The Germany Journals (Ger-nals?) Part 1

Telling the whole wide world you’re going out of the country is not really wise – so though I wanted to blog about this trip to Germany as it happened, I needed to save up the posts until we got back.

This afforded me a unique opportunity to treat it more like an old fashioned journal.  I’d write up the days experiences for later reading in a notebook – old school paper and pen!

The first thing on my packing list is running shoes.  I’m hoping it’s going to be that sort of vacation.  I’ve had similar ideas in the past and though these trips aren’t exactly sedentary, I usually only get sporadic runs in.  The kids kill the plans, to be frank – they don’t sleep, they get sick, they get us sick and I’m too exhausted to train and it’s not fair to make my wife take them both when she’s just as tire, if not more so.  It’s her vacation too.

DAY 1:

There was a a good deal of me that was afraid of this trip – the exhaustion and disappointment have detracted from the journey the last two times.  Still I looked forward to visiting my brother and his family near Frankfurt and my Father-in-Law and his wife in Berlin and being on vacation beats digging ditches.  The one thing that scared me more than anything was THE FLIGHT: 8 hours overseas with a 3 year-old and an 18 month-old.  When Shark Boy was 18 months old we made the same trip and 3 adults weren’t enough to control him on the plane and now it was the Lightning Kid’s turn and there would be two of us, still with Shark Boy to contend with.

It’s been my experience that airlines don’t do that much to help the parents of small children.  I don’t want special treatment per se, but I figure you can’t expect toddlers and babies to be reasonable so making them comfortable ends up helping make everybody more comfortable.  We had two things in our favour this time compared to previous trips:

  1. A direct flight
  2. Lufthansa as an airline

We’ve had problems booking seats together on other airlines (KLM and British Airways to name and shame) and/or getting the bassinet row (up against the bulkhead – the airline gave them to tall passengers instead) but Lufthansa did both by default before I was able to do our online check-in.  That was nice, but common sense is still not that common; the period when a man is rocking a baby to sleep might not be the time to ask him about menu choices in a loud voice, Ms. Flight Attendant!  We basically pulled an all-nighter and the kids didn’t sleep enough but they kept their misbehaving (especially loud screaming/crying) to a minimum.

Between being up all night and jet lag, the first Saturday was basically a write-off for accommodating fatigue and allowing recovery.  The only activity I can claim is lugging suitcases and chasing children… but our rewards were a filled-zucchini, wheat-beer, and plenty of chocolate.
The Zucchini was for lunch, traditionally the warm meal, whereas dinner is lighter.

DAY 2:

Between a nasty cough and jet lag the Lightning Kid gave us a rough night but thankfully Shark Boy adapted to the environment of his cousins’ bedroom with ease.  Seeing the cousins (ours 3½ and 1½, theirs 4 and 2) get along and play together is one of the biggest appeals of this trip – better than the beer and chocolate even!

After taking the kids to a playground and lunch, my brother and I were able to go for a run.  I remember grabbing my heart rate monitor strap while packing, but I couldn’t find it in my suitcase (flashforward: it was found in a box of diapers when we got home) – luckily I still had the Garmin watch unit to track and quantify the run.  My brother led the way – luckily he let me know it would be a lot of climbing early on, so that three-quarters of the time would be spent on half the distance – otherwise I’d have thrown in the towel early.  We got 10km done in just under an hour – pretty good considering the hills.

In the afternoon we made an outing to downtown Bad Homburg for ice cream – running and spaghetti ice cream were the two things I wanted to have regularly on vacation – things were off to a decent start!
I didn’t do any food photography or else I’d offer you a better view of Spaghetti Ice Cream.  Note the Lightning Kid’s smeared face and trademark electrified hair.

DAY 3:

On Monday the weather was terrible and fatigue levels were high so we didn’t get up to much besides visiting my brother’s sister and brother-in-law (does that make them my in-laws squared?).  It gave the kids a change of scenery and a chance to play with other kids  (though I suspect the novelty of different toys is the real draw for them) and the adults got to partake in the German tradition of coffee and cake (though maybe I should have tried harder to emphasize more of the former and less of the latter.

DAY 4:

With the long weeknd over we had a prime opportunity to take the kids to a local pool.  We took Shark Boy and his younger cousin and kept the Lightning Kid at home due to his lingering cough and a possible ear infection.

Community pools in Germany are like shopping malls with different size pools instead of stores – warm pools for kids, lap-swimming pools, outdoor pools, water slides, wading pools, whirlpools (do I sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump yet?)… enough to rival some full-on water parks in North America.  It’s frustrating to think how often pools back home struggle to survive city budget cuts when they would have a fraction of the operating costs they do in Germany.  It seems like the culture embraces physical activity and being in the water more somehow – which doesn’t make me feel any better about the situation back home.

The good news is that Shark Boy had a blast – his favourite was the smallest slide, though he was willing to do the biggest one with me – a long, dark twisting tunnel with lights that flashed on and off – he politely declined a second go round.  Non-swimmer kids were required to wear water wings – these gave him some extra confidence to be at arms length from me; in fact, by the time I gave him a flutter board, he was using his flutter kick to swim clear away from me and I had to chase after him.  Though it was heavily assisted – it was the first time he moved himself through the water independently and I considered it a milestone to be proud of.


Sponsored Post: Koge Vitamins

The following post was sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Koge Vitamins.  I received the product reviewed at no cost to myself in exchange for writing a post about it, as well as some social media content.  I was not asked to give a positive review, and all opinions and experiences are my own.


I’m one of those people who knows that they need certain nutrients to stay healthy, but also knows that he’s not getting them from food alone.  I take a multivitamin, but I’m always struggling to find the right one that fits my profile (active adult male) and doesn’t give me heartburn.  Add to the fact that I train for triathlons (i.e. juggling 3 endurance sports plus cross-training) and chase a toddler and preschooler around during my time off work, and both kids don’t ever sleep through the night and you’ve got someone who could use a little extra energy to get through the day.

Koge Vitamins (a Canadian company) started with a two-fold purpose: find a better way to manufacture and distribute vitamins, as well as a better way to get nutrition to malnourished children.  Last things first: a percentage of every Koge vitamin sale is donated to provide African children under the age of 5 with vitamins to help them fight malnutrition.  I had a chance to try their Energy Pack.

The Energy Pack was developed to support increased mental and physical exertion across all activities.  Each does is a little package with four pills in it:

  • Korean Ginseng
  • Guarana
  • Ayur Indian Ginseng
  • Coenzyme Q-10 with L-Taurine

That last one gave me pause, as I was a little wary of Taurine.  Koge says:

“Taurine is known for lowering cholesterol and repairing the body against natural external damage. It also assists with heart health and infertility.”

Still, I know Taurine is in energy drinks that have been getting a lot of bad press lately.  Here’s a quote from an article named: “The Dangers of Taurine in Sports Drinks“.

Taurine is a free form amino acid contained in foods and manufactured in the body from the amino acid cysteine. It was first discovered in the bile of bulls, and now produced synthetically by the truckload. Since taurine is created naturally in the human body, a good diet supplies all you need.

Studies have implicated synthetic taurine in illnesses ranging from high blood pressure to strokes and seizures to heart disease. For these reasons it’s been banned in some Scandinavian countries after being linked to the deaths of three consumers. Because taurine is utilized by the body during exercise and in times of stress, it’s become a popular ingredient in energy drinks. But taurine has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system that’s very unnatural.

I figured I could simply throw the Taurine pill in the garbage if I could identify it; the website even has little pictures to show you each pill.  If I could find this pill:

in this pack:

I’d be fine.  It seemed hard at the time, but when I look at the photo I took, it seems to almost definitely be the one on the left side.At the time though, I struggled with figuring it out.  In the end, knowing (according to the same article) the recommended daily dose was between 100-500 mg, and what’s in the Koge tablets represents 300 mg a day, I felt a little safer, in addition to the fact that the Taurine was more likely (given Koge’s reputation and methods) natural rather than synthetic.  Still, I would be getting Taurine from some of the foods I ate, without knowing how much, so at times I was hesitant to take both daily doses.

Summary of Experience

The tub has a clean elegant design, and the recommended dose is to take two 4-tablet packets daily.  The packets have all the tablets in them for a half-dose; my only complaint is that I couldn’t get them open without scissors.

I took the Koge Vitamin Energy Pack after an Overseas Family Trip to Germany, and I kept a daily journal of the experience.  I was using the tablets to get over jet-lag, get back into triathlon training, get caught up at work after my absence, and just generally keep up with my kids.

If you want the short version of my experience with the Koge Vitamins Energy Pack, I can say that I definitely experienced heightened levels of energy and alertness, without it feeling unnatural or like a ‘high’ nor making me as edgy and irritable as caffeine does, and I say that with a deep abiding love for caffeine.  Point in fact, I found myself drinking less coffee and seeking caffeine less altogether.  I did not take the full dose every day, and more commonly a half day.  I found physical tasks like workouts easier if I performed them within a few hours of taking the pills.  When I forgot to take them, I did feel sluggish, even if I had a decent night’s sleep (my sleep is interrupted by my kids, there was no effect on my sleeping patterns from the pills that I could notice).

Here is the blow-by-blow of my daily experience with the Koge Vitamins Energy Pack:

Daily Diary

DAY 1:
Recovering from Jetlag; kids up at 5:00AM.  Take vitamins just before breakfast with coffee and my normal multi-vitamin.

I do feel a little more alert and seem to need coffee less.  I’m able to stay a bit more focussed in a meeting and I manage to get a good indoor bike session done – I think I came further faster with less effort than I would have pictured for those numbers.

I skip the second dose, since I forgot to bring it to work

DAY 2:

Lightning Kid woke up at 4AM and though we refused to indulge his instinct to get up and play, it cost us the rest of the morning (minus 30 minutes I managed to catnap from 7:30 to 8:00AM).  I took my Koges with OJ and coffee and a breakfast of cous-cous, peanut butter and maple syrup (it was going to be a long day, comfort food needed!).

Today was a ‘lock-down’ where some members of my team worked exclusively on one project and basically blocked out other inquiries and requests via email or telephone.  I had very complex work to do myself, and there were a few times I went cross-eyed.  I did get an impressive amount done, and even managed to sort something out that had the whole team confused.  I worked through lunch (ate at my desk and took my second dose after that), though I did take sporadic sanity breaks.  I ended the day with less of the work done than I wanted, but the initial estimate of how complicated it would be was off anyway, so I’m proud of what I got done, and I’m thinking the Koge’s might be making a small difference.

Some dry mouth toward the end of the day.

DAY 3:

Take my morning dose before breakfast.   After lunch, I take a long bike ride that goes well: I’m happy with speed, cadence and technique.   I should have taken my second dose beforehand, but I forgot.   I skip it for the rest of the day.

DAY 4:  Take my breakfast dose, but I’m tired the rest of the morning: did I not sleep well?  Am I already desensitized? The afternoon (no second dose) goes OK, but I’m in bed by 9:45PM.  During the night I sleep well at least.

DAY5: Another ‘lock-down’ day at the office and I’m there by 7:30AM.  I notice myself powering through the day without needing any extra coffee beyond my first.  I’m a little bit high-strung, but not as irritable as with caffeine, I think.  The extra energy is a bit of a shame since I don’t have time for a workout and the weather is too nasty to simply take a walk for my break times.  I’m having trouble controlling my appetite but that may be from a lack of non-work outlets available.

DAY 6: Single dose before breakfast; trying to precede my coffee a little to improve absorption (tip from the #KogeVitamins Twitter Chat).  I do a *Matrix* workout at lunch and get a new record on the *Rope Machine* (635 Meters) and a new high in a pushups exhaustion test (45 reps).  I didn’t take my second dose, but I did get a good swim workout (1500m) in after dinner and was still able to get to sleep at night.

DAY 7: I didn’t take a dose before breakfast and tried to pack two doses in my lunch bag to take throughout the day.  When I got a chance at work, I could only find one dose in there.  While the pills do seem to reduce my need for caffeine, I miss taking actual coffee breaks and drinking coffee (I have a French press at my desk and good, caffeinated coffee).  I went for a slow, recovery run to test out my calf which I hurt falling down the stairs last week.  In spite of a slow pace and low mileage I felt sluggish. Withdrawal? I took a dose after lunch and got through the afternoon feeling OK.

DAY 8:  Took my dose at the office, hours after breakfast and coffee.  Stuck to single dose all day and tried to do a 100 Pushups workout.  I didn’t complete my second set, and then just waited for the Pilates class to start.  Stuck to the single dose.

DAY 9: Took a dose after breakfast, well after coffee.  I couldn’t feel much in terms of effect, but I did complete a brick (60 indoor cycling, 4km run) feeling strong.  No second dose today.

DAY 10: Single dose at midday.  We drove up to the cottage this morning, and I didn’t want to feel too energized for sitting in a car.  While my weekend training plan was to swim on this day, and ride the next, the weather forecast made riding seem unlikely and I didn’t want to ride on legs that had been trashed from the previous day’s brick workout. I planned to do the swim within the predicted ‘showers’

DAY 11:  The ‘showers’ that were predicted turned into a torrential downpour that made me wish I’d built an ark.  We ended up taking the kids into downtown Huntsville to run around the mall and stopped for ice cream too.  By noon, things were on their way to clearing up with some intense sunshine.  I took the days’ half-dose before lunch (macaroni and cheese) and when the kids were asleep for a midday nap, I did my open water swim training.   Though it was a little too soon after eating and I struggled a little, I did have a good pace and I was quite pleased with what I accomplished.

After stopping for a special Father’s Day dinner on the way home from the cottage, we began what should have been a 2 hour drive.  The Lightning Kid had seemed feverish (though the thermometer had said no earlier) and screamed non-stop in the car.  We stopped about 3 times (every 10 minutes or so) to see if he could be comforted (he seemed fine when we’d get out of the car), and ultimately gave him infant Tylenol.  We drove for another half-hour and the screaming wouldn’t stop – long enough for the Tylenol to kick in.  I pulled off the highway to find a hospital, but when we pulled up to the Emergency and saw how full it was (and everyone was wearing masks), I thought of all the other Emergency Room visits that didn’t yield anything in cases like this and said I wanted to keep driving and see if he would fall asleep.  I took side streets and a slower route South and he fell asleep.  Then the storm clouds moved in.  The continuous lightning strikes wreaked havoc with my night vision and the torrential downpour made hydroplaning a constant threat.  There was even hail in the mix.  Keeping the car on a road that I couldn’t see for all the water and pelting raindrops was one of the most harrowing, white-knuckle experience of my life; and I’ve been electrocuted twice, nearly drowned my first time in the Pacific surf and faced malignant melanoma.  My mental alertness could be at least partially attributed to fear, but I’d like to think the taurine, ginseng, etc. played a role too.  We didn’t get home till midnight and we still had to put the kids to bed, take out the garbage and unpack the car.

DAY 12: Missed my dose.  Extra coffee needed.

DAY 13: Many wake-ups from both kids overnight.  I took my morning dose with water and my regular multivitamin.  I did a core workout at lunch (30 min of exercise). I didn’t take the second dose, but I was craving a boost by mid-afternoon.  

DAY 14: Skipped my dose, I forgot, though I started to wonder if subconsciously I didn’t want to feel energetic today.  Lots of time on the road/in the field.  No workouts.  Had too much caffeine (coffee and pop) and feel crappy by evening.

DAY 15: Fairly busy day.  No workouts, but there was enough concentration-based work and going from place to place (including coming home for lunch) to merit both doses plus some coffee in the morning.  Felt pretty good, but needed to get to bed early.  Good night’s sleep

DAY 16: Last chance to exercise before the Muskoka 5150 triathlon.  I take my morning dose, and run (slowly and gently) to work.

DAY 17: I took a single dose that morning to prep for the 3 hour drive north (with a pre-schooler and toddler in the back).  I felt pretty clear and alert for the drive, and OK most of the day, but tired and ready for an early bed-time before the next day’s race.

DAY 18: I woke up at 5:30 to get ready and go to the Muskoka 5150 Triathlon.  I didn’t take any pills with them to the cottage, so I’m without them when I might need them the most.  In addition to an exhausting race, I had an afternoon of playing with the kids on the beach, on the deck, in the cottage to wear me out.  I found a spare dose in my toiletries bag that I could have taken the next day.

That’s pretty much my crazy life on Koge Vitamins Energy Pack.  I’ve been taking them similary erratically since.  It remains an option to get me through the more hectic times, though I think I don’t like needing them.  Koge Vitamins also has a Daily Essentials pack that I’m curious about – and I wouldn’t mind helping provide vitamins to kids in Africa either.

Link-Up! Triathlon Beginner FAQ

I keep seeing new triathletes on the internet this year and so many of them have questions.  A bunch of Fitfluentials have decided to tackle a bunch of their questions.  I’ll be keeping my FAQ in a permanent page which you can find here.

Some of the newbies (let’s cheer them on!) include:

Krysten from Darwinian Fail
Megan from Little Girl in the Big World
Erin from Running Tall
Robin from Simple. Green. Organic. Happy.
Lynda from Hit The Road Jane
Smitha from FauxRunner

And our experts include:

Katie from Mom’s Little Running Buddy
Cristina from Triathlon Mami
Amanda from PATD, White Dog & A Blog
Robin from Westford Mommy
Brooke from Redhead Reverie
Wendy from T2 Coaching

Michelle from NYC Running Mama (I think it’s her first year, but she’s too hardcore to fall into the newbie group!)

Race Recap: Muskoka 5150 (2013)

The day of the race I got out of bed at 5:30.  My wife and I had discussed several options about me getting to the race and her and the kids cheering me on, and in the end, given that 1.) I am an insufferable ball of nerves on race day and 2.) 3-ish hours is a long time to keep the kids reined in and safe at just about any location, I opted to take my mother’s car to the race site.  I had a plan to really, really fuel for this race to see if I could squeeze a little more performance out of the old body, so I had a whole-grain bagel with chia seeds and peanut butter for breakfast (I took a pic of it, but it turned out too blurry – sorry, foodies).

I was also trying a new one-piece suit for the first time. That was a little risky, but the worst pre-race news was that I had left my heart-rate monitor sensor strap at home. My race checklist has ‘Garmin’ on it, but that item has two parts, and one got missed. This was going to go one of two ways: either not knowing my heart rate would make me less conservative and really let me swing for the fences for better time, or I would blow up for lack of being able to keep my pace in check.

There was a lot of fog on the way to Huntsville, but the very latest weather forecast was substituting the threats of thunderstorms for threats of sweltering heat, and I figured (correctly) that the fog would burn off and never be a factor.

I found plenty of space on the Men’s 40-44 rack to place my bike and transition bag; at the time I figured I was at the race site earlier than I usually was, but afterwards I noted my age group only had 22 participants.  I didn’t do any transition setup at first, I just wanted to drop my stuff off before picking up the race kit.  They used to have all that inside the Muskoka Summit Centre’s Arena, but this year it was around the back of the building.  Still, the various steps of race kit pickup (look up your number, sign the waiver, pick-up the kit, pick-up the t-shirt, then race-chip anklet and body marking) were all clearly delineated which is not only beginner-friendly but also good for experience triathletes who are still nervous with cluttered brains like me.  Unfortunately they were out of large size in the technical t-shirts, but they offered to send me one afterwards or I could take a cotton t-shirt that day.  My old Muskoka triathlon t-shirts (from the ‘Muskoka Chase’ days, i.e. pre 5150 branding) are wearing out with holes etc. and I have plenty of technical t-shirts so I opted for the cotton.

Back in the transition area, I started my setup.  I got right with my equipment placement and took a picture, then I realized I had forgot something, and took another picture…. lather, rinse repeat.   Two new things to me would be wearing my Garmin in the swim – meaning I’d have to strap it on outside the wetsuit, and take it off to remove the wetsuit – and bringing some leftover Clifshots (courtesy of DarwinianFail) to the swim start for energy on the swim.  I did some shoulder mobility exercises with an old belt and ate a banana before heading to the swim start.

The swim start is 800 m down a gravelly road from transition; you can either have friends/family along to take your shoes from you when you get in the water, or give them to a volunteer to tag and bag so that they’ll be brought back to transition.  I should have chose the latter since I was on my own, and I meant to ask if I could include my camera in that deal, but race-day nerves ruled again and I forgot the whole thing and I made my way barefoot.  I wasn’t the only one, and it was do-able, just slow as you had to pick your way carefully.

At the swim start I pulled on my wet-suit on my own, and I’m proud to say I probably did a better job of that than I ever had before.  I did some more stretching, then with my Clifshots under my swim cap, entered the water.  I only had a few minutes to do a few warm-up strokes before the race started – my wave wouldn’t start until about 10 minutes after the pros and elites started, which was 8AM sharp.


I stuck to one side so that I’d be on the outside of the turn and be able to take it at a more gradual angle and so that I wouldn’t be in the middle of the crowd. I still ended up being boxed in between two other guys with a similar pace than me. I took a quick burst of speed with the hopes of putting them on my feet and giving myself some space, but they caught me again after a few hundred meters, so I did the opposite and let them both go by.

I noticed my technique was a little wonky and felt a little guilty about it, but I was sighting often and I knew I was staying on course, so at least that was efficient. I made the first two turns and I was on my way out of the bay and into the channel when my Garmin buzzed its first 500 m alert. Feeling good so far, one third of the swim done. Making your way up the channel is confusing for some people because they don’t know what side to put the buoys on (the race directions to tell you, but it’s easy to miss in the pre-race excitement when you have plugs and/or water in your ears) – the secret is, it doesn’t matter. The buoys just mark the way up the channel, so you can just follow the way and go to either side of them, and I know this from previous years.

Moving up the channel is when the current starts. Swimming against the current is weird because it doesn’t actually feel that slow at first. When you have the wind against you on land, you notice the slow-down because you use the land as a frame of reference for how fast you’re going. When you swim, you don’t get that good a look at the shoreline going by, but you see particles in the water flying by somewhat quickly and it makes it seem like you’re flying through the water. This part of the swim just takes patience, and soon the next 500 m alert went off. I kept plugging away and approached the bend in the river which always messes with your brain, because you can see the Summit Centre and transition so you think you’re nearly done; you still have a bit to go after you turn the corner. Strangely ,the third alert went off shortly thereafter – there were clearly 200-300 m left to swim and Garmin is telling me I’m done my 1500 m. Still, I pushed on with a minor final burst and exited the water.

Official swim time: 34:50

Transition 1

I was still messing around with the Garmin as I exited the water while I should have been pulling my wet-suit off. I was walking not running; I said in the pre-race that I didn’t feel my transitions needed much improvement, but I wound up having to sit down to take off the suit, and everything was just a little more awkward than I would have liked. I looked at the winner of the race’s T1 time and it’s less than 30 seconds! Something to work on after all.

Official T1 time: 03:11


I mounted the bike cleanly and clipped in without problems. I spun the pedals for a few kilometers when I noticed I hadn’t brought the Garmin from my wrist to the quick release bike mount. I figured I could do it while riding; risky, but I wanted the convenience. I managed it without crashing the bike or anything, but I had accidentally hit the ‘Lap’ button which signalled the Garmin that I was done biking and had entered T2; I was 3 km into my ride. I managed to reset everything and start tracking the bike as a stand-alone event (which is why the end result below shows 37 km). I also noticed the cadence sensor wasn’t working, which meant I only had my speed to guide me in terms of how I was doing. At 8 km in 19:33 I knew I was going about 24 km/h – a lot less than the 30 km/h I’ve always dreamed of.

The water bottle I used was less that optimal. It had a twist top that I had to unscrew and juggle the lid in the aero position. Tricky as heck; I found 3 tops and 2 bottoms to various water bottles I’ve collected over the years, but I had no good ones available on race day, so I went with what I had. Luckily (again) I didn’t crash the bike with my multi-tasking shenanigans.

Lots of climbing, not much else to say about the course. I’m simply undertrained for hills; not just in terms of strength and conditioning, but I found myself in too light a gear and over-spinning as I’d crest many hills. In other words, I need to work on the skill parts too. I took a gel 22 minutes into my revised time when I wanted to take it 15 minutes into the overall ride.

The turnaround point in Port Sydney is preceded by a stretch that is not only pretty, but pleasantly flat and really can put a smile on your face. After the turn-around, I found myself whistling ‘Bobby McGee’ – which I’d heard on the radio on the way to the race. The way back is more downhill than the way there, but still plenty of climbing. I took a Gu Roctane at the 1 hour mark, and though the package was orange, I swear it tasted like chocolate. I got out of the saddle a fair bit for the last kilometer or two to make sure nothing was too cramped up in my legs.

I dismounted and stopped the Garmin. It showed 1:25:13, which was already more than the 1:22 I wanted to beat, and I had no idea how long those first 3 (wasted) km had taken me.

Official Time: 1:31:00

Transition 2

I racked the bike, took off my helmet, and switched shoes. One last sip of water, and monkeying with the Garmin to switch to running, and I was off. I had a sun-visor packed but not set out in transition so I opted not to go digging for it.

Official Time: 2:27


It was starting to get hot, and I was expecting it. Luckily there were plenty of aid stations with water and Gatorade, and some were placed near turning points like the high school track you had to make a lap of, so you passed it twice within a couple of minutes of each other. I dumped anywhere from one to one and a half cups of water over my head at every single aid station. The 10 km course was two laps of a 5 km loop. The first loop I felt strong. I took a gel, so I was fueled, I felt hydrated, not thirsty (I usually have the opposite problem when you have too much liquid in you…), and I was doing everything I could to stay cool. The route was, you guessed it, hilly. I averaged a pace of 5:32 per km on the first loop, but as I closed it off, I saw my mom who gave me a big cheer, yet I was starting to weaken. I saw my wife and kids as I completed the first loop and shouted out that I loved them, and started on loop 2.

I’m not quite sure what happened as it was nothing as straightforward as bonking, or injury or being dehydrated or even overheated. My muscles simply weren’t firing all the way anymore. I’m sad to report I had a lot of negative self-talk when I saw my chances of beating last year’s time slipping away “It’s too hard… I need to slow down.” There was a more positive voice in my head arguing back, but I’m still a little shocked because I don’t think of myself as having that kind of negative attitude most of the time. There was one guy, who grunted and moaned whenever he found the terrain a little difficult (there’s a gravelly trail downhill section just before the 3 or 8 km mark, for example), and I found myself wanting to get away from him and the negative vibes he was giving off. Unfortunately, he had an average pace much like mine so I kept seeing Grunty McWhinerson around every turn. I actually had thoughts about outright quitting the race, but that kind of pain only kicked in around 9.2 km and it was frankly easier to just finish. I did speed up for the final half kilometre, and since I knew a personal record for the course was no longer in reach, I grabbed up Shark Boy and carried him across the finish line to give him a taste of that thrill (I kind of wanted to carry both kids, but I was a little tired by that point).

The Good

I could complain about the heat, but when it comes to weather, you can have storms cancelling the swim (or more), heavy winds ruin your bike ride, and I simply don’t like being rained on. It was a beautiful day.

The race was well run, and I never wanted for anything, they even handed out gels at the aid stations. The volunteers were fantastic, smiling, and always doing their thing energetically.

I finished, my family was proud of me and I had fun.

The Bad

I got to meet my inner coward, I think. I had the Garmin blues too, and didn’t get the kind of data I want to have not only in real-time, but for afterwards. It looks like I have to investigate my cadence sensor and buy yet another water bottle.

The Ugly

Nothing to see here; it’s Triathlete Bodies in Muskoka, what do you expect?

Lessons Learned and the Way Forward (it’s the Training, Stupid).

The difference between the race I wanted and the race I got is simply putting more time and distance in, especially in Muskoka-type terrain. I expect Bracebridge won’t be that different in August, so it’s going to be hills, hills and transition practice for me until then.

The Germany Journals (Ger-nals?) Part 4

When we last left off, my brother and his family had just joined us in Heiligensee, near Berlin.  Read The Germany Journals (Ger-nals?) Parts One, Two and Three if you haven’t already.

DAY 13:

Once the kids are all up, we got the fun of seeing them play together and then a quick bike ride to the park – with a combination of bikes with kid seats, a trailer, and little bikes for Shark Boy and his cousin.  We got to the playground, played on the playground train (made of stumps) then the slide and a game of hide and seek.  The Lightning Kid sat this little excursion out in favour of a morning nap – but when we got back for lunch and naps for the rest of them – it was his turn to ride in the bike seat.
I generally prefer the trailer for safety reasons, but it’s great to see him enjoy the ride (and more importantly, tolerate a helmet).

We’d seen posters around town for a Kids’ Fair near the big shopping mall.  Things to do for kids seem to be always available in Germany – if you know where to find them.  In this case our search led us through the mall which resulted in extra stops for espresso, ice cream (my third spaghetti ice cream of the trip) and books (as well as a tantrum or two).

We had some trouble finding the place (it’s a semi-industrial/commercial park) and when we did – there was barely anyone there.  The carny/operator guy seemed to think the threatening weather had kept the crowds back but I couldn’t help but think the hidden location added to that.  The good news was we could walk onto any attraction like a bouncy castle as a family or even have rides stopped and started at our leisure.  There may have been some bent rues about adults on rides too… We called it an evening before the rain hit and got the kids home for dinner and bedtime.

DAY 14:

In the morning we took all the kids on another riverboat cruise except the Lightning Kid.  Its pretty uneventful, in spite of the kids’ efforts to run around, split up, and generally get close to railings and other threats.

In the afternoon my brother’s family and mine split up to visit different friends – in our case, an old friend of my wife’s who lives in Teltow.  It’s a second chance for Shark boy to play with his little friend who he’d previously abandoned in favour of a boat ride.

To me, driving in Germany is a little more stressful than back home – there’s different rules for right of way (cars entering the street from the right have right of way unless otherwise marked – very counter-intuitive), you can’t turn right on red, the speed limits (or lack thereof) on the Autobahn and generally dealing with the fact that you don’t know where you’re going.  Like I said, it’s a little more stressful.. but factor in dark and rainy weather, rush hour traffic and noisy kids in the back seat and you have a white-knuckle experience.  Our GPS unit seemed determined to route us to every major road and highway via some byzantine combination of side streets and alleyways.  There might have been smoke coming out of my ears by the time we got there but it’s nothing a beer and pasta dinner (plus cake and cookies) couldn’t fix.

DAY 15:

We took the kids to Jack’s Fun World again; it was interesting to see how the presence of his cousins affected Shark Boy’s behaviour – he was a lot more game to get onto structures and trampolines and less into riding solo on video game motorcycles and other stationary, coin-operated machines.  He even tackles some slides that he left alone the last time we were here.  A big highlight for me is seeing the Lighting Kid flash his big smile at me when we ride the little train together.

Knowing we’ve got the journey back to Frankfurt the next day, we opted for a slower afternoon rather than take the kids swimming – they’d had enough big time action for the day.  It was nice to keep things simple at home and we got a shot of the kids together on the couch in what is becoming an annual tradition.

DAY 16:

Heading back to Bad Homburg, the families were splitting up in a race – the train (ICE & S-trains) versus car.  Would the delays of train stations and transfers be less or more than those of Autobahn traffic jams? (Note: my hand-written journal runs out here. A month later and my memory of our last day is a little hazier). We rode the ICE a little more knowledgeably this time, and managed to keep the boys reasonably entertained (resulting in reasonably good behaviour) for that portion of the ride back. Moving around the cars and getting food proved challenging, as the train was full of drunken, loud Bayern-Muenchen fans on their way back from a Champions League Final victory.

We made it to Frankfurt station and felt like ice cream… but we were being ice cream snobs and the Hagen Daaz and Movenpick kiosks were not going to cut it, so we got a couple of pastries instead and boarded the S-Bahn/S Train. S-Bahns are a little like street cars on steroids, and tend to help bind outlying communities and suburbs to the downtown core of cities like Frankfurt. Ours was very crowded and our stroller had to fight for space with bikes… while a separate section of seats were vacant. They were ‘First Class’ seats; I found the idea of a First Class section in a commuter train service very odd, but there you have it.

Riding the rails (again).

We spent a lovely evening as two families; the kids playing in the backyard and take-out pizza for dinner. One last night and the next morning we would be winging our way home.

The flight home was not overnight like the way to Germany, so we were a little worried. Fortunately, the boys kept their chaos on the lighter side, and we also had another empty seat beside us. We shuffled around quite a bit to keep everybody satisfied.

This picture is not representative of the overall flight

The young lady you can see in the background of the picture actually managed to catch Shark Boy and keep him from falling off the seats while he was sleeping. I thanked her profusely, but the best part was that she had forgotten a bouquet of flowers, and we were able to find her at baggage claim and return them to her; Shark Boy did the honours of hand delivering them. And with that, we were home, safe and sound.

Obviously there are a lot of great memories in a trip like this, but I won’t lie: it was exhausting, and overall made me wonder if it’s worth all the effort. More than what I got out of the trip, or what the kids got out of the trip though, is its symbolic value (for lack of a better term). We are a family with widely varied interests and priorities, we might have some special needs, we have personalities that could be classified as forces of nature, but we will travel. We will seek adventure, we will cherish our extended family, whether it’s now when it’s hard because the children are so young, when it’s a little easier because they’re somewhat more manageable, or even when they’re teenagers and don’t want to hang with their parents quite so much. Values like these are instilled through tradition, and tradition means repetition, and sticking to it even when it’s hard.

Pre-Race: Muskoka 5150 2013

This weekend is my first triathlon of 2013: The Muskoka 5150!

Though Muskoka is becoming a Triathlon and Multisport hub, and the Muskoka 5150 had it’s inaugural race last year, the Huntsville race site and general venue has had a long history prior to the Ironman 70.3 taking place later in the year.

Compared to last year, this race is taking place nearly a month earlier so everybody, including me (who am I kidding? especially me) has had a little less outdoor training time, especially with the way the winter didn’t seem to want to let go.  The other big difference from last year to this one for me, is that I’m jumping age categories: from Men 35-39 to Men 40-44.  Doing some informal research has led me to believe that I will be comparatively slower within this age group for the same performance: there will be plenty of dads in this group, but most of them will have kids who are older and more independent than mine, allowing for more training volume.  Race stats always tell you how you placed relative to everyone else in your age group, and the way I’d like to look at my relative placement from year to year, race to race is by dividing my placement by the total number of participants within the age group for a percentile: the number reflects the percentage of participants who are faster than me – the lower the number, the better I’m doing.

Breaking down last year’s performance and looking at this year in a new age group:

Swim 1500 m
Time: 34:32 (2:19/100 m)

This put me at 21/28 (75th percentile) in the Men 35-39 Age Category.  In the M40-44 category for the same year, that would have put me at 35/40  (87.5 percentile) which is slower relative to the pack.  I have some pool swims on the order of 1500 m which are somewhat faster so I could optimistically project coming in 31/40 (77.5 percentile).  That’s still slower and it assumes that the time losses I incur for open water (not swimming a straight line, current, waves, dealing with physical contact) balance out with how much faster my wetsuit makes me.

My ‘un-taper‘ tune-up pre-race open water swim was a mixed bag. I ate too soon beforehand, but there are some good straight lines in there, and a sub 2 minute /100m swim pace, but the conditions were pretty much ideal – no wind, no waves, no crowds, no turns to make; it won’t be like that on race day.

The course actually starts in Fairy Lake then works it’s way up the Muskoka River; so you’ve got the open water waves from wind (though motor boat traffic gets minimized at race time), then current and navigational twists and turns in the challenge mix.  The good news is that I’ve done the same course (more or less) not only last year, but in previous Subaru Series events. If I sight frequently and use my memories of the past to reduce my ‘where the heck am I?’ pauses on the course, I think I can get a swim I’ll be really happy with.

Bike 40 km
Time: 1:22:49 (29 km/h)

I forgot that I must have made some gains on the bike last year, because that speed looks good for me historically speaking.  For bike performance I’m in the 85.7 percentile in M35-39 last year, and I honestly feel like I could squeeze out a better performance this year.  I think I’m a little stronger and faster (and lighter!), I just lowered my aero position a little bit, and I’ll be familiar with the course; I might even skip the bit of bad luck where I got stuck behind a car in a traffic jam situation going over a bridge.  Last year’s performance would have placed me at 35/40 in M40-44 or 87.5 percentile.  Again it looks like the new age group is actually a faster one.  But, if I can average 30 km/h, I could have a time of 1:20:00 and move to the 80th percentile.  The ride out to Port Sydney and back is a pretty one, but there are hills (they are inevitable in this area) and I’m not really well trained for that.  Fingers crossed.

Run 10 km
Time: 57:41 (Pace 5:47 per km)

I tend to think of myself as better in the swim than the bike or run, but last year’s race makes my swim and run equal compared to the pack at least.  I placed 21/28 or 75th percentile for running in the M35-39 category.  That pace/time would put me at 33/40 or 82.5 percentile for M40-44.  I don’t have a good prediction for running this year… I could be faster, but I haven’t done enough brick workouts to evaluate my speed off the bike.  That pace doesn’t look too threatening, but factor in the hills and heat, which I’m probably not conditioned for, it’s hard to be optimistic.  I did manage a good pace in my pre-race brick workout. After 32 km on a spin bike, I managed to run 5:25 per km, but only for 4 km. I do think with fuel and mental focus I could keep up that effort level, at least.

After playing around with zero-drop/minimalist footwear, I think I’m going to be wearing my new Salomon XR Missions.  The run course has roads, but also gravel (from segments that use a running track) and trail portions, so their tread will come in handy.  My main reason for choosing them in spite of the extra weight (compared to the Virratas or my Zoot racing flats) is that the cushioning means I can run how I want to.  I think trying minimalist running technique has taught me some about turn-over and not heel striking quite so much, but I never did find my mid-foot, and I don’t really feel like my technique needed that much change – good shoes mean I can run fast (for me), and what else am I really trying to accomplish?


I like my transitions efficient but calm.  The only thing left to really affect how quickly I complete transitions (that is within my control, unlike rack placement or course layout) would be to attach my bike shoes to the clips and learn how to put the shoes on during the ride.  I’ve played around with it a little in the past and didn’t feel safe, so I’m not going to try it.  Everything else I think I’ve optimized for my own racing experience.

Time: 2:59:07

I placed 24/28 overall in M35-39 last year (isn’t it funny how your bike performance is the biggest indicator of your overall performance?).  That time would put me at 34/40 (85th percentile) in M40-44 or let’s say I shave off 3 minutes total from last year (2 for bike, 1 for swim, everything else equal)… it actually puts me in the same place since #33 did it in 2:53, which goes to show how limited this exercise is in terms of usefulness.  I still had fun though… I guess I just like numbers.

While this sort of analysis and prediction helps me stay motivated to give my best on race day, the truth is, without having had enough in-season training including open water swims, rides through hillier terrain and brick workouts, I have to treat this race as a tune-up race: the real goal is the Bracebridge Triathlon in August, it is to be my redemption race.

To prepare myself for the day, I’ve actually set alerts on my Garmin which I never do, but I’m hoping they keep me mentally focused: swim alerts for every 500 m so I know how I’m doing, and a bike alert to let me know if I let my cadence get below 75 RPM.  I wanted one for my run too, but they don’t seem to have one for pace, and the heart rate one is based on Zones as opposed to straight percentage of maximum, and I just didn’t have the confidence to peg my run performance that way.  Some things can still be done by ‘feel’.

Where’s your personal line on how much to go by ‘feel’ and how much to track the numbers? Can a race be a tune-up, or should the attitude always be ‘there is no tomorrow’ on Race Day? Can it be both?

The Germany Journals (Ger-nals?) Part 3

See Parts 1 and 2 if you haven’t read them yet.

DAY 9:

Still more rain and cold that morning – it was starting to really get to me. It was either pouring or drizzling all. the. time. We managed to while away the morning knowing we had a game plan for after the midday nap – Jack’s Fun World – an indoor playground built in an industrial warehouse space – it was HUGE. I started calling it “Captain Jack’s” after a song Shark Boy had learned at daycare – especially because it reminded me of another Captain Jack Song.

The place was filled with ball pits, climbing structures, trampolines, slides and such which were included in the admission as well as things that costed a surcharge – bumper boats, video games, mini-golf, and those stationary rides you find in shopping malls like cars, trains and helicopters that shake when you put coins in. To my utter disappointment Shark Boy wanted nothing to do with the former attractions and insisted on the latter (I refused to spend an extra cent). It’s not that I found that kind of preference shocking in general – I probably would have done the same thing at his age – but it seemed so out of character for HIM.

After a meltdown about me not springing for mini-golf clubs (how does he even know what that is?) my low-blood sugar detector went off, and we got both kids some ice cream. That seemed to do the trick – he was into the ball pit and climbing structures in is usual way – seemingly teleporting from one end to another – and generally taking years off my life as I’d lose sight of him every few minutes.

He’d give us another example of his over-abundant energy levels before the night was out. Our hosts, my father-in-law and his wife had the idea to have dinner at the local resto-pub – it’s a short walk away from the house. Shark Boy got a chance to show off his new bike and his ability to ride it, while my father-in-law opted to spare himself from the rain and make the short drive. We crossed the street, put him on the bike, pointed him in the direction of the restaurant and off he went. I was carrying the Lightning Kid and I lost sight of him quickly. It took me a good minute to realize that our two ladies who were walking ahead of me had no idea how far ahead he’d gotten and when they started trying to catch him they’d be far too slow. I dropped the Lightning Kid off with his grandfather at the restaurant then took off at my top speed. I was in jeans and running shoes and I went full out for 600 m before I even saw him. His grandfather’s wife had asked a jogger (with a better head start than me) to stop him. He was already at a major intersection when normally his habit was to stop at every crossing.

I was too winded and angry to muster a good scolding or punishment so I put him back on the bike back toward the restaurant with instructions to stop when he reached his mother. He ignored that and blew right by her. Another sprint for me and bike privileges revoked – my idea to throw the bike into the river was not taken seriously by anyone. I guess I should have been grateful to do some speed work – but safety first, especially for the kids.

DAY 10:

I guess the night cooled off any bike-related anger. My father-in-law, a.k.a Opa wanted to take Shark Boy on a longer bike ride. We planned to meet in town; my wife, the Lightning Kid and I would go in by car – while Opa and his wife would take Shark Boy through the forest on the bikes. I had my reservations but if they wanted to take on the challenges of a preschooler, more power to them. I told him not only to listen to when they told him to stop, but to ask them to stop if he was getting tired.

They ended up taking a wrong turn in the forest looking for a pen where wild boars are kept (not so wild, I guess) and long story short – they rode 10 km. He’s three and a half. He’d been riding a bike for less than a week at this point. He even had too much spare energy to sit still in a chair at the restaurant were we all ate lunch together (“Weil” – aptly name since service took a “while”). Fortunately we were seated outdoors (the weather was finally warming up – in fact the intense sunlight took some getting used to) in the pedestrian area of town so he could run around.

We ate Flammkuchen and afterwards we went to an Italian Ice Cafe that had a Spaghetti Ice Cream so good it made the last one I had in Bad Homburg seem like hot garbage.

We got home and put the boys down for an afternoon nap and I took that as a cue to get a run in. Shark Boy’s achievements of the day inspired me to go long – I skipped my *Burbathlon* antics to taake a route along the river Havel. I needed my hydration pack along since lunch had made me thirsty, but that also let me take my camera long to get some pictures from the riverbank. 12.5 km – my longest run since the *Chilly Half-Marathon*. I had a respectable pace that I liked, though I think I missed the negative split.

DAY 11:

German Hay Fever seemed to have been worse than the home brew and the Lightning Kid was still experiencing lots of wake-ups and still consistently getting up at 5 AM. These two factors had me too tired to do much on my morning walk with the Lightning Kid beyond a few toe-touching type light exercises and some triceps dips.

Get two of every animal…

The weather turned so nasty that hail pellets are overflowing the gutter. The day’s Saving Grace (or saving throw, for you geekier types) is a date night at a nice Italian restaurant.

DAY 12:

We take a riverboat cruise from Tegel back to Heiligensee – keeping a 1&1/2 year-old safe, yet happy on a boat is a lot of work but a mid-day snack of Berlin Currywurst knocks an item off the ‘must-eat’ list…

My allergies were starting to kick into high-gear… the congestion from hay fever relegated me to the couch for snoring but it works out since I’m better able to greet my brother and his family when they arrive late that night: Let the Games begin!

What’s A Taper?


This always happens.  I get about 2 weeks out from a race, and if I mention it to anyone who’s familiar with structured training, they’ll say something along the lines of “Oh, you must be in Taper”.  Tapering means decreasing the training volume prior to a race to allow your body to be its best for race day but that means you have a high volume of training to come down from…
While I can say I stayed active on vacation, I can’t claim to have kept up a triathlete’s regimen either.  Too little swim and bike, and even the running I did was kind of lacking.  I took an honest evaluation of where I’m at, and having done 10 km and 12.5 km recently, I’m pretty happy with my run shape.  I haven’t swum recently, but there were no real problems there on 2.4 and 2.6 km training sessions, so I think a 1.5 km sanity check swim where I swim the entire distance straight through, preferably in open water will do.

That left the bike.  I said I was going to increase bike performance by increasing bike training volume and intensity.  While I think I increased the proportion of bike training in my overall schedule, I didn’t exactly set the world of fire with the bike this pre-season.  Luckily, I was able to get out for a ride this Saturday.

The first half felt really good.  I kept looking down and seeing cadence over 90 RPM, and I felt like my moving average speed was 30 km/h or more (if you account for stopping at stop signs or traffic lights, average speed goes way down).  I was using 360 degrees of my pedal stroke to generate power (at least it felt that way – spinning as opposed to mashing down on the pedals).

Moving Time
Elev Gain
Elev Loss
Avg Speed
Avg Moving Speed
Max Speed
Avg HR
Max HR
Avg Bike Cadence
Max Bike Cadence

I did notice that all that tended to go away as my resolve and concentration waned in the latter half of the ride.  From the stats it looks like I was able to correct the backslide in intensity.  I wanted to fuel this training ride at the last minute but didn’t want to use up my gels, so I gave a Clif Shot Blok (courtesy of Darwinian Fail from the FitfluentialTO tweet-up) a try.  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to take one or more, usually it’s a gel every  45 minutes or so. After checking the website FAQ, it looks like I’d have been better off taking the whole pack of 3 blocks. Whoops.

Anyway the goal was to hit 40km or 90 minutes of riding whatever came first, and I’m happy that distance was achieved first (though not by much).  I still need a sanity check brick workout to test out my legs coming off the bike.  This sort of sanity check “untaper” training isn’t recommended if you’re at a new distance; I’m getting away with it (so far) because I’m sticking pretty close to my general conditioning and even I’m not stupid enough to try and build up in the last two weeks…

Sunday’s ride was in sharp contrast to Saturday’s… we went for our first bike trip as a family. Only the Lightning Kid wasn’t propelling himself. Shark Boy and my wife both tried out new bikes. I was expecting to go slow, but I still wasn’t prepared for how slow, I honestly couldn’t go slow enough and balance the bike at the same time, and with the Lightning Kid in the Chariot getting impatient and squawking at the frequent stops (when he should have been napping), it was more of a mental exercise in patience than a workout of any kind. That’s OK though, we do these things almost as a proof of concept, to keep up good active habits as a family and the speed will only increase from here.

Do you observe the taper?

The Germany Journals (Ger-nals?) Part 2

This was the day we would make the trip from Frankfurt to Berlin.  While my wife and I packed, my brother took Shark Boy outside.  The next thing I knew, he’s asking me: “You know your son can ride a bike, right?”

To rewind a bit, Shark Boy does a great job on his glider bike and can balance and steer no problem.  Still when we’ve tried to move him up to a regular bike, he’s stayed fixated on the idea that he needs training wheels.  He even threw a fit when he saw me remove them from his new Ultimate Spider Man bike.  Getting him to ride it has been semi-successful, but he still didn’t seem that close to being able to go it alone.  A couple of days watching his older cousin ride a bike, and away we go!  Swimming … biking … can Kids Of Steel be far away?

Before our train departure, we walked around downtown Frankfurt for a bit, which I recommend for those that like modern architecture and/or high-end clothing stores and had some lunch.

Sandcastles in downtown Frankfurt.

The Inter City Express is a world famous fast train – I was excited to show it to Shark Boy after he’d read about it in books; although we were on it last year he didn’t notice much – a stomach bug had turned him into a near-zombie.

We had a cabin “reserved” – the 8 Euro extra charge didn’t make much of a difference as we had company the entire 4 hour trip.  I guess the train was too full – I’d have thought two small children would have been more of a deterrent to solo travellers. It turns out, you can only reserve the seats you sit it, which makes a certain amount of sense, I guess.

I spent most of the train ride carrying the Lightning Kid through the cars of the train (including ones that were identified as ‘QUIET’) from one end to the other.  Someday I’m going to write a post about all the calories I burn on the kids that I don’t get to count…Both boys fell asleep with all of 45 minutes left on the train ride.  Still we arrived in Berlin (Spandau Station) excited to start the next phase in our adventure.

A little too excited in the boys’ case! The new environment seemed to be an over-stimulation which combined with their over-tiredness to make for a very late, tedious bedtime routine – bad news for their jet lag adjustment.

DAY 6:

Thanks to our hosts taking the boys on first thing in the morning, I had a bit of a sleep-in .  We took them into Tegel for some shopping – riding a double-decker bus is a big draw for Shark By and the Lightning Kid seemed to like it too.  The effects of the night before were felt heavily as the kids seemed to need lunch and their nap times an hour or two earlier than expected and hopes for getting a run in while they napped in tandem were dashed.  I took the Lighting Kid to my favourite playground in the stroller.  I hadn’t changed out of my jeans but my plan B was successful – he fell asleep on the way there.  I used the park benches and playground for

  • Incline Push-ups
  • Tricep Dips
  • Negative Phase Pull-ups
  • Squats
  • Single-leg lunges on the swings
  • Inch worms (on the train set – plank across two ‘cars’, then bring feet forward to the car your hands are on, move your hands forward into another plank, etc.)
  • Planks
  • Side Planks
Tricep dips on one of the ‘train’ cars

I was doing a side plank on a park bench, looking at a (rare) blue sky, listening to the birds chirp and thinking about how peaceful it all was when I heard “WAAAAAAH!” – the Lightning Kid woke up.   Still, everybody had gotten what they needed: fresh air and exercise for me, sleep for everyone else.  We had a very pleasant rest of the afternoon as a family.

DAY 7:

I don’t really want to write about this day.  The only undertaking was a trip into town for a few things and the promise of ice cream.  It was a nightmare as the kids’ nap and eating schedules were still off, so there were a lot of tantrums and screaming.  AND THE ICE CREAM CAFE’S MACHINE BROKE DOWN SO I COULDN’T GET SPAGHETTI ICE CREAM!

Side note 1: If you don’t know spaghetti ice cream, it’s soft ice cream pushed through a press to come out in noodles, coated in strawberry sauce and either grated coconut or white chocolate and the whole pile hides a little mound of whipped cream.

Side note 2: I might as well take the opportunity here to talk about one of my favourite things here in Germany.  When a house uses radiators for heat, it’s hard to stay warm if you’re in the wrong spot and we’ve had unseasonably cold (and wet) weather here this trip.  The plus side is these incredibly practical radiators in the bathrooms (and sometimes in a front hall).  Back home, between swims, gym workouts and showers not to mention regular hygiene I go through a lot of towels so I’d love it if I had one of these that could not only quick dry a used towel, but warm it too.

DAY 8:

In spite of continuing cold and rainy weather we braved a trip to the forest playground – Shark Boy rode his bike the entire way there while my wife chased him and I pushed the Lightning Kid in the stroller through the drizzle.  He fell asleep again before we got there and while Shark Boy played with his mother I snuck in a few push-ups, step-ups and tricep dips.  The playground is somewhat sheltered by the trees but when the Lightning Kid woke up and the rain worsened we opted to return home.  After an early lunch we got the kids down for a tandem nap and instead of the run I wanted to do, I did a living room workout instead.
  • Push Ups (100 Push Up workout 5 sets – 20, 30, 18, 18, 34)
  • Negative Phase Pull-ups
  • Lunges with 3 kg dumbbells overhead
  • Side Planks

I also developed and exercise with
  • no weights/equipment
  • functional compound movement
  • whole-body muscle recruitment

My idea is to create an alternative burpee (my wife dubbed my creation “burpees for engineers” finding them somewhat complex).  I’ll share it in a future post, but for now let’s stay on topic.

We had arranged for an afternoon playdate for Shark Boy with a friend of my wife’s and her 4 year-old son that afternoon at the same time that my father-in-law was having visitors who came by boat.  What ended up happening was that he was effectively kidnapped (I’m sure there’s a term for nautical abductions) for a few hours and our poor 4 year-old visitor had to split his time between the 19 month-old Lightning Kid and the grown-ups. Yuck!

Luckily Shark Boy came back in time for them to spend a good hour or two torturing me with silly faces.  We watched the all-important Champions League (soccer) final between two German teams: Bayern Muenchen versus Borussia Dortmund being cheered on by my wife and I respectively.  What can I say? She sure can pick a winner – she married me didn’t she?