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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Extremes Abenteuer

Ein Vortrag ist geplant für 23. Oktober um 18:30 
in 'Schalander' in Bischofshof Brauerei 
Heitzerstraße 2, Regensburg

Eintritt frei, aber eine unverbindliche Anmeldung ist erwünscht um die Sitzplätze und das Essen zu planen. Bitte hier klicken
Photo: Anuj Adhikary
Ein 257-Kilometer Ultramarathon durchh die Saharawüste, Marathons auf Grönlands Gletscher am Polarkreis und am Khumbu-Gletscher am Fuße des Mount Everest, 100 km jurch die Nacht in der Schweiz laufen un ein 18-Stunden-Rennen über fast 90 Kilometer über die österreichischen Alpen, das sich bis jetzt als der schwierigste körperliche Kampf herausstellte.

Welche Kräfte motivieren einen Menschen dazu, solche Extremsituationen freiwillig zu ertragen und dieses auf leid auf sich zu nehmen? Wer dominiert den Kampf zwischen Körper und Geist und an welchem Punkt kippt das Gleichgewicht?

Extremsportlerin und US-Amerikanerin Holly Zimmermann erzählt, wie sie in sieben Tagen sechs Marathons in der marokkanischen Sahara bestritten hat, wie man mit fast nur Müsliriegeln und Nüssen zu essen überlebt, eiskalte Nächte auf dem Boden eines offenen Zeltes während eines Sandsturms verbringt, und wie Füße innerhalb weniger Tage um zwei Schuhgrößen anschwellen. Die körperliche Regeneration war der Schlüssel zum erfolgreichen Abschluss dieses Rennens und sie wird erklären, wie sie ihren Regenerationsplan gemeistert hat, so dass der letzte Tag des Rennens ihr stärkster wurde.



Als erste internationale frau des diesjährigen Mount Everst Marathons wird sich Holly auch mit ihrer packenden Geschichte einer Wanderung von Kathmandu zum Everest Base Camp beschäftigen wo ein abgebrochener Flug in das kleine Dorf Lukla im Himalaya nur der Anfang einer Reise war mit Höhenkrankheit, eisigen Temperaturen und bedauerlichen sanitären Bedingungen. Fotos von der Landschaft, den Einheimischen und der faszinierenden Lebensweise in den kleinen Dörfern entlang der Bergwege geben einen Eindruck vom magischen Geist des Himalaya. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Off-season Opens Doors


Mens sana in corpore sano (A healthy mind in a healthy body)

If you are like me, you spend so much time training in the spring and summer that when off-season arrives you don’t know what to do with those hours that are normally filled with sport. Especially on the weekends. Now you can have breakfast with the family… twice!

Although, I’m sure for most of us it doesn’t take much effort to find substitute activities… Cleaning out the garage? Organizing a year full of photos? Going to church?
St. Laurentius Catholic Church, Alteglofsheim

Church on Sunday is unfortunately one of the things that gets sacrificed from my calendar when I am in training, as there is almost always a long run on that day. But I miss it. And today I was back in the pews.

What is the purpose of off-season anyway? Why don’t we just race and train 12 months a year? As everyone knows the answer is simple: to give ourselves a chance to recover and regenerate.  Our bodies have been pounding the pavement (or in my case, trails) for months and we are no longer at that peak we hit for our A-race a while back and our performance is likely declining. This is normal, and a drastic reduction of miles along with a healthy dose of comfort food (putting on a couple of pounds would probably do you good), getting some much needed sleep (the end of Daylight Savings will help), and curling up on the couch with a good book are maybe just what the doctor ordered.

The spiritual side of Kundalini yoga
 helps me keep balance
Off-season should also include a switch to more regenerative activates like stretching and yoga, which will likely accelerate this healing process and get us back on track quicker. But is it just our bodies that need regeneration? I firmly believe in a whole-body balance that is just as dependent on a healthy mind and spirit as it is on a healthy body. Studies have even shown a link between religion/spirituality and psychological well-being. In fact, one of the most widely celebrated findings is that religion and spirituality are related to longer life*. So, also meditation, attending church services (or temple, synagogue, mosque, etc.), prayer, chanting, quiet reflection, or maybe even a long walk in the woods can provide that symbiosis, which our whole person requires but may be neglected when we are completely focused on our next race.

And then, after a time, when your body and spirit have mended, you can use that long walk to contemplate what to include in next season’s race schedule.

Post-script… I do have four more races this year, but all ‘just for fun’. J

*Religion, spirituality, and health: a review and update. Adv Mind Body Med. 2015;29(3):19-26.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Beer & Books


The Savoy Bookshop and Café in Westerly, Rhode Island, together with the Cottrell Brewery in Pawcatuck, Connecticut hosted me for a book talk this week inside the brewery! Just after I got there and started setting up, the first guest arrived (45 minutes early!), an 80-year-old who introduced himself to me and said that he ‘used to be a runner’. I replied that I could tell that by looking at him ;) Which was partly true and part politeness.

I talked for about an hour to a very attentive audience, then opened up the floor to questions and was inundated. It was really fun to banter with the audience who’d been loosened up a bit with the free beer samples.

The Savoy Bookshop had copies of my book for sale and several were purchased and all wanted them signed by the author… me. There was a 91-year-old swimmer who also told me tales of his ultra swims. Talk about an inspiration!

The brewery is a small family business owned by Charlie Buffam, who chatted with my Dad over a Stonington Glory about the old days.

Loved giving a talk in my native tongue…it just flows…like the beer afterwards.

Signing a copy for a 91-year-old ultra swimmer!!!






Tuesday, July 24, 2018

MountainMan Reit im Winkl: Ein gutes Ende für einen schlechten Start

(Click here for the English version)


Meine Aufgabe: 51 Kilometer, 2080-Meter-Anstieg / Abstieg

Der Tag begann nicht gut. Zwei Alarmglocken läuten, eine auf jeder Seite des Bettes, um 4 Uhr morgens. Ich setze mich verwirrt auf.

Ich beugte mich vor, um den Wecker auszuschalten, und stoß mein Glas Wasser um, das auf meine Laufkleidung fiel, die ich ordentlich auf den Boden gelegt hatte, damit ich am Morgen blitzschnell hineinschlüpfen konnte.

Plan B. Kaffee.

Ich ging auf Zehenspitzen in die Küche, wo ich die Kaffeemaschine auseinandergenommen im Trockengestell der Spüle auffand. Ich baute sie zusammen, drückte die Daumen, schaltete die Maschine ein und wurde mit allen möglichen blinkenden roten Lichtern begrüßt. Kein gutes Zeichen. Ich drückte trotzdem auf ‚Brühen‘ und wurde mit unliebsamen Schleifgeräuschen konfrontiert, und nein, nicht mit dem Mahlen von Kaffee.

Ich fing an, Tee zu machen. Während das Wasser kochte, nahm ich den Föhn mit zu meinen nassen Hosen.

Zurück in der Küche für Toast, zu der Zeit als Frank da war und die Kaffeemaschinenpanne anging. In einem Augenblick lag der Geruch gerösteter Bohnen in der Luft. Mit Kaffee in der Hand, Toast im Bauch und fünf Minuten vor dem Abflug, zog ich meine Laufkleidung und eine viel zu große Aufwärmhose von Frank an, da ich meine vergessen hatte, warf den Rest meiner Ausrüstung in eine Tasche und wir stapelten uns mit den beiden jüngsten Kindern für knapp eine Stunde nach Reit im Winkl ins Auto. Ich saß auf dem Rücksitz, so dass ich Platz hatte, um mich zu organisieren und mein Laufpaket zu lagern.

Ein Rotschwanzfuchs schoss über die Straße vor uns. Amelia kreischte. Gott sei Dank ging es sicher hinüber; es wäre sonst ein schlechtes Omen gewesen, das nicht ignoriert werden konnte.
Es war kühl um 5:30 Uhr am Start, aber zumindest regnete es nicht, obwohl die dunklen Wolken, die auf uns eintrafen, nicht viel versprachen, dass es so bleiben würde. Ich begrüßte den Lauforganisator und die Moderatoren, dann gingen wir in den Festsaal, um uns bis zum Start warm zu halten. Es gibt wirklich keine Notwendigkeit für ein Warm-up vor einem Ultra, also gingen wir für etwa 10 Minuten bis 6:00 Uhr nach draußen, wo ich von den Moderatoren nach vorne gerufen wurde, um ein kurzes Interview zu geben. Noch kaum wach musste ich mich darauf konzentrieren, diese kniffligen deutschen Worte rauszubekommen ... ‚Zweihundert Siebenundfünfzig Kilometer durch die Saharawüste‘ ...

Über die ersten hundert Meter wurden internationale Flaggen verteilt. Ich habe die „Stars & Stripe“ an der Startlinie über meinen Kopf geweht. Musik plärrte. Farbiger Rauch wurde in die Luft geschossen. Unsere Freunde und Familie jubelten. Ich war aufgeregt wie ein Kind am Weihnachtsmorgen.


Die ersten zwei Kilometer waren flach und die Gruppe blieb dicht beieinander. Der Start um 6 Uhr war für zwei Strecken: die mittlere Strecke von 39 km und die lange Strecke von 51 km. Hunde waren auch in diesem Rennen erlaubt. Ich habe auf der 51 km langen Strecke keinen, aber viele auf der 39 km langen und auch auf der "kurzen" 22 km Strecke gesehen. Wo kurz nach dem Start ein Bach unter dem Weg kreuzte, wurde zwei Hunden, die direkt hinter mir rannten, ein Bad angeboten, während der Besitzer rief: Nein! Nein!, doch hilflos hinter ihm hergezogen wurde.

Dann begann der erste Anstieg: ein 700-Meter-Steigung über etwa 5 Kilometer. Das Laufen wurde bei dieser Strecke auf  Bergsteigerschritte reduziert und als ich oben angekommen war, war ich eine Stunde ins Rennen gegangen und hatte nur noch 7 Kilometer auf dem Buckel. Puh! Es könnte ein längerer Tag sein, als ich gehofft hatte.

Es fing an zu nieseln, aber wir waren in den Wäldern geschützt und als der Abstieg begann, verloren wir 600 Meter von dem, was wir gerade hart erarbeitet hatten. Aber ich wurde im Tal von meinen fröhlichen Kindern belohnt, die an meiner Seite joggten, bis ich wieder auf den Pfaden verschwand. Es war zunächst nur ein 5km langes Stück bis zum Kilometer 18, bis ich sie wieder im Almstüberl sehen würde. Dort füllte ich meine Wasserflasche auf. Also, Schnellstopp. Ich verabschiedete mich, ging zurück in die Hügel auf eine hölzerne Plattform, die die Moore durchquerte. Die schmale Plattform ging etwa einen Kilometer bergauf neben einer Skipiste und sie hatte 5x5cm Pfosten nach etwa jedem halben Meter ... zu kurz für eine Schrittlänge ... hmmm ... .wie lauf ich das? Dann dachte ich mir, wenn ich kurze Schritte mache und meine Fersen direkt auf das Brett setze, könnte ich mich davon abdrücken und meinen Achillessehnen eine kleine Pause geben. Tricky, aber effektiv. Dann direkt zur Skipiste und der Aufstieg wurde steiler. Ich hatte vorher noch nie etwas so Steiles gemacht, es mussten mehr als 45% gewesen sein. Laufen kam nicht in Frage. Kopf nach unten. Konzentriere dich darauf, nicht nach hinten zu rutschen.

Als nächstes ging der Aufstieg weiter, aber weniger steil. Das brachte uns auf den höchsten Punkt des Kurses, den Gipfel der Steinplatte. Als wir am Vortag an ihm vorbeifuhren, konnte ich den Gipfel kaum sehen, als ich mich nach vorne lehnte, um aus dem oberen Teil meiner Windschutzscheibe zu schauen. Dort werde ich morgen rennen? Ich dachte nach. Oh, das sieht hoch aus. Als ich hinter dem Wald auf den Weiden unter dem Gipfel auftauchte, konnte ich sehr dunkle Gewitterwolken sehen und Donner nicht weit weg hören. Ich befürchtete, dass, wenn der Sturm sich in meine Richtung bewegte, das Rennen gestoppt werden könnte, so dass ich trotz des stetigen Anstiegs so schnell wie möglich weiterlief, um über den Gipfel zu kommen, bevor wir von dem Schauer getroffen werden konnten.


Ich nehme im Allgemeinen nur sehr wenige Fotos während Wettkämpfen. Während der Transviamala in der Schweiz vor ein paar Jahren habe ich ein paar Aufnahmen von einem atemberaubenden Tal gemacht, und dann im letzten Jahr während des endlosen Hochkönigman hatte ich Tränen in den Augen bei einem wünderschönen Sonnenaufgang (dann wieder Tränen in den Augen Stunden später wegen der Erschöpfung, die mich gezwungen hat, kurze Pausen zu machen, die Zeit für Fotos gaben). Aber während des MountainMan konnte ich einem schnellen Selfie am Gipfel der Steinplatte nicht widerstehen.

Endlich zum Abstieg! Plötzlich hörte ich Kinder lachen und spielen und dann war ich von Dinosauriern umgeben! Ich musste im TriassicPark mit T-Rex gewesen sein. Ein wirklich schöner Park oben auf dem Berg. Und versuchte die Sonne sich zu zeigen? Nicht wirklich, aber jedenfalls hatten sich die dunklen Wolken entfernt.

Nebel hatte sich eingelebt und eine ruhige unheimliche Umgebung geschaffen. Es waren nur 73 von uns, die die lange Strecke zurücklegten, und wir waren ziemlich zerstreut, so dass ich für einen Großteil des Rennens allein war. Aber durch die niedrigen Sträucher hoch oben auf dem Berg, durch windige schmale, von Nebel umhüllte Pfade ... Ich fühlte mich wie im Himmel. Die Flora war abwechslungsreich und als ich vorbeiging, strich ich mit meinen Fingerspitzen über das hohe Gras und bewunderte die perfekte Schöpfung der Mutter Natur.

Irgendwann trifft die Strecke wieder mit der mittleren Strecke zusammen. Ich war überrascht, immer noch Läufer aus der 39 km Strecke zu sehen. Ich war an diesem Punkt bei Kilometer 32 und war nach weiteren 4 Stunden 40 Minuten des Rennens noch 19 Kilometer vor dem Ziel. Das bedeutete, dass die Läufer der mittleren Strecke in derselben Zeit nur 20 Kilometer zurückgelegt hatten? Vielleicht waren sie Trekker, und ich sah ein Paar mit Hunden, aber trotzdem hatte es mich ein wenig verwirrt und ich fragte mich, ob ich auf dem richtigen Weg war.

Als ich mich der Hindenburghütte näherte, hörte ich meine Kinder von hoch oben auf dem Hügel schreien. Sie hatten mich noch nicht gesehen und jagten sich durch das hohe Gras. Es ist schön für mich zu sehen, dass sie sich amüsierten und wissen, dass sie hier sein wollen, auch wenn das so sein muss. Meine Tochter hat sogar mehrfach erwähnt, dass sie eines Tages auch Ultramarathons laufen möchte. Die Hindenburghütte wurde nach dem früheren Präsidenten und Hitler-Vorgänger Paul von Hindenburg benannt und diente ursprünglich militärischen Zwecken. Heute ist es ein beliebter Ort für Trekker, um ein traditionelles Essen zu bekommen oder bayerische Blaskapellemusik zu hören.

Wieder füllte ich meinen Camelbak mit Wasser, schnappte mir ein paar Apfelscheiben, tauschte ein paar Neuigkeiten mit der Familie aus und ich war auf den letzten 10 Kilometern unterwegs.

Downhill, Downhill, Downhill. Klopf auf Holz-meine Knie sind in gutem Zustand, aber solche Abschnitte sind für viele Läufer eine Qual. Der Weg traf dann auf den 22 km "kurzen" Kurs, der um 10 Uhr begann. Dann sah ich Läufer mit blauen Startnummern, die ihre Route darstellten. Zurück in Reit im Winkl, nur ein paar Kilometer vom Ziel entfernt, wurden wir zur letzten Runde des Tages zurück in die Schlucht geführt, bevor die Sportplätze in Sichtweite waren, die ich mehr als 7 Stunden zuvor zurückgelassen hatte. Dort waren wieder meine Kinder, etwa 100 Meter vom Ziel entfernt, eine auf beiden Seiten des Weges, und jeder hatte eine Fahne in der Hand. Mein Sohn mit der Österreichischen und meine Tochter mit der Amerikanischen. Sie schwungen sie neben mir her und als wir die österreichische Flagge hinter uns ließen, wo der erste österreichische Finisher sie ins Ziel bringen sollte, fuhren wir drei mit der „Stars & Stripes“ weiter, und mit einem Stich der Traurigkeit, dass es vorbei war, aber eine unübertroffenen Freude am Adrenalinstoß der Leistung, haben wir zusammen die Ziellinie überquert.


Monday, July 23, 2018

MountainMan Reit im Winkl: A Good Finish to a Bad Start

(Hier klicken für die deutsche Version)

The Task at Hand: 51 kilometers, 2080-meter gain/loss in the German/Austrian Alps 

The day didn’t start well. Double alarm bells ringing, one on each side of the bed, at 4am. I bolted upright in confusion.

Leaning over to turn off the ringer, I knocked over my glass of water which spilled onto my race clothes that I had placed neatly on the floor so that I could slip into them in a flash in the morning.

Plan B. Coffee.

I tiptoed into the kitchen to find the coffee machine disassembled and in parts in the sink’s drying rack. I pieced it together, crossed my fingers, turned on the machine, and was greeted with all kinds of blinking red lights. Not a good sign. I pressed 'brew' anyway and was treated to some unwelcome grinding noises, and no, not the grinding of coffee.

I begin making tea. While the water was boiling, I took the hairdryer to my wet shorts.

Back into the kitchen for toast and by this time Frank was there and onto the coffee machine glitch. In an instant the smell of roasted beans was in the air. With coffee in hand, toast in belly and five minutes to departure, I threw on my race clothes, a much over-sized pair of warm-up pants from Frank since I’d forgotten mine, tossed the rest of my gear in a bag and we piled into the car with the two youngest kids for the just-under-an-hour drive to Reit im Winkl. I sat in the back seat so that I had space to get organized and stock my race pack.

A red-tailed fox darted across the road in front of us. Amelia shrieked. Thank goodness it got across safely; it would have otherwise been a bad omen that couldn’t be ignored.

It was chilly at 5:30am at the Start, but at least it wasn’t raining, though the dark clouds honing in on us didn’t give much promise that it would stay that way. I greeted the race organizer and the moderators then we went inside the Festsaal to keep warm till the start. There is really no need for a warm-up before an ultra, so about 10 minutes till 6:00 we headed outside where I was being called forward by the moderators to give a short interview. Still barely awake I had to concentrate on getting those tricky German words out…zweihundert siebenundfünfzig Kilometer durch die Saharwüste…

Interview at the Start with Stephan and Rudi
International flags were given out for us to run with over the first hundred meters. I waved the Stars & Stripes over my head in the starting line-up. Music blared. Colored smoke was shot in the air. Our friends and family were cheering. I was excited as a kid on Christmas morning. 

The first two kilometers were flat and the group stayed close together. The 6 am start was for two distances: the middle distance of 39 km and the long at 51 km. Dogs were also allowed in this race. I didn’t see any on the 51 km course, but many on the 39-km and also on the ‘short’ 22-km course.

I am the one with the US flag!

Where a stream crossed under the trail shortly after the start, two dogs running just behind me bee-lined to it for a dip, while the owner shouting, Nein! Nein!, was being pulled helplessly along behind.

Then the first climb began: a 700-meter gain over about 5 kilometers. The field was reduced to that mountain-climbers walk and by the time I’d reached the top I was an hour into the race and had only 7 kilometers under my belt. Ugh. It might be a longer day than I’d hoped.


It started to drizzle but we were sheltered in the woods, and the descent commenced, losing 600 meters of what we just worked so hard to attain. But I was rewarded in the valley by my cheerful kids who jogged by my side till I disappeared back into the trails. It was only a 5km jaunt to km 18 until I would see them again at the Almstüberl. There I filled up my water bottle even though it wasn’t empty but the next water station wasn’t for another 12 km and the next time I’d see my family wouldn’t be for another 23 km at km 41. 
Cows ALWAYS have the right-of-way!
After a quick stop I said goodbye, headed back into the hills and onto a wooden platform which traversed the moors. The narrow platform went on for about a kilometer uphill adjacent to a ski slope and it had 2X2s about every half meter…too short for a step-length…hmmm….how do I run this? Then I figured that if I take short steps and placed my heels right on the board, I could push off from it and give a little break to my Achilles tendons. Tricky, but effective. Then on to the ski slope directly and the ascent steepened. I had never run anything so steep before, it must have been more than a 45% grade. Running was out of the question. Head down. Concentrate on not slipping backwards.


Next, the climb continued but steadied out. This would take us up to the highest point of the course, the peak of the Steinplatte. As we drove past it the day before, I could barely see the summit as I leaned low to peer out the very top of my windshield. I’ll be running up there tomorrow? I thought. Oh, that looks high. As I emerged above the woods and onto the pastures below the peak I could see very dark storm clouds and hear thunder not far away. I was afraid that if the storm moved towards in my direction they may divert or stop the race, so despite the steady climb I kept running as fast as possible so that I could get up and over the summit before we got hit.

I take very few, if any, photos during races. During the Transviamala in Switzerland a couple of years ago I took a few shots of a breathtaking valley, and then during the never-ending Hochkönigman last year I got teary-eyed at the sunrise and whipped out my phone (then teary-eyed again many hours later due to exhaustion that forced me to take short breaks which afforded time for photos). But during the MountainMan I couldn’t resist a quick selfie at the summit of the Steinplatte.

Finally on to the descent! Suddenly I heard children laughing and playing and then I was surrounded by dinosaurs! I must be in the Triassic Park with T-Rex. And was the sun trying to peek through? Not really, but at any rate the dark clouds had moved away.

A fog had settled in, creating a quiet eerie setting. There were only 73 of us running the long distance, and we were pretty scattered apart, so I was alone for much of the race. But running through the low scrub brush high up on the mountain, through windy narrow trails enveloped in fog…I was in heaven. The flora was diverse and as I ran by I brushed my fingertips along the tall grass and admired Mother Nature’s perfect creation.

Eventually the course met back with that of the middle distance. I was surprised to still see runners out there from the 39 km distance. I was at km 32 at that point and was about 4 hours 40 minutes into the race with another 19 kilometers to go. That meant the runners on the middle distance had only covered 20 kilometers in that same time? Maybe they were trekkers, and I saw a couple with dogs, but still, it had me a little confused and I wondered if I was off track.

Approaching the Hindenburghütte I could hear my kids yelling from high up on the hill. They hadn’t seen me yet and were chasing each other through the tall grass. It is good for me to see them enjoying themselves and knowing that they want to be here, even if that have to be. My daughter has even mentioned several times how she wants to join me someday on these races. The Hindenburghütte had been named after the former President and Hitler predecessor, Paul von Hindenburg, and was originally used for military purposes. Today it’s a much-loved spot for trekkers to get a traditional meal or listen to a Bavarian brass band. 

Again I filled my Camelbak with water, grabbed a few apple slices, exchanged a few bits of news with the family and I was off for the last 10 kilometers.

Finish-line sprint with the kids
Downhill, downhill, downhill. Knock on wood, my knees are in good shape but sections like that are agony for many runners. The trail then met up with the 22-km ‘short’ course which began at 10 am, so there were a lot more runners around me now. Back into Reit im Winkl, only a few kilometers from the finish, we were routed back out into the gorge for the final loop of the day before the sports fields were in sight which I left behind me more than 7 hours earlier. There again were my kids, about 100 meters from the finish, one on either side of the path, and each with a flag in their hand. My son with the Austrian and my daughter with the American. They waved them up and over my head as I passed through and, leaving the Austrian flag where it was for the first Austrian finisher to carry it into the finish, the three of us proceeded with the Stars & Stripes, our approach being announced by the moderator, with a pang of sadness that it was over, but an unmatched joy at the adrenaline rush of achievement.

Happy, but starting to feel the pain 



Monday, July 9, 2018

Setting Priorities


Three and a half weeks after returning from Nepal, where I had been without my family for 3 weeks to run the Everest Marathon, I was scheduled to leave for Chamonix, France to run the Mont Blanc Marathon. The trip would have been only for 3 nights/ 4 days, but I cancelled it, because I felt that my family needed me at home.

Thankfully I could still cancel my hotel booking, but I had already paid for the race as well as the flight there, and those were non-refundable.

I receive harsh criticism from some people about luxurious travel to foreign destinations to pursue a selfish hobby. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, I respect that, but I believe everyone should be able to choose their own hobbies and do what they want with their own free time without being judged by others just because it is a different path than the norm. 

My husband and I both devoted many years to self-funded higher education in order to create a solid basis for our future and that of our children. We both work hard for the money we earn, as does most everyone. 

I may dedicate two to three hours in the morning, my ‘free time’, to sport, but then find myself doing laundry or writing, or editing work until 10 or 11 at night in order to get everything done. I have a wonderful life, it is busy and fulfilling, but it is not without sacrifice and focused hard work.

Enjoying life through hobbies, which are individually and freely chosen, is one of the greatest gifts we have. They allow us to express our inner selves and experience fulfillment. Without them, if we are not balanced and happy, then we have little or no chance of being the person that we need to be for the people around us who depend on us.

I believe that family should always be the number one priority, but taking care of oneself is a God-given responsibility that should not be underestimated or take a back seat.

Turns out, on the weekend when I had planned to be on Mont Blanc, I was instead in Berlin with my family, visiting my husband’s parents. His mother is undergoing difficult treatment for cancer and she needed us. My husband needed me. We needed the kids. The kids needed us. Everything in balance.

That decision was a no-brainer.

There will be other races.



Friday, June 8, 2018

The Mount Everest Marathon


The Everest Marathon is known for its extremes. Extremely high, extremely technical, extremely remote and, above all, extremely, breathtakingly beautiful.

To begin, what other race on earth takes ten days to get to the starting line? From Kathmandu it’s a 30-minute flight to the beginning of the trek which commences in the Himalayan village of Lukla. Sounds wonderfully idyllic. And it is, if all goes well. But this is Nepal and the clock ticks differently here.

Our 30-minute hop of a flight was delayed due to poor weather in the mountains. Then after finally taking off six hours later, only 15 minutes into the trip we were told that the weather window had closed in Lukla and a landing there wasn't possible. We’d be turning back to Kathmandu. Once back in the capital city, we taxied around on the runway till we pulled up next to a small building and the pilots jumped out of the cockpit to use the bathroom. The 15 passengers were also let out briefly to use the facilities while the plane was refueled, oiled and prepared for a second attempt.


An overloaded sherpa (porter)
We took off again and I was a nervous wreck during the trip while watching the pilots try to navigate through the cumulous clouds (yes, it was an open cockpit and I was sitting right behind them…so close that I could have helped out with the controls had they needed a hand). After nearly 40 minutes the runway was in sight. Though this was not necessarily prana for the eyes, since the airport at Lukla is reputed as being ‘one of the most dangerous in the world’ due to its ultra short runway, which is banked on one end by a mountain ridge and on entry the field drops off 600 meters to the village below. I said a brief prayer as we skidded to a halt. The trek was about to begin.


We were limited to 15 kilograms in gear. Our trekking bags contained not only our clothes, shoes, and personal items, but also our thermal mattresses, sleeping bags and liners. Most of us had clothing ranging from shorts and tank tops to hats, gloves and thick winter jackets. We’d need everything. Protein bars were also a major contributor to the gear list for the majority of us since no one was quite sure what we’d be served to eat along the way. These trekking bags were carried by the Sherpas (porters) or by the yaks. Each Sherpa carried two trekking bags plus his own gear on his back. The baggage was tied together with rope and the load balanced by a rope and band across his forehead. They walked severely bent over, like a table, and had to constantly strain to look up and forwards to navigate the path.


So, while the Sherpas suffered for our vanity, we each burdened ourselves with only a small day-backpack containing rain gear, water, cameras and snacks.

The rhythm was two days trekking then an acclimation stop. The weather was variable: Brief periods of sun interspersed with low hanging clouds that seemed to hauntingly creep up the valley.


The temperatures dropped as we climbed. The lodges were not heated, only in the dining rooms a wood stove was lit at 5pm to warm the guests a bit for dinner before sending them off to their cold rooms for the night. The facilities were atrocious. Dirty old toilets (sometimes only squatters) shared by dozens. Running water (when available) couldn’t be trusted to brush our teeth. We received boiled water at night to fill our bottles which we’d stick into our sleeping bags for warmth and then drink the next day.

The three meals a day were dominated by carbohydrates. Pasta, rice, potatoes, French fries, toast, and oatmeal. There was also always some form of eggs for breakfast, but I abstained. There were all but no vegetables.

Several in our group were experiencing minor symptoms of high-altitude sickness including diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, headaches and sleep problems. I had none, but we were nevertheless all encouraged by the group doctor to take Diamox, a medicine used to treat altitude sickness. Those without symptoms or only minor ones would take half the recommended dose while the others took a full. I was worried that the side-effects of the drug would be worse than any mild symptoms caused by the altitude. I was wrong. There was only one side-effect of the drug and it was marvelous: tingling toes and fingertips with temperature change. So, upon gripping that hot mug of tea in the morning, I soon felt a tickling tingle build until I felt like a sorceress ready to send lightning bolts firing from my fingertips!

During our last acclimation stop in Gorakshep, we woke early on our ‘rest day’ to  start a 5am trek up Kala Pathar at an elevation of 5,545 meters to view Everest and her neighboring peaks in the early morning light.
Khumbu Glacier Ice Fall


The following day, after 10 days in the Himalayas, we trekked to Base Camp Mount Everest, one of the most inhospitable places I’ve ever encountered (and I’m not exactly a home-body). The tents were scattered randomly about on the moraine field of the Khumbu Glacier. There was barely a flat area to be found as it was riddled with ankle-twisting rocks, ice, sand, ice-melt pools and streams. The world-famous popcorn field, or ice fall, of the Khumbu Glacier was directly in front of us. On our arrival that first afternoon we saw several climbers, just black specks in the distance, making their way down the glacier, bringing with them the equipment from the upper camps and the ladders to aid climbers over the crevasses, marking the end of the climbing season.


If I’d thought the toilets were bad to this point, I had no idea what bad could be. I’ll let it at that except to say that standing in shit while squatting over a bucket should perhaps be a prerequisite ability when preparing for this trip.

One pleasant surprise in BC was the appearance of vegetables! We had cauliflower and bok choy! I was so overjoyed by this turn of events that I forgot much of the carbs to gorge on the veggies! Which was a mistake, as anyone who has indulged too much on cauliflower knows, as my belly soon had more gas than a Texaco station.

That first night the temperatures dropped to nearly -15 Celcius. I had acquired an expedition-grade sleeping bag at one of the previous lodges since I realized that the one I’d brought with me, that I’d used in the desert, was not going to cut it. So I now had a merino wool sleeping bag liner inside a mid-weight sleeping bag inside an expedition-grade bag on top of a foam and a thermal air mattress on top of which I piled my jackets. And I was just barely warm.

The following night was a bit warmer, but sleep was difficult under the anticipation of the early morning race start.


The starting line atmosphere was ridiculously chaotic. My toes were frozen, but there was the promise of sun rising from behind the mountains and the weather was good. A starting line band was held between two organizers across a giant pile of rock and stones which we were all cautiously trying to stand on. An ice-melt river flowed on one side, a steep icy slope on the other. There was no visible path to follow ahead of us, but a few marker flags were seen randomly protruding from the rocks.

I tried to place myself as much towards the front as possible, of course behind the fast-footed Nepalese, but right behind them as not to get caught in a single-file slog over the first several hundred meters. Then before long we were off and it felt so good to run!

I was wondering how the altitude would affect me, but it was not as significant as I’d thought. Ascents are difficult at any altitude so I paced myself according to how I felt and my own experience.

It seemed that the field thinned out quickly and I soon got into that trance-like rhythm that long-distance runners crave.

At around kilometer 9 a Sherpa passed me going the opposite direction and he said to me “erste Frau”. Seriously. He spoke to me in German, telling me that I was the first woman. First international woman, of course. Wow. Cool.


At kilometer 17 we began the Bibre Loop, an out-and-back 6-km loop which gave us the opportunity to see where we were in the field, as well as to greet our friends. On the back side I noted that I was at least one kilometer ahead of the next international woman, buffer but not safety; we still had a long way to go.

I ran where I could, hiked where I couldn’t. At the first several check-points I drank a cup of water and bent over with my hands on my knees to try to catch my breath. But it never helped. So I never stopped anymore, except for the quick chip check.

At kilometer 35 I was surprised when another woman came up behind me, an Austrian who’d I’d met in base camp. Scheisse. Ok, I thought, well if she really covered that much ground despite me giving all I can, then she deserves to take over the lead.

That was my initial thought.

Then, I changed my mind.

Fuck that*.

I wanted to win this race and I wasn’t going to give it up after 35 kilometers!

So I ran with all I had. I don’t think I was all that fast…considering the conditions, the altitude, the insane ascents, but still, regardless of not being super fast, giving all I could was good enough. And with every last amount of energy I had, I fought it to the finish and ended up there as the first international woman, behind three Nepalese super girls, and six minutes before the nearest international competitor.

Just goes to show…

Believe in yourself and sometimes miracles do happen.


*I know I shouldn't curse, but this is the 'uncensored' version and that is exactly what I thought at that moment! :)




Monday, May 7, 2018

Mount Everest Marathon: Prep Talk


I know I haven’t written much lately…with the release of the book I have been overwhelmed with marketing tasks that are all new to me…so unfortunately the blog has been silent.

But what a way to get started up again with the Tenzing-Hillary Mount Everest Marathon!

This year will be the 16th edition of the event which takes place each year on May 29th to commemorate the first successful ascent to the summit of the highest peak on earth, which happened in 1953 and thus we’ll be running on the 65th anniversary of the great day!


I will fly from Munich over Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu on May 14th, then fly to the tiny Himalayan village of Lukla on May 16th where we begin the climb.

A brief word on Lukla. Its is frequently referred to the home of ‘the most dangerous airport in the world’. Arriving and departing aircraft must use a single STOL (short-takeoff-and-landing) runway. There is low prospect of a successful go-around on short final due to the terrain. There is high terrain immediately beyond the northern end of the runway and a steeply angled drop at the southern end of the runway into the valley below.

We’ll be a small group with a guide to lead the way and Sherpas to carry our gear, and we’ll need ten days to reach Everest Base Camp, including three days of acclimation halt along the way. We will stay in tea houses in small villages, drinking yak milk (no) and boiled water (yikes!...I am bringing a bottle filter). With extra costs for WiFi, battery charging and showers. I have high-altitude and anti-diarrheal meds, antibiotics, probiotics, and anti-bacterial gel.

Our target is South Base Camp is in Nepal (whereas North Base Camp is in Tibet) which lies at an altitude of 5,364 metres (17,598 ft) above sea level. The oxygen concentration in the air there is at about 50% of what it is as sea level, which is why the rescue helicopters are incessantly flying in to retrieve climbers afflicted with high-altitude sickness.


Once we reach base camp, we’ll sleep two nights there in tents on the glacier in temperatures hovering above and below the freezing point depending on day or night.
All that said, after the treacherous flight, the high-altitude climb and not freezing on a glacier bed, I’ll be happy once I make it safely to the starting line of the marathon.

At 7am on May 29th we’ll start an official marathon of 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles) back down the mountain. Ok, but just to make this clear. ‘Down’ the mountain is deceptive. We will constantly be alternating between climbing and descending, with a loss of 4,579 meters and a gain of 2,777 meters! So, forget about the 4,500 number just now. A technical trail marathon with a 2,777 meter climb is about as tough as it gets. I figure I’ll need about double the time that it takes me to run a flat road marathon… at least.

The best part of it all is that I will be making the trip with Beatrice! My tent-mate from the Marathon des Sables, also known from her namesake Chapter 3 in Ultramarathon Mom.
So, how does one train for such an endeavor? Well, living at just a few hundred meters above sea level doesn’t afford high-altitude training, nor do the weekends that I spend running in the Austrian Alps at 1,000-1,500 meters. High-altitude chambers and oxygen deprivation masks are pricey, so I am trusting the traditional route (and some hefty dose of prayer) and sticking with anaerobic training which, even in the flatlands, can help the body to optimize it’s oxygen consumption, so plenty of hill intervals, long intervals and tempo runs appeared on the training plan in the months approaching the race. Of course a weekly long run is always in my schedule to keep me going for hours on end.

I will try to post some photos on Instagram and Facebook when and if I get access to WiFi.
Wish me luck!

Namaste