Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dan in Hungary

This would be my second time in Budapest, and I wanted to see and do some different things this time. I almost booked a one-day boat trip to the north, where there are supposed to be three scenic towns and a great castle or two overlooking the river. It’s called the Danube Bend area. I chose not to book it however, when I saw the weather forecast: cold and rainy. Cold (low 40s) and rainy it was. So I tried to do some indoor things.

I walked to and explored St. Steven’s Basilica. I’ve now seen a lot of old churches all over Europe, but this is one of the most glorious. It was as ornate as any, but more colorful than most.

I also went to Buda Castle, also known as the Royal Palace, to visit the museum inside. It’s the Hungarian National Gallery, with an extensive set of works by Hungarian artists throughout history. It was quite impressive. As usual, I liked the 19th century paintings the best. Budapest also has a Museum of Fine Arts, but I’ll save that one for my next trip.

The next day, Sunday, was very nice: it was sunny, with temperatures in the 50s. I couldn’t go the Danube Bend, however, because the tour only goes on Saturdays in winter. I could have tried to take a train or bus, but thought better of it; there were still other things that I haven’t seen in Budapest proper.

The day began with me on a metro to Hero’s Square. This square is the entrance to a city part called Varosliget, and is also home of the famous Millennium Monument. With great colonnades, statues galore, and a tall central column crowned by Archangel Gabriel, it is truly stunning. The monument was built to celebrate the millennium of the founding of Hungary, as well as it’s conversion to Christianity, lead by St. Steven. Among the statues is Prince Arpad, along with six other conquering Magyars. You gotta love these conquering Magyars.

Varosliget also contains a zoo, botanical garden, famous baths, and Vajdajunyad Castle. Since I continue to be self-conscious about taking them with people I don’t know, I skipped the baths. This castle, complete with a moat, looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. I walked around the interior grounds – it is really neat.

As I returned from the metro stop, I had planned to take Vaci street, a major shopping area, back to the hotel. Along the way is Mihaly Vorosmarty Square, where there was some sort of flea market or festival going on. I checked out the goods and the food (which smelled great) and watched first the little girls, and later everyone, do some folk dancing. They even had a puppet show. You just can’t get entertainment like this at home.

Having been to Old Town, in the Castle District before, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go again, but I wanted to do something with the time I had. So I climbed up once again – it took about 45 minutes from the hotel. And I did see some sights that I had missed: the view from the back of the Castle District hill is almost as spectacular as that overlooking the Danube. I also got to see the famous Vienna Gate.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Dan in Greece

For my second trip to Greece things would be different. This time it's a business trip, so I wouldn't have nearly the amount of time to see things as our trip a couple months ago. So after arriving, I spent my first day just walking around the Plaka district; nothing much new to report.

The only full day that I would have free would be Sunday. I booked a 3-island, 1-day cruise. And what a day. I was actually gone from 7am until 8pm. It turns out that the three islands are not quite as close to Athens as I thought; it took a long time to get from one to the other. And one other complaint: the boat was lousy - they packed too many people on board and the food was awful. (Woody Allen likes to talk about the Jewish Ladies complaining about food at a wedding. “The food is awful”, says one. “Yes, and there’s so little of it”, says the other.) But in spite of the long day and the not-so-good boat, it was a most worthwhile trip. Our first stop was Poros, where I walked around the picturesque harbor town. Poros is only about a quarter mile away from the Mycenae area on the mainland, but a long boat ride from Athens. Our next stop was the island of Hydra. It was even more picturesque, and there were some forts to explore in addition to the town itself. Finally we went to Aegina (aka Egina), where I booked an additional tour. I got to see the temple of Aphea, which rivals the Parthenon and Poseidon's Temple. (Also something strange: these three temples form an exact triangle - each is 25km apart. How, and why, did they do this?) We also stopped at an orthodox church that was cool as well. Finally, the Greek music and dancing on the boat was pretty entertaining. So yes, it was a good trip.

On the way to the boat I had met a father and his son. He asked where I live and when I told him, he asked, “is that near Strongsville?” When I told him, he asked if I’d heard of Beef O’Brady’s. I said that I’d just been there for the first time just in the past week. His name is Nick Voinovich, and he is the president of Beef’s and lives in Tampa. We talked a lot. I saw the two of them on the first island, but not afterwards. I thought it was strange that they didn’t get off the bus for the Marriott that night – I figured maybe they’d taken a cab. I saw Mr. Voinovich at breakfast the next morning. “You know when you were heading back to the boat and we were going away from it? My son said, ‘Dad, why’s the boat moving?’ We missed it and had to take a water taxi back to the third island, where we missed the boat again, and then had to get another boat back to Athens.” I had kind’ve wondered why they had been headed the wrong way, but didn’t say anything. I figured they knew what they were doing.

I can’t forget to mention Babis, my personal driver. I know this because he told me; he said, “I be your driver for your whole stay, boss.” That’s another thing: he calls me boss. Whenever I need a ride, anytime day or night, all I need to do is call Babis’ cell, and he comes. He’s from Crete, like Zorba – maybe they all call their clients “boss”. But he’s a wonderful guy. I’d recommend him to anyone coming to Greece.

For my last night I took a long walk up to a hill just below the Acropolis. I had a great view of the sunset and Athens at twilight.

Running in Greece and Hungary

I did 13 on the hotel mill - 7 at MP. Altogether 1:34. It wasn't pretty - I held on a lot.

15 on the mill with 8 x 1600 at 6:40. More holding on, but not as bad. Caught a cold afterwards.

3 on the streets of Athens, trying, unsuccessfully, to find a park. Not good at all.

Finally a pretty good one. 24 on the mill in 3:00:30. Most I've done in a long long time. And 5 at MP. I didn't hold on too badly - some in the middle, but not much at all during the last 9, when people started to show up.

A really bad 5 miles on the mill. Could only make it to 60 for the week. Some were decent, but this was a bad way to finish it off.

Today I did 16 in 2:04, in Budapest. It was wonderful - beautiful weather and scenery, and a good solid pace. It was 3 time aound Margaret Island, which is a bit more than 5K. It's about 3 miles to and from the island, and I did a bit extra as well. Each loop got a bit faster.

I did the Budapest 12 route - to the island (a bit less than 3) two loops of about 3.3 miles each, and then back again. What a nice run this day. Very enjoyable. Solid performance too. I think this is long by about 1/2 mile. 94 minutes. I'll take it.

I did the Budapest 12 once again. Hard to believe, but this was even better than yesterday. And I was pretty tired, too. Tied for PR (92.5) on this course. What will tomorrow bring?

It brought a very good run. A 3-mile tempo, and a PR on the 12-mile course. I wanted to get a tempo run in, and I was successful, but it was tough. I'm happy with the result, but I wish these things were easier. A solid PR for this course. 91.5 minutes.

I didn't need the mileage, and I was fairly sore and tired, but thought I'd do my Budapest 12 course one more time, just for the joy of it. Predictably slower, but still a good one. Got better as I loosened up. 95.5 minutes. I'll sure miss this run.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Today's Long Run - 2007-03-16

Great long run today- 20 in 2:38.5. I did 8 on Substation, and then the 6-mile course twice. It was all extremely steady and strong. Best long run in a long long time.

I'm taking off for Greece and Hungary today.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Today's Run - 2007-03-15

Ides of March. I should beware because of my weight. 167! And I've been trying to be good this week. Yet I'm going the wrong direction.

Today's run was ok - 7 with 6 x 12oo on the mill at 9mph (5 min).

I messed something up at work - recorded some changes for the wrong application. It was a fairly honest mistake because of confusion by the SME, but it still doesn't look good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Recent Running and a couple other things

Sunday I did 15 in 2:17. THAT's SLOW! I just started slowly and never got moving at all. At least it wasn't a total collapse.

Monday I did 4 on the mill before work.

Tuesday was a great day for running. The weather was extremely mild - high 40s in the morning, high 60s in the afternoon. I awoke early and did two 6-mile loops in 48 and 48.5 minutes. Pretty decent, but it would've been nice if they were faster. At lunch I went to Hinkley and did 2 loops there in 46 minutes. The weather at that point was gorgeous. I'm getting better myself.

Today I did 3 on the mill, then 3 slow ones on the Presidential streets.

Yesterday Debbie and I walked around Hinckley later in the afternoon (it hit 71 or so). Then we went to Dave and Jill's in the evening where we ate subs and helped Dave in the basement.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Today's Long Run - 2007-03-10

A pretty solid long run today in BVH with Dave and Amy. The weather was miserable - a cold off and on rain. But we kept a good pace the whole way. I'm calling it 20, but it may have been a bit short - hard to say.

Now I Know

That the weight is completely doing me in. I was at 166 the other morning, and then I went for an afternoon run at Hinckley. I used to be able, with some amount effort, to do the two loops in 43, 41, even 40 minutes. On Thursday the very best I could do, with some amount of effort, was 47.5 minutes. It was nice to hit that course again, but quite a reality check. I HAVE GOT TO LOSE THESE 12 POUNDS! And it won't be easy with this upcoming trip to Greece and Hungary.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Recent Running and Other Stuff

Met up with Iris and Mike and Linda and Bob for dinner last night. I also talked with Betsy and with Greg.

We're about to head over to Moms to clean the carpets. It's snowing though.

That 3" of new snow made for some fun running this morning. I tried to beat the ploughs. Also tried to do a few hills. It was tough going and predictably slow. 5 in 43.5. Then I did 4 more on the mill, including 7 1/4 mile hills @ 6%.

yesterday I did the 11-mile new subs route in 92 minutes - just a bit slower than I wanted. It was cold - about 10 with negative wind chills. I followed that with 2 on the mill.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Visiting Connecticut and Recent Running

I flew into JFK whilst Debbie drove in and we all met up with Veronica and Barry for Veronica's b-day. We went out to dinner and Debbie and Veronica fixed up some stuff around the condo. Also went to Ikea. It was a tough drive home at night.

While in CT I did the usual West Rocks, East Rocks run and a bit more - call it 14 in 1:51:30. Not bad at all considering the hills.

Today I did 6 on the mill including a 4-mile tempo.

Hinckley is Back

Okay, okay. Hinckley never really left. But a lot of us did; we hadn't been meeting there for our Sunday morning runs for quite some tim...