Saturday, September 15, 2018

Three Gorgeous Runs in Amsterdam

As I've said many times before, I love running when we travel. It's a given that I will need a suitcase big enough to carry "regular" clothes but more importantly, my running gear.

On our recent trip abroad, we were able to run in both Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Our stop in Reykjavik was basically a glorified layover and our one full day was spent on a bus tour (waterfalls! glaciers! puffins!) which didn't leave time for a run. And truth be told, the rain and wind wasn’t too inviting, either.

The runs that we did do were informed by friends and research. Because I like to be prepared, research and insights from people who have run in cities I'm not familiar with is really important. 

To help you decide where to run if you're heading to Amsterdam, below is a recap of the three runs we did based on the parks we ran to. But it's not all about the parks. If you're staying in central Amsterdam, you'll have to run by or over the beautiful and iconic canals, which makes any run in the city memorable!

early morning run - running in Amsterdam

Of course, the exact route you'll take will depend on where you’re staying, but my hope is that this provides some insight that will be help you plan.

Running to, and through, city parks gave our runs some structure but I highly recommend going into each run with an open mind and a willingness to explore. Also, this is a big city, so don’t be surprised if you have to stop for traffic lights and bikes. Wherever you run, you must watch out for the cyclists. There are many of them and even though they all seemed so much more chill than bike commuters in the US, they won't stop.

running in Amsterdam - cyclists in Amsterdam

Vondelpark

Vondelpark is located in Amsterdam Oud-West, just south west of the canal ring, near Museumplein (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, etc.). While one of the largest parks in the city, it also seemed to be quite popular with commuters as there was an endless stream of cyclists on the roads. There were nice gravel paths along the outer edge and crisscrossing through the park, which we were thankful for after walking on the city’s cobblestone streets. We particularly liked the ponds within the park and the grand houses and buildings along the outside. It's a beautiful park that's easy to navigate and with all the paths, you can really explore.

running in Amsterdam - Vondelpark

From our Airbnb near Neumarkt, we took a winding combination of small streets to the park, crossing over Leidseplein bridge to get there. If you're looking for an Asics store, there's one right near the park. Leaving the park, we ran along a canal and into de Nine Strasse (The 9 little streets) where we found a cute little cafe for breakfast. We likely could have taken a more direct route to the park, but it was our first morning in the city and were still getting our bearings. Plus, it's fun to get lost along the way!

early morning run - running in Amsterdam - Vondelpark

Westerpark

On the north west side of the canal ring, Westerpark is northwest of Amsterdam Central Station, in the Jordaan. The size of the park looked different depending on the map we were looking at, but as we ran it, we found it to be quite substantial. Again, popular with bike commuters, this is a long and narrow park with a road going through the center and a running/walking path alongside. A section of the path is along a marshy area and small canal, with cute little cabins on the other side. From what I learned from a friend, the cabins are likely vacation homes, rather than full-time. Either way, even for Amsterdam they seem super unique! 

The trail is paved and in really good condition. I appreciated the separate trail from the cyclists, but we did run along the wider path on the way back for a different view. It was 99% humidity that morning after the rain (so much rain), so our photos are a bit gray and hazy! 

running in Amsterdam - Westerpark

We got to this park by running up Zeedijk, across on Prins Hendrikkade, which goes over a few canals, and then taking Haarlemmerstraat straight to the park. This was essentially an out and back run; we got coffee and pastries from Brood on Zeedijk for breakfast (amazing pastries, very hot coffee). There are quite a number of bakeries and cafes along Haarlemstrasse that smelled amazing, as well. 

early morning run - running in Amsterdam - Westerpark

running in Amsterdam - Westerpark


Oosterpark

Oosterpark is in Amsterdam-Oost, southeast of the canal ring. This run was a great way to explore a part of the city we hadn’t spent much time in yet. This park is smaller than Vondelpark but is a strong competitor in terms of beauty. The lake is beautiful, there’s a nice loop around the park and some paths that split off. It was also busy but a little less so with commuters than the other parks, it seemed.

running in Amsterdam - Oosterpark

To get here, we ran down Jodenbreestraat to Plantage Middenlaan running by the Opera House and alongside the zoo, and into the park. For this one as well, we did a semi-out and back route and finished - once again - back at Brood to take breakfast with us to the apartment. (It's true, on this trip we didn't follow a strict vegan diet like usual, but were thrilled to find quite a number of vegan restaurants.)

Now, this is gorgeous, isn't it? All of these parks were unique and perfect for our runs!

running in Amsterdam - Oosterpark


For a long run...
A friend of mine also suggested the Amsterdam Bos, or the Amsterdam Forest, which is a bit farther out but apparently great for long runs if you find yourself in the city while marathon training. I can’t vouch for this park, but I certainly trust the source.

Disclaimer...
Since we are not locals and only visited for a few days, we don’t know all the places to run and I’m actually certain that there are a lot of other great places to go - some may be better than those here. But what I can say is that we found these enjoyable and saw a number of other runners covering similar routes. If your heart is set on finding the one best place to run, first, you probably won’t find it because every runner will have a different opinion but you can try contacting a local running store or running group for suggestions from locals. I won’t be offended.

Have you run in Amsterdam? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Going to Run on Your Next Trip? Do This Before You Go.

We’ve just finished an incredible trip abroad. Actually, as I write this, we are high above the Atlantic Ocean; between Iceland and Greenland according to the map on the screen in front of me.

This trip we’ve been on, to Reykjavik, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, is one we’ve wanted to take for years. It’s a bit sad to see it coming to an end and know that we’ll both be back at our desks tomorrow rather than exploring cobblestone streets and palaces. But, that’s life and what we have to do to go on more trips in the future. Right?

Our trip wasn’t necessarily an adventure vacation - we spent most of our time in cities, not on mountains - but it went without saying that we were going to run as many times as we could because that’s one of our favorite ways to explore new places.

We ran five times: three mornings in Amsterdam and twice in Copenhagen, and covered 26 miles. Of course, we covered countless more miles walking around. On several occasions, my Fitbit reached more than 35,000 steps at the end of the day.

We enjoyed all of our runs and felt that they helped us get to know the cities better. Let’s face it though, adding running gear to your suitcase does require space and weight, so it’s important to make it worth it.

In my opinion, it really comes down to one thing: Do the prep work.

Much like planning for any long run or training, taking time to prepare and plan will increase your enjoyment of running on vacation. 

early morning run - tips for running and traveling


Seek out recommendations for where to run from the running community. I received great tips from friends who have run in the cities before, and also found a few blog posts through Google searches. This helped me narrow down where we should go - and all of our runs took us to, or through, parks. Local running groups are great sources of information and even company if you are looking to join in on a group run or don’t want to run alone. Some cities also have running tours where you can, well, get a tour of the city from a local while you go for a run. (We did this in Montreal years ago and it was fantastic.)

You’ll need to the right gear, but not too much. Think about what you’ll need and check the weather forecast, but be prepared for anything if you’re going to a city or country known for erratic weather patterns. If you can, cut down on the impact on your suitcase by packing fewer outfits than the number of runs you plan to do, and plan to do some wash while you’re away. We stayed at an AirBnB in Amsterdam which we chose in part because it had a washer and dryer, so we were able to do laundry part way through our trip. While I personally think the AirBnB fees are getting a bit out of control, this one wasn’t bad and the ability to do laundry clinched it for us. I strongly recommend taking something to carry water (we saw very few drinking fountains on our trip) and even a lightweight hydration pack without the bladder if you want to do some exploring (or brunching) after your run but before you head back to the hotel. Also good for carrying bulky keys and a map, in case you don’t have cell phone service. (But take that phone for photos!) 

Early Morning Run - Running on vacation

Back to parks for a moment. I highly recommend incorporating parks into your route, especially if you’re visiting a city. They tend to offer safe running routes that don’t require frequent stops for traffic lights, not to mention green space helps us relax.

While you’re out on the run, be open to turning down a street that looks interesting and don’t forget to look around you. While you might be training for a race or want to get in a specific distance, you’re in a new place. Look around you and take it all in. Don’t let it all go by in a blur.

Finally, remember to stretch when you’re done. It's an easy thing to forget when you're ready coffee and a delicious brunch, but you'll be happy you took the time to do it in the long run.

It's really fairly simple. Make the commitment. Plan ahead. Explore. Have fun.

Do you run when you travel? Why or why not?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Thoughts from a First Time Ragnar Runner

More than 48 hours after we crossed the finish line and I'm still recovering from Ragnar Colorado. And maybe feeling a bit of withdrawal.

If you're not familiar, here's a quick rundown of how it works: teams of 12 (or 6) people run 200-ish miles over two days. Teams of 12 - like ours - divide into two vans of 6 runners and everyone runs 3 legs of varying distances, covering anywhere from 10 to 20 miles.

It was a crazy experience from start to finish, and one thing is for certain, I was part of an incredible team that showed amazing grit, fortitude, and spirit. Each one of us brought something unique and important to the team, including the ability to roll with the punches! In fact, if I could change one thing about the relay, I'd want more time for the entire team to be together.

I'm thankful for Amanda, who brought us all together, and the rest of team Just Here for the Food - Aimee, Charlie, Danielle, Tara, Sarah, Heather, Ellen, GretchenHeather and Sara



The story is too ridiculous to recount in detail, but the long short of it is that Hertz won't be seeing any of the 12 of us soon, we loved our Airbnb host, Van 2 became masters of packing, unpacking, and moving our gear from place to place, and I started my first leg of the race not knowing if there'd be a van at the top of Vail Pass when I got there. Thankfully, van number 2 for Van 2 did show up and managed to make it through the rest of the weekend without a problem.


This was not an easy race. It tests you in countless ways, and I don't regret a minute of it. I covered just under 15 miles - including 8 in the middle of the night - and climbed over 1,300 feet. We lived off snacks, slept on a gym floor, and eventually gave up on trying to do any math. I'm proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone and taking this on.

In the end, we finished 2nd in the Women's Open Division (although they currently have us listed as 11th in the Men's Division) and 18th overall. Not too bad for a team that literally encouraged each other to enjoy the runs and stop to take photos along the way!


Coming off my first Ragnar, here are my top tips for any of you planning to run your first overnight relay:

1. Go into it with an open mind. If you're not there to win, don't take it too seriously. Learn from your teammates, lean on each other, be ready to be a little bit vulnerable and try not to let things get to you. That said, if you know you need your space (which is at a minimum), download a playlist or podcast before the race, take your headphones and and zone out for a bit between runs. Your teammates will understand. There's no way to really know what a relay will be like, so be ready - or open to - anything!

2. Be ready to go with the flow. Things are going to go wrong. Your van could breakdown. Directions could be questionable. The weather might not be ordeal. You might meet every port-a-potty along the way. That's part of what makes a relay experience unique. It's not supposed to be easy, but if you can go with the flow and problem solve like a boss, you'll enjoy it a whole lot more.


3. Don't expect to sleep, but if you get a chance to sleep on a gym floor, take it. The one hour of sleep I got smashed between people on a gym mat in a middle school in Basalt was heavenly and gave me the energy I needed to power through to the end! Don't skip an opportunity to recharge.

4. Do your homework & a few training runs. No matter what, you're going to be faced with surprises along the way, but take some time ahead of the relay to read about your legs (will you be climbing for 5 miles, running in the dark or on trails?) and get some miles under your feet. It'll still be hard, but it'll help.

5. Have fun & enjoy the views! Take time to take it all in. Enjoy your time with your teammates. Focus on the beautiful views. Laugh off the craziness. Celebrate each finish and all that you've accomplished!

One last thing. I'd like to recognize all the amazing people we met along the way. Starting with Lindsay, our Airbnb host, and Tyler from the towing company, to all of the fantastic volunteers who spent hours in the hot sun or stayed up all night to support us, the police officers keeping everyone safe, the volunteers at the exchanges who opened community doors for us to sleep, rest and clean up, and other runners who kept our spirits high and pushed us to keep going.

Have you run an overnight relay? I'd love to hear your top tips. 

Are you thinking about running a relay but have questions? I'd love to help!