Sunday, April 30, 2006

In limbo

I am in limbo. Having achieved the goal I worked so hard for, I don't really know what to do next. I don't want to loose the level of fitness that I have got right now. Quite the contrary, I want to improve it even further. On the other hand I do not want to train five times a week. Three sounds quite enough, thank you.

So, I need a new goal and most importantly I need a training schedule! After careful consideration this is what I have resolved to do:
  1. Shape up and strengthen the muscles that hurt after the race, especially the bum.
  2. Run the half-marathon in Leverkusen on June 11th in two hours.
  3. Run the half-marathon in Cologne on October 8th in 01:50 (is that presumptious? 12 minutes faster than my current personal best?).
  4. Run the marathon in London on April 22nd, 2007 in 04:20 (five minutes faster than this year).

So, I have goals, but I still don't have a training schedule. I really don't like the idea of paying Zeld money for another training schedule; their support was not overwhelmingly good. On the other hand, their schedule worked for me and it was easy to follow. I will have to think about this a little more, maybe I will give them another chance.

In the meantime I have taken the following measures:

  • I have made an appointment with one of the trainers at my fitness club to review my workout programme and maybe include some more excersises for the bum.
  • I have ordered Herbert Steffny's book, which is generally thought of as the runner's bible. I should get it on Tuesday and maybe I can use it to set up a schedule by myself.
  • I have tried to get a place in Steffny's running workshop in July, but it was fully booked. I am on the waiting list and I was told, that there are always cancellations and that it was very likely I would be able to take part.

Until I have made up my mind about what to do regarding Zeld, I have amended the marathon schedule for the next two weeks (less units per week and shorter ones). Tomorrow I will be back in the forest for a two-hour run. I am looking forward to that.

In other news Starbucks have opened a shop in Cologne's main station, right next to the bookshop. My worst case scenario. Vanilla Latte and blueberry muffins too close for comfort. Serious threat to my shape up programme.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Another medal

I deserve another medal: I have just done my taxes. Why do they have to change the forms every single year? Why do I always feel that I am not filling them correctly and am thus defrauding the Revenue? Is ignorance an excuse?

I have used the online programme Elster for the first time. The German taxman has a strange sense of humour: Elster is derived from the words "elektronische Steuererklärung", ie electronic tax return. But it is also German for magpie, a bird often called "thieving".

More pictures from the marathon

Here are a couple of links to other sites where you can look at pictures taken at the London Marathon 2006

Uli's pictures

Mostly pictures of runners in fancy dress

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tate Modern

Back in London and the sky is grey.

I am staying at the Southwark Rose Hotel in - surprise, surprise - Southwark. The hotel was featured in a travel magazine around the time I registered for the marathon and it is really nice. The interior is beautifully designed and the location is perfect for the Tate Modern (located in a disused power station, the chimney of which you see on the right) or Shakespeare's Globe (the theatre itself is the white building next to the chimney):

After this picture the battery of my camera went flat, so I used my mobile phone instead. I am afraid, the pictures I took with it aren't very good. Here is a closer look at the Globe:

I spent the whole morning at the Tate Modern and more than an hour staring at
Jackson Pollock's Summertime: Number 9A. What an amazing picture. At first it all seems random, especially if you consider how Pollock painted (he danced over and around the canvas, that was lying on the floor, dripping paint from a bucket that had holes punched into its bottom). But the longer I stared the more I was convinced that he was actually very much in control of the patterns he produced. The different colours are prefectly balanced and I don't think he has left much to chance. Interesting man, Jackson Pollock.

The Tate Modern is rehanging all of its Collection galleries. In the largest room of the Poetry and Dream gallery you currently find special displays of
Surrealism, an artistic movement that I am especially fond of. Life IS surreal and the display is very fittingly a visual overload. The exhibits are almost crowded into the room, hung up close to each other and sometimes even over one another. I didn't know what to look first.

Since Sunday afternoon I have been constantly refuelling. I have eaten non-stop (three large meals plus sandwiches inbetween) and drunk lots of water. The visit to the Tate had made me hungry again, so I went to an Indian restaurant near the hotel and had a curry.

In the evening I met with a collegue, who lives in Southwark, and we went for a walk along the river.

I hadn't seen him since Carnival in Cologne, but he had sent "keep going" messages into what he called "the training camp". He ran a marathon a couple of years ago, so he knew what I was going through. Guess what. Walking made me hungry again, so we ended up in Wagamama. Chop sticks and me don't really go together. Maik made me practise with a black peppercorn that he took out of the mill, but I am hopelessly untalented, so I opted for soup.

Tomorrow I am going back home.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The day after

The morning after to my great surprise the muscles in my legs were only slightly sore and my feet had stopped hurting, too. Only my stomach muscles and my Musculus gluteus maximus hurt a little more. I had definitely expected things to be much worse! And some hitherto unknown masochistic part of me was actually enjoying the pain as a constant reminder of yesterday's glorious achievement! Should this worry me? Looking at my medal would have had the same effect, wouldn't it?

I took the train to Oxford and checked into the
MacDonald Randolph Hotel. It's a typical old-fashioned English hotel situated in the centre of the city. Quite charming, but once again I wondered why relatively pricy hotels like this one ALWAYS have tattered, mouldy looking carpets. Is that supposed to create an atmosphere?

I dropped my bags in my room and went for a walk around the city to look for Markus' book again (a university city as lots of bookshops) and to do some sightseeing.

Oxford is not very big, but it has some of the most beautiful university buildings I have ever seen. An English student once told me that they are only beautiful if you are a tourist. If you are a student and have to live and study in them, they are a nightmare. Cold in winter and stuffy in the summer.

This is the Bodleian library building. I wouldn't mind studying in there!

Where there are students, there are bikes...

and inventive ways to secure them...

The university buildings are so impressive that there is a danger to overlook other, smaller attractions:

The bookshops in Oxford didn't prove to be better stocked than the ones in London, so I gave up and headed towards the meadow behind Christ Church college.

Legend has it that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, created the story of Alice in Wonderland to entertain his niece during a boat trip on the river Isis, which runs through the meadow. He read mathematics at Christ Church college.

This is the Christ Church meadow viewed from the back of the college:

There is a path that you can walk along. It leads past some beautiful cows

down to the river

If this is the Oxford Cambridge boat race, where is Cambridge?

No water without water fowl:

Christ Church college seen from the meadow:

I walked on along the path for another 30 minutes or so:

Punting is not as easy as it looks:

Back at the college Oxford's cricket elite of the future was practising standing around:

The weather was getting worse and the drizzle started to get on my nerves, so I went back to the hotel. On the way I discovered a second hand vinyl shop and in it some The Lilac Time records. Happy bunny!

Over a year ago in March 2005 I bought a ticket for the Little Britain tour to see them at the New Theater in Oxford tonight. I don't recall having ever bought a ticket this much in advance. But all the shows in 2005 were sold out and tickets on Ebay went for about 10 times the original price. So I regarded it as an investment. I was very unsure if the show would be a success on stage. It works on the radio and TV, but how can the short sketches and the many different charakters possibly be transfered onto a theatre stage? The secret is called ... Velcro. My guess is that Mr Walliams and Mr Lukas own large shares in the Velcro company! It was amazing how they managed to change costume and make-up in a matter of minutes. The production was perfectly time and synchronised. Respect! I don't find all their jokes funny and I don't understand everything that's said, but it was a very entertaining evening.

Results for Runner No. 54940

Runner No.: 54940
Nationality: GER
Position (Overall): 17972
Position (Gender): 3721
Position (Age group): 679

KM10 - 0:59:01
KM20 - 1:59:09
HALF - 2:05:49
KM30 - 3:02:39
KM40 - 4:11:37

FINISH - 4:25:30

Sunday, April 23, 2006

D Day (Part 2)

The mass start really is just that: a mass start. After the starting signal it took me about 20 minutes to get from section No. 8 to the start line behind the gates. But I eventually got there and started the race grinning like the Cheshire cat:

From this point on the runners' individual time is taken by use of a transponder and ChampionChip worn on the runners' shoes (that's what the red rubber carpets are for). The time elapsed is taken at 10k interims ("splits") and at the half-marathon point.

The race itself was incredible. It's a natural high all the way through. The enthusiasm of the spectators is unbelievable. You have to be there to believe it. That huge grin didn't leave my face for a long time:

Well, maybe it sometime was less wide, but I am still smiling here (where ever this was):

After 10k you reach the Cutty Sark, the first highlight of the race. Then after 20k you cross Tower Bridge. It may sound pathetic, but I will never forget that moment and that I was listening to “Natalie” at that point.

On The Highway that leads from The Tower to Canary Warf you can see the fast runners on their way back on the other side of the road. They only have four more miles to go. At the half-way marker I looked at my watch and realised that the winner was probably just about to cross the finish line. Better not think about that for too long. Better not watch the ones coming back on the other side of the road. Run on to the Isle of Dogs and make one large loop around it. Listen to "Keep Going" around mile 21 and do just that: keep going. Then I was the one on the way back! That felt a lot better! There were still runners moving in the direction of the Isle of Dogs. Some were already walking. I saw a bride and groom! And lots of people who looked like they should better drop out or else they'd drop dead soon.

There is no food handed out, only water is offered every mile from mile 3 on and Lucozade (which is called Gatorade here in Germany) more or less every5 miles. I drank a lot of water. And after about 21 miles I got a bit hungry. And then HUNGRY and HUNGRY and finally after 22 miles


I started to fantasise about the sandwich in my kit bag and the Pink Lady apple in the goodie bag. Then I saw a sign: "Lucozade 500 meters". The final Lucozade point at mile 23 was near. Hallelujah! I don’t like Lucozade, but at that moment it seemed like heaven sent. It would allow me to trick my body into thinking that I had just eaten an orange (it's all in the mind, you know). 500 meters never seemed so long before. I gulped down the drink and instantly felt better.

The last miles of the race are a blur. I remember that “A forest” started on my mp3 as I turned round the corner in front of Big Ben. I wanted to cross the finish line listening to it, but I hadn’t calculated that it would take me so long from the starting signal to the start line. I vaguely remember running along Birdcage Walk towards Buckingham Palace and around the round about in front of it (I must have done, otherwise I would have been disqualified). Then you are on the final 200 meters of the course and this is what you look like when you have got that far (the Cheshire cat was back):

Across the finish line, happy to be still alive.

Amazed by the time. My watch said 4h 26min. Amazed too by the perfect organisation that embraced me: cross the finish line, receive a medal, move up a little ramp, have the championchip removed, move along to receive the goodie bag and further on to recover you kit bag. One constant stream of happy people. All made possible by the work of countless volunteer helpers.

I grapped the goodie bag, found the apple, wolfed it down. Bliss! In the repatriation area for overseas runners I met up with others of the group that had already arrived. Uli was still there, he had run in 3:40 (goal: 3:40 – precision landing, mate). Some of the guys were drinking beer to celebrate. Just the thought made me dizzy. I changed into warm clothes and made my way back to the hotel on the underground.

I had a shower and collapsed onto the bed. I managed to make a couple of phone calls and sent some emails and text message. (But only because this can be done without using legs or feet!) Then I lay on the bed and watched Carry on Dick on the telly. I love Kenneth Williams (I am still reading his diary) and Sid James was ace too. Carry on Dick is not my favourite in the series (that's Carry on Matron), but it was perfect to wind down and it doesn't require you to think. My mind was still overloaded. I needed simple distraction.

In the evening Interair had invited us all to an "after marathon" party at a pub. There weren't enough chairs for all of us, so I - being Ms Stupid - sat down on the floor. The second my bum hit the floor, I knew it would be a nightmare to get up again. I had one pint of Guinness and my head started spinning.

Since I did not get to listen to Brittlestar during the race (because I was too fast!!! the album is called Waiting, so it's the last on my mp3 which sorts in alphabtectical order), I wore my Brittlestar t-shirt to the party to make up for it:

Now I will leave you with a picture of Uli (aka Mr London Marathon 2006) and myself (aka Miss London Marathon 2006) auditioning for a tooth paste commercial

and some wise words by Chris Brasher (co-founder of the London Marathon):

"A pointless but wonderful victory over mental doubt and bodily frailty".


D Day (Part 1)

I had set my alarm to 6 a.m. in order to have enough time for a decent breakfast. The bus that was going to take us to the start was due to leave at 7:15 a.m. (race starts at 9:45 a.m.). I slept surprisingly well by the way. Like a stone.

At breakfast I faced an unexpected challenge: the toaster. A big machine that reminded me of the ones they use at Cologne main station to make “Laugenbrezel” (really big pretzels). I had switched my brain off to stop me thinking about the upcoming challenge too much, which meant that I didn’t have a clue how to get my toast toasted. Fortunately other runners came to my rescue. You place the toast on a grid conveyor belt which slowly transports it through the toaster. At the end of the conveyor belt the toast drops onto a slide and glides back to you. Fascinating. But wouldn't an ordinary toaster be just as good, radiate less heat and thus need less energy than this one (toast or no toast, this machine is constantly “toasting”)?

On ordinary days I only have a mug of coffee for breakfast, but today I ate several slices of toast with honey, fruit yogurt, a banana, some cake... I had the dim feeling that not all of what I was eating was good for me, but I don’t really know much about the proper runner’s diet. One of the things on my “to do” list: find out what to eat and what not to eat just before the race.

In the restaurant a number of runners were already in their running outfit and they had their kit bag with them, ready to get onto the bus immediately after breakfast. Most of the kit bags look much smaller than mine. I had put everything into the bag that was on Uli's list:

  • something to eat and drink after the race
  • my camera
  • Aspirin
  • my mobile phone
  • a towel
  • a hat
  • a sweatshirt
  • a jacket
  • underwear
  • socks
  • track pants (long)
  • a pair of shoes
Mmmh, too much stuff? Well, I didn't have to carry it along with me; it would be waiting for me on the baggage vehicle at the finish, so what the §$%&!. Better safe than sorry.

I went back to my room and got changed into my running outfit plus the long pants that would later go into the kit bag:

Then we were off to the start in Greenwich. When thirty thousand plus runners try to get to the start and a lot of the main roads are closed off for the race

it’s advisable to leave early, so you actually get there on time. On the bus Uli said, that his first goal for every race is to get to the starting line. The second goal is to get to the finish line. Good one!

There are three different starts for the London marathon, distinguished from each other by colour. There is the blue area for the elite and championchip runners, the green area for celebrities and the red area for the masses. The three groups run on separate routes for a couple of miles but eventually join up. All run the same total length, of course. The running number you have to wear during the race has the same colour as the start you have to use, so it is a foolproof system (?). This is the assembly area for the red start, ie the masses (not all of them had arrived at that point):

After our arrival there were a couple of important things to do: locate the toilets

(start queueing for your last trip to the loo at least 30 minutes before the start of the race; you will then hopefully be back on time!), locate the tents where they hand out drinks

and finally locate the correct baggage vehicle (forgot to take a picture of that). Then reunite with the rest of the group and … wait. In the rain. For a long time. Pondering the “why?” question. Looking for the raison d’être of running a marathon. (A bit too late for that, really.) There I was, sitting on the grass in the rain wearing a bin liner (yes, a bin liner), waiting to be "allowed" to run 42 km/26 miles. "Madness" must be my middle name.

(Uli took two pictures of me in my designer bin liner, but I look like a big yellow toad on one of them. So it had to be censored. Thank you very much for sending me the pictures!)

The start is divided into marked time zones denoted by small numbers (1-9). In the next picture you can see a small sign on the right side with the number 5 on it.

This is only the assembly road! The start line itself is at the other end of it behind the gates (you can see the red "4" on the left side of the picture):

When you register for the race, you have to fill in a form and estimated your running time. Based on this you are allocated one of the numbers 1-9 and you have to position yourself at the start according to this (the number is printed on your running number and it's difficult to cheat and start from a lower number). Mine was 8, because I had estimated that I would need at least 4 hours, 45 minutes.

After one last trip to the loo (queueing time approx. 25 minutes), I left my kit back at the baggage vehicle and went to look for start area No. 8.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

One day to go (Part 2)

The rest of the day I spent in Hyde Park, lying on the grass, reading a newspaper and a book, drinking coffee, nodding off, trying not to think about tomorrow. A lot of people did the same.

Spend the day in the park that is. I don't know if they also tried not to think about the marathon.

Hyde Park in spring is beautiful and even though I feel like a bl%&d$ amateur after seeing the wildlife photo exhibition, here are some more of the pictures I took:

Standing in front of the next tree I overheard a conversation that went something like this:

Dad: "Look! The tree is growing the wrong way around!"
Son: "No, it isn't." (tone of voice implied that he was silently adding "you sad bugger")
Dad: "Yes, it is. Just look."
Son: "No, dad."
Dad: "Mum look, the tree is growing the wrong way around."
Mum: "No dear, it isn't."
Dad: "But the branches are all the wrong way around."
Son: "No, dad."

At this point I took my picture and left. They were two against one. Dad didn't have a chance.

Tulips in bloom...

... lots of them...

The Serpentine was crowded with water fowl...

... and humans...

Anyone missing flip flops?

The owner was nowhere to be seen. I hope he/she did not put his/her bare feet into a lake that looks like this for large parts:

Suddenly I felt that people were staring at me. Did they recognise me as tomorrow’s new world record runner? Nope. They were staring at Queen’s Brian May, who was standing a couple of meters next to me looking out over The Serpentine. Before you ask: yes, his hair is that enormous. He was taking a walk with a beautiful blonde and a bodyguard, who glared at everyone that came too close for comfort (Brian May's comfort that is). He denied several requests for autographs by fans (I have always asked myself, what people do with autographs? Why would you want someone’s signature on a piece of paper if it is not a contract or a letter or something else that requires an underwriter?). Being such a big celebrity he is probably constantly accosted by fans, who want to take a picture or get an autograph. I felt sorry for him, but then remembered how much wealth he got in return and stopped.

I walked on and found myself staring at a squirrel's butt:

All the squirrels were quite tame and took titbits from a man's hands.

They turned the lights on, time to leave.

Pizza for dinner. Should I have had pasta instead?