Monday, 8 December 2008

Busselton- WA Ironman


Day 1- arrived in Perth and drove to Busselton on Thursday. Checked into Martin Fields bed & breakfast and then went to WA ironman registration. Upon enterting Busselton, the support for the race was amazing; signs and posts everywhere for the race. Homes resemble that of American homes and feel just at home. In the evening, we hit the nearby beach and dinner was downtown at Thai restaurant. Thai dinner wasn’t great.

Day 2- Had coffee in town and toured downtown area. Went to movie Australia to relax. The movie was good and made us think about what life was like during WWII in Australia- plot and story a bit predicable, good acting and it was a great way to relax. Dinner on beach at the Goose; Jack had awesome pasta dish that Angie couldn’t stop eyeing and Angie had shrimp curry. Angie enjoyed shrimp as living landlocked never much ate it so good experience. We did spot a dolphin on beach near shore!
Day 3- Casual day of getting ready for race day and Jack staying off feet. Angie went to beach while Jack got bike set up, as Angie doesn’t like to be around during moments that could cause any stress- especially during pre-race. Beach was so beautiful and peaceful! We dropped off bike and checked in for race and had fantastic takeout pizza from Genas.
Day 4- WA Ironman, woke at 4AM early breakfast and to race site. Anxious sleep but slept ok. Morning was very brisk! Angie was cheerleader and Jack competed with time of 9:45! HOT day with multiple applications of sunscreen. Home for rest for Jack after race while Angie blogged and loaded photos and then back to race site to gather gear and for dinner. Dinner once again from Genas as it was so good the night prior.
Day 5- Angie washed clothes and first time hanging them outside on clothes line to dry! We drove to Margaret River to explore a bit. Stopped at cheese factory first then into town for lunch; really enjoyed the peppercorn cheese and the sweet chili cheese. Afterwards, we went to Cape Lavender which had the best lavender fields and view. We both sampled some fantastic wine and became a fan of lavender beer and bought some for post-race party this evening. Then we headed to Knotting Hill vineyard and more wine tasting for Angie as Jack observed due to driving! To WA ironman village for post party.
Off to Perth Tuesday morning and flying to New Zealand!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Sydney-The Rocks, Darling Harbour, City Centre & the Beaches

We are staying next to Hyde Park in the CBD and overlook the city of Sydney, with the harbour out one window and the Olympic park and football stadium out another window. It is beautiful with lush green grass and little gardens and small restaurants here and there. The red berry trees amongst the giant oak, palm and fig trees make for a wonderful contrast. We alternate having our morning breakfast in one of the restaurants off the park. For a city of 3-4 million, Sydney is quiet and peaceful. No one rams into us on the streets and people smile here! In fact, just today whilst at Starbucks Jack said, “This is my favorite Starbucks ever, because they are so friendly and smile!”

Day One:
Darling Harbor- One of the focal points of Sydney. It contains a mixture of shops, cafes, museums and open spaces with activities.
The Taronga Zoo- We took the ferry to the zoo. The zoo is elevated on land along the waterfront and offers awesome vantage points to the Sydney harbor. Some of the animals we saw were: bears, crocodiles, elephants, gorillas, monkeys, seals, lions, but no koalas.
Sydney Harbor Bridge- People can be seen hiking the Harbor Bridge to the top of the arch. From below the ferry, the people look like miniature birds.
The Opera House- It is easily viewed from just about any place on the harbor. It sits near the City Harbor Bridge. Depending on how the sun hits its roof, it looks either white or aluminum.
Jack got hit by a car whilst jogging. Thank goodness he was only bruised and not badly injured. Lessons learned were to pay particular attention to traffic and be extra alert when jogging in a foreign city after 36+ hours of no sleep!

When the sun goes down the wind picks up and it gets brisk.

Day Two:
The Rocks- This is the old part of Sydney and is a nice escape from the hustle and bustle. It has cobbled stone streets and old buildings with lots of shops and galleries.
Manly Beach- known as one of Sydney’s top beaches, we spent a few hours at the beach. It was nice and relaxing to watch the surfers and swimmers. With no beach towels, we laid down in the sand and let it consume us making a perfect lounge chair that supported our bods. The waves looked to be little waves that were near the beach, but many surfers tackled them and we saw several who were able to get up and ride them in.
Lessons learned: it pays to have help applying sunscreen to avoid the streaking look, from here forth joint effort. Not a good idea to wear flip flops for lots of walking- Angie encountered severe blisters on the bottom of feet!
Favorite snack: Toasted banana bread
Worst food yet: Chinese broccoli- doesn’t resemble broccoli at all!

Day Three:
Leisure Centre- Swimming in a 50 meter pool! What a way to begin the day.
Sydney Botanical Gardens- Very cool and an amazing diversity of trees, shrubs, etc. It sits off the peninsula overlooking the harbor.
Sydney Opera House- An iconic landmark, the photographs can make it look different, the colors of the roof titles change depending on the roof.
Queen Victoria Building- An amazing shopping centre with upscale shopping. It had some fantastic Christmas decorations including a tree that spanned the three floors decorated completely with crystal ornaments. It had this awesome clock inside it. Sydney is getting better by the day...

Day Four:
After a great breakfast, we took the metro to Circular Quay where we took a ferry to Watson’s Bay. We did a 2 hour hike along the ridge overlooking the cliffs and a narrow inlet where there were loads of swimmers and people playing in clear calm water and we watched with a bit of jealousy from a great bridge that spanned it all. Beautiful morning. Nice to see the rock formations and the waves. Viewed the Dunbar anchor from the lost ship that crashed and sank there long ago.
Bondi Beach- Awesome swimming pool on side of beach with fresh water and the waves of the ocean splashing into pool.
Dinner was the best yet (for Angie anyways) with a fantastic risotto with pumpkin and sweet potato.

Off early in the morning to Perth.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Down Under Arriving

We will stay in London for Thanksgiving and celebrate with friends at a near by restaurant. We fly to Australia the following morning to Sydney and then to Perth. We will be in Australia for a week before flying to New Zealand for holiday.

I sit here trying to find a British television programme to entertain me, as Jack logs his daily training. Tonight, we went out to a near by pub to have a drink in celebration of him completing 20 hours of training; this is the only alcoholic drink this week he has allowed himself to consume. There will be plenty after the race!

In 4 weeks, Dec. 7th, Jack competes in the Western Australia ironman. Here is a link that can provide details: The swim is 3.8kms followed by a 180km bike and topped off with a 42.2km marathon- all race pace.

Everything he has been doing for the last several months is to prepare himself for this race. He has been experiencing with compression gear in hopes it makes improvements with muscle performance and enhance blood flow and recovery. Jack is hopeful he is better, faster and stronger than the Switzerland ironman he did a few months back; his first ironman time was 9:46:46.

He has recently been getting some weekly swim coaching in an endless pool. It is great to see him swim in one place for so long, and nice for me to learn by watching his swim techniques via recorded, it shows all angels in and out of water! Too cool!
For months Jack watches his sleep, exercise, eating, and breaks in order to create a healthy balance. Interesting how in the workplace he is often times referred to as “different”. Some I suppose believe he isn’t as committed to his job and work duties due to his love and respect for challenging his body’s energies. Many exclaim their admiration and respect for him. He has certainly established a set of “rituals” that help him achieve a goal and he remains disciplined.

Sad how one can get up from their desk for a smoke break and it is considered normal, but if one goes for a brisk walk, stretch or swim and one is “interesting” or some other label is attached. Mind and body are one, when has it become the norm to not care and test our individual fitness reservoirs?

In two days, the U.S. will have new president! What is the current election’s historical context in the texts and books to come? What an election! Election day will be very interesting.

Days are continuously gray here; no wonder earl gray is a popular tea amongst many here. We are really looking forward to some warm days!

Local news- rumours the American Embassy is moving to our little town of Battersea. Also the Bond movie party was at the Battersea Power Station last week.

Ang & Jack

Friday, 15 August 2008

Blowin’ in the Wind or Which way the Wind Blows

The wind is intangible, may be that is why I don’t like the English wind. In London, it is cold, irritating, frustrating and causes my unruly curls to take flight and create complete disarray leaving me looking like Cousin ITT from the Addams Family.

It is August and I can think of a week… ok, may be two weeks at most, where a scarf or jumper wasn’t required. Jack and I wondered how the summer escaped us. Funny how previously we longed for cooler days, as there were times when we felt like we were melting in the Texas sun, but we long for summer days now!

Jack and I are typically outdoorsy people and this weather has not only negatively impacted many of our social agendas, but it hinders our hobbies and lifestyle of cycling and jogging, etc. Even leisure tasks, such as walking to our near market or town area are un-enjoyable due to the wind and ways of getting around. Rain is not a problem, and we get plenty of rain and opportunities for the brellas, (we both should own a pair of wellies (rain shoes) but it is the combination of rain and wind that are bothersome. Commuting is a whole other topic.

Are the answers with our dilemmas living in London obvious, so obvious that they are blowin' in the wind right in front of us....

Monday, 21 July 2008

Ironman Fire and Rain - Switzerland

I arrived in Zurich on Wednesday afternoon with the idea of getting the bike together, then doing a short ride and a swim at the race site. Of course, the initial activities of arriving in a new city took much longer than planned, so I did not get a ride or swim in that day, but I did take a look at the transition and expo area. The next two days included a short, moderately hard BRICK on Thursday morning before breakfast, then a 30min swim at the race site in the afternoon. I tried to keep my emotions and energy levels down to conserve both mental and physical energy and I also tried to stay off my feet, but it was tough to do in a city like Zurich. In fact, on Wednesday afternoon we walked all the way from our hotel to the race site and back, which was about 8 or 9km walk.

Friday morning I did another 30min swim at the race site with Lisa, then tried to relax as much as possible until the race briefing. After the race briefing, we all went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. It was a quiet affair as the three of us who were racing on Sunday were watching what we ate and drank and were keen to keep it an early night. Up till that day, the weather had been perfect, if not a bit too hot in the mid 80’s, but Saturday brought a major change and we woke up to rain, rain, rain! I had planned to do a very short swim, bike, run workout with an emphasis on the transitions, but the rain quickly changed my mind to just swimming and doing a short run. The transition practice would have been quite difficult as I would have had to do the transitions in the hotel, or just leave my stuff outside to get soaked (which would have just made the race transitions more difficult).

After breakfast, Angie and I checked out a museum, had lunch and then I went about the work of getting my race kit prepped. Everything came together pretty well, except for the pump I purchased a couple days prior. It had a slightly different way of connecting to the tube, and I struggled to get it to work, which caused some alarm. Finally, I did figure out the pump and got the bike ready to be checked in, which I did that afternoon in my allotted time spot. Of course, it was a madhouse at the race site, as they were running a sprint and Olympic races at the same time the Ironman bike check in was scheduled. After some difficult driving detours, we made our way to the transition area and got our bikes in our spots with no other issues. The race provided big plastic covers for the bikes, which proved to be a much needed item as it continued to rain harder through the night. (These covers later worked well as ponchos for the spectators during the race in their effort to stay dry from all the rain) After we finished there, we just headed to an early dinner and then back to the hotel for some stretching and a review of the day ahead.

I tried to go to sleep early, but of course I was not tired so I just watched a little TV and relaxed until around 10pm when I finally felt tired enough to call it a night.

Race Morning
Came damn early at 4am, with my pre-ordered breakfast arriving promptly at 4:15am. It was a decent meal with yoghurt and muesli, some OJ, a banana, some oatmeal (brought from home) and a muffin from Starbucks along with an iced latte. I did one final check of the race bag and then headed down to meet the taxi a few minutes before 5am. Two Brits joined us in the taxi and we quickly made our way to the race site. Oy! What a wet, wet, morning! And cold too! I did not know what to think of the conditions and decided to delay my transition set up until the last minute to see if the rain would subside. It did not and I had to find a way to get into my wetsuit while getting poured on (was a fun experience!)… Did get the bike and run stuff laid out under a plastic trash bag to keep as much of it dry as possible, and then I did one last check of the bike before heading over to meet Angie near the swim start.

The Swim
The swim started from the beach of the Landiwiesse. It was a deep water start that was a triangle shape of a loop. The 50 odd pros went off at 6:55, with the AG off at 7am. I seeded myself near the outside third near the front row. I was unsure of the best spot, but since there were over 2250 racers, it seemed that nowhere would be too calm. Unfortunately for me, I chose a spot that remained super chaotic for 75% or more of the two loop course. The two loops included a tight under bridge passing that led to a little island we exited the water onto and ran across then dove back in for the second lap. Going into the bridge bottleneck I got my right hand caught in a guide cable and nearly drowned at swimmers went over me left, right and center. I took a quick look at my watch as I exited the first loop and saw just over 30min, which was nice, but I knew the second loop was around 150-200m longer and any thoughts of a sub 60 minute swim disappeared. The second lap was a bit better as far as the chaos, but I never really felt like I was able to swim without being knocked, kicked, or grabbed for more than a few moments at a time. The group I was swimming with seemed to swim off the straightest line a couple of times, and then I seem to swim off line on my own which led me to swim back into the scrum to stay on track. As the lake is so big, and is surround by rolling green hills, and was also under the shroud of low, dense rain clouds, there were few landmarks to site from and the orange turn buoys were small in infrequent. Anyhow, the second lap did feel a bit easier and I did enjoy it overall, which is a nice little surprise as swimming is not my strength. I came out of the water and saw just over 67min on my watch and was immediately furious at doing the second lap 7min slower than the first.

As my transition spot was right near the swim exit, I got to it with my wetsuit still fully on and just full of anger and aggression. I literally tore at my wetsuit to get it off, which I am sure was not the fastest or easiest on my psyche or energy needs… I threw my wetsuit aside and then went about putting on my soaking wet socks, shoes, helmet and race belt. I took a long look at my vest and arm warmers, but was so warm from the swim that I thought the air temperature was warm enough to keep me from suffering from the rain. Was I wrong… Overall, a fairly efficient transition with the excess emotion and I got out in a respectable 3min or so.

The Bike
The bike course was a 2 loop affair with two distinct hills per lap. The first hill, called ‘the beast’ is a long rolling kind of hill that is never super steep, but just drags for about 6km. The second is called ‘heartbreak hill’ and it is a short (1km) but very steep little monster. The rest of the course is fast with some technical descents off the climbs. I started my ride with a plan to ride the first 45km at around 215 watts, then up it to 220-225 for the second 45km, then 225-235 for the third 45km, and then keep it at 235+ for the last segment. In hindsight, I think I should have planned it differently as the hills were fairly big events and were spaced in a way that a strategy around them might have been more effective. I froze my arse off on the first lap, and could not believe how idiotic I felt for leaving my vest and arm warmers behind. I didn’t let the rain or cold get me down and I continued to push, but it was super hard to eat and drink as my hands got so numb that I kept dropping everything.

On the road, I felt good on the first 30km before ‘the beast’ and then took it at a nice and controlled effort, but did notice that 300+ efforts were common. I passed just a ton of people on that first lap and started to see few riders as I neared the climb up ‘heartbreak hill’. Once I got on the hill I was greeted with a very Tour de France like climb with people lining the hill and reducing the road to a single tiny lane. I loved it, and enjoyed every moment of going up the hill, and I also loved that I knew a short descent and 5km on the flats was all that remained of lap 1. I rolled through the start/finish area and looked at my watch and saw 2:29:xx which put me on track for a sub 5 hour ride if my pacing strategy was smart. Unfortunately, I began to question that strategy as a bit of fatigue was felt, and I decided to take it a bit easy on the 30km of flat before the hills began on the second lap (that decision would come to haunt me). The rain and cold were really getting to me at that point and I am sure my core body temperature was being knocked down, as my concentration and focus was really lacking on the second lap.
As I neared the end of the 30km flat before the hills, I found myself in a group of 4-8 other riders who were all going a similar pace, and it seemed no one could or would (on my part) push on and leave the group behind, or when they did one, two then a whole train would get on the leaders wheel (somewhere near a 7 meter distance). I was about to just give it a good effort to blow up the group when a handful of riders came up on my left and blocked me from passing. See, the road at that point was a narrow one with a solid center line, and the race official said anyone crossing the solid center line would DQ’d. As there wasn’t enough room to ride three abreast, I decided to wait until a spot opened for me to pass and drive on….then the race marshal rolled up on her motorbike and popped out a nice little treat for me…a black card representing a penalty! I was astounded and could not believe I got a penalty, but in hindsight recognize that as I waited for a chance to pass, the gap to the rider in front of me shrank to less than the legal limit. What crap! I was even more ticked off at myself because not only did it let me get into a situation that put me in a drafting position, but I did so because I did not follow my race plan. Had I followed my race plan I would have blown past those guys and never been around when that group formed… Oh well, lesson learned for sure. My stomach was very noticeable on the second lap, and I seemed to be filling up with gas (not sure what was driving that and will spend a lot of time cracking that code). I kept trying to get my nutrition, but only got in about 75% or so of the planned number of kcalories…

The rest of the lap was ok, but fatigue began to be more noticeable and the climbs were definitely tougher. On the descents I went into a two wheel slide on two occasions which woke my synapses right up and I was lucky to have stayed upright. Ah, but I love to descend and even with cold, numb fingers, hands, feet and damn near everything else, I wanted to push it like ‘il Falco’ Savodelli. As I went back around the lake towards the final climb up ‘heartbreak hill’ I noticed that there were stretches of minutes where I didn’t see another rider and I knew I had climbed way up in the field. Once more up the TDF’ like climb and a new wave of energy hit me, along with quite a few hands from the super enthusiastic spectators. I flew down the descent, but with a little more care to avoid pushing lady luck too far and got back to T2 in just over 5hours of riding time.

I dismounted a little stiffly then jogged to my spot and went about getting out my dry (thank god!) running socks, shoes, and visor. My stomach was still feeling really bloated and I knew a likely port-a-loo stop would be in the near future, but hoped that it was just gas that would pass as I opened up my posture from a bike position to a running position. There wasn’t much else to do so off I went and cleared T2 in less than two minutes.

The Run
The run was a 4 loop affair that was pretty featureless, but did double back on itself quite a bit to keep the spectators very close. As I left the transition area, I mentally told myself to go easy as this was a long run and I needed to be patient. My stomach made it clear that it was not going to immediately feel better and I had to start thinking about what I was going to do to empty it out.

Before I could go far, I came across the penalty box where I had to stop for 6min to serve my drafting penalty. I kept my cool and just did some light stretching while I waited for the ok to resume racing. Once I got running again, I settled into a nice pace of around 4:20-4:30 per KM, which was my plan. After about 5km, my stomach was in an uproar and I had to stop at a port-a-loo, which was definitely not part of the plan and was the first moment of real disappointment in myself of the day. After I got running again, I ran ok for a few more KMs but then my energy levels went off a cliff and I slowed to a near walk. I didn’t recognize what was happening right away and thought that I was just paying for going too hard on the bike or something. I managed to shuffle to the next aid station and had some Coke, which almost immediately gave me an energy boost and it hit me. I was suffering from an energy bonk. From that point on, I began to grab Coke at nearly every aid station, but I could never get my energy levels back up to run near my plan. I did hold a decent pace until I bonked again some where around the 20km mark, and from there I took Coke and other bits of food (banana bites, and orange slices mostly) at every aid station to the end. I even had some Red Bull to get me from one aid station to the next at the lowest point of the run.
During the 3rd lap my stomach was still a mess and another port-a-loo stop was necessary, and my mind began to really worry that Kona was going to be in jeopardy. The third 10.5km loop was the hardest mentally as I was fighting to recover from my second energy bonk, and I got really down on myself after my loo stop and I spent a fair amount of time questioning whether I wanted to even finish. Somehow, I managed to hold it all together and got to the 4th and final loop where I immediately had more mental strength, but unfortunately my energy levels were still very low and the fatigue of running the 30+km was taking its toll. I began to really break the loop into little segments and ran to each one with as much gusto as I could muster. As I got to the last 3km, I began to get a lot of positive emotions and they began to propel me faster and I passed two guys from my age group in the last 1.5km and never let them get back to me.

Once I got in the finishing chute, I had mixed emotions as I was ecstatic to be finishing my first Ironman, but was quite bummed to see the time that was far above my goal and likely outside the Kona placing slots. Run split was 3:25:xx + 6min for the penalty and the overall time was 9:46:xx or 9:40 without the penalty. A 9:40 would have placed me 11th in my age group and netted me a slot to Kona….

Post Race
Ouch… that is the one word that came to my mind, both from a physical standpoint but also from an emotional and mental one too. My stomach was a complete disaster and my legs were as weak as I have ever experienced. I was cold to the bone and I just felt lost in space and moved like a zombie. I did manage to get a hot shower and into some sorta dry clothes then linked up again with Angie, and my crew. Found out that Lisa had a rough day and tried to console her, as she had suffered so badly on the first loop of the bike course both from crashing and a massive drop in her core body temperature which caused her to black out and crash a second time, ending her day. After chatting for a bit we packed up our gear and rode back to the hotel. It was initially hard for me to consider getting back on my bike for the short ride to the hotel, but the thought of a latte from Starbucks perked me up and we took it real easy getting there. Unfortunately, my stomach was in no mood for anything and I had to toss my latte in a trash bin after two sips caused major upheaval. Back at the hotel, another long, hot shower and short sleep then dinner with everyone in the hotel’s Thai restaurant. All I could eat was a bit of soup and then it was back to the room to crash.

All in all, it was an amazing experience and one that will live with me forever. I feel I prepared pretty well for the race, but did not do enough to test my kcalorie needs or put my stomach in that position. I also did not prepare for the things I could not control, such as the weather. Those two lessons, along with ensuring I don’t get on the wrong side of a race rules will be ones I will take to heart going forward. With this performance being good enough to qualify for Kona, I will now turn my attention to the next opportunity in Western Australia on December 7th!

My stats for the day:
Swim: 1:07:xx
T1: 2:39
Bike: 5:03:xx
T2: 1:50
Run: 3:24:xx
Penalty 6:00
Total 9:46:46

Bike data: Norm Power: 245, Average 227, Bike TSS 327,
Kcals burned: ~7050
Average HR:136 (not including swim)

Monday, 28 April 2008

Lisboa or AKA Lisbon

We just returned from a long weekend in Portugal; we stayed in the capital, Lisbon, as Jack had a ½ Ironman race. The area our hotel was in was Parque das Nacoes, which is known as the Park of Nations. It is east of the centre by the river; in the day time it offers restaurants, cafes and shopping, in the evenings it offers concerts, special events and a new casino.

Here is a link which will take you to some photos of the surrounding area of Lisbon.,GGLG:2005-34,GGLG:en&q=Lisboa&um=1. You can find plenty of information on Google.

Jack and several friends competed in the Lisboa ½ Ironman, and I was part of the cheering squad. (Watching everyone was exciting, but it also made me nervous too. I certainly felt lazy!) You can check out results of the race at this link
For those of you that are not familiar with what a ½ Ironman is, it consists of an open swim of 1.9K, bike 90k, then run of 21k.

The weather was absolutely lovely in Lisoba! The days were filled with sunshine and a slight breeze, while the nights were calm and warm.

Our next travels are to Switzerland and Italy in July.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Partly Cloudy

Today, while beginning my jog, I took in the weather. Partly cloudy I thought to myself. Then my thought immediately transferred to how ironic it was that London is usually partly or mostly cloudy most days, and it struck me how funny it was that its weather seems to mirror the Londoners. My concept of Londoners after living here for 7 months is that they resemble mood swings similar to the weather. Partly to mostly cloudy in that they typically show no positive emotions what so ever, and many portray other emotions such as anger, anxiety, confusion and worry. During my daily commutes, I rarely see a person smile or display happiness, but I do see the other emotions mentioned above. Come to think of it, not even when I am walking down the streets and I throw out a smile to a stranger is it returned! Humorously, I recall in my mind’s eye a poster in a tube within the last week; it was some campaign about trying to persuade people to actually smile to a stranger. In fact, most everyone is so fast-paced and inconsiderate during commuting hours that I have wondered during my journeys if someone were to have an accident and lose footing, would they be trampled on.

By now in my jog, I am pondering the differences of the U.S. culture and British culture. Then my mind transfers to some recent conversations I have had in the workplace. Comments such as hm, that is an interesting idea, is perhaps really one’s way of disagreeing where as in the U.S. one would say you have got to be kidding and be straightforward. Or, I am not quite with you on that one probably really means you are talking bullshit.

I observe on a regular basis insular tenacity from colleagues which results in a failure to comprehend differing values in others. I think back over my experiences thus far of living in London and compare it to what I had envisioned to test the discrepancies. I recognize that what I am expressing also mirrors some of the same stereotypes around the stiff upper lip. I hear other English and Scottish exclaim how they hate coming into the city also, and when I ask why, they share similar views around the lack of friendliness, overcrowding, etc.

I once read a book that discussed British insularity. It discussed how Brits generally have a feeling that ‘foreigners’ intend to outsmart them. I work in an environment where the majority of the leaders of this particular division are American, and I often hear the term American referenced by non-Americans. I wonder, it is appropriate to place such value and judgments on ones culture?

We continue to see things partly cloudy and strive for sunny days.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Germany and the Silvretta Mountains in the Austrian Alps

A little recap of our holiday.

We returned early this last Thursday from our trip to Germany and Austria.
We spent most of our time in Ischgl. Ischgl is a small village in the Paznaun Valle in Tyrol Austria. Its famous ski resort is called Silveretta Areana Ischgl, it is one of the largest skiing resorts in the Alps. There are over 30 ski lifts and tons of runs (pistes)! One thing for sure, Ischgl always proves to have lively ski parties and wild nightlife.

We left early on Saturday morning. It felt like it took us forever to get to Germany. We wanted to spend time with friends from our days living in Germany before heading to Isghgl. The flight from London to Germany was only one hour long, but the airline was delayed over an hour and then we waited on the run way for nearly another hour! Once we made it to Frankfurt Germany, the trains at the station in Frankfurt only run to Wuerzburg every hour, and we literally made it in time (ran to elevator, and literally ran to train, jumped on and the doors closed behind us and the train departed!)

The first day we met up with Wolfgang, our German friend who works for BMW and picked up a car from him for a few days. Wolfgang has always been wonderful to us, we have some very special memories of skiing with him while we lived in Germany and picking out Christmas trees together each year while we lived in Germany. Plus, he just so happens to be the best German BMW salesman in Germany!

Then we headed to Greuth to visit old friends and a few of the villagers (we use to live in Greuth when we lived in Germany). We visited some friends and a nearby winery. As we drove around, we allowed the beauty of the green German fields to confine our thoughts along with the explosion of colors from the homes’ stucco. Afterwards, we headed to Stefi and Christians house, some dear German friends (we stayed with them), and that evening we all met up with some American friends (Darryl and Lori) for dinner. (It was one full day!) The following morning, Jack woke and took off running up Schwanberg mountain with full determination to conquer the hills by foot (he use to mountain bike ride the trails and road ride the paved paths, so he enjoyed running through the forest to the top by foot). Stefi and Christian made this absolutely amazing breakfast for us (most memorable was the blood fresh squeezed orange juice). Then Jack and I drove around a bit and reminisced about experiences we had while we lived in Germany and drove through some of our favorite villages and roads. We met up for lunch at a Thai restaurant that was one of our favs with some friends (Nina and Travis) who drove up to meet us (we introduced the love birds, so we are especially happy to see their deep love for one another). Afterwards, we met back up with Wolfgang and headed to Austria in the car. We arrived in Austria after a 4 hour drive and checked into our hotel and went out for dinner.

The Alps were cold but very beautiful. Day one of skiing was absolutely wonderful; clear blue skies with sun and wonderful snow (although a bit crusty and icy). Before dinner, I headed to the sauna with Wolfgang to relax and unwind. I had nearly forgotten the fact that Austrians, Germans and such do the saunas nude! Wolfgang was kind enough to mock me in wearing a suit, and we discussed the Americans' prudish behaviors. We have photos of the sauna, as it was so incredibly beautiful-every sculpture and ceramic was made with love and extreme detail as my friend says!

Day 2 was unlike day 1; clouds and dark skies with a snow storm and some fierce wind. We tried to ski, but once we hit the top of the mountain over 3300 meters, the wind was up to 30mph and it really scared me. While standing still on skies, it blew us over! In fact on one of the lifts up, I began to worry about the possibility of issues that could occur do to the wind and us being stuck in the swinging lift! (The mind is very active and full of crazy thoughts when frightened!) The snow and white out from the wind and snow storm was so intense that we couldn't see each other, although we were standing only feet apart. That was our clue to get off the mountain. We headed down and realized on our way afterwards that they were closing all but like 4 of the 30 ski lifts. Back to the hotel we went, then out to lunch, followed by the sauna and a wonderful massage.

Day 3 was short but sweet. Again, we were greeted with fresh blue skies, sun along with the fresh 54 cm of snow that had fallen the day of the storm! It was extremely cold though. I made the best of the morning skiing before my legs finally gave out from ski fatigue. We left the mountain around lunch time and checked out of our hotel and began our drive back to Germany, so we could make our train in time for Frankfurt, where we were meeting another German friend, Miriam, for dinner before we departed the next morning at 7 AM back to London.

Of course, arriving back to London proved that London traffic just sucks. It is only like 15 miles to the airport, and it took us an hour via cab to go about 5 + miles. At that point, we jumped out and pulled our luggage to the nearest tube station, climbed on and worked our way home via buses afterwards. There is nothing like pulling luggage in busy tube stops and via foot in London! (Oh days were so much simpler when we had a car, but even here having a car doesn't help much!) We are certainly doing our part in contributing to living "green” for the environment!