Europe and Vienna Marathon 4.19.17

Is two weeks of carbo loading with beer and pretzels appropriate for a marathon? It is when you are in Bavaria! Seriously though, we needed a few extra calories because Brian and I were shivering most of the trip.

We experienced uncharacteristically cold weather in Munich and Vienna. All the locals said the weather was weird for late April. It is true that “April showers bring May flowers,” but we had rain, snow, hail and strong wind! The poor spring flowers that were already in bloom were very confused and so were we! Brian and I did run a couple of four milers at the Munich Olympic Park in 35 degree weather with light snow and it was pleasant. The soft layer of snow on the trees and ground was magical for two Californians!

However, the cold weather brought on some MS symptoms, like creepy, icy snakes crawling inside my shoulder and back, and a stiff right leg. We filled the days with a lot of sightseeing to push the pain out of my mind. We visited many museums, castles, cathedrals, breweries and bakeries. We strolled along grand boulevards and also learned about the atrocities of WWII. While it may seem like a downer to visit places like the Nazi Documentation Center, it adds perspective, not just to the vacation but in life. At the Nazi Center, I was a bit grumpy because I was hungry, but after seeing pictures of bone thin bodies heaped in a pile, I realized my problems were minuscule. I have no reason to complain about being hungry or even having snakes in my arm.

Our two friends from Hannover, Chris and Alex Seider, joined us for part of our trip. Chris is an engineer, drummer in a rock band, marathon runner and a homebrewer, among other things. Alex is an author of a fantastical series of novels, a singer/songwriter and painter. They are an über talented couple! Unfortunately, Chris had a terrible health issue the week before the vacation. His doctors advised him to not run the marathon, but he was cleared for travel and fun. It was great Chris and Alex still joined us and they certainly add an extra layer of adventure to our trip.

These pictures are just a small sampling of some of the sites we visited. After the adventure, when I am not so exhausted from fundraising, planning, travelling and running, I will create a photo gallery.

It was great to have our German friends, not just for their company, but also for translations. On the train from Neuschwanstein Castle to Munich, the train stopped in the middle of nowhere because they discovered an unattended bag. We had to get off and wait for police to come and inspect the suspicious luggage. All was dictated in German and Chris took the pressure off of my overactive mind by translating. I would have been worried about the one hour delay.

One big highlight of our trip was meeting Martin Geicsnek. He is an amazing person. We connected via the Austrian Multiple Sclerosis Society and he wrote a very inspirational email. He introduced himself to me as my twin in Austria. He has MS and not only has run 69 marathons, but he has also completed ultra-marathons, four Ironmen and climbed Kilimanjaro. Brian joked Martin and I are like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito in the movie Twins. “Honey, you're Danny!” I laughed and it still makes me laugh because it is so true!

 

We met Martin and his wife Helga, but only for a few hours. The visit was short because they were leaving the next morning for Hamburg to run the marathon. I learned so much from Martin in such little time. But when you are twins, it doesn't take long to realize the similarities and make a connection. He was diagnosed 21 years ago (I was diagnosed exactly half the number of years). We both ran our first marathon in October 2000. We also feel running is saving us from the negative impacts of MS. We have physical challenges, but we know we are luckier than most people with MS because we continue to run and push ourselves to fight the disease. Moreover, we both have incredibly supportive spouses. They make all the difference in the world for us, especially when running those last miles of a marathon by our sides!

The Vienna Marathon extended complimentary race entries to help alleviate the huge cost of this big adventure. I met Kathrin Widu, the lovely lady who helped with the gratis registration, at the expo. I was very happy to thank her in person.

Vienna is a gorgeous city filled with old buildings from the 1800’s. It was fitting to have the carbo-loading party in the gothic-inspired Vienna City Hall. It was also fitting our Kaiserschmarrn was accompanied by a string quartet. Eating this typical Austrian meal of shredded pancakes with plumb sauce to the tune of Ode to Joy was quite a joyful and regal experience!

 

 

Carbo loading did not end there, though. When we got home to our Airbnb apartment, Chris made a batch of Kartoffelpuffer, a typical German potato pancake meal. I guess you could say we had a true International House of Pancakes experience that day!

Grate 6 potatoes and 1 onion. Stir in 2 eggs, 1/3 c flour and ½ tsp salt. Cook pancakes.

I slept pretty well the night before the marathon which was a surprise. I went to bed anxious because the weather was supposed to be in the low 40’s with winds up to 25 mph. When we woke up at 5:30AM the sun was out and I felt positive after my second cup of coffee. I put on my flowered Running Skirt, matching teal top, sparkly teal BIC Band and old, ugly red throw-away sweater which I never threw away!

When we arrived the marathon site there was no cover from the cold, swirling wind. There were guards inside the U-bhan station shoveling runners out the door. Brian and I thought about using our travel pass to just ride the subway up and down until marathon start. But, Brian espied the perfect shelter from the wind. It was a decagon structure that we could walk around to block the whirling wind no matter the direction it blew. It was perfect!

The marathon start blared a mix of classical and pop music. There was high energy from the crowd. I particularly like that the runners were unencumbered and peed everywhere and anywhere. Unlike Tokyo, I was able to let it go without worry!

One issue I had with the event were the half marathon runners. The half marathon is my favorite distance. However, I do not like running a full marathon with a huge lot of half marathoners, especially when we all take off at the same time. Brian and I started in the proper corral, but there were 20,000 halfers dangerously weaving around the 5,500 full marathon runners. The half marathon is a different mentality and I think it is dangerous to mix the two races into one start line. This was the only part that I did not enjoy about our Vienna Marathon experience. It did stress me out the first 10 kilometers and, coupled with the cold wind, gave me MS pain on the right side of my face, arm and back, but I tried hard to concentrate on the positive. It also helped Chris and Alex were our cheerleaders and gave us encouragement in four spots along the course!

Vienna Marathon is a Gold Label race, which means adhering to requirements like precise course measurements, aid stations situated at the exact meter, and a suitable ratio of volunteers to runners. We really noticed the great attention to detail from the organizing committee and it was much appreciated. The course entertainment came in the form of samba dancers, taiko drums and classical music blaring from speakers as we ran through a lush park. Vienna Marathon is a classy race!

It sprinkled seven times during our run, but each bout was very brief. However, there were times when the wind was so strong I had to change my gait and push off sideways to cut the wind. I knew I would finish under five hours and I had hopes of finishing in 4:42:19. Why? Because I'm a numbers nerd. I'm 42 years old and Vienna Marathon was my 42nd 42.195 kilometer race since I was diagnosed with MS in October 2006. The last five kilometers was into the wind and I was fading. I know a lot of people say it is all mental, but that is not true when you are sucking wind and your knee and hip hates you! Nevertheless, I am extremely thrilled we finished in 4:46:19!

We celebrated our sub-five hour marathon victory at a microbrewery away from the city center (i.e. tourists). As we enjoyed our brews in the biergarten, I was glad we were outside in the cold air. My face started to get hot as emotion suddenly overcame me. I pressed my fingers to my eyeballs to stop the tears. The thought in my mind was, “Would I give all this up… the marathons, the traveling, and the adventure… for perfect health?” If you would have asked me three years ago, it would have been a resounding “Yes!” Now I don't know if I would trade it all for perfect health. It's not that I like MS, but the disease has made me stronger and I hate admitting that. Brian said not to dwell on a wish that I cannot have and he is correct. But, it does make me reflect on the things I have accomplished and it motivates me to look forward to all the things I will do in the future. I’m going for 8 continents!

 

I cannot run at all without my Ankle Foot Orthotic. I want to give a huge thank you to Ara Mirzaian at Hanger Clinic and Wade Bader at Kinetic Research for keeping me in the game.

Thank you Challenged Athletes Foundation for honoring me again this year with a 2017 scholarship. This will greatly help with the next marathon in Christchurch!

Thank you XCom Global for the mobile wifi devices. You powered my daily Facebook posts and the connection was really handy for travel planning.

Thank you Perfect Bar and Nuttzo for fueling our days. We are always on the go and need wholesome food to keep us moving. Perfect Bar was perfect for in-between-museum meals and is also our pre- and post-race nutrition. Nuttzo supplemented our beer and pretzel dinners!