in was amazing, an old villa that our friends parents had bought and refurbished, they had recently purchased a ping pong table so we spent a fair amount of our down time playing ping pong, or wine centric drinking games of ping pong. Good times had by all. On Sunday the four of us drove down to Lerici (little city part of the Italian Riviera. I woke up early to go for my long run, however, Reusa is situated at the top of a mountain, so any way ran my run was going to end badly. The initial workout of twenty minute negative split sets was scrapped for a “just get this done” approach. Fourteen very hilly miles later I was back and thankful I had pushed through it.
So we all piled into the car and after about a mile down the mountain (and near accident) my colleagues noted I was driving on the wrong side of the road. I hadnt even been aware of it, driving on the “wrong” side seemed totally normal to me after just one driving experience in the UK! After a great lunch we strolled around the castle and hung out at the beach for for a bit doing some drinking and sun bathing.
We drove back to Reusa for what amounted to a nice nap before waking up at 3:30 to drive back to Pisa Monday morning so we could get back to London by the time work started. We certainly made the most of the weekend.
Just this last weekend Carly, Cayla, Andrew (cayla’s boyfriend), Anna and Raph and I went to Polo in the Park for a day of as best I can describe a reason to get (semi)dressed up and get shit-faced. My only Polo experience before this was watching a Polo game at Myopia Country Club back home in Massachusetts with Carly and Page one weekend. That experience could best be described as tailgating. We didn’t get dressed up, but the food and drink were good. Polo in the Park is a completely different atmosphere… think a couple thousand strangers drinking Pimms out of pineapples and pitchers as a Polo game happens to happen nearby. This is an event to see and been seen, and then get hammered. We all met up at a local pub, the event being held a short tube ride away from the city center for drinks. I quickly realized that “dress smartly” is a very broad term here.
There were women wearing everything from what I would only describe as ball gowns to a sort of jumper with shorts (shorts often too short). The guys, ranged from some nicely dressed to a thrown together (much as I was) outfit of bright clothes. The games were fun and there was some great BBQ street food to be had while watching teams like Dubai and Marrakech play. However, after about three hours you became very, very aware that you were wading through bottles of beer, wine and champagne, cracked plastic bottles and Pineapples… lots and lots of pineapples. It was a fun time to do some people watching and to see that outside the “running of the porto-potties” the event was not completely dissimilar from the Preakness infield. After watching New York take on Hong Kong for a couple of Chukka’s (periods) we bailed to avoid the crowds heading home.
Two weeks ago we had our first visitors were Carly’s parents who came to London for memorial day weekend (also happened to be a Bank holiday here). On Friday they took the train out to Bath while we worked and followed in some of our touristy footsteps. The remainder of the weekend we showed them around the city, which involved lots and lots of walking, which in turned involved lots and lots of eating. We toured around the South bank , London bridge, wandered around Islington, showed them a bit of what our day to day is like here. We had some good dinners out around our neighborhood including finally going to the Indian place across the street. On Sunday we took the train to Cambridge for some adventure outside of the city. Carly had booked an appointment for a private punting tour upon our arrival which was great. It was a bit kitsch but was a great way to see some of the college and learn about the city. After punting we went to Sunday roast at a local brewery (very good) and then explored the town on our own. We ended up walking back to the river which, by that time, was full of other people punting (as part of hired tours and on their own). This was easily the best part of the whole trip. For about an hour we watched people struggle to move their boats anywhere, slam into one anther (or the bridge), and generally look like fools. We saw several people narrowly avoid being dragged into the water when their pole caught on the bridge but in the end we were rewarded with someone actually falling in.
The whole experience was spectacular (and hilarious). On their last day we went to Ronnie Scott’s a jazz club here in the city for some live music. The performer that evening had an interesting mix of jazz, Caribbean and african style. The whole show (and dinner was great) and it was fun to get out and listen to some live music.
As far as training goes, its been a long month… over the last 4-5 weeks I’ve been putting in 10-14 hours a week. Its a lot to manage with all the activities but so far its been a healthy balance.
That said, finding quality running routes has been a bit of a chore. There is a nice canal near us which is where I do the majority of my runs (mainly 30-40 minute brick runs) but finding suitable routes for longer workouts has been a bit of a hit or miss affair. I’ve had a couple of experiences of going to late and ending up running into touristy sections of the city which makes any reasonable pace impossible. I’ve also tried to head away from the city center but ended up stopping all the time just to confirm my bearings. However, this last week I was finally able to nail down a long run course that is memorable and rather devoid of people on a Sunday morning. In Boston I had runs planned for every possible time/distance, little 10 minute blast…. know exactly where to go, need a couple hours… no problem. I’d always end up back at home at the perfect time and with the perfect mileage. That sort of precision took years to develop though and trying to maintain that level of efficiency in a new city is very hard. It takes time to know all the short cuts… or the little turns that easily add on a mile but don’t bring you to the other side of train tracks that you cant cross again for a mile. It takes a long time to settle into that routine that makes training “easy” or at least manageable. Maybe its good to go through a bit of upheaval in your (training) life every now and then. Get rid of the cobwebs, evaluate how you doing things and force yourself to try something new, or at least examine the process. Maybe you’ll end up doing things the same way, but be more assured of yourself, or maybe you’ll try something new and be surprised by the results.
Not wanting my first race of the season to be a my half ironman at Exmoor I signed up for Windsor Triathlon on June 12th. This is an Olympic distance race a bit closer to London and should give me a nice chance to see how my training is going and make sure I’ve gotten all the race jitters out of my system before Exmoor. I’ve been trying my best not to focus too much on the race itself as its a bit unnerving entering a new race. There is a comfort in repeating races (or even race organizers) as you get to know the race, the course and the logistics of the weekend. But this is new, I need to figure out how to get my bike out to Windsor for a Saturday racking (a bike I’ve yet to ride) and then wrap my mind around a new course and race in a new country. While the sport is ‘standard’ in a sense, I’m sure there are all sorts of little tricks or experiences that I just dont have with this being my first race here. So I’m glad to be getting some of those feelings out of the way before diving into my bigger (longer) race. The course itself looks fun, the run part is a couple of loops right around the castle, and the bike is a nice single loop around the area. My age group seems to be the dead last one to go out which could be a bit of a bummer if the bike course becomes clogged with newbies and slower folks from the waves ahead of me, I’m looking forward to getting on my new bike and really letting the thing fly. The swim is in the Thames so should be a chilly swim, but hopefully wont be any more than a 20-22 min experience, and well, I’ve done Boston harbor and the season opener in May in pretty cold water so this should be manageable.
Swimming has been easily the hardest thing to get back on track since moving. I’ve had to make several adjustments and the results are slow going. After initially finding a pool I’ve floundered a bit at getting a proper routine going. Gone are the days of swimming in my own lane at the BAC (or at worst splitting a lane). I find myself swimming with upwards of 4-6 people in a lane at times. Now, I’m all for people training and getting in the pool for some physical activity but I’m definitely getting annoyed with people that have no pool etiquette in my lanes. I’ve got a group of women who feel the need to sit and chat for 2-3 minutes between sets at the end of the lane (and dont move as I try to continue running my sets). We’ve got people that break into drills and go ungodly slow in the fast lane and people that refuse to pull off and let others pass, then putting people in rather dangerous position of waiting for a moment to pass. Needless to say, the experience has been a tough adjustment and I feel like I’m getting slower in the water. I know that I’m never going to be the fastest guy in the swim, my training for the swim is more survival, to be able to push it hard, stay competitive and then do the best job I can in the other two disciplines. But its mentally challenging when you feel (or pecieve) previous gains slipping away or not materializing despite a lot of hard work. That said, my time spent on the bike and running seems to be going well and I feel very strong on the bike. I even ran a 17:18 at a recent park run 5k which is definitely a ‘recent’ pr for me. I dont think I’ve run anything like that since college. So it feels goods to have some speed in the legs. Hopefully I can have a solid race at Windsor which will leave me feeling better about my overall performance and fitness level.
Well that seems like a good recap for the last few weeks, hopefully my race goes well this weekend and I can post a good race and bike review.
And a few other images for the heck of it..