Friday, March 31, 2006

Back in the saddle

My comeback on the treadmill yesterday was apparently successful. The calf still hurts a bit, but it has definitely not gotten worse. In fact, I think it is better than yesterday before the run. Nevertheless I will take it slow for the rest of the week, but from next Monday on normal training will resume.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Elephant joy

This morning in the Cologne zoo the elephant baby was finally born. The zoo has expected this birth since last October! Why did they get the timing so wrong? Apparently the elephant's keeper saw mum and dad get down to business one afternoon. So, when it became clear that she was pregnant the zoo assumed that it knew the day of conception. Maybe they should have installed the Elefantcam a little sooner and monitor night-time activities. You can now use it to have a look at the baby elephant. It's not yet clear whether it's a boy or a girl.

And now for something completely different: I have been running tonight for 80 minutes at a slow pace and my leg seems to be ok. If there is still no pain tomorrow, I will resume normal training. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Day four...

...without running. My leg is slowly getting better, but when I sprinted to catch the train home yesterday it was clear, it's not good enough yet to resume training. I miss it.

My trainer has finally contacted me about the errors in the training schedule I reported. He thinks they have found the bug in the software and it is nothing they can fix themselves. He said, that he could of course manually change my training schedule, but that it would be much easier if I just had a look at the results of my last fitness test and worked the speed out myself. Which means, he cannot be asked to work and is telling me to sod off.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

In pain

Again it's difficult to give the exact training amount scheduled for this week. My trainer still hasn't answered my questions about the errors in the training schedule. No service please, we are German! I have sent him a couple of emails by now to which he did not react and I cannot reach him by phone either.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to run a half-marathon race this week and asked the afore mentioned trainer to include this in the training schedule. He just told me that it would be ok to run the race, but that I should not run "too fast". What exactly that means remains his secret.

So, the schedule before inclusion of the half-marathon (and with my assumed correction of the error): 8 hours 10 minutes and58.1 k

I included the half-marathon and scheduled 2 hours 10 minutes for it, which I thought was fast, but not too fast. Based on this the stats of the week are as follows:

Total running time this week: 5 hours 32 minutes (scheduled: 7 hours 10 minutes)

Total distance run: 48.2 km (scheduled 57.4 km)

The half-marathon was ok, the track not quite as nice as I had expected it to be. The half-marathon race is part of Königsforst Marathon (for the marathon distance you have to run the half-marathon loop twice - surprise, surprise). The track runs through a forest area in the East of Cologne, but it includes a couple of the roads through the forest (some of them are quite busy) and even in the forest part of the track is tarmac. I was satisfied with my result: 02:02:33 for the 21.1 km. That's an average speed of 05:53 min/km.

The good news is, that my right knee is no longer hurting. The pain has gone completely. The bad news: my left calf is killing me. During the race yesterday it pinched a bit, but not too badly. When I got out of bed this morning, I could hardly walk. A nightmare! I limped to the kiosk to get my Sunday paper and decided that that was enough movement for the day. No running and - if at all possible - no walking either. I have put on a salve bandage and am keeping my fingers crossed that it will do the trick. My drugstore is not as impressive as Uli's and I would like to keep it that way.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

One month to go

In exactly one months time from today I will have attempted to run the first marathon of my life. Let's hope that I will have successfully completed the first marathon and am still alive to tell the tale.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Down by the river (Part 3)

You can rent this boat for parties or other events. It looks like a death-trap to me, but I don't think it ever leaves the jetty, so it's probably ok.

On this side of the river no meadow leads gently to the stream, so steps are needed everywhere:

A flock of seagulls (singing I ran ... not)

The old warehouses are currently renovated and converted into shops, offices and flats. I don't think I will be able to afford living here. The view over the river will be reflected in the rent. But then this is flood area, so I am not too sad.

This is the Bayenturm. It was built in the 11th century as part of the medieval city fortification.

I don't know what this is, but I like it:

This is the German Sports and Olympic Museum. I have not yet been inside, but I do want to go.

The Chocolate Museum...

This I have visited, but I wasn't very impressed. The chocolate fountain is cool...

You get a wafer which has been dipped into the chocolate, but you are not allowed to do that yourself.

I was nearly run over by this...

Strange bird...

This device tells you the current tide gauge of the Rhine:

Back at the main station just minutes before my train back home left. Excellent timing.

Down by the river (Part 2)

There are seven bridges over the river in Cologne. This one is called Südbrücke; it can be used by trains and pedestrians. It was built from 1908 to 1910 and destroyed by bombs in WW II on January 6th, 1945. In 1950 it was completely re-built and opened again for train traffic and walkers.

Where the meadow ends and the river begins you'll find pebbles, sand and shells...

All along the Rhine you will see these markers:

They tell you how many kilometers the Rhine has "on the clock". The starting point (= 0 km) for this chainage is in Konstanz, where the Rhine flows out of Lake Constance.

I walked on in the direction of the autobahn bridge in Rodenkirchen:

It was built from 1938 to 1941 by the engineers Fritz Leonhardt and Paul Bongartz. When it was finished its span of 378 meters made it the bridge with the longest span length in Europe. On January 28th, 1945 it too was hit by bombs and collapsed. In 1952 it was re-opened to traffic. To cope with the increased volume of traffic it was reconstructed from 1990 to 1993 and its width was doubled. Pedestrians can walk over it to the other side, which is what I did.

View from the brigde:

Down by the river (Part 1)

Stats are a bit difficult this week. My training schedule had an error on Thursday: speed, time and distance did not fit together. I have asked my trainer to correct it, but haven't heard anything yet. Therefore I can only guess, what was scheduled for this week.

Total running time this week: 3 hours 32 minutes (scheduled: 7 hours 42 minutes) + 2 hours 15 minutes walked briskly

Total distance run: 26.5 km (scheduled 52.9 km) + 11 km walked

I skipped the three hour run scheduled for today and I had already given the training unit on Wednesday a pass. The messages various parts of my body were sending me got worse. Now it's my right knee and my left calf that are hurting. My neck and shoulders are tense, not from running but work. And yesterday morning I woke up with a running nose.

So, instead of running through the forest I went to record fair in Cologne with two of my friends. This is one of the piles that F. bought:

He spent over 100 Euro today. Three quaters of his flat are occupied by records and record players. The only thing I found was The Lilac Time by The Lilac Time for ... 1 Euro! Ok, it's only the Fontana version, but 1 Euro is ridiculous. After this bargain I was willing to spend too much on a picture disc by The Cure.

My body couldn't make its mind up today. On the one hand it complained about too much running, on the other hand it was restless and clearly wanted to do something. So after the record fair I took it for a two hour walk by the river
Rhine (as far as I am concerned the best thing about Cologne).

Because it was a sunny day, only a few other people had the same idea...

I started off from the fair just opposite the cathedral

and walked down south past the fire brigade's harbour...

and along the river...

Every couple of hundred meters there are these rings on the ground to moor boats...

which of course only works if the water level of the river is normal.

The meadows on this side of the river are very popular. People take their dogs for a walk or fly kites...

This one was a particularly large kite. The guy needed four ropes to navigate it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The biggest German lesson ever - picture proof

A bottle of champagne for the first person, who spots me in this picture of The biggest German lession ever!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My new mobile phone

I have got a new mobile phone. Like most mobile phone contracts mine with Vodafon is automatically extended after two years. And when that happens I can get a new mobile phone for a reduced price. The one I got today was 1€. It included extras (like an adapter for the TransFlash memory card) worth 100 €. It's a Motorola V1050 and I think it's very pretty:

Now playing... and I never thought I'd ever write this... Neil Diamond. Yes, Neil Diamond.

12 Songs produced by Rick Rubin, famous for his beard, his work with The Beastie Boys, Slayer and for resurrecting Johnny Cash a couple of years ago (or rather his carreer). I heard a couple of songs from this album on the radio the other day and was stunned. Neil Diamond, a folk guitar and that's basically it. I didn't know the man could write music like that.

I have also finally caved in and bought Von hier an blind by Wir sind Helden. I liked the first three singles from the album, but somehow I refrained from buying it. It was the latest single, Wenn es passiert, that finally won me over.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Me, I am going to be in the Guiness Book of Records

Tonight we took part in the biggest German lesson ever and will therefore be in the next edition of the Guiness Book of Records! We even made it into the 10 o'clock news on ARD, Germany's first television programme. Finally... my 15 minutes of fame.

The lesson took place in Köln Arena and Pascale, myself and 14,998 other "students" were taught proper German by "teachers" like Bastian Sick, Wladimir Kaminer and Basta. Great fun! And Pascale, being a French native speaker, was surprised to learn that a lot of the English words we now have in the German language have replaced French ones (e.g. we used to say Boutique, now we say Fashion Store). Bastian Sick said, "God used to live in France, but he has apparently moved to Miami".

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Batman and Robin

First things first. Here are the stats of the week (aka Karen's soporific - without adverse effects, I hope):

Total running time this week: 8 hours 14 minutes (scheduled: 8 hours 14 minutes)

Total distance run: approx. 63.8 km (scheduled 59.4 km)

I was going too fast in the forest today, so instead of doing 20.6 km I did approx. 25 km. Both my knees don't feel too good right now, so next week I will only do three of the five training units and give my legs some rest.

Uli (or Uli in English) is currently taking part in a running workshop on Cyprus, enjoying sunshine and nice temperatures. I must say, this morning I really envied him! It was COLD.

Winter is back and there is a bit of snow on the ground. Last week's mud-bath has frozen over, which makes running difficult in places. The atmosphere is beautiful in the morning:

I managed to take a picture of a Sciurius vulgaris or squirrel or, as my brother calls them, a rat with a fluffy tail:

Unfortunately it was on its way up the tree in a hurry, so the picture is not very clear.

This week the bats in this forest made worldwide headline news. The two Robbie Williams' concerts that were to take place here in August may have to be canceled, because conservationists fear his singing could scare the little fellows away. Or even worse, make them drop dead. Now, I know Robbie Williams is not the greatest singer on the face of the earth, but that does sound a bit exaggerated. Further investigation showed that the problem is not Mr Williams' singing itself, but the fact that the stage will be build during the night on the bats' hunting ground,

which incidentally is the place I start my Sunday runs from.

So, who are these guys that are taking on thousands of hysterical RW fans? You want names and faces? Unfortunately on Sunday morning Batman and Robin are nowhere to be seen, because they are nocturnal animals. The only thing I have got for you is is a picture of one of their homes up in the trees:

Seven different types of bats have been spotted in Cologne. Meet the most common ones (pictures taken from without asking permission; sorry!):

The noctule bat or Großer Abendsegler (Nyctalus noctula) (wingspan's 40 cm, they are the largest bats here)

and the Daubenton's bat or Wasserfledermaus (Myotis daubentonii) (wingspan's 25 cm, so they are medium in size, but apparently they have very large feet!)

and the pipistrelle bat or Zwergfledermaus (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) (wingspan's only 20 cm, they are "Zwerge" (dwarfs) indeed)

So, this is what Robbiiiiee and his fans are up against. I am on the bats side by the way, even though I have a ticket for one of the concerts. He could have just as well played open-air concerts in the stadium close by, even if it holds on 55,000 and not 70,000 people at a time.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Adventures in electroland

Last weekend I had had enough, my mp3 had finally driven me mad. It is an mpio FY 100, about two years old. The player itself is ok; it is easy to use, supports directories, includes a radio and is not too big or heavy. Ideal for sports. Unfortunately copying files onto the player is a nightmare. The software that came with it had so many bugs, I don't know where to start. And the fixes I downloaded made my PC crash (and I mean crash: blue screen, nothing goes, switch off the power and cross fingers nothing is corrupted forever). And last but not least it only has about 125 MB memory. That's about 30 songs.

So last Saturday I decided to invest into a new mp3 without bugs and with larger memory. I spent about two hours in
Saturn, one of Germany's largest department store chain for electronic goods and cds etc. Two hours to make up my mind which of the about 10 players within my price range I wanted. I chose a Trek Store i.Beat fun with 1 GB memory. Very lightweight and not too expensive. Bad decision!

During the week I used it a couple of times in the morning on my way to work and in the evening on the treadmill. The colour came off in some places immediately after first use. Then it started to malfunction. Just stopped playing in the middle of a song. Sometimes the player switched off completely, sometimes only the sound died. I changed the battery, changed the headphones. The problem remained, so today I went to take it back.

When I explained what was wrong with it, the guy at the customer complaint desk did not look very surprised. So I came to the logical conclusion that this must be a common problem with this particular brand. Since there were other things I did not like about it (no directory support for example), I chose a different one as a replacment, a Maxfield G-Flash Metal. It "only" has 512 MB, but I find that's enough for my needs. It was a special offer and cheaper than the one I had taken back. The difference was exactly the price of an armband case for the Maxfield, so I took that too (they don't return money). Fingers crossed this one doesn't play up after a couple of days too.

There were more adventures in electroland last week: After what must have been 15 years without one I bought a turntable. It's a Pro-ject Debut III in bright blue. That's why it was reduced in price. Unfortunately, at home I found out that my hi-fi unit and modern turntables do not communicated without a preamplifier as a translator inbetween them. So next day I had to go back to the shop to buy one of those. Of course, this wasn't reduced in price and ate up all I had saved on the turntable itself.

But listening to the first record all was forgotten. For the premiere I chose the Swordfish version of The Lilac Time by The Lilac Time.

It's different from the Fontana one

(not just the cover) and most people say, it's better. Currently the Fontana version is more my cup of tea, but I do change my mind about things like that.

CDs and mp3s will never be the same listening experience as vinyl. It is unbeatable and I had almost forgotten how much better it is.

Hello, can you hear me???

I think Mr Cat is going deaf. Normally when I come back from the shops on Saturdays and unpack, he is in the kitchen immediately. He knows the sound cat food tins make and of course he feels, he needs to supervise me, when I but them in the cupboard. And he demands samples of the things bought for him. But today... nothing. Not even a whisker appeared in the kitchen. And I made a lot of noise.

Later I almost hoovered over him before he moved away. And he hates the hoover! Makes me think, he did not hear it. Either that or he is under sedation of some sort. He does look a bit doped on this picture, but he was just blinded by the flash.