Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Merry Month of May

It seems I am often running about a month behind on blogs lately! May was a great month, jam-packed full of activities... and even some sunshine :) This explains why I wasn't at the computer blogging...but now it's raining again, so better late than never, right?

The month kicked off with our Alphorn lessons, as Jeff described in the post "Bringing it all together". Right after the lessons we applied what we learned while cheering on the bike racers in Tour de Romandie - I finally documented our experience with that, including pictures, in a new post: "Crazy Americans at Tour de Romandie". The Alphorn fits neatly in a small backpack and at only 1 kilo it didn't seem to slow Jeff down at all on the climb... The following week in the Zürich area was nothing but sunshine for about 10 days in a row - It felt fabulous after such a rainy April! I celebrated by biking every day for 3-4 hours -- It was a sort of "bike camp" for me, to shock my body and hopefully get back in shape for the summer. Well, the "shock" part definitely worked! But the soreness was welcomed after a strange winter of sporadic, low intensity workouts due to the ankle "incident".I had to take a break between bike rides to take our car in to have the winter tires removed and replaced with summer tires. (This is a semi-annual tradition here in Switzerland, and some insurance companies even require it.) Luckily I didn't have to miss out on the nice weather as I waited on the car - Here is a picture of the "waiting room":and the view that kept distracting me from my German books...The timing of the good weather was lucky since Jeff had two work holidays during the sunny time. One day was spent hiking with our friend Thomas, who recently moved here from Colorado, and enjoying the views around Mt. Rigi...Of course no hike or bike ride would be complete without the Alphorn now... Sometimes Jeff just carries it out of the backpack so it's ready to play whenever there's an inspirational view... ...as if there are any of those around here ;) Our friends from Lausanne stopped by for a day of biking in our part of the country... We checked out Sattelegg Pass (second day in a row for me) and found some other great hills as well... stopping for the usual mid-ride lunch break (I'm starting to really like that European tradition) and of course applying the recommended R.I.C.E. method after the ride ("Rest while eating Ice Cream and enjoying the Elevation of the nearby mountains)...
After all this sunny weather and hiking and biking, we were ready to EAT! Luckily our Swiss friend Martina volunteered to teach me how to make the traditional Spätzli - a special type of egg-noodle dish. After this I have a new respect for the people who make this from scratch - It is hard work!
Not to mention it makes quite a mess (or at least I do!)...
But wow, it sure is yummy. Sehr guet! The noodles are covered in cheese (of course - this is Switzerland after all!) and baked till the cheese melts on top, then it is served with applesauce. It sounds like sort of a strange combination, but it definitely works... mmmmmmmmmmm...

Well, that about covers the first half of May... I'll take a break for now and add the second half separately. Don't forget to check out the "Crazy Americans at Tour de Romandie" post...
Ciao for now!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Life after the desert race & Swiss water fun

A couple months have flown by since I returned from Morocco and the unforgettable experience of finishing the Marathon des Sables. The post-race transition has been an interesting one: exuberance, longing to be home, longing to be back in the desert, desire not to take time off to recover, desire to sign up for new events quickly, laziness followed by too soon a return to long training, a non-healing injury, a sudden, but temporary burnout on ultra running. It's all normal after such a big event, although it's quite a ride and for many becomes what's known as post-race depression. Fortunately, for most it ends after a few weeks or months (and thankfully I've fallen into the 'most' category). Finishing the MDS oscillates in my mind between being a major, life-altering event and being just a crazy, epic week in the desert. Some days it seems like a big deal -- others it doesn't. I'm thrilled at how well the fundraising aspect went and remain ever thankful for everyone's contributions and support. We made a difference in the lives of some very well-deserving children around the world and this is heart-warming. I'm also very happy at receiving so many notes about people being inspired by my story. This is just awesome and all I have to say is "pay it forward" - be inspired and go inspire someone else by pursuing and sharing things you're passionate about!

I'm enjoying writing about the MDS experience and look forward to finishing the final chapters of the saga on my MDS blog in the coming weeks. If you haven't checked out the site in a while, please hop over and have a look -- there are stories posted covering the first five days of the race, as well as audio and video clips.

So, two months after the race finished, I'm now at a place where I'm focusing on multiple sports and enjoying the best of what Switzerland has to offer -- without overdoing it on the running. This led to the recent acquisition of a sea kayak as a way to combine my love of fitness and nature and desire to spend as little time cross-training indoors as possible.
I initiated my kayak with a multi-sport play day in the Alps -- all centered on the Aegerisee (about 40 minutes from Zürich). The day involved trail running high above the lake, kayaking, playing alphorn from the kayak, and mountain biking. It was a blast. (Ok, alphorn pun only slightly intended!).
Above is the first shot we've published of one of our new carbon fiber alphorns. It's a brilliantly-designed instrument - it sounds just like its wooden and traditional cousin, but it collapses, weighs only a kilogram, and is waterproof. It's built by a very interesting musician and engineer who lives in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Roger Zanetti. This great design means I can take it kayaking and float it on the water! Below is a video clip to share the experience with you (I'm still getting the hang of playing this thing while on the water, so my apologies, especially to my prior music teachers, for the cracked notes!).

I've been doing the unthinkable and getting up extremely early (for me!) to kayak before work on the Zürichsee (Lake Zürich). It's a great workout and it's so calming to be on the water to start the day. I also recently kayaked into the city to watch the start of the Euro 2008 football/soccer championship. Great fun and a good way to mix up the adventure.

My next project is to kayak to work. I'm very lucky to live 5 minutes from the water and to have a canal that runs from Lake Zürich to within two blocks of my office. It looks to be about an hour-long paddle into the office. I plan to kayak up the lake, into the canal, and then portage the kayak the final two blocks to my office parking garage, where the kayak will occupy my parking spot (anxiously awaiting me to finish my workday, where I will put it back on the water again for the paddle home). This looks to be great fun, so I'll certainly post about it and share some photos of me rolling a sea kayak through the Zürich streets on my way to work!

I've signed up for an ultramarathon in Davos in late July, so that's the next official event. Becky and I have lots of Swiss adventure planned for the summer months, so we'll be sharing more on the blog over the coming weeks.

By the way, if you haven't checked out Twitter yet, I highly recommend it. It's a simple and free online service that lets you receive and send very short updates (less than 140 characters) regarding what you and your friends are up to. I post Twitter updates quite often -- if you "follow" me on Twitter, you can see what I'm up to in daily life. Click here to see a list of my updates. If you choose to send updates as well, I can follow you. I've found it to be a nice, easy way to keep a connection to the daily life of friends and family. Sometimes update emails and blogs can become overwhelming, so Twitter has been nice to just see when someone has gone for a nice run, is enjoying coffee with friends, is seeing a great concert, etc.

That's all for now - I hope that your June is off to a great start!