Archive for October 2009
October 30th, 2009
Marathon Training & Injury
One of my goals for the year was to finish a big race like a marathon or half Ironman triathlon. I figured that running would be easiest with all of my traveling this year, so I decided to train for a marathon. After running for a couple months to get a decent base, my sister-in-law Nina, who is a running coach, made a great training plan for me. Then I fully committed and registered for the Amsterdam Marathon in October (which was about 6 months away).
My training went well for the first 5 months, and I made a lot of progress. I was to the point where an hour long run felt like an easy day. Before this, the longest I had ever run was 13.1 miles in the San Francisco half marathon in 2007. But I got to the point in my training where I was basically running a half marathon or more every week! For me that was quite an accomplishment unto itself.
Unfortunately, though, this story doesn’t have a happy ending. In the middle of September, about one month before the race, I went out for a long run in Zürich. It was to be my longest run yet at 3 hours (about 3/4 of a marathon). The run started out fine but just as I got to the farthest point away from home (it was an out-and-back run), the arch of my right foot started hurting. I could tell that something was wrong, but I had no way to get back home other than to run/walk it. So I hobbled along all the way back, most likely exacerbating the injury along the way, until I got to an area I knew and could get on the bus home. And that was the end my running career, for now anyways.
My own diagnosis is a stress fracture, but I haven’t actually gone to a doctor to confirm this. For now I have stopped running and am trying to keep off of it as much as possible so that it can heal. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but I know that it had nothing to do with the training plan. I had been adding distance very gradually and had had no problems up until that day. I suspect that it was most likely due to not replacing my running shoes quickly enough, but my orthotics and/or bad running form might also be to blame (or maybe something else completely, who knows?).
On the bright side, we already had the trip to Amsterdam booked so now I could just go and enjoy myself. Plus, Emily had signed up for the Amsterdam half marathon, so now I could be her cheerleader/photographer.
Emily and I went to Amsterdam two weeks ago, from October 16th to 19th. It was my first time ever in Amsterdam or in the Netherlands; Emily had already been there once before earlier this year with our friend Ben Shapiro. The city is definitely very unique with canals literally everywhere. I was surprised by how the canals were so integrated into the city and by just how many there were. The other thing that is impossible not to notice in Amsterdam is all the bikes. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a city where biking was embraced so heavily. While there were marked bike lanes almost everywhere, I was still a bit surprised that there wasn’t a better biking infrastructure. I’m not really sure what I expected, but I just found it strange that the bike lanes were often blocked by tourists and weren’t more isolated from the cars and pedestrians.
Over the weekend, we were lucky enough to stay at a friend’s apartment rather than a hotel. We stayed with Luke Miller, who is one of Emily’s friends from work whom I had met earlier in the year in Paris, and his sister Tegan. They were very generous to let us stay with them, so thanks again Luke and Tegan! Oh, and they have the craziest shower I’ve ever seen in my life, complete with lights, radio, steam, and more.
Sunday was the day of Emily’s race. The marathon started in the morning, but the half marathon didn’t start until 2 pm. The race started and finished at the Olympic Stadium, which was walking distance from Luke’s apartment. I watched Emily start then walked around the city and got some lunch while she was running. Most of the public transport was closed down because of the marathon so it was a bit difficult to get around, and I actually didn’t get back to the stadium in time to see Emily finish. I thought I had made it in time, but she ran faster than she had expected! Her final time was an impressive 2:01:54. Way to go, Emo!
Our flight didn’t leave until late Monday evening, so Emily and I had all day to hang out and explore the city. We spent most of the afternoon at the Van Gogh Museum, which we both enjoyed a lot. Other than that we just walked around and then headed to the airport for our flight that evening.
So even though I didn’t get to run the marathon, it was still a good weekend. Emily had a great race and we had a good time. Thanks again Luke and Tegan!
More Amsterdam pictures on Flickr
Category: Goals, Health & Fitness, Travel
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October 23rd, 2009
Eric and I got back to Zürich from Prague on a Friday night, then woke up on Saturday morning and got on a train to München, aka Munich, Germany. There were 8 of us that all went together from Zürich – myself, Emily, Eric, David, Peter, Rich, Julia, and Adriana. We had a couple hotel rooms booked but no reservation at the Oktoberfest tents. We spent Saturday walking around Munich and resting up for our big day on Sunday. We got a good, traditional Bavarian lunch at Ratskeller next to Marienplatz in the center of town. Then we walked over to an outdoor cafe in Hofgarten near Odeonsplatz. After resting in the hotel for awhile, Eric was lucky enough to be able to watch the Michigan football game in the sports bar that happened to be in our hotel. For dinner we went to the Augustiner beer hall between Marienplatz and the Hauptbahnhof. It was a very festive place with good food too.
On Sunday morning, we all woke up early and got over to the Oktoberfest tents around 9:15 am. Since we didn’t have a reservation (we tried but you have to many months in advance or spend a lot of money), we had to get to the tents early in the morning to make sure we got a seat. We chose to go on a Sunday rather than a Saturday because we thought it would be a bit less crowded, and I think that was a good decision. The tents all open at 9 am and we were told that the best bet for people without reservations is to get there very close to when it opens. That means drinking steins of beer at 9:30 in the morning! We chose the Schützen-Festzelt (tent) on a recommendation from some friends and it was over half empty when we got there. This meant that we were able to secure a couple of crucial extra inches of space for our group before more people arrived. The atmosphere in the tent was pretty calm and quiet, partially because of the tent we chose and partially because it was so early in the morning. But as the day went on, the brass bands started playing, the tent filled up, people started standing and dancing on the tables, and things started to get more lively. Although none of us bought the full lederhosen outfits, we did all buy some hats for the occasion. We spent all morning and afternoon drinking liters of beer, eating pretzels and chickens, singing, wearing various hats, and generally having a good time.
We left the tent sometime around 3 or 4 pm and decided to try a few of the carnival rides. The first one was great, but I would definitely not recommend the second one – Turbo Power. Funny enough, I actually remember riding that same ride the last time I was at Oktoberfest back in 2002 when I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I guess I hadn’t learned my lesson, but I will remember for next year. And we’ll probably have to plan ahead a little and get some reservations next time so we don’t have to start so early too…
See all my pictures from Oktoberfest
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October 22nd, 2009
There is a joke that the majority of blogs on the internet start with “Sorry it has been so long since I last wrote…”. Well, I guess it is my turn now. I have been falling behind in keeping the blog up to date with everything that I have been doing over that last few months. I am going to try to catch up and keep all of the posts in (roughly) chronological order. So here it goes, my trip to Prague in September:
About a month ago, Eric Wilfong and I went to Prague for 5 days. Eric came over to visit us in Zürich for about 2 weeks and wanted to travel around Europe a bit as well. Since I had no job tying me down, I decided to join him for a week in Prague. I had been to Prague for the first time earlier this year with Emily, and I had really enjoyed it so I was excited to go back again. This time we stayed in a different are of town at the Hotel Galileo. The hotel itself was great, but I personally preferred the location of the hotel where I stayed last time (near Florenc metro) better than this location. But that was no big deal. It was a good reason to explore more of the city and see new areas.
When we weren’t indulging in the cheap and delicious food and drinks, Eric and I were usually taking pictures. Eric has been getting into photography recently and is currently in the midst of his own project 365, where you take one photo every day for a year. I was excited to get some practice with my new DSLR and get some tips from Eric too. He did inspire me to get a new camera bag, the Lowepro SlingShot 100, which I highly recommend. You can see all my pictures from Prague on Flickr.
We also took a daytrip to the town of Kutná Hora. Kutná Hora is much smaller than Prague and not as packed with tourists (although some would say that it is a still a bit “touristy”). It has a surprising history and is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Eric and I walked around town and went into the impressive Cathedral of St. Barbara. Then we hiked all the way to the Sedlec Ossuary, aka the Bone Church, which is a outside of town and a longer walk than we had anticipated. But it was worth the walk to see this odd and very unique sight. The Ossuary is a very small room with human bones from people who died from the plague. Some of the bones are piled up into towers about 7 feet high, while the rest are arranged artistically including a chandelier containing every bone in the human body. It was very interesting, albeit a bit creepy.
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October 4th, 2009
A month ago (has it been that long already?), six of us rented a couple cars and took a rather spontaneous roadtrip up to the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in Germany. Emily and I had people over to our apartment on Friday night, and then we all took of on Saturday morning/early afternoon. Somehow, we also managed to fit in a quick brunch before we left with a couple friends from San Francisco, Menden and Jonathan, who were in town for the weekend. While we were at brunch, everyone else went to pick up the car and since Emily and I weren’t there, we weren’t allowed to drive the rental car. So we were generously chauffeured all weekend, which worked out rather nicely for us. After a busy summer of making my own last-minute travel plans, it was nice to sit back and let someone else do all the planning (and driving) for a change.
From Zürich we headed North across the border of Germany and eventually stopped for lunch at the Titisee. When we got there, we played with a tennis ball in the parking lot for about a half hour before realizing that we could have just done that at home so we should probably go walk around and explore. After lunch, we drove up to Freiburg where we found a hotel for the night. We had a good German dinner at Hausbrauerei Feierling and ended up staying there all night playing cards. After dinner, we invented a new game that is sure to become an Olympic sport in the near future – leaf racing! Everyone chooses an object that floats (it doesn’t have to be a leaf) and then drops it into the stream at the same time. It is surprisingly entertaining, try it out.
The next morning, we stopped by the Freiburger Münster on the way out of town. Then it was on to Steinwasen Park, a sort of zoo/amusment park/mini-Disney World in the Schwarzwald. We did just about everything there was to do there including the creepy “It’s a small world after all”-type ride, riding chair lift, tobogganing, the water slide, playing on the playground, petting the animals (Peter especially liked the goats), and walking on the suspension bridge. It ended up being a lot more fun than I ever expected.
After the park, we drove to a quaint little town for lunch (I forget the name) then started heading home. On our way back to Switzerland, we stopped by two of the biggest attractions in the Black Forest. The first stop was the biggest cuckoo clock in the world. It was the size of a house, although I had expected it to be even bigger/more impressive. The second stop was the highest waterfall in Germany. It was really four small waterfalls rather than one big one, but it was still pretty cool.
More pictures on Flickr
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October 3rd, 2009
I’ve always been a big fan of Picasa – it is a great, free application for organizing (and making small edits to) your photos. I especially like the ability to easily straighten, rotate, and crop pictures. And now it just got a whole lot better with facial recognition built-in to the latest version (finally!). This has been a web-only feature for Picasa Web Albums for awhile now, and I have been waiting for Google to integrate it into the desktop application too. Fortunately, the wait is over and it works very well.
Facial recognition is like magic. After it scans your entire photo library (which can take awhile), Picasa will ask you to identify the faces it has found. This is linked to your Gmail Contacts to make it easy to find people’s names. After this, it will start suggesting other pictures that it thinks are the same person, and I’d estimate that over 90% of the time it is correct. Even if the person is wearing a hat, making a funny face, turned to the side, or wearing a fake mustache, Picasa is usually able to identify the person correctly. Like I said, magic.
And the best part is that after you have gone through the minimal effort to label everyone, you instantly have a very well organized photo collection. You can easily find any picture with a particular person in it, or even a particular combination of people. Awesome.
Tricking Picasa with the “Tim Face”
So I went through a phase where I made the same face in just about every photo taken of me. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, it’s not particularly original – I just have my mouth wide open like I am really, really excited about something. (It was college. I didn’t know any better). Anyway, some of my friends started referring to this expression as the “Tim face” and often copied (i.e. mocked) me in their own photos. Apparently they must all do a really good impression of me because it was good enough to fool Picasa. That’s right, Picasa’s facial recognition assumed that anyone making the Tim face was me! See example below:
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October 2nd, 2009
Continued from The Summer of Travel, Part I
I flew back from Chautauqua to Zürich for 2 days. Yes, I flew all the way across the Atlantic Ocean for 48 hours. This may sound crazy, but I had already planned my second trip to the US back in January. So it was much, much cheaper for me to fly back to Switzerland to catch my flight than to change it.
San Francisco, CA
From Zürich I headed back to San Francisco for Emily Grey and Jason Goldman’s wedding. It was good to be back in SF but it felt like a much bigger and more spread out city than I remembered. The smaller size and great public transportation make it so easy to get by without a car in Zürich that we are spoiled now. Anyway, the wedding was was at the Tiburon Yacht Club, which was a very nice location with good views across the Bay (and really good mini crab cakes!).
While I was in San Francisco, I also officially became unemployed as the startup was unable to secure its second round of funding. For my last day, I took the CalTrain down to Mountain View to meet up with Adam and have one last Indian buffet lunch. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
I had one week to kill in the US between weddings so I decided to go back up to Seattle/Sammamish to visit Jon, Nina, and my baby nephew Loch. It’s funny that when I moved abroad, I was afraid I wouldn’t get to meet my nephew for a long time, but I have already spent 2 weeks with him this year, which is probably as much or more than I would have if I still lived in the US!
While I was in in Sammamish, I was able to quickly design a new website for the inaugural Mud and Chocolate Half Marathon Trail Run that Jon and Nina will be putting on this November. I decided to make a static WordPress site with a custom theme so they could edit the content themselves without needing me to do anything. Check out the site and if you are near Seattle, check out the run too!
The final stop on my US tour was Chicago for Jeremy Morgan and Lindsey Jameson’s wedding. The wedding was a big reunion for all of my college friends and was a lot of fun. I also went for a long run along the Lakefront Path one morning; the Lakefront area is one of my favorite parts of Chi-town.
I had a 24 hour layover in Dublin on my way back to Zürich. It was my first time in Ireland so I was excited to check it out. Unfortunately, after not sleeping at all on the red-eye flight, I passed out in my hotel and slept through most of the day (1 – 6:30pm). By the time I woke up, the Guiness Storehouse (brewery) was already closed, which was the only thing I was planning to do in Dublin. Oh well. I still walked around the Temple Bar area, drank a Guinness, watched a football match, and listened to some really good bands performing outside on the street.
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