Monday, August 20, 2012

Trans Europe Footrace 2012 stage 2

The runners have now negotiated about 3% of their journey to Gibraltar, after an increasingly warm day on the Jutland peninsula. I was sad to bid them all farewell on the road today, as I cycled off to Aalborg and towards home. Some were looking very good, some are already distinctly appearing to suffer. An uncomfortable night on a gym floor and this morning's 4 a.m. wake-up call vividly reminded me of the depressing emotional lows of transcontinental stage running. I have some twinges of regret that I'll not reach Gibraltar with them, but I am very happy that I'm not going to be reliving this morning in Groundhog Day fashion for the next nine weeks.

Here's yesterday's start line in Skagen, with race director Ingo Schulze on the right and my friend Christian Marti on the extreme left:

And some friends Robert Wimmer (Germany), Trond Sjåvik (Sweden), Jean-Benôit Jaouen (France) and Neil Bryant (UK). Best of luck, gentlemen!

And finally...a photo from the center of Aarhus. They do love their bikes here!

Location:Aarhus, Denmark

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Trans Europe 2012

The race is underway! Top marks go to the Japanese for zany running attire:

And to Stéphane Péllissier for kicking off with the first stage win, 4hr 41 for 56km:

Location:Øster Vrå, Denmark

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Denmark has it all...

...even camels!

As I rolled into Skagen after 5 hours in the saddle, the first two people I see running down the road happen to be my Swiss friends Christian and Ursula Marti. (I ran many miles with Christian during TransEurope 2009.) Now I'm relaxing with beer and pizza at prices that could compete with the London Olympics while they dilligently continue to run.

As I woke this morning, rain was absolutely hurling down. There's nothing like a wet saddle to start off the day. But by the time I got underway at 7am, the storms had abated. The cycle paths were fantastic and the hills very moderate. What a great place to ride a bike. Even slogging along on Old Bessie, more than 50 miles passed very comfortably and quickly. And now - defying the forecast of more storms and rain - the sun is shining and the Danes and I are happy.

Location:Skagen, Denmark

Friday, August 17, 2012

Denmark - a well kept secret

Well, I'm seriously impressed. This country is really nice - friendly, happy people; a great road, rail and public transport system; and miles of gently rolling farmland as far as the eye can see. Maybe a bit bleak in the winter months...but today was absolutely perfect.

Here's my carbon fibre and titanium time trial bike ... er, 5-speed, steel "sit up and beg" rental ... outside a typical Danish church. :

And here's the gorgeous B&B I found on the Internet, a huge horse farm dating back to the 1870's, wonderfully modernized and updated, for the princely sum of $35 a night:

Fifty miles or so to ride in the morning to reach Skagen. I'm praying for no flats or mechanical problems, as "Old Bessie" came with no repair kit, pump or spare tube. What are the chances? Thinking positive...


The land of Hamlet

Denmark has the world's highest level of income equality, and (not coincidentally?) ranks as the happiest and least corrupt country in the world. Maybe those folks who wrote The Spirit Level were on to something?

The population of Denmark is 5.5 million, and they manage to kill 28 million pigs between them each year. Five each, basically. Pig happiness is actually increasing, as now pregnant sows have to be kept in "loose housing systems". But they are probably still less happy than the Danes who convert them into bacon.

Danish pastries are called wienerbrød (Viennese bread; in Vienna, the danish is referred to as Plundergebäck or Golatschen.) They appear to be everywhere here:

Well, that's all I know about Denmark so far. Buses, trains and a rented bicycle will now transport me to the start of TransEurope Footrace 2012 in Skagen, in the northeast corner of the Jutland peninsula. The race starts on Sunday. It will be odd being there and not running, but relaxing and peaceful at the same time. I know half of the field of fifty runners from previous multiday races, and am looking forward to seeing them all again.

Location:Aarhus airport, Denmark

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympic men's marathon

Great weather for spectators, but slightly warm for runners. It was another wonderfully organized, friendly event with massive crowds.

These guys fly. It's salutary to remember that the guys at the back of the field who appear to be simultaneously dying and running in slow motion are actually running a 2hr 40 pace, which would be a winning time at most local events.

Best moment of the day was a group of rowdy but well-behaved Spaniards chanting "arigato! arigato! arigato!" to a big group of Japanese, and then dressing them up in their red and yellow wigs. Then they started chanting "Spanish weather! Spanish weather!" and "Thank you, London! Thank you, London!"...and magnanimously even "Team GB!" once or twice. One of them had a race on the actual course with a volunteer, before going on to mock propose to another volunteer. A brilliant moment, while we waited for the skinny Africans to fly by on their third lap.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Olympics - Women's wrestling

This is one of the oddest sporting experiences of my life, to be sure. Three bouts going on at any one time, and I have absolutely NO idea (a) who is from where, (b) who is winning, and (c) what they're trying to do to each other.

It's noisy, some people are clapping and cheering, but there are many neophytes in the audience like me sitting in stony silence. I want to enjoy it ... but it's unfathomable. After ten minutes, my eyes have glazed over.

One small, random point of interest is that my noisiest neighbors happen to be from the Swedish town of Gellivare. (They seem to be intoxicated. Only for Scandinavians could the $8 beer here seem like a good deal.) Gellivare was an overnight stop during TransEurope 2009, after a particularly brutal 60-mile stage. Ah, memories!

Gellivare is an iron mining town in the far north. Much of the town collapsed a few decades back due to the network of tunnels beneath the town. It is noted for a high incidence of a genetic disorder which causes insensitivity to pain. Handy for wrestlers, maybe? Who knows?

Location:ExCel Centre, London

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Napoleon Ultra 2012

To commemorate the bicentennial of the disaster which was Napoleon's advance on Moscow and subsequent retreat to Paris, we are hosting a stage run from Moscow, Texas to Paris, Texas. We will leave from the French Legation in Austin on November 30, and then complete the run in 7 days - 230 miles averaging 33 miles per day - from December 1 - 7. All are welcome! More information is at