Ski Report 2015

Wintertime outdoor fun-makers

We have had very little snow here. And it’s been warm. Driving to the ski track on Wednesday everything was winter brown. How would the skiing be?

Fortunately, Weston’s snowmakers had plenty of cold temperatures to work with recently, and the snow was really good despite being man-made, rained upon, and groomed to within an inch of its life. It was fast but not icy. “If—I mean—when I fall,” I thought, “it won’t hurt so much.” And, based on all of my previous outings, I was going to fall. And fall I did, usually in the same place on the track, but I wasn’t getting hurt (unlike two years ago).

Let’s just face it: I am not (yet) good at skiing. It’s a technique-intensive sport, and I’m more-or-less a complete newbie with very little natural rhythm or balance. But I’m getting better at it—if you consider the number of times I fall—and I’m having fun. Honestly. Well, mostly. Although I have to say, I think I have more hope that I’ll have lots of fun later going around the track than actual fun now.

As Lisa says, “It didn’t kill me, and I know I could do better.”

And I really can do better. After all, it took me two years to learn how to swim.

So I’ve been watching YouTube videos about basic skate technique. Mostly I’m trying to stay out of the way of the better skiers and not fall down in front of them. I’m excited to get back to the track.

It helps that I have a friend who is equally green. She’s a competitive sort, though, and somehow she’s already better than me. Anyway, she really wants to race badly. (Or is it “badly wants to race?”) This is far lower on my list of priorities than hers, but I’m easily talked into things. We came to an agreement: When we could do the 1K loop in a particular time, we would become back of the pack ski racers together.

Here are my goals:

  • Have fun!
  • Ski the 1km loop at Weston without falling.
  • Ski the 1km loop at Weston in 4:00. Start racing afterward.
  • Learn to do “1 skate” well.
  • Learn to “offset skate” uphill well.

Oh, and I learned the basics of waxing skis.

Waxing setup

Waxing

Wax shavings

Ready to go!

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Heart Rate Training

Céline asked questions about heart rate training recently, and I started to answer them there. But my comment turned out to be longer than her post, so I decided to put it here instead.

Here’s the low-down on heart rate training as I’ve understood and practiced it for the last 3-4 years. (And, yes, I was similarly confused when I started down this road, too. Hopefully this will get you over the hump.)

Target heart rates are highly individual, but (in general) your maximum heart rate is limited by your age and roughly follows this formula: maxHR = 220 – age. This is basically as fast as your heart can beat.

You won’t be able to train (much less race) near your maximum heart rate for very long, but your highest intensity intervals will be in the neighborhood. These are your “VO2 max” intervals. Anaerobic energy sources don’t last very long, which is why you can’t sustain this effort for more than a minute or two. It’s where you might be when you’re sprinting at the end of a 5K or when you go “all out” at the pool. You can train your VO2 max heart rate upward a bit, but this plateaus.

I described threshold heart rate (a.k.a., lactate threshold heart rate, LTHR) on your previous post. It’s lower than VO2 max, and can be moved upward quite a lot as your muscles become more efficient at producing energy and clearing lactate. It’s a good goal effort for medium-ish races–like a 10K–because it’s pretty much the level of effort you could sustain for about an hour. The longer the race or event, the lower you need to be below LTHR to survive. The good news is, you don’t have to be much below it to go for hours and hours at a fast pace . . . typically 80-85%. As far as I can tell, “tempo heart rate” is the training zone just upward of your LTHR.

Recovery heart rate is pretty much any effort less than about 75-80% of LTHR. It’s a good place to be for a lot of your easier workouts (and/or the easier parts of your hard workouts). Training at this level helps improve your “economy” without taxing you too much. If I understand correctly, it helps train your body to use fat effectively as a fuel source so you’re not relying solely on carbohydrates. (This is good for everyone and extra good for those of us with diabetes. Of course, adaptation leads to its own BG challenges.)

A lot of these different heart rate targets get wrapped up into different “zones.” I hesitate to get too deep into this now, because there are many different zone systems out there. I prefer using this one:

  • Zone 1 is super-easy
  • Zone 2 is recovery
  • Zone 3 is just below threshold/LTHR
  • Zone 4 is LTHR-VO2 max
  • Zone 5 is maximal.

This much I know. About whether your training zones depend on activity . . . Here I’m starting to get a little bit out of my depth, but I’ll proceed with that caveat.

Your zones should be the same across your aerobic disciplines: swimming, biking, running. They may feel different, though. Personally, I’ve seen that my maximal and VO2 rates are the same when I bike or run, but I do “feel” like I’m working harder to get to them when I’m on the bike. It’s also much harder for me to reach those rates on the bike when I’m not outdoors. I’m not sure why that is, but lots of people have this same experience. I have, however, been doing a bit of indoor bike training recently which proves that I can push myself to spend a lot more time at or near LTHR, but it requires more mindfulness and feedback. I’ve also noticed over the years of training with a heart rate monitor that an hour running at LTHR and an hour biking outdoors at the same heart rate is equally taxing.

And here’s the key thing: Your heart rates—like blood glucose—are just numbers that you use to make other decisions. They’re targets you use to get faster. Raising them isn’t necessarily a goal in itself. Rather, you’re using the zones to go faster within each zone over the long haul. Your targets will definitely change, but don’t think they necessarily have to keep going up and up.

Posted in Cycling, Fodder for Techno-weenies, Reluctant Triathlete, Running | 2 Comments

Quality, Not Quantity

From Matt Dixon’s newish book, The Well-Built Triathlete: Turning Potential Into Performance.

If you spend lots of time adding up weekly training hours and monthly totals, it’s time to put your pen down. If your lens on training success is built around a simple accumulation of hours, you cannot be maximizing your performance potential. While training volume is important, it is a derivative of a sensible training plan, not the objective. Training volume as the metric of projected success is nearly immaterial. There. I said it. I am officially, publicly, irretrievably a heretic.

In other words, I’m still working on creating my training plan for the Ironman.

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More Power!

Hello, winter! You’ve finally arrived.

Most years, it’s not long after Labor Day in September that I head down to the “love dungeon” to ride. I still try to get outside on the weekends, but most rides happen indoors now. (This year has been better than most; I’ve been out on the roads five times in the last month!) While others might feel comfortable riding around before and after work year round, I don’t particularly like to ride in the dark. So it’s off to the basement for me.

My set-up

The only problem is that I have trouble getting a really good workout inside. Outside I push hard, and I have a sense when I’m not going “fast enough.” On the trainer, however, I really have to push to get the same burn. So I was looking for something to help me make the most of my trainer time this winter.

Enter TrainerRoad.com, an online app that gives you power-based workouts. “Wait! You have power?” I can hear you asking. No, the app uses my Garmin’s speed+cadence sensor and details about my CycleOps trainer to estimate my power. It comes pre-loaded with workouts, and you can buy more online—including the SufferFest series. All I have to do is pick a workout, put my laptop near the bike, hop on, and work hard to keep my effort at the suggested power values. TrainerRoads shows the target, and I try to hold my effort as close to that number as possible and keep a light on the screen green.

Recovering between

“But, Jeff, how do you know your power targets?”

That, my friends, is where the 20-minute functional threshold power (FTP) test comes into the picture. I recently learned that FTP is an estimate of the maximum effort that you can sustain for an hour. For those of you familiar with heart rate training, it correlates very nicely with lactate threshold, the point where your body can’t clear all the lactate your muscles produce and things start to feel really difficult. It’s also the level of exertion where you start incorporating more anaerobic effort. TrainerRoads says, when you’re working at FTP, you really want to back off the effort, but you don’t actually have to. It’s hard, and it hurts, but it’s supposed to. It’s also possible to improve FTP, making it possible to work harder for longer, always staying just on the happy side of the edge.

The first workout TrainerRoads suggests is the FTP test, and it’s what I did Wednesday night. It starts with 30 minutes of relative easy cycling, including three short sections of high intensity to get the legs ready for what’s to come: 20 minutes in the pain cave. It might be the most difficult bike workout I’ve ever done. In order to test FTPin just 20 “short” minutes—remember, FTP concerns how much effort you can sustain for an hour—you have to go beyond the threshold for the whole 20 minutes.

The first five minutes weren’t bad. Then it started to hurt. By the midway part of the test, I was starting to wonder how much I could actually sustain. At fifteen minutes, Lisa could hear my deep, forceful breathing all the way upstairs. The last five minutes were sheer willpower. Sweat was streaming off me at a disgusting rate. The last minute was somehow easier than the previous 10, probably because I knew I was almost done.

And then I was done.

OMG! So difficult!

I had a number: 200 watts. Don’t worry, I’m not going to become one of those power-obsessed triathletes/cyclists who talks about “watts this” and “watts that,” much to everyone else’s boredom. For me, it’s just a number to help me get faster.

At first I didn’t really know whether it was a good number or not. There are a lot of watt-obsessed folks on the internet, who are willing to break it all down. Turns out, FTP is a fairly objective measure of performance, once you factor in bodyweight. This article from Athlete Lab was the most helpful. After computing watts/kg, it’s possible to see how you stack up against other typical and not-so-typical riders (who are insanely talented and/or aided by a little something off-the-books).

Here’s how they put it:

FTP Watts/KG  
2-3 Good weekend rider
3 Good weekend racer/Cat 3
4 Cat 2
5 Cat 1/Semi Pro
6+ Get on the Tour Baby!

Hungry

When you factor in my current weight (70.5 kg), you get a value of 2.8 W/kg. Not bad. Could be better.

We’ll see where I am at the end of the winter.

Flexin'

Posted in Cycling, Fodder for Techno-weenies, Reluctant Triathlete | Leave a comment

Maintain, Don’t Gain

The FitWorks staff–”MathWorks” + “fitness” = “FitWorks.” Get it?–who run the gym double as our health and wellness people. For the last several years, they’ve been running a “maintain, don’t gain” program between American Thanksgiving and New Years. The challenge is to not gain weight over the holidays, and the reward is the possibility of gift cards to supermarkets that have (generally) healthy, fresh ingredients. I’ve done this a few times now and weighed out last week for this year. Today we got an e-mail with the results and winners. Here’s an excerpt:

Hi Maintain Don’t Gain 2014 Participants,

I appreciate your participation in the program and hope you took away some great new habits. We had some fabulous results that I would like to share with you.

  • 100% of participants that weighed-out (46 of 55) successfully Maintained or lost weight!
  • We had a 119.6 pound weight loss as a group and that’s an average weight loss of 2.6 pounds per person!

I would like to point out that all this was accomplished during a time where most Americans gain 5-10 pounds and all it took was keeping the goal at hand top of mind. Great work everyone and you should all be proud.

It is my pleasure to announce the winners of the Maintain Don’t Gain 2014 Raffle. . . .

100% success! That’s great, no? I was within a half-pound of my weigh-in measurement—which is basically a draw—and having the “MDG” reminder there was a bit of a help. It’s more evidence that “what gets measured gets managed.”

Not gaining over the holidays is good, but it doesn’t undo the 7-8 pounds that I gained since the end of triathlon season. I’m not upset with myself—I enjoyed all of the deliciousness—but I do need to get closer to my ideal training and racing weight by the time spring rolls around. (Mmm . . . spring rolls.)

Enter MyFitnesPal. Lots of people seem to love the free mobile app and website as a way to lose weight or avoid overeating. Céline recently wrote about using it, and my father-in-law lost 100 pounds (!) over a couple of years by exercising more and tracking what he ate with the app. (My mother-in-law lost a fair bit, too!) So I dove right in and decided to give it a try. I like it so far . . . except for feeling a bit hungrier now. :-/ We’ll see where I end up (and when).

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Polar Bear Swim

The Insanity

On Christmas Eve last week, Alex from the pool and I went for a little swim in the Ashland Reservoir. We had hoped to do the same thing on New Year’s Day this year, but we were frozen out. Twelve months later we finally made it!

I changed into my swimmers at the office gym and drove to the reservoir with them on beneath my clothes. I arrived a few minutes before Alex, stripped down, put on my sad-looking reindeer antlers, and hung out for a few minutes feeling a little creepy as a couple random people walked by. When Alex showed up—wearing an elf hat, of course—one of these people told us we were crazy after learning that we were going to get into the water.

And she might have been right. When I rode my bike for a couple hours the previous weekend, I noticed that all of the smaller bodies of water were ice-covered and that some of the larger ones had frozen near shore. A couple of days of warming into the mid-40s (about 5-7°C) cleared away the ice, but the water was only about 34°F (1°C).

Alex and I looked at each other for a few moments, subconsciously urging the other to go first. Finally, we counted to three and ran head long into the frigid water. The shock was instant! I was cold and then I was really cold. Within 10 seconds I couldn’t feel my flesh anymore. Fortunately, the water was up to my waist, so I could flop onto my side for a proper soaking without going any farther into the lake. Alex took a couple of freestyle strokes. Moments later I was trudging back to shore on feet that felt more like stumps, pausing to make sure that Alex wasn’t having any trouble getting out of the water.

Pre-swim

Alex’s husband, who had come along to take a few pictures, handed me my towel. (He even made a short video. You can hear their daughter laughing at us as we frolic.) The funny thing was that the water was so cold that, once I hit the 45° air and toweled off, I didn’t feel that cold. It was so much warmer (comparatively) that I didn’t feel like I was going to die unless I bundled up immediately.

As quickly as we had arrived, gotten wet, and dried off, we were on our way to our respective Christmas Eve traditions. As we were wishing each other a merry Christmas, Alex gave me a hug and expressed what I was also thinking: “I’m glad I have a friend who will do crazy stuff like this with me!”

Have a happy New Year, friends! I hope it’s full of lots of wonderful craziness.

Posted in Swimming | 1 Comment

Artisinal Data Visualization

While looking around the web for interesting ways to visualize diabetes data, I came across Jana Beck’s iPancreas blog and her foray into D-data visualization. There I found a link to Sarah Groff-Palermo’s talk from August about “Artisanal Data on the Web.” This quotation resonated with me:

When we see the stories we want to tell and the stories the tools try to make us tell, in that clash eventually we ourselves are revealed.

Yes! Thinking about what we want to show and the (possibly more limited) way that we can express it leads us to think differently about what we’re actually trying to show.

Posted in Data-betes | 1 Comment

Wish

With apologies to Skee-Lo . . . Here’s an extract from Blünt Lancet’s new album.

I wish I was on a box of Wheaties.
Wish I had faster feeties.
Wish my blood when drawn was a little less sweeties.
I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat,
Who would kick the ass of ‘betes.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Changes

Somehow I simultaneously (1) brought down my estimated A1c over the last 30 days, (2) reduced the variability of my readings overall, and (3) added many more outliers.

Diabetes data - December 2014


The true outliers (the red “+” markers) are mostly on the higher side, while the range of “normal” values (i.e., the width of the bell curve, represented by the dashed lines) has shrunk in the latter parts of the day and grown overnight and in the morning. At least that’s what the sensor data says. I’ve definitely been having more hypos over the last few weeks.

My awesome endo and I will definitely have lots to talk about tomorrow morning.

Posted in Data-betes, Diabetes | 2 Comments

8.9

Fuckity fuck fuck fuck!

I know that my lab results are just numbers, but an A1c of 8.9 is a rather troubling one. It’s time to take a really hard look at what I’m doing and make some changes.

Posted in Diabetes | 1 Comment

Snowy Dia de los Muertos!

Last season, I learned a really valuable lesson about winter riding: If you wear the right clothing, there’s no reason you have to stop just because the temperature drops near freezing. (Although I do stop once the snow starts accumulating on the roads.) The key is having the right layering. On Sunday I was excited to get back out on my bike after a little hiatus and give it a go again.

Getting ready to head out


On Saturday a nor’easter blew in, bringing with it cool temperatures, rain, and lots and lots of wind. We drove through quite a bit of that on our way to and from Lincoln Center to see Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera. (It was fantastic, by the way.) Here’s a fuzzy picture after the end of the show.

"Carmen" at the Met


I could hear the wind blowing against the house on Sunday morning when I woke up. So I put on a pair of thermal bib tights, an undershirt, arm-warmers, a JDRF jersey, and my thermal waterproof jacket. It sounds bulky, but it really isn’t. I also wore a normal pair of cycling socks and the waterproof cycling boots I got as a give last Christmas. Oh and gloves. I also loaded up with enough food for three hours of riding, my phone, and a bit of cash in case I got peckish or had to bribe someone.

When I walked out of the house, I was a little worried about being overly warm, but as soon as I started riding the wind dispelled that notion. I was actually quite comfortable. And then it started to rain a bit. And then it started to snow. For an hour of my two-hour jaunt I rode into and out of snow flurries, occasionally thinking thoughts like this: “I hope the drivers who see my don’t think ‘There’s a crazy person’ when they see me. Or, if they do, I hope they also recognize that this is the kind of craziness I must embrace in order to be ready for next year.” And then it happened; about an hour-and-a-half into my ride I was waiting at a light to make a left turn onto highway 109 (the most boring road in the Commonwealth) when I saw a car approaching with two bikes atop it. The driver slowed and gave me a big thumbs up as he passed. It kinda made my day.

After a bit of snow


A few random observations from my ride:

  • My full-finger gloves are not waterproof. So my fingers got cold.
  • Rainwater ran down my legs into my shoes. Because they’re waterproof, I finished the ride with standing water in my shoes and rubbery feet.
  • The chia-based energy gel Victoria sent me was . . . interesting.
  • I forgot how firm Clif ShotBloks get when it’s cold.
  • I think I have a non-race-day diabetes plan that I can use when I’m riding. My BG barely budged over those two hours.
  • The last time I washed my bib tights, the spin cycle didn’t get all of the soapy water out. My knees started foaming a bit in the wet weather. :-)
Posted in Cycling, Diabetes | 1 Comment

Lost in Berlin

Olympiastadion

We had a midday flight returning from Berlin, and I wasn’t ready to be done sight-seeing, so I decided that going for a little run would be a perfect way to take in a bit more of the city. The plan was to take the train to the 1936 Olympic Stadium and run back to the hotel via the Tiergarten (where I had run a couple days earlier).

Turns out, I got a bit turned around getting there and a whole lot lost getting back.

I made wrong turns from the moment I got off the train. I left the hotel at 6AM, and it was still dark when I got off the U2 train at the Theodor-Heuss-Platz station. At that time of the morning, my train stopped a couple of stops short of the Olympiastadion station, so I decided to run the mile to the stadium instead of transferring to another train. All I had to do was follow Reichstraße (a major road) to the stadium. Unfortunately, there were four main roads, and I picked the wrong one. A sign for motorists suggested I was going the right way, though.

About a half-mile in, I asked a man walking his dog for directions. (Pro-tip: Older people in Berlin are much friendlier about giving directions than younger people.) A mile later, after running through a rather posh neighborhood, I was taking a selfie at the stadium.

Me at the Olypic Stadium

All I had to do to get back was (1) run down Olympischestraße away from the stadium, (2) turn right on Reichstraße, and (3) bear slightly left where I got lost getting off the train. Something about the Reichstraße intersection threw me off, and I ended up curving to the left.

I knew I had made a wrong turn when the street names didn’t match any on the cue sheet I’d written on the hotel stationary and stuffed in my pocket along with my pump, glucose tablets, U-bahn ticket, and a few Euros. When I turned around and ran back, I was on the opposite side of the road and missed the turn onto Reichstraße.

Schloss Charlottenburg

Four miles later I still wasn’t where I thought, and no one knew the main roads I was referring to when I asked for directions. It was around that time when I discovered the bus stops all had maps showing me how to get back onto my original route. By then I had run out of time to do the extra three or four miles back to the hotel. I didn’t want to miss my flight home or worry Lisa, so I decided to find the subway and (alas) subject some commuters to my smelly self.

On the train back I tried to look on the bright side: I got to experience some Berlin neighborhoods, see the Olympiastadion and Charlottenburg Palace, watch the city come awake, and talk to some locals all before 8AM.

What’s your best “lost in a foreign city” story?

My crazy-lost run in Berlin

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Wednesday, 5:45AM: Episode #213

Super-creepy Rob Lowe at the pool

Things I can’t post about without seeming super creepy #37: Attractive people at morning lap swim.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Posted in Swimming | 2 Comments

Berlin

Earlier this month, Lisa and I went to Berlin. Here are few notes from my journal and some photographs, too.

10 October 2014 — We’re having a pretty relaxed time here in Berlin so far. Berlin is interesting . . . in a mixed kind of way. I’m doing my best to look beyond it as a city with a past—National Socialism, the Wall, and reunification—but it’s there in so many things. The city is so new, and it’s hard to forget why. (It’s very vibrant, though.)

We went to the Brandenburger Tor, the Reichstag, and Holocaust Memorial. We also stood in line for 1-1/2 hours to go to the Riechstag’s dome tomorrow. The rest of the weekend will be more typical fare once we’ve gotten some sleep. We’re running on fumes now.


12 October 2014 — We’re having a splendid time in Berlin. Since our sleepy Friday, we have done much without feeling rushed. Before going to the Reichstag in the late afternoon on Saturday, we walked through the rain to and from Potsdamer Platz and Gemäldegalerie. I loved the paintings—especially the Vermeers, Rembrandts, van Eycks, Titians, and Bruyghels—although it did become a bit overwhelming. (It’s the kind of place to visit over and over again. As Lisa said, their collection of (mostly) religious and history paintings “isn’t very broad, but it is very deep.”) It was wonderful to see Vermeer’s “The Glass of Wine” and “Woman with a Pearl Necklace.” I’ve seen so many of his works online that I wonder whether I’ve seen them before “in the paint” (as it were) but I know from how much I saw in “Woman with a Pearl Necklace” that it was my first time.

After some lunch and a quick return through the gallery’s temporary exhibits, we went through security at the Reichstag and spent almost as much time touring it as we did waiting for tickets. It was gray and the view was obscured, but the building was neat. Afterward, we walked to the Hauptbahnhof, rode the S-Bahn to the west end of the Tiergarten, walked to the Siegeßäule, and hoofed it the rest of the way to the Pariser Platz and back to the hotel (about 2-1/2 to 3 miles). At the Pariser Platz, we watched a light show projected onto the Brandenburg Gate, as part of the Festival of Lights. (We saw more tonight in our neighborhood . . . Gendamenmarkt, Humboldt University, Staatsoper, Hotel de Rome. We even saw the lights on the TV tower in Alexanderplatz.)

I ran this morning along the Spree and through the Tiergarten. It was quiet, owing to the early hour I left (6:20) and the darkness of the park. I like running on vacation; it’s a good way to see a place. After breakie, we happened upon Checkpoint Charlie, where we read about GDR/FDR politics, Cold War hostilities, and how that played out in Berlin. It was a nice reminder about what the “canvas” of the East Side Gallery paintings/graffiti represented. The painted wall was a mixed experience: Some of the iconic paintings were there and well-maintained, but others were so covered in spurious tagging that it was impossible to appreciate the “original work.” It made Lisa a little sad. We talked about street art vs. “high art” and impermanence, and I totally get where she’s coming from, because she saw them almost 25 years ago when the wall was newly down, and it really meant something to all of our generation. And now it’s just another “me, too!” thing to do (tagging a part of a tourist attraction).

(I felt similarly when we saw youths running through the very moving Holocaust Memorial. I hope one day they can appreciate the gravity of the what and why beneath where they are. BTW, at first I wasn’t impressed, but when you get into the depths of it . . . Wow! Very moving.)

We had an unexpected, unplanned lunch at a falafel place in Friedrichshain because my blood sugar tanked. It was delicious. (I have to say, I was disappointed with the currywurst we had on Friday, though.) Berlin—as we’ve experienced it—isn’t the best for casual eating. Although, we’ve had good ice cream the last few days. We’ll probably have more tomorrow. We returned to Mitte via Alexanderplatz, the Berliner Dom, and Museum Insel. The church wasn’t as ornate as the French churches we know and love, but it did have charm. (It’s hard to know what was almost or completely destroyed during WWII, and the Germans are extremely vague and circumspect about “National Socialism Germany” and anything that isn’t now.) The view from the dome was fantastic! Today was a beautiful, mostly sunny day, and we could see the whole city. We took it easy after the church (and ice cream) and tomorrow looks to be full of laid-back excitement, too.


13 October 2014 — Lisa described today as “breakfast, church, shopping, lunch, shopping, dinner, and church.” That’s pretty accurate. The Berliners aren’t so good with French pastries [tant pis, yet not unexpected] but the laugen-ecke is very tasty. The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche is a remarkable and sad memorial to what so many in Germany (and Berlin in particular) lost to World War II. [There's a photo in the museum of parishioners holding services in the bombed out church that just broke my heart.] And the new church is a triumph of simplicity, infusing a space with light.

KaDeWe was a bit overwhelming, and we were tempted by many nice things. We did buy delicious food. We did not buy a 150€ Kosën plush of a fox/huntsman. We probably should have. [It was so adorable.] We most certainly should not have bought the 2,700€ suit ensemble, the 7,000€ wristwatch, or the 31,500€ attaché case. (We didn’t.) We did buy a porcelain pot at a dealer near our hotel. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed, with more of the Festival of Lights® after dinner. It’s one of those random, spontaneous things I love about traveling.

Tomorrow, we go home. :-(


14 October 2014 — The cheese did not make it. The couple bites I had of the Napfkäse were good, but it was past its prime, perhaps having traveled too much yesterday and today at room temperature. The truffles we got from Fassbender & Rausch were so delicious! The filings had a velvety texture, and the chocolate quality is impeccable. The other food we bought at KaDeWe was great, too: a chocolate éclair, strawberry tortalette, and an almond croissant. Lisa and I ate some of these in the shadow of the Gedächtniskirche as the bells tolled the one o’clock hour. It was beautiful! And not in a melodic way. No, in an atonal, “ring all the bells to a different theme/variation and slowly peel that back to reveal structure” kind of way. Tintinnabuli at its finest. It might be my favorite moment of the trip, similar to when we stumbled upon Vivaldi at the St. Pi church in Barcelona a couple years ago.

Posted in 101 in 1001, Travel, Über Alles | Leave a comment

Forest to Park to Forest

It really was ridiculously beautiful.

Saturday morning I went for my longest trail run ever. I’ve been thinking about this run for over a year, since I first discovered that it’s possible to link the trails in Upton State Forest and Hopkinton’s Whitehall State Park. Several times I’ve set out to run from one park to the other, go around the lake, and then return back whence I started. Despite getting stymied a couple of times by ice, I’ve run from one park to another. The lake has been another matter. Until Sunday I had never gotten around the lake. A couple of times my blood sugar has dropped or I’ve gotten lost and had to cut the run short. Mostly it’s just taken longer than expected, and I’ve run out of time or daylight.

But I finally did it, running 13.1 miles on a cool autumn morning.

The trails in my part of the world are hilly, and the footing is tricky. The name of the game is roots and rocks. It’s not a technical trail at all, and for the most part it was very well blazed. For the better part of seven of the thirteen miles, I was able to look over my right shoulder and see the beautiful lake.

The beauty took the edge off how difficult it was. By time—2:40—it’s the longest I’ve run since last October’s marathon. My heart rate was pegged for almost the entire run, despite my best efforts to slow my pace and hold back. There was simply too much constant acceleration as I went up and down hills, hopped over and around obstacles, and followed the winding trail as it hugged the shoreline.

When I completed the loop after running nine miles, I had a choice: Go straight back to the parking lot (and finish after roughly 11 miles) or add some extra distance to get the full 13.1-mile, half-marathon distance. Y’all know which one I picked. The “funny” thing is that the 12th mile included over 200 feet of climbing. Fortunately, the last mile was all downhill.

Here are some pictures from the trail.

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