March 6, 2011

Back to basics

After my escapades yesterday, I decided it was time to go back to basics, where Absolut(ly) Fit began: the morning after run.

Despite having gone to bed at 3am in Brussels time, I woke up at 8:30am and could not get back to sleep. I was caught in between two time zones: too awake to go to sleep at 3am last night (since it was only 9pm back at home), but too awake to get enough sleep this morning (since it was already 8:30am here). Not good! I contemplated just staying in the amazing Le Meridien bed (seriously, it makes the Westin Heavenly Bed feel like a piece of plywood) and reading away the morning, particularly since I was almost done with the amazingly inspiring Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. However, I realized that would be dumb – I’d be spending the entire day on a plane home and would have plenty of time to read now, so might as well make the most of my last few hours in Brussels.

While I had planned to go for a long run this morning in preparation for the upcoming National Marathon, I really didn’t feel like going out in the cold. Despite it being a gorgeously sunny day, temps were in the low 40s, and I hadn’t brought any super warm running clothes (I’ve been away from running for so long that I didn’t realize how 40 degrees is actually a totally comfortable temp for a run and doesn’t require any special gear). But I had one big thing motivating me: I had told myself that I wouldn’t have a gaufrette (Belgian waffle topped with ice cream and various sundae toppings) unless I went for a run, and I didn’t think I could go home without having a gaufrette. For one thing, I knew Chloe would kill me! With those two things in mind, I had only one choice: to run.

I headed out the door of Le Meridien and turned right, not really knowing where I was going – I figured I had a good enough sense of direction that I could find my way, or ask for directions back to Grand Place and then get home from there. It was only once I was home and plugging my route into Gmap Pedometer that I learned there was a massive park, Parc de Bruxelles, just two blocks from where I was. Oops! But I enjoyed myself anyway – running down Rue du Lombard, following Boulevard Anspach for about a mile until I hit Kunstlaan, and then turning back to come down a posh street of shops. From there, I headed over to take a quick pic of Mannekin Pis, and then it was back up and around to my hotel.

But I wasn’t done yet! I had only been running for about 20 minutes so far, and wanted to hit at least 30 to make it “legit.” I had no GPS or other device to tell me how far I had gone, but I figured if I did 30 minutes that would be at least 5k, which would be a respectable distance to have run in Belgium. So I passed right on by my hotel and headed for the Galerie de la Reine, where I then turned off and ran down the Rue des Bouchers, a street that back during my college study abroad I had nicknamed “Restaurant Row” for its similarity to the more-familiar-to-me streets of Little Italy, where the waiters all come out and try to tempt you to come eat at their place. The cobblestoned street was a bit tricky to run on, as I had to be very careful of my footing, but I couldn’t believe how different the street was at 9am on a Sunday – totally empty! All the restaurants normally have host stands and displays of their food blocking half the street, as well as the aforementioned waiters accosting you, but being only 9am on a Sunday, it was deserted. How neat to run through there!

On my way back up the Rue d’Arenbourg (yes, up – I was purposely trying to do as many uphills as I could find), I managed to locate Beer Planet, which I had learned through copious Googling carried the Cookie Beer and Val-Dieu Grand Cru I had loved the night before. It would open at 11am, so I was glad to have scoped it out so I would know exactly where to go for the beery deliciousness later (note: planning to bring a few bottles home, not drink it today… though I suppose you never know; if Schiphol Airport is as boring as it was the last time through, I might be forced to cope with some “cookies”). At the top of the hill, I passed the gorgeous Cathedrale Saint-Michel et Gudule before deciding to head back into Grand Place for one final uphill to the finish.

When I finished, I felt like I had barely gone more than a few miles – I was surprised how quickly running came back to me after only doing weight training for so long. I wasn’t really tired at all; the only reason I was stopping was out of sheer laziness and because I didn’t feel like adding another petal to the four loop course I had taken. Running in this early hour of the morning was so peaceful, particularly since the throngs of tourists weren’t yet out and I felt like I had all the landmarks and sights to myself. What a great way to get back to running, by doing it in a foreign country!

Total time: about 32 minutes (my phone kept randomly shutting off so I can’t say for sure)
Total distance: about 4.05 miles, according to my Gmap Pedometer

Woo hoo! I’m back in the running game.


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