Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Graffiti tour and last day in Germany

I wanted to take a graffiti and street art tour but I was worried that I'd be too tired because it was 4 hours long. "Why don't you DNF the tour?" asked Pankers. That was a great idea. DNF is a race term that means DId Not Finish. It's my vacation, if I want to go to only two hours of a tour, them I will! 

After my friends left for Oktoberfest and still undecided, I wandered around town and decided that if I made it in time, I'd go. If not, oh well. On the way to Alexanderplatz I stopped in the Ampelman store for some shopping. Ampelman is the little traffic light man in old east Berlin. They saved him as a nostalgic touch to the city. 

I went by this sign and later learned that it meant "water where the fire hose water comes from"

Alexanderplatz, the meeting place of our tour. 

I explained to our guide, Adrien, that I had errands to run and only had 2 hours. He was fine with that. In our group was some kids from the hostel, some Australians and a chain-smoking Russian girl with fake, injected lips who talked about clubbing and how amazing the clubs in Berlin are.  She was friendly, though. 

We went to parts of town together on the train - places I'd never venture to on my own. We had to walk up and down tons of stairs. Walking down stairs the day after a marathon is a special kind of hell. 

This artist formed an important graffiti gang called the crazy young kids or something like that. He painted two-handed fists around the city from 1995 to 2004. He invented a special hand cart that enabled him to roll up and down the subway tracks at night to paint. They were the premier graffiti group in the early 2000s. The groups formed little families and everyone had a job to do when a piece went up because they had to be painted so fast. Some people watched for police, some painted, etc. 

This is an example of a heaven piece. You climb up to the roof of a building (or break in) and paint down with big rollers. The artist's nickname issue Poet. The piece below was spray painted with a fire extinguisher, which I guess is harder than it looks. Artist's name is Just. Poet and Just are famous Berlin graffiti guys. 

This was hand-painted by repelling down the building. When the spotlight of the car dealership next door shines on it, it looks like he's really landing on the moon. 

This guy is an up and coming graffiti artist that can paint incredibly fast and created his own font (hard to see). He also repels up and down buildings. 

People don't spend the money to remove the graffiti so much in Berlin because the artists are so relentless - they just paint it back. It's also not usually tied to gangs and crime as it is in Chicago. It's more "art" here. Not universally loved but more universally tolerated as part of the patchwork of the city. People paint over the graffiti with other graffiti, though. It's accepted that a piece could change over time. 

This guy paints indigenous animals that were forced out by the cities developing. He travels around the world and paints different animals native to that area. I thought this was fascinating. 

This was part of a big warehouse area that hosts artists. This one is from an Israeli artist and addresses some of Germany's more painful history:

Behind the warehouse was this strange little photo booth that actually had people in it taking pictures! I can not stop looking at this picture. 

This artist takes the environment into account. When the pipe drips and freezes, it deliberately looks like snot! 

I forget what all the ants mean here. I was just so tired and didn't take notes. 

I went home and read. I walked by my favorite new restaurant

But decided to go for German instead for my last night in Germany.

Next: Croatia 

Marathon #5

Warning - this post could be extremely boring unless you want to hear me drone on about running. 

I went to bed Saturday night with hopes of sleeping 5 hours. They say the night before the night before the race is most important for sleep - and I slept great Friday. 5 hours is really all you can hope for. 

I woke up before the alarm and ate breakfast with Laura and Sean. We had only about 20 minutes to eat, and I eat a LOT. I shoveled as much food as I could into my mouth and we met Pankers to walk to the train. I wasn't feeling nervous, but Laura and I kept wondering "what if we lost all of our fitness during the taper?" Usually a runner tapers a few weeks before a marathon to rest and store energy. I typically gain a couple of pounds during the taper but this time I didn't. My insane appetite went away for a week or two.  You aren't moving as much, so you feel lazy, like you aren't doing anything to help yourself. Your instinct is to "cram for the exam" and you can't. 

During the taper it's common to get moody or emotional. My two half ironman friends Ann and Anna were laughing about how stupid tv shows or commercials were making them weepy the week before their event.  

We lost Sean at his gear check - men and women have different gear checks at this race.  We found our gear check (they put the women in the woods - women comprise only about 25-30% of this race)
and got in our corrals, laughing at the awesome German announcer. Every race should be officiated in a German accent! 

They were playing pop music to pump us up, and an aerobics instructor got up on a platform to give us funny warm up dances to do. And everybody danced along in the corral. One of those "only in Germany" moments. It was hilarious! The elites took off, then the sub 4 hour people, then we moved up to the starting line while they played a dance version of "zorba's dance", the Greek party song. Everybody clapped along in time. The energy was amazing and I was elated and so excited.  They announced all the major visiting countries who were participating. Denmark, Poland, England and the United States when I yelled a loud WOOO! The energy of 40,000 people in the starting corral is just so overwhelming. 

We got to cross the starting line and I turned my iPod on. My goal was to run 9:40 to 9:45 miles the whole way. My new garmin watch helped a lot. I didn't have to worry about kilometers or think about anything. I would take it mile by mile. Once that mile was finished, it was over and I'd start again. No dwelling about the past mile or thinking about future miles. Be a robot and just follow the watch. That was a new strategy for me. 

Miles 1 - 5 i tried to feel loose and slow down. I always run too fast at first and fade later.  I needed to learn that lesson 

Miles 5 - 11 I felt fantastic. Nothing hurt. I could go like this all day!

Miles 11 - 15 ok, past the halfway mark - got that out of the way. Still feeling good but struggling really hard to keep up the pace after stopping for water and powerade. The watch told me exactly how much aid station cost me. I knew I needed to have water, but I had no time to dawdle. It was slam the water down and catch up. I was noticing all these tall, muscular Northern European men and proud that I could run with them. Still thinking positive! 

Mile 16 - a stupid power gel display. They were handing out large tearable pouches of power gel. I wanted one and could not rip it open. I wasted so much energy trying to rip that stupid packet open or tear it with my teeth. I was so annoyed. Other people were able to open theirs, and all the spilled gel made the street sticky for at least a kilometer. You could hear everybody's shoes sticking to the pavement and making sticky, crackling sounds. Running on sticky concrete wasted so much energy. But after that mile was over, per my rules I left it behind. Leave the frustration of that stupid mile behind and start new on 17. 

Mile 17 - 20 the crowds were amazing! I am just not the kind of runner that likes crowds or feeds off the noise. I do better getting into my own head and focusing. The iPod was a great idea. I could tune everything out. Starting to feel a little tired but still good! 

Mile 20 - I reminded myself that this was usually when things fall apart. I was still able to run mile 19 in about 9:30. The next few miles were miraculously OK. 

Mile 23.5 - I just ran out of steam. I slowed down to a 10 or 10:30 pace. My hamstrings felt soooo bad. They had never hurt before a few weeks ago. At least my stupid plantar fasciitis felt OK. Everyone was hurting. I was actually passing people. I saw people walking. Unless I'm injured, I never walk. It's mile 24, it's supposed to hurt like a motherfucker! If it doesn't, you are either running an ultra or you aren't trying hard enough, I say.  At least pretend to run. 

Mile 24 - 26 I looked at my watch and finally knew that if I could just run 11 minute miles and under, I would PR. Just 20 more minutes of this wretched feeling. Just 10 more. There's Brandenburg gate, there's the finish line! 

Result - 4:15:58. Goal was 4:15. I'm totally OK with that! 

I met Erika, Pankers, Laura, Kimberley and Derek in a beer garden. 

Erika and Pankers both PR'd and Boston-qualified. They are both so fast! 

Laura and I realized that we didn't turn our chips in. We'd be charged 25 euros each if we didn't. We decided to limp back to the race and turn them in. It took forever. We got lost. Finally we convinced some race employees to take them from us.  Now we had the daunting task of taking the train home (read: steps, lots of steps!) I said "I wish we had a riskshaw to take us home" a few minutes later, we SAW A RICKSHAW and a nice lady biked us home for 16 euros. It was worth every penny and so much fun. 

We couldn't walk far so we drank beer in the hostel bar across the street. Later some of us got curry wurst and I accidentally spilled some on my bed while I was eating and it left a yellow curry stain. It was a great end to a day I'll always remember! I love running around one of my favorite cities in the world.