Before normal and reader-sucking content resumes, thanks for putting up with my self-promotional blitz last week, and for your re-posting, tweeting, etc. And just think, it could have been worse. On the same day that my op-ed appeared in the NY Times, The Page 99 Test ran my blurb describing page 99 of The State and the Stork. So you were spared a separate blog entry, etc.
On Sunday, J, Betty, Dong, and I, among several others from MPI, ran a local Hobbylauf (another great word!) in a nice area of Tübingen called Lustnau. It was a sky-less, cool day -- in other words, perfect for running. We appreciated the moment of silence for the victims of the Boston bombings. And just before that, everyone did group calisthenics together, led by the race director! Oh to have had a camera at that moment.
Indeed, we were in culture shock all day. The differences between American and German races are nearly insurmountable. To begin with, the race was 9 Euros, t-shirt included. When was the last time you paid $12 for a race in the states? Now, it's true (as far as I can tell) that Germany lacks a charity race culture (because they actually have a state?), and so you could argue that the difference in cost disappears into taxes, but whatever: the race was cheap. And what percentage of the take at American races goes to charity in the end, anyway?
It's also true that the organizers saved money by not providing water or Gatorade after the race. No water at a restaurant is one thing, but none after a 7k/half marathon!? That's beyond the pale. They did offer a concoction called Gründel's Alkoholfrei, a nearly undrinkable apple-flavored brew. This is not a knock against alcohol-free beers overall, by the way. I'm known for liking them more than 99% of Americans, and they are widely consumed and delicious over here. I'm convinced that if an American brewery could make one almost as decent as any number of German ones, they would make a killing. But this one tasted like someone squeezed a rotten apple into a Miller 64. I can't blame the organizers, though: Gründel was obviously the main sponsor.
Beverages for sale, however, they had in abundance. One could have coffee (with cake) with porcelain cup and saucer. And, needless to say, they set up a temporary beer garden so one could have a vom Fass in a real glass. It's times like these I don't miss the states ...
Another check on the German side of the ledger: the race started at the civilized time of 1 p.m.
The run itself was a very fun one mostly through the woods, across the road from the Bebenhausen Monastery. Because my back has been acting up, I had no miles under my belt to speak off, so I aimed for a doable pace and popped Aleve liberally. And I felt pretty good considering the complete lack of training. But don't worry, this isn't going to become one of those blog entries where the blogger talks about how happy he is just to be out there, enjoying the gift of running and the fresh air, even if he'll never be as fast again, blah blah. Screw that. My goal remains a marathon p.r. next year. You can tell I was all business. No time to pose for frivolous pictures with a GPS watch to set.
The short and long routes split just after a sharp turn, so I couldn't tell which direction the racers in front of me went as they were quite a distance ahead of me. For a moment I thought I might have a shot at a top-3 finish, but the first guy I caught up with spoke English, of course, and naturally he said, "We are in 5th, so no podium for us." What else would he have said? Then again, at least according to Google Translate, the German word for podium is Das Podium. Proves how much I learned watching ski jumping all February in German.
I came through the finish line in about 29:55 (my official time was 30:01, as I didn't realize for a moment that the guy had to scan me with his scan gun), good enough for 5th place. Not sure if I won my age group. That doesn't seem to be a big thing here. Wie sagt man "age group medal"? My guess is that I'm about 25 seconds a mile off my peak.
J had a good race, too, even if Betty had unfortunately assured us that there were no hills. (Her half admission on the way to the race: "There might be a small hill.") In fact, the first 1.2 miles were pretty much straight uphill -- more elevation gain than the entire Twin Cities marathon. Betty has run too many ultras in Utah, I think.
Within 180 seconds after I finished, I had purchased and consumed the best burger of the trip so far -- as well as discovered how bad Gründel's Alkoholfrei is. Seems the key to enjoying burgers in Germany is to fail to get your heartrate past threshold for three months and then, as a result, to run exceptionally hard in a race. Otherwise, expect to be disappointed. I think I might just start a burger consulting company here ... definitely more money in that than in history. Let's compare the burger at High West Distillery, with caramelized onions, fried shallots, a mix of local cheeses, and a seeded brioche bun, topped with house-made pickles, to the burger at the BurgerMeister here in Tübingen, shall we?
It's times like these I miss the states ... Of course, we knew we were in trouble when BurgerMeister's sign (like its webpage) promised "Real American Food." Reminds me of signs in the Czech Republic circa 1993 ... It was also a bad omen that the TV in the place was set to a Croatian soccer channel. Do Croatian burger proprietors really think that Thousand Island dressing is what makes a burger American? Then again, the burgers have been no better anywhere else (I keep sadistically thinking I'll get lucky). To me the most outrageous thing is that we are currently living amidst the best bread on earth, and yet restaurants here nonetheless insist on serving their burgers on frozen and terrible buns (though I guess those are in fact American ...). Kind of like living in the breadbasket of the world in Manhattan, KS, and having no bakeries.
Anyway, for your next post-race recovery meal, I highly recommend the combination of a burger, french fries (why don't our races have deep fat fryers?!) and German apple cake, washed down with a glass of surprisingly good Swabian whiskey, in this case, Bosch Alb-Dinkel from Lenningen, too small to even have an image online.