2018 – My Masterplan

Published on 19th of January, 2018

My Masterplan for 2018

EU Challenge!
EU Challenge!

The beginning of a new year constitutes a good opportunity to ponder what kind of year it should be. Sure, it’s just an artificially thought out measurement and New Year’s Resolutions have the public image of never working out, but for me personally they have provided additional value to my life.

Without thinking about what I would like to achieve in the future, I tend to just don’t achieve anything. And that’s no fun!

So I continue my tradition and follow up on last year’s Masterplan post.

The Plain Plan

Primary goals:

  1. Complete the EU Challenge at Brussels Marathon
  2. Going Ultra at Megamarsch and Rennsteig
  3. Triathlons: The Hamburg Double & a few more

Secondary goals:

  1. Eating strictly vegan for a month
  2. Eating no food containing more than 5% of industrial sugar for a month
  3. Do 200 7-Minute-Workouts
  4. Run at least 12 full marathons

Now that we got this out of the way, we can dive more into the details of how I got there!

Starting with the secondary goals.

If you’ve read my recent review of 2017 you might know that I failed all my secondary goals. As I’ve proven in Cologne, I don’t like to just let that slip and continue on, but I would rather try again and see if I can do it next time. After all, the motivation is higher now that I’ve failed. Mentally, the tasks should be easier to accomplish by now. Right?

Catching up on 2017

My three secondary goals were these:

  1. Eating strictly vegan for a month
  2. Eating no food containing industrial sugar for a month
  3. Doing 365 7-Minute-Workout routines

I failed them all but I have learned a lot. So I will try the first two again exactly like I tried them and change the third goal to 200 workouts instead of 365. I secretly hope that I’ll still make it to 365 but have my doubts. 200 seems very doable, though. And if I wouldn’t set any goal to hold myself accountable, I would probably reach just about zero on December 31st.

Goal 1: What Is the Problem with Veganism?

Well, no problem really, except convenience
Well, no problem really, except convenience

I’ve set the goal to do this as strictly as possible. And once you do that you’ll find yourself googling just about every single food item you would buy or which you are about to consume and learn about many curious ingredients which may or may not be made of some kind of product of animal origin.

Check this particular problem: Many candy items contain a tiny amount of tartaric acid as colorizing additive. This is usually a byproduct from wine production, in which gelatin is usually used to clear out lint materials to make the wine see-through. Gelatin is made of connective tissue from pigs, mostly. See how complicated this can be?

Of course, there are helping websites out there which make it a lot easier to find out the origin of the thousands of chemical additives in our daily foods, but they also just scratch the surface. As I’ve found out, lots of producers don’t even know how the food they’re selling is made. So you can’t even trust their judgment all the time.

Not to mention going to restaurants and asking the staff. They sometimes don’t even know that a salad containing beef filet stripes isn’t even vegetarian. It’s a “salad”, after all, right?

This makes it very tough to be strictly vegan. You can basically just do your best and cross your fingers.

The best bet is to just eat fruit and vegetables as close to their natural state as possible. But even then you can run into problems. Bananas are sometimes sprayed with animal-based chemicals to make them endure the transport across the oceans to us consumers. You can never know for sure what has been done to your food.

How About the Main Animal-Based Foods?

Milk: I used to drink a liter of milk on every morning, for some reason. It got successfully replaced by a banana-apple-spinach smoothie I now prepare at breakfast since as early as fall of 2016. That was a huge factor. Now, I still enjoy a milkshake from time to time, but it’s easy to say no.

Cheese: I enjoy cheese as much as the next guy, and this is the product that most people mention when saying why they could never be vegan. But I’ve found that if you’re talking about cheese on a well-made sandwich or vegan burger, it’s often possible to just remove that and don’t even notice. Meanwhile, the industry of vegan artificial cheeses has blown up in the recent years and the products have become really good. If you can, try a nuts-based cheese-alternative. I’ve found them to taste nicer compared to the soy-based ones. Of course, nothing can replace a well-prepared cheese platter at a nice restaurant, though. This is just out the window.

Other milk products: Cream, yoghurts, that kind of thing: these are especially easy to substitute, if you need to do that for a recipe, for example. In fact, I now even prefer the alpro brand soy yoghurts to the real thing. They’re just as fresh and creamy, while containing a lot more nutrients than the products taken from a cow’s secretion.

Eggs: These were tough for me to avoid. I really like a fried or cooked egg during dinner. And there’s nothing plant-based that comes close here. If you need the egg for baking, you can substitute it quite well with plant-based products, but the plain raw egg is just unique to the kingdom of animals, of course.

Leather and wool: While wool production technically leaves the animals alive, leather doesn’t. So I already tried to eliminate leathers from the products I buy when I started being a vegetarian two years ago. Not so easy – try finding good warm shoes which aren’t made of leather! Or a good looking belt. Going vegan also eliminates other products, like the ones made from wool. I didn’t throw away any things I already owned to replace them – that’s a bit too radical and also not the energy-conserving way of doing things. But whenever I buy something new, I now examine it specifically for the use of animal products. This really expands the knowledge about everyday things.

But It Just Became a Nuisance

Although I’ve learned so much about our daily food and how it’s made, I got more and more stressed about finding out about all these additives.

Additionally, I have to admit, I just missed some items quite a bit. Mainly our homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies that I make with my kids on many weekends, a buttery Croissant in the mornings sometimes, but also just candy.

One giant cookie to rule them all
One giant cookie to rule them all

The New Plan

In 2017 I started this experiment on June 1st, and four days into it I successfully finished the mentioned 12 kilometer swim in Cologne on a vegan diet, and on the 11th I finished the IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau on a vegan diet as well. It was no problem, I had lots of energy and felt great. But on the 13th I had the first strong thoughts about giving up this experiment, and on the 15th I did just that. Halfway there, I’m sure it’ll be no problem to reach the full month this year. Now I know about the complications before it and can prepare in a better way.

Sophie, who had done the challenge together with me, had it particularly hard because of her additional coeliac disease – eating gluten is slowly destroying her intestines – and jumped at the idea of calling the challenge off. We both laughed when we made the decision.

I haven’t yet set a month for the experiment, but I’m aiming for March.

Goal 2: Avoiding Products with Industrial Sugars

No more metal festival themed wedding cakes for a month
No more metal festival themed wedding cakes for a month

While this was easier than doing the vegan challenge, it also presented a bunch of similar problems. Right on the first day I was at a kindergarten party and a friend handed me a slice of cake. I mindlessly ate it and afterwards remembered: oh yes, this had lots of sugar in it!

These situations also present you with a slight social challenge: Declining with “Sorry, I’m on a no-sugar diet!” makes people at least raise their eye-brows if it’s said by a 1.90 meter tall, 75 kg weighing fit man in his 30s. But I’ve found it easy to just say the truth: “I’m on an experiment – this month I’m trying to not eat any sugars just to see how that goes.” – People respond in a very different way to that. Mainly with interest and follow-up questions. Some even said they would try that as well, just for fun. For me this has nothing to do with dieting.

What Other Types of Mistakes Can You Run Into?

With kids, it’s particular difficult. I usually finish most things they eat and cannot finish themselves. If it’s an ice-cream, I’m even happier. Getting out of this for a month is tough because I would have to throw that half-eaten food away instead, and it just feels wrong to me to waste perfectly good food.

Second, in our office, people sometimes leave some candy or cake on the kitchen counter. I usually also just mindlessly take some. This challenge made me realize this behavior of mine and on a few occasions I noticed my arm reaching out and then stopping to think. It’s fun if something shakes up your routines like this!

Another thing that sustainably changed my behavior during this experiment was the way I perceive sweets. My morning smoothies always contained a hint of agave syrup as sweetener, but after a few days without sugary products I noticed the smoothies getting too sweet for my taste. So I threw out the syrup from my recipe and it stayed that way until today.

The Problem in the End: Mental Strength

In the middle of the month I had some fritz kola on a vacation and remembered how much I missed them. Before, I usually had one after almost every lunch. Then, on the 17th, I did a Swimrun and needed caffeine to wake up in the early morning. Two fritz kolas. During the race I had HoneyPower power gels to keep fresh and ate some chocolate bars to get more energy as well. So that day was a complete fail.

The days after that I had some more left over fritz lemonades and when I got weak at a restaurant and ordered a milkshake in addition to a delivery of one of my client’s lemonade packages arriving at the office, I called it off. That was just too much for me.

That September went better than the vegan June, as I ended the experiment on the 20th of the month, but it’s not been a success. In my notes it says that I had quite some problems in the first days and compared it to quitting smoking just without the jitters. This sounds tough but I can’t really remember it now. I’m curious if it will be the same this year or if it’ll be easier now that I know what I’m getting myself into.

The Positives

It’s been obvious to me after just a few days: this is a lot better than the usual diet is. So many products contain so much sugar. When you cut them out you’re left with good products which make you healthier and make you feel better.

The greatest thing I noticed was the absence of my usual afternoon downs. You might know this as well, the one or two hours after lunch you’re feeling depleted or just plain tired.

Without sugar and animal products, afternoon downs are just gone!

That’s really something. Also, my sleep had improved noticeably. Not by as much as the vegetarian diet improved it, but still something.

The Rules

I initially tried to do this as strictly as possible, as with the veganism, but soon realized it’s also not easy to follow that. For example, I like to drink coconut water. By my rules, it’s allowed because it’s a product in its natural state without any additional sugar. My rule was to exclude industrial sugars from my food. So coconut water is cool, but still has lots of natural sugar. Does this destroy the experiment? In my experience, it didn’t. There’s something about products which naturally contain sugar that makes them not as bad as the ones that don’t.

But just for convenience, I will change my rules to include all products that have less than about 5 percent of sugar in this year’s repeat of the experiment month. I think it’ll have nearly the same great effect on me.

Not decided on the month yet as well, but probably April or May.

Goal 3: The 7-Minute-Workouts

Each task is to be done at full power for 30 seconds, with 10 second breaks in between
Each task is to be done at full power for 30 seconds, with 10 second breaks in between

What has been the problem here? Mainly time management and motivation. The first half of the year went perfectly fine. Whenever I missed a daily workout, I did two on the following day. Even during vacations or on race days that went well.

But as the year progressed and I felt more and more tired from all the races, the motivation went away. The big triathlon races were the point when I missed several days. Combined with a few days of sickness I was suddenly behind by 20 days. This seemed daunting to me and I wasn’t able to catch up on it. You might say: “Why don’t you just to ten per day then?” – because I can’t. I’m simply not fit enough to do this. The most I was able to do was five of these workouts on one day. But for that I had to train as well. When I miss a week of these workouts, the next one will give me sore muscles again. They are supposed to be intense, if you do them correctly!

So I ended up with 217 workouts of the 365 planned ones in the end and therefore decided to make the new goal to reach 200 ones again. As I know now, it’s achievable for me, and it holds enough motivation to keep at it.

The New Goal Number 4: The 12 Marathon Challenge

Back to the roots.

The best training to become a better runner is obviously running. All that nutrition and core strength exercise ballyhoo is fun, but it’s not at the core of what I like to do. That’s running.

Life goals. Mrs. Thompson was probably irritated by the flashing camera lights – what a modern fad! (English: oldest marathon racers ever)
Life goals. Mrs. Thompson was probably irritated by the flashing camera lights – what a modern fad! (English: oldest marathon racers ever)

So I’ll follow my friend Holger’s goal of 2017, to do 12 full marathons within the year. One for each month, but not necessarily within every single month. Also, they don’t have to be race events – a 42.2 kilometer training run also qualifies. But I think I won’t count a 100 kilometer run like Megamarsch in April as two marathons. It would have to be on separate occasions.

12 Marathons for 2018

I’m looking forward to it! The biggest number of marathons I’ve ever done in a year was eight, so it won’t be a stretch to achieve this, I think.

The Primary Goals

That’s it for the secondary goals. Last year I had quite a few primary goals as well, but this year I chose to reduce it a bit. Not only because it’s been too much in 2017, but also because this year we’ll hopefully welcome a fourth child in our family in Summer. That little one will need some focus!

So instead of 30 races I’ll have probably half of that. I haven’t planned them all out as last time, so some of them will just be spontaneous ones.

Slowly moving towards my goals – only to be crushed by a white van at the horizon? Definitely not!
Slowly moving towards my goals – only to be crushed by a white van at the horizon? Definitely not!

Primary Goal 1: Brussels Marathon

The only really important race for me will be the Brussels Marathon on September 30, because it’ll be the last of my 28 EU Marathon Capital Challenge. It’s done after that one. Can’t really believe it, but it’s true – I’ve got the proof right here in this blog!

Primary Goal 2: Going Ultra

This year I wanted to tackle the next big event in the ultramarathon scene, which is a 100 kilometer race. I had signed up for the Bieler Lauftage, a race in Switzerland which is one of the most popular 100k’s in the world. Due to a timing conflict I won’t be able to make it in 2018, though. Luckily they transferred my slot to 2019.

As a training event for this I had signed up for the so-called Megamarsch Hamburg 100km, which is more like a hike – but who are they to stop me from running?! The course is just one big loop around my hometown, with an aid station for every 20 kilometers. It is started off at 5:00 PM and the time limit is 24 hours. So you’ll hike or run through the night right after a few hours. I think this is a great way to find out how that distance of 100 kilometers feels like on foot with no timing pressure. I’m looking forward to it.

But I also still wanted to find a second real race of ultra distance. So I signed up for one of Germany’s most popular ultramarathons, the mighty Rennsteiglauf, a historic race at the former border within Germany. It’s been around since 1975, way before the running fitness craze of the 80s. With 73.5 kilometers it falls short of the 100k, but it’s a hilly adventure. 1,875 meters of elevation gain and 1,386 meters lost in the trails. It’s going to be tough, but probably worth it.

Primary Goal 3: Triathlons

I still love the sport of triathlon. So I have again signed up for the two Hamburg triathlons, Sprint Distance on July 14th, Olympic Distance on July 15th. Also I’m looking forward to the beautiful Challenge Wanaka half distance triathlon in New Zealand this February. And I’m still thinking about signing up for a full distance triathlon, but haven’t decided yet.

Everything Else

Along with the traditional Hamburg Marathon and a few spontaneous other marathons to complete my 12 Marathon Challenge, I think I’ll probably throw in some other shorter running races in Hamburg’s vicinity or wherever we might be during holidays. Drifting through the year!

This is the list:

  1. February 10: Buller Gorge Marathon 42.2k run
Beautiful scenic race on the west coast of New Zealand’s southern island. It will probably be a good start into the year.
  2. February 17: Challenge Wanaka 1.9k swim, 90k bike, 21.1k run
It’s considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful triathlons, I believe it. Just a week after the marathon I might not go for a personal best, but rather enjoy the scenery.
  3. April 7: Megamarsch Hamburg 100k run/hike
Looking forward to how my body will react to this very long hike. It’s also interesting what gear I’ll need to bring and how food intake will work. Not to mention beating the tiredness during the nightly part.
  4. April 29: Hamburg Marathon 42.2k run
That race is a given for me. I’m hoping and aiming for a time below 3:23 hours to beat my father’s personal marathon best.
  5. May 13: Copenhagen Marathon 42.2k run
I will be supporting my friend Mike Harley’s EU Marathon quest to raise awareness for the disease of ME, which has gotten to one of his best friends.
  6. May 26: Rennsteiglauf 73.5k run
A very tough and historic ultramarathon which I’ve put on the list because it’s known to be one of the most popular races in Germany. I’m going to find out, why.
  7. July 14: Hamburg Triathlon Sprint 500m swim, 22k bike, 5k run
This time I won’t be accompanying Sophie, because if all goes well we’ll have a two week old newborn in our arms that day. Even better.
  8. July 15: Hamburg Triathlon Olympic 1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run
If my calculations are correct, this will be my 10th ITU Hamburg Triathlon participation. Hopefully I’ll get the coveted black swag bag reserved for the 10th race – in this case I’m a total sucker for loyalty rewards.
  9. September 30: Rauchwart Marathon 42.2k run
    I’ve done it before and enjoyed it. Meeting the Penthor family again will be nice. And maybe there will be better weather this year.
  10. October 28: Brussels Marathon 42.2k run
The primary goal. Completing the 28 EU Marathons. It’ll be a day of celebration, I think! I’m looking forward to finding out how finishing that one will make me feel.
  11. November 4: New York City Marathon 42.2k run
A possible victory lap after completing the EU challenge the weekend before. I’ve entered the drawing for this race for the third consecutive time now. Information that I got say that the chance of getting in are about 1 in 3, so this might be my lucky year! I hope we’ll have ourselves a fun November trip to the city!
I would be great to take the family back here again
I would be great to take the family back here again

Which ones am I missing? If you have some suggestions, please contact me! I’m always looking for new interesting races.

I hope you’ll all have great year 2018!

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