Week two: 59km

It’s a bit strange that I got as much distance in this week as I did last week, down to one decimal place.

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Two weeks of distance, from Google Fit

I honestly thought I’d get more mileage in. After all, last Wednesday (the 31st of October) is a holiday in Germany — Reformation Day, not Haloween — so this week I had my usual Wednesday commute, which I do by bike.

Still, if you look at the map, you can see that I’ll probably be able to make it to Berlin next week, if I keep the mileage up. (And, to be honest, I’ve maintained the same running distance for the last two weeks, so I think it’s time to up my running some.)

The Spreewald

One of the nice things about this week’s run is that I got to visit, at least virtually, one of my favorite places in Germany: the Spreewald.

The Spreewald — German for the Spree Forest — is not really far from Dresden, where I live. So, every couple of years, we can visit. And, it’s a great place to visit, because it’s very different.

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The Spreewald

The way I have received the legend of this area, in eons past, the people who lived there dug canals in order to drain enough farmland to actually grow food. The result is a long network of canals that have an imperceptible current (the Spree river technically flows through here in a diverse way) and a culture of flat-bottomed boating.

The best I can tell, the traditional flat-bottomed boats are mostly for tourists now (like anything traditional and quaint, I suppose). Still, it gives the place an interesting and unique feeling.

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Canoeing in the canals

What’s more, it’s the only place I’ve ever had fun canoeing, because you can really explore the canals in the canoe. On a lake, you never see anything that’s very new, it’s just nearer or farther away. In the Spreewald, you can make choices — do I go this way, or that way? — and around each corner, there’s something new to see.

Combine that with a long network of biking — or, for me, jogging — trails, and this is a place that I wanted to return to, even if it’s on a fantasy tour.

HIIT and run

I’m not a bodybuilder or a performance athlete. My workouts are all tailored to the level where I can tell that they are improving my life. My runs keep me balanced, the strength training I do is great for my back. Not much more.

That said, the YouTube algorithm recently fed me a video on High Intensity Interval Training (which I cannot find in my history at the moment, I’m sorry). In the video, it was suggested that HIIT promotes muscle growth and fat burning and may even cure cancer. (I tagged that last bit on.)

But, I was intrigued.

My HIIT run

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My HIIT run as seen in smashrun

So, I programmed my running app to alternate between high intensity and low intensity every three minutes. You can see what that looks like in pace for me in the graph above.

I’ve done some other interval workouts. So, I wasn’t surprised at how hard the first three minutes at high intensity were. Or, that the following intervals actually got to a point where they maybe weren’t easier, but I suffered less.

The thing about the experience that surprised me is that I enjoyed it. There was something fun about feeling strong enough to push myself. It might be simply that I’ve only recently got back to running the route where I did the intervals, slowly ramping up my mileage and now it feels good to run what used to be a ‘long’ route at workout tempos.

Either way, I have the HIIT run saved in my app and I’ll be doing it again.

Week One: 59km

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Schraden, from the Wikipedia article

So, my first week of travel took me 59km. That’s not nothing. (I’m counting running, biking, and all the walking that Google Fit recorded when my phone was in my pocket.)

Interestingly, that’s taken me to a region called Schraden which, in spite of it being only 60km from where I live, I’ve never heard of. Already, I’m finding new green areas to explor. That seems to be my goal for this pilgrimage: to visit big cities and green areas. I’m prepared to be surprised by the in-between, but that’s where I live now.

I’m excited to see where week two takes me.

Leg One: From Dresden to Berlin

Initially, I thought about starting somewhere other than Dresden. But, it’s where I live, and it’s where I’d start a real pilgrimage from.

Dresden

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The Dresden Skyline

I’m not a local (I’m writing this in English, after all) and I’m the wrong one to tell you how beautiful Dresden is. Not because it isn’t beautiful — it is — but because of how quickly you can get over it.

Dresden is basically a village surrounding a historic downtown. The locals don’t go downtown, because it’s overrun with tourists, and it’s not a super welcoming city.

That said, I like living here. The reason for that, though, is because it’s got all the infrastructure of a mid-sized city from the pharmacy around the corner to shopping, but it offers excellent access to greenery. I run in a park, on long runs I can go from my front door to the local woods.

When I want my ‘ancient Rome’ fix here in Dresden, there are a few sculptures you can visit in the local galleries, but mostly I just go to Berlin, which is why that’s the first stop on this trip.

Berlin

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The Berlin Skyline

I don’t love Berlin. Not the way some people love New York City, or L.A. But, there’s no denying it’s a proper city, and it’s only two hours away. (Where I’m from, two hours is not a lot.) So, when I start feeling like Dresden is too small for me, Berlin is where I go.

I like the museums — easy to get an ancient Rome fix there — and I like just walking the streets, looking at the people. I enjoy what I call the “freak show” at Alexanderplatz, where it seems as though nobody is too weird to show their face, and I’m just another face in a crowd.

I Berlin, I feel at once anonymous enough to blend in, and surrounded by interesting people doing interesting things.

The idea (and some rules)

The idea

Am I the only runner to get back in from a long run and think “man, if I didn’t keep turning around and coming back home… how far could I have gotten?”

A part of me wishes that we didn’t have cars, that being able to run 20k would be a ‘life skill’ and that we traveled on foot.

But we don’t, and that’s probably for the best, on balance.

I’ve been looking for a way to indulge my fantasy of travel when I thought: what if I just totaled up all my runs and put it on a map? Then, I could at least see where I would be…

I love the idea. That’s what this is.

Some rules

I want to keep it simple. So, I’ll be checking the distance stored in Google Fit at the end of each week and tacking that, in a straight line, onto the map.

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Distance tracking in Google Fit

That’s the minimum. And, I’m cool with posting for two weeks at a time instead of just one. But three seems like it’s pushing it, right?

Also, this seems to make the most sense if I at least do some “internet research” on the places I’m seeing. That’ll all be part of the blog. But, it’s not required.

The rules may change. We’ll see.