California Fitness it is

After a long search, I decided to become member in California Fitness, the gym located in “The Place” on Dong Da Qiao Lu. The place is huge with 400 machines and all the needed facilities. The air seems to be OK, better anyway than in all other gyms visited. The treadmills are good but one of the brands (STARTRAC SoftTrac) does not work well with the Polar transmitter. The other brand (MATRIX MX-T5) works well but has a limited overview of the workout results (no average heart rate, no average incline etc.).
The gym is using the famous Yao Ming player for its brand.
I am running into many former clients from PowerHouse Gym, so it seems I am not the only one to have made that choice.
Only weak point is getting a taxi during the week after the workout. The whole area (CBD west side) is shunned by taxi drivers. So, sometimes I just have to walk back home (25 min).

Exit Beijing Powerhouse Gym

I mentioned a couple of times my gym I have been using in the past years, Powerhouse Gym, in Capital Group Building (next to Swissôtel). The large gym with the hundreds of workout machines and treadmills was quite an experience but I was not that happy with the quality of services. Though so-called part of an American chain, it looked like the US guys stayed home. English speaking staff, none, and most were often clueless when any question was asked. The personal trainers looked ok. Sauna (dry and hot) were a disaster, the air was often horrible and temperature control was a joke. Ever been running at 28C, hot dry air in the middle of winter? Maintenance of equipment close to zero, unless something really broke down. I never saw anybody from the management checking the gym. Bad sign.
Then they moved around April to another building, “behind Poly Plaza”.
As I had been fighting bronchitis thanks to the horrendous Beijing pollution, I did not go to the gym for quite a while. Indeed, running in Beijing is bad for your health – just two days ago API was at 500 with the WHO limit being 50. Gesundheit!
Two days ago I discovered the “new” Powerhouse Gym, after a long search. It’s hidden in a building next to Dongzhimen bridge. What a disaster. Tiny, run down, chaotic, 80% of the equipment gone. Looks worse than a bad local gym. I think I saw 5 people. All windows open as the aircon does not seem to work. All the traffic pollution coming in from the 2nd ring road and Dongzhimen Wai Road. All you need to get your lungs and your nerves busted.
Guess there goes Powerhouse gym, most probably financially busted. Pay a visit to California Fitness and see what they do in terms of management.
I still have to decide where to go now… But I will forget about the 3 months remaining I had actually paid for and the 6 months they promised to give free to “compensate” for the move. I could as well run along the 2nd ring road.

Beijing Marathon: I give up

Since 2003 I have looked at the Beijing Marathon as the personal challenge of the year and to show the spirit of the Olympics.
Well, 21 October was the last one. Frustration and disappointment. Morale at a low. Now looking at other cities. Maybe I still try the half marathon next year.
Why? Simple. Running in Beijing is for suicidal people who want to ruin their health forever. My Chinese doctor told me, with 5 bronchitis this year only: don’t run outside in Beijing anymore. My bronchi are busted, loaded with the Beijing pollution (dust particles). See earlier entries in this blog.
When I see people jogging in this city I feel pity for them. One day they will realize their foolish enthusiasm has ruined their lungs.

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John & Gilbert still fresh – the start – barely able to walk

The ANA Marathon was a disaster despite improvements in the organization. There was water at all stations, emergency services were all fine. Printing of the individual results was reasonably quick despite the long queue. The departure and arrival area however were a nightmare. Of course the “leaders” who just come to show their face on TV won’t notice that. After arriving (exhausted at least) you need to walk several Km before you ever manage to reach the exit and your pick-up car or taxi (good luck). Pathetic.
The sky looked “blue” for those ignorant people (e.g. in That’s Beijing) who cannot see the pollution. Official API figures were at 100 – the WHO limit is 50. For me, it looked even worse.
The new itinerary was awful. Each year the race is held at the same time – when the Party Congress takes place. But this time, no more departure from Tiananmen (by the way the most polluted spot in Beijing). The 42 Km were mostly through city roads, clogged with traffic, including the 4th and 5th ring roads, alongside thousands of cars stuck in a huge traffic jam and with running engines. Foreign athletes complained about the “dirty air”.
I had done a successful training run in Shunyi on 1 October – over 32 Km in 3H 18m, in very clean air. I was tired but no major problems and went to two weddings the same day. I felt good.
On 21 October after Km 26 my hip muscles gave up, with excruciating pain. I finished the last 15 Km walking, finishing in 5h 1m 1s – over 30 minutes more than last year. My friend John who had gone through rigorous training should have finished in 4 hours. He too got busted at Km 30 and finished in 4h 34. Leah did great, half Marathon in 1h 55m 58s.
Reason: pollution seriously affects the oxygen intake by the blood, the muscles don’t get the needed oxygen and get busted by lactic acid. Can also be “the heavily polluted tunnel run” (carbon monoxide attaches to the haemoglobin 10 times more readily than oxygen).
Hein Verbruggen (IOC) told me running the New York Marathon was probably worse. Poor guy, got his figures a bit wrong (maybe the Chinese ganbei?). NYC is better on its worst day than Beijing is on its best day. Why doesn’t he run the Beijing marathon?
Well, he got some taste of the pollution anyway. During the IOC Conference in Beijing the API pollution level shot to over 200 in many locations. Qianmen, as usual, scored highest at 299.
Don’t worry, during the Olympics NO pollution. But every other day – stay inside, close the windows, install air purifiers. Smoking is optional. But no running.
Click on the following link to get the picture gallery:

Preparing for the next Beijing Marathon

Well, after 5 bronchitis this year, lack of enthusiasm (hey, I gave up my cigars!), some new training experiments, I needed to pass “the” test: a final run of close to 30 Km.
Sure not in Beijing with the horrendous pollution.
We left on Sunday for Shunyi, a district north of the airport and headed for a small farmer’s village in the triangle of Shunyi, Pinggu and Miyun, close to Jiao Zhuanghu. The mountains were very close and terrain was hilly.
On 1 October I woke up in the farmer’s house and it was still raining. After several eggs and the necessary cups of coffee I started at 8:30 in a drizzle; later it stopped and ran without sun. Great air.

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starting with a drizzle – Valerie giving moral support – in the resort

I had a whole team following and guiding me through the countryside, the Chinese friend who owns the house, Sun and Valerie. Great support so I could dump one by one the extra clothes and the empty bottles.
We went through a resort called something like “An Li Long Biological Farm and Tourism Park”. Quite a nice place, huge, with tennis (flooded), fruit trees, hotel (with swimming pool), villas, hunting ground and even a tank. Management of course always Chinese style so not even a brochure or description. What a waste of resources… We might go back there to run in the future, and to enjoy the air.
I still don’t know how I managed but I finished a run of 3 hrs 18 min, according to my pedometer I did 31 Km but according to the car I did nearly 34 Km. Average heart rate 127.
Most surprising, no major aches and I attended two weddings the same day, one at lunch (farmer wedding in Shunyi) and one in Morel’s Restaurant in the evening (Juha and Annie).
For the complete picture gallery of the run and resort, click this link:

World Trade Center Beijing – smog and progress

See here pics taken from the Capital Tower (Capitaland – the Olympic Exhibition on the 26th floor) on 15 September.

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Tower 3 seen from another angle. Construction is proceeding fast, Beijing speed. Again, admire the pollution. Pollution levels (API) were over 130 yesterday when I ran 14 K in the gym. Today, coughing. I wonder how I will do to run my 25K in the next days. Disheartening, you do sports for your health and you screw up your lungs.
Don’t tell my wife, she does not like the idea of me running the Beijing Marathon on 21 October. Good she does not read my blog.