Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Viking River Cruise: Running on the Rhine

As summer draws to a close, I have a few interesting updates to share. I haven't been writing in my blog as much as I used to, mainly only when I race. I don't ever want blogging to feel like a chore, and since I do it professionally as well, I need to allow myself the freedom to blog or not to blog.

Cologne, Germany wearing Columbus Marathon shirts
To celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary, Greg and I went to Europe for 10 days. We booked the trip nearly a year in advance, and when exploring our options, we found that a Viking River Cruise was the best way to see a lot of Europe. We opted for the "Rhine Getaway," starting in Amsterdam and ending in Lucerne. Because the boat acts as a hotel, it removes the hassle of constantly packing and un-packing bags and spending a lot of time on trains. And unlike a typical ocean cruise, Viking cruises are scenic for their entirety and the experience is much more personal, with only 180 passengers.

Instead of writing a full-on travel blog, I'll just focus on the running aspect of the trip.

It was extremely difficult to run on this vacation, and I had to be creative and flexible about my running schedule. I fully expected that I wasn't going to run my typical amount and I even told my coach this ahead of time. We were traveling for 10 days and I only brought 4 running outfits, and I never like to wear the same thing twice without washing it. I decided in advance that running would not be a priority. In fact, part of the reason I decided not to run a full marathon this fall was so that I could ease up on the training on this vacation. Nevertheless, I enjoy running, and I wanted to run as much as practical.

Working hard before playing hard
I ran a hard workout on the Thursday morning before departing for Europe that evening. It was 67 degrees and very humid, and the workout called for a 3-mile tempo run, followed by 4 x 30-second hill sprints, and then a 2-mile tempo run. Wow! It was somewhat intimidating because I had never done that workout before, but I made it through quite nicely, especially considering that it was warm and humid. The first three miles were 7:25, 7:19, 7:17. The hill sprints varied somewhat, but were all in the low 7:00's. I then wrapped things up with the final tempo miles at 7:20, 7:15.

Kinderdijk, The Netherlands: 6.2 miles easy
We took the red eye on Thursday night, and spent the day in Amsterdam on Friday. On Saturday, we arrived in the small town of Kinderdijk. There was enough time to go running before the windmill tour (this town is known for its windmills) so I found a path to run back and forth on. One of the challenges of running on this trip was that Greg was still recovering from his broken ankle! He had tried to run a few times before the trip and they didn't go well, so he decided he wouldn't run again until after the vacation. I didn't want to run too far away from him in these countries where I had no clue where I was, so he would walk while I would run. In Kinderdijk, I ran for half a mile to a mile back and forth while he walked on the same path so that I saw him every five minutes or so.

Rudesheim, Germany: Strides!
I quickly discovered the Kinderdijk would be the only location where there would be enough time to
run in the morning before the excursion. I thought I could just wake up at like 6:30 and have plenty of time for an excursion that started at 8:30, but the problem is that the boat didn't actually dock until it was time for the excursion, or maybe 30 minutes beforehand. It definitely wasn't enough time to run
Beautiful Scenery
and shower. And there was really no choice but to go on the excursion, because most of them started with a bus ride and if you weren't on the bus at the appointed time, then you missed it. There was no staying back and running at the boat, because the boat would move while the excursions were taking place. Tricky!

There was no running on Sunday in Cologne, Germany. And on Monday morning, it was also impossible to run. So I got creative and decided to run in the evening in the town of Rudesheim before having dinner. My coach had prescribed 20 x 0:30 strides and I ended up doing 16 of them so that the workout would end quicker and we wouldn't be so rushed to get to dinner. Also, since I had been indulging in sweets and German chocolates all day, my stomach felt bloated and full and like I was carrying a watermelon in there!

There was a nice path right along the river that I ran on. It was perfectly flat and the only challenge was that it was a little crowded near where the boat was docked. Greg walked back and forth on the same stretch of area where I did my strides.  Oh, and did I mention it was 84 degrees and sunny at that time of day!

Mannheim, Germany: 5.4 miles easy
We woke up on Tuesday morning and surprise! We were actually docked. We weren't supposed to arrive early enough to run before the excursion, but since we were docked, we seized the opportunity
Beautiful scenery!
to run (or walk, in his case). Even though I had just run the previous evening, it was nice to do an easy recovery run along the river.

I found a crushed gravel path that went through a park and it was really nice. Europe, particularly the area around the Rhine River, has so many running and biking paths! All wonderfully maintained. The irony of this vacation was that there was an abundance of extremely scenic running paths everywhere we went, but no logistical way to run on them (for the most part).

I continued to run along a half-mile stretch of the path so that I would see Greg frequently. I definitely didn't want to get separated from him. I should also mention that the demographic of the other cruisers was primarily 60-75 years of age. None of them were runners, and most of them were fascinated at Greg and my running experience and dedication to run on vacation. They were quite active, however, and many of them were out walking while I was running and actually cheered me on!

Breisach, Germany
Wednesday was our first day in France. It was a full day of activities in Strasbourg and the Alsace
Short tempo on the Rhine River
wine region. Running would not have been possible, but I hadn't planned on running anyway. On Thursday, we were back in Germany and we got to explore the Black Forest. We were pleasantly surprised with the ability to run in the morning (we arrived early and docked before they told us we were going to) so I was able to do some light speed work.

The workout was to run for 10 minutes at 5 seconds per mile slower than tempo pace, and then to turnaround and run back at as fast as possible. The running path by the river was absolutely perfect for this workout. There were other runners on it as well so I felt right at home. Just like the W&OD trail but with a river! Even better, most of this path was shaded! It was 69 degrees, sunny and humid, so the shade was certainly welcome.

I ran the "out" portion at a pace of 7:19 and the "back" portion at a pace of 6:56. Greg snapped photos of me during his walk. I got a nice warmup and cool down too, for a total of over 6 miles.

Wardrobe note: whenever I travel, I run in skirts. The skirts that I wear have multiple pockets that are perfect for a hotel room key. When I am running at home, I typically wear shorts because I don't need to carry anything. But skirts are ideal for travel and for marathons when I need to carry gels.

By the time we arrived in Basel on Friday, I was just too exhausted to run. The vacation was extremely active-- we walked 8-10 miles a day according to Greg's pedometer. It was pretty much go-go-go with the only rest being at meal times. I had gotten my four runs in as planned (and was actually hopeful for more) but was totally okay with not running again. I had intended on running around Lake Lucerne, because it's so beautiful, but we had an 8:30am excursion on Saturday morning into the Swiss Alps, and I prioritized sleep.

All in all, it was an amazing vacation. I got in enough running to maintain my fitness level and feel good, but I didn't stress about not being able to run at my normal level. Plus, it was probably good for my body to get a little break! I'd also like to mention how thankful I am to have been married to the most wonderful man in the world for 5 years! And I'm happy to report that he's now running consistently and has run for 30-35 minutes nonstop without pain on several occasions!

Lake Lucerne on our 5-year wedding anniversary


  1. I've been looking at those cruises and wondering about them. Hadn't heard of anyone who had been on one. Sounds like you had fun!! You should write a review/post on the cruise itself. Great that you got some runs in. Been to some of those places and what spectacular places to run.

  2. It looks like you guys had a wonderful time! I'm kinda jealous you got to run in Europe. I've heard of those river cruises on the small ships but never thought about doing one because we like big cruise ships and I'm afraid there wouldn't be as much to do. But I love that the cruise is like a floating hotel so you get to see so many places without having to unpack and pack. You should post a little about the cruise itself too, I'm kinda curious now!

    Amy Lauren

    1. There's not much to do on the small ships, but you aren't on the ship for most of the day. You're pretty much always off on an excursion of some kind. As a result, it's not as relaxing and it's very structured. There are pros and cons of this! I'll do a post on the cruise itself since both you and Robin have requested it.

  3. Congrats on your anniversary! Looks like a great time. Glad you were still able to run during your trip. I find that I have every intention to do so but then end up not doing it. I like your skirts. Are those from Running Skirts? I think I recognize the image of two running girls.