Sunday, October 10, 2010

Frankfurt TDY

I'm currently assigned 2 weeks worth of work in Frankfurt, Germany. I'm here with 5 other co-workers, and most of the time we do on these trips is spent in a very inhospitable environment -- a computer data center.

If you've never been in one, they are not so bad for the first few hours, but after 10 hours a day, they really wear on the soul. By the third day or so, we usually shout, "Booo! Datacenter! Boooo!" Some of the work is quite manual and blue-collar. We take the shipments of the new servers, unpack them, collect all of the packing materials, break down the cardboard, stack the new computer servers in a stack. Usually on the second day, we rack them and stack them into the appropriate places in the rack. It is not unlike a very large Lego construction project.

By the third day, we are plugging all of the power plugs into the right places, and starting to plug in the network cables into all the servers. This usually lasts until Friday, when we are done with most of the physical work, and start doing the logical work. Installing operating systems, updating BIOS, etc. Since there are more than 100 servers at a site, it is quite an undertaking!

As I said before, the life in the data center is quite the harsh, inhospitable environment. The cold aisles -- where all the incoming dry, air-conditioned air blows into the data center is cold and uncomfortably dry. All of the computers face the same way, and output the hot air out the back of the servers. On the side of the aisle where all of the hot air is blown out is called the "hot aisle". It is a nice place to warm up, for when you spend too much time in the cold aisle, but the air is even more dry and uncomfortable.

It's a good thing we get a little free time to get away from this inhospitable environment!

Of course, I spend my time running. Since I am now at the point in my marathon training program where I am doing peak mileage, I have to find some nice places to run. Unfortunately, our hotel is in the outskirts of Frankfurt -- in a suburb called "Nordwest Zentrum", which is also the location of a very nice shopping mall. We never saw such a shopping mall in Switzerland, except in Z├╝rich. I'm sure that if there was such a place to shop in Switzerland, Stacy would have liked the experience of living in Swizterland much more than she already did.

Unfortunately, Nordwest Zentrum is quite far away from the data center, and doesn't have much of a night life. There are only two restaurants open after hours, and quite frankly: We've used them up and are quite tired of them. (We get back from the data center quite late sometimes, and if there's nothing open, we starve!) Fortunately, it's not far from some really good running routes. It didn't take long for me to discover that going East or South will take me directly to a tributary to the Main river in Frankfurt, called the Nidda.

The Nidda has a running/biking/hiking trail that follows it for miles and miles. This Saturday, we took the day off to get some recharge time. I took the morning to sleep in, and then started on my journey after noon. Here's my GPS watch's record of the run, up until the point where the battery ran out.

Along the way, I found this absolutely lovely spot to refill my water supplies. For these long runs, I need to bring along a lot of water, for there is no telling how much I will be able to refill along the way. Along the southern route, there is nothing to drink, and there wasn't any water fountains anywhere to be found for seven miles going north. Just north of the town of Bad Vilbel, I found a fountain.

At first glance, this fountain was just like many of the water fountains with potable water are easily found in Switzerland. An exception to this is that one must press a button to get water from this fountain, where the Swiss fountains were free-flowing all the time. I had a water bottle that wasn't quite empty yet, so I emptied it out, and filled it up.

As I was about to cap the water bottle, I looked carefully into the bottle, and noticed lots of things floating in it. Thousands of tiny white things, and some brown flecks swirling around the bottom. At this point, I wasn't so sure if this was a good idea to pour out my perfectly good water, and replace it with this questionable water. I looked around to see if any of the locals were laughing at me, or horrified to think that this person could be filling up his water bottle with this well-known potable water. I saw no such thing.

I looked around and found this sign:
The first few sentences of the sign say that there is a significant amount of iron in this water. Also, I recognized the brand name of the fountain -- it's the same brand-name of the water that you get in the restaurants around Frankfurt! I've already drunk many bottles of Hassia while taking a break at the data center, so I was already familiar and fond of the taste of Hassia sparkling water. Since Hassia is sparkling water, that would explain the zillions of tiny white things floating in my water -- they were tiny sparkling bubbles of CO2. Here is a picture of a local filling up his water bottle with

For the first tenth of a mile after the re-fill, my water bottle hissed from the agitated carbonated water, as it spilled all over my running belt. It never occurred to me that carbonated water would do that on a run, since I've never run with carbonated water before. In any event, the carbonated water lost most of its zing after a few miles, and was not bubbly and sparkly by the time I consumed the rest of it for the remainder of my run.

The run was 19 miles in total. That's the longest I've gone yet. I could have gone another few miles for sure, but since the majority of the trail is made of gravel, my feet -- wearing the Vibram Five Finger Sprints, were pretty much done for the day. My legs still had miles left, but the feet did not.

The marathon training plan called for only 18 miles, and this is my planned maximum amount of mileage per week. I'll repeat this week's run plan on the next week, then I will start what's called "the taper", where the mileage drops off significantly in preparation for the marathon. The Marine Corps Marathon is 31 Oct 2010. According to different calculations, since I'm running 35 miles per week, at my weight I'm burning between 4000 and 7000 Kcal per week. Once I start the taper, reducing to 20 then 15 miles per week, I'll have to make sure that I reduce the intake appropriately.