Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday.

So not a real post, just a quick comment, because I was way too busy eating cake and letting people sing to me and going out to dinner... :-)

This is my fifth birthday in the USA and the first year, I made the mistake that all the new peeps from Germany make. We bring our birthday goodies to work. In Germany, you as the birthday kid are supposed to provide your co-workers with food on your birthday. I have to say, I like the American way much better and that your co-workers make sure, that you have a birthday cake for your big day.

This is a picture from last year. I wasn't fast enough to get a pic from this year's cake.

Monday, September 28, 2009

2009 Race for the Cure Race Report

Results (based on Guntime)
29:00 mins (9:20 min per mile average)
Overall 293/620
Age Group 27/70
Overall Female 129/367

I know, this is a mighty long post for a 5K race report... If you want to read something more epic than a 5K race report, why don't you go back an re-read the report for the Blue Ridge Relay! :-)

Terry got up at 5AM for his long run. He is currently in marathon training and wanted to meet up with the 6AM group at Fleet Feet. Him getting ready woke me up, even though I could at least sleep until 6.30AM. At one point, I actually got back to sleep and when the alarm went off it was really time for me to get cracking. I prepared all my stuff the night before, so I just had to get dressed, throw the final items in the bag and head out of the door. I wanted to be at the venue early, so that I was able to park in the parking garage and I knew they are going to shut down the roads at 7.30AM. Well, either I was a couple of minutes too late or they never allowed parking directly at the ICAR building this time, so I ended up half a mile up the road on the Carolina First parking lot. Now I was WAY early (the race started at 9:20AM). I didn't have my BIB yet and was waiting for my team captain to get there for.... Breakfast time then... Had some sips from my water bottle and two small Luna bars... Checked Facebook and then started reading the magazine that I had the sense to bring along. When my team captain called me, I walked down to the Hubbell parking lot to meet up with him and get my BIB... By then the rain subsided to a drizzle... No complaints from me here... Made the final clothing decision and made my way to the start/ finish area.

The start/ finish was a sea of all shades of pink. There were tons and tons of sponsor booths that handed out goodies like capes, t-shirts, ribbons, cabs, bags and so on and so forth. I walked through the area looking around... Passed the information center and the area where they lined up the survivors separately by how long their cancer has been in remission. It was great to see that there were so many survivors out there, smiling, laughing, hugging their kids and husbands. Some of them later walking the 5K, some of them running it. Wearing their survivor t-shirts with pride. This was their day... They show us, that this disease can be beat. But even more important, that we have to find a cure, that people don't get sick in the first place. I would have liked to collect some of the goodies, but since the car was half a mile away and I didn't have a support crew with me to keep the stuff while I was running, I had to pass...

Of course I visited our good friend porta-john before jogging up and down the millenium ave a little to warm up. When the start was just a couple of minutes away, I walked to the start line and tried to position myself. As usual, I did a pretty crappy job with it and so I spend the first mile slaloming around people... On the other hand, I go out too fast on my races anyways and my first mile has been my fasted of the three this time again, so maybe it was better for me to start in the back.

The race course was a total of six rolling hills and the finish line is on a downhill, which is always nice. Throughout the race, people cheered each other on, the volunteers on the drink station did a great job too. Since the route is out and back, you were passing the people in front/ behind you on the other side of the road. Those races are always a little distracting for me, because I tend to scan the crowd for familiar faces instead of concentrating on my running. Just at the beginning of mile three, my left hamstring started to act up. It has been bothering me all week and all of a sudden it got really bad. Needle in cotton, needle in cotton (-> ChiRunning method) was my mantra over the next couple of minutes and things seem to improve. When I climbed the final hill, I looked at my watch at decided to go all out in order to make it under 29:00 mins. Shortly after I passed my chiropractor, that was walking the course, and she cheered me on, which really gave me another motivation boost. It is nice to hear your name in the crowd! :-) I crossed the finish line and was really pleased with the time that I had on the Garmin (28:21 mins, I said I lined up way in the back once again!)... Right after the finish line the hamstring got even worse, so I just grabbed a cup of water and then walked/ jogged back to the car and then stretched there.

Picture is from GreenvilleOnline.com

This was a good race for me personally and it was amazing to see, how many people do have the fight against cancer close to their hearts. This is good news for all of us, because it drastically increases the chances that there will be a cure soon.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Hike

First things first. I had a good race yesterday, which really surprise me since running wasn't going too well lately. The official race results are not posted yet, but my time and distance according to the Garmin was 28:21 mins over 3.16 miles. That is an 8:58 per mile average and for me, it's pretty good. The race report will follow, when the official results have been published.

After the race I stopped by the Sunshine Cycle Shop to check out the Sale that they are having. Since my birthday is coming up and my parents always want me to get something for it (with their money), I ordered myself a trainer for the bike.... Off season can come now! :-)

Other than those two things, the whole Saturday pretty much was a blur. We have been so busy to get stuff done around the house and there was so much to do... I know, not very glamorous. When we finally headed out to dinner, I didn't even know where the day went. I was in bed sleeping by 9.30 PM last night... My party girl days are definitely over and I don't even miss them!

So today, we finally saw some sunshine after it had been raining for the last couple of days. That just felt great and we wanted to make good use of it. We decided to go for a hike and since we felt adventurous ;-) we didn't choose nearby Paris Mountain State Park, but headed to Jones Gap State Park. Neither Terry nor I have ever visited this park before and we certainly were impressed right away. The facilities from what we saw where in great shape and the trail are very good maintained. The only thing that I thought needed some improvement was the trail map they publish on their official website. That one is pretty much useless. But they had a big trail map right at the visitor center that resembled this one here.

While looking at the trail map, we decided to hike up to Rainbow Falls and if we still have time (shooting for 2 hours of hiking) and felt like it, we could even go to Jones Falls. When we looked at the map, we didn't pay attention to the mileage of the trails. We started out on the Jones Gap Trail and then turn on the Rainbow Falls Trail. It got steeper right away and we still followed that creek that we started out with. As already mentioned, the trails are super duper maintained. It got continuously steeper and we had to climb over boulders and little streams crossing the trails. Over bridges, stone and wood steps and up up up the mountain. After walking for an hour we started to wonder, if this trail is ever going to end anywhere and then we finally heard the water fall. Later we found out that the Rainbow Fall Trail is 1.6 miles one way in addition to the portion that we hiked on the Jones Gap Trail. Good that we are all in shape and had our hiking shoes on... Dinner was well deserved after that one! :-) And no, we went right back to the car after getting down the mountain. Jones Falls have to wait until our next visit.

Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure! :-)

View from the first bridge we crossed at the beginning of the Jones Gap State Park trail system.

Steps carved out of the stone.

Steps out of stone between to big rocks... Terry and his favorite walking stick look like they are on a mission! :-)

The sprinkles of water felt good after the hike.

The top of Rainbow Falls... This view was worth the whole trip.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What's your Sport?

This week I tried out the Eastside YMCA. I took the cycle class on Monday, Intense Fitness on Tuesday and Body Pump yesterday. Looking at the schedules for the upstate Y's, the Eastside seemed to be the only place that offers early morning (6AM and 5.45AM) classes*. From what I saw this week, it's pretty much the same crowd no matter what class it is and that's nice and easy for the new kid. Almost everyone in yesterday's class was complaining about the same soreness due to the Tuesday class (too many hamstring exercises).... Shared pain is half the pain.

*Correction: Actually, the Caine Halter as well as the Travelers Rest Y do have early morning classes, I just plain oversaw this fact.

As said, it seemed to be pretty much the same folks in those classes, so the instructor welcomed me personally and asked for my name... The instructor on Tuesday introduced herself personally as well after the class... So much friendlyness is almost suspicious... JUST KIDDDING... It's really nice! :-) After yesterday's class, the instructor asked me, what my sport is and I just answered "triathlons", because that pretty much sums up my workout routine these days.

That got me thinking this morning on my way to work... Yes, I did one triathlon in my first season, but does that make it my sport???

I tried out a lot during my school days and was never a complete failure at anything. That even holds true to the time when I started gaining weight. I still was one of the first people to be picked in a school PE team sport setting and actually was sooooooo close to receive a prize at my graduation for my performance in PE, if there wouldn't have been this one semster that I "only" got a B+ instead of A- or better.* There was really not much I didn't at least try for one season. The sport, that I was dedicated to for the longest time was competitive gymnastics. On second place we have several years of handball (the European Handball, not the American handball) and dancing/ ballet. Throw in a season here and there of athletics and table tennis and you start to get the picture.

*Short explanation here: In Germany the last two years (12th and 13th grade) of high school determine your final graduation grades. Those two years are broken up in four semesters. In order to get the PE prize, you have to have an A- or better in each semester.

When I started getting back into shape, the triathlon thing really came very natural and completely unplanned. I always enjoyed to swim and actually swam before I learned how to ride a bike. Same thing when I finally started to bike. In rural Germany as a kid, having a bike was what you needed to get to the community pool, your friend's house, organ lessons etc. The running portion is Terry's "fault". He always told me to get into running, because it will make a huge difference in my weigh loss efforts... And he was right about that. All of a sudden, I had everything together that was needed to do a triathlon and it was the carrot, I was chasing until race day in May of this year. Even though I just ended up doing one tri this season, the tri sports just give me a lot of joy and a variety to my workouts that feels healthy and balanced.... So yes, I am a triathlete and a cyclist and a runner (I really want to love running again!) and a Salsa dancer... But how does all of that fit into a one minute conversation between the end of the early morning class and heading out to start the day? So as of now, I'll stick to triathlon as my sport!

On other news: I heard this morning, that the Gamecocks won a big game last night. I concluded that there will be plenty of donuts in the office and chose to skip breakfast in favor of the donuts. Well, our donuts supplier took the day off, so I didn't have breakfast and didn't have donuts... Fortunately, I always keep granola bars in my desk drawer and had the sense to at least pack some fruit.

Tomorrow is the Race for the Cure at the CU-ICAR campus in Greenville. Why don't you come out there and cheer for the people that will be walking and running the 5K course. Even better, just sign up for it and join the crowd! :-) The online registration is already closed, but you can still sign up in person before the race! Or if you won't be able to make it out there, please donate for this cause... As of now, they are at around 60% of their fundraising goal, every gift is appreciated, no matter how big or small.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Someone Please Explain This To Me!

Lately, I try to keep up with the news again. The Google Reader has been a valuable tool in these efforts. I have several subscriptions of US and German content providers that I can access from any computer with internet connection and my cell phone... Don't you love it?? :-)

Last week I came across a news report on Spiegel.de that said that the U.S. government want to start charging a fee of USD 10.- for tourists entering the U.S. I thought they were kidding at first, especially because this was the first thing, I ever heard about this. I guess, it's just not a topic of interest for U.S. citizens since they won't be charged. So earlier this week I did some research in the German (Spiegel/ Tagesschau) press and none of them sound very happy and I have to agree. This whole thing is a complete joke.

The official name for this joke is "Travel Promotion Act" and the goal is to set up funds in order to promote tourism in the USA. It applies to every tourist that doesn't need a visa for a short term visit which are most European and several other nations if they are participating in the "Visa Waiver Programme".

Can someone explain this logic to me please?? I want to get more tourists into my country, so I let them pay, in order to support the tourism industry in their advertising? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I understand that the tourism industry suffered over the last year due to the economic downturn, but this is the wrong way to approach the problem. Especially since this fund (public sector) will be controlled by the leaders of the American tourism industry (private sector) and those leaders (e.g. Disney and Marriott) are still busy posting huge profits even in these rough times. You are supposed to make the country more attractive for visitors and not more frustrating. It's already bad enough as it is. Immigration is taking forever because every tourist gets asked the standard questionnaire, finger/ hand prints and photos are taken. I actually have friends and family that tell me, they don't want to be treated like criminals and therefore choose not to visit this country. Adding a fee to these procedures won't make things any better, because it will prompt more people to decide against a trip to the U.S. no matter how many Mickey Mouse commercials they are going to see on TV!

I read this article in the Washington Post by Jim DeMint and I think he nailed the topic as did Ambassador John Bruton from the Delegation of the European Commission to the USA in his statement. I don't have anything else to add. Hopefully some members of the house of representatives will read this and hopefully it's going to influence their decision to not vote for the Travel Promotion Act.

My blog isn't intented to be political, but reading about this just fires me up every time. The U.S. is still the most powerful country in the world, but even this country cannot survive on it's own. Our economy depends on other countries, just as much as they are interlinked with ours. The economic downturn showed that in a very scary way. The Travel Promotion Act gives the promise of supporting the tourism industry with good chances to make things even worse for it... Also, I think the world economy has bigger fish to fry right now and work together rather than to upset each other with ridiculous ideas such as these.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fighting the Flab

Today is my Dad's birthday! Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Papa!! :-) As usual over his birthday, he got a couple of his sailing buddies together and they charter a boat for a week in e.g. the Baltic Sea. I called him on the cell phone when it was already afternoon over there and he sounded like he had a good time sightseeing in Flensburg. According to him, the weather still leaves some room for improvement but overall it's okay. Safe sailing!

This is not only my Dad's birthday, but also the first full day of fall and in the Runner's World blog from today, you find tons of reasons, why this is good news for us runners! :-)

But this is not what I wanted to talk about today, because I want to talk about my FLAB!

Like I mentioned previously, I lost a lot of weight in 2008. I did this with a mix of change in nutrition and a lot of exercising... Cardio and strength. That combination is the oldest recipe in the world and I believe the only one that actually works in order to keep the weight off over time. The strength training helps with toning up the body which is especially interesting, if there is a lot of stuff on you that needs toning up and on top of that, added muscle mass means your body has a higher resting metabolic rate. My exercise routine included one hour of strength exercises specifically for sculpting. Of course, you use your muscles and build your muscles during running and cycling as well, but the strength training gives you the opportunity to balance out your muscle mass over the whole body, since you mostly use your lower body to do these sports (nice article on muscular imbalances here).

Over the summer I pretty much slacked off on the strength training and focused mostly on the tri sports and maybe some yoga. Yupp... And now I am paying for it big time! I am trying to re-vamp my exercise routine in order to adapt to the new living location as well as the fact that fall is here and long evening rides are pretty much out of the discussion... Sorry, call me a sissy, but I am just not feeling like riding my bike in the dark. I started out with the Boot Camp Class last Saturday and yesterday I tried out an "Intense Fitness" Class which is basically the same thing with a different name. Well, I wanted to join the early bird run at the Cleveland YMCA this morning, but every time I turned around in bed last night, I woke up, because something was hurting bad. So I reset my alarm to 6AM and slept in. Good choice. Today I don't walk, I waddle... Very attractive indeed. Neither the class on Saturday nor yesterday felt like a hard effort to me. I was able to keep up with the class no problem, but as it turns out, I lost a lot of my muscles and now they are screaming at me. Last year I started out working on 100 consecutive push ups... I never made it to the 100 as I gave up six or seven months into the whole deal, but at the very end of it, I was able to squeeze out over 80. In those classes they make you do push ups too and it's amazing how much I struggle with doing 20 now.... I can do them, but it's tough.

That reminded me of this month's motivational story in Runner's World about Dr. Ed Wolfgram. At 76, he is currently training for the Ironman World Championships in Kona next month. In the article, they quoted him saying:

"You can't put fitness in the bank. You have to maintain it."
Looking at my recent knee issues, I feel like there was an overuse thing going on while I was ramping up my mileage a tad too fast. But talking to my chiropractor, the possibility of muscular imbalance was mentioned over and over again. Seeing, how my body is reacting to strength training, makes me think that there is quite a possibility that exactly this is the case. Believe me, this would be the preferred diagnosis, because it would be a fairly easy fix. Also, I still have some flab to tighten up and therefore I would kill several birds with this stone.

Running feels like hard work for me these days. I hardly get any mileage in. Last week it was a whopping total of 3.79 miles only topped with the 3.88 miles run that I did tonight. The run was fairly good, speed-wise and also my knees held up pretty good, but it still feels like hard work at the moment. I know things come in seasons and right now, this is not the season for running for me... It will get better sooner or later... I will start to love running again... hopefully.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Welcoming Karma Into The Family

Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म kárma (help·info), kárman-

"act, action, performance"[1];

Pali: kamma) in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect (i.e., the cycle called aṃsāra) originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist philosophies.[2].

'Karma' is an Eastern religious concept in contradistinction to 'faith' espoused by Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), which view all human dramas as the will of God as opposed to present - and past - life actions. In Eastern beliefs, the karmic effects of all deeds are viewed as actively shaping past, present, and future experiences. The results or 'fruits' of actions are called karma-phala.[3]

Above you can read the wikipedia definition for "Karma". In our case, Karma is the new dog. She came to our house maybe two months ago. I won't go into the details here, but Terry and I didn't have anything to do with the decision that there will be a dog in our house or the naming process. Despite the circumstances under which she made it in our lives, she is a good dog and whenever she finally gets the "Don't pee or poop in the house!"-rule, she will be a GREAT dog. Of course, she's a mutt... A mix between a lab retriever and a greyhound with the greyhound appearance pushing through mostly. But judge for yourself...

Don't get me wrong, Terry and I love dogs. We both had dogs in the past and know what kind of a responsibility they are. So, when we were presented with our new dog, we both were not happy. It had nothing to do with Karma, since she really is a sweet dog, but with the fact that we got this responsibility delivered without our agreement. If we wanted to have a dog, we would have gotten one... But we wanted to be flexible with our free time activities and be able to just go out of town over the weekend, without having to make arrangements all over the place. Because of that, we decided to try to find a new home for her. The thought of just taking her to the pound didn't sit well with both of us, therefore we asked around if someone wanted a puppy and also put and ad in craig's list.... And nothing happened. Weeks went by and none of our friends, family or co-workers wanting the dog, there was no response to the ad... Until last week.

Sometime last week, I sat in the office in front of the computer checking my e-mails, while Karma was sitting next to me on the floor to keep me company... Finally someone has seen the ad and responded to it, wanted to know, if we still had her. My heart dropped... I looked at the screen, then looked at her... She looked up to me, with her brown eyes, the long eye lashes, her big old floppy ears... Putting her head on my lap... Looking very similar to this:

"CRAP!!!" was my first thought. The ad has been online close to four weeks by then and I really didn't expect a response anymore. I told Terry about it and over the course of a long conversation, we decided to take the bullet and keep Karma along with all the responsibilities that come with a dog... Not looking back anymore at the circumstances under which we gotten here in the first place (this one is very tough for me... I am working on it). Even though she is already in the house for several weeks, I just consider us having a dog, since we made this decision last week. And if there was a piece in my heart left that she didn't win yet before last week, she has it by now... Of course it helps that she made incredible progress when it comes to her house training! :-)

Because we always felt like having her was a temporary situation, we held off on doggy purchases. So last weekend we finally got her a bed and retired the old yoga matt that she used until then. We also set out on a quest to find a used dog house, only to end up building one Sunday night... Well, Terry and kid did the building and I think they did a most fabulous job with it, even if it's not quite done yet. Have a look here...

And that's how Karma entered our family and may it be a good one! :-)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ode to South Carolina

In the Cleveland YMCA they have TVs in the locker rooms (and sofas in front of the TV). Crazy, don't you agree? I thought the whole idea of going to the gym is to get off the couch and away from the TV, but I guess that's just me. Anyways, while I was getting changed last Thursday, I saw this clip from SNL that I posted above. I thought that was VERY funny, but let me get something straight here... South Carolina doesn't deserve this! And it's not SNL's fault, but the politicians of this state seem to set us up for being joked about like this! The Sanford affair is still fresh on every one's minds and now the "You Lie!" incident... Nicely done! :-( Whenever my parents in Germany read something in the paper about SC, it's something bad... Good news don't travel this far about the state. But let me say this, SC see is a wonderful place and don't make conclusions on it based on those recent headlines (or old headlines... I heard bad representation of SC has a long tradition)!

Given that South Carolina is the only place I ever lived in the U.S. (though I visited several others) and also given, that I didn't choose this state to be my new home, because it was determined by where the company is, I feel very lucky!

And here are my top ten points why (applies mostly to the Greenville area):

1) the ocean is close
2) the mountains are even closer
3) the subtropical climate
4) the colorful mix of people that decided to make the area their home
5) downtown Greenville with Falls Park
6) Peace Center and Bi-Lo Center with great performances on a regular basis
7) the active running community
8) the active cycling community
9) the active Salsa community
10) downtown Charleston with the restaurants and bars

You see... Awesome state... People just completely misunderstand us... And it didn't take me long to put this list together.

If you don't have the privilege to live here, come visit. If you are related to me or if I know you personally, there is a good chance that you will have free accommodation to your disposal during your stay.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sometimes, I Don't Know What I Say

Yeah, I know…. We all have these moments, but I mean the headline quite literally. English is not my native language and that presents challenges to me even after 9 years of classes in school, 2 years in college (I didn't take English all the way or wasn't able to... Can't remember), 0.5 years in England and over 4 years in the USA . After such a long time, you would think I have it down, but there are still things I don't know… And maybe never will. You can compare it to the first five questions people get ask in "Who wants to be a Millionaire". If you didn't grow up in that country, you just don't have a chance. Funny enough, the things I know or don't know are very random... according to BF. There are things he kind of expects me to know and on the other hand, I often enough surprise him with an expression or saying that he never thought I can know. How I pick up the vocabulary I use, I don't know. I guess it is highly influenced by the people that I talk to every day and by TV.

During my school time, I had my share of hours and hours of endless repetitions in order to keep up with the class. Early in college, I started to read books in English and that was quite a reality check. At this point, I studied the language for around ten years, but making it through my first English book (other than the small pamphlets we had to read in class that were tailored to our level) was quite a task. At this point, I kissed the illusion good-bye of understanding every word in every sentence and moved to the approach of keeping on reading as long as I think I have a general idea about the content and only pull out my dictionary, if I wasn't able to make any sense out of the sentence or the paragraph. So I moved on from studying translations to learning words based on which context they are used and up to this day, I stick to this most of the time.

Using this approach always has a moment of truth whenever I first use a particular word myself. If you never looked up the translation and just thought you know what something means, it can get quite interesting. I learned that three things can happen, when I try out a new word: 1) Nothing. I got the word right and used it right... Everything is good. 2) Blank looks... Then I just hope that I didn't offend anyone. Or 3) Blank looks followed by the question, if I meant so and so... This happens mostly, when I skew up the pronunciation. This method has worked pretty good for me. I learned that people are very forgiving, when they notice that I am not a native speaker... That helps a lot to overcome fears of embarrassing yourself. It also helps me while I write this blog, that people most likely are not going to tear me up over a funny sentence or little mistakes. My mum and dad always say: "Only if they speak a foreign language as well as you speak English, then they can judge you." That's not a bad ankle to this topic either...

On other news: It feels like fall has arrived in South Carolina. It has been pouring down for the last two days and they say it's not going to get better over the next couple of days. If it's not raining, fall is my favorite season of the year... It's not too hot and not too cold and whenever the fall leaf foliage is coming into full swing, it's just plain beautiful. In the meantime, it takes some adjusting. I don't feel like running or cycling in the rain, so today I decided to try out something new and joined a Boot Camp class this morning. It was really fun, the workouts were tough and it felt good to do things a little different for a change. I think I might go back for more next Saturday... Depending on the weather... If it's nice than I just have to be outside, while I still can this year!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Making your Own Reality

Ever heard of the "Law of Attraction"? The bottom line of this law is, that your thoughts and wishes shape your reality. Mostly they talk about your positive thoughts and how you will get anything, if you really really want it. But honestly, I think that also applies to any negative thoughts and fears that linger with you for a longer period of time. This hypothesis is the center piece of the 2006 book "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrnes, that I haven't read yet… But a friend of mine did an excellent job on capturing the essence of the book on a canoe trip and so I feel like I got a pretty good picture. This is a highly controversial topic and a lot of very smart people are doing a lot of discussing around this. I think of it more as an aspect how people are able to influence their own reality than a universal law, but that's just my two cents.

Nevertheless I want to share a couple of stories now and let you decide, if our own wishes or fears shaped our reality!

  • A couple of mornings a week, I get up early to get a run or nice walk with the puppy in. In this time of the year, it's still pitch black dark outside by the time I hit the road, so I am outfitted with a headlamp and even put a flashing light on the puppy. The streets in our neighborhood have long stretches of bushes and woods and even though I am not very skittish when it comes to this kind of thing, I still avoid looking into the woods/bushes with my headlamp because I just don't want to see a pair of eyes staring at me. I shared this with my BRR team before we did our night legs and we knew that those routes will go right through the woods. Fortunately, I have never seen glowing pairs of eyes… Until yesterday morning. On my first early morning walk after we were having this conversation and joked about it back and forth, I didn't see one pair of eyes, but two… In different spots. The second pair belonged to a little kitty, the first pair I didn't even investigate, because the eyes were so wide apart that I assumed it was bigger than I wanted to know.
  • Last year BF, the kid and I went to Charleston SC. One day out of the weekend, we spent on the beach. BF has this paranoia about sharks and basically refuses to swim in the ocean. I told him over and over again, that I have been to this area several times and never seen a shark. Sure enough, BF walked along the shoreline and basically just stuck his feet into the ocean, when the lifeguard instructed everyone to get out of the water and then I saw my first living shark outside of an aquarium. It was a small* one and I joked that it probably would just nibble on us a little… Still, it was a shark. This little story actually was the reason why my friend told me about the book.
* updated 9/19: Terry wanted me to correct this statement. According to him, I am largely underestimating the size of this shark.

Hmmm… All my examples are out of the animal kingdom, but I think that just shows how outdoorsy we are! :-)

  • To also have a positive example for this theory, here is one more: After I came back from by internship in England in 2000, I always said, that I want to go abroad for a longer period of time. I was sharing this desire with my family and friends, mentioned it in my job interviews, when it came to my goals and the "where do you wanna be in 5 years" type of questions, kept my English skills up to date and in general an open mind… At least that's what I want to believe. Only one year after I started with the company, a position opened up in our U.S. subsidiary and people remembered the statement I made in my interview and half a year later, I had my first day here. What I am saying is, that I never actively pursued this, but was just rather going with the flow and it positioned me in the right spot.

When you read information about racing, they also give you the advice to envision yourself crossing the finish line and what kind of feeling that this is going to give you (example here). They say that doing so, will help you stay motivated and focused in your training and eventually will help you with the mental challenges of completing a race. Once again this doesn't only apply to your athletic career, but also your professional life. It holds true to the fact that you have to work hard, stay dedicated and focused in order to succeed with any goal that you set in your life. Whatever attitude you have will shape your reality and therefore let's all try to be as positive as we can and surround ourselves with other people that have a positive vibe.

While I am writing this, I also have to give myself a little kick in the butt. Right now, I am still in the process of settling in at my BF's house. The move is just three weeks ago and of course, there are still boxes sitting around unpacked…. And of course moving in together is a whole lot of change for everyone involved that just needs some getting used to and also some time for all of us to establish a new routine. These days, I catch myself focusing on the negative a lot, like the longer commute, the increased household responsibility, the decreased privacy (I was used to live on my own for a long time) and other stuff, that I don't even what to go in detail here. Instead, I should focus on the many positive things that came with this move like, that I am able to spend a lot more time with the person I love, that we live in an area with almost endless outdoor possibilities, that the house is big enough to hold every one's stuff without the feeling to suffocate and tons and tons of other things. I guess, I have my marching orders now… I will focus on the positive changes, this move has brought into my life and that is going to help me to work through the not-so-positive ones and I believe that this is really going to make a difference in how the settling in process is going to proceed for me.

When I started this post, I really wasn't sure, what my point is going to be in the end. But while I was going with the flow, I think I found it on the way! :-)

PS: It's FRIDAY and guess what was sitting on one of the cabinets at work this morning? Of course… DONUTS!... AND…. CAKE…. I know, sometimes we go a little overboard around here!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

After the Race is Before the Race

Before writing this post, the famous Sepp Herberger quote "Nach dem Spiel is vor dem Spiel" (eng.: After the game is before the game.) was bouncing around in my head. I always loved this sentence, even in my non-athletics days, because it contains a very simple truth that can be applied to pretty much any field in your life. Sure it's great to have accomplished something, but most of the time ending something, means to start working towards something else. Only because you just finished this huge project at work doesn't mean you won't show up the next day taking on new challenges - right? Or do you want to end up like Wile E. Coyote in the picture (taken from Runner's World blog) above? ;-)
Obviously, the adventure of doing the Blue Ridge Relay is still not quite digested and I caught myself chuckling several times in the car on my way home from work just thinking of: the "safety thong", "Kerrie would never do this!", "You live on M&Ms and TUMS right?"... For some of the things you just had to be in van #2 otherwise it doesn't make any sense. You would think that so shortly after the relay, we wouldn't want to see or hear anything from each other, but yesterday there were already e-mails flying back and forth, talking about how much fun we had and to wrap up some organizational stuff. In the middle of all this, Brian (aka Guz) brought up the idea to venture out doing another relay and within minutes we basically decided to do the American Odyssey Relay (AOR) from Gettysburg PA to Washington D.C. end of April 2010 and over half of the BRR team already committed to join in the fun... And the rest will come along over the next couple of weeks - Sure thing! :-)
As promised, here are some links to race reports about the Blue Ridge Relay of other teams, in case you are interested. (Link list is taken from http://www.runningrelays.com)
While I happily jumped on the bandwagon to do the AOR yesterday, I also finally decided NOT to do the American Warrior Triathlon this coming Saturday. Several reasons played into this decision and on top of the list is certainly that I wasn't able to train properly in the last three weeks. Even though I am not competing for trophies, I want to at least compete against myself and I don't feel like I would be able to… This was a tough one, because it means that I only did one triathlon in my first tri season and my plans at the beginning of the year were much more ambiguous. I guess, I have to do a better job planning my 2010 season. :-)
But it's still "before the race" for me because of the Race for the Cure 5K coming up on September 26th. I know, it "just" a 5K, but I like doing them… It's a nice distance, you don't have to put hours and hours of training into the preparation but it still keeps you from slacking. Also, it supports the great cause of fighting the fight against cancer and this is a topic that touches all of our lives in one way or another sooner or later. It's not too late to donate, click here for my fundraising page. Besides, I still have unfinished business with this race course around the CU-ICAR campus. I did the Candlelight Run end of June of this year. It was still over 90 degrees when the gun went off at 9 PM… The humidity was out of this world. I never suffered that much on a 5K and I never posted a worse time for this distance… Not this time…

Oh and I almost forgot, the official results of the Blue Ridge Relay are out.

Team: Do Not Resuscitate
Time: 31:47:53 hours
Placing Overall: 75/106
Placing in the Open Category: 33/45

Once again, great job team! The BRR is considered one of the most challenging relays and we jumped into the challenge with both feet as complete relay newbies and made it happen. So proud of our accomplishment!

Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 Blue Ridge Relay Race Report

208 Miles from Grayson Highland State Park Virginia to Asheville North Carolina
Team "Do Not Resuscitate"
Total Time: 31 hours 50 minutes (official time not available yet)

This report is out of the perspective of runner #9.

Getting to the Starting Line

The team met up on Thursday (9-10) at 4PM in Greenville SC. It's 12 people and two vehicles that needed to get there, get packed and organized... And yes, it's as much fun as it sounds! :-) We also got our official team t-shirts that just look AWESOME... Kudos to Alex for the design and Kerrie for getting the job done! Thanks so much! By 5PM we were on the road with the Clemson game kick-off time breathing down our necks to make it to Boone (NC) on time... Not that I would care about that, as already stated in a previous post... But if you are in the team, you hang with the team! :-) The three hours up to Boone, gave us some time for good old bonding. A couple of us, just knew one or two of the other team mates when we signed up for this adventure. It was time to get to know each other a little better in the prospect of spending the next two days together in very restricted space! We didn't make it to Boone in time for the kick-off, but the beer was tasty anyways and we also got a first glimpse at all the yummy snack stuff, that Kerrie brought along... I am still thinking about these brownies and really consider to get a Sam's membership again!

Clemson lost, but I didn't know about that until the next morning, because I actually tried to get some sleep. The alarm was set for 4.10AM in order to grab the last shower for the next 35+ hours. I slept miserable... It felt like I didn't get any sleep at all... Not unusual for me. My pre-race jitters were fully geared up and I wasn't even scheduled for my first leg until the early afternoon! From the hotel we had another 1.5 hours to drive to Highland Park in Virginia to the starting line for our seeded start at 7.40AM. My stomach was feeling squirrly (Thanks again Kerrie for this word, it describes everything I never knew how to express!) and the narrow roads and switchbacks sure didn't help. We arrived at the race site with plenty time to spare.... Picked up our race packages (great long sleeve race shirts!), had some breakfast, waited for dawn and took THIS picture of 12 people ready to rock'n'roll!

Van #1 is rolling and van #2 is taking a break!

In this relay, there is an active and inactive van for teams of 12. Van #1 is home to runner #1 through #6 (Joel, Dave, Chris, Jeff, Christina and Alex) and van #2 is the crib for runner #7 through #12 (Mike, Todd, Me, Kerrie, Brian and Terry [BF]). Joel started the race out with Leg #1, a 4 mile downhill within the state park. He was clearly sandbagging ;-), before the gun went off... Talking about hoping to make it around 32 minutes, just to blast the first leg out of the way in under 29 minutes! Great job, Joel! But I completely jump ahead in the story right now. We send Joel off for his first leg, then van #1 had to get rolling quickly, because they have to drive ahead to the next exchange zone and Dave had to prepare to take over the baton/wrist strap thing whenever Joel made it in. Our van is on a break until it's time to take over at leg #7 and we planned on six hours of free time. On our way down, we passed Joel twice (we stopped to take some pictures of the great scenery) and saw van #1 sitting in the exchange zone 2 before we headed out of the park and to the first transition zone (area where the baton gets exchange between vans). From then on, we got spotty reports from van #1 how they are doing and where they are at. The NC mountains is really a place with a lot of crappy cell phone reception... That always makes me wonder, how we were ever able to survive without cell phones at all! Anyways, I was worried about being bored out of my mind during our down times, but I have to say, that those six hours just flew by. You talk to your team mates, you talk to other teams and before you know it, van #1 is pulling into the transition area and everyone waits on Alex to make an appearance, while catching up on how everyone is feeling and how their first run was.

Van #2 is taking over the baton for the first time!

It was afternoon already and the sun was burning down, when Mike started leg #7 and with that, the race for van #2 had officially started too. So we didn't linger around long, hugged van #1 good-bye and got going to get to next exchange zone in time. We were on the course now and saw the beautiful scenery and also had a first glimpse on how hilly it was. Leg #7 was rated "moderate" and when we saw the hills on this piece of road, we really wondered what would wait for all of us in the "hard" and "very hard" sections of the course. We saw several people run/walking the hills. Mike made it into the next exchange zone with a great time (didn't walk once) and handed the strap over to Todd. While Todd was out there, we once again were surprised by the difficulty of the course. His leg was tons and tons of switchbacks and whenever you turned a corner there was still hills left to climb. Once again, we took LOTS of pictures out of the van having our eyes wide open for the beauty of the area. The next exchange area was a tight fit, so we had to get the van parked first. By that time, I was super hyper and nervous, because I was the next one up. I was waiting around for maybe 10 minutes until Todd came in handing me the baton and so finally the race also started for me. Leg #9 was a 5.2 mile piece mostly flat with one bad hill at the very end. I had a girl with a light blue shirt in front of me and she was my rabbit, but I just didn't have it in me to close the gap, just the opposite, she got further and further away from me. I got all kinds of paranoid about my knee and every slight feeling out of the ordinary made me worry, but that was all for nothing, because the knee held up great throughout the run, just my legs felt like they didn't have any juice in them. When I hit the last piece of the leg with the hill, it felt like running against a wall and I walked maybe 30 yards on this hill... That was my first time ever walking during a race, but it wouldn't be my last time until the relay was over, but more about that at a later point. I did a 9:59 mins per mile average on my first leg and have to say, I am a little disappointed about that, but on the other hand I am glad that I was able to do this without pain in a beautiful landscape and even had a dog as a running buddy for a mile or so! :-) In the exchange zone, I already saw Kerrie and she was ready to burn her leg up! She had 8.2 hard miles ahead of her. Around 3 miles of that climbing on gravel roads. When we passed her she was looking strong. We also waited around at a descent to check in with her and she told us that she was feeling good. So we took off again and waited for her in the next exchange zone, while Brian got ready for his run. He would be our first runner on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) and we had to take a different route with the support vehicle, so we were not able see him on the course. From what he told us after he was done, that the BRP was busy, but fortunately not crowded. While Brian plugged his way along the BRP, we took advantage of using the alternative route to get a couple minutes of cell phone reception and also to pick up ice at a gas station to finally get our Gatorade cooler going. Now it was time for Terry and therefore the last leg for van #2 in the first rotation. He also had a piece of Parkway in his route, so we wouldn't see him until Blowing Rock NC in the second transition area, where we reunited with our peeps from van #1. Terry said later, that he started getting hungry around mile 2 of his 9 mile leg, but was able to get through it and really enjoyed the beautiful vistas on top of the mountain before he descended again. While Terry was still on the road, we learned what van #1 did with their downtime and that they got a nice nap in and were ready to roll once more. Joel was already dressed and prepped before van #2 even got there, ready to grab the baton whenever Terry would show up. And it all happened like clockwork... Terry in, Joel back on the road for leg #13, van #1 hitting the road again and van #2 heading to the closed burger joint to grab some dinner! :-) Life is good!!

Van #2 is taking a break or Lost in the NC mountains

While we had a nice sit down burger and wrap dinner and tons of delicious fries, we discussed, if we should stick around this transition area to try to rest some or if we should move to the next transition area to get a cat nap in. Fortunately, we decided to go ahead as we expected that van #1 will only need 4 to 5 hours to complete their runs. We followed the course and actually saw Dave running out there. In full night gear with headlamp, reflective vest and flashing lights as it was already getting dark quick. Sometime after that I snoozed off and when I woke up again, it was pitch black outside and the van was still moving. We didn't find the next transition area. The problem was, that there were directions in the handbook issued by the race director, but the exchange zones didn't have an address along with it, so we had trouble choosing the right spots in the GPS, but also had trouble finding it based on the directions. But Kerrie stayed calm on the wheel and Mike and Brian tried to figure out the directions and stuff. When we finally arrived at the transition area and just settled down for some sleep, we got a call from van #1 that Christina is on the road and that they expect for Alex to arrive at the transition area around 11.15PM... That was just 1.5 hours away and nobody other than Terry and I had gotten any sleep so far. Time flies when you are trying to get some rest in and soon enough, van #1 pulled into the transition area, Alex came running out of the dark handed the wrist strap over to Mike and van #2 was on again for the second rotation.

Van #2 is running through night and fog

The bad thing about running a 208 mile relay is that you will run portions of it in the night. The good thing is, that the NC mountains are not a highly trafficked area at night. On top of that, the race organization made sure, that all the runners looked like slot machines (flashing and reflecting) which should make it easier for semi-cautious drivers to spot us early enough. Mike was once again flying through is leg and handed the baton over to Todd once again. Todd's leg was a "hard" rated 7.5 mile piece of road with a lot of switchbacks and neverending climbs, in the woods, in the middle of the night. He was such a trooper and I sure didn't wait long for him to arrive at the next exchange zone to send me on my second leg. Leg #21 was rated "short and sweet" and it was just that. This was one of the most enjoyable runs I ever did in my life. I had an 8:49 mins per mile average for the 2.5 miles and that is super fast for me... Having a course that was mostly downhill sure didn't harm! On top of that, I just felt good... Knee good, stomach didn't give me any trouble, I was running through a community, so even though it was nighttime, I wasn't creeped out at all. The only thing that still bugs me, that this older guy was passing me at the beginning of the leg and I got very close on passing him back, but the leg ran out before I was able to do so. Soon enough, Kerrie was on the road with a moderate 6 miler. We saw her out there and where glad, that she had other runners in front and behind her to keep her a little company. The leg had a climb at the very end and it was the only exchange station that didn't have a sign 1/4 mile before the zone... When Kerrie came back to the van, she said she was about to walk the last piece of hill and then she saw the exchange zone... The thing was, she was blasting through this leg and we actually didn't expect her yet and just Brian's intuition or plain luck made him go to the road early enough that Kerrie could give him the baton. Nice team work right there! :-) By then the fog came in and with the headlamp on, you basically have a tunnel vision. Nice portion of this leg according to Brian, was the gravel road he was on. After Brian, Terry was back in the game to finish our rotation. He was out there for a 3.2 mile easy rated piece and he just plain smoked it in under 21 minutes even though he had to stop twice to make sure, he is still on track. Vision went from bad to worse and having yellow real estate signs competing with the yellow BRR signs sure didn't help. Actually, the van got lost for a little bit and by the time we finally arrived in transition area number three, we had to rally up van #1 to get Joel ready for his last leg... That was the closest transition that I witnessed from our team during the race. Other teams weren't that organized... We saw several runners, especially on the night legs, yelling for their team mates to take over.

Final break and cat napping for van #2

This time we didn't have as much trouble to find the final transition area. Not that I was any help with that, as I was once again snoozing in the back while Kerrie did the driving and Mike kept her company... As I said, I was asleep, so I don't know what everyone else did. When we arrived at the final station, some peeps out of the bus grabbed the pancake breakfast whereas some stayed in the van for some more sleep. The breakfast gang soon returned for a cat nap too. We found out later, that the church was open and that we could have actually laid down there instead of trying to sleep in the van. The night was over quick and we spend the rest of our waiting time with chatting to other teams. Kerrie and Brian even met a couple of Greenville running people and our Clemson tiger paw on the van sure pulled it's share of other Clemson students and/or alumni. Around 9AM (total guesstimation) van #1 pulled into the transition area. Except Alex, who was still on the road, they all were done with the race, while we were about to go on to our final rotation. We heard that Christina was cramping through a hard rated 7 miler, but was a trooper and fought through it. I had a quick chat with Jeff and heard that he had fun and Chris our captain had some major blister action going on... It's all battle wounds! :-) In general, we just tried to catch up once more. There was also a little puppy that was following the race for the last 10 miles and just enjoyed the bustle and getting petted by everyone. I sure hope the pup made it make home alright.

Van #2 on the final stretch

Mike had the pleasure to do the "mountain goat" leg (the toughest leg of the whole race) for the team and he did a great job with it. We stopped on the side of the road halfway up the mountain to check in with him and he was looking strong, despite sleep deprivation and a sore ankle. On the top of the mountain he handed the strap over to Todd for a hard 9.4 miles. Descending on a gravel road for 4 miles and than and endless flat for the rest of the way. It's just like Mike said in the van: "when you hit the flat, it's like someone is taking your wheels off"... But Todd was plucking through that leg as well, despite the heat and the distance and handed me the baton with the words: "It's all yours!" My last leg was 5.2 miles rated "very hard"... I looked at the elevation profile and just told myself, this is just like Paris Mountain. It's about the same elevation gain over 3.1 miles instead of 2.2 miles... I should be able to handle this. So I started out slow, feeling good, plucking along all uphill... I knew that I should reach the top of the hill at 3.1 miles and then it's all downhill to the exchange area. The climbing felt good, I wasn't worried until I hit the REAL hill at mile 2.6. Still not overly concerned, I just decided to power walk (didn't I say it won't be the last time that I walked) up the hill and blast down on the other side. But the hill got steeper and steeper and after every switchback the mountain was still there... At mile 3.1 and 3.2 and 3.3... I didn't see any support vehicles anymore from the other teams and I started freaking out, if I was on track still, so I finally stopped an oncoming car and asked if I was still on the road for the race. He was a young dude and just laughed and said that I was still on course and just need to keep going. Finally at mile 3.5 I hit the top of the hill and just as steep as it was coming up, it was steep going down the other side. No way, I would be able to blast down this hill, not with my rudimentary downhill skills and the worries about my knees. I had an 11:25 mins per mile average for this leg and even though this is slow, I feel that I gave my all... Every picture that was taken for an hour after this leg has me with a pain-twisted face. Even Kerrie asked me if I was alright when I handed the baton over before she blasted out to complete her last leg. Her exchange zone was a nasty one, because the vans all where parked at the bottom of the hill, but the actual exchange point was several hundred yards up the hill and that after the last hard effort in the afternoon heat. Now Brian was on for his last piece of race. Once again, he ran on the BRP, but this time, we were allowed to take the same route. We stopped at an overlook and took a couple of pictures of a biker group and they in turn took a picture of us. I think they thought we were completely crazy running along this road. We asked them to enjoy their day and watch out for runners on the Parkway. Brian was done fast and so Terry, our last runner, on the last leg was on the road. We got back in the van, making time to get to the finish line in downtown Asheville NC meeting up with the rest of the team. We passed Terry and he looked like he meant business and we were about to witness it! :-) The original plan was, to jog over the finish line together as a team. When he got in sight, we saw that he was going fast. His eyes were locked in at the guy in front of him and he wanted to pass bad. We gestured to slow down, while the other guys team was closing in on their team mate. Terry was taken by surprise and almost crashed into the group, then sped up again and went over the finish line with the other group... Oh well... At the end we got THIS group picture and that is sure evidence enough.

Going back to Greenville SC

We were all tired and all pretty smelly by this point. Some of us are from out of town and planned to drive back home once we got back to Greenville. So we didn't stick around long after the finish, jumped into the cars and headed back home... On the way we started reflecting on this trip, as much as it is possible so early on.

This is the race report out of my perspective. I can't wait to read what kind of impressions my team mates and the other teams took home from this adventure.... And I will put the links for these accounts in my next posts as I receive them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Final Preparation before Take-Off

I can hardly remember a week, when I did less exercise than the days since my test run. I decided at the time to take it very easy and that's what I did and my volumes show that too. Of course, it's the right thing to do, but when you are used to working out all the time, it just feels wrong. On top of that, I am always very nervous about races, the working out and preparing myself for a race, helps me to feel more confident... This time, I will have to make it work without the feeling that I have done everything I should... I "just" did everything I could. But it is, what it is and when push comes to shove, I will have a whole team to back me up... Fortunately, I have one of the shortest legs that you can have in the Blue Ridge Relay.

Most of the packing for the relay was done yesterday. It's crazy how much stuff we got together, just for a 2.5 day trip. But really, a running trip just needs a little more preparation and stuff. Also, with conditions in the mountains constantly changing, we basically have packed everything from the short shorts to the running tights, from the singlet to the gloves and the armwarmers. As they say, there are no bad conditions, just poor clothing choices. Please remind me that I said that, when I have to run my "middle-of-the-night" leg, sleep deprived and in the rain! :-) The agenda for the rest of the day is a chiropractor appointment, last minute purchases for flashing lights and be at the meet up point on time. Then we will head out to Boone (NC) to stay there for the night. Tomorrow morning, we'll travel another 1.5 hours to the start line, pick up our packages, most likely we'll have to sign a mile-long waiver, get our group picture and send our first runner on the course. Then kick back and relax until it's our turn to run! Exciting! :-)

This morning, I took the puppy out for a nice long walk around the Furman Campus. Here is a visual for you:

Even as cloudy as it was this morning, you can still see the beauty of the place. In the front, you see Furman Lake with the tower and in the back the base of Paris Mountain, the top is covered in clouds. I know, I keep mentioning it, but it's just awesome, to have those two scenic landmarks in our backyard!

When we get back in town and caught up on the sleep some, I will post a race report and pictures.


Monday, September 7, 2009

How is it in your country?

This is the first question BF's 10 year-old niece ever asked me. I have to say, it took me a little by surprise. It's the first time ever, a child asked me that. The question, that I learned to expect over the years is "How do you like it here?" and normally it's adults asking me that and by now, I have a standard reply to it...

As I already mentioned, I was surprised and didn't know what to answer and especially I wasn't sure, what would be interesting and understandable for a 10 year-old. There are tons of things I like and dislike about Germany and there are tons of things were I make comparisons in my head all the time, but are those things really anything she would care about?

Basically, life for children in Germany and in the USA is not that much different. They go to school, do sports, watch Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers and their favorite food is McDonald's. Okay, that maybe describes a little bit of a stereotype, but that stereotype exists on both sides of the big pond.

For an adult, there are many differences... Some small and some major. For example, compared to the US, the college education in Germany is dirt cheap, same can be said for medical care/ health insurance, but on the flip side is, that the taxes in Germany are much higher compared to the US... Talk about major differences hmmmm? The smaller stuff has a lot to do with convenience and the Americans are the complete pros for that.... Drive through ATM, dry cleaners etc... You gotta love it. The Germans are the pros when it comes to food and drinks and socialize around it. We can spend hours and hours after dinner is done in the same restaurant, just sitting and talking. But all of those things, pretty minor to a ten year-old.

So I told her: "It's very similar to here, just the language is different!" And I was ready to elaborate from that point some, but this information was all her attention span could take and when I was still trying to get some smart sentences together, she already move on and played with the puppy...

PS: For the record, there are many more examples and as this blog goes on, I'm sure I will discuss some more! :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Test Driving the Knee

After not running for the past week, yesterday was the day to test out the knee and make a decision, if I am going to do the Blue Ridge Relay or if I have to make a phone call for my backup... Understandably, he wanted a couple of days heads up.

So, I finally worked up the courage to do the run and this was my "test track". A nice newly paved piece of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Sweet and flat.

Have a look at my "wheel set" too! ;-) They are enhanced with the Kinesio Tape and some Aspercreme, just to make it as easy on the knees as possible.

The first 0.5 miles were a complete breeze. It felt great to be out running again. Sometimes the running just bores and frustrates me, but whenever I haven't done a run in a while, I am just itching to get out there... Unless I am worried about pain, then it takes me longer to roll out of bed. Anyways...

As I said, the first 0.5 miles felt great and then the pain came back a little. For the next 0.5 miles, I was debating in my head, if I just let it go and need to accept, that the relay is over for me. The pain came and went in waves and after I did one mile, I got back to the car. I ran a little loop first, just to see how things are going. I threw the water bottle into the car, because it irritated me. Mental note: use your fuel belt instead of a water bottle... You have the stuff at home, just use it!

After that, I tried to apply what I had read about in the book ChiRunning. So I lean forward, concentrated on picking my heals up in the back instead of lifting my knees up in the front. I was focusing on relaxing my whole body and made sure my core was engaged... And I sure spend a lot of time wishing, that I already read more of that book! :-) Nevertheless, I felt like those points really made a difference in the pain. But as soon as my mind started to wander, I slumped back in my regular posture and the pain got worse... That reminded me to focus on my form again.

The run had it's ups and down, but was decent overall. I ended up doing 4.2 miles in under 40 minutes, which is a good time for me especially when fighting with pain. But I still didn't feel like I had an answer to my question, if I would be able to get through the relay.... So I asked the team... And the team told me, that they would pick up the slack, if I won't be able to run my legs and so it was decided.... :-)

In order to be as pain free as possible, there will be no running or cycling before the race anymore. I will do my stretches, ice the knee down, use the foam roller, go swimming and put Biofreeze on it.... Any yes, hope for the best!

Friday, September 4, 2009

"I can't wait for Football season…"

That's what I started saying last night to BF, when all of a sudden his eyes brightened up and he smiled in anticipation. I finished the sentence with "to be OVER!" and as quickly as the eyes brightened before, his face got a pained expression. "But it just started!" he replies. That is correct, but I just can't help it… Mentally, I am completely over it already.

In order to understand, where I am coming from, there are a couple of points that need to be considered.

1) What's the hype?

I didn't grow up in the USA. American Football was an exotic sport that was broadcasted on German sports TV in the middle of the night, when they didn't have anything else to broadcast. Nobody knew any of the teams, let alone the rules. Of course, we where "exposed" to it in American sitcoms and movies, but that was it. This has changed over the last decade or so, but I guess that was too late for me. I have German friends here in the US that are just as big a Football fan as the average American, but they are also soccer fans back home. This leads me to my second point.

2) Calm down alright!

I am just no fan material. Merchandise companies don't make any money with me. I don't have a favourite band, actor, athlete or team. I may like to listen to a band, even own a couple of Cd's, but don't asked me anything about their biography or even the name of the front man. I didn't cry when Take That split up or when KSC (the local soccer club) got sacked from the premier league. I don't sleep in front of the box office when Brad Pitt's new movie is coming out and not in the bookstore when the new Harry Potter is going on sale. I am maybe missing a gene or it's just the Y-chromosome… But on the other hand, I know tons of women that are die hard sports fans, I am just not one of them.

3) Live is live!

I don't like to spend hours and hours in front of the TV to watch the Sunday game or the golf match or whatever season we are in. What I do like, is seeing live sports. I haven't made it to a football game yet, but I have seen several soccer, ice hockey, handball and baseball games. I enjoy watching pretty much any sport when I am right there in the venue, ideally with a bunch of friends and a couple of beers. There are a couple of exceptions to that rule: Olympic games (summer and winter, every discipline), Superbowl, European and World Championship Soccer games with German participation and the Tour de France. The "ideally with a bunch of friends a couple of beers"-rule does apply to football and soccer games watched on TV as well.

4) Can't we all be friends?

The rivalry when it comes to college football games is just driving me nuts. Being exposed to it EVERY DAY of the week doesn't help. Our company is basically split in half between Clemson and USC fans with the occasional odd team of some imports. Yesterday for example, was the first game for USC and they won… The game wasn't against Clemson, but that doesn't prevent USC fans to talk smack about their team winning and the Clemson fans to talk smack about how lame the game was. I know it's all in good fun, but halfway through the morning, I was ready to hit my head against the wall.

And in case you wonder… Yes, there were donuts in the office this morning (it's Friday after all). Not one, but two boxes to celebrate the USC win… They were consumed by both Clemson and USC followers as well as the odd team fans and the non-fans (you know, who I am talking about). Maybe donuts are the universal "peace food" after all!! ;-)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Training - It's not about weight loss anymore.

This morning we had another food get-together in the office. As previously mentioned, we never seem to have a shortage of occasions to eat. Nice side effect of it is, that they brought in so much stuff that lunch is taken care of too. We had a nice Germany style brunch thing going on including homemade bread, Leberkäse, lunch cut style cheeses and sausage... Very yummy. Of course I couldn't resist. I really don't get homesick a lot, but I certainly miss German food. Since a co-worker discovered this Chicago-based sausage company, the pain has been eased a little. No one can replace my Mum's cooking though! Anyways, I am drifting off.

While we were standing around having our late breakfast, a co worker asked me how the move went over the weekend and stuff. I said that everything was a little stressful, but went alright... Only on the workout front, I was slacking some, but planning on getting back on track this week. Then she said something, that took me little bit by surprise. Sorry, can't remember the exact words, but it was something like: it's not like you need to loose weight anymore...

It's true that last year, when I started my weight loss journey, my workouts were a key ingredient of the road map to loose these 60 lbs, I ended up loosing in the course of 2008. Since then, I have been pretty stable with my weight and sure enough my regular exercise is a key ingredient for that as well. But really, my training is not about the weight loss anymore. Of course, sometimes I think, if I loose another 5 lbs, that hill would be easier to run up. But on the other hand, I already was at that weight (-5 of current) sometime end of last year, after having a bad case of stomach flu and I do have a handful of pictures from that time and it's not pretty.

Everyone that looses weight is afraid to gain it back. Research and news articles (one example here) show over and over again, that only a fraction of people that lost weight are actually able to keep it off for one year or more. According to this, I am not quite out of the woods yet, but I am positive that I will keep it up. I think I have accepted the changes that I made last year as permanent lifestyle changes rather than a temporary fix.

My strategy for long term success is to keep on having fitness goals. I did my first race last year in November and since then, I did several 5Ks, 8Ks, and 10Ks, one sprint triathlon and a metric century ride. For next year, I want to take a shot at an Olympic distance triathlon and a half marathon.

In the next couple of weeks the race schedule looks like this with the hope that my knee is back to normal soon:

9/10-11 Blue Ridge Relay with the team "Do Not Resuscitate"
9/19 American Warrior Triathlon (sprint distance)
9/26 Race for the Cure 5K, raising money to find a cure, pls visit my donation site here
10/10 Ache Around The Lake 8K

September is pretty busy. Normally, I try to race once a month. That keeps me on my toes, dedicated to my workouts and away from the cookie jar (not all the time, but a lot)... And most importantly, it keeps me on track for my larger goals.

Update on my knee: I am fine as long as I am not running. The tape arrived yesterday and I have to try it out soon. Today I did an hour on the elliptical and felt great, no pain at all. Keep your fingers crossed for me.