Saturday, June 29, 2013

Back in Berlin

This greeted me upon deplaning at Berlin Tegel

I'm back in Berlin (last here with Stevie last summer), and words cannot describe how much I love this city. I spent a year and a half here in college as well as time here and there on other trips, and never before and never since have I explored a city's landscape, history, culture and people so in depth.

Inside a Trabi at the DDR Museum in Berlin.

Now I'm here to share the things I love about this city with my students.  I've organized this part of the trip thematically, with one day focusing on the Nazi and Holocaust period of German history, one day focused on the postwar period and Berlin Wall, and one day focused on art, both ancient and contemporary.  Naturally food is a big element of the trip, and I'm exposing my students to such culinary delights as döner kebab, currywurst, and beer.  There'll be plenty of time for spätzle and schnitzel once we hit Munich.

Unfortunately my camera broke on the second day of the trip, so these are the only decent photos I have to share.

A pizza shop annoyed by currywurst customers taking up its space.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Arrived safely in Germany with my seven students.  Picked up a copy of Runner's World in German.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cooper River 8 miler

8 mile Cooper River Run this morning.

Trying to capitalize on the amount of running I've been doing this month.  I leave for Germany tomorrow with seven of my students for a ten day trip, and I know my running will be interrupted.  It's so hard to run while traveling.

It was an awful run, though.  I set out at 11am, much too late to be starting a run during the summer, and sure enough the heat nearly killed me.  I had to walk late in the run which I hate doing.

Once all the traveling is finished, I hope to start a pretty serious training regimen, about which I'll post more later.

Until then, Germany or bust... 

Friday, June 21, 2013

School's Out

The last few weeks have been rather taxing as I worked on final marking period grades, exam grades, and preparing for the upcoming trip to Germany with 7 of my students.

But it's all behind me (aside from the actual trip itself...)  Summer is finally here for good.

Monday, June 17, 2013


I teach high school German.  All levels (1 through AP), grades 8th through 12th.  93 students total.

The 8th graders took their final exam last Friday.  I gave them a few extra credit questions to answer, one of which was simply, "what is your favorite memory from your first year of German?"

Some of their answers:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Half Marathon

Ran the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Half Marathon this morning.  

A German-themed race?!  Ich bin dabei!

Hosted by Über Endurance Sports and the Cannstatter Volksfest Verein in North Philly, the race is run in Penny Packer Park.  Runners could choose between the half and the full marathon, and seeing as I'm only beginning to claw my way back into shape, I chose the half.

The course was beautiful, almost 100% in the shade on paved and dirt paths.  Women in dirndls handed out drinks at the aid stations (no beer stop, sadly).  A guy with an accordion played at miles 4 and 9.  I shouted "dankeschön!" each time as I passed and even received a few "bitteschöns" in response.

There were a few wicked hills on the trail but nothing outrageous.  I was grouchy at the start of the race from getting up at 5am yet again and always going to these races alone, but I was surprised at how great I felt as the race progressed.  I was killing it on the hills and passing a lot of runners in the back nine.  So I was a bit dismayed, as I neared the finish, to realize how close I was going to come to my time from last weekend.  I ended up barely beating my time by three minutes.

I was not expecting to PR, but based on how I was feeling, I thought I was going to crush my time from the previous weekend.  This race was a nice reminder that progress and PR's are hardwon, especially as I get older, and if I want to see significant improvements in race times, then I need to show significant effort in training.

After the race I caught the shuttle back to the Cannstatter Volksfest Verein and sat in the beer gardern out back while enjoying two brats and two beers which were part of my $80 entry fee.  The guy with the accordion was there, along with a group of women and men in dirndls and lederhosen.

This was a fantastic race.  Just the right size with great amenities and atmosphere and racecourse.  Can't wait to sign up for this again next year.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Runner's World gets it right

When I was a senior in college, I lived in a suite with three women.  Women are generally cleaner and smell nicer than men, and together with the fact that I can't stand video games and fart jokes, I found that I loved living with them.

Our common room coffee table was often festooned with various back issues of Cosmopolitan, and I'm not ashamed to admit I read my fair share.  As a friend of my dad's once put it, it's like reading the other team's playbook.

I recall this anecdote to give credence to my theory that Cosmopolitan and Runner's World are more similar than you think.  Both are mainstream, popular magazines published monthly. Both contain a slew of vapid articles with overly-recycled titles like "50 sex tips to drive him wild!" or "Top 10 training tips to prevent injury!"  Both tend to contain at least one "serious" article per issue.

And the covers. Both have incredibly repetitive and unoriginal covers month after month. Google image Cosmo covers and you come up with this:

Google image Runner's World covers and you come up with this:

And I bring all of this up to juxtapose Runner's World's previous issues with its current Boston-centric issue.  It was such a pleasant surprise to see that Runner's World finally got it right:

Not only is the cover a simple and poignant tribute to the race that means so much to its readers, but nearly the entire issue is dedicated to the events of that April day.  I've read a lot of articles from newspapers and magazines alike, but nothing but a running magazine could have truly captured the tragedy of that day.

My favorite article from the issue is Amby Burfoot's article, titled "Just Imagine," asserting that next year's Boston will be the best ever. Already there has been a surge in interest from people who wish to run next year in tribute to the events of this year.  Mr. Burfoot claims the amount of love for Boston next year will be unbelievable.

"Some of us will raise our eyes, hearts and hands skyward.  Others will sink to a knee.  Some may choose silence; others will sing hosannas.  Many of us will cry.
But we will all stop.  And only then - after we have paused to reflect and remember - will we move forward to walk slowly across the finish line.  The line that shut down at 4:09:43 on 4/15/13.
This April's Boston Marathon was the most tragic day in the history of running.  Next year's Boston, on 4/21/14, will be the most glorious.
Just imagine it."

There is a uniting quality in Mr. Burfoot's words that oddly instill in me a sense of pride to be a runner, never a Boston Marathoner, but still a Boston hopeful.  The best way I can think of supporting Boston is to run its marathon, and someday I will.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

2013 ODDyssey Half Marathon

I ran the 2013 ODDyssey Half Marathon this morning.  Very little training involved, but like yesterday, I didn't have to pay for the bib, because my friend Amy had signed up months ago but then hurt her foot and couldn't run.  No way I could pass up a half marathon bib.

Another 6am wake up call this morning.  Fast and furious drive out to Fairmount Park in Philadelphia to meet Amy's roommate Meg on the steps of the Please Touch Museum for the bib handoff.  The race started late at 7:15.

There were people in costumes (including a dude in a Borat mankini), carnival games throughout the race, an ODDyssey pint glass and a medal/bottle opener at the finish, and a gorgeous course all over Fairmount Park and the Schuylkill River... This was a fantastic race, and one that I will probably sign up for next year.

I had to stop twice to use the bathroom, and stopped at several of the carnival games, so my time wasn't great.  1:48:23.  But it was a fantastic race, my longest in months, and nice to be doing so many races again.

Meg and me after finishing

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Wissahickon 10k Trail Classic

A few days ago a friend on Facebook mentioned that he had an extra bib for the 8th annual Wissahickon Trail Classic, and asked if anyone wanted to run it.  I had nothing else going on this morning, and I wasn't about to pass up a free race bib.

6am wakeup call this morning.  In the city by 7am.  Biked up to Fishtown where I met Matt and his friends, and together we drove out to the race.

The race took place at Wissahickon Valley Park and benefits the Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers, an organization that works on land restoration throughout the park.

I've done a few 5k trail races before, but I've never done a trail race of this distance or of this intensity.  There were some pretty serious hills and switchbacks and rocks all along the course.  I loved it though, as the constant focus on the trail made me disregard how far I'd gone.  The race was over before I knew it.

With a tenth of a mile to go, the course drops out of the trails onto a road, and in that straight away, runners often break into a sprint, taking on whoever is closest.  I found myself in my own photo finish, just edging out a guy and finishing in 55:25.  In the finishing chute, the guy clapped his hand on my shoulder and yelled "you bastard!" before congratulating me on a great race.  I love runners.

55:25 only put me in 85th place.  This is also the only race I've ever done in which winners received plants as trophies.

The race crew:

I suggested we all flex.  This is the resulting picture

My friend Matt has run this race for a few years now and it's one of his favorites.  It was great catching up with him, and so glad he introduced me to this race as well.

Also, I got to pet a horse.  All around, a great racing experience.

We are very excited about this horse

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tough article and pictures

Article from today's Buzzefeed:

And two pictures from the obstacles known as "Electroshock Therapy" and "Arctic Enema:"

Saturday, June 1, 2013

2013 Philadelphia Tough Mudder

Should you do a Tough Mudder?  Yes, you should.  It was one of the greatest events I've ever participated in.

If spending a morning running for hours, getting dunked in ice water, jumping over fire, climbing walls and getting shocked by 10,000 volts of electricity sound like even remotely your thing, don't hesitate to sign up.

Oh wait, you're still hesitating?  Keep in mind, you can walk most of it, you will have thousands of fellow mudders to help you through the obstacles, and you will bask all day in the camaraderie the event encourages.  And there is beer at the end.

After years of missing Tough Mudder events in my area for various reasons, I finally got to participate in one today.

5am wake up call this morning.  Out the door by 5:30, arrived at the Tough Mudder site near Allentown, about an hour outside of Philly, to see a full-scale military operation in effect.  That's the first thing I'll comment on.  The level of organization was simply mind boggling.  The shuttle busses ran perfectly. Registration was a snap.  Water stations were perfectly placed.  Event staff as well as police officers, fire fighters and paramedics were everywhere.  After a few years of operations, Tough Mudder has obviously fine tuned the process to a T, and there is literally nothing to complain about.

I had signed up for the 8am wave but was assigned to the 8:40 wave.  But at 7:45 I was already ready to go, and they were announcing that people could start in earlier waves if they wanted to.  8am start after all.

Most of the obstacles were no problem.  I'm a small guy but have pretty good upper body strength relative to my size, so I had no problem hurling myself over the Berlin Walls or crossing the monkey bars without falling into the water below.

I did, however, hesitate at a few obstacles, such as the ones involving tunnels.  Because I am slightly claustrophobic, I was worried about starting to panic inside, especially the one that included water in addition to the tunnel.  It took a few minutes at each one, but I managed to convince myself to get through them.

The only other time I hesitated, this time for a full ten minutes, was the final obstacle: electroshock therapy. It's the final obstacle at most Tough Mudders, and one must cross dirt hills and mud pits while hundreds of live wires dangle above.  I had already been shocked in a previous obstacle, and it genuinely hurt, and I was not too keen on barreling through this obstacle to face the same pain.  I knew I would be disappointed in myself if I didn't complete the entire course, so I finally forced myself into the fray.

Strangely enough, I had more trouble with the running than I did with the obstacles.  The course was in farm country in Pennsylvania, just south of the Pocono Mountains, meaning there were a lot more hills than expected, and the Tough Mudder organizers incorporated every hill they could find on that farm.  Due to the heat, I forced myself to walk up most of them.  I finished in 2:34.

Extremely glad I finally got to do a Tough Mudder.  Hope to do one with a team in the near future.  Just need to befriend more people who enjoy this kind of stuff.  In the meantime, overheard from Stevie's conversation with her mother:

Stevie's mom: why would he want to do all of that to himself?!
Stevie: because he's badass and likes to prove it.

I think she understands me.
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