5/10/15

Psycowpath Platte River Battle Royale Race Report

It has taken me the better part of 10 days to adjust back to this time zone in terms of my sleeping. I've finally turned a corner the past 2 nights by not waking up at 2 am. I ended up having more things on my plate this past week that I wasn't expecting to occupy my time than what I was expecting to accomplish. That led to skirting around the major items I should have been doing. This means the to do list continues to grow and needs addressing on a daily basis going forward.

The not expected list included having to get new tires, a new ball joint and alignment on our black Honda Element which all seemed to take up an entire day that I wasn't expecting. Mowing, and weeding took up another day as the pace I was moving seemed to be about as slow-motion as one can get with a lawn mower compared to my normal way of attacking the yard. Selecting a new fridge took up another day as measuring, finding what would and wouldn't fit, pricing, and all the driving to and from places took up time. Discovering a leak under the kitchen sink took another chunk of time to try and figure it out, give up, and call for repair. Grading final papers, tests, projects, entering and submitting the grades took up 3 full days. Diving into an issue that arose with IMBCS to bring us into the 21st Century with gender equity cash payouts has taken some time, and was not on the original week's to do list. And suddenly the week is over ending with Mother's Day.

Coming off of last Sunday's race at Beverly Park, I launched into week #1 of my build, peak, and race 12 week structured training program. No rest for the weary so to speak as weights were lifted, 3 x 12 Zone 4 intervals, 4 x 4 Zone 5 intervals, and more weights were all completed. In spite of that, I decided to drive over to Louisville, NE for the Platte River Battle Royale on Saturday with Andre Rethman to race as the weather looked promising and the trails were reported to be in great shape. Knowing that it was a pretty full week training wise, my expectations were realistic what my legs, body and mind would feel like doing a race just 6 days after the previous one on top of a heavy training week. I got the car packed up on Friday in hopes I would be ready for my 8 am departure to pick up Andre and drive over to Psycowpath's second race in their series. We had a nice visit in the car driving over as car pooling is a great way to get to know each other.

We arrived about 15 minutes later than I would have liked due to me leaving the house 15 minutes later than I expected. My bad, and I apologized to Andre. We checked in, got suited up, used the facilities, and with very little warm up, lined up for the race. This event seems to fluctuate year to year between using a Le Mans start, and a regular MTB race start. Yesterday was the Le Mans variety where we set our bikes down in a designated area, and then we all start back 50 yards are so and run to the bikes to begin the race. Suffice it to say, out of the 40 or so that started in my group, I was next to last to get to my bike as I gingerly ran through the pock marked field so as not to twist an angle or pull any muscles.

I managed to hop on the bike and get going quick enough to make up a dozen or so spots right off the bat, then settled into the line going up the hill. Gone was the strategy of hanging with Mark Sullivan who beat me by 1/3 of a second at this race last year, as I was way back in the pack feeling the effects of a heavy training week as I pounded up the opening climb. I passed a few on the climb as my heart rate soared, but I did keep things in check remembering that there was plenty of course out there coming up.

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Photo Courtesy of McColgan Photography

Once up the climb, I found myself in heavy traffic in the singletrack with little opportunity to negotiate a pass, but I managed a couple of passes to go around slower riders. The trail was in great shape from all of the rain this past week - nice and tacky, with only a little bit of mud at the very bottom of one of the descents. During lap one, the usual carnage of guys going down opened up some passing opportunities and I finally found myself in some good flow working with what my legs and lungs would give me. At the end of lap one, and looking at my computer, I spotted Mark rounding the lap to begin his second lap about 1:48 ahead of me. No way I was going to make that up, but I had at it for lap two trying to hammer every climb and keep moving forward to work on my form and worry about my position in the field. Lap two was uneventful as I caught up and passed other racers who had started out stronger than I did. I tried to ride the rock section on this lap as there was nobody in front of me at the time, but didn't make the climb as I psyched myself out 1/2 way up and put a foot down. A couple of duck steps over those rocks and I was back to mashing the big ring up the hills. I never saw Mark again as he pulled far and fast away and had me by at least 8 minutes for the win.

I rolled in for 2nd place (same as last year) which didn't feel quite as competitive as being on Mark's wheel last year at the finish line. Being on his wheel doesn't quite compare to being dusted by 8 minutes this year. However, my finish time yesterday - on pretty much the same course - was very similar to my finish time last year. Mark looked svelte as well as lean and mean like he had dropped some weight. He is obviously riding strong and will be hard for anybody to beat this season. I don't think I'll face him again until August, so maybe I can dial it up between now and then to close some of that gap. We'll see.

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Andre had some mechanicals and went ass over tea kettle when a rock got stuck in his wheel. He rolled across the line in 6th with a few battle scars to show off on his leg. He treated us to one of my favorite beers from Knoxville, Iowa and we grabbed a burger from the grill that Cycle Works was providing for racers. This is always a fun event and it's nice to hang out and visit with folks after the race. I was able to have a nice talk with Roxzanne Feagan about financing and structuring cash payouts for men and women that are equal. Since the numbers in Nebraska are very similar to the numbers in Iowa, this was a valuable discussion as it is hard to compare to larger series such as Minnesota and Wisconsin that have a very large cash flow due to the 300-800 racers that race each of their events.

After the awards, we hopped back in the Element and returned to Iowa in time for dinner. Tara made a lovely salmon pizza. YUM! Thanks Andre for the visit and company! Kudos to Cycle Works and Psycowpath for a well run and fun event!

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. Our kids are both in Europe right now, so I'm taking Tara to brunch at Mullet's this morning on their behalf...

5/6/15

Back home again...

We had a whirlwind ten day trip to Vienna, Krakow, and Berlin to round out our 4 months in Germany.

Highlights: Thomas Hampson recital; Schloss Schönbrunn and the Tiergarten, the Belvedere; Prater; Naschmarkt; the coffee; biking in Berlin, Auschwitz; food in all 3 cities; great weather; seeing my daughter; seeing old friends.

These two old looking guys have sung over 100 performances together of numerous operas (Boheme, Zar und Zimmermann, Die Lustige Weiber von Windsor, Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, Boris, and on and on...). It was nice to sit down and have dinner with Janusz Monarcha to catch up...

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Our day at the Belvedere...

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Good weather makes for good trips...

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This critter was very curious about all of us...

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I enjoyed the trip as did the students. Final farewells and tears were shared back in Schorndorf before we all departed on April 29th.

I got home in time for Zack's graduation on Saturday from Simpson College, and a visit from Dad/Grandpa to attend the event as well...



Then I jumped right into IMBCS Directing duties as we had our 2nd race of the season at Beverly Park in Cedar Rapids. Some of our new banners...

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The usual first week of dealing with jet lag, having so much on the to do list you don't know where to start (grades, gardening, final reports, refrigerator shopping, IMBCS stuff) and of course, reconnecting with family and friends.

Beverly Park Race Report

The only dirt I was able to ride the past 4 months was during the Easter Week Spring Break at Banner Pits and Lake Ahquabi, and I tried out the new Center Trails last week to map our the Time Trail course for August 8th. In spite of that, this past week was week 12 of my base training plan and felt pretty good outside of taking 7 days off during our 10 day trip. I finally rented a bike in Berlin to get two days of riding in, but should have done that in Vienna as well to keep the legs and lungs on the up and up. A 7 day layoff is going to require a few weeks to get back to where I was and beyond, and I'm certainly attacking it now.

Sunday I was out the door at 7 am to head to Beverly Park with our new banners, my bike, and the Hammer Nutrition sponsorship drinks, goodie bags, and gels. The forecast was good with an early morning sprinkle that was supposed to give way to sunshine for the rest of the day. Suffice it to say, that once the Marathon, CAT III, and Junior races got underway at 10 am, a small green blurp on the radar suddenly mushroomed into a full fledged thunderstorm that went right over the race course. Torrential rain, lightening and thunder. We had to stop the marathon race and send everyone for shelter until it blew over. Luckily, the Kids Race, the CAT III, and the JUNIOR races were all completed before the thunder and lightening hit.

Decisions then had to be made once the storm had blown over following our options in the rules/guidelines. It's always tough, frustrating, and requires patience to work through the options and come up with the best decisions for the majority. However, that's what we did. We decided to have a 2 hour delay to let the sun and wind do its work, and restart the marathon at that time with the other XC races remaining - CAT I, COMP, and CAT II. Not everyone was pleased, but that's why we have rules and guidelines in an organization to follow. It's obvious that frustration swayed some people's choices which included leaving, not racing at all, or even making public comments about how it was all handled. I can understand that, as it is more on the rare side of things that an event has to be stopped in progress due to weather safety issues, or an injury.

Regardless, in working with the Race Director Noel Kehrt, his trail managers, the timer and his software, we were able to stick to the rules and guidelines that included weighing several options (using a rain date, using a rain delay, altering the course, canceling a race, restarting a race, etc...). In my opinion, all of the right decisions were made as after the 2 hour delay and a slight course alteration, those that remained were treated to perfect racing conditions as the water had absorbed into the dirt, the trails were dry, and the sun was shining. Tacky, hero dirt was what we faced at that point, unlike those that had raced in the morning during the sprinkles that turned to torrential downpour.

The group that was impacted the most was our new Marathon Category (we had 19 in that group out of the 105 racers who toed the line). That's unfortunate as I really want this category to take off. Many chose not to restart even with the suggestion that they had time to go to the laundry mat, wash and dry their racing outfits, and be back still with plenty of time to restart the race. I had to do that at a race in Wisconsin last year after a rain shower and a delay. A few quarters later, and I had a fresh, dry kit to wear. Some had bike issues which is understandable from the rain and mud. Anyway, all the women bailed as a group and only about 1/2 the men decided not to restart. Those that remained, under the rules/guidelines, received full points for their final placings.

I think we have an option to make it all work out for the season with an additional event, and changing the rules to one's best 3 scores count for the series award, and a bonus for participating in the 4th event that is fair at the end of the season in the Marathon Category. I would hate to see Sunday's stopping and restarting due to severe weather, and wet trails deter those who were there participating to not come out for our other upcoming marathon events this season. I will make sure to work around Ma Nature to salvage the Marathon Category season with that slight rule alteration.

I raced my first COMP race as I upgraded this year. It's one more lap than what I have been used to, but I have been training for this distance since last fall. No surprise, and as usual, I was maxed out HR wise during lap one. I hit my highest HR during the opening 10 minutes, recovered and had better 2nd and 3rd laps than my first once my legs kicked in and I got into a better flow. No falls. The trail was in great shape and really fun. My average HR was higher than any race I've ever done in the past, but that could be due to where I am in my training cycle, the heat/humidity - or a combination of all that with me trying to push myself to keep up with the better competition in this category.

Suffice it to say, I've got work to do to compete at this new level. I started the race off in 5th place overall, and ended up in what I think was 7th place overall. Two riders in COMP were within reach in front of me on the final lap, but I just couldn't catch them. I haven't seen the full results yet, but my main goal was to finish strong for where I am in my training cycle, which I did.

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Photo Courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

After using Monday for scheduled maintenance weight training, I took to the pavement on Tuesday for my Zone 4 Intervals (duration increased to 12 minutes in this training block). I dumped my chain to the inside on my Roubaix a few minutes from the house which is going to involve taking the crankset off to get things unstuck. After a walk back home pushing the bike, I used Zack's Tarmac yesterday which is a real rocket!!!

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4/18/15

Auf Wiedersehen...

This has been a week of saying our goodbyes here in Germany. We don't come back to the states until April 29th, but since we are heading out on a 10 day trip to Austria and Poland Sunday morning, the goodbyes here in Schorndorf were - for the most part - done this week.

One of our main lunch spots, the Deutsches Haus, ended on Friday with an offer of letting us choose whatever we wanted off of the menu and the owner, Luigi Greco, only charged us the lunch special price. He had also prepared a wonderful dessert for us (baked apple, frozen ice cream and covered with almonds and pistachios).

All smiles and full after a great final group meal at our restaurant here in Schorndorf...

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Luigi and his mother (she does all the cooking)...

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I had a wonderful Zwiebelrostbraten for my final meal from their Lava Grill. Yum!

We said goodbye to Herr Helmut Elsen on Thursday. He was the afternoon German grammar teacher for the students. We bought him a Simpson College hat and a nice Columbia jacket from the Simpson College bookstore that also has the school name on it.

Helmut had a gift for me of a CD as he sings and plays in a band from Stuttgart (polkas, waltzes, etc...). Here he is in the classroom saying goodbye to us...

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Opening his gifts we gave him in the classroom...

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Then we took him out for his favorite ice cream and coffee after class...

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We had a final coffee and cake meeting with the First Mayor of Schorndorf,  Edgar Hemmerich, and our host families at Cafe Mack on Friday afternoon. Evidently, according to the mayor, I am now known in Schorndorf as "Bruce, the guy with the big red bike" (my Specialized Roubaix size 64cm stands out in the crowd). I had a nice 2 hour visit with Edgar (Eddy) the First Mayor, and said goodbye to all of the host families. We took a group picture on the steps of the Rathaus...

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The mayor gave me a history book of Schorndorf as a going away present. We also said goodbye to Beate Wolf Kohnert who was in charge of lining up the host families, and helped me organize a trip with the host families that we took back in February. We will see her again the day we leave, but due to how our 10 day trip to Vienna/Krakow/Berlin falls, we said the main goodbye to everyone this week.

There are more goodbyes, sweet tears, memories to be had today and tomorrow - as well as the evening of the 27th and 28th before some of us come home on the 29th. 7 of the students are staying in Europe for another few weeks to months traveling on their own or with family, friends, May Term trips, etc... .

I am saying goodbye to this part of Germany today and tomorrow on my bike by riding my two favorite loops. One today, and the other tomorrow morning before getting on the plane to Vienna. I am treating my hostess on the 28th to a nice meal and to thank her for letting me stay in her home for the semester. Tonight, we are going to a play/musical about Russian Nomads and Mongolians in a theater that is a converted barn. Sounds interesting....!

I am also looking forward to the visit in Vienna. Between taking the students to all of the sights in Vienna, I will be seeing a few old friends to catch up. I just got off the phone with my old singing colleague and good friend, Janusz Monarcha. We will hook up on Monday or Tuesday to catch up with each other. I am hoping to meet with Jeremy and Stephanie Pick. Wednesday I will spend the afternoon/evening with Bruce Murray. I will catch up with Morten Frank Larsen. And Alexa and I will see Thomas Hampson tomorrow night in concert.

4/13/15

Wieder im Deutschland...

A quick Spring Break trip back home to Iowa. It was great to see Tara, Zack, the dogs, the house, students at Simpson, etc... . The trip began and ended with perfect weather and conditions at Banner Pits (Summerset State Park) where I worked the Karate Monkey SS through 3 laps of singletrack goodness on Easter, and on the Saturday I departed (with a couple of laps on Tuesday thrown in for good measure).

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At the end of the much welcomed week home stay and visit, I hopped back on the plane Saturday from Des Moines to fly to Detroit. I had enough time in Detroit to grab dinner, but when the Air France flight scheduled to depart at 9:35 pm (I chose this specifically so I could sleep through the flight and minimalize jet lag) had us board about an hour early only to find out there was a 'technical fuel error' - things went a bit awry. Okay, so we were not allowed to get off the plane and all had to sit there for 3 1/2 hours sweating profusely in economy (word has it that 1st Class had the AC on and were dining while we were all melting). We couldn't believe how hot it was on the plane. And I was sandwiched in one of the middle seats of the middle section with no where to go.

Many of us ended up stripping down to our undergarments (actually I was first to take off my shirt and jeans as I had Nike Combat t-shirt and shorts underneath - so no big deal) and fanned ourselves to get through the ordeal. Oy! Air France gave us one glass of water within those 3 1/2 hours and 90+ temps on the plane. After much begging and howling by all of us, we convinced the Air France staff to pour us some cold Champagne. What the heck, if one was going to be miserable - why not sip on some bubbly? Finally, after 3 1/2 hours the engines started up and we were on our way. At least I slept soundly for 5 hours on the plane!!!

Of course that put me in Paris way too late to catch my flight to Stuttgart, but Air France got me on the next city hopper to Stuttgart and I arrived back in Schorndorf around 7:30 pm instead of my scheduled 2:50 pm. This possibly helped I was able to go to bed around 9:30 pm and sleep through the night.

OK, back in Germany for the final 18 days. Spring is beautiful here (about 3-4 weeks ahead of Iowa) and it looks like we will have mid 70's to low 80's the next couple of days.

I got news upon landing that my father took a fall at an Arby's restaurant reaching for a coin on the floor (coins are not worth bending over for, Dad!!!!). Hopefully he is okay and bouncing back from bumping his head. I can't call the US with my SIM card plan here from Vodaphone, so I have to rely on messages from my sister that all is - or is not well.

Final thoughts being back here is a constant pinch to remind myself of the beauty, charm, history and experience we are having. My hostess is the best, the people I have met are friendly and helpful, and I have to say the experience has been nothing short of great.

Today, the students recounted what they did during their 10 day Spring Break. Sweden, Holland, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Germany - it was all memory and experience building for each of them.

Speaking of memories, here is a cool picture of part of our group on our Neuschwanstein tourist trip before the break...

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After today, we have 15 more days of fun as a group here in Germany (and Austria/Poland) before we disperse. My goal is to make every day count! The once in a lifetime chance is about to expire...

4/8/15

Enjoying my Spring Break respite...

I'm home from Germany for the week as it is our Spring Break/Easter Vacation this week. I head back to Germany again on Saturday. I am not here long enough to do too much, but enough to get some things done that needed to be done. Taxes, mountain bike rides, changing winter tires back to summer tires, holding several meetings, spending time with my wife and son, a little shopping, and attending recitals of some of my students.

Training: This is week 9 of the Masters 40+ MTB Cross Country Base Training Plan. It is also the first time I have been able to step on a scale since January 8th. I have been spending the past 6 months attacking some of the loss of muscle mass I went through during last year's weight loss. My on the bike performance felt pretty good last year, but I didn't feel physically strong (neck, back, upper body) and wanted to address that through a bit of body recomposition. I've been hitting the weights 2 - 3 times a week since October and managed to build up most of the muscle mass that I had lost, yet avoid overdoing too much of a bulk.

There certainly is no lack of protein in Germany with all of the meat I've been eating to help with the bulk. I just didn't know where I was weight wise until Sunday morning when I stepped on the scale after arriving home. It was no surprise to me what the scale said. It read 4-5 pounds higher from when I left home in January. Not too bad, but still a signal that I don't need to bulk any more because I have to carry the weight up the hill which alters the power to weight ratio. The strength gains, all of the walking, and the riding I have been doing resulted in some nice training results in spite of a few extra pounds. Those pounds will now start to shed as I move from the 6 month off season plan to more of a maintenance lifting plan beginning after next week.

I was pleasantly surprised last week in Germany while conducting a scheduled interval session of 4 x 8 Zone 4 intervals. Compared to doing the session in the previous year, I noticed I was hitting a bit higher numbers and holding them easily for the 8 minute duration. Following each of the 2 minute recovery gaps between the intervals, I was easily able to nail the next 8 minute interval as well. I felt good and fresh at the end even though my numbers were a bit better in that particular 4 x 8 interval session. That was exciting for me to see as last year I was cutting a lot of weight during this time and couldn't quite hold numbers like that. I had a good FTP test not long before, so I knew things were at least equal to, if not a wee bit better (notice I said wee bit) than last year which means I carried over the gains from last year quite well into this year.

Now, would that translate to on the bike performance on the singletrack? Since all my geared bikes are out of commission (need a cassette on one, a rear derailleur on another, and a new rim on the third), I had to adapt and use my SS Karate Monkey as it was all I had at my disposal this week. I found out on the singlespeed last fall that I am able to ride race laps just as fast with it as my geared bikes (much to my surprise). I feel much faster on the geared bikes, but my lap times do not confirm that.

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I rode 3 laps on the Karate Monkey singlespeed pictured above at Banner on Sunday to test my race lap speed markers and fitness. I also did some comparison laps at Ahquabi and Banner again on subsequent days. Lap times were right up there with my previous season test markers. On the third and final lap, after giving it everything I had to try and match my best lap time at Banner for a 3 lap sequence, I was 2 minutes short of my best due to that third lap. So I'm not quite where I need to be stamina wise, but I'm only in week 9 of the build phase so it is understandable. At least lap one and two were solid.

Lynda Wallenfels of LWCoaching.com had some comments on racing and training for the 40+ crowd which I listened to yesterday and felt better about it all (getting older that is) and infusing training with the reality of my age.

The legs have enjoyed this week off from all the walking, but I will be back at it come this Sunday. One more week of classes in Schorndorf before the group takes off on a 10 day trip to Austria, Poland, and northern Germany. I will see plenty of walking during that trip to make up for what I am missing this week.

I'm pretty excited from the standpoint of serving as the Director of IMBCS that all of the hard work getting the IMBCS 2015 season off the ground is about to come to fruition. Our website is now featuring some content after sitting rather dormant since launching back in November. Have a look at Spotlights as well as the upcoming race information as our 13th Annual Season starts on April 19th (a race I will unfortunately have to miss due to working over in Germany).

3/31/15

April Fools' Day...

No Fool. No knock, knock jokes. No "got ya" comments. Just a simple rolling over from the month of March to the start of April. Ho-hum.

That's a wrap for March!

It is April 1st on this side of the pond. Today starts the final month here in Deutschland. Actually I will be out of Germany for 17 of the days (Poland, Austria, the US) to get some training in before packing up and going back home. My training will be a bit more limited in April so I will have to train smarter, not harder during the month.

At least some good base building continued for the month of March to keep me focused and on track. I think I was maybe one or two rides short of what I had intended (Sunday I laid in bed all day and just couldn't face the cold, rain, and wind). Today's longer ride was out due to the Hurricane Force Wind Warnings here in Germany. It has been howling, blowing branches and limbs down all day. Walking and riding the bike outside today were not easy tasks.

This has been the day all day and the house is still shaking at one in the morning here from the strong winds....

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I also walk 60 - 90 minutes per day, and hit the weights about 2 x a week. Adding those to the riding and I am pretty happy with what I was able to get in during a busy month of work, visitors, and trips.

My on the bike hours for March...

March 1 - rode 44.2 Kilometers for a duration of 2:00:46
March 3 - rode 43.8 Kilometers for a duration of 1:52:56
March 4 - rode 24.4 Kilometers for a duration of 1:28:28
March 8 - rode 63.6 Kilometers for a duration of 2:53:25
March 10 - rode 29.5 Kilometers for a duration of 1:00:00
March 16 - rode 50.7 Kilometers for a duration of 2:54:43
March 17 - rode 45.6 Kilometers for a duration of 3:00:33
March 19 - rode 34.0 Kilometers for a duration of 2:02:04
March 20 - rode 13.9 Kilometers for a duration of 0:57:26 (HIIT)
March 22 - rode 15.6 Kilometers for a duration of 0:55:58 (HIIT)
March 26 - rode 49.5 Kilometers for a duration of 2:06:27
March 28 - rode 50.1 Kilometers for a duration of 2:07:20
March 31 - rode 28.65 Kilometers for a duration of 1:00:00 (HIIT)

March Totals: 493.55 Kilometers - 24:20:06 hours

And to think that I had already done my first XC race by this time last year (Swanson). At least that is twice the number of hours, and 200 Kilometers more than I got during February.

3/29/15

Final month in Germany...

I have been busy enjoying my stay in Germany. I have not taken the time to log in more blog posts due to classes, prep work, administrative work, our travel, Tara's visit, spending a lot of time visiting with my hostess and her friend, dinner dates with the school directors, and getting a solid base of bike riding in during the month of March. I've managed to log in a little over 500 Kilometers and 25 hours on the bike in March so far with Tuesday being my final ride for the month to round out the month.

Speaking of bikes, my Roubaix has really been an enjoyable ride here with the gravel tires. They are great on pavement, gravel, in the woods, on the bike trails, in the rain, on all the cobblestone streets, and have helped make the bike a great "do it all" ride for my 4 months here.

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It's really a beautiful ride no matter which direction you go from Schorndorf. Up into the woods, to the east towards Schwäbisch Gemünd, towards the west to Waiblingen and Stuttgart, towards the south to Oberberken, towards the north to Welzheim - it's all good.

From Thursday's ride to Schwäbisch Gemünd....

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Most rides are like you are riding through pictures of post cards...

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...and the sights, sounds, and smells are all so refreshing...

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Tara and I actually rode for 3 or 4 days while she was visiting...

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Tara was enamored with the Schrebergarten allotments along the bike path. These are small plots of land that can be rented by residents who have no lawn or garden space, and will have a little plot of land to grow flowers and vegetables.  Here is one that is just outside of Schorndorf, but there are thousands of these along the bike paths and rural roads outside of the towns...

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The views never cease to engage...

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We had brunch with Giuliana Schnitzler and her husband Wolfgang in Vienna...

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Lucy seemed to take a liking to all of us...

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I took my first little spin on an eBike which was great!!!!

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Spent time with our daughter and our niece in Vienna...

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I took in a Liederabend in Weimar at the Franz Liszt School of Music...

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...somberly saw the KZ Buchenwald with the students...

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The memorial case at Buchenwald to one of Lehar's favorite librettists, Fritz Löhner...

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...and took a city tour as well as a tour of the Belvedere in this bus.

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I took the students to see a ballet in Stuttgart on March 18th. Here is the group at dinner before the ballet...

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Easter is approaching, and the fountain in the public square of Schorndorf is all decorated for Easter...

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I, along with one of my students (Trevor Halder), will be singing in a Bach concert on Good Friday with the community choir at the Stadtkirche in Schorndorf. So our final rehearsals are this week to prepare for that.

We traveled to München this past week. Pictured here are 5 of the students in one of our 6 seat cabins in the train that I reserved...

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We made a day trip to Füßen to see the two castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau..

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We hiked around after our castle tour to take pictures, enjoy the fresh air, and work up an appetite...

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It was hazy until later in the day just before we left when the sun finally burned through the haze, but my pictures were taken before that occurred.  Tourists that we are, a stop at the Hofbräuhaus in München is always a requisite...

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We also stopped for a treat at the Viktualienmarkt which is a 200 year traditional daily farmer's market, and outdoor Biergarten...

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We also visited the KZ Dachau...

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...went to the Stadtmuseum...

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I took a photo of where Tara's mother attended the Technical University in München to study Chemistry back in the late 40's...

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Among other things, we saw Dodger's Alley. This is where residents would walk around the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshall's Hall) which is where the confrontation between the Nazi Party, a unit of the Army and the Police took place after the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Walking around the Hall was done to avoid having to give the Hitler salute as required by law under Nazi rule in later years. The gold colored cobblestones through the back alley behind the Feldherrnhalle is to commemorate this detour people in München (who by and large were not supporters of the Nazi Regime) took to avoid giving the Hitler salute...

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I visited the new synagogue in München that was funded by the city of Munich and the state of Bavaria. It was inaugurated in 2006 on the 68th anniversary of Kristallnacht when the previous synagogue (just a few blocks from this one) was burned to the ground in 1938.

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I took a tour of the Jewish Museum right next to it at Sankt Jakobsplatz. On our final day, I was able to view all three of the Pinakotheken after lunch and really enjoyed viewing centuries and centuries of art. We hopped a morning train on Thursday back to Schorndorf after 4 nights in München and having seen a lot of history, art, culture, and all matters German.

Gobs more of things we have seen and done since my last blog post, but that's enough for a photo dump to get slightly caught up to this point. Last night the students presented their German Culture Photo Project for the host families which went well in spite of a lot of it being very last minute work which made me nervous.

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We have a lot more material to cover before our next trip on April 19th, and that starts with tomorrow's class.