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).