Monday, April 20, 2009

Inspirations of a breathtaking race

Sunday morning the air in Vienna was as healthy as on no other day of the year: The 26th edition of the Vienna City Marathon curbed down car traffic significantly in many parts of the city as roads-blocks started from 0600 in order to allow preparations for the big run to take place. While some drivers found it difficult to navigate to their destinations, public transport got cancelled, or re-routed the roads belonged for a few hours to the runners - as well as some bikers or anyone else not moved by an engine. The weather was perfect for the spectators – around 10 degrees in the morning, blue sky and rising temperatures during the course of the day. As two Austrian marathon rookies – Andrea Mayr and Guenter Weidlinger – were expected to tackle the respective Austrian national records the weather conditions were eyed awkwardly by experts, as they seemed too warm for fast times.

The roads are owned by the runners. A relief for the trees and air!

At 0900 the racers were released and 29.054 athletes got on their way to tackle the whole distance of 42,195km, the half marathon or the marathon distance in a 4-squad-relay race. Crossing the Reichsbruecke near the UNO-City provides the VCM with similarly spectacular pictures as the New York City Marathon, when the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is being crossed. The route then leads into the Prater, passing our home towards the first district and via the ring-road and the Staatsoper onto the Wienzeile heading west towards Schoenbrunn. This part of the route, between km 12 and 16 is one of the most horrible ones for marathon and half-marathon runners as it is slightly uphill, and fully exposed to the sunshine. Having reached Schloss Schoenbrunn the route leads via the Technische Museum and the Mariahilfer Strasse again to the ring road – half-marathon-runners have reached their finish here – and then towards Friedensbruecke and via Obere Donaustrasse and Schuettelstrasse towards the Ernst Happel Stadion in the Prater and the Lusthaus – running down the alley after 34km is real pain!! The last kilometres are similar to the ones early in the race – up the ring road, passing the Opera and turning right onto Heldenplatz, where thousands of spectators were cheering enthusiastically.

Even though the marathon-racers passed our home 3x we decided to watch and cheer them in the inner city and positioned our self by the Opera, motivating the broad mass tackling half and full distance as well as the elite. While the men’s winner stayed with 2:08:21 almost 1 minute behind the VCM course record of 2.07:35 at year’s 25th edition, it all looked very good for a new Austrian national record by
Guenter Weidlinger. The split times gave him up to 20 seconds advantage to the record of 2:12:22 set by Gerhard Hartmann back in 1986(!!), but the on the last 2000 metres the batteries went flat and he lost a lot of essential time and with 2:12:39 he missed the record by mere 17 seconds. The crowd in front of the opera went dead-quiet when realising that the record is missed. That was a spooky moment! But 15 minutes later a storm of enthusiasm came up when Andrea Mayr showed up, looking like falling over any second due to her extremely strange running style. It seemed very unlikely for her to set a new record as she had to run the last km in 3.00 minutes – see the video of these moments that Markus shot. Supported by her pacemakers and the frenetic cheering by the whole crowed she did the unexpected, reached the finishing line in 2:30:43: and thus beat Eva-Maria Gradwohl's national record of 2:30:51. On top of that the marathon-rookie, working fulltime as a doctor, won the women’s race.

Unbelieveable achievement! The half-marathon on crutches in 3:39:15. RESPECT!

The great atmosphere of 350.000 spectators all over Vienna and amazing achievements of elite and hobby-runners motivated Markus to pick up proper running practice again. As he is signed up already for the half-marathon at the Drei Laender Marathon on October 4th, it is about time anyway to get back into shape. But also, after a break of two years not participating in the VCM, the motivation is there to re-join the race in 2010!

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fill it up – the fasting is over

Easter, as one of the most important Christian holidays not only marks the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ but also the end of the fasting season. Some people use this 40 day period, which commences at the end of carnival, to live up to their New Year’s resolutions and refrain either partially or completely from smoking, drinking alcohol and eating excessively. Very often the Easter Holiday festivities make up for all that sort of abstinence and the net effect of fasting is turning negative within a few days.

We did not really abide by the fasting rule, but did celebrate the end of the season with a big brunch on Sunday morning at Heidi’s place together with Sandra & Flo and Christine (Flo’s Mum) & her partner Norbert. The offered food range was sheer endless: boiled ham with freshly grated horseradish, smoked salmon with horseradish cream, boiled (coloured) eggs, baked beans with sausages and scrambled eggs, fresh fruit salad, various kinds of bread, a
Reindling (traditional Carinthian dish) and of course various kinds of cheese and marmelade. Tea, coffee, juices and sparkling wine rounded the binge up. As if the brunch was not enough we had some more coffee and cakes in the afternoon together with Eugen, Kerstin’s dad and her aunt Lissi, uncle Werner and cousins Monika & Barbara.

Filled up to the roof - our french lion on the way home

Monday morning the big eating continued with another breakfast in the sun. Renate Werner, the Meierei, who have returned last night from Spain where the visited their daughthers Anja in Barcelona and Katrin & Dipak in Gran Canaria, joined in to tackle the many leftovers of the Sunday brunch. Markus skipped the breakfast as he was trying to cram the car with all the stuff we want to take back to Vienna. Apart from the luggage we brought along we also wanted to take back the two pieces of furniture we ground and coloured on the weekend, a little casket and a small table, as well as something very special: the traditional
cradle which was built especially for Kerstin more than 30 years ago and which hosted Kerstin, Sandra, Katrin & Anja. Fitted with a new mattress it will accomodate the new generation soon! Fitting all the bags & furniture pieces into the car demanded a lot of tricks and twists, but at the end of the day the car was filled up to the roof, had everything in it and after a long journey due to heavy traffic and jams we got home safely to Vienna in the evening.

Kerstin & Markus

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fresh colours all over the place

We shortened our working week by taking Friday of and headed West Thursday night towards Hoerbranz to spend the Eater holidays with Kerstin's family. The weather, already at early summer temperatures the whole week, improved even further and it felt more like summer than Easter holidays and so we spent lots of time outdoors enjoying the revival of nature after a long winter. We did long walks along Lake Constance followed by yummy ice cream, Markus tried to get into a running rhythm again, relaxing breaks over coffee with Kerstin's Mom and sister and Markus also did some DIY for Heidi - he installed a new WiFi-router so her access to the WorlWideWeb was sped up again.

Just hard-boiled eggs - but the colour makes a difference

What would Easter be without the colourful eggs? Most probably boring. Hence we picked up some colour in the shop, bought plenty of eggs and helped the Easter bunnies with bringing colour to all our lifes on Friday evening. Well prepared with gloved, lots of paper and plastic bags to protect the table we had an hour of fun colouring eggs which are going to be eaten during the weekend still. But eggs were not the only things that got some fresh colour. While all of us added some tan in the warm & strong spring sun, Markus ground a small casket, so far used as nightstand, and a small table so that Kerstin could put on some fresh colour four our little one. The first furniture is prepared.

Kerstin & Markus

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The night of blue-white!

It looks like we reached the end of a very long and cold winter here in Vienna as at the end of last week spring finally broke and so we immediately ventured out - like many others as well - to exploit the warm evening on Friday together with Lini & Peter in Do-An's outdoor garden at the Naschmarkt. The weekend even felt like early summer with temperatures of up to 25 degrees in the shadow. We prepared our terrace, adjusted all our plants and spent a lot of quality time relaxing in the sun. Given we were still quite tired from the past weekend in Barcelona this was just the right thing to do.

Out of the trough - ready for take-off?

Monday night was all about sports, to be more precise basketball. First, Markus' team in the Austrian Basketball League, the Oberwart Gunners, have managed to put an end to a so far unseen drought and cut their 9-game loosing streak with a mentally very important 64-54 home-win over the Traiskirchen Lions. After several very tight games in which the luck was not on their side in the crunch-time this victory was a big relief and just in time to get momentum back before the start of the play-offs in a bit more than 2 weeks time. Hopefully they can find their rhythm again and roll on through the post-season and maybe straight into the finals.

Hi-Flyers all season long already - living up to expectations

Later that night, precisely at 0315 Vienna time, March Madness reached its climax and the the NCAA Championship game tipped off in which the North Carolina Tar Heels were challenged by the Michigan State Spartans in snow-covered Detroit in front of stunning 72922 (!!) spectators. UNC, already traded as championship favorite at the beginning of the season, was not at all bothered by the fact that MSU in fact "owned" the arena (the East Lansing campus is only 92 miles away from the Ford Field) and played from the very first minute of the game like champions and raced to an undisputed 89-72 victory and crowned themselves for the 5th time in school history NCAA Champions! Even though Ty Lawson played outstanding, accounting for 21 points, 6 assists, 8 steals and 4 rebounds, it really was the whole team that made the difference. Congratulations to North Carolina!

Kerstin & Markus