Monday, December 28, 2015

Let's Run Paris - Encore

Well, I had not planned on writing a second post about Let’s Run Paris but after getting to run with them 2 more times I don’t feel like I have a choice.  This is a really great group of people and joining them on the runs significantly enhanced my Paris experience.  I’m not talking about the running.  I’m talking about the chance to hang out with the local cool kids.

Group of early birds at the Bastille.
I already wrote about how I found the group and my first run with them in my post - Let’s Run Paris.  The next two runs were just as magnificent from both scenery and camaraderie viewpoint.  I even got to run on Christmas Eve Day with the crazy part of the group as we started off from the Place de la Bastille at 6:00 am. 

However, as I sit at home, it’s the interaction with kindred spirits that I find myself remembering the most.  For example, I arrived at the Bastille first for our early morning run.  As others arrived, I found myself being greeted by name with warm salutes, les bisous (kisses on the cheek), and the common French greeting of ça va (basically, how are you)? 

On my third run on Saturday after Christmas, it was more of the same except that now I knew even more people.  If you watched my arrival from an outsider’s perspective, you would likely assume that I had been running with this group of years.  This is a testament to their warmth and acceptance for all who join them.

Saturday's start.
Before going on, I need to express my gratitude to the run leaders of Let’s Run Paris.  As a ride leader for my local cycling club, I know what it takes to plan, orchestrate, and manage these adventures.  So, next time you run or ride with a group, please be sure to thank them.  Or better yet, buy them a beer to show your appreciation.

Saturday’s run was another romp through parts of Paris that were new to me.  We ran along the the Promenade Plantée, which was amazing.  I won’t recount the entire run but as far as I can tell, we ran through the 4th, 5th, 6th, 11th, 12th and 13th arrondissements.  Once again, even more than the scenery, I am going to remember chatting with fellow runners who were beginning to feel like old friends.  Afterwards, I joined them for a coffee and more chit-chat before bidding them au revoir and promising to run with them again the next time I was in town.

The finish at Luxembourg.
The fact that they are so inviting should not be surprising.  This is a truly international group and running with them was perfect antidote for me based on what’s happening in the world today.  I ran with people from France, England, Ireland, Canada, Spain, Australia, fellow Americans like me, and a few others that I’m sure I missed.  

While Sherry and I like to say that Paris is our second home, the truth is it’s a long transition from tourist to visiter to local.  Fortunately, we moved past the “tourist” stage long ago.  And while we might not be locals yet, my experience with Let’s Run Paris was a big step towards moving beyond being just another visiter.

As you can see, the reasons Let’s Run Paris made this trip so special has little to do with the actual running.  It was the chance to get to share an experience with others while enjoying my “second home.”  It was about their warm and gracious acceptance.  Or, to put it another way, it was about hanging out with the cool kids of Paris.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tour de France Finale - À Pied

More and more frequently, I find myself thinking about cycling during my runs.   Don’t get me wrong. I am truly enjoying my running these days and plan to keep at it for a while.  Still, I am also forward to climbing back in the saddle and rolling down the road.

However, there are rare occasions when the two worlds meet and that’s what happen on my 10k run through the streets of Paris early yesterday morning.

Sherry and I always stay in the 6th arrondissement when we visit Paris.  This means that I frequently run pass the Musée du Louvre and through the Jardin des Tuileries.  Since I was leaving early on yesterday’s run, I decided to skip the park and stay on the roads.  The route was fairly simple.  I was going to run up the Champs-Élysées, around the Arc de Triomphe and back.

I ran through the Louvre, past the pyramid, to one of our favorite streets - the Rue de Rivoli.  As I past the Hotel Regina, I saw the famous statue of Joan d’Arc.  I looked to my left at the tunnel that comes out from under the park and remembered the hundreds of times I’ve watched on TV as the Tour de France peloton came out of the tunnel and turned left on to the Rue de Rivoli.

That’s when it hit me!  I was basically running the final circuit lap of the Tour de France.  In fact, I would be running right past the official finish line.  For many years now, the Tour de France has concluded with a 7k finishing circuit on the Champs-Élysées with the race going around the Arc de Triomphe in more recent years.
Empty streets on the Champs.

This revelation added a whole new perspective to my run.  Now, as I was running through the empty arcades on the Rue de Rivoli, I could imagine it full of thousands upon thousands of crazed cycling fans.  Where I was running freely, it would be difficult to move.

These thoughts continued as I ran around Place de la Concorde and headed up the Champs-Élysées.  I can almost here the crowd reaching a fevered pitch as the sprinters head for the finish line.  Me?  I was heading for the Arc de Triomphe.

As I ran along the Champs, I was once again surprised that it is actually a small hill.  I can also hear cycling commentator Paul Sherwen reminding viewers that it’s a climb and back in the day the Tour de France actually offer King of the Mountain (KOM) points at the top.

The spectacular Arc de Triomphe!
No KOM for me on this run.  Just a slow steady pace up the Champs and then around the Arc.  It is an amazing piece of architecture and it looked especially beautiful this morning.  After circling the Arc, it was time to head back down the Champs and back to the apartment.

I finished with a perfect 10k (6.2 miles) on a perfect morning for running.  When you add the nostalgia of being in Paris and the excitement of following the Tour de France route then you have the perfect running adventure.  What could be better?

Well, actually riding a bike along the route might be better.  I mean if running it is cool then cycling it must be better.  And, that’s just what Sherry and I are planning to do on Christmas Day.  We’re hoping to take advantage of little to no traffic and give it a go.

I just hope that I don’t start thinking about running during the ride.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Let's Run Paris

There’s just something special about running in Paris.  I discovered it years ago and ever since then I always pack my running gear when we visit this magnificent city.  I mean, there’s nowhere else in the world where a 6-mile run take you along the Seine, loop around the Tour d’Eiffel and finish at the Musée du Louvre.  Now, while running alone in Paris is fun, running with a local running group turns fun into an adventure.

That’s exactly what I did last Saturday!

It all started about 2 months ago when I discovered an article in the app SmarterParis about running in Paris.  One of the tips the article mentioned was finding local running groups.  After just a bit of searching, I discovered the group Let’s Run Paris.  After being accepted to join their Facebook page, I’ve been watching with excitement each week as they post their routes.  Finally, the Saturday arrived where I was able to join them.

Entire group before the start (from the
Let's Run Paris FB page).
I arrived at the rendezvous point - Le Cercle Luxembourg - about 15 minutes early.  Since I was in my running gear, it was pretty easy to figure out why I was there.  People immediately began to come over to greet me with warm smiles and a friendly bonjour!  Of course they all wanted to know where I was from and what brought me to Paris at Christmas.

After a few announcements we were off.  The group broke into 5 sub-groups based on pace.  It took a little algebra but I finally decided to run with the 6 minute pace group.  The route was 12k (7.5 miles) through parts of the 5th, 6th, 13th and 14th arrondissements. 

We started down the Boulevard Saint-Michelle, past the University Paris-Sorbonne towards the Seine.  As we ran, we discussed American politics, English football (soccer) and world events.  After following the Seine for a kilometer or so, we turned back into the city through the Jardin des Plantes.  At this point we traveled through 8 kilometers of Paris that I had never seen.

The route - the first 1k is me running
to Le Cercle Luxembourg.
It was amazing!  As we ran through the 13th arrondissement, my new friends would tell me about the history.  At one point we went through an area where writers, artists and philosophers like Sartes used to hang out.  We ran through the Parc Montsouris, which was a particularly beautiful park full of other runners who were also out enjoying the morning.

We continued into the 14th arrondissement where we ran near the Tour and Cimetière du Montparnasse.  Finally, we made it back to Le Jardin du Luxembourg where apparently the tradition is to stop at the fountain for photos and celebration of a great run.

There are a lot of reasons this was such a cool experience for me.  To begin with, I am a social runner, which means running with friends is always more enjoyable than running alone.  I got to see some beautiful parts of the city that I would not have gone to for any other reason.  Finally, since all I had to do was follow the run leader, I was able to relax and simply take in my surroundings as I ran.

6 km group at the finish (from the
Let's Run Paris FB page).
It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning in Paris.  I got to meet new people, get in a great run, and explore new parts of the city Sherry and I love so much.  At some point during the run, I felt more like a local than a visitor and that was a great feeling.

I would highly recommend this experience to anyone.  Whether your passion is running, cycling, hiking, or whatever, there’s probably a group of like minded souls in every place you visit.  It only takes a little bit of research to turn your passion into the adventure of a lifetime.


Monday, December 14, 2015

The Mindset of an Endurance Athlete

A few years ago I was working with a physical therapist to deal with some occasional numbness in my hands.  In our initial meeting, I explained what I was noticing, how my desk was arranged and my hours of cycling.  When I finished she just looked at me and said, “I love working with athletes!”

I think this was the first, and perhaps last, time I was referred to as an athlete.  She went on to say that what she liked about athletes is that we are very much in tune with what’s happening in our bodies and it makes easier to diagnose and fix.  That must be true since I only need a few appointments and some new exercises to eliminate the numbness in my hands.

In addition to being in tune with our bodies, I think athletes also have a different mind set based on their forte.  For me, that’s endurance.  I am not super fast or super strong but I seem to have the ability to push myself (a key ingredient in the athlete mind set) for long periods of time.  I also seem to able to add distance, but not speed, quickly.

As mentioned in previous posts, I am doing more running than cycling right now.  In late March, when we decided to do the Ragnar Relay, I had not run in 3-months.  In a short 4-weeks, I went from nothing to running a 10k (6.2 miles).

Planned route
This is partly what I was thinking about when I started my run on Saturday.  My plan was to run 7.5 miles with just a little climbing.  The route was simple.  I was running from my house to a turn around point 3.8 miles away and coming back the same route.  This also took me half way up Fountain Grove, which is decent local climb.

I knew very quickly that this was going to be a good run and the endurance athlete mind set took over.  I started thinking about making the run longer because that’s what we do.  I realized that if I went up and over Fountain Grove, instead of turning around half way up, I could recover on the descent and add some distance.  With that thought, my new goal is 8.5 - 9 miles.

At this point, I realize that I didn’t bring any water.  Here’s where the difference in mind set really shows up.  Others may have decided to stay with the original plan of 7.5 miles but the endurance athlete takes this as a new challenge.  For us, it’s more like, “Let’s see if we can run 10-miles without water.”  I accepted this challenge and now the goal was 10-miles.

Actual route
I made it up and over the climb just fine.  I recovered on the descent just like I thought I would and starting running around town trying to reach 10-miles.  I was successful!!!  I will admit that I was tired towards the end but that was mostly due to the mental fatigue of constantly trying to figure out how to add distance.

There was another reason I took advantage of feeling good, and Sherry not being home, to add miles.  We leave for Paris in a few days.  I love running in Paris and I’m hoping to join a running group I’ve discovered.  They are all training for either half or full marathons so their runs tend to average in the 10-mile range.  My original plan was to reach at 8-miles before we left and then suffer through the final 2 miles with the group.  However, after Saturday’s 10 miler I think I’m ready physically. 

Of course, in my mind, I’m already there.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Lee, the Runner???

Several years ago I related a story about being a cyclist that actually came from an encounter Sherry had with an acquaintance.  The bottom line was that as they were catching up Sherry’s friend asked - “Is your husband Lee Alderman, the cyclist?”  Sherry’s quick answer was yes.

Doing my thing!
Based on recent events, I’m wondering how she would answer that question today.  She might say, “Yeah, he rides sometimes.” She might struggle to find the right words and say something simple like, “he used to be.”  Perhaps she would just laugh and try to change the subject.  Or, just maybe, she would be truthful and reply, “Now he is Lee Alderman, the runner!”

I’ve already written about my Ragnar Relay experiences and Cheating on My Bikes, so the fact I’m running more isn’t a surprise.  So, what’s changed?  Why do I suddenly feel like I’m a runner these days and not a cyclist.

There are three distinct things that tell me I’m much more focused on running - running with friends, running with a purpose and skipping rides.  The events of this weekend highlighted each one of these.

It started with a 6-mile run from my house on Saturday morning.  I know my running is getting serious when I start coordinating group runs the same way I coordinate rides.  There were 4 of us heading up through Montecito Heights, which is lovely wooded, low traffic section of Santa Rosa.  It also includes a great climb.  While we would all prefer to run on trails, Sherry has nixed my trail running because of our pending trip to Paris for Christmas.

One of my running
After the run, we sat around the house drinking espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos (thanks to the Rocket).  We talked about how great the run was and other running related things.  It reminded me of the cycling chit-chat heard in the coffee shop after a great ride.

My original plan was to ride later in the day.  However that never happened.  I would like to blame it on the weather since it was a grey, overcast, windy afternoon.  But the truth is I just didn't feel like riding.  I had already completed a 6-mile run so that was good enough.

On Sunday, I decided to push myself and repeat the same 6-mile run from Saturday.  This would be the first time I’ve done back-to-back long runs in many, many years.  I also decided two other things.  First, I planned on being faster than the previous day (which I was) and second, I would take advantage of the hill to work on my form and strength.

The hill’s natural slope is perfect for training.  As you climb, it has steeper and flatter sections are regular intervals all the way up the 2.5 miles from the bottom to the top.  This means you can push it on the short steeper sections and then recover on the flatter areas.  I usually only run for a little cross-training in the winter so the idea that I was using the hill for training told me I’m getting pretty serious about my running.

With all this running, you might wonder if my cycling days are over.  They are not!!!  To begin with, I still love to ride.  I also have 6 bikes in the garage and I can already see the look in Sherry’s eyes that says “ride them or put them on Craig’s List!”  

Running is great cross training in the winter but cycling will always come first.  And come this spring, just like the flowers waking up from their winter nap, Lee Alderman, the cyclist, will be back.