Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shopping for a Running Club

In a dual effort to meet more locals and run faster, I have been shopping for running clubs.  I say "shopping" because it seems that they all cost money, which is a concept new to me.  In Chicago, there are a couple of chain running stores -- namely, Nike and Fleet Feet -- that welcome groups of 10-50+ recreational (some quite speedy) runners to meet in their merchandise areas to depart for social runs of between 3 and 7 miles.  All free.  Many of the same runners attend both groups, and an offshoot of these also meets every Saturday morning for a longer tempo runs, followed by ample quantities of pancakes, omelettes, and hot chocolate.  In this way, you end up running 2-3 times a week with the same pack of people, which is nice for making friends.

Maybe I will find, or start, my own free running group.  Until I do, I'll try to not dwell on the differences between Chicago and Amsterdam running scenes.  The truth is that Amsterdam really in knee-deep in runners.  Even on the coldest, wettest nights, the Vondelpark is still pretty dense with them: alone, in pairs, or in groups.  Options abound for when, where, and with whom a person can run.

In recent years, both Ed and I were involved in fitness groups that eventually became our social groups (namely, ultimate frisbee and CrossFit).  Here, we want to find a similar community of people with whom we can develop and grow as athletes.  In so doing, we will stay socially, physically, and mentally healthy. 

My personal goals delve more specifically into race times:   I want to run a sub-1:30 half marathon, and sub-40 10k.  For lack of a racing bike, it's not likely that I'll do any full-distance triathlons in the next race season, but a sprint tri or two could happen for sake of fun and variety (and the fact that Ed wants to do his FIRST EVER TRI next year!).  I also want to ensure that I continue to build, or at least sustain, the strength and mobility attained through six months of CrossFit, which have made me a stronger runner.

Knowing my goals allows me to identify some necessary elements I'll be looking for in a club.  Namely, I've got to have some free weights.  I've got to have some structure on the days when the club isn't meeting (I want the coach to give me a full training schedule).  I want to have some fast ladies running with me, because I'm more competitive with other women than I typically am when running with men.  I want a coach who knows what he is doing, so I don't get injured.

Thankfully, the three groups we've "sampled" allowed one or two "freebie" sessions before requiring our money for the quarter, or for the year.  After meeting and running with Running Holland, Club Phanos, and ASICS, it's time to make a decision.

I'm going to run with Phanos!  Here's the low-down:

Price: 285eu for one year, which works out to 23.75eu per month.  Suggested training is 2-3 sessions per week, so for one month at two sessions per week, works out to 3eu per session.

Community:  30 or so runners, of which six or so are pretty fast females who compete in anything from mid-distance to Ironman.

Workout:  Speed workouts on track surface.  Shorter and longer intervals, with speedwork intermixed.  After inviting me to three "freebie" practices, the coach emailed me the 7-day-a-week training schedule for the entire month, complete with goal paces for each interval distance!  Each week includes 2 strength training days and a rest day, as well as one or two distance days and at least two "interval" type days.  I am impressed by the organization and clarity of the training schedule.

Coach:  Guy in his 50s or 60s, who is also an intermittent trainer for Running Holland (according to RH's website).  Well-respected and well-known.  A merry, smiling guy, liked by his athletes.  Also coaches the youth distance group.

Location/Time:  Olympic Stadium, about 30-minute bike ride from our apartment.  Distance group meets at 7:00 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and sometimes a weekend day.

Side Benefits:  You train in OLYMPIC STADIUM.  How cool is that?  There is a small weight room and a locker room with showers and bathroom.  You are a half-mile away from Amsterdamse Bos or Vondelpark, for longer runs or hill training (like Chicago, there is but one hill in Amsterdam suitable for hill repeats).  Phanos also has youth running groups and volunteer opportunities, and I would love to get back into coaching.  Lastly, Phanos goes out-of-town for races and training weekends every once in a while.

20 euro to stay, run, and eat in this bungalow park in Schoorl!
Gezellig = The multipurpose word for "cozy, nice, comfortable, chill..."

Bungalow park sunrise


"Downtown Schoorl."

If I biked to Schoorl, it would be via this fietspad.

The somewhat sticky situation is that we've already paid to train with Running Holland (99 euro for 18 sessions, works out to 5.50eu per session) through mid-January.  Ed learned about Running Holland through a coach hired by his company to lead a post-work training group every Wednesday.  RH meets in Vondelpark on Tuesday nights at 7:45 pm.  It's also a fun group, as are most packs of runners, but our "fast" group only has one other woman in it, and 7:45 pm is pretty late to start a 90-minute workout, in my book.  The park trails are nice, but it can be very dark, wet, and slippery in the fall/winter/early spring.  No bathroom, no weight room, no showers.  

So I'll tough it out with Running Holland for a while, although I think my "people" are at Phanos.

Some of "my people" look like this.

But my people also look like this.  Fast.

Phanos, fortunately for me, wants to expand its womens team.  "We need fast women," I was told, "Why don't you train with us off-the-books until January, and then pay the yearly fee?"  Sounds awesome to me.

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