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June « 2009 « Caroline Koll's Blog


Archive for June, 2009

Bean makes strange and inspiring discoveries in Switzerland

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

So the Bean left Africa to get away from the misery that is winter. Funny, what is winter in Africa is summer in the Alps of Switzerland…
For those that are aquainted, they are well aware that the Bean has a serious allergy to cold and is likely to dress up as the Michelin man just to eat an ice-cream! Well, wanting to pack “light” and demonstrate to the Wongstar as to how it should be done, I went minimalistic when it came to warm clothes – I mean you shouldn’t need more than a light fleece in a Swiss summer would you?? As I have come to realise, it is cold most of the time in the Swiss mountains, so my wardrobe is mostly limited to my track pants, one pair of tights and “the fleece”. As for training clothes, I had resorted to using newspaper barriers and sandwich bags on my feet!


Luckily, Swiss athlete Nicola has taken pity on me and my roommate LC (from the Philippines) and sent us a big box of WARM training clothes with instructions as to how to install the shoe covers! Thank you Nicola… we will lend you some flip-flops when you come and visit us!

So, some of the strange and amazing discoveries that I have made in Switzerland so far:

The Trolley:
When I first arrived I got on a two carriage “chocolate and cream” (as the Boss calls it), it was all cute going through the town, until I realised that we were going to go up the mountain (a 80% gradient it seemed…) in it! I clung to my seat for fear that we might roll backwards! On closer inspection I noticed that it is a major engineering feat – it actually works on a series of interlinking grips, and it hooks its way up the mountain – amazing!!!



Given that South Africans never see snow, this was a big one for me! I mentioned to Erika on a run the other day that I just had to make contact with the stuff that adorns our Christmas cards. On this particular day, it was rather warm and all of a sudden, Erika points at some grey stuff, that I thought was concrete stuck to the slope, and says “That is snow!!” Well, the Bean was amazed at how it could still be there and it was well over the 25deg mark? I also realised that you cannot walk on frozen snow with Avia Bolts and so I skied 30cm!! Erika assured me that it was very poor quality, but Bean was in AWE!!


Found this one very amusing – one of the neighbours had this outside his house – a pile of perfectly good (and new!) sports equipment outside his house with the sign “help yourself!” . This would not last 1 minute in South Africa! I was tempted to take a pair of ski’s that still had the price tags on them…


The Horse Shoe:

Ok, I have a sentimental streak, but I always think it there is no harm in hanging on to serendipitous finds – who knows what charms they carry? So, when I tripped over a horse shoe while running the trail with Scott, I insisted there and then that it could bring me some luck and I was keeping it! I must tell you that a horseshoe (covered in cow poo and mud) is quite a weighty object to carry for 6k in your hand! I have now cleaned it up nicely, and I am sure there is significance, given that the Boss used to train horses!


The Large Hairy Animal:

Missing my usual contact with my animals, I went on an exploratory run to find what furry friends Switzerland beholds. I found this guy just down the road – not sure exactly what he is, but he was massive, very hairy and was eating grass. So, all I can say is that he is a very muscular vegetarian??



This is a fantastic Swiss drink that I have when I don’t need the Red Ambulance (Coke). No one can explain as to EXACTLY what it is made from, but the best explanation is that it is made from milk serum?!? It really tastes like any great cold drink, has bubbles and is apparently quite good for you!


Ovaltine Spread:

Being a hard core Nutella fan, I was a bit reluctant when Swiss Nicola pointed out this one in the supermarket. It is pure heaven! It is like Nutella but has delicious Ovaltine crunchy thingies in it that make it just that much more delectable. I try to spread it on toast, but generally I just eat it out the jar!


Living in a cloud:

When I open my balcony door in the mornings, I often feel like I am living in a cloud! Life is for dreaming, experiencing and doing what you want. When people tell you that your dreams are nothing more than living on a cloud, look up because that’s where I am!


Beans first 70.3 – Rapperswil Switzerland

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Thank you host family Helbling!
Thank you host family Helbling!

Well, I have been in Switzerland for just over a whirlwind week now, and I had a number of new experiences already! The most significant was competing in my very first half Ironman! True, I tried one earlier in the year and was unable to start the run because of that stupid accident I had the week before, so as you can imagine I was keen to get my first one under the belt! It is quite odd that I have never done a half, but have done 6 Ironman races to date! The reason is simply opportunity, as in fact we only have one race on the whole of the African Continent….
Last Saturday morning, I left for Lake Zurich (Rapperswil Jona) with Erika who generously offered me a ride to the race. The weather was less than lovely for this African, who has been wearing her whole wardrobe (as much as a 20kg luggage allowance allows), for the past week! Rain and cold are definitely not race conditions that I am accustomed to…
The race venue, despite being under dark menacing clouds was lovely – the picture post card of Switzerland. I was totally amazed at the stands at the race expo – I have never seen such a choice of race gear and was just itching to flex that credit card! I settled on some Powerbars that were on special for 1 Swiss Franc – a bargain for someone bearing South African Rand power. Then it was off to the race briefing, which turned out to be more amusing than one would think, when it was discovered that we had all indeed received the incorrect swim caps – it was like a game of Bingo when the athlete was matched up with the correct swim cap! Lucky Erika ended up with the fastest male swimmer’s cap, and she wasn’t keen on giving it up! While listening to the details of the course, I was a bit peckish, so started snacking on one of my discounted bars. It was only once I had gobbled up the whole thing that I realised that it was a special edition – double caffeine! Oh boy! For someone that never even drinks coffee this was serious business, I was going to be wired the whole night!
I headed off to my homestay – the Helbling family, to whom I owe a huge thank you for welcoming me into their home and the lovely chocolate (How did they know????). They ensured that I had a quiet and comfortable room in which to prepare for the race..
Well, that night, once I had drifted off to la-la land (eventually), the caffeine bar came back with a vengeance – I woke up sweating from a terrible nightmare! It is every triathlete’s worst dream – I am standing at the swim start, when I suddenly notice that I am the only one not wearing a wetsuit! In a panic, I am shouting at everyone to please wait, and hold the start while I run back up to transition to get my wetsuit! Needless to say I am left standing on the beach…
After waking up every hour after that for fear of being “late”, it is finally time to go down to the race start. Not raining, Bean is a happy triathlete! Got there super early, so had plenty of time to put on my Blue Seventy wetsuit (I think I was the first person to have their wetsuit on!). It was announced that the water temperature was 15degrees! That is the record coldest water I have ever swum in! I decided to warm up on land and retain as much body heat until I had to get in. It was glacial, from the start of the swim I just could not catch my breath, and this was to have plagued me for the entire swim. I would have done well to get a Blue Seventy hoodie – I NOW know what those are for!


The bike course was a stunning, double loop over varied terrain. Once my legs had warmed up a bit on the second lap, I was thoroughly enjoying the climbs, and managed to pass a few people.
The sun came out just in time for the run and so did my happy legs! Having no one close enough to catch on the run I just ran as hard as I could, trying to pass as many of the guys as I could. The run course was one of te most fun I have ever done – alot of off-road paths, lots of turns, cobbles and the highlight – a huge flight of stairs with a great band playing at the top!
I finished in 9th place, not a great performance at all, but some European race experience, and of course, my first half Ironman!