Thursday, April 21, 2011

Netherlands/ Switzerland April 2011

Americans work too damn hard. It seems the only time we can take 2 solid weeks off is to quit your job, which I just did. We should learn from our European compatriots who are way more advanced in several key respects- recognizing the value of Fehrien, siestas, universal healthcare, etc.

4/7: Arrived in Amsterdam. Waited at Schiphol for my old friend and travel companion JK from NYC, who I convinced to run his first marathon in Rotterdam with me. 2.5 weeks prior he sent me an email that he had stopped running due to recurrent leg pain, and that “Not training is the best decision I've made since I started training”. I tried to think back to when I considered running “training” and drew a blank. Try to explain to a non-addict that it hurts more NOT to run, or to a “competitive” person running compulsions have nothing to do with being competitive? Speaking of leg pain, I started having some in my left ankle about 9 miles into my last 13 mile run on Wednesday, just before hopping on the plane. Nothing a little Advil can't kill.

Saw what looked like a giant hamster wheel and had to try it out. This is apparently a permanent fixture outside Schiphol used by various agencies to raise funds for charity (this week: cancer research).

Next a train to Utrecht, a university town, which like many places in the Netherlands is very bike friendly. There are entire parking garages just for bikes.
It was worse than not knowing which side of the street to check before crossing in London; bikes coming from all sides. Helmetless women in high heels smoking cigarettes, middle aged-businessmen with briefcases, teenagers riding double, there were definitely more bikes than cars in this pancake-flat city. You were more likely to lose your bike than to have it stolen...
And you are definitely more likely to be run over by a cyclist than a car.

My ankle was hurting a bit more and starting to swell up after running another 9 miles around the city's winding canals and quiet, tree-lined trails. When ice and advil don't help, it's bad news, but I reminded (deluded) myself, it hurt more to walk than to run, and there was no way I was missing this one. Hopped a train to Haarlem, hiked to the world's biggest tulip garden in Keukenhof, where they also had an excellent quote from Goethe where they have an actual shrub maze

then hopped another train to Rotterdam.

Took a train to Dordrecht with J and JK, Water taxi then

11 km bike to Kinderdijk, and saw lots of windmills:

Stopped by Gouda but all the cheese shops were closed....

Did run Rotterdam, and crossed the Erasmus bridge twice...

The next morning after the race, had to leave for a 9.5 hour, 5 train trip to Switzerland, and I knew there was trouble. I once again diagnosed myself- cellulitis. Must've been from the rock rash on my left shin I got at Yakima Skyline Rim plus stress-related immune-suppression. JK looked at the leg and urged me to see a doc in Rotterdam, where they speak English. No way, there was only one train each day to Switzerland. Great day for a train delay-5 platform changes and 92 minute delay we were headed to Basel. Decided to stop there because I knew the clinics in St. Gallen would be closed, my leg had doubled in size and I could barely walk. I knew waiting another day was not an option if I still hoped to run Zurich in 6 days.

Luckily there is a walk-in clinic at the Basel train station. "I have cellulitis" I said. Went on to explain that I needed a quinolone since I'm allergic to everything else. The doc gave me a look like, "if you know so much what's going on, what do you need me for?". I ratched it down a notch and he gave me a script for clindamycin. My fear of C. Difficile aside, I never knew it caused man-eating esophagitis. The heartburn was so bad, every swallow of water was like drinking a cup of thorns (which made wine and grappa very difficult), never mind that I couldn't take Advil, and didn't respond to Swiss maalox. It hurt worse than my leg, but I knew, I might be able to run again sooner.

Next 3 days in the Ticino I took it easy, wore compression socks so my foot would fit in my shoes. A little hiking a little in Carona, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, couldn't hurt.
If Americans knew about the Ticino, the southern part of Switzerland where the language/ culture is Italian, it would be swarmed. It is cleaner than Italy and quieter than Monaco, and every bit as beautiful with excellent food and grappa.

This particular grotto was owned by a former famous Swiss Tour de France cyclist who now hawks his own brand of grappa:

This is why George Clooney lives by here. You wear tank tops/ shorts while you stroll along palm trees and lunch at Michelin starred restaurants. In the summer, apparently you can swim in lagunes surrounded by surreal caverns. Saw Locarno, Ascona, Centrovalli, Morcote, Lugano, Bellinzona....

It's paradise in the Ticino, even got to ride a speedboat on Lago Maggiore

Friday returned to St. Gallen where we met up with JK and J's friend Rosie, for a Swiss countryside bike ride to the Bodensee. I got to ride Roddy, JK on Roger's F. Moser road bike, Rosie on a true mountain bike.

I learned real quick why the Swiss ride on such fat tires, wow, with Roddy I could go over curbs, stones, country roads... this is why people ride heavy touring bikes, steel IS real. Sadly, J. Moser roadbike got a rear flat so we started walking, and luckily there was a shop 2 km down which repaired the flat (long story about how the previous bike shop lost out repair kit), and we took the train back to St. Gallen.
we were pursued by some aggressive cows and Appenzellerhunde but made it through...

Friday saw another doctor in St. Gallen, who owed Roger a favor since he designed his office. He looked at my swollen leg. Improving. Told me to stand up straight and noted a slight scoliosis. Pounded on my ribs. "Does that hurt?". Then pressed on my sciatic notches. "Does that hurt?" (ow) and concuded, that I should stay on Clindamycin and add a PPI to combat the man-eating heartburn. Managed to finish Zurich without running all week, only 1 bout of vomiting, and survive to ride with Genevieve on her Like-a-Bike.

It's good to have health insurance.


  1. Damn, next time I go to Europe, you're going to be my tour guide.

  2. Always willing to be a tour guide... as long as there's a marathon involved!