On Climbing Gunung Agung (3154m), Bali

Wherever you stand in Bali in the morning, you can spot the magnificent 3154m high Gunung Agung volcano. It is not only a volcano that last erupted in 1963 it is also a holy place where all spirit of Balinese Ancestors dwell. This mountain is also of great significance in the Indus religion. I have been watching this mountain for the last 5 weeks, waiting for a perfect day and some people who would attempt the climb without guide with me. I finally find 2 Yoga friends, Steven and Rebecca that are willing to wake up at 04:30. We drive at the foot of the mountain (1500m) and from there start the 1600m climb. It is a 4km, 40% straight-shot without switchbacks. The first part, up to 1800m is very lush. The second part until 2400m is mostly pine trees and other conifers. The last part reminded me strongly of Lanzarote: a bare, black, rocky landscape. The last meters are a bit more difficult but the reward at the top is great. A beautiful large crater of ochre and reddish rocks. At the bottom a few pools with muddy water. It is 10:30. We are at the top with a great feeling of satisfaction. The air is fresh & crisp. A welcome change from the constant high humidity back down in Ubud  .

The climb was in many ways rewarding. Yes there was this beautiful crater, but it was also a fantastic day to spend with friends, talking about nothing and everything. Last but not least a great fitness training to strengthen my knee and although going down was taxing for the knees, it felt good to know that it can hold again this type of effort.  Another 3 weeks and I will be able to start running again!!!

I look every morning at Gunung Agung from our veranda in Ubud. It is not an objective anymore, it has become part of my world, a kind of acquaintance. I am quite sure everyone feels this way with mountains. Once you have been on top of it you look at it differently, knowing the price and the reward.

(The Gunung Agung Pic is not my own)

Half-Ironman in Graz – 2.15km Swim, 80km Bike, 20km Run

I suffered a small muscle injury (left knee) early March after the Marathon of Ferrara. This took nearly 3 weeks to fully heal. Travelling together with the family  on Lanzarote, I trained hard in the Swim and Bike disciplines during 2 weeks. I pushed even harder the following 3 weeks working-out between 11-14 hours. 14 days before the half-Ironman was enough time to taper. Today I was about to know whether the last 2 months of training had been effective or not. I completed the distance (it is actually only a double Olympic distance triathlon) in 4 hours and 57 minutes, which was nearly 20 minutes less than I had planned! The winner finished in 3:38…but anyway. I was super happy on that day, the 9th of May.

I went down for the Week-End with Eva who kindly offered accomodation at her parents place, helped me during the whole week-end and even took some pics and video from the race (thanks a million!!!)

The competition started saturday morning at 9:00. Graz Triathlon is actually part of the Austrian Triathlon Championchip and I, green horn amateur, found myself in the middle of the elite and professional triathletes. My rank is showing this very clearly…219 athletes in the front of me and I left only 90 behind me. hm…

5 minutes before the startI love triathlon starts; hundreds of athletes eager to dive in the fresh clean water (18 degrees) and transform the peaceful lake in a “white water river”. The first 200m were the hardest of the whole course. My body did not adapt well to the temperature at first, it triggered a lot of negatives thoughts. I told myself that I should abandon right now. So I stopped swimming, looked back and saw around 200 athletes behind me. This gave me enough courage to push on and after a few minutes I came the 400m buoy. Turning around that buoy did the trick; I suddenly found my rhythm and after only 38min I was in the transition zone. The transition was awful, as you can see in the film. I wanted to test something new, get all dry clothes before hopping on the bike and put at the same time compression socks. Result: slowest athlete in T1 (first transition) with over 5 minutes!!!!

Time details

The bike ride was very hard. 80km with 800m ascent. Flat bike course for triathletes seems to be something of the past. Anyway, after over two and a half hours in my weakest discipline, I found myself back in the transition zone. An now the run! my strongest discipline. 20k during which I passed over 30 athletes and with each overtaking a bit more positive energy in my head and my legs. After 1 hour and 36 minutes I made a poor attempt to jump over the finish line. But this time at least I did not stumble and fall like in the marathon in Ferrara…Conclusion: A perfect day!

Vacation on Lanzarote Island

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We leave cold and rainy Vienna on March 27th and arrive in Arrecife (Lanzarote) some 9 hours later. Zoe (2) and Manon (4) have behaved like never before and the expected stress in the plane did not happen. We go first to AVIS to pick our VW-Caravelle bus. It did cost a bit more, but it was all worth it! Kids were happy and I was happy to put all luggage including the bike case inside. We make our short trip to the rented house. The first impression is great. Sixty year old stylish “Finca” with a nice terrace and pool. Rooms are charming and kitchen is functional.

The only problem so far: the weather. Cold and windy and 2 hours after our arrival, torrential rain. Hm, not exactly our idea of a vacation on the island.

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The next day is better. I ride my bike for the first time and discover the amazing landscape of Lanzarote. Very volcanic, very black, lava everywhere. On my first trip I discover the vineyards of Lanzarote and the bodegas (wine bars). The way they grow it is by digging a whole in a funnel shape in order to collect the dew and to protect the plant from the constant wind. On top of the funnel a small crescent wall is erected to further protect the plant against the wind. After the ride, I immediately propose to Isa to go have lunch with the kids at one of these Bodegas. And it was great. …lanzarote-204

Days 3: we discover the white sand beaches in the South of Lanzarote. The beach of Papageyo is beautiful and pretty well protected from the wind. Kids rediscover the joys of the beach and Isa and I relax….for about an hour before feeling that something is wrong with my stomach. We go home and the marathon between bed and bathroom begins. I leave day 4  without comment apart from the fact that it is Zoe’s birthday and Isabel is doing her best to organise a small celebration for her

Day5: I can stand up again and we decide to go for a short trip across Timanfaya (the volcan National Park). We all love it, adults because of the lunar landscapes, kids because of the dromedary ride we do in the Park.  We continue to meet the first edifice of the famous local architect, Cesar Manrique: El Jardin de Cactus. We did not know really what to expect, but what we saw was breathtaking. In a caldera shape of about 200m of circumference, a real cactus sanctuary with thousands of different cactus type spread elegantly on multiple levels and around elegantly shaped ponds. We decideto have lunch there before heading back home, with the firm idea to see more of Cesar Manrique’s creation on the Island

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Days 6: We do a day trip with the bus and discover the place where we will be staying the following week: the Club La Santa . I have time in the afternoon to hit the road again with my bike and do a short run after that. At last the real vacation feeling is getting in the inside of my body.

Day7: Back to the beach of Papagayo. A very warm and sunny day. We stay a couple of hours, just time enough to dig a big pool on the beach for the greatest joy of Manon and Zoe. We head back for lunch. I have time in the afternoon to hit the road again with my bike and do a short run after that. At last the real vacation feeling is getting inside my body.

Day8: We move to La Santa, They claim to be the N01 sport & active holiday resort in the world. I don’t know whether it is true but the place is just freaking amazing. Next to the accommodation centre, there is a 1.5km lagoon for swimming and windsurfing, a beautiful 50m outdoor Olympic pool with 8 lanes,a sport centre for squash, badminton, volleyball, basketball, etc.. huge areas reserved for aerobics, taichi, etc.. an athletic stadium next to about 10 tennis courts and beach volley courts as well as a boxing ring. You can simply do everything. It is also the mecca for triathletes. The club is the organiser of the Lanzarote Ironman, supposedly the toughest IM in the world.pool_stor_4cycling_low_big

Day 9-14: Basically Isa and I just split our times to play with the children while the other indulge in some sport activity. What I really liked was the organized bike tours. I am used to train alone and this was great for a change, especially the possibility of drafting on such a windy island.

As said above, we still find time to visit the other Manrique’s main landmarks on the Island, which include his house and designed natural cave system in the north of the Island, both again, breathtaking.

The weather in the second week has much improved and the time for all of us goes suddenly much too fast. Before we know it, we find ourselves packing and making it back to the airport we have to give back to super minibus.

We come back to Vienna in time for Easter. Spring is waiting for us 20-25 degrees and sunny. We spend the hole time gardening and organising BBQ parties with our friends.

Long Week-End in Ferrara (I) – Part Two

ferrara-marathon-arrival1An early wake-up call on a Sunday is usually something I loath. But today is Marathon day! Eyes wide open,  I jump out of the bed, morning stretch, warm shower, down to the breakfast hall. 1 banana, 1 Supradyn tablet diluted in 1 liter of water, lots of Wasa bread and butter.

It is a perfect day. Sunny, 8 degrees at 09:00 AM, wind not exceeding 15km/h. Together with Isa we go out of the hotel 30 min before the start and run to warm-up to the starting line. I expect pushing and shoving (as you would when you see traffic jams in Italy). But no, the atmosphere is very relaxed. Nobody is too excited to be under the starting arch, people chat loudly, laugh, give enough space for the other competitors. In total  1’000 relaxed participants to the 12.3km, the 30km and the 42.195km races are lining-up for a common start at 09:30 in front of the main castle of the city.

The first 5km: A loud cheering and everybody starts running. And here again; no shoving, no hectic, no swear words. It is simply fantastic and I already enjoy the race. Well, I enjoy until I see my heart beat going 161 and my pace 5:20! What’s wrong with me? I feel great, what’s wrong? I keep asking myself for the first 22:30 minutes until I see the 5km mark. I relax, my foot sensor is not working. I feel like ditching my watch for good and forever. I decide to only look at the heart rate. What else can I do anyway?

Until half-way: The first 15km are in and around the old city centre of Ferrara. Few spactators. The ones talking are anyway the Italian runners around me, as if they were on a short easy stroll. Amazing. I love it. Listening to the conversations and keeping with one group. The half-marathon mark is quickly passed in 1:40.Ferrara by day

The last 21km:At km 26, it is time to take my second Gel. I don’t feel the magic for the next 4 km. They are hard. My legs are suddenly heavy, I feel my pace going down. Goodbye dear negative splits! From km30 to km32, I pass a dozen runners and this cheers me up, I even motivate them to tag along. But the joy is of short duration. Km 34 is hell, carbs are out – fat is on. It takes me until km37 to adapt and suddenly: boooom. Afterburners are turned-on, I can smell the finishing line and I start running at a good pace again. Heart rate goes up to 172. A last small frustration at km39. A Sixty year old marathoner passes me with ease. But I keep to his heels.

The last 500m:We run the last km together, 300m before the arrival, I see Isabel waving at me.  I feel very happy, so close to the finishing line.  I let my running companion pass me on the last 100m. I feel a huge respect for this man. The organisers have put a real red carpet. I see from behind this elder marthoner running on the red carpet and crossing the finish line. I have a big smile on my face and decide to jump as high as I can crossing the finish line. The landing is better left without comment.

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Isabel finishes her 12.3km in 72 min! And this without any training (I you consider Kung-Fu as only marginally helpful for running). I am very proud of her and hope that we will do some other training and races together.

The remaining of the week-end includes, eating pasta, drinking beer, struggling to climb the stairs into the airplane and even more getting out and down the plane after landing in Vienna. It is late, Manon & Zoe are sleeping. Only Barbara our nanny is still awake. Great to have her with us. Without her, a lot would be different.

Race Schedule 2009

Cycling with tongue out A big objective this year is of course the Ironman Switzerland. But the main target  is to have fun and go through the season injury free.

Taper Time Before Ferrara Marathon

ferrara marathon 2009

Sunday, will be my first marathon since New-York ING in 2004. The Ferrara Marathon is scheduled very early in the year and fits perfectly my preparation schedule for the Switzerland Ironman on July 12th in Zurich.  It is not only scheduled early it is also perfectly flat and has only around a 1’000 participants. I am looking forward to a hassle free run, even if this means very few spectators on the side of the road.

I do not feel particularly well prepared. I got the flue a week ago and have only done a few long runs. Bottom line, I will go there and see what I can do. I am sure to take a lot of learning from the race.

My last long run was on Sunday. 26 km or 60% of the actual distance. I still feel the training in the legs but I am sure to recover until then.