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.

3/4/15

Midway Point in Germany...

This week is our midway point of our time in Germany. So - yes - we had mid-term exams and projects the past week and all grading was submitted yesterday.

Today I had an appointment with the 4 students that live outside of the jurisdiction of Schorndorf proper to go to Waiblingen with their passports, supporting documents, passport pictures, and the 100 Euro fee each to get their residency permits. Our appointment was at 11 am which meant we could not hold class this morning as we needed to leave at 10:18 to make our appointment. All went well and I had lunch with the 4 students at Waiblingen after they were all finished getting finger printed. The old part of town had a highly recommended restaurant on the top floor of this building, the Altes Rathaus...

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I think I overdosed on meat and potatoes with this meal as it was delicious, but was a huge pot of meat and potatoes (enough for about 3 people to eat). I'm hankering for something besides meat and potatoes which seems to be all I get over here for hot meals.

Back in Schorndorf they were holding an open air market that they only do to this magnitude 2 x per year (arts and crafts, food, clothing, and everyone selling their wares)...





I was full from lunch, so I didn't buy any food. And most of the vendors were selling what I would classify as Ronco products, or junk. So I wandered through it all and then went home to suit up for the day's scheduled training ride.

I knocked out my Zone 4 intervals up in the mountains on the gravel fire roads, then cooled down by riding to Plüderhausen to see how quick of a ride it "could" be for two of our students who are with host families in Urbach and Plüderhausen. It took me 8 minutes to get from the school to their towns, and about 11:30 coming back due to the wind. The good news is that a turn I kept missing the past 7 weeks was due to one of the signs being turned and twisted so all of the arrows point to the wrong towns. I've been wanting to ride to Schwäbisch Gemünd along the river and train tracks - about 25 kilometers from here to the east - but following the signs would get lost and end up looping around. Today I finally figured out why due to a sign that somebody has tinkered with by twisting it.

So I have Sunday's route all ready to go with the promise of mid-50's weather.

Before that, though, is our one and only trip to the former East Germany as we are going to Weimar. Lots of historical reasons we are going to Weimar with regard to our classes, but suffice it to say that I am pretty excited to go there. Nietzsche, Liszt, Schiller, Goethe, Wagner, Bauhaus, Hitler, the Hitler Youth Movement, Otto II, Buchenwald and the list goes on. I will be taking pictures and reporting on the weekend trip...


3/1/15

Castles, Chocolate, Base Training...

Yes, I know - an odd combination for this blog post, but that's nothing new from me.

I should throw in a Happy Birthday to my son Zach who turned 22 yesterday and was in Denton, Texas auditioning for graduate school. Between his audition, my travels here in Germany - we did not manage to hook up on the phone outside of a text message or two. I believe this was the first birthday of his we were not celebrating together as a family.

We had our scheduled trip yesterday with the host families to see Burg Hohenzollern and the Ritter Sport factory in Waldenbuch. I rented a bus from Knauss to carry the 37 of us around for the day as it was easier than traveling with public transportation. We left at 8:45 am and arrived at the parking lot at the castle for the climb up to the castle a little after 10.

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Burg Hohenzollern and Neuschwanstein are the two main castles in Germany (Hapsburg family for the Neuschwanstein, and the Hohenzollern family line for the one we saw yesterday). There are no shortage of images of this castle on the internet, but it is very hard to get a far away shot with a Smart Phone due to the approach via bus, the windy road, the forest, and what not - so plenty of shots taken exist.

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Photo taken by Albertle and posted at heisephoto

We had perfect weather in the 40's and sunshine. I always love the bronze sculptures, so the various Frederichs are memorialized outside the castle wall including Frederick the Great (Frederich II).

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Near the entrance from the outside wall...

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The view looking up to the highest tower...



Visitors are not allowed to take any photographs inside of the castle, so I don't have that to show. But again, plenty of images are available on the internet including the website itself if you want to have a look.

Following the castle tour, we hiked back down to the bus and drove down the hill to the Hofgut Domäne restaurant which we all enjoyed.

We left the restaurant about 3:20 for our drive over to Waldenbuch to visit the Ritter Sport HQ, museum, and chocolate shop. You can buy a few varieties of Ritter Sport bars at Walmart and Walgreen's, but here in Germany the full gamut of their line is readily available for 99 cents each in a store, or 79 cents at the Ritter Sport store. Of course, I came home with a sack of goodies to take advantage of the price and try out some new flavors...

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We parked the bus, jumped out and enthusiastically went in as if it was a scene from Willy Wonka...

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It was a great choice to visit because everyone could identify a bit more with the product and what we were seeing compared to museums dealing with previous centuries. Luckily, we have some more tours coming up that include more immediate things to add to the German cultural experience.

After the tour, one goes in the shop, grabs a shopping basket and attempts to hold back from buying everything you can see, but suffice it to say we all walked out of there with a several week supply of chocolate!!!

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The "buzz" in the bus from the sugar high lasted the first 30 minutes or so as we headed back around 6 pm to Schorndorf. After that, and driving through Stuttgart at night things quieted down and we returned to the Volkshochschule in Schorndorf to end a wonderful day with our host families. I got to visit with most throughout the day, but I still have a ways to go to learn everyone's name.

When I walked through the front door of where I am staying, I was graciously welcomed by my hostess with Vespers (the word for the evening light supper) which is pronounced in a heavily Swabian dialect. Bread, cheese, cold cuts, pickles and beer. We visited for about 2 hours as she left this morning for a week to go to Switzerland. I am taking care of her plants, fish, garbage and we went over everything thoroughly so I understood what to do. It was a nice cap to the evening.

And that was the end to February.

I'll throw in another birthday wish to my sister Becky who turns __ today. Happy Birthday big sis!!!

February training on the bike ended up like this.

February 1 - rode 30.5 Kilometers for a duration of 01:05:00
February 3 - rode 30.17 Kilometers for a duration of 01:05:00
February 8 - rode 31.52 Kilometers for a duration of 01:05:00
February 10 - rode 31.45 Kilometers for a duration of 01:05:00
February 13 - rode 17.72 Kilometers for a duration of 00:35:00
February 16 - rode 5.5 Kilometers for a duration of 00:15:00
February 17 - rode 45 Kilometers for a duration of 1:40:00
February 19 - rode 29.13 Kilometers for a duration of 1:14:32
February 24 - rode 38 Kilometers for a duration of 1:30:00
February 25 - rode 25.7 Kilometers for a duration of 1:40:16
February 26 - rode 18.3 Kilometers for a duration of 1:29:02

February Totals: 302.99 Kilometers - 12:43:50 hours

That's about 6 hours less on the bike than February 2014, but this year also includes 30+ hours of walking and 10 hours of weight lifting which has balanced out my body composition in a healthy manner. I was hooked up to a nebulizer and barking like a dog in February 2014, so I am happy to report I have not had any illness this year outside of a short duration nose cold that didn't slow me down outside of a day or two.

To be fair, it's not a direct comparison. I started the base training plan in February this year - 5 weeks later than I started it last year. So I am pretty much on target for the structured training plan with the exception of a pair of longer Zone 2 weekend rides I missed due to travels. I put in a lot of those miles in December and January with my own base building designed plan in the off season months, so I should be okay. I did manage to bump the durations and the intensity on the last 5 rides, including some excellent gravel forest riding on climbs in real mountains that had my heart rate pegged in the upper 160's most of the time. 

Now that the snow has melted - as long as it stays away - I will be taking advantage of these roads. I can't do it every day as I need some recovery rides between as the climbs are 4 - 9 miles right outside my front door. That's quite a grind on an endurance road bike without more of a granny gear on my compact drivetrain than I get with my mountain bikes. Reminds me a lot of sinsglespeed grunt climbs, but not ideal on days I need zone 1 and zone 2 work. There is plenty of pavement at the base of the hills for that.

Thanks to some weather opportunities over here, I will be able to get out and enjoy the sunshine and 50 degree temps this afternoon for a long ride, as well as next Sunday with a similar forecast. Looks like a month of upper 40's to the mid and upper 50's here in Germany which will usher in a nice Spring.

SPRING starts in 19 days according to this countdown...