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Posts Tagged ‘Outdoor’

This is why we love to be in Saas-Fee…so much:

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1. 300 days of sun. That is probably the number one reason. When you live in The Netherlands, you want to make sure of one thing when you go places.: you want to see the sun and the deep blue sky. Because there ain’t such thing up North like a deep colour…apart from deep green maybe.

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2. There is ALWAYS snow and the ski-station is open all year round. How? The upper part of the resort is on a glacier. And on the top of this glacier, there is the highest turning restaurant in the world at 3500m. It has just been renovated and finally lost its 70’s groove. The food is very decent for a decent price (to Swiss standards).

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3. The mountains are specatacular. There are 47 mountains over 4000m in Switzerland and there are 14 of them just around Saas-Fee. It protects the resort from changing weather…hence the 300 days of sun.

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4. It is not the largest ski resort of Switzerland. Far from it. Around 100km of pistes and something like 30 lifts. But you nonetheless have it all. The easy slopes for kids and beginners, the bumpy runs, the steep runs, the wide runs for carving, the specatacular runs amidst the glaciers, the hard runs and the amazing off-piste (if you know to avoid crevaces).

5. Saas-Fee is a place with more than 100 restaurants. It prides itself of having a 1 star Michelin restaurant, The Fletschhorn. This restaurant has recently acquired a smaller restaurant on the slopes and you can enjoy gastronomic kitchen with your ski-boots on. Weird but a somehow a must-do. There are romantic restaurants like La Ferme but there are also of course plenty of Swiss traditional cusinie eateries with the expected smell of melted cheese. Nothing for dairy-allergic though.

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6. We of course love Saas-Fee because that’s also where we have our chalets

…doh… Fasan & Eichhörnchen are their names. Those are super cosy little chalet 1km away from the centre and the après-ski music at the edge of a larks’ forest where squirrels and wild goats can be spotted. http://www.atraveo.de/objekte/714124.php

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7. The kids love to stay up there. Its total freedom for them, they open the door and can disappear in the fields and the forest. The resort is car free, so no danger there either.

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8. We have a skate-skiing loop in front of our door. Its is a 5.5 km training course, with one lane for classic skating and one for skate-skiing. We call it our private house loop as not many people use it. My wife and I just love to exercise here. The loop goes 120m up, then flat, then down..it throws your heart out of the chest the first time you do it. After a few work-outs, you feel stronger and it becomes a matter of who is going to beat the loop record (24:30).

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9. And then, there is sledging. This is basically also a few steps from our house. A cable cars takes you up for 15min and you then have a joy ride for about 15-20min down a relatively steep course. Helmets recommended!

10. Last but not least, Saas-Fee is in Switzerland. This is where we come from. This is what we call home. And because we have enough beds (the chalets can accomodate up to 11 persons), the family is coming to visit us as well as friends. So it is a place where we celebrate and enjoy the company of those who are dear to our heart.

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We finally arrived to our destination. It took us 4 days to fly from Amsterdam to Singapore, Singapore to Perth. Rest for 2 nights in Sorrento (North of Perth) and then travel from Sorrento to Dunsborough (20km South of Busselton). Dunsborough is a very laid back location on the coast of the Geographe Bay. Its beach is considered to be one of the top 10 beaches in the world. As far as we can tell, it could be true. It did not take our girls long to discover the fun of a low tide. Hopping from one sand bank to the next, catching small shells, jumping into deeper pools of water. SO, it is not all about the Ironman? Definitely not: what an unbelievable feeling to be back in the Summer, living outdoors, looking forward to a cold shower to wash the salt away. Isa is soaking the sun in. Zoe told us she likes the place because it is so wonderfully hot and everything is so quiet. Dunsborough reminds of Hanalei on Kauai. Beautiful beaches with surf possibilities, great yoga places with organic food.. a slow-down-relax-breathe kind of place.

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I went to Busselton this morning for a first ride to check out the course. First impressions. Gorgeous course across The  Tuart Forest National Park (50% of the total course), the rest of the course is exposed to prevailing South West Winds and has a remarkable absence of shade. Temperature this morning at 11:00, 31.5 degrees. Oh yeah. Despite the wind, I could keep a good pace at a very low HR. It is so much tougher to ride in the cold-wind-bashing green heart of The Netherlands. It feels that I can cut right through the wind here…. Anyways, it also felt great to see other participants. I usually feel pretty lonely mostly riding solo back in The Netherlands.

The Ironman in Busselton is definitely a big thing here. EVerybody talks about it. You hear about it on the radio, there is a special edition of the local newspaper, everybody cheers and say hi when they see you on the bike. People understand what we do and do not consider those strange bikers with tailed helmets as aliens. It is a great feeling for a change adn definitely a great place to race. I CANNOT WAIT!!!

It’s now snack time for the girls: Fresh pinapple and…Philadelphia spread over bread…there are also things that really don’t change…

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Ski Week-End in Saas-Fee with friends, Feb 2012.

Training is good, cross-training is better, but moving away from training and enjoy the outdoor on top of  it all is best. I never took training too seriously, I never followed a plan too strictly and I never calculated the risk of having fun that could jeopardize the big “race goal of the year”. I think the day I would do that, I would just know that there is no fun in training anymore.

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I have not updated this blog last month. Life in an RV is quite… intensive especially when it is cold and rainy outside. In the meantime we have arrived in Vancouver and got rid of the big rig…due to acute RV-fever. We now live in a comfy house by Kitsilano Beach and I have some time again to update that site.

South Utah is a world of its own with a very high density of National Parks, State Parks, National Monuments etc… We decided to avoid basically National Parks with Big Canyons as activities with children are rather limited there. We did not see ourselves in a place where we would have to shout : “get down from that fence or don’t slide down the canyon”. So we decided to have look at The Big Sand Dunes (big sandbox for children…ok…it is in Colorado), Monument Valley (Marlboro Country and Horses), Glen Canyon/Lake Powell Recreational Area & Capitol Reef (Mormons Promised Land and Orchards in the middle of desert). We also went to some small Parks like Goosenecks State Monument and Natural Bridges National Monument. And yes..all these are in South of Utah just about 300 miles apart.

They all have in common the color red and we realised that we never had enough of it. These monuments of baked sand are just…well…earth shattering. When you are in South Utah, you just wonder why-oh-why people go to see that one big red stone in the middle of nowhere in Australia. In South Utah you have one Ayers Rock basically every twenty miles.

So here is a sample of what we did in the out-of-this-world area.

1. Playing Desert Survival in the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado

2.  Horse Riding in Monument Valley

3. Getting dizzy on the rim of Goose Necks State Monument

4. Maneuvering the RV on Not-For-RV-Roads

5. Hiking & Riding  in the Natural Bridges National Monument

6. BBQ on the shores of Lake Powell (Glen Canyon) and cruising with the RV on water.

7. Feeling like Mosis arriving to the Promised Land in Capital Reef

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I waited (and trained) for that day since December 20th, day of my registration for the Lavaman. This triathlon is the second biggest tri event on the Big Island after the Ironman World championship. It is an Olympic distance and happens every year at the end of March. Chris McCormack describes it as follows in his last entry of his blog (April 2nd) “It is a tough, windy bike course and a super hot and difficult run. The entire bike course takes in the most difficult section of the bike course at the Ironman World Championships, and the run is mostly off road and through the thick Lava flows. It really reminds me of some of the early races I did in my career, when these ingredients seemed to be a prerequisite of a triathlon” . 1020 athletes coming mostly from Hawaii and the West Coast of Canada and the USA were gathered for this event. Chris McCormack, 2 times IM world champion was also at the starting line. The race starts at the Waikoloa Beach Resort onthe west coast and the bike course is a segment of the World Championship on the famous Queen K. Highway.

This race was for me the big test whether I had trained enough and done enough rehabilitation after the accident on June 8th the previous year. It would tell me, whether I was ready to train for longer distance and be able to be on the starting line of the Ironman of Frankfurt later this year.

I thought the race would be hard, but it turned out that it was getting there that cost me most energy. My family and I are currently staying on Kauai and I had to take 2 planes (via Honolulu) to get there. The first plane had 4 hours delay, the second was cancelled and the company had lost my reservation…In the end, I just made it in time to retrieve my starting packet, to put my bike together and to test it before sunset. I nonetheless could go early to bed and have a surprisingly good night sleep.

I wake up at 5:00 AM and take a short breakfast in bed. The weirdest thing after taking a shower is to put sunscreen when it is still pitch dark outside. I do that nonetheless, because I know that today’s forecast is 30 degrees, low wind and 86% humidity. I get out of my hotel room, the sun greets me and I take a picture of it in return. Coming to the transition zone, most of the athletes are already there… loud house music is blaring through big loudspeakers and a commentator repeats with eagerness the do’s and dont’s of the day. I get myself ready in the transition zone, get body marked with the No480 and walk slowly to the start at the A-Bay, a beautiful little cove. I enter the water at 07:10 and swim 4o0m to warm-up the shoulders. At 7:36 I start in the 3rd waves (that are Male Athletes 40 and Oooolder). I don’t pace myself. Feeling strong I aggressively make my way to the front of the pack. The real good swimmers are ahead and I can keep a good pace (around 15:30 per km) for the entire 1500 with the pack. I exit the water after 23:20′ and make a 300m dash to the transition zone. The enter of T1 comes at 15:24. I exit 1:31 later to start the bike. At this time, my position is in the  first 75 or 80 athletes. The bike leg starts very well with a 37kmh for the first 8km and suddenly the wind changes. Everyone gets it strong in the face for the next 12km. The average speed drops to less than 32kmh and legs are sore. The mid-point turn comes at the right moment. From then on, it is tail wind and I finish the bike leg in 1 hour 11 minutes, which is above 34kmh avg. I run through transition very fast. So fast that I forget my helmet and have to return to deposit it next to the bike. In the end it is 1:41 in T2. The first 500m run go well and suddenly stomach cramps are coming. Strong ones. I immediately know that it comes from a new sports drink I had during the bike. I work through these cramps for the next 3km. It is hot, I cannot breathe regularly. I am smiling thinking that my knee would hurt, but no, it is my stomach that slows me down. I finally find my rhythm after 5k and start running at a 4:45 pace between km 6 and 8.5. The last mile: it is not hard surface but all lava stones and broken corals. Worse, the last 400m are in soft sand but at this point I see the 2 athletes in front of me pick up the pace and I decide to hang on, which I can and do until the finish line. 20 meters before the finish line, I raise my arms, fist closed, throat thightened. It is a great liberating moment. At this point the total time does not matter anymore. It is the knowledge that my knee held the shock of the race, it is the knowledge that I can race again, that my sports days are not over. I do the run in 50:12′.

Time overall is 2:30’10”. Position 122 out of 1020. Chris McCormack wins the race for the 2nd consecutive year.

The Lavaman triathlon is the best organised and most scenic tri-event I have done. Compare to Europe, I found many athletes very relaxed ready to enjoy the race. The quota of female athletes was incredible, something I have never seen in Europe. All in all, this triathlon is maybe not worth the trip from Europe, but it is a must do, if you are around in March in Hawaii.

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We land on Kaua’i On March 3rd and drive to Hanalei, our place of residence for the coming 5 weeks. We knew we could get some rain on the “Green Isle” but we did not that we would be getting downpours 18 out of the first 19 days. Least to say that it lowered slightly the fun level. We actually became downright cranky.  The two things that gave us joy was a great yoga centre and the opportunity to get better at surfing. At first Isa and I thought we really were too old for that sport.  But when the only thing you can actually do outside without getting bothered by the rain is surfing then you start just doing that. And that’s what we did. We were wise enough to take at first lessons with an instructor. The attempts to learn by ourselves in Australia were frustrating enough not to make the same mistake twice.

Hanalei Bay is known as being one of the 10 most beautiful beach in the world. That did not strike home during the first two weeks as we could actually barely see the Bay due to low clouds and yes…you guessed it….rain. This beautiful beach is not only shaped into a perfect circle, it also provides very regular waves of all sizes. You therefore meet local stars as well as professionals next to first timers. Surfing is the life in Hanalei and we soon got the hang of it. The person that left us all in awe though was Manon. Courageous enough to go out with Chris, the Instructor and standing alone on the board after only a few attempts. A few days later, Zoe accepted to be lifted on a long board too, but stayed on her belly while riding gentle waves. After Isa and I had emptied the battery of the Nikon taking pictures of our little loved ones on the board, we also went in turn and could soon celebrate some success.

It is now the 4th week of our stay in Kauai and we now love this beach above all others around the island. When the sunshine, it is the most incredible beach we have ever seen. It will be, yet again, difficult to leave this place for a new destination.

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Half a million tourist cruise the Milford Sound every year. That must be basically the quasi totality of tourists visiting the South of the South Island of New Zealand. So, I asked myself whether this place is a tourist trap or is it really just drop-dead gorgeous?  I thought it better had, because the prospect of driving 300Km from Wanaka on windy roads did not exactly appeal to me. And I thought about it for days, until I finally suggested to Isa, whether we should not let the kids with friends and get a small plane to fly over there. In case of disappointment we would still have had a great flight over the Southern Alps and spared us a half a dozen of nervous breakdown while driving down with 2 loudspeakers turned on to full blast (understand M & Z).

Isa was quite enthusiastic about spending the day in the air just the 2 of us. We organised everything but the weather forecast forced us to postpone our flight by one day. But on the second day, we were on the airstrip in time, ready to get into the small 4 seater Cessna.

We did not know that the coming hour would become the most scenic flight we had ever done (we never flew a small plane before 🙂 ). The main highlights: Mount Aspiring National Park and the Mount itself – call the Matterhorn of the Southern Hemisphere – , the 200km clear visibility that allowed us to see Mount Cook, the approach and the landing on the airstip of Milford sound, the flight back over some Lord of the Rings locations.

Regarding the Milford sound, it is all at the same time. A tourist magnet, an incredible lush place (it rains 7000mm per year vs 680mm 50 miles away in Wanaka!!!), a Fiord that can only be compared to the most beautiful Norwegian ones. It is before very, very far away from anything.  And we could see those tired faced of people who had a 7 hour bus ride behind them.. AND ahead of them just to see the famous Milford Sound. Taking a plane to get there was the best decision we made and in my view the only way to fully enjoy this secluded wilderness.

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