When I was training for my first Ironman I traveled about 2-3 times per month for 2-3 days. It made things tricky, but with some adjustment, I was able to get almost all the workouts in. This time I am traveling for two weeks. Granted I am in one place for those two weeks, but I am still having to make do with “temporary” circumstances – meaning I find the closest available option (I do not have access to a car and not much time, and am in an unknown city with people who do not really train like I do and, although many Czechs speak English, there are still some language and cultural differences from traveling in the US) and work with it. Unlike with shorter trips, I can’t double up one day and not miss a workout. I have to get creative here sometimes to get things in. And I have. And I will say that, although I know I had good training resources and always have fun when and where I train in Atlanta….after these two weeks returning to my training options in Atlanta will be fantastic!
Mary, my coach, and I went in to this knowing that my resources were unknown. I knew there was a pool (not how long) and there was a gym (not the equipment). That’s it. I had never been to Prague so I had no idea of the terrain. OK. Plus, it’s winter. ..real winter with snow and their highs are Atlanta’s occasional lows. So, Mary and I went in to this with the goal of maintaining fitness…not going after break-through workouts!
You may ask why I was going to try and train. Well….I may be traveling, but it wasn’t a vacation. It was work. I have traveled enough before to know you can’t not train every time I travel for work. Figuring out how to do the best I can when traveling comes pretty naturally at this point.
I think my training challenges are indicative of training when traveling in general. They do not necessarily reflect on where I was (Czech Republic), just having to make do with what’s available and the situation. I have been at many hotels with small workout rooms and no pool that can offer a real swim. I have learned to check things out before I arrive as much as possible and bring what I am able if necessary. Often times it is a matter of mind over matter – what are you willing to “put up with to get ‘er done”? What is your breaking point where you say “Enough. You win!”
In Prague I had no car and so couldn’t make it to many places. I probably could have learned to use the public transportation and found a gym where ex-pats go – I found them on line. But….I also know I am here to work for a short time, and that needed to be a good portion of my focus.
Let’s start with the swim – an 11 meter pool.
Often time with people being social or seniors doing the breast stroke or young children learning to swim. Somehow I managed 4 swims over 3,000 meters apiece. This past Monday, I did call mercy and asked that the 1×800 be broken up. 67 lengths continuously in an 11 meter pool just didn’t seem like something I would enjoy. In fact, it was hard to really enjoy my swims. Later one of my colleagues, Petr, mentioned there is a swimming pool in the huge stadium up the road although he didn’t know any details. I appreciated the thought, but I knew I wasn’t going to make the effort to learn how to get there, find the schedule, and then actually swim there when I only had 2 swims left. Plus I didn’t find it on swimersguide.com. I missed Dynamo and pacing myself off of Elaine, Jeremy, Kris, and anyone else in my general vicinity.
In general I will say that speed was very difficult to find – I would start to hit a rhythm and…time to flip! Sometimes I had to stop flip turns as I was getting dizzy. Shorter sets that let me rest from turns (not swimming) were much easier. So, was my time wasted? I mean – the effort I gave was less than stellar. Rarely did I have that pleasant fatigue I get after a terrific swim session. The jury is out. I will let you know after my first swim back in Atlanta! I will say that I worked hard on form. Fingers crossed! Elaine may kick my butt though. It was this past Monday Elaine and Ann told me about a device you can attach to a ladder and swim stationary. Ummm….yeah – that’s an investment I will be making VERY soon. At least I can get a decent interval in and save my sanity before my next trip anywhere!
Bike – yeah. The cardio equipment at the gym was….a step above better than nothing.
This is actually a private gym that people who live in the neighborhood use. There is a woman here who is a personal trainer, and she has a steady stream of clients, and seemed to know what she was doing. No need for cardio, I guess. There was an ancient stair stepper and two ancient spin bikes. That was it. No treadmill. OK – I just needed a bike. And only had 3 bikes to get through. I was in a little room. The music played was Buffalo Springfield, Simon and Garfunkle….not quite the “get up and go” type. Luckily I don’t require much in the way of motivation as I prefer to focus on effort, form, and my body. It is constantly feeding me information! But, still…I really had to go into myself to get it done. Luckily the seats weren’t too uncomfortable. Although I think I am the only person who has ridden on the bikes in a LONG time outside of a warm up before weights! Overall, though, the riding was easier, mentally, than the swimming, which surprised me.
Running. It had to be outside. In winter. No problem – I grew up in Michigan. I had run on snow before. I decided to run up the street towards the airport (never close to getting there, but the direction I knew). I decided this because my first night here I walked towards the river and there is quite the hill. Below is the profile from my long run on my first Saturday here. I did fairly well, and for my second run I ran to the park where apparently runners go. I was so excited. Yes, it was 5:30 a.m. but there was light and, at first wary, I realized there were other runners there – including females alone. Woo hoo! Although some snow, I could semi hit my intervals. The snow, however, did make it more like trail running. Little did I know what my Saturday run had in store!
Saturday I had 13 miles. And it was snowing. I started going down to the river, but the pace was so slow I couldn’t handle it. And I was worried about getting lost and not having resources. So…I decided to head back up the hill, towards and past my hotel, and hit the park area.
And believe it or not – there were lots of crazies out there with me! We were running in a snow storm and about 3-4 inches of snow on the ground. I debated cutting my run short, but the time flew by. It was hard. I won’t say it was easy. I was never cold, but had ice forming on my face as I ran. The wind was blowing, and snow falling. My pace was slower than I like due to conditions. But I got it done!
Monday’s run was hard as the snow started to melt on Sunday, and it rained over night and during my run. Once in the park where the sidewalk wasn’t cleared, the hard pack was soft. No way was I hitting my intervals! With every step I sunk 0.25 – 0.5 inches in to the snow. It was an effort to hold a 9 minute pace! I did hit the road next to the park for part of my run, but wanted to be careful as I am sure cars weren’t quite expecting a random runner in the road. I was jumping between the road and sidewalk…always alert for busses. What a day to not wear my reflective belt!
Wednesday I had hill intervals…and where I was planning to do them was ice covered – the slip and slide kind. So I ran gingerly past it and to the park where I found a gravel path which was 2/3 clear (and semi-hard packed for the rest) where I could do my intervals! Woo hoo! I saw a couple of runners in the park on the path – one was sliding over ice (running start and…slide!) the other next to the sidewalk to avoid the ice. Not the easiest of running conditions at all. I finished up with a road interval (at a decent pace) as I had worn my reflective vest that morning, and then gingerly ran over the ice covered portion (going downhill!) and then headed home.
And Saturday, March 2’s run? Not speedy, but good. The asphalt path was visible and I learned it is a 4.2 km loop around. I saw a few regulars – people I recognized – out there. It is definitely where the runners go!
Running in Prague in the winter has afforded me quite the set of adventures, and have tested my mettle. Actually – all my workouts have! . After each run I have been grateful for not slipping (especially on Wednesday). I have also questioned my sanity (Saturday I was just getting over laryngitis…brought on by a small ‘something’ I developed before leaving home which never left me sick, but I felt it).
I did manage to get my strength training in. The equipment wasn’t fantastic, but it worked. And I enjoyed. The front desk knew me by face as I was asking for a fitness voucher daily between strength training, swimming and my rides. Not sure if they have had the likes of me before! There were plenty of 80’s type muscle fitness posters of men and women (including Arnold Schwarzenegger) for motivation! I wish I knew if those posters were sincere, or meant to be light hearted in a fairly plain gym.
Overall it was an adventure. I did fairly well with makeshift circumstances. I wasn’t there as a tourist, and it wasn’t a vacation. It wasn’t really a break – it was work. In that respects, I didn’t want to take it off from training.