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.