Monday, October 9, 2006

Royal Victoria Marathon 2006

Well, I certainly gave it all I had! And by all accounts this was a good great race.

[Some pictures from the event are on Flickr]

After I posted such an outstanding result in the Vancouver Marathon this year (3:39 with a goal of 3:45), I was so full of piss and vinegar that I immediately set my goal for Victoria at 3:30 -- with the longer term goal to do a 3:25 and a 3:20 Boston qualifier in 2007 in Vancouver and Victoria respectively.

I adjusted that idea to a more realistic 3:33 at first and then 3:35 later. Actually Lara Penno set me right and did the adjusting for me :-)

There were some 15-or-so runners in the half and full marathons from Lara's run group. Some of us came over on the same Ferry, did the race pack pick-up, bus tour of the course, a quick run, and dinner together on Saturday. Everybody was so energized and totally prepared and ready. It was fun to be around that group and great way to get ready.

Carmen and Lara were both not running due to injury and cold, but did a fantastic job of supporting the runners. Thank you both very much!!

The full marathoners met early at the bag check to see our friends in the half marathon (who started an hour earlier) zoom by before we did a quick warm-up ourselves and made our way to the race start.

There was a constant drizzle and the temperature was pretty nippy. In short: perfect running weather in my opinion!

When the gun went off I made sure to start really slow and use the pack of people to hold me back. At an early intersection (I think it was at Superior on Government) we actually had to stop dead for an ambulance crossing. No big deal - I was some 15 sec behind my pace at the 1k mark. I just kept the pace nice and even. By the 3k mark I was very slightly ahead and by the 5k mark I was exactly 30 sec ahead of my pace.

Now it was time to settle into the slightly quicker main pace of 5:00/km and I felt really good. The pace felt natural and not hard or pushed at all - something I was terribly worried about. The only thing at all was that I started feeling a little pull in my right hamstring quite early.

I did not train with Gatorade (I use GU2O) but that is what they have that the RVM. I was a bit concerned how I might react to that, but it turned out to be not a problem at all.

I realized that it was still drizzling, but it certainly did not bother me. I kept trucking on and found myself a "pacer". This is something I always do: find someone that is about my pace or a tiny little tad quicker, and looks nice and strong -- then I make it my point to attach myself to her (yes, it seems to be always a woman... I don't really know why) pace, and keep her in sight or overtake her. Pacer #1 was a tall woman with a very smooth and even stride. Since she carried her own fuel bottle, I kept drifting back at every aid station but eventually closed the gap again. I managed to keep her in sight until just before 30k when I noticed that she was gone for good. And I am sure I did not overtake her. If she kept on going as she did, she probably finished very close to 3:30 - congratulations, whoever you are. And thanks for pacing me.

I saw Serge and Lisa and Matt running the Half at the point where the two groups cross. I saw Gord somewhere too - or rather he saw me. Not sure where that was... I don't think I saw Tracy - but she would have probably been past already as fast as she was. Tracy finished her first half marathon in 1:42! Rockin!!

At the half-way mark I was exactly 17 seconds behind my pace - but this was also just after an uphill. By 25k I was bang-on pace again. Needless to mention that at this time I have completely abandoned any secret hopes of somehow eking out a 3:30... I told myself that if I can keep this pace up all the way, I'll do just fine and I will be quite happy coming in on goal at 3:35.

After the turn-around I saw Tim not very far behind me and looking as strong as always. Then I think I saw Dwayne and Roberta and of course Lisa who rocked out on her iPod and looked as fresh as she did at the start and had the energy to yell out "you go and get that 3:35!!". Awesome Lisa - thanks!

More hills coming up and some of them I totally remembered from last year - and what I remembered most about them was they don't last forever! Mentally I was so there. The hills did not bother one bit at this point and I kept repeating "same effort - not same speed - open up a little on the downhill".

At the 31k mark I started wavering a bit... I was worried about hitting the infamous wall at 20m/32k and I was also a good minute and a half behind pace. Urgh! But then I used my secret weapons: my happy-place-word and smile-power (I actually drew smiley faces on the back of my hands and wrote "AWESOME!" on my left hand. I thought how awesome it is that I can be here with my running buddies and participate in a marathon on such a beautiful course -- and I SMILED! I smiled for myself, but I also smiled for the fantastic spectators and volunteers being out on such a nasty day and giving the runners so much encouragement and support (a huge thanks to all of you!!) .

From here on I had two more pacers: one lady in a light red shirt I noticed first when she asked me what kilometer marker we just past by - 27k. We kept passing each other quite a bit over the next few kilometers, but she fell behind eventually. Then, at around 30k, was a lady in a dark red shirt I tried to stick too, but she was too fast in the end and I lost her with some 7k to go.

Anyway, with smile-power I picked it up a bit at the 31k mark and tried to make up enough time to hit the 33k mark as close to my goal as possible. From 32k on my goal pace dropped to 5:15/k so I should be able to gain some time. By 33k I was still at least a minute behind. Now I used the fact that we had less than 10k to go to just tick down kilometer after kilometer (only 9 to go, only 8 to go, ...) and tried to push as hard as I could. Here I decided to not waste any energy with looking at my paceband any longer and trying to figure out where I am -- just push it...

At no point in this race did I feel nauseated and wanted to stop eating or drinking. This was a really welcome change from all previous marathons. I think the cool weather helped a lot with this. Oh... it has stopped drizzling - I wonder when that happened?

Now my legs started to get really tired and the right hamstring felt stiff and crampy. The left leg -- obviously not wanting to be left out of this fun -- decided to make my quads hurt and stiff. Oh Great...

Ok, the last really nasty hill coming up with about 5.5k to go. I still felt I was going to quite strong, but I also did notice that I was not keeping the same pace anymore.

Next thing I noticed was that Lara is running next to me...
How are you doing Klaus?
Good, I feel good.
You know you own this hill! The last hill and you are almost there.
I know - I can do it.
Lift the knees and go!
OK. Thanks Lara.

I am not sure if this is exactly how the conversation went, but that is what I remember. And also that I really did need those words of encouragement as this hill was brutal.

After the hill I saw Carmen, Serge, Lisa, and some of the others from the Half taking pitures and yelling words of encouragement.

4k to go - aid station - I have to walk through it. I know it is not far anymore and mentally I feel totally strong. But it got tougher and tougher to move the legs. I know now that I am quite slow even though I feel I am pushing hard.

Last aid station with 2k to go - this time I am not walking but am just taking/drinking/splashing a bit of water. The volunteers are great. Reading the names of the bib "Only 2k to go Klaus - you can totally do it - you are almost there!"

I am trying so hard to move my legs faster -- it is just not happening...

The last short hill before the end and I hear "way to power up this hill - you guys look great" from the side. They could not have meant me - but I took it for me anyway. Finally we are in the last "seven turns".

We ran this yesterday in our quick 20 min run and I counted the turns. I remember from last year that I got totally frustrated thinking that after the next turn is the finish line in sight -- and then there was one more turn, and one more turn, and one more turn,...

I am counting down the turns 7, 6, 5... Man these blocks did not seem this long yesterday! 4, 3, 2, and finally one more right turn!! OK last stretch! I am getting ready to try and pick up the pace. I think I did -- though I doubt I was much faster. Now I see the clock: 3:38... I really dig down deep and try to stride it in with as much speed as possible. I hear the announcer "Klaus Schoenwandt from Vancouver with a personal best of 3:39 - and he'll make 3:38 today here... "

I am pushing so hard now and FINALLY cross the finish line in 3:38:03 (3:38:43 gun time).

As always immediately after crossing the finish line at a marathon, I got all giddy and somewhat emotional. Some dude from the RVM stood there shake the runners hands. Now to the chip removal area. My chip was on nice and tight and it took the girl some time to get it off. We are talking seconds, not minutes here, but I wanted to tell her to hurry up as I had my eyes set on the food tent already... I had visions of those bagels already at the half-way mark. The chip is off and on the way to the food I got my medal and took a space blanket to keep warm. Finally food! I grab two yogurt drinks (those are great!), two orange quarters, two pieces of poppy seed bagel, and a chocolate chip cookie. I am set!

While chowing down I make my way back to the finish line to see Tim and the others coming in. Just as I am at the finish line I see Tim coming in. He does not look so fresh right now, but he too posted a new PR. Way to go Tim!

So why am I not so super happy now?
Well yes, I took a minute off my previous personal best, but I missed the 3:35 by quite a bit and that nags me - a lot. But I know how I can correct that and am sure that on May 6, 2007 in Vancouver I will make the 3:35 or better.

IMHO the person who did best in this marathon and should be the most proud, is the person that did not even run! Lara Penno, our coach. Everyone in her group did as well or better than they hoped for if it was their first race, and everyone else posted a personal best.

Here are some of the totallysuperwickedawesomegreat results:
Catherine Wiggins - 4:24:52
Dwayne Mason - 3:55:28
Leigh Johnstone - 3:55:02
Lisa Billett - 4:12:14
Megan Johnston - 3:15:20 [4th in age group - her 1st marathon ever!]
Klaus Schoenwandt - 3:38:03
Roberta Batchelor - 3:55:30
Tim Collins - 3:48:40
Travis Hawton - 3:56:41

Lisa Rodger - 1:53:56
Serge Corbeil - 1:52:46
Tracy Morrison - 1:42:26
Deborah and Matt did awesome as well -- but I don't know their full names.

Thanks Lara!! We all could not have done it without you.

Monday, August 7, 2006

The Dean on Nimpo

We just got back from a most fabulous weekend getaway to the West Chilcotin where we stayed at "The Dean on Nimpo" lodge on Nimpo Lake.

Quite a while ago -- in January I think -- I participated in a contest through the local Radio station (CKNW) which advertised the "Cariboo Chilcotin Coast" region of BC. The prize was 2 nights accommodation at The Dean on Nimpo lodge on Nimpo Lake including air fare from Vancouver to Anahim Lake with Pacific Coastal Airlines, a $50 food voucher and use of a motor boat.

In February I got a call from CKNW telling me that I had won that trip. Whoohoo! However, it took us quite a while to actually manage to fit it in. We left Friday morning in a Beechcraft 1900C from Vancouver's South Terminal to Bella Coola and, after a short fuel stop, on to Anahim Lake. There we were picked up by Donn Irwin for the trip out to the lodge on Nimpo Lake some 17 km east. Donn and Phyllis Irwin are the proprietors of The Dean on Nimpo and outstanding hosts! I think I was supposed to call with the time when we arrive, but I forgot. Things out here are a little more relaxed... so Phyllis just called the Anahim Airport to see if a Klaus is on the flight and so they know to come and pick us up.

Once we got settled into our super large and luxurious suite we went to the "Pilot's Bar and Grill" for a scrumptious lunch before heading out for a little walk in the woods. After that we were already getting tired and ready for some chillin' at the lake. A little reading and getting sun-burned is just what I needed. Before we knew it, it was dinner time and we spend a wonderful evening on the patio with great food and lots of drinks.

Next day we headed up the road to the bakery for some breakfast. It was supposed to be closed only on Sundays but for some reason it was closed on the Saturday as well, so we went into the local Cafe for breakfast. They fixed us up with some yummy bacon and eggs and loads of extra tasty coffee.

Time to explore Nimpo Lake some more. Donn fixed us up with a boat and motor and we headed out on the Lake. OH MY GOD! It could simply not have been nicer. Since we both don't fish, it was just about drifting on the water, watching the float-plane take off and land, and generally enjoy the fantastic weather!

After a few hours on the water we borrowed two mountain bikes and headed into the woods for a bit. That fun had to be cut seriously short as the mosquitoes were killing us! That was one thing there I could have done without: hungry mosquitoes! Even with insect repellent they came after you like it was nothing. It seemed they lick it off, spit it out, and then bite you twice as nasty!

Another great evening in their restaurant and two bottles of red wine and we were ready to call it a night. Unfortunately we had to leave already the next morning.

There were two other parties in the lodge: one family from Switzerland and a young couple. They decided to go on a flight-seeing tour in a DeHavilland Beaver float plane in the morning. So we go to see them take off while enjoying our morning coffee. Then Donn gave us a lift back to the Anahim Lake Airport.

Thanks Phyllis and Donn! We had a fantastic time. Way too short, but unforgettable. We are now planning to be back there in the winter. Ideally over New Years. Maye not this year, but who knows...

And of course photos of the trip can be found on Flickr

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Summerfast 10k

Yesterday I ran the Summerfast 10k. This is a race around the Seawall here in Vancouver put on by the Vancouver Falcons Athletic Club. The race itself was good, but I stunk! My not-so-secret goal was to post a new PB and crack the 44-minute mark. But with the insane heat this weekend that was not likely to happen.

I felt great - really great - before the run. But then I forgot to take my obligatory pre-run gel (doh!) and also went out way too fast. That and the heat and whatnot and I only reached 48:36.

Oh well... next time will be better.

Friday, July 14, 2006

WorldGym Sucks Big Time!!

I used to belong to the BodyCo Fitness Club in Yaletown. It was a bit pricey but had excellent service and the higher cost also meant that it was well kept and, well, frankly catered to a certain clientele -- or rather did not cater to a certain clientele. They also offered something that is not all that common in fitness clubs these days: you paid month-by-month and could cancel anytime with a 30-day notice.

In January of this year they sold their operation to WorstGym err WorldGym... urgh. Immediately I associated their name with a mindless iron-pumping sweatshop outfit. Not entirely fair as I did not even know them really. So I figured I should really give them a try. I asked what changes they are planning and they said: "Only improvements! First of all your membership fee will be lower, and we are getting new and better equipment." OK, cool! So what about the service aspect like towel service, opening hours, convenient payment and cancellation structure, etc? "Oh no! That will all stay the same as you have always had it. Well, except for the water bottle service, that is kind of gross and we'll stop that." OK, super cool! I always have my water bottle with me anyway and never really got the 'convenience' of leaving it there anyway.

So then a few weeks later I came in after work for my work-out -- a little late and rushed as always and the new ditz behind the counter -- aptly named Celine! -- told me that my BodyCo key tag is no good anymore to sign in. We all need to sign over to WorldGym now -- and yes of course we'll be getting WorldGym key tags now. Well... soon anyway... any day now really. But back to the contract... Now I am thinking "Fuck me! Can I please just work out? I am late already..." However, nice guy that I am am, I am smiling sweetly and saying "Alright, so what is the deal?"
Ditz-Celine: "Your membership fee is only $45 (or thereabouts) per month now. Isn't that awesome?"
Klaus: "Yea, great. What about cancellation? Has that changed from the BodyCo structure of cancelling anytime?"
Ditz-Celine: "Oh you can still cancel anytime but now you pay less. And we are getting new equipment in. And blah blah blah "
Klaus: "OK, lets get this over with where do I sign? "
Ditz-Celine: "Right here -- and I need a cancelled cheque for the pre-authorized payment."
Klaus: "I don't have one with me. You can use my Visa card as BodyCo did. You will have that number on file."
Ditz-Celine: "We are not yet set up for credit cards but you can bring a cheque next time you come in."
Klaus: "OK, good."

Yea, yea, yea... I know what you are going to say. I am an idiot for signing something without reading the details. In fact, we sign shit all the time without reading the fine print. Live just happens to get in the way sometimes.

So anyway. Time moves on and service at WorstGym starts fading... First there was a noticeable influx of wannabe muscle builder and other mind-numbing nitwits. Then one day they tell me that they stopped the towel service. Just like that... no notice or anything. And of course they tell me after my sweaty workout -- in the evening in the middle of winter and a 1o-minute walk away from my car!! Have you lost your fucking minds people???

The spray to wipe down the machines started disappearing too. The 'cool WorldGym' key-tags never did arrive, instead I had to carry some stupid paper card in my wallet. The more subtle equipment like tubing started to disappear almost completely too. At one point I noticed an sign advertising new opening hours -- shorter ones of course. At this time I already did not care anymore really as I had pretty much made up my mind to leave them as soon as I have the time so find a new gym.

By now I was also working out once a week with my running coach and personal trainer Lara Penno at Momentum Fitness (now THAT is an awesome facility!!) and only went to the gym one additional time per week.

Somewhat recently our strata council decided that it is time to upgrade the fitness room in our building. And they have done a really nice job. (I am giving myself a little bit credit here now as I am on the council right now.) So really there is not that much reason for me to belong to a shitty gym and this is much more convenient. And Lara tailors my workout program to the equipment that I do have available.

The Cancellation
So now I decided to cancel my membership and called them to ask where and to whom to address my cancellation. I was told to call Alfonso so I did. He told me "No problem! Just send a letter to the WorldGym on Homer or simply drop it off." And so I did. On Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at around noon I dropped the cancellation letter of at the front desk at the gym on Homer and the lady behind the counter told me she'd make sure that Alfonso gets it. Of course the cancellation was not for June 1, but for July 1 in accordance with the 30-day cancellation policy of the agreement that I had with BodyCo.

Somehow I knew that WorstGym would not cancel it as requested and hence was not surprised to see the charge on July 4 on my bank statement. I tried to reach Alfonso to discuss this. After finally making contact with him and explaining the situation he told me that he would look into it right away and get back to me. He told me that this was probably just a clerical error and that it can and will be resolved right away.

Dealing with this Alfonso guy is kind of like dealing with an ultra-slimy used car salesman who is incredibly full of himself. So no surprise that "getting back to me" took quite a while and then he still hadn't had time to look into it, but it was "on top of his priority list"... After yet some more time we finally did connect and he then acted really baffled. "Explain to me again what the problem is. 'Cause I don't see a problem here..." What he referred to was the contract that I signed back then with Ditz-Celine and he is now holding me to it. When I asked him about all the promises that nothing material in the membership format should change from the BodyCo times, he replied that "this is why we sign contracts and write things down".

Well yes, contract as fine and dandy and very useful I agree. But the is also something like sticking to your word and promises, and not deliberately misleading people. Anyway, for me this is not about money at all. The whole contract value is just a tad over C$300 - so nothing to get all worked up over. But boy-oh-boy, shit like this with people like this Alfonso character really do piss me off.

In the end I told Alfonso that he should please send me a written confirmation that my membership is officially cancelled as of February 1, 2007. He had the fucking nerve to tell me that this was not necessary as he already has the cancellation in front of him and we have discussed it now over the phone. Is he completely brain-dead?? I reminded him of the fact that just minutes ago he told me that if it is not in writing it does not count. He then mumbled that this was somehow different (or so, he was not very intelligible). I told him that this is not different at all and would he please send me a written confirmation of the cancellation. He promised that he would do that. Of course I have not received it after two weeks and so I went to my bank to initiate a PAP retraction. And I will initiate another retraction if they make a withdrawal again on August 1 -- until that nitwit sends confirmation letter.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

One Hot Run

Today was the Vancouver Scotiabank Half Marathon. And it was one hot day - something like near 30ยบ Celsius inland and seemingly not much less near the water. Thankfully the organizers had the foresight to move the start time up by half an hour to 7:00 AM. Nonetheless, I run better in cold rain than I do in heat I think.

I also think that I am generally better suited to run marathons than I am to run shorter distances. Even though this may not be an entirely fair statement, as I have not really specifically trained very well for halfs in two years. The last two half marathons have been about seven weeks after I ran a - successful - marathon. Last year in November in Seattle after the early October Victoria Marathon, and today the VSHM after the Vancouver Marathon on May 7.

My time today was 1:46:18 which is exactly 23 seconds slower than my previous personal best time of 1:45:55 - also at the VSHM in 2004. By which time I had not done any full marathons yet, and trained (as it were) specifically for the half distance.

My dream goal today was 1:40. Achieving this would have given me a huge amount of confidence that I can do a 3:30 full marathon in the Fall. This in turn would put me on the right track to get a Boston qualifying time of 3:20 next year in the Fall. But never mind that now... My real goal - the one I set my paceband to - was 1:42. And finally my "C" goal was beating my previous personal best. Well, I managed none of them... and this really pisses me off!

In the end I can not blame much more than my own inability. I was well rested, felt good, was ready and keen to go, and yet... Well, I think I could blame the heat and the proximity to my last marathon, but that seems a little lame. So, I'll just have to work a little harder on my shorter distances. More speedwork and less bitchin' when I do do speedwork. SUCK IT UP PRINCESS!!

So here now a some positive words about the half today:
  • The weather was absolutely gorgeous!
  • Lots of cheering people out on the course for support.
  • It is still the most scenic Half I can possibly imagine. From UBC down to Second Beach.
  • It is still (and I am so going to get in trouble with my wife for this who I know sometimes reads these postings) the one race in Vancouver with absolutely the greatest number of stunningly beautiful young women in it -- and that makes any run so much more enjoyable. (Though after about 10k I couldn't care less even if Claudia Schiffer was to be running naked in front of me.)
My next race is planned for July 22 - the Summerfast 10k. A race around the Seawall in Vancouver. And of course I am hoping to break 44 minutes for a new 10k PR.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Law Courts Inn

Alex and Roanna asked me today if I wanted to join them for lunch. I asked where they planned to go and Alex said "the Law Courts". Say what now? Yes, the Law Courts.

Hmm, I have been in Vancouver since 1993 and have always tried to stay away from the Law Courts. The thought to hang out with some lawyers and judges for lunch did not ever cross my mind. But hey, Roanna and Alex said the food is ok and I was hungry.

I had no idea that this restaurant even existed. And if the weather is nice I am sure the view there is something very pretty too. Today it was so-so. But the company was nice -- well Roanna and Alex, not the lawyers -- and the food was indeed quite good and not at all expensive.

See... learn something new every day.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Amsterdam, May 14

Happy Birthday To Me! Finally I am 40... I couldn't wait.

Esthi had this really cool idea... She wrote to many of my friends and told them where we would be on my birthday so they could send me a card to the Hotel de Filosoof where we stayed.

I got up and wanted to take a shower in the seriously tiny bathroom -- not more than a wet-cell really. Esthi already told me that the water is not that hot. Urgh! Turns out the water is fucking freezing cold - DAMN! So the shower was rather quick and I was rather annoyed. But it was my birthday and I was determined to not let this bother me too much.

Then I got out of the bathroom and saw that the bed was covered with all kinds of cards. That was soo totallywickedawesomecool! What a great surprise. Now I am busy reading the mail for a while and of course by the time I am done breakfast in the hotel is over. Not to worry, there is plenty of food to be had in the city I am sure.

The receptionist said something about a place in the Vondelpark right next to the hotel. We went to the park, but did not really find that place she mentioned or another cosy looking breakfast/lunch type spot. So we went to the downtown core to hunt for food.

Eventually we did find food and after breakfast went to the Heineken museum. That was a demand I made for my birthday :-)

I think we may have done a canal tour today as well. Actually, I am sure we did that today. Then we decided to go back to the hotel to rest and freshen up for dinner.

We had the hotel call us a cab as this super secret restaurant was seemingly far away. When the cab arrived Esthi gave the driver the address of the restaurant - not the name, just the address, as to not tip me off. The driver went to the next corner, pulled over, got out his map and started studying it in all peace and quiet - all the while the meter ticking away...

Well, never mind that. Eventually we are off and kept going, and going, and going... Once we got to some seriously industrial area, I started doubting that Esther did the proper research on the restaurant. But eventually we arrived, I got out, looked and the logo and thought "damn, where do I know that logo from...?" Then it hit me! FIFTEEN - the Jamie Oliver restaurant - in Amsterdam! Now that is fantastic!!

The service was great and the food even better. We had a super-great time. Of course we ate and drunk too much... so we decided to walk back into town. That was a really nice walk and not even as far as it seemed with the cab. Eventually we ended up in Leidseplein again for a few more drinks before turning in.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Amsterdam, May 12 - 13

Fri - May 12
After working until 3:00 PM PDT sharp, I drove home to be sure to have enough time to finish packing and freshening up and whatnot before I had to leave at 5:15 for the airport. I ended up having a good extra 45 or so minutes so I decided to for a quick 30 min swim. After the swim I got slowly ready, went downstairs and called a cab.

I called Yellow Cab and when I asked the dispatcher how long it would take he seemed very annoyed and said 20-25 minutes. I told him that this would not work for me and if there is something faster. He told me "no" and hung up. Asshole! I then called BackTop/Checker Cabs and the dispatcher here told me about 15-20 min. They arrived in just over 15 min - great. Off to the airport. As my cab was just about to drop me off at the terminal, I got the automated call that my cab (Yellow Cab) will be arriving in 5 minutes. Well, laadeedaa...

Esthi met me at the terminal and I had to check my baggage with Leeanna and Neelam [sic?], Esther's buddies. I got my Business Class (yay!) boarding card and we made our way the gate. Boarding started not too long thereafter and I sat for the first time in Business Class. Pretty sweet way to travel! Lots of leg room, champagne before take-off, good food, rest, the whole nine yards.

Sat - May 13
Needless to say we arrived in Amsterdam well rested. We cabbed it to the Hotel de Filosoof right next to the Vondelpark in Amsterdam and checked into our very (very!) small room. After a quick shower and freshen up we made our way to "downtown Amsterdam." Well, we actually only made it to Leidseplein. Heck, that is downtown enough. We had a number of drinks and went for dinner at some Italian joint in restaurant row near the Plein. When I wanted to pay with my Visa card the waiter came back and told me it does not work -- card be read. Damn! I knew the card had sometimes trouble since it is quite old and beat up. But I did not think to replace it before the trip. Anyway, not a problem, we paid cash or with Esther's card or whatnot and went back to the hotel. There we got word that my uncle Jens from Freiburg tried to call me. I tried calling back, but no answer. We went for some drinks to the hotel bar and I already told Esther that I think that this probably means that my sister-on-law has passed away.

Inge, my brother's wife, was diagnosed with primary and malignant brain cancer three months earlier. After an emergency operation that left her left-side paralyzed, things got worse pretty quickly.

When we got back to our room, I tried calling Jens once more and this time they were at home. Jens confirmed my suspicions and told us that Inge has passed away earlier that day. I decided to call Christian right away. He was obviously very sad and shaken, but overall composed and we agreed that I would call back the next day again.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Amsterdam Trip - Short Version

(Longer version to follow)

Fri - May 12
Worked until 3:00 PM PDT, drove home, went for a 30 min swim, got ready, cab to YVR, met up with Esthi, boarded business class to AMS

Sat - May 13
Arrived in AMS in the early PM, cab to Hotel de Filosoof, started to explore city, ended up with some drinks outside at Leidseplein, back to the hotel for a night cup.

Sun - May 14 -- Happy Birthday To Me!!
Woke up and after the shower found tons of cards and letters and gifts spread out all over the bed! Went to the city for some breakfast, then the Heineken museum followed by more Amsterdam walking. Back to the hotel, freshen up, taxi to the restaurant for dinner. BIG SURPRISE! The restaurant was "Fifteen"! Great dinner, walked back to town, more drinks at Leidsplein again before calling it a day.

Mon - May 15
Run in Vondelpark before breakfast in the hotel, Van Gogh museum, rented fietzen to explore Amsterdam. In the evening met Ben Rooney, many drinks and back to the hotel.

Tue - May 16
Rented fietzen again later in the day and did some more biking through AMS. Kept them overnight so we'd have 'em again in the moring.

Wed - May 17
Another run in Vondelpark and breakfast at the hotel. More AMS on bike and foot. Checked our the red light district in the ealrly evening. Not really sure what else we did.

Thu - May 18 -- Happy Birthday Esther!!
Left early for the train to Hamburg. Christian picked us up at the main station we went for a walk in the neighbourhood and later my uncle Jens arrived in Bargteheide as well. Good family evening.

Fri - May 19
Today at 11:00 was Inge's funeral - very emotial time of course. In the afternoon we drove to visit my mum's grave in Bosau. In the evening dinner at restaurant "Utspan".

Sat - May 20
Early morning run near Christian's house. More good family time and in the afternoon with the train to Hamburg and on to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam on to Schipol and further to the Ibis hotel near the airport. Drinks and sleep.

Sun - May 21
After breakfast to the airport. Baggage check-in and uh-oh... the flight is overbooked by some 11 pax. Hoped for the best and we almost made it on. But in the end no luck. Back to Amsterdam, check in at the Canal House Hotel, shopping for some cloths (ran out of clean cloths) at C&A, dinner, dinks, sleep.

Mon - May 22
Breakfast at the hotel, more time in Amsterdam, feet getting tired. Tram to train, train to Schiphol. Waiting for boarding time and again it does not look promsing. Shit! We are left behind again. Strategizing more options to get home, listed ourselves for the Northwest flight to Seattle tomorrow in addition to the KLM flight to Vancouver. Back to the Hotel Ibis Airport, dinner, drinks, sleep.

Tue - May 23
Breakfast at the hotel and off to Schiphol. First thing: check with MartinAir what the load for tomorrow's flight to YVR is. Only 2 seats left! FUCK! Baggage checked in to Vancouver with KLM -- KLM is delayed until 1900. Off to the Northwest boarding. Uh-oh! Small plan going to Seattle. The dude telling us that chances don't look too good -- any day to Seattle it is full. Starting to panic... Discussing our options over a cup of coffee. Result: Back to the MartinAir counter and buy those two remaining seats. Euro 1,350 - urgh! Still we try to get on the KLM flight to be home a day earlier. KLM is so overbooked we don't even have to wait around. Off to the baggage area to get our bags back and then back to the Hotel. This time even cheaper than Ibis: Etap Hotel right next to Ibis. Same company: Accor Hotels. Dinner, drinks, sleep.

Wed - May 24
Straight off to the airport to check in early with MartinAir to get good seats. Almost the first to check in and we got great seats. Breakfast and waiting at Schiphol. 1400 and we finally board a plane that is Vancouver bound! 1600 PDT we are back in our home. Whew!

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Race Day!

Disclaimer: after having denied myself any alcohol for 30 days prior to today's race, I just got back from dinner: a big honking slab of ribs and 3 pints!! So what ever ramblings follow, please keep in mind that after 30 days of abstinence and 26.2 miles of running, 3 pints pretty much do me in. Oh yea, I am sipping a merlot now...

Today was race day! The Vancouver International Marathon - May 7, 2006 start time 7:30 AM. The event that I have been training towards to for some four months now.

This is was my third full marathon. My first was last years' Vancouver Marathon and my second was the Royal Victoria Marathon last Fall. The training started first thing in the new year. Well, technically the first "Sunday Long Run" was January 8, but for me it was as soon as the holidays were over: Tuesday, January 3rd. After all the holiday pig-outs, that was the day I decided to step back onto the scale. Not a pretty picture I tell you: 217 pounds! URGH! Thankfully I knew that a lot of this weight was of the kind that results from all the holiday over eating (and drinking) comes off easier.

I am training with the run groups that Lara Penno puts on with the Right Shoe here in Vancouver. Lara's very personal coaching style really works for me. Generally we meet every Tuesday evening for a group run of about 45-60 minutes and of course the Sunday long run. The first one was 1:30 and this time we did 2 weeks of build and one week of "rest". Where rest is defined as a 1:30 run with some drills/speed work/etc at the end. For the remainder of the week Lara hands out a very detailed training plan that has a total of five days running. Mondays and Saturdays are off.

My personal training plan at first evolved into Mondays being off-off - i.e. that is no work - and Saturdays doing something else cross training. With this training regime and some basic eating discipline (which is brutally hard for me as I love to eat -- lots!) I started to drop some pounds.

Oh, maybe I ought to mention why I wanted to drop the pounds... besides the obvious vanity reasons I don't want to get into. My finish time in Victory in October was 3:54 and I have my heart set on a new goal time of 3:45 and I figured with running training alone I can not do it. So my action plan to reach this goal (SMART goals and all) was to:
  • lose weight
  • stick to strict heart rate training as per Lara's plan
  • do proper cross training (weights, swimming, etc)
There we have it. So on the Sunday run on February 12 I mentioned to my good running buddy Karmen that I have stagnated with my weight-loss and was not so happy. She mentioned that she was in the same dilemma. Now Karmen being the ultra competitive girl that she is (x-time Ironman competitor and that like) she proposed a competition: 4 weeks - 6 pounds. Whoever does not make it has to buy the other person a nice gift.

That spurned me on and I sacrificed my Mondays "off-off" for at least a 30-min swim in the morning. I also added weight training with Lara to my program. Every Thursday morning 1 hour of weights in addition to the run. Every Tuesday I did the weights on my own. BTW... Lara is not just a great running coach - she is also phenomenal personal trainer with just the right amount of continues pressure without seeming too much.

In any case, long story short (too late you say?), I kept this routine until the taper and today my average weight was 190 pounds. I really wanted to be 187 - 30 pounds down from Jan 03 - but I settle for 190 even.

The last week was totally weird! On Sunday we had the last group run -- just a quick 1-hour run -- and I felt fantastic! In the evening, out of nowhere, I got a massive toothache (see "Not Now!!" post). Then on Monday I went to get a massage as I really strained my muscles in the previous' week Vancouver Sun Run (44:25 PB). Maybe the RMT was not quite I gentle as I asked her to be, or maybe there was something else, but the day after the massage my left leg around the knee was in quite a bit of discomfort. Anyway the pain went away after a few days, and with the help of the Worlds Best Dentist -- Dr. Michelle Jeffery -- I was pain free in the mouth as well.

So... today was race day... FINALLY!
I got up at 5:15, showered and has breakfast. At 6:15 we left the house. The Worlds Best Wife, Esthi, drove me to the race. We parked some 5 minutes away and as we were walking down, Esthi asks "are you sure you are going to be warm enough?" Just as I was questioning my wisdom as well. For the race I wore a sleeve-less shirt and shorts. For the warm-up I had a sweater and long pants over it as well. And it was not that warm in the drizzle! All in all I did not feel all that fast, warm, or ready this morning.

Anyway, once I warmed up I felt much more confident and also... well... warm. So I give Esthi my sweater, pants, and a big kiss, and am on my way into the starting line up. About one mile into the race I was not bothered by cold or rain. Actually, I was super comfortable and the rain was off and on anyways.

As my goal was less than 3:45, I had my three-part paceband set to: miles 1-3 @ 8:45; miles 4-20 @ 8:25; and miles 21-26.2 @ 8:50; for a and average of 8:33 and a total time of 3:44:06. See paceband

Right off the first mile I was too fast: 8:00/mile. I tried to pull back a bit but somehow sped up again. Soon I was tracking about 4 minutes ahead of my set pace. This really worried my as I did not want to blow out in the second half -- or worse, after the 20 mile marker. Nonetheless, I felt strong and kept a challenging but relaxed pace.

This year they put the first name on the bib in pretty large letters. It was pretty cool to hear "Go Klaus! You can do it!!" and all kinds of variations thereof from perfect strangers. But then there were the real pick-me-ups along the course as well:
  • @ 1.5 miles: Zerlina and Taz. Thanks a lot guys - you totally rock!
  • @ 7 miles: Brent form The Right Shoe. Unexpected and super welcome on the first notable uphill of the course.
  • @ 17 miles: Lara, shortly followed by the Zerlina and Taz once again (or was it the other way around?)
  • @ 18.5 miles: Monica. Thanks MB!! Your really did help me through a super tough stretch and I was so happy to see you there.
  • @ 22.5 miles: Monica again -- and just as welcome!
  • @ 25 miles: Lara and Tim. I got a real boost out of your encouragement there. Thanks!
  • @ 26 miles (un-noticed) and after 26.2 miles: Esther!!
  • And not too forget Erin, Karmen, and Lisa who also ran and gave me encouragement on Cornwall!
After about 17 miles I had to rely on my mantra's a lot. The pain was creeping in and things started to get really tough. I did a lot of "tic-toc-tic-toc-tic-..." and "1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-1-2-3-..." among all the others, but I also had to keep telling myself that the pain and nausea (which is my minds favorite technique to slow me down) is just that: my mind trying to fuck with me.

Here is the best part: on the last stretch I really pushed it in and crossed the finish line with a net time of 3:39:14!! Whoohoo! I am ultra-happy! 5 minutes faster than my goal time. 15 minutes faster than my previous personal best time (Victoria 3:54), and a full 30 minutes faster than my first marathon a year ago here in at the Vancouver International as well.

Rest in the afternoon and I mentioned dinner already.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Not Now!!

I can not effin' belive this!

Yesterday was the last Sunday run with the running group before the Vancouver International Marathon coming Sunday. I feel great and am good to go to achieve my goal of 3:45 or better -- 9 minutes off my previous personal record. All my buddies from the running group tell me "you are so ready!" My coach tells me I am more than ready. And most importantly... I felt super ready.

Then, last night just after supper, out of nowhere, I am getting this brutal toothache in on of the upper right molars. Damn!! I really really don't need this now. Not only is this not helpful for running a good marathon, but I am also going to Amsterdam five days after the race. The last thing I want to have on my mind in Amsterdam is a bloody toothache.

Needless to say I did not sleep very well last night. This morning I wake up and the pain is a bit less but I can still feel it is not... quite there. So I call my dentist and just as I am dialing I remember that this must be the exact same tooth that he worked on about 2.5 years ago. I can still remember that pain!

Now it turns out my dentistry is closed until... guess when! Race Day F...!

My collegue Saf keeps telling me that he knows the World's Best Dentist - Bar None. Saf is quite world travelled so I guess I take his word for it. He gave me the number and now I have an appointment for tomorow afternoon at 5:00 PM.

To be continued... after the visit to the world's best dentist.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Where I Cooked

I started out cooking after high school in with sort of an internship for about six months in "Der Rosenhof" in Ahrensburg, near Hamburg in Germany.

Then, in August 1982, I started my formal 3-year apprenticeship as chef also in "Der Rosenhof", but in a different location: Grosshansdorf. Grosshansdorf is where I lived since birth. It is about 45 minutes form Hamburg with the subway line U1.

After finishing my apprenticeship with just barely good enough grades, I got a job as "commis de cuisine" with the 5-star Hotel Palace in the Europa Center in Berlin. I stayed with them for a total of two years. In my first year I was working for the Cafe-Restaurant "Tiffanys". For the second year I was lucky enough to work with a fantastic crew under Chef Uwe Bressem in their fine dining restaurant "La Reserve" - now re-located and re-named to "First Floor.

After that I bounced around Berlin a bit in smaller places not all of which I can even recall. This was largely to kill time (and yes, make money) until I got a job abroad.

In February 1988 I got a job with the 5-star Hotel International in Basel (now part if the Radisson SAS chain of hotels), Switzerland. During my time it was privately owned and most expertly managed by Rolf and Ines Gasteyger. I cooked under Chef Othmar Mueller and learned in my one year there probably more than anywhere else.

It is also here in Basel at the Hotel International where I first met my now wife Esther.

At the end of my contract there I had a job lined up with the Stonehedge Inn in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. However, due to personal circumstances I had to stay in Germany for some time still. Threfore I got a job with the 4-star Hotel Mondial in Berlin for six months.

The people at the Stonehedge Inn were nice and understanding enough to hold my job and the work permit that went along with it and in November 1989 I finally moved to Tyngsboro in Massachusetts. Actually I lived in Nashua, New Hampshire, but close enough.

Esther joined me at the Stonehedge Inn in 1990, and in January 1991 we moved back to Switzerland.

I found a great job with the historic 5-star Hotel "Grand Hotel National" in Lucerne. In the late 1800's Caesar Ritz was the general manager of the hotel and Auguste Escoffier the head chef. Now that is some pretty Ritzy history (sorry! I could not resist...).

Back then the easiest work permit for a foreign chef in Switzerland to obtain was a "seasonal" permit. It was good for a maximum of nine months and at the end of it I left the National.

I did return to Lucerne three months later to work at the hotel almost next door to the National: the almost equally history 5-star Hotel Palace.

Again, nine months later my permit was up and I left Lucerne for good. While in Lucerne I applied with the Canadian Government for a permanent resident visa. Not that I had planned to live in Canada forever, it just seemed the most practical permit to get since I really did not know where in Canada I wanted to go and for how long I wanted to stay.

Now before you go seething and thinking that I just can't seem to be able to hold down a job very long, it is quite expected for a young chef to move around a lot to learn different ways.

April 1, 1993 I arrived in Vancouver, BC and officially became Landed Immigrant in Canada. Before I arrived I had a job with the Four Seasons Hotel here in Vancouver. I stayed with them for about a year before opening The Black Dog Billiard Cafe in New Westminster with my friend Peter Sturm. Peter is a fellow chef whom I have met at the Four Seasons.

The Black Dog adventure lasted 5 years and with the conclusion of it, so concluded my professional cooking career.

In case you were wondering... Esther and I obviously stayed together during these "wandering years" and we eventually got married on July 1, 2004.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Why I Cook

Why do I cook?
Well, truth be told, I am not cooking all that much anymore. But the longer I am out of the profession, the more I seem to enjoy cooking again. And it sure has been a long time since I stopped cooking for a living. I came to Canada as a chef on April 1 (insert your silly April Fools joke here if you must), 1993. I secured a job with the Four Seasons in Vancouver before I arrived and stayed with them for about a year.

With my friend and fellow chef Peter Sturm whom I met at the Four Seasons we decided to open a Billiard Cafe in New Westminster. During the five years we operated The Black Dog Billiard Cafe I still did some cooking for the Cafe's menu.

When, after five years, we decided to call it quits, it also meant the end of me as a professional chef. I got hooked on the Internet and started building a career in the web development field.

So, as I said, the longer I have been away from cooking professionally, the more I enjoy it again. It has now been seven years since the end of the Black Dog and twelve years since the end of the Four Seasons. Cooking is fun again!

I now cook mostly for my great wife Esther either when it is my turn during the week (oh yes! we have a strict schedule of who's turn it is when) and for special occasion. I really like to do a big production cooking on the rather rare occasions when we have friends over.

Maybe one day I'll add a recipie section to this blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Why I Run

Why do I run?
Simple... I love to eat! No, seriously, I have a tremendous appetite and unfortunately not too much self control. In June of 2001 I weight in at over 250 pounds and my doctor told me that I am developing type 2 diabetes. He then made an appointment with a diabetes clinic for me so I could learn all about my "new lifestyle".

So I figured if I had to change my lifestyle that drastically, I would do it on my own terms and with me in the drivers seat.

During my apprenticeship as chef back in the 80's I did learn the basics about nutrition. Although I was always much more interested in "good cooking" rather than nutritious cooking. Seeing if those two could be combined was not really a priority for me. Drawing on this somewhat weak knowledge of nutrition, I looked at my diet to see what easy changes I could make that would give me lots of bang for the buck -- the low hanging fruit so to say. I quickly realized that besides eating too much, I ate way to much carbohydrates. But who doesn't??

So on June 26, 2001 I started my diet that did not include carbs - period. Well, as much as possible anyway. Thankfully it was summer and lighter eating in general is easier. I started going to this Salad Bar place in Yaletown (Hyrise Produces?) every day for lunch. A big-ass salad with lots of egg and tuna and ham and god-knows-what. For dinner I would usually have another salad with chicken and/or tuna and the like. I dropped pounds like you wouldn't believe! But only for a while. And then I stagnated and needed something else...

One day, on CKNW, the talk radio station I listen to, I heard an ad for Le Physique - a personal training facility in Vancouver. Since I was out of high school I have not seen the inside of a gym! So a more private facility with someone there to tell me what to actually do there and motivate me sounded like a good option. I looked them up online, emailed them and got a call back the same day. We arranged for an initial meet to see what this is all about. When I went there the Lorraine (the owner) did a good job on selling me. I signed up for about a month worth of sessions - 3 times a week.

Each session included 1/2 hour of cardio and for the longest time this did not include running. After a while though they added some light running/walking, then some running, and so on.

This gave my weight-loss a much needed boost. And it also gave me an additional boost of energy. Soon I wanted to do more than just the 3x/week and I started to go swimming in the morning. Did I mention that we have a small pool in the building? Well, we do. Thus going for a quick 30 minute swim in the morning is not so bad. But again, after a while this too turned pretty boring. In the meantime I have been doing more running at the gym and I decided to take it outside. I live in South-East Vancouver and the there is this stretch of walk ways along the Fraser River going just shy of 1.5 miles in one direction. I started out walk/running this almost 5k stretch and after a while managed to run the whole thing.

That is pretty much it... now I can not stop running.