Tuesday, October 14, 2008

UK Trip

I had an enjoyable and productive 8 days in London and Liverpool this week. The presentations and demos went well and lots of people are strongly interested in our software. I missed my family, though, so I don’t want to do this kind of week-long work-related travel too much. Twice a year seems OK, I think. The weather was very good this week and I never needed an umbrella, as the couple of brief rain showers that occurred were during meetings that I had.

This blog post isn’t going to be a travel guide. For that, I highly recommend Lonely Planet’s London Encounter which was very useful and well-organized. The book is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket and the removable fold-out map was great for carrying around on my runs. Anyway, I’ll share a few impressions that might be outside the typical travel guide.

Hotels – not surprisingly, they vary a great deal in cost, services and quality. What did surprise me was that even the most expensive hotel, at about 220 GBP (~$400) per night charged a whopping 15 GBP ($30) for 24 hours of internet access! I mean, come on, that seems like extortion. Well, Uncle Sony paid for that at least.

Westminster Abbey – I was expecting this beautiful old church to be mostly well, a church, but its function was just as much a mausoleum and national monument storehouse. It was packed-full of monuments, coffins, and honors to various important Brits from King Henry III to Princess Diana. Many poets and writers are buried under the floors or honored with granite stones, or in the case of Shakespeare, a magnificent statue. What surprised and disturbed me a little bit was that thousands of people every day were walking on the stone inscriptions, gradually wearing them away. Many of the grave markers were entirely worn away, leaving just smooth black marble. On others, say from World War II, I could see the progress of wear showing how the stone was carved to different depths using some kind of narrow round chisel, with the deepest parts still visible and the shallow parts having been worn away by the foot traffic. I tried not to walk on the tiles that had writing on them. There was a door that had a sign saying it was the oldest door in Britain, dating to 1050! The Abbey was magnificent, inside and out. I only wished they allowed visitors to take photographs.

“Mind the gap” – The Underground is the subway system that can get you just about anywhere in London and there’s this phrase that is broadcast at every station, “Mind the gap”, that is practically a trademark phrase. It simply means to be careful about stepping over the space between the platform and the train car as you enter or exit. But it’s just so British that it’s cute.

“Look Left” – At nearly every intersection in central London there were messages on the asphalt indicating to the pedestrians which way to look before crossing. Since the cars drive on the left side of the road and since many visitors have presumably looked the wrong way and got flattened by a double-decker bus or speeding taxi, these notices are life savers. I gradually got used to being better aware of which way the cars were coming.

Running-wise, it was a mixed visit, and every single run was mostly at night, sadly.

Sunday -- It started off great, with a good strong 25.6 mile run immediately after I got to my hotel from the flight from San Francisco. I described this in my previous post.

Monday – rest day, as is normal.

Tuesday -- went well, except it was an evening run, which meant that the remaining runs for the week were likely to be in the evening, too. 8+ miles.

Wednesday -- To help build personal relationships with clients and spend some time with my coworkers, I skipped my run. Argh! I hate doing that.

Thursday -- I got in a good 14 miles in Liverpool on Thursday night in 2 hours, skipping dinner with coworkers and clients.

Friday -- I really blew it. I was so exhausted from traveling and not getting good nights’ sleep and visiting the British National Museum that I decided to sleep instead. Mistake! For one thing, I woke up at 2:30am and couldn’t fall asleep again for an hour. And then I was really off my running schedule.

Saturday – spent about 8 hours walking or standing. Visited Westminster Abbey, rode The Eye (135m tall Ferris wheel), and visited the National War Museum. My feet and knees were sore! But I had to get in a run. My plan was to run 4 hours (max 20 miles) Saturday night and 3 hours Sunday morning. Yeah, right! I did 20.4 miles, but I was sore and it started getting difficult and my left knee was bothering me. I adjusted my patella strap a few times (a strap that goes around the leg just underneath the knee cap) and took two short walking breaks in addition to my check-the-map breaks, find-a-place-to-pee breaks, and buy-some-water-because-there-are-no-public-drinking-fountains breaks. 3 hours 45 minutes later, I finished.

Sunday – As I’m typing this in the London Heathrow Airport, I actually feel fine and I did feel pretty good when I woke up. I’m mad at myself for not trying to run! Oh well, at least I got a really good night’s sleep. I don’t recall waking up at all from 1am to 8:30am and then I fell back to sleep until 9:30am. Yay, 8+ hours! This night and last Sunday night were my best night’s sleep. Maybe I should run 20 miles every night! Ha ha.

From Monday to Sunday, that’s a paltry 42 miles. However, in the 7 days from Sunday to Saturday, the total is 66 miles, so that’s not so terrible. I have to get back on track though and get in a couple of 70+ mile weeks for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile race on Dec. 6.


Prudence said...

Hey Ron
I hear that irritation with missing even a day. I can't stand it. We have a deadline tomorrow and I thought for sure I was going to miss my run.
66 miles in 4 days? thats pretty good. I got the okay to run and am thinking I might be ready for TNF?
let me know how next week goes.

Ron Little said...

Hey Prudence,
That'd be very cool to see you there and I hope you enter the race. You would be useful to me because if I happened to be running in front of you, I would know I was going too fast. :-)

I signed up for the race yesterday.

Frayed Laces said...

JEALOUS! I wanna run in London!

Ron Little said...

Hey, Frayed Laces! Love your blog, btw. I recommended your blog to my ultrarunner friend, Prudence, to use as an example for her new blog.

Yeah, it's fun running in new and interesting places, but you've got it made in Hawaii!

My first marathon was in Hawaii -- the Honolulu Marathon. I'd love to do another. Maui perhaps? Or that Run to the Sun 36 mile ultra that you signed up for.... hmm...