Friday, 26 May 2006

Off to the Atlantic Ocean

This is the place what we are heading for next Sunday. The volcanic archipelago of the 9 Azores Islands is located in the Atlantic Ocean, at nearly a third of the way from Europe to North America. Within a fortnight of holidays it is not possible to visit each of the islands. We will have a week on Sao Miguel, the biggest one, and the second week on Pico which is especially attractive for me as it is home of Portugal's highest mountain. This is called Pico, too, and 2351 meters high.

Favourite tourist activities on the Azores are walking and whale watching. For Angelika there is horse riding and hopefully for me bike riding. Certainly birdwatching will be another attraction. The weather at this time of the year is quite similar to wet Germany, not too warm and with the daily chance of a bit of rain.

I look forward to tasting the local wine but I am a little worried about the food available on the islands. Years ago we have been to Madeira and there - once you have left the capital town Funchal - it was sometimes difficult or impossible to find anything suitable for vegetarians. Hopefully things have improved meanwhile.

I will take my laptop with me but I doubt that there will be any wireless internet access available. There are very few internet cafes which all have short opening times. I will try but maybe will not be able to post before back on June 15. Well, all this looks like it will be a proper and relaxing holiday. Angelika seems to need some days off urgently.

So long, take care and happy running. Uli

Wiki Azores

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Aching optimism

Got my corrected orthotics yesterday. In fact they were made completely new. The shoemaker said it was clear that the first ones couldn't fit cos my running shoes have a bended last. Well, I brought my shoes with me when ordering the first ones but it didn't help. Anyway, I am glad the new ones seem to be fine. They have a stronger support to prevent pronation and a pad called "pelotte" which helps my very broad forefoot to stabilise.

I also visited the doctor yesterday and was slightly disappointed that I didn't get any new therapy procedure. He just told me to be happy with the current outcome and advised me to start running again. Well, happy to hear that, of course. But he added I shouldn't worry that the foot will still be hurting for a while. "We will master that" he assured. Well, the best way is to be optimistic. That is what our World Cup Team is teaching the nation, isn't it?

I was optimistic enough to buy a pair of new running shoes which were a bargain. It is a pair of Asics Trabuco which should carry me up Zugspitze - Germany's highest mountain. The race will take place on July 23rd and I still hope to get fit by then. I ran it the two previous years and I am keen to do it again.

I was grateful for today's bad weather as I counted 4 parts of my body aching. Without going into detail and boring you - the result was I sadly had to cancel the extensive bike tour I had planned today. So I sat in front of the computer all day to do more translation work. I finished to do the New York Marathon report. If you haven't seen the German version you are invited to read the new English one. This, too, is part of the fundraising project which I have already started as you might have seen here.

Well, there are always better times to come. I now look forward to another journey which will start on Sunday. More about this tomorrow.

Sunday, 21 May 2006

Driving faster

Though some parts of my body were still hurting today I could not resist to take out my racing bike. I have not used it for 2 years as last summer I had to undergo a surgery at my left shoulder and therefore was not able to bike all year. For my first tour I chose an easy flat route around the suburbs of Witten. The racing bike is remarkably lighter and the distance between the wheels is shorter. Riding it is great fun, not only are you faster but you have a better feeling driving through sharp bends.

One main advantage biking has in comparison to running is that you can easily stop at your favourite ice cream parlour, enjoy your (big!) portion and carry on afterwards. I have not yet tried this on a long run. But my bike tours are incomplete without having a couple of scoops.

Thanks to LEO I know that this is called colza or rape in English. A field between Bochum and Witten.

Up and Running

On Friday I got my new orthotics. As I feared they are too narrow and the smallest and biggest toes are located beside it when using it inside my running shoes. I will have to get them corrected. But the support seems to be ok. - Didn't the doctor say I could try a short run now? My foot was free of pain for the whole of the week. The injection seemed to have worked wonders.

It happened that just this Saturday one of my favourite local races took place. The organisers publish an ever present ranking where I was named at 8th place after last year's race. Not running this time would make me fall back in the listing.

So I decided to take part in the 5K race and keep to a leisurely pace. Then things went somewhat out of control. Talking to running friend Andrea about the race I offered to work as her pace maker. She wanted to finish inside 23 minutes to make it into the local 5K ranking list. Not really a leisurely pace after 4 weeks without any step of running but I thought it would be ok.

The race went off, Andrea started much too fast (no chance for me to stop her) and slowed down on the second kilometer. Soon it was clear that she couldn't reach her target. Then I spotted running friend Burkhard 100 meters in front of us, got the idea to work as a pacemaker for him and said Good Buy to Andrea. As you already might reckon speed increased even more. I finished together with Burkhard after 21:35 minutes and immediately after crossing the finish line I felt my foot starting to hurt again. Well, today - after one night - it is much better again and I hope my lack of selfcontrol will remain without consequences.

Finishing the first of two laps. I have just left Andrea making my way to catch Burkhard. It doesn't look that I have put on any weight during 4 weeks without running, does it?

During the 10K race there were some obstacles to overcome. The poultry stayed really cool.

Cool parents - cool kids.

One main reason for keeping up running is that you meet pretty and lovely friends. You might notice that once I get such a nice lady like Michaela in my arms I take my chance and grab her firmly. And how do you find my running hairstyle?

Thursday, 18 May 2006

Don't mention the people

Today was a busy day - especially when you think about a retired person like I am ;-) Heavy rain in the morning made me sit in front of the PC and start translating my German Kilimanjaro Pages into English. I thought my site should become more attractive to international visitors before setting up my new fundraising page. This is a bigger project and will take some time. I hope everything will be published before the new London Marathon season starts on August 1. Perhaps I should consider translating my German TourBritain Pages. But this would make an awful lot of work. I guess there would be about 100 pages to be done. No winter could be long enough to finish this.

As you might have seen in the previous posting our countryside is fairly nice. To meet the locals can be a different thing. Euphemistically people living in the Ruhrgebiet are described as straightforward - meaning they always say what they think. A frightening prospect especially for British people I am sure. Less well-meaning visitors will just take their behaviour as unfriendly. And that is what it is. I mention this because I had such an experience today at the local waste deposit. You pay an awful lot of money to get rid of some not very bulky waste. One could reckon you are a client. But before you even could have said a word you are treated like a criminal when parking in the wrong place. These are the moments which make me dream of emigrating to merry old England.

Regarding the Football World Championships officials do a lot of effort to train the service people to be friendly. It might work with the engaged volunteers - but beware of contacting the natives.

Before sunset I managed to do my daily biketour (still not running), so here are a couple of photos showing more green scenery, south of the river Ruhr this time.

Ironically the road from where this photo is taken is still called "Kohlenstrasse" meaning Coal Street. But coal mining is gone long since as you see - for about 100 years.

The undulated scenery helps to make biking more effective (between Witten and Hattingen).

Taking in the view in a relaxed way.
(in Albringhausen)

The deer have less reason to be relaxed.
At least they can't read the restaurant's menue at the opposite side of the road.

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Green green my valley is

I live in the North West of Germany in an area called "Ruhrgebiet" named after the river Ruhr. It is a densely populated place of a dozen big cities close together and it was highly industrialised. In the 1920s Bochum - the town where I was born - was the world's biggest coal mining place. However, Bochum's last pit closed in 1969 and most of the steel factories are gone the same way.

Due to its history most Germans still regard the Ruhrgebiet as the same mucky and polluted place as it was until the 1960s. To disprove this prejudice, today I took my camera with me along my afternoon bike tour - inspired by Sabine's blog and her Cologne photos.

This road is called "Blickstrasse" meaning "Road of the View". The view is of Dortmund, 2nd biggest city of the Ruhrgebiet.

The enlarged cutout of the photo above let us find the pylons of the football stadium of Borussia Dortmund, European Champions League winner 1997.

About 200 meters high above the river at a historic place called Hohensyburg, this monument was built between 1883 and 1902 to honour Kaiser Wilhelm I.

Kaiser Wilhelm I himself (*1797, †1888)
Before becoming Kaiser in 1871 he was King of Prussia.

Looking down from Hohensyburg the meeting of the rivers Ruhr (left) and Lenne can be seen. Both rivers have their sources 200K away near a town called Winterberg.

There is still some industry left I have to admit.
The banks of the Lenne are a busy place.

The Lenne mouth from the Ruhr banks.

At this time of the year grey geese are a common sight along the Ruhr. In touristic places they are very tame and can be fed by hand.

Finally a view above Witten - the town where I live - with its main landmark, the tower of the town hall.

This was a tour of little more than 40K and it took about 2 hours. Enough to show that my valley is truly green, isn't it?

Friday, 12 May 2006

Foot Update

Some news about the progress of my foot's therapy. Last monday I tried to consult my orthopedic whom I have visited for about 20 years now. But I couldn't get an appointment before next week. The assistant at the phone was a new employee and didn't know me. And I was too shy to point out that I am privatly insured (what usually works as an accelerator in such cases - just to give you a hint about how German health system works - doctors receive a higher payment from private insurancies).

So I thought about an alternative and phoned the sports clinic department of St Josefs Hospital in Bochum. And I immediately got a fixed date for the following day! The hospital cooperates with the local university. There were 2 doctors and a student to check my foot. I was very pleased that they took their time to inspect my injury. They seemed to have a great experience in coping with runners. What I liked most was that they didn't blame me for still running while already injured. They seemed to be used to sports people behaviour.

To shorten the story: The diagnosis is still the same. It's an irritation of the Peroneus Tendon. Treatment: New orthotics with even more support to prevent pronation and injections with "Traumeel", an homeopathic medicine. I had expected Cortisone to be injected but the doctor feared to damage the tendon using it. However, there was no Traumeel left and therefore I got a 5% Cortisone injection today and this is how the ankle now is looking:

It is a bit colourful and swollen now but this is a matter of time. Next week I will get the new orthotics and then I am supposed to try a short and easy run!

By the way - I invented a new method to display my medals. They are still in the guests' toilet but now they are hanging on a shower curtain pole - with still enough space left for more to come.

Sunday, 7 May 2006

Spring Time Biking

After all the moaning last weekend I want to please you now by showing some photos of my bicycle tour in Northern Germany. Together with 4 former colleagues - all of them early retired like myself - we stayed in a hotel in Lüneburg, a small medieval town on the river Ilmenau, close to the main river Elbe.

Lüneburg Town Hall

The town's main place dotted with ice cream parlours

The former harbour down by the river Ilmenau now is the place for summer evenings

A fine illuminated example of the typical gables alongside the medieval streets

Photo above: Biking on the dykes of the river Elbe. To the right you can still see the remains of the floods which had been exceptionally high a few weeks ago. To the left countless sandbags are lying to stabilise the dyke.

The road to the ferry was still flooded and the ferry had to use an emergency quay. Two weeks ago the little cottage, seen in the background, had completely disappeared with the water level up to its roof.

The Elbe plains are a nature reserve and lots of birds are to be seen. A sign told that the local stork had 3 chicks last year. Now it was again restoring its nest. We also spotted lapwings, different species of geese, swans and yellowhammers.

We had 3 days of biking around Lüneburg and managed a daily distance of around 60 miles. At a leisurely pace I have to admit. On the final evening we visited the local saline bath. Maybe the 90 minutes of bathing were a bit too much as I found it more exhausting than all the biking.

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Political Correctness

You might think running a website about the local life of running is just a matter of reporting the facts and publishing a few kind words about the current events and results - and then everybody will be happy about it. But sometimes lonely and unsuspicously working on your homepage can result in receiving unexpected reactions.

You need some background information to understand what happened this weekend. My hometown Witten had a very successful triathlon club who won several German team championships in a row and a number of their athletes celebrated international achievements at the Olympics and major ironmans such as on Hawaii. As it often happens, success has more than one father and these usually have different opinions. To come to the point: The club splitted into two a couple of years ago. Now there is the new Triathlon Team Witten, where most of the elite athletes gather and the original PV Triathlon Witten who cencentrates on working with the youngsters and has a limited number of middle of the pack triathletes. Until today both clubs did not find a way back to effective cooperation, cautiously expressed.

Both clubs provide a preparation programme for marathon runners, newcomers alike experienced. After the Ruhr Marathon 2006 was cancelled, both clubs decided to send their runners to the Rhein-Ruhr-Marathon in Duisburg. And this was what took place yesterday.

TTW sent nearly 400 runners and PV had more than 100 athletes. I looked forward to visiting the event and taking as many photos as possible to publish on the website. I got up on Sunday morning at 7am, passed on my breakfast and made my way 40K to Duisburg. Using my bicycle I spent an entertaining time trying to spot as many local runners as possible (photo gallery). It was good fun to meet all the well mooded runners. Back home I published more than 400 photos within two hours after the event ended and was fairly happy about the outcome. I selected some photos which I liked most to set up on the frontpage and wrote a short news about the results.

Imagine how I felt next morning when I opened the first email and had to read a complaint that my online presentation would not be well-balanced and I obviously had favoured one of the clubs. Later 2 more claims followed. This put me down so frustrated that for a second I thought about going on strike and close the page for some days.

Well, looking at it after easing I have to admit that in fact there was just one of clubs represented on the main page but I assert it was just coincidance. I regarded all of the local runners as one united group and didn't think about separated parts. This is not the first time I saw the world to be brighter than it is.

I have learnt my lesson and the updated version of is political correct and was already appreciated.