Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lessons from the Cruise Ship

Our seven-day cruise to Alaska was nothing short of phenomenal.  Breathtaking views, incredible excursions, amazing food, and peaceful downtime made the trip a spectacular way to celebrate our tenth anniversary.  I had forgotten how easy it was to travel without kids: no scheduling around nap or rigid food schedules, no bag of tricks to provide entertainment during long waits.  We enjoyed the chance to reconnect and have uninterrupted adult conversations.  Pure bliss!

While we were away, I logged four runs and learned quite a bit about running while cruising:

1.  Stock up on bananas early in the week.  On a whim, I grabbed a couple extra bananas on Sunday and took them to our stateroom.  Boy, was that lucky: by Wednesday, I never saw another banana on the ship.  I was glad I had my stockpile to fuel my late week runs.

2.  Don't expect to do speedwork on the track.  To my surprise, the track was not a uniform oval.  Instead, it had several bizarre right angles and odd curves.  The surface was also quite damp from ocean spray and dew, and the path was rather narrow in several places.  Between the wet surface and the slight instability of running aboard a moving ship, a conservative pace was necessary.

Early morning over the Pacific.
3.  Avoid running on the track when out at open sea.  I attempted to run the outdoor track on Sunday, a full day at sea, but was quite literally almost blown away by the winds.  Out in the open water and travelling at fast-for-a-cruise-ship speeds, running on the 13th deck was not a wise choice.  I headed to the gym instead (see #4 below).  On Monday, we were scheduled to dock in our first port by 7:00, so I thought my chances for an outdoor track run would be much better.  Slower speeds and quieter water near the port kept the wind down a notch, and I laced up for a sunrise run at 4:30.  The track was slightly shorter than I expected - 5.5 laps equaled one mile - but the views were better than I could have imagined.  Watching the slowly brightening horizon as it unveiled the majestic Alaskan coast, the 16.5 laps of my 3-miler passed relatively quickly.  Even the 27.5 laps I logged for Friday's 5-miler seemed relatively easy thanks to the magnificent scenery.

A few laps later, the sun peeks over the edge of the water.
4.  Skip the gym, unless the ship is in open water (see #3).  The gym had a reasonable number of treadmills, and they all seemed to work, more or less.  The machines faced a wall of windows with lovely views of the ocean, which is a definite improvement over the view from my basement treadmill.  After 30 minutes, however, I was surprised to find my groove interrupted by the machine's automatic shutdown.  Ugh.  Though the view was interesting, the cruise ship gym reminded me why I dislike coed gyms.  Too many people there to flaunt rather than workout.  Too many (mostly men) running one crazy fast mile then calling it a day.  Too much oogling, competition, and comparing.  I never returned to the gym after that one run.  I appreciated the chance to run when the track conditions were hazardous, but the environment was not one I wanted to revisit.

5.  Lose the headphones.  The track was narrow and though generally unpopulated during my runs, I definitely needed to be unplugged so I could be aware of who was around me.

6.  Take the time to revel in post-run endorphins.  So often after my runs at home, I race inside to shower, fix breakfast, and whisk the kids off to school.  In the hustle and bustle of the mother runner life, I rarely have a moment to enjoy the aftermath of my runs.  Cruise ship life was completely different and provided plenty of time to bask in the post-run joy.  I ended each run by finding a peaceful spot on the deck to do some yoga.  Post-run endorphins + outdoor yoga + breathtaking Alaska scenery = one happy mama.  Fully stretched and blissfully exhausted, I enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee or two while watching the sun continue to brighten the horizon.  Does life get any better?

I've tried to hit the highlights, but I'm sure I've missed something.  What other burning questions do you have about running on a ship?  Lay it on me :)