Back in Heidelberg

Update Wed., Sept 23: It’s over for this year, but booked again for 2018!

Last Sunday afternoon I went for a very nice 3 hour swim in lake Waidsee near Weinheim, assuming the water would be 17°C. It did not feel too cold, the sun came out, it was beautiful, swimming felt powerful and I could even work on my style, seeing too many air bubbles around my right arm stroke in the clean water. However, the water turned out to be 19,3 °C the DLRG told me – so much for cold training back home! Since the weather remains extremely unsettled for Dover – only Fri/Sat. looks swimmable right now – and air temps in the Channel are going down to 8°C at night with very chilly mornings and evenings, and water below 17°C, I decided to finally called it a year and feel happy with that. Eddie booked me in again for Aug. 3-8, 2018 (2017 is already full). This time, the idea will be to finally achieve my long-time project, Dover-Heidelberg – at age 61!

Interestingly, Sunday 20th was also the first real swim day in the Channel again since I left Dover – with 11 boats out. And only Friday/Sat. 25/26th might be the next possible days until Oct. So many swimmers still waiting! I hope Karteek will get a chance to swim!

Update Wed, Sept. 16:


Off to Dover – acclimating and meeting Channel heroes

Off to Dover – acclimating and meeting Channel heroes

Vasanti and Jackie Cobell, record for longest Channel swim - Redkord für den längsten Ärmelkanalschwimm

with Jackie Cobell, one of the Channel heroes for the longest English Channel swim: it took her 28 hours 44 min. to reach France in 2010 – but she would not give up!

Arrived in Dover via Euroline bus and ferry from Dunkerque (instead of Calais, passing the fenced off refugee/migrant camps, very sad situation and constantly wondering how can we help) for a few days of acclimatizing before my tide Sept. 5 – 11. Just in time for a nice Sat. morning training swim of 4 hours and again 3,5 hours on Sunday (due to Dover Regatta we were not allowed to stay in the water longer.)

Met Channel swimmers, aspirants and all kinds of heroes on the beach as usual, including legendary Jackie Cobell, who holds the record for the longest / slowest Channel swim ever, testimony to incredible stamina, determination and endurance!

Sananda, my helper from Vienna, is only arriving on the 5th, hopefully there will be a more stable weather period for a change, the last neap tides (Aug 21-27) were basically wiped out again. My second helper just dropped out for family reasons – but then I got a phone call from Canada, an old Channel swimming admirer will use her air  miles to come over and help short notice, arriving Friday! Thanks, Sarita for your enthusiasm!

Freda Streeter - Dover Harbour Traininging (Ärmelkanalschwimm-Training)

with another Channel legend, Channel “General” and coach Freda Streeter (mother of Allison Streeter, Queen of the English Channel), who told me this may be her last year “full time” at the beach

My boat is Anastasia English Channel boat again with great pilot Eddie Spelling and his crew.

You can follow the tracker (once you know we are swimming) here: Just click the box behind “Anastasia” – the orange boat symbol. Eddie usually updates his twitter account (it is open, you do not need to sign in):

And here are some links to the weather forcasts and tides:


Update Aug. 31
Metoffice pressure chart shows a high pressure Zone slowly moving towards the Dover Strait. If it continues to move east there is a chance for some more stable calm weather (that is the zone between too bars/lines staying over the Channel for some time). Right now the forecast for 5th to 9th is too windy. This is what Sept. 3rd looks like today:

Pressure chart sept 3

Dover Training July 2015

Dover Training July 2015

Dover sunrise when I arrived on the Euroline bus via ferry

Dover sunrise when I arrived on the Euroline bus via ferry

With the heat wave on the continent it was great to be in Dover for five days (11-15th) for some cold water training in the harbour – although I know from experience that within a few weeks part of the acclimatization will wear off again in the heat back home. So it will be good to come back quite a few days before my tide starts on Sept. 5th. But still it was reassuring to be able to swim 4, 6, 1.5, 3 and 2.5 hours in 16°C waters without problems, coming from 22-28°C


Glorious morning

waters and just regular cold showers. It was the last opportunity for the 6 hour qualifying swim, a week later the water in Dover would already be above 16°C. (Zurich Lake obviously does not count any more as a qualifier, since it is too warm.)

Jana (helper), Abhejali and Vasanti, after our first swims on Saturday - 7 hrs Abhejali, 4 hrs myself

Jana (helper), Abhejali and Vasanti, after our first swims on Saturday – 7 hrs Abhejali, 4 hrs myself

From the ferry in the morning dawn both shores with their blinking lights looked so close – just like a little bit more than the Zurich lake. It felt quite reassuring. But of course I know the currents, the cold and the fickle weather can be real challenges.


Sunny Sunday: Freda had a finger operation – she is sporting the nice hat Bahula gaver her after the girls relay in 2014

Abhejali had come a day earlier to prepare for her Catalina Channel swim booked for August 18th, and was happy to meet up with her sister in Dover, who lives in London and came down to assist us.

"King Kevin", Hon. Sec. of the CS&PF, helping out at the beach on Sunday

Kevin Murphy (34 Channel crossings), Hon. Sec. of the CS&PF, helping out at the beach on Sunday

It was very nice to meet again and chat with inspiring Channel swimmers from around the world – like Chloe McCardel and Shelley
Taylor-Smith – and the amazing beach crew inlcuding Freda, Irene, Barry and “King Kevin” himself, who sweetly came down to bring me my


At Varne Ridge, with Shelley Taylor-Smith and David, sharing interesting stories

crocks when I was the last swimmer to get out of the water after 6 hours on Sunday.


Meeting Chloe after her 3 solos in one week in preparation of her 3-way-attempt early August

Chloe McCardel was still in Dover after her she did her 3 solos in one week to prepare for her 3-way attempt beginning of August. We had met her and husband Paul first time back in 2009, when we were doing our 2nd Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team English Channel relay. Best of luck, Chloe!

Update: And she actually did her TRIPLE-SOLO on Aug 8-9th, 2015, in 36 hours 12 minutes: HUGE CONGRATULATIONS!

Dover March 7th/8th – CS&PF Channel Dinner and Sunday Dip

Dover March 7th/8th – CS&PF Channel Dinner and Sunday Dip

After the Channel Dinner in Dover on March 7th, crowds of swimmers enjoyed the Sunday morning sun and, braving chilly air and water temps, invaded the sparkling Channel waters in the harbour – lead by CS&PF President Nick Adams and King of the Channel and CS&PF Hon. Secretary Kevin Murphy.

crowds Kevin1entering-the-water

sparkling Kevin-MurphyVasanti-dover-2015


Mayorbirthdayned-cliffEven the Mayor, Cllr Pamela Brivio and her husband watched and took photos. They were quite amazed at the wide smiles and glowing faces of the swimmers coming out of the freezing element, and the general joyful atmosphere of this quite international family gathering.

Enjoy some more of my pics on the CS&PF-Website:

I went to the CS&PF Dinner to represent our international Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team and our 3 swims in 2014: two EC solos by Scottish Karteek Clarke (solo no 11) and Dover-Heidelberg English Channel-triathlete Angikar Djordjevik from Serbia (who was supposed to come but forgot to extend his visa!), plus the New Zealand-Czech “Sri Chinmoy Golden Jubilee” girls relay, who were all part of the annual honourees. Lucky Peter Hücker won the coveted guaranteed entry to the Zurich Lake Marathon Swim in 2016 in the raffle – congratulations!  On Monday we met with the Mayor again, together with two British and Welsh friends to discuss to an upcoming peace project.

New Year’s Greetings from Croatia

New Year’s Greetings from Croatia

Sea-peace-600As a child I loved swimming and snorkling in the Adriatic sea in Croatia when we used to go there on holidays with my grandparents. After so many years, it was a very nice experience to spend the New Year’s holidays of 2014/15 on the spectacular Croation coast together with Peace-Run-Dobrovnikour team, including friends and a number of English Channel girls and boys from literally all over the world – New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, Brazil, Guatemala, Europe… Meditation, swimming (outside temps down to below freezing for a few days,  water around 14°C), running along the scenic coast, Ston-Walls-Iceland-New-Zealand-GermanyPeace Run activities in Dubrovnik (UNESCO world heritage) and at the Ston Walls as part of local races, a Song of the Souls concert and lots of fun activities like a swim-run, a treasure hunt and some sightseeing made this holiday quite memorable. Apart from a few rainy and quite stormy days we were blessed with lots of sunshine and calm seas. (We were actually unable to land in windy Dubrovnik even after couple of attempts by the pilot – left and right of me people were using their sickness bags, but I felt fine and protected, surprisingly, with a handful of other teammembers on board. So we had to be diverted to Split, which resulted in a special 3 hour bus trip around midnight down along the moonlit coast to our hotel in Orasac.)

The run-swim (it was too cold to start with the swim and run in wet clothes) at the end of our stay was such great fun – people were even allowed to walk in the water just to get as many as possible to participate. The more adventurous and hardened swimmers chose the long course out to the other beach and back. For quite a few it was pure self-transcendence to get into the chilly water – but they ended up loving it!

Here a few more impressions:

Sunset-700wild-sea-700Abhejali-Vasanti-600Temp-600swim1-600      swimrun-600 Dyutimati-600seascape-600seascape2-600Sunset-red-700Orangen-600Songs-600

Maybe Friday – or even earlier?

Maybe Friday – or even earlier?

High pressure zone forecast - there is hope!

Back in Dover late Saturday morning. Up to Varne Ridge with my luggage and back to the harbour for just 1 hour of swimming. The sun is out – after a week or more of horrible weather. No swimmers were able to go on the last tide – and they have prepared for a year or more and come from all corners of the world. This is what Channel swimming is very much about!

Saturday night the bank relay teams went out for their wetsuit Arch to Arc relay triathlon (Marble Arch, London, to Arc de Triomphe, Paris), but it seems none of them made it. Many got seasick from the huge waves. They were still dropped in Calais to continue biking to Paris. Would I do the same if I don’t make it again, I mean, continue biking and running?

France seems to look closer than ever. Maybe due to our successful relay last year, where I was allowed to touch French sands again? And after swimming Lake Zurich only recently – France looks just that tiny bit further, and of course, the currents are a “little” stronger etc. My visualisation is more on the biking and running, strangely, as if the Channel was already done. Many times during training I had seen myself swimming safely alongside Anastasia and imagined swimming the last bit to France.

Miyuki (Japanese "Channel Queen" with 7 crossings) has been waiting also, she wants to do 2 swims this year!

Miyuki (Japanese "Channel Queen" with 7 crossings) is back, she wants to do 2 swims this year!

Woke up late on Sunday, but catching up with sleep is important now.

No swim before Wednesday at the earliest for me, basically agreed on Friday, if the weather is holding. Before Wednesday I would have no helpers for the biking and running. So a 3 hour swim without feeding on Sunday on Freda’s advice, maybe 3 hours again today, for best possible acclimatasation. Then more tapering.

Tuesday, however, now seems to be the first swimmable day now! Will we have to go earlier? Will meet my pilot around noon…

Freda, Barrie and Irene - Beach Crew with Channel General (sporting her new Zurich lake T-shirt)

Beach Crew with Channel General (Freda sporting her new Zurich lake T-shirt)

If anyone wants to come down to Dover to help on the boat on on Friday (start would be around 4/5 a.m.) – there is still room, also in the caravan!

My mobile for text messages: +49 152 26 59 30 34

MetOffice Pressure Forecast UK

Wind Map UK

Aug. 8th – Zurich Lake surprise

Aug. 8th – Zurich Lake surprise

Here the results and photo gallery:

I had hoped for an 11 hour or so training swim – but it was not to be.


Looking forward to an important training swim

I had joked with Nick Adams who had sent good wishes to all the swimmers that the Zurich Lake is only like a “big bath tub” (that was the feeling when I swam it after the Channel) – mostly pretty calm, except for the end which is more open and often quite windy and lumpy – great to power through to the finish. With scenic green and hilly shores left and right it feels quite protected – as opposed to Channel vastness and dynamics.

Zürich Lake evening magic (photo from 2007)

Zürich Lake evening magic (photo from 2007)

Not quite a bath tub

This time, however, the Lake seemed intent on showing us it was not a bathtub! After a serene and beautiful Saturday evening the early Sunday morning was still calm but cloudy, after 2 hours or so the sun came out –  like on a normal Zurich lake swim day (we had mostly been very lucky with the weather). Soon, however, the rain started – good if helpers had thought of some kind of protection, no problem for the swimmer of course. Then the wind came. Luckily from behind – otherwise rowers would be in more trouble than the swimmers. One time only the swim had to be stopped due to strong headwinds.

Leisurely Zurich Lake

Leisurely Zurich Lake (Valishta and Anete are my rowers – they also had a couple of dips in the lake)

Swimming in the waves is actually much more fun than in just flat water, at least in the Zurich lake, and even more so when the waves are pushing you. At the same time the lake had cooled off considerably – from 25°C over the last weeks down to around 19°C in the beginning – good for Channel training! Maybe it was due to the intense training weekend in Dover only a week before – but I did not feel the joy I expected, and I even felt chilly at times. I rather had to work and concentrate. Not that it was really difficult or hard, but I was waiting for the joy of swimming to come – and Meilen to appear! When we reached the halfway point at Meilen under 5 hours and the ferry after only 5 hours 20 I was happy and amazed! Was it the wind or the training and more kicking or everything combined?

Downhill with the Monkeys

Team Lisa Cummins - the Monkey Puzzlers

Team Lisa Cummins – the Monkey Puzzlers

Finally downhill, but still I kept calculating the hours and the distance in my mind, although I was trying to just  swim, enjoy and focus here and now. Some nice distraction, when Lisa Cummins (EC double 2009) and her Monkey team passed us, then our German relay team – always something to watch and exchange a few words. After only 8 hours we arrived at Küsnacht, the last “land corner” before the 4 km stretch until the finish – again, I could hardly believe it. By this time I was feeling the joy, sometimes exhilaration  – being pushed even harder now by the waves coming from behind, knowing the finish is only some 2 hours away and I could just swim as powerfully now as possible. My arms felt better now then during most of the swim so far – maybe all the accumulated acids and fatigue had gone by now. But to continue for 7 hours or more? – No, today I was definitely not yet in Channel shape! (But who knows – I only fed every hour, and good feeding makes a big difference.)

Lake magic

More lake magic

My second fastest time!

The last open patch was the best, like so often – others loathe it, because it seems endless, but if you know it and are prepared you can enjoy it. There is no “wicked French current” to drive you away from the finish – just a tiny wicked Swiss current, but everyone can cut through that, with a bit of patience. The sun came out for us again, while the slower swimmers – and crews – were up for some torrential rain alternating with the sun only a little later, just when I had made it into the warm shower! The feeling of swimming in the vastness and ploughing through the waves was swimmer’s delight, and near the finish the wind even subsided, very unusual. I was going as fast as I could – sprinting would be the wrong word -, remembering our Channel relay with Eddie on Anastasia last year, where Eddie had told me to go FAST in the 10th hour to use the tide as much as possible – and then France was so near! To finish under 10 hours now would be a dream I did not really expect to come true, 10 hours would still be fine – but when I finally touched the finish line, the clock showed 9:48 – unbelievable! Last time, in 2007, it had taken me 11 hours 20!

The over 40ies

The ladies over 40

This time we had tried to stay a little more to the center of the lake after Meilen to make use of the current and not get trapped in a counter current near the shore.  Whatever the reason was – favourable winds and currents, better training, more kicking, tactics – it was greatly motivating! My second fastest Zurich lake swimm ever out of 7 altogether! (In 1998 I did 9:39)

The icing on the cake was the delicious food afterwards (actually a good reason to swim fast!) – spicy tofu, salads, pancakes, deserts – you name it – and a long overdue extended massage, so that my arms and shoulders felt like new the next day.

Distinguished international guests, including weathered English Channel swimmers and some EC aspirants


Everyone a winner

Julie Galloway, Channel swimmer from Ireland, had finished in an amazing 6 hours 35 min. – faster than the boys. Even the wetsuit category was only 1 min 34 sec. faster! Abhejali, team member of our Channel relay 2009 from Czech Republic, finished in a very good 8:28 – with very little training and even less weight than in 2009, amazing! Bit of a British-Irish invasion again (Cork, Serpentine), with some Australians – 12 nations in all. No Indians, however – they had probably registered too late!


An inspirational message plus some British/Jersey humour on the “Cliff Hangers” relay team t-shirt

The British “Cliff’s Hangers” fun relay team with EC multi-soloists Cliff Golding and Sally Minty-Gravett plus Tracy Huish had a beautiful turquoise team T-shirt featuring a map of the Zurich lake on the back, with apt comments for every hour (like: time for a nap, time for a beer, mind the ferry, glad I am only doing a relay, beautiful swim) and one of Cliff`s favourite inspirational aphorisms – as far as I know –  at the top of the back:

“The fulness of life lies in dreaming and manifesting the impossible dreams.”
– Sri Chinmoy

Dover Training July 31st – Aug. 2nd

Dover Training July 31st – Aug. 2nd

typical Dover harbour training day

A typical Dover harbour training day (no corpses in the front - only garbage bags to protect our dry clothes) on Saturday July 31st

First training visit to Dover by Euroline overnight bus, since last year with direct connection from Heidelberg to Dover via the Channel Tunnel (which had been on fire during my swim on Sept. 11 in 2008!) Arrival Saturday around 9 a.m., quick check-in in Bluebells B&B and off to the harbour to greet Freda and the beach crew. Yellow cap for my first cold swim since May –

Happy after my first 6 hour swim in 17°C this year

Happy after first 6 hour swim in 17°C this year - on a sunny Sunday!

which went well due to

increased body fat percentage. Nicely choppy at the eastern end, so good training. Sunday 6 hour swim (no official 7 hours that day) – which was fine for me, but I still felt good at the end.

Vasanti and Dori Miller

Vasanti and Dori Miller (tapering for her 2-way attempt), Monday morning

Monday 2 hours in the morning, with Dori Miller (USA, but based in Sydney, fast solo in 2008) who was tapering for her 2-way attempt and a few other Australians, then a short break, and around 2 p.m. back into the water for another two hours after meeting up with team mates from Serbia, who were waiting to go as soon as weather – and Alison’s broken boat – would permit (later we went to the Marina to see the boat – it was an absolute mess of repair, something had burned, and it did not really look like it would be ready for the start of the tide on Monday). The last half hour of swimming was the best – into the late afternoon sun lighting up the water and into glittering waves.

Shakespeare Beach (or "Shaky"), departure for many swims, with Shakespeare Cliff in the background

Shakespeare Beach (or "Shaky"), departure for many swims, with Shakespeare Cliff in the background, Monday afternoon

Short visit to Shakespeare beach with my Channel aspirant teammate and his helper (both accomplished long distance runners, only Anigkar does not look like a runner any more, which is good for him right), followed by collecting my stuff and a going for a final Pizza with more talk about Channel swimming details, before boarding the bus at 7 p.m. back to Heidelberg.

June/July: Looking for cold water and some longer swims

June/July: Looking for cold water and some longer swims

Silbersee, Roxheim

Silbersee morning magic

Time is flying – and my training is considerably less than in 2008.  First weeks of June a few 3 hour swims in Roxheim (Silbersee) when weather and time permitted, but the water had warmed up too much already. Sat., June 26, my first 4 hour open water swim,

swans near the lake

Swan family in the Silbersee nature reserve

followed by a 1:20 hour dip on Sunday 27th on the way to Zurich with Indu at stopover at Titisee, while Germany was playing

England in the World Championship,  and a 5  hour swim in Lake Zurich on Monday (= 31 km weekend). I had hoped for cold water in Zurich, and even in Titisee, since Friday the water temp was still around 15°C, but by Sunday/Monday water temperatures had gone up to 21-22°C or even more. The Sahara summer over Europe had started.

Titisee dip, Black Forest, and 5 hours Zurich lake


Lake Titi, Black Forrest

Titisee is a small very pitturesque lake in the Black Forest, with extremely dark water due to the tannin from the pine trees. We rented a pedal boat so Indu could accompany me (she took a dip in the end). The further we went to the other shore, the warmer the water became. When I stuck my head out of the water at the opposite shore, I saw a few campers and asked about the soccer score. When we started out, it had been 2:1 (the second goal for England was not counted), and now – 4:1 for Germany – incredible, after their performance against Serbia! If they can do that, maybe the Channel will also work this time!

Zurich Lake

Zurich Lake training

After a nice evening meal overlooking the lake at Alemannenhof we continued to Zurich, where I did my 5 hours on Monday from the lido to Saffa Island and back, just by myself, with a few short breaks in between. It was a very nice familiar feeling to be back at the Zurich lake after such a long time, and enjoy the vastness of the lake and the view to the mountains. It is pretty safe to swim up and down for 1500m along the southern shoreline, where you can even see the sandy ground or the water plants in the clear water. In the evening I had my first major sunburn – but was very happy. Looking forward to the big Zurich Lake swim on Aug. 8th. Which will be the next big training step for Dover.

From then on my cold water training was restricted to the little “Kneipp” basin with 11°C water next to the outdoor pool in Bammental.

sunny long swim

Sunny long swim

3+7 hour lake swims July 17/18 (=30 km), 1+6 hours July 24/25th, both in Roxheim – heavily distracted by following Chloe`s successful double and Jackie Cobell`s incredible 28 hour solo via the AIS trackers.

I had hoped to do more long swims in bigger and colder lakes  – but with water temps too warm everywhere there is no reason to spend lots of time and money travelling – except to Dover.

Slight change of plans?

Since my running and biking is quite reduced due to time restrictions, and finances are a factor, too, I am thinking of shortening the triathlon distance a little for this year, back to the original idea – and leave room for more later.

Dover training: booked  a Euroline bus ticket to Dover for next weekend Fr to Monday to start serious cold water training. Really looking forward to it, and then Zurich lake the weekend after!

Ultra-training in Basel

Ultra-training in Basel

The final lap - 70,5 km

The final lap - 70,5 km

The 24 hour race in Basel on May 8/9th was a good occasion for a longer training run. Since the course is a loop there is constant support – psychological as well as material – in the form of food, drinks, medical, massage, cheering – and places to nap. Plus the surroundings are great – lush green everywhere. My goal was just to do 80 km, enjoy some breaks and massage stops, and then see. With my present Channel swimmer weight I just want to be able to survive the run part of the Channel triathlon.

Taking the train to Basel I started two hours late and was happy to avoid the midday heat. It was hot enough in the afternoon, and I was really slow with my cardiovascular system giving me a bit of trouble like usual. Around 11 p.m. it started to rain, heavily.

With only one pair of running shoes with me I decided to take a nap for 2 or three hours. When I woke up it was still raining – so I slept until 4 a.m. I had not even completed 40 km at that time and knew 80 km would be out of the question. So I decided to at least go for 60 – slow and steady. With the Heidelberg halfmarathon only 2 weeks ago plus a couple of 1-2 hour training runs since middle of April I felt it would equal 80 km.

Happy helpers (medical and massage)

Happy helpers (medical and massage)

The massage and medical tent saw me three times – and they really helped me recover from the half marathon. At the end of the race, even though temperatures went up to 24°C again towards Sunday noon, I felt better than at the start – legwise and cardiovascular. With no reason to stop at 60 km I continued – also to please my counters and ended up with 70.5 km. My doctor-friend  had done a great job with some homeopathic pills (tuja), alignment of the spine etc. Also the next days I was amazed at the feeling of lightness in my legs. I always say I am a diesel engine – I am not fast, but I feel longer distances are like cleansing for the body and mind/soul, and I actually need them to be myself.

Great food!

Great food!

At times I was run-walking with other participants, engaging in friendly conversation. One lap-partner was 72 years old (looking around 60). He gently advised me, from his own experience, how to be able to run faster: “Loosing some weight really helps”, he said compassionately. At 60 his blood pressure had been up to 260, his weight over 100 kg and his doctor had told him either to change is lifestyle or be prepared to hit the grave soon.  So he quit smoking and drinking, became a vegetarian and started running. After each ultra he promises himself not to do another one again – but never sticks to this resolution for long. He only did 72 km this due to a very painful heelspur.

Runners, walkers and music group (in the tent)

Runners, walkers and ultra-music group (in the tent)

But the performances of the “elderly” generation were just amazing at the race. The overall winner at age 50 completed 238 km, the winner for over 60 did 181 km, the one for over 70 (born 1938)  did 166 km – amazing. The female winner of  my age category did 167, 8 km (my Basel best: 148)! Way to go when I am getting older and will have lost some weight again!

More Basel photos by Bijoy

First open water swims in May

First open water swims in May

Swimming in the rain

Saturday May 1st: swimming in the rain

Magic morning in Weinheim

Magic Sunday morning in Weinheim

For each swim lap from the little "beach" to the main  beach, Indu ran a lap around the lake.

For each swim lap from the little "beach" to the main beach, Indu ran a lap around the lake on Sunday

The first real open water swims this year on the weekend of May 1st and 2nd in 16°C, then 15°C  water – just an hour each due to other commitments, with the usual rain the first day and a glimpse of sunshine the next.  So nice to swim in clean, cold open water, finally!

The swims created quite a sensation with the local early morning walkers looking at me getting in or coming out full of disbelief mixed with admiration, shuddering at the thought of how cold the water must feel.

If I had a car I would definitely go there more often, but biking in the rain and cold after swimming feels too dangerous – I have to stay healthy!

I had hoped to do 5 hours in a cold outdoor pool beginning May, but the pool in Mannheim is heated this year and the cold Heidelberg pool mostly closed due to the bad weather. So I was looking forward to the Pentecost weekend at the Mondsee (moon lake) in Austria, with plenty of other lakes around.

Mondsee, Austria, May 22-24th

However, with the cold weather persisting, on the Pentecost weekend in Austria I only managed to do shorter swims again – a 30 min. dip Saturday evening after we arrived,

Cuddled up to stay warm before getting into the 12°C water of the  Mondsee

Cuddled up to stay warm before getting into the 12°C water of the Mondsee a bit more than half way on the way back of our boat trip

40 min.  Sunday morning before breakfast, 1 hour 30 min (4-5 km) in the afternoon at the end of a beautiful, at times rainy trip with an electrical boat across the whole 10 k wide lake, and another early morning swim by myself of 1 hour 15 or so  Monday morning before leaving for home. Two teammates booked for a relay in September were also testing the cold water – and I was relieved when they confirmed the water was not 15°C like the boat rental had measured close to the shore, but  more like 12°C.  (Swim photos are still in Inessa`s mobile.) I had hoped to be able to swim at least across the lake once for training – but that was out of the question at this temperature for me.

The longest May swim was only three hours (9 km) on the 29th – in 21°C pool water, mostly in the sun, and almost by myself! I stopped when I started to feel weak, luckily, for I had gotten quite a sunburn and was close to a sunstroke, as I realised a little later. When the sun does come out it is quite fierce, and it was the first sunny swim day. June 3rd is a holiday, hoping for a longer swim then.

Heidelberg Halfmarathon – Slow and Steady

Heidelberg Halfmarathon – Slow and Steady

Heidelberg halfmarathon profile

Only a halfmarathon – but no walk in the park. I had hoped the rather cold weather would last one day longer – but no, right on halfmarathon Sunday (April 25th) the sun started blazing and temperatures started to go up right from the morning (over 20 °C around noon).

No reason to stop

And maybe it was not such a good idea to run almost the whole route 10 days before (into a cool evening) and two times 10 k over the next few days plus some biking. Plus too much coffee (acidity).  So on half marathon day my legs felt like lead most of the time and with my body weight and the heat I was run-walking at an ultra-marathon pace, happy just to finish within the cut off under 3 hours (last year: 2:31). I had even played with the thought of only doing part of the half marathon and stop at my place at km 14, and run the last third by myself in the evening. But I was taking it easy and chatting to some other runners at the back of the pack every now and then – and there was no good reason to stop. People were just so nice – encouraging, cheering, offering food, water etc. even outside the aid stations – how could you drop out? I always love this feeling of togetherness in events like these. You don`t just run by yourself. You always run “together”.

Live saving showers

I had to walk more than usual, though, and took the time to get myself completely drenched by a couple of cold showers offered by people with their garden hoses, one on Philosophenweg and another one up on Schloss Wolfsbrunnenweg a mile or so before the Castle. They really helped me survive. Near the finish, a helper started to pace me on his bike, telling me we would make the cut off of 3 hours. I had not paid any attention to time, but was actually positively surprised. I finished just behind a 70 year old runner who I had overtaken when he had gotten cramps, but he outsprinted me in the end (my net time was still faster than his, however…).


Swimming definitely is easier….

At the same time, the 6 and 10 day Self-Transcendence Race in New York was still going on (this year the weather was extremely hard for the runners over there). Still I would really love to have the experience of a multi-day race one day. Longer distances have a totally different quality, but with running my physical was always too limited. That is why the Channel tempted me, 25 years ago. And now again. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years? My next humble goal is 80 km (my running distance for September) in Basel on May 8/9.

Spring in Heidelberg

Spring in Heidelberg

Spring in Heidelberg

Spring has arrived in Heidelberg!

Finally – spring has arrived in Heidelberg! The heated outdoor pool opened on Easter Sunday April 4th with a chocolote Easter bunny gift for every swimmer.  26-27°C – but still so nice to be really swimming outdoors! And biking is getting fun again!

The Heidelberg halfmarathon is coming up on April 25th and the 12/24 hours of Basel on Mai 8./9th. For me all running is weight-training right now – I have moved above 90 kg, but want to lose a few kilos soon, after all I am only going to swim the Channel, not the Atlantic. I skipped the 6 hour race in Nürnberg this year – they were desperate for helpers and I was undertrained and overweight, so I was happy to help counting, took fotos and cheered the runners on – nice change of perspective and more entertaining for a change than being out there for 6 hours by yourself. We were not sure whether the cold and wind were harder on the runners or on the sedentary counters.

12 hour indoor swim Zürich

12 hour indoor swim Zürich

Sorry for being so much behind.

I am definitely booked with Eddie for the tide August 30th to Sept. 6th or so, paid my first deposit for staying at Varne Ridge – and am getting back into more serious swimming again after my 12 hour swim in Zürich (indoors!) on Febr. 28th.

12 hour swim Zurich

12 hour swim Zurich

Zurich was a very nice experience again. Because of overbooking, some swimmers graciously swam already on Saturday – in a narrow crowded lane with breaststrokers, which luckily was widened after my Channel sister Vedika (5x EC including one Channel triathlon Dover-Paris) was about to quit if conditions were not changed.

A well-earned massage for Vedika

A well-earned massage for Vedika

Sunday was crowded again, but I was lucky to be in the wider 1st lane. I went with no expectations, except to swim at least 25 km in honour of the 25th Channel anniversary of our Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, and I was very happy when I ended up with 27,2 km with some sprinting in the end – the same distance I had done in 2008, quite lighter then and 2 years younger.

Although I had swum 5 days a week for a couple of weeks previously, I had only done 2 x one hour or more – otherwise only 30-40 minutes in the much too warm indoor water.

The Czech Team

The Czech Team: Jayalata, Blanka, Miloslava, Abhejali (they did 32,8 km)

Nice surprise was to meet some good friends: Vedika on Saturday, on Sunday Prafulla (EC 1987, EC relay 1989), the initiator of the  Zürich lake marathon swim (after she failed in her first attempt to swim the English Channel in 1986 she did a double of the Zurich lake which inspired her to organise the Zurich lake marathon swim from Rapperswil). Also Abhejali and Jayalata, relay swimmer and helper from our English Channel relay swim last year, they had travelled all the way from Zlin (13 hours!) with two friends to swim a relay again. Which made me feel a little like out there in the Channel with friends, heading towards France again.

mit Margit Bohnhoff

mit Marghit Bohnhoff (center)

Margit Bonhoff from Berlin, successful EC in 2007 (11 h 40),who I had met in Dover 2 years ago, also participated, but was put off by the crowded lanes. Still she managed to place first for us “seniorladies” and looked quite happy at the end.

I used to take a P-break after an hour or so, soon combining it with a cold shower (felt like sweating in the water). After 6 hours I got some lunch and  my massage break – the main reason for coming 🙂 , and the final downhill part was amazingly easy, with sprints towards the end to get in as many km as still possible – with basically everyone picking up their speed again.

Feeding was simple: lots of apple juice with maltodextrin, cold herb tea with a bit of fruit sugar and vit. C powder, some bananas,  a few raisins, porridge, salty veggie broth, a few potatoes with tamari and lots of fruit sugar towards the end. And some Chi (an alkalising combucha drink – Vedika´s staple).

More photos and results

More Winter Dips

More Winter Dips

Catching snowballs in the Neckar

Catching snowballs in the Neckar, Jan. 31st 2010

4th body of open water this year – the Neckar (my goal: 25).  No 5  – without fotos –  my 3 min. ice dip in the Waidsee in Weinheim beginning of Febr. – there was hardly any free spot to get into the water – basically the whole lake was frozen over.

winter swimming in the Neckar

More winter swimming

3 New Year’s Swims

3 New Year’s Swims

After endless days of pouring rain, finally the sun came out on Jan. 1st in the morning, when we drove down to Lindau on Lake Constance from Lindenberg, where we had celebrated New Year’s Eve. I was determined to get back into cold water on Jan. 1st – and the weather gods seemed to cooperate! With Indu as our driver, observer and lifeguard, Frederike (a long distance runner and cold water lover, hardened by winter swims in Lake Geneva) greeted the New Year with a great swim in 5°C waters of Lake Constance. After 12 min. I emerged elated – and red as a lobster. (photos to follow)

Zurich lake dip

After another extensive and delicious lunch I accepted Indu’s invitation to a short trip to her “office” in Zurich, where we spent a comfi evening with 2 inspiring DVDs (”The Peaceful Warrior” and “Hero”).

Zurich Lake with Swan encounter, Jan. 2nd, 2010

Zurich Lake with Swan and Ice swimmer Jan. 2nd, 2010

Next morning, after a short 20 min. run, we went for a second New Year’s plunge in the Zurich lake (we forgot our watches – maybe 7 min. in 4°C with cold winds) – with snow-powdered Uetliberg in the distance.

Winter magic at the lake of Einsiedeln

After a hot bath and some breakfast we collected Indu’s mother and sister and drove off to the winter magic of Einsiedeln, about 40 min. driving distance from Zurich. Einsiedeln means hermitage and is the site of a world-famous Benedictine monastery and a small but exquisitely beautiful lake. SNOW, finally! The weather was gloomy at first, but it was magic anyway. However, after an hour or so the sky cleared and the sun came out and created an unbelievable winter fairytale landscape. After a leisurely walk/run along the lake and some hot soup in a little hut we visited the amazing baroque abbey church (no photos inside!) in Einsiedeln – one of the sacred places in the world, stood in the “power circle” in the church center and meditated briefly in front of the “black Madonna“.

Short dip in the winter magic of Einsiedeln

Short dip in the winter magic of Einsiedeln, Jan. 2nd 2010

Just a short dip

The culmination of the little trip – at least for me – was a quick dip in the partly frozen-over lake, after finding a gap in the fence surrounding the lido. I would have loved to stay longer, but we wanted to get back to Heidelberg for a special meditation in the evening.

Still an absolutely great start into the New Year – with three times more cold swims than last year!

Enjoy the slide show.

Great news: First place with Eddie

To top everything off: I am now first place with Eddie on the tide starting Aug. 30th! (Apart from the Arc to Arc triathlon relay competition with different teams on that tide which would have priority.) Will this be my Dover-Heidelberg year, finally?


Link to some more serious winter swimming in China – which brings up memories of our winter ocean swimming in Dec. 2004 in Qingdao in subzero outside temperature, after watching local Chinese going for ice swims every day early in the morning. (And only a few days later the Tsunami happened – experiences of beauty and tragedy so close together, what a strange Lila, this life here on earth …)

Back to running – and cold dips in the Neckar

Back to running – and cold dips in the Neckar

Meeting Carl Lewis again in New York, Oct. 2009 (He is wearing the same T-shirt under his jacket!)

Meeting Carl Lewis again in New York, Oct. 2009 (He is wearing the same T-shirt under his jacket!)

During a short visit to New York to honour the Mahasamadhi anniversary of my teacher Sri Chinmoy on Oct. 11th, I had the good fortune of meeting once again Carl Lewis (“Athlete of the Century”), who has been a supporter of and spokesman for the World Harmony Run since its inception back in 1987. Carl has launched a new project – the ultimate online fitness tool and community – and everyone is welcome to join!

Back to running

lauf-mit-bigalitaRunning is fun again now that temperatures are beginning to drop. (I basically hadn’t run since my slow 12 hour run in Basel in May.) I love running in the crisp autum air, with brightly coloured leaves all around, and even now, in misty, slightly depressive November. But with my extra kilos now, I have become quite slow. Kastura, a friend, has given me some tips how to get faster again. Next goals: Heidelberg half marathon end of April, then 6 hour-race in Nuremberg (March) and 12 hours of Basel in May. For swimming: 12 hours, Zurich indoors, on March 1st, 2010.

Back to the Neckar

Since our English Channel relay I hadn’t been swimming at all. The indoor pool is still frightening me with its warm temperatures, but I will have to start training for speed, technique, and endurance soon. The first cold dip in the Neckar this season was on Sunday, Nov. 15  – must have been way below Channel temperature already.

Today (Nov. 17th) an article about our English Channel relay appeared in our local newspaper. Feels a bit out of place for only 3 hours 21 min. of swimming in my case, but it was a great adventure with a lot of oneness in our international team – which may be much more important than just doing great things for yourself! And if anybody gets any inspiration from it, I am very happy!

Neckar in November

The Neckar in November

Crawl in the Neckar is reserved for Heidelberg-Man-relays (the water is not too clean)

Crawl in the Neckar is reserved for Heidelberg-Man-relays (the water is not too clean)

(The article says I was the first German woman – but the truth is: just the first German woman in the annals of the Channel Swimming Association (CSA). In 1938, during the Nazi-regime, Dr. Bruna Plarre swam the Channel in the “Daily Mail International Channel Race” – not sure if it was according to current Channel swimming rules. And the first German male swimmer was Ulrich Haevecker in 1982, 4 min. slower, but breaststroke!)

“Just silence the mind.
Cosmic energy enters
Into our entire being,
And tremendous energy
Flows in and through us.”
– Sri Chinmoy –

Off to Dover!

Taking the Euroline bus to Dover at midnight, arriving in the morning – looking forward to that first icy dip in Dover harbour on Saturday and meeting the rest of our 4 person relay team!

Weather seems to be improving, Lisa and Chloe are hoping to do their double attempts on the spring tide Sunday/Monday after the whole last tide was blown out by the weather.

My training has been moderate – 2 hours lake (beautiful crisp early September morning swim with sun glitters dancing on the ripples and hardly a soul around) on Saturday, 3 hours in the pool on overcast on Sunday (felt colder, but still 21°C), last day for the unheated pool, with a big cramp in my right calf towards the end! Nutrition has not been too careful this year. Then 1 hours swims in the heated pool (27°C) and lots of cold showers.

Our window officially opens on the 24th (till Oct. 1st). With no swims last tide I suppose even if the 23rd is swimmable, there will be other swimmers still waiting.

Our boat Anastasia can be followed by satellite tracker. We’ll be staying again at Varne Ridge with internet access and all.

Fat – but I might need it soon …

Fat – but I might need it soon …

I am fat!

I am fat!

Now I have the weight that would have made all the difference last year – 10 kg more.  It feels uncomfortable for running, and I have run very little since Basel in May, but swimming gives strength to the whole body and my legs are still strong. Soon, when it gets cooler, I will start again. I remember, in 1985 I did my fastest 2 miles ever when I was heaviest – right after the Channel! (O.k., my fastest marathon, the only sub 4,  came when I had lost 20 kg again and had been biking 1 hour a day for 3 months .)

The funny thing is, I have been appreciating the “blubber” around my waist and over my kidneys – knowing how precious it will be to protect me during my probably 15 hour plus swim next year. But then, to carry it around for all those months, now that the indoor pool season will soon start again … Should I try to loose some? But then it may be hard to get it back in time when the training is getting more intense! Or would it be enough to train more in cold water over the winter? No, as a slower swimmer I need some more fat.

Surprise-SMS: Invitation to Dover – for a relay on the tide starting Sept. 24

For now the answer is clear:  I may need the “blubber”  soon.  My intuition for September was right.  Friends from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in the Czech Republic who were planning a 3 person relay lost a swimmer. So 2 days ago, late at night, I got an SMS asking if I wanted to step in. Probably we will be four now, with a girl from Iceland also joining, an experienced cold water swimmer – maybe a future solo aspirant!

Our pilot will be Eddie Spelling, and we are only 4th place. But relays can go when solo swimmers might turn an offer down because the conditions don`t look too good. The main challenge for a relay is – telling from our 1989 experience – to avoid getting seasick on the boat. Or, if you do get seasick, to still continue to be able to jump back in into the cold and maybe the dark.

In 1989 we were a 6 person-relay and the best time was when we were allowed to swim.  One hour is barely enough to get into the “zone”, and on the boat it was only suffering. Lying down on our backs was the only position to survive. I don`t remember eating much (potatoes?), but luckily it was sunny and pretty calm. At that time I was convinced to never ever do a relay again. Too little swimming. But this is different now – touch base again for next year!

Friends had blown a relay in 1985 when they got seasick already on their way to the start in France.  Nowadays starts from France are no longer possible, but in “ancient” times, swim direction would depend on the wind. They started swimming from France into the night in pretty nasty conditions. At one point one swimmer got hit by the boat when it was lifted out of the water by a big wave and fell back on his shoulder. On a sick stomach, feeling cold and terrible if not terrified, one team member just couldn`t deal with it anymore and refused to get back into the black cold waves – and that was it for the relay.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Gale force at Wissant bay, France, Sept. 3rd, 2009

Gale force at Wissant bay, France, Sept. 3rd, 2009

The weather right now in Dover is horrible – no attempts at all during this tide, with winds up to gale force. I think we will be very lucky to get a chance at all!

Tomorrow morning 2 hour lake swim* – luckily the air temperature here has dropped to 12-16 °C in the mornings, but the water will still be much too warm. Ice baths at home will be needed now. Then Dover harbour starting on the 20th, hopefully. Our tide is from Sept. 24th to Oct. 1st. We will be staying at Varne Ridge, like last year. I am really excited to get back to Dover!

(*was 2.5 h, wrist is holding, tendonitis seems over, but just strong enough for a relay)



In July it became clear that even if the Channel pilots ran out of swimmers during a period of good weather in September, I would not be able to swim a solo this year. Instead of stepping up my training – at least for a possible last minute Zurich lake spot – I had to reduce. From my computer work (and some games in between) I contracted a painful tendonitis on my right wrist. Olive oil bandages over night helped a little, and swimming for half an hour a day, I felt, helped the healing process, too. But 1 hour or longer swims were out of the question for a few weeks.

summer pool temperature (27°C/80.6 °F)

summer pool temperature (27°C/80.6 °F)

In addition, pool temperatures went up to 27°c. On rain days only the warm pool was open – at 28 °C or more, plus overcrowded. Going to the lake regularly for only a short swim was hardly worth the trouble. The best were half-rainy days, with the regular pool open just in the morning with only a few swimmers.

My tendonitis did not even allow me to go to Zurich at the end of July to at least help rowing, and so I did some professional training instead. The next day I heard I could have even gotten a last minute swim slot! What kind of year was this for me???

So I continued following closely how other Channel swimmers were doing via satellite trackers and chat group.

Waidsee in Weinheim - great for middle distance training - 30 min. to the other side and back

Waidsee in Weinheim - great for middle distance training - 30 min. to the other side and back in a triangle

In August, when my wrist had gotten better, I enjoyed a few “longer” swims in the smaller lake in Weinheim, but never doing anything over 2,5 hours. My feeling was, I should soon start training more seriously again for next year, but it seemed hard to really get motivated. At that point I did not expect anything special to happen this year any more.

Glued to the monitor

The first 2 successful Channel crossings of the season have happened: two relays, on June 13th and 18th (see Dover life). Today a couple of pilots went out with their swimmers (maybe around 4 a.m.?) – and I was glued to the screen, following the little dots online via ship-tracking as far as they show up (about halfway to France) while working on my website business. Today was only the beginning of the neap tides (maybe even still spring tide), meaning the current was still strong. The only thing I know right now: Alison`s relay team on Roco did it, getting swept way past the Cap towards Boulogne, but then turning towards France in a sharp angle and soon afterwards touching land. “Nice and sunny, wind 3/4” Nick Adams wrote 10 min. before his last turn in the relay.

The German swimmer, Peter Hücker with Andy King, was swept quite a bit East in the beginning, much more so than the other boats, but with the changing tide made a sharp angle South. I thought it might be a variant – making a bigger curve in the beginning to avoid getting swept past the Cap. He took very long to reach the halfway point, and then the boat disappeared from the screen. Later I heard he had to abondon the swim. So unfortunate! So much preparation – and that’s it for this time!

My training is still too easy for a Channel swim – it’ll be next yearbut I did my first 5 hours on the weekend – split in 3 sessions, that is. Pool, pool, lake. For some fun and leg exercise one lap with fins in the lake. How I enjoyed the open water finally! After last year’s endless hours in the lake and Dover harbour I have long been enjoying the luxury of clear, and in the mornings pretty empty pools where you can see the bottom, with the sun painting dancing patterns on the turquoise floor –  and of getting tanned also on the front side by the reflected sun. If the weather was good enough for the non-heated pool to open, that is (at 9 a.m.!). Another luxury of beeing self-employed – I can take my time off when I want to, mostly.

Not doing weight sessions in a gym like last year my shoulder muscles have shrunken. Maybe backstroking regularly in the Neckar, like tonight, when I can`t make it to the pool at an empty hour, is a good idea, better even with paddles and fins. Another luxury, which I would never enjoy were I not training for something a little bit outlandish: swimming in this peaceful setting of the Neckar nestled into green lush hills, at the feet of a monastary, so to say, at a spot nicely sheltered from the public. (Hardly anybody sane swims in the Neckar these days, unless for the Heidelbergman.)

Easy training

Easy training

You might have thought I am training so hard I have no time to post – not quite.

Concentrating more on my new business this year I just don’t have as much time and energy for training as before – even though I love it as soon as I get into the water or out into nature. I enjoy arm- and leg-training using fins in the lake, backstroking (for safety reasons) in the Neckar when the pool is too crowded on a hot day, or the luxury of having a pool almost to myself on a Dover-weather day (quite frequent, lately, except that the  pool closes on a complete rain day).

However, my best discipline right now is eating ice cream, and I have gained the weight that would have helped me last year – but I am not even sure I will need it right now. At the same time, the weight makes running more difficult. So I am thinking: last year too much training and too little ice cream, this year vice versa, and next year the middle path.

Realistically, my big triathlon will take place in 2010. (Some friends were right last year, but I didn’t want to accept it.) By then I will be able to train again with more one-pointedness, enthusiasm and intensity and not depend on others too much financially. It will be our team’s 25th Channel swimming anniversary, maybe a great way to celebrate.  Still I want to keep up a good training level this year.

On the weekend of Pentecost (May 30th to June 1st) I did my first “long” swim this year: 3 hours in the outdoor pool – and I not only got a bad sunburn but most likely also a sunstroke, since I felt weak and almost fainted in the evening and was shivering in the pool the next day. It seems the sun is getting more aggressive, others felt the same. It was great to swim together with old Channel friends though, like in “olden days”. Speeds you up immediately.

Last year I did 12 hours indoors in February, 5 hours outdoors May 1st, and longer swims starting June. Looking back to 1985 when I only started training for the Channel beginning of  May, I felt that now with more experience it may even be fine to start long swims only in June, but it may just be enough for a comfortable Zurich lake swim. The only thing is, the Zurich lake is booked out. Maybe a long training swim in Dover in August – just to keep it up? Or hope for last minute cancellations for Zurich.

My Swiss teammate Vedika, who has swum the Channel 5 times, once did it on the spur of the moment, because the weather was good and all swimmers had gone. She had been in Dover only to help – and then ended up doing her 4th crossing, with just the Zurich lake 2 weeks earlier as “preparation”. (So now she is afraid of going to Dover even as a helper – it might end up too costly!)

After 6 hours of running through the night

After 6 hours of running through the night - nicely showered and in fresh clothes

Basel 12/24 h race,  May 9/10th

Last year my long distance events came naturally – 12 hours indoor swim in February in Zurich, 6 hour race in March in Nürnberg, Heidelberg halfmarathon in April, Mannheim marathon and 12 hours of Basel in May etc.

This year I just did the Heidelberg halfmarathon and Basel. But instead of 12 hours I only did 6 hours in Basel – the slowest six hours ever, I believe (don’t mention the distance, even if it was worth 3rd place for the ladies 50-60).  How could I run the hilly and difficult Heidelberg halfmarathon in 2:33, but take over 3 hours for a flat halfmarathon 2 weeks later in Basel? My excuse to stop after 6 hours was that I was needed back in Heidelberg for translation in the evening and my ride was leaving early, but my feet hurt so much and I felt so heavy that I was grateful for that excuse. Plus it served as my first 6 hour run of the year. I did enjoy running slowly and steadily throught the night, but I was happy not having to run in the blazing sun later in the morning. When I look at the photos (click on the albums to see the photos) of the race, however, I am immediately inspired to do better or more next time! Another 12/24-hour-race in Berlin in July is beckoning – if I can only up my running discipline!

Run and become – Heidelberg Halfmarathon

Run and become – Heidelberg Halfmarathon

10 km into the half-marathon.... (photo taken on a training run 2 weeks before)

10 km into the half-marathon.... (photos taken on a training run 2 weeks before)

On Sunday, during the Heidelberg halfmarathon, I was thinking a lot of my friends who are challenging themselves in the 6- and 10-day Self-Transcendence-Race in New York. That makes 21,0975 km feel so short!

Still I knew it would not be easy, but I wanted to enjoy the journey. I had not done any serious really long runs since last year’s triathlon training, and I am at least 5 kg heavier than last April, plus one year older..  The course is hilly with a number of steep sections and the sun would be blazing part of the way… So my only goal was to focus, stay happy and hopefully finish under 2:45 (I am a slow runner anyway).

past the Castle...

past the Castle...

And I totally enjoyed the run. The 3500 runners started in blocks to fit through the narrow streets and forrest paths. I was way in the back. In the beginning my running was so slow, I saw the “Besen-wagen” (pick up van for the drop-outs) only a few  hundred meters behind. At the end it only took me 3 minutes longer than last year – not bad! And I felt strong – the Channel training is still there.

Finally downhill again

Finally downhill again

However, with no serious sports challenge since last year I had almost forgotten the inner joy and intensity they give. It was like a wake-up call. “Run and become” – a phrase my teacher Sri Chinmoy coined, is so true! (Of course also for swimming etc.) Setting goals is important to challenge oneself, but the main thing is happening along the way. I love the many special training experiences – sometimes mystic or ecstatic, when you are running into the rising sun or under the stars, the purified feeling after a swim workout and the intense feeling of inner peace and vastness after a bigger challenge which may stay for days or weeks or even months (like after my first ultra-triathlon in Australia) – this is what for me sports is all about. A form of meditation, or an intensification of meditation, a door to inner experiences. 

During the half-marathon, the memory came back why I had started to train for the Channel at all in 1985 . I was longing for real ultra-experiences, the spiritual aspect – but shin splints and other problems kept me away. Then the Channel opportunity presented itself. –

The last mile....

The last mile...

So the half-marathon was tough as usual, but also tremendous joy. A great feeling of oneness – oneness with the other runners,  with the cheering, clapping, drumming supporters along the route, offering water and food at private stations, with the beauty of nature and the scenic route.

After 2 h 32:40

Happy after 2 h 32:40

Not sure what my next event will be. Last year was very different – I took all ultra-opportunities without question. This year I am going with the flow, right now I still have to concentrate on my work. But May will show how serious I can become this year about my project.



neckar_in_springSpring has arrived in Heidelberg – with summer temperatures.  Even last weekend it was warmer here than in Dover in August, but now temperatures are up to 24 °C (75 Fahrenheit)! The Heidelberg halfmarathon, which I registered for again, is on April 27th – so I do have to get a bit of hill-training in. Without my training partners from last year, I have a little bit less dicipline. So today I went for my longest run this year – 2 1/2 easy hours, over the Philosophenweg from Ziegelhausen to Heidelberg in the midday heat with luckily some parts in the shade, all the way down, and all the way up and back again, with some rest and stretching in between. The heat really is a problem for me – that was the reason why last year I did not want to put on too much weight. And that is why I don’t think I will ever do the Marathon des Sables. (Two years ago the halfmarathon was in similar temperatures and people collapsed!)

This is one of the most tricky things about the triathlon project: finding just the right balance between heat and cold tolerance.

After my run, I changed into my bathing suit (and some more clothes) and went down to the Neckar. It was incredibly peaceful, no soul around in spite of the holiday (Good Friday), hardly any clouds in the blue sky, the water much clearer now with the dry weather, but still not inviting enough for me to put my head into it. It was easy to stay in for 30 minutes, it must be over 10°C now. I love it, even though it is not real training – breaststroking against the current. Some people passed by and asked about the temperature – I suppose it must have looked quite tempting to take a dip.

Since I am staying in Heidelberg over the Easter Holidays, which is quite unusual, I might just as well use the great weather and make it a new habit to swim every day/morning in the river, as long as it is still moderately cold. No danger anymore that people will call the police, I suppose.

neckar_in_spring21 cherry-blossoms2

First spring dip in the Neckar

Today was my first dip in the Neckar (or any kind of open water) since January – 17 min. in 8.5°C  (47/48 Fahrenheit), with the sun out! Only breaststroking in the yacky water on the spot against the current. I totally enjoyed it – thanks Pragya! I would love to do it everyday by myself, but I am afraid people will call the water police if there is noone to watch me and make sure I am fine.

It happened in winter – one Sunday I was almost determined to go in by myself after running, after a friend had not shown up, but on my run home along the Neckar I suddenly saw plenty of police and an ambulance, and when I asked what it was all about they said they were looking for a person in the water and asked if I had seen someone. A skipper had reported a person going into the water and suspected suicide. I asked if there were any clothes on the shore and when they said no, I said, well, probably someone went for a polar bear dip and had gone home by now.  But they were not convinced. A bit later at home, coming out of the shower, I heard helicopter noise right in front of the house over the Neckar – they were still searching! Imagine to have to pay for such a rescue operation!

Yesterday I was very inspired when I found a new Channel swimmer blog: by Carrol Wannell, an Australian lady and very strong swimmer, who had been a caravan neighbour with her husband at Varne Ridge last summer and was also unfortunate. She is determined to make it this year – way to go, Carrol! (And I am happy you liked the poems by Sri Chinmoy!)

A certain uncertainty – slight change of plans

A certain uncertainty – slight change of plans

Sorry for not updating my blog for so long. I am amazed at how many people are still looking at my old blog and wondering who they are!

So I skipped the 12 hour indoors swim in Zurich for several reasons (too little training, a slightly inflamed elbow, lots of work and little time), and even the 6 hour race in Nürnberg, and changed my plans a bit. I have been concentrating more on my work over the last few months, wanting to finance my project now more with my own funds, after friends and the team helped so much.  But I am not sure how much I will be able to save until summer.

Training has still been reduced. As soon as I am in the water and swimming or out running, I feel really good, but the warm pools are difficult and I do need more discipline. And the Neckar has not been inviting at all – it has been muddy ever since the snow melted. Some yoga – including my children yoga classes – and a little weight training at home help to keep my muscles up. My preferred pose, great for arm and shoulder training: the dolphin (video)!

Dolphin-asana          Moved to September

But August started to look more and more improbable and I had not even paid my full deposit – so I talked to my pilot and he agreed to move my 4th place slot to September – with the idea of maybe only doing another Channel solo this year, with a more comfortable amount of body fat, and postponing the triathlon project to 2010. That would allow me to do the Zurich lake swim beginning of August as a great training swim (instead of the 12 hours now in March) – and give me a good reason to keep training on a more intense level than I would otherwise and enjoy the way even longer. I often feel, sports can be like a spiritual sadhana – for others it may be art, music etc. (In a way I am quite grateful it didn’t happen last year – I feel there is much more to get out of the whole adventure, on many different levels.)

Should I win the lottery I might still concentrate more on the triathlon – only I am not buying any tickets. But right now, the idea of a second “training” Channel solo this year and returning to Dover again – where I had the greatest time last year –  in 2010 feels good. In Germany we have a saying: “Aller guten Dinge sind drei – all good things come in threes”. So I am trying to leave it up to a higher will.

Updates will be a bit more frequent now, I promise.