Ironman Training Log – The Power of Tests

When I first talked to my coach Michael Krell, he told me that I would have to do tests in all three disciplines: A 400m swimtest, 7x 1km running starting from a low heart rate to a high heartrate and, eventually, a bike test.

The first set of swimming and running tests was pretty sobering. Not only because I realized I cannot even run 1km as fast as German legendary triathlete Jan Frodeno’s average km during an Ironman, but also because these tests brought back some memories of the pain one has to go through.

That being said, this past week was test week – after another 7km on the track, another 400m in the pool I wanted to share two take-aways…

 

I. Have Faith in Your Training

I have put my trust into Michael and done my best to execute the weekly training plans he is writing for me (which is a strenuous adjustment to daily life: less spontaneity, better food planing because you are either starving or eating bullshit food, sleep discipline and,  by far the hardest for me, you’d better get used to a one-drink-rule because your tolerance is becoming pretty ridiculous compared to – how shall I put it – journalist & grad school times). For a control freak like me, with coaching experience in rowing, that leap of faith presented a challenge. Some days seemed so easy, some days I either felt like vomiting, did vomit or really tortured myself into training in the first place.  Besides that, I was always hungry, but tried to keep myself from eating more.

Second set of test results are in. I have increased my 400m swim-time by 45Seconds, about 10seconds per 100m. Since September, I have for the first time in my life ran a 10k race and a Half Marathon and I have been able to improve my fastest km time by 30seconds. In the Tufts Pool in Boston there was a massive poster reading “Have Faith in Your Training”. I never really understood what that meant, but now I do.

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II. It does not get easier, you just get faster

As thrilled and motivated as I am about my improvements, the tests as well as the longer runs every weekend have shown me that feeling better is not part of the deal. Sure thing, I have had some gorgeous forest runs that come with a therapeutic side effect, but the body also goes through phases of protest that the mind has to counter. During my run test I felt like my legs would just give in, my lungs were exploding and I had already mentally prepared myself for worse test results. Funny enough, I found cyclist’s Greg Le Mond”s quote “It does not get easier, you just get faster” very fitting.

Ironman 70.3 Mallorca is three months away and I’ll keep you updated on the journey.

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Oh, January

January is a hard to deal with month for me. I might also face a couple of intimidating thoughts right at this time and blaming the one month that usually motivates people to eat healthier, smoke less and work out more. Oh, well.

Training Log

I am not sure if I have announced it on the blog, but I have decided a couple of months ago to tackle an athletic challenge – the Half Ironman in Mallorca. That means 1.9km of swimming, 90km biking followed by a half marathon of running. We booked a house by the beach, family and friends are coming. While foggy and dark, the sun never shines-January in Germany makes me long for palm trees for the first time this month I am going through rapid mood changes with regards to this race. I woke up last week realizing that time is passing and I no longer have six months (the magic amount of time needed for preparation). I counted with my fingers multiple times only to arrive at the same number over and over again: FOUR! It is only four months away.

Never good at all three
Euphoria happens when things work out well. Naturally. My swim went well, I ran a faster km on average, my bike ride felt good. Any of these make me more confident. Here’s the thing, though: I have never had a week where I felt that I have all three sports under control…when I ran a lot, I felt like a stone in the water. When I feel like a flash on my bike, I sometimes add a run thinking I must have done my first steps more smoothly. That probably is the beauty and the beast of triathlon. At times like these in January, foggy January, no me likey!

If training is well there is always this: ZE WEDDING
Yeah, because a middle distance tri race is not enough in one year, Pouya and I have also set a date for the wedding – six weeks after the race (please laugh, that’s ok). Here is the thing: If you strongly feel about a specific date to tie the knot, I strongly advise you to reserve it roughly a decade in advance…the weddingmania has taken over Germany! Some vendors told us that women choose the date according to average weather records – as if rain or sun would matter that much. Anyways, Ze wedding.

Weddings are a great forcing function of self-reflection and understanding how others see you
My friends who have only recently gotten married will all laugh: My dear Mama, who is certainly very excited sent me three dates for wedding exhibitions last week. Wedding Exhibitions. First of all, I never even knew such a thing existed. Second, rapid thoughts overtook me: I asked myself whether I gave away the vibes of being a person who would spend a day at a wedding exhibition. Then I wondered whether this is the time in my life where I would change into the kind of person I would always make fun of: The “this will be the bestest day of my life, ever”-bride and I would commence that change with the wed-exhibit. And then, combined with some earth-shattering shivers some pretty interesting self reflective thoughts fired: I really do not care this much about my wedding as I care about the wonderful man I am marrying. For this day I am hoping that some people do me the honor and travel from near and far to spend a couple of hours with me and my family, laughing, enjoying, dancing (YES, I already have the band. NO, I do not have the dress). Since I have by now project planned about a dozen pretty great events and I know how much tedious attention to detail needs to go into it, I really do not feel like doing that for my wedding. “Perfect” is a mindset, not a measure when it comes to weddings – it took me a long time putting this into words and it feels pretty f… great right now, because you have no idea, or maybe you have, how many people have an opinion on ANYTHING and everything.

My boss told me last night: “For everyone of your guests it will have been a wedding. For you it will have been your wedding. Own it.” Writing these words seems to be the first step…

I hope I successfully expressed a good amount of sarcasm. If not, I am very well aware that this is a “first-world-problem”-blogpost and I am ending it with some impressions from the trip India which is currently being wrapped into a big India diary post:

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India

I have been writing so much for work that my private headlines are not really the most creative. But this one sums it up pretty well. Pouya, me, India.

Naturally, the minute I told my body I am going on vacation it went into sick-mode, not only do I have  cold, but also a nasty inflammation in my wrist, but I strongly believe in the Indian healing powers. And in Ibuprofen 🙂

So, summed up in short, this trip is means a lot to me: It will be another wedding experience, this time in Bangalore. I am very excited to see my Fletcher friend Aditya again. The younger generation of the wedding party will then move on towards Goa and beach for a bit. Moving on from the South, we will be doing a stopover in Delhi and see the couple whose wedding brought me to India this past January, Jessica and Abhishek.

And then it is time for a big item on my bucket list: Ever since I saw the Himalayan peaks from Mussorie in January I have been thinking about that place and how I felt. It is hard to explain, but I felt complete. This time, it will be a little longer. We will be doing a five day trek, in the snow, with a big backpack, lots of emergency drugs (the German doctors needed some serious persuasion to give out some of these prescriptions; a little bit of Googling has confirmed my funny jokes about how these drugs are most likely available somewhere over the counter…). I have a lot of respect for the fast altitude gain and I hope I am trained well enough. I guess there is only one way to find out…

And then it will be time for catching up with more Fletcher friends in New Delhi, eating as much Dhal, Palak Paneer, buttered chicken and drinking so much Masala Chai that I can at least stay for a little while without graving the food that is simply unavailable where I currently am.

I will try to keep you updated with lots of pictures and little stories.

 

The German World – through His Eyes

Be careful what you wish for: When Pouya and I decided to relocate to Germany we were telling our friends that it would be an adventure. It’s surely been adventurous, but maybe not the adventure that we had associated.

  • Schorle!

The first word he perfected was “Schorle”, that is the German’s drink of choice: Juice mixed with sparkling water (that kind of sparkling that makes you burp immediately). After a few weeks in the country of Schorle, he was “Schorle’d out” and now we have been trying to order tab water – something that still seems to be an offense in German restaurants, which is funny given that German water is pretty clean on a world scale.

  • Amt!

The first world within the German world he detected was “Amt”, the public administration. When he registered in the town of Aalen the lady behind the counter asked him if he had already registered for “GOA”. He was a little confused since we will be traveling to Goa, India later this year and he was wondering how that lady possibly knew that. Goa, however, is the local trash agency, also called the trash-mafia. Trash is a serious matter in Swabia.

  • Wochenmarkt-Bag

Last weekend he came home in the morning from the baker. Since we’re living in the middle of town we can watch the crowds walk towards the local produce market on saturdays. He dragged me to the window and told me that he has a hypothesis: You are only an eligible member in the Aalen weekly market when you are carrying a wood braided basket. And he was right, every one was carrying the same bags.

  • No!

No, there is no good customer service here. No you cannot return something after 2weeks. No, there is no services that offer convenience services. No, the concept of good enough is not present: You do or you do not and if it is not built to last forever it shall not be build at all.

We are currently in Canada. At Thanksgiving dinner a family member asked Pouya what he thinks is so different about Germany, how this small country is able to compete on so many levels globally. And he told a fascinating and complex story of a nation that values work-live-balance, efficiency and incremental improvement.

The adventure in my head has little to do with what reality currently provides. Administrative craziness knows no boundaries and I have no more conniption fits to give. Yet, there are also wonderful things: weekends with friends from school, great healthy food, enough time for sports&family

It has been five years in the United States and I slowly understand I have hit a point of no return: I am the one who has changed and now experience the country with a different mindset. It is hard to discuss this with Germans that have not left as they think I am pissing on my home turf or think of myself as deserving more when openly admitting that I am struggling with being in Germany. The concept of home is something many of my international Fletcher friends have redefined for themselves and I am currently doing the same. It certainly helps to do this with Pouya whose eyes are open to the small things that I am sometimes not able to appreciate anymore.

This is us last week at the Munich Marathon where we both ran a 10k race – at freezing temperatures.

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07-17: A month to remember

Kassel – Aalen – Boston – Lake Placid – New York: Triathlons, Cardboard Boxes, Saying “See You later” and a very powerful question that I answered with a yes (well, honestly, it was “Oh my god!” Pause “Yes!”)

Reflection, what a powerful mode. Today, we finally found an apartment in Aalen. Finally, because since interest rates are ridiculous everybody is buying houses, the German economy is doing well and all of a sudden what I thought of as a relatively cheap region to reside in has become quite expensive (still cheap compared to Munich, Stuttgart and let alone Boston). I also will be able to share soon what I have spent most of my time on at ZEISS next week and which excites me a lot currently.

However, as I was sitting down today, intending to journal, I realized what a month a have just experienced in July and that it is time to share it with you. Yes, many of you know that July ended with a very powerful question I was asked, but let me give you a couple of other beautiful moments first:

My first triathlon: 750m swim, 18km bike, 5km run

I LOVED it! I swam way too fast, had to seriously recover on the bike from that, loved how me and my bike are unbeatable descenting, and what shall I say about the running portion of that sport: there is loooots of room for improvement for me :-). I got to do it close to my hometown, my Mom, Dad and sister were there and I enjoyed spending a day racing, hanging out with family and just being happy.

A trip to Lake Placid: Or, watching an Ironman actually involves some stamina

Shipping back from Boston

Well, what can I say: I had lots of Bacon, Egg and Cheese Bagels, Hazelnut coffee, went to my favorite Indian, managed to cause total packing chaos, but in the end Pouya and I had 8boxes, a bike and skies. That is it, and it still makes me pretty proud.

With a ring on my finger 

The last weekend of July I spent in New York City, speakeasy drinks, unique international food  hipster East Village, taking long midnight walks through Manhattan – which is actually quite wonderful during the hot summer days. Somewhere on that island, in the middle of the night, on our way from Alphabet city to Midtown Pouya asked me to marry him. And I did say yes. Until that moment I have no idea how long he had been carrying a ring in his jeans :-).

 

Why I don’t want stuff – Project 333

33 items of clothing for 30 days, can you do that? I just unconsciously lived a minimalist lifestyle, and you know what I missed: Nothing!

With a big move from Boston to Germany looming, there are a lot of thoughts about leaving stuff crossing my mind: my big plants, that one nailpolish that perfectly fits my one iridescent skirt. I spend all this money on it and now I am loosing it. But then a documentary and an hour of journaling brought me back to more positive thoughts: the nailpolish looked great that one christmas party, but now I don’t need it anymore; the plants will all move to my old roommate’s Mark’s new house where they’ll hopefully survive.

As long as it gives you value, keep it

Stuff adds value to my live as long as I use it. After that, it’s just stuff that takes up space. That’s, in a nutshell, one idea of minimalism. In the documentary Minimalism lots of women talk about the experiment of downsizing their closets for one month to 33 things, project 333; they anticipated shame, feeling discontent for not having more variability. And all of them report how much it has freed their lives.

How much do we need versus how much do we buy to satisfy some other longing?

I got up this morning, threw all my clothing on the floor and counted. Not counting workout clothes and underwear, I am adding up to 34 things of clothing that I have been wearing since arriving in Germany. And that is basically all I need. Having more will at some point make moving with one suitcase an issue, and I want and need to be flexible. One thing that minimalism is asking us to do it to ask: Am I buying this because I need it or out of a compulsion?

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“You cannot deprive yourself of luxury all your life”

That’s basically what my parents said last weekend. My mother offered to purchase a set of dining china for Pouya & my new home. I told her pretty boldly that I have zero interest in that. My Dad predicted that there will be a time when I need to own more than I own right now. Obviously, my parents are older and maybe project their experience on the me.

What brings value to my life

The more we have these conversations, though, the more I am able to understand my true longing. And that is liberty! Attaching myself to things, potentially becoming unable to move because of all the things I have accumulated, is a dystopian vision for me. That does not mean that it could not bring value to somebody else’s life. A young colleague of mine just told me that she has just added a kitchen aid to her dowry – a fully stuffed, top brand, kitchen equipment that she will contribute when moving in with her boyfriend.

Minimalism is not against consumption or capitalism, it is for mindfulness

I have treated myself to carbon bike, carbon bike shoes and many sport equipment things that I love. I guess that is what I appreciate about the idea of minimalism. You may consume, the question we should ask ourselves is: What do you really want?

 

Let me be honest: I love my job, but I am struggling! 

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I guess they call this culture shock

It has not been four weeks since I landed in Frankfurt. Usually there is a period of enthusiasm, then the most threaded valley of tears, and then you cope. While my period of enthusiasm for my new role at Zeiss, content planning and analysis for digital corporate communications (first results will be visible very soon) is unbroken, my enthusiasm for this country has stopped with the bike shop owner in Aalen telling me that he isn`t sure whether road biking really is for woman.

Before I begin my vent: A disclaimer (My complaints are the results of high expectations)

Before I will be sharing many of my observations over the next couple of days, let me disclaim this: I was born & raised in Germany. This means that I am expecting to feel home in my home country. When in the US, or in Spain, in India, in Dubai things seemed weird, people awkward, chauvinistic, politics insane, I vented, but really it did not affect me emotionally, because – at least that’s what I thought – the motherland is sane and well. And while this country is stunningly beautiful, which I haven’t really appreciated as much beforehand, there are many things I am observing that make me feel very much not at home, not belonging. And that sucks for me right now. But, I guess, at least all of you will learn a lot about Germany through my lens.

Let’s jump right in: There is no separation of church & state in this country and all of a sudden this really bothers me! 

I just saw on my first paycheck that I am paying taxes to the church. YES, I was christened and confirmed in the protestant church and that means that I am paying eight (8!!!) percent of my income tax to the church. A church that still refuses same rights for all marriages. You can opt out of the church. However, opting out of church costs a fee and can only be done in person at municipal community where you are registered. Obviously, as we know – most likely a global phenomenon – municipal communities are open pretty much three hours a day, their employees – in Germany lifetime employees of the state – are not the most enthusiastic workers and the three hours collide with every normal person’s working hours.

If you are opting out of the church there are severe consequences

Maybe not severe as in the clergy will hunt you through the streets and declare you evil, but modern world severe as in: You will not be able to get married in a house of god nor will you be able to have your child christened. Yes, now it is time for me to face these questions: How important are these things to me after all? I do not know yet.

Sunday – Funday

Since I already touched upon the churchy subject, let me get my thoughts about sundays out of my system. You cannot do anything on sundays! No supermarket, no shop, no mall, no nothing. Granted, the Southern German region is different than Berlin. However, most shops here close their doors on saturdays around 2pm. That is has become a little bit of an issue for me, since I am so used to starting my weekend with a longer bike ride saturday mornings. Obviously, the sunday is a German tradition.  Often have I told Pouya how much I miss sunday afternoon “Kaffeetrinken” / coffee and cake with the family. For a moderately busy person the leisure sundays seem quite constraining.

Speaking of fundays: The beer nation with no beer variety

Countless times have Americans told me how much they dig German beer. While it certainly is an acquired taste I really have fallen for strong, hoppy IPAs (Sip of Sunshine, my American Northeastern friends) or really tart Sour beers. While Germany has uphold the rule of the Reinheitsgebot (beer purity law: beer is only beer if it is brewed in a certain way with certain ingredients) that limits the choices you have. Hefeweizen, Lager, unfiltered. That is it. Sure, there are a thousand Hefeweizens, Lagers and unfiltereds. Still, though, that’s pretty much it. Funny how this nation remains on the global beer throne; reputation is king, I guess.

Complaints are not all I have to share with you

My self help “The How of Happiness” book which I can truly recommend to anyone states that the determinants of happiness are fairly easy: 40% is genetic predisposition (yap, you’re either born a clown or a grumpy cat), 50% is your inner attitude and 10% is outer circumstance. The 10% basically suggests that you will not be happier with 10lbs less, living in a mansion or retired, at least not permanently. The 50% are the interesting part. And that is what I want to finish with.

I am here

I am living with my colleague Petra (the apartment search will be subject of another post, too good to spoil it…), I was welcomed back with a bouquet of flowers, lots of hugs and kisses at work and at home, I have not once had a tummy ache since I have arrived (thank you, EU), and I have most likely produced 10times less trash on an average day because Germans prefer real glasses, silverware and ceramic instead of plastic or paper everything. I refuse to state that I have returned, that I am settling, that I am back. I am here! Working on a job opportunity I have never dreamed of, accompanied by a partner who will most likely develop a Swabian German accent (oh boy!) once he starts learning German in August, six weeks of paid vacation, a company that values work-life-balance and family time and lots of stories to tell.

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My first soy cafe latte in Germany. Würzburg has a vibrant hipster scene. From what I have heard an oatmilk chai is a favorite here…

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And for lunch: Milkrice with cinnamon and sugar 😉

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The view from Würzburg’s Marienbridge: a good destination for sunday fundays where a glass of wine costs 3dollars.

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Würzburg’s streets

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My flowers and new desk (and, more Swag)