Recap: Munich Oktoberfest 2015

IMG_2043Oktoberfest… what can I say?  Imagine the craziest German beer hall you’ve ever been to and take the atmosphere and craziness and times it by a 1000 – that’s Oktoberfest!  My brother and I had a great time and Oktoberfest in Munich (THE Oktoberfest) definitely lived up to our expectations.

Event Recap

My brother and I flew from London to Munich via Paris on Air France.  We arrived in the early afternoon and tried to figure out the self-serve ticket machines to buy our tickets to go from the airport to the city.  The machines were not intuitive at all – I was looking for a day travel ticket, but even the english screens didn’t make much sense.  Luckily there was a desk where they sold tickets in person. Turns out they have a group travel pass for 3 days for a flat fee of ~€34 euros.  Bought that and went to the U-Bahn (the Munich underground) and went to our hotel to check in.

IMG_2036The hotel was fine and on the nicer side.  Was in a very quiet neighborhood, which was good.  A pretty typical hotel experience.

Pretty much everybody in Munich spoke English and clocked us a foreigners as we walked in, although a few times we were mistaken for German – probably due to our German genetics ;).  I knew some of the basics from high school German class, so communication was fine.

After we settled in the room, we headed out to Oktoberfest.  for us this was only a few stops down to the Theresienwiese U-Bahn station – the main station for Oktoberfest.  As we went along we started to see more and more men and women dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndls.

The grounds are immediately out of the station and instantly you’re into a fair-like atmosphere.  There are fairground rides all over and food vendors, etc.  We wandered around, weaving through the crowds and settled on going into the Hofbräuhaus tent. Unbeknownst to us, this was pretty much one of the premier tents at Oktoberfest because Hofbräuhaus is the local brew.  We totally lucked out…

IMG_2039We had to wait outside for about 30-40 mins, which in retrospect wasn’t too bad because we didn’t show up till late afternoon once all the tents were already full.  I understand you have to go before noon to not have to wait.  They have a system of waiting that isn’t exactly fair… you wait in line about 20 people wide by about 5-6 deep behind a line.  Your goal is to get across the “no-mans land” area that separates the line from the outside tent area.  During this process, many German security men shout at you continuously to move back.

One by one the barmaids will come up to request a few people to fill the spaces they have open on the tables.  Generally this was always about 4-6 people they were requesting.  As we waited we gathered that there was little chance only 2 people could make it in, so we decided to form an alliance with people next to us to make up larger numbers.  Luckily a German guy named Matthew hooked up with us.  The next time they needed a few people, Matthew got us in!  Boom!  We were on our way!

We were seated in an outside table and already stuff was getting crazy.  After crawling over a group of guys from Lyon in France we found our spot and ordered our first liters of beer.  Turns out our new buddy Matthew was a pretty cool guy.  He spoke excellent English and we had a good old chat.  We also talked in broken english to our new buddies from Lyon (generally, everybody becomes your new buddy – in a good way!).  In the table behind us there was a group of people from Wisconsin! (My brother and I are from Wisconsin).  More buddies!  The weather was cool, but pleasant.

IMG_2057A few more rounds outside and then we moved to get into the “inside” bit, where the real action happens.  We waited again for a bit, but they let us in within 5 mins.

Inside the tent was great. It was huge and there was a band playing and the whole place was up on the table benches singing along and drinking beer.  We somehow found a good spot on a bench near some Australian group, an Iraqi guy and a group from Liverpool.  People were falling all over and somehow nobody got hurt.

The waiters and waitresses brought around beer to sell.  Thinking back it was amazing how they carried like 6 liters of beer without dropping a single drop, even with everybody bumping into each other.  They would also float along with huge trays of food over the crowd’s heads.  Never once did I see a spill or any breakage the two nights I was there – totally defying physics.

The band would play a lot of American songs everybody would sing along to, in addition to some traditional songs.  In between they would add a filler “Ein Prosit” (something you need to learn the lyrics to before you go) or “Zicke zacke zicke zacke” and the crowd responds “hoi! hoi! hoi!”.

The tent closed at 11 and we headed out to find some food – something we neglected to do while we were drinking.  We had a brat, potato wedges and a soda, which tasted good.

IMG_2073The next day we decided to fit in some culture.   So we went to downtown Munich via the U-Bahn and walked down to the Marienplatz and watched the clock tower show the Glockenspiel then we went over to St Peter’s church to climb the tower which looks out over the city.  Funny thing when we came down the tower, then we ran into the same group from Wisconsin we saw the night before at Oktoberfest.

Next we went down to the Viktualienmarkt (market) and had a brat and big pretzel.  Then we headed up to the English Gardens for a wonder, which was nice.  We had a coffee and saw some surfers surfing under a bridge.  After a meal of roast pork and a liter of beer, I bought some Bayern Munich shirts for the kids.  Then we went back to the hotel for a well deserved nap.

That night we went back to Oktoberfest relatively late for a “couple of quiet ones.”  We ended up at the Pschorr-Bräurosl tent and somehow weaved our way in past the outside line to join the inside line.  In the tent it was okay… the decor was very dated – in a bad way, like wood paneling and sort of dingy decorations.  I would say it was a rougher crowd and the band wasn’t as good.  All in all, not horrible though.  After a few liters of beer the tent closed and we went on a fair ride for fun.  I bought some sugar coated macadamia nuts and we ate another brat.

Back to the hotel for a small beer and off to bed.  The next morning we woke up and headed straight to the airport for the uneventful trip back to London.

Travel

Travel from the airport is on either U-Bahn line S1 or S8.  They both take about an hour to get to the town center.  One goes approaches from the east and the other the west.  3 day tickets can be bought from the airport desk near the station entrance in the terminal.  They validate the tickets at the desk, then you don’t have to deal with it again.  We were never checked for tickets the entire time we were in Munich.  I also understand that the U-Bahn runs late on the weekends, like till 2:30 AM, but less frequently (like 20 min intervals instead of 10) after midnight.

For travelling around, we pretty much relied on google maps to tell us what lines to take and where to transfer. Generally was pretty easy because we were already on a fairly central line.  Walking around central Munich wasn’t a problem either.

Hotel

We stayed at Park Hotel Laim at Zschokkestr. 55 Munich BY 80686 Germany (020 3788 1841).  Was quiet and no major problems. Was also nice to be “going against the grain” when leaving Oktoberfest.

U-Bahn stop is Friedenheimer Straße on the U5 line.

Food

IMG_2086We ate a lot of pretzels, bratwurst (and various other ‘wursts), potato wedges.  We had one bigger meal of roast pork/beef that was more traditional that was pretty good.  Sneaked a tasty schnitzel at the airport.  Plenty of good food options, especially at the main market.

What I learned

  • Although it’s counterintuitive, it’s best to go in a group of 6+ people so you can book months ahead and get a table in the beer tents easier.  Finding some nearby people to make up a group works pretty well, although you will need to sit next to them, so choose wisely.
  • I thought that Lederhosen and Dirndls were a bit cheesy, but in the end I felt sorta out of place NOT wearing them.  I’d say that if you go to Oktoberfest in Munich you should make the effort to get into the experience and find yourself the traditional dress somehow.
  • We didn’t really eat in the beer tents beyond pretzels, mostly because eating after a certain time would be nearly impossible if people are standing on the tables.  Consider eating your bigger meals earlier or outside of Oktoberfest.
  • For men, going to the toilet was pretty quick and easy, women I gathered would have to think ahead a bit.
  • Learn the words to “Ein Prosit” – http://www.oktoberfest-songs.com/ein-prosit-lyrics.html
  • You can never eat too much bratwurst and pretzels!

Sorry for the longish post, ended up being longer than I intended.

Recap: Rogue Runs Mini Mountain Marathon 2015

IMG_0019_2Last Saturday I attended the Rogue Runs Mini Mountain Marathon in the Brecon Beacons, Wales, UK.  It was a really nice day out.  The weather was excellent, the people were very friendly and the atmosphere was relaxed.  All in all, I can’t say too many good things about this race and the organisation.

My main goal for this event was to 1) understand the mechanics of how mountain marathons work, 2) test out the gear I intend to take to the OMM, 3) test my chops at doing navigation, 4) get in the miles on rough ground, 5) have some fun!

I think I achieved, if not exceeded, all these goals.

Event Recap

Rogue Run MapThe day started pretty early.  Pete and Thursten picked me up around 5:30 AM and we drove from Winchester to the Brecon Beacons (thanks Pete for driving).  That time of day we made good time and arrived just after 8 AM.

It was pretty chilly and wet from the dew.  We checked in, got our dibber, maps and started to transfer over the control points for the “short” liner course onto the maps.  I had a bit of a bonner start to the day of nav where I got the compass the wrong way around so I was 180 degrees off a bearing.  Lesson learnt!

We checked into the start and went on our way.  The first part was very steep and hot.  I was pretty winded and didn’t warm up at all, which didn’t help.  We saw plenty of other runners heading towards the first control, which was mostly along a well marked path.

The first three controls went well.  Pete and Thursten did the lead nav on them (we decided beforehand to have a single Lead for each control who would make the decisions about what route to take.  We did it in alphabetical order).

Rogue Run Map with GPSFor the fourth control it was my turn to navigate.  It went pretty well.  I had a decent bearing and I could see in the distance a bump in the hill I was shooting for, so it was more or less just keeping that in sight and running towards it.  There was a tricky river crossing and some contouring around a hill which I used my altimeter watch for, but once that was out of the way we just had to climb to the top of a plateau.   The actual sinkhole the control was in was deep and very difficult to see, even though we were about 20 meters away from it.  A quick bite of a PowerBar and we were off again…

Next control was also fine.  At this point we decided to go up to the top of the peaks to see the view under the principle that we were there to have fun.  So, we went off the prescribed race route and up a large hill with the plan to eat lunch at the top.  Once we got up there the view was stunning and we ran into a lot of hikers not taking part in the marathon.

As we came back around to head down to the next control we had descended too soon.  We had seen a large peak as we were walking and we had assumed that was the highest point, not knowing that there was another, higher hill behind.  Pete identified that we were on the wrong part of the hill by checking the bearing of the contour up the hill (a good trick).  There was a river, but there was not many other features to get a reliable back bearing from, so we headed back up the hill and found the saddle between the too large peaks.  Once we were there, then we were back on the map.  We decided to head to a control on the map that was not part of our course so we could have a reliable point to navigate from.

We found control #59 and from there we went downhill to the next control on our course (#58).  Pete and Thursten did a good job of nailing the navigation straight to the location, however, when we went up the gorge where we thought the gate was, we did not see the control.  I had noticed that the map said the control was at a higher altitude than what was registered on my watch, so I had another look using my altimeter watch and found the control.

From here I was navigating the next control.  I took us straight up and over the hill on a direct bearing and we were moving pretty well until I ran us into some very deep and wet boggy grassland.  Doh!  Was VERY tough going and I was hoping it would thin out, but it didn’t so I redirected us down a matted grass track back to the river.  We crossed the river and eventually found the control around the other side of a hill.

The final control and run to the finish were pretty easy because we were on the same trail we came out on.  In fact, we saw the last control on our way out at the start, so it was fairly low stress and we tried to jog it as best we could with sore legs and feet.

rogue_run_map_w_gps_small 2In the end we came in last place due to our detour.  It took us a total of 383:07 minutes on the course (A bit over 6: ½ hours).  Not great, but I think we were happy with the run overall.  Was nice to get to the finish and get my wet shoes off and enjoy some water and food.

That night Thursten booked a nearby pub for dinner.  We had a few pints, ate dinner and watched some Rugby on TV.  I was nearly ready to curl up and go to sleep halfway through dinner, but got a bit of a second wind.  By the time we went to sleep, I was well exhausted.

The next morning we got up, I tested my porridge, we put away the tents and headed home, stopping at Starbucks on the way.

GPS data of the run (until the battery ran out)

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/904245635#.Vf6fne1qHiY.email

What I learned

  • Navigation
    • Just because you can see a high peak, doesn’t mean it’s the HIGHEST peak
    • I seem to consistently think we travelled further than we actually did until I was able to get my bearings
    • When looking at the route between controls, be sure to keep looking for intermediate features to help navigation.  Most of the navigation was done by sight and not bearing, so if there is a choice of controls, it’s probably best to find a path to a control where there are obvious features in between to use for navigation – it just makes life easier
    • When you get into heavy going boggy high grass, stop and change direction immediately!
    • If you lose your bearings, then check out the angles of hills and other features, like rivers to get a good feel about where you’re at
    • Couple of other tips I learned: when there is a ridge by a river, it’s likely there will be some sort of trail on it.  Sinkholes will have short lines perpendicular to the contour line to indicate the direction of the elevation loss
    • My altimeter watch worked great and I didn’t have to recalibrate it all day.  An essential bit of kit
    • Try not to mark up the map with linear lines from the start because 1) you never run on linear lines and 2) it blocks you from seeing some map features.  It was good to figure out the distance between controls and the altitude, so will mark that up in the future, but do so on the border of the map.  I need to come up with a map marking strategy (a future article).
  • Nutrition
    • I packed the right food for the trip during the day, but I didn’t eat it all, and was hungry at the end.  Next time I’ll eat more and more often.  You can never really eat enough
    • I didn’t like the porridge I took.  There was too much of it and it was not very tasty (plus we put too much water in it).  I think I’ll take a stab at making my own instant oatmeal to take and maybe even some homemade couscous meals.
  • Hydration
    • My hydration and filter system worked well, but I didn’t take on water when I was running low, thinking that I could do it later.  Next time I’ll take on water when the opportunity presents itself and consider carrying extra water in my spare water bottle during times we are away from fresh running water
  • Kit
    • I didn’t have a good place to put my map.  I liked running with my hands empty and ended up stuffing my map in the backpack strap across my chest, which worked pretty well.  Next time I’m going to consider using a chest bag with a zipper so I can more easily get to stuff I need, without the risk of it flying out and losing stuff.
    • I’m definitely going to try to lighten the load more, I was fine with the weight on the day, but it was hard to close my bag.  I need things that take up less space, plus the OMM will have more ascent so lighter is better.  I’ve already bought a balloon bed from the original founders (who by happenstance are the ones who organised the mini marathon).  Very nice people!
  • Misc.
    • Make sure I stretch and warm up before I start

In conclusion, I had a great time and would do this event again in the future.  I would recommend it to anybody who would like to test out if mountain marathons are right for them.

OMM Preparation: Past OMM Map Analysis

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 13.05.34Given that this is the first time I’ve done the OMM, I wanted to take a look at the maps from past years to get a feel for what to expect.  From my analysis of the maps posted online here ( http://www.omm.routegadget.co.uk/rg2/ ) and the results of the 2014 event posted online here ( http://www.butlercole.plus.com/mn/omm2014/index.html ), I have come up with the following conclusions:

– It looks like the gaps between checkpoints are roughly averaging around 1 km, with some as long as 5 km.  I was happy to see this because it means that under good weather conditions it’s possible to have line-of-sight view of the next gate so running on a bearing is much easier.
– I didn’t see much of a pattern from the winning times of the runners on the C course.  The top two finishing teams had chosen the same control sequence, but I don’t have much insight into why they chose the controls in that order (other than the obvious reason that you’d want to hit the chosen controls in as sort of distance/time as possible).  I think I intend to plan my way around the course as it happens, rather than have some sort of pre-defined route.  Would be good to hear some experienced OMM competitors talk about how they choose their control sequence.
– I like looking at maps!  It gets me excited about both the mental/intellectual challenge in addition to the physical challenge.  I’m sure I’ll make plenty of mistakes this first time out, but will learn.

Please comment if you have any insight into how to best plan a route though the OMM C Course.

OMM Preparation: My Kit List

Over the past couple of months I’ve spent a good deal of time researching and refining my kit list for the OMM mountain marathon. As of today, I’ve acquired all the minimum kit list as defined by the OMM rules (https://www.theomm.com/events/the-omm-2015/rules). I’ve also gathered the food I intend to take over the 2 days and split out the team equipment by weight. So, this list is my “first cut” of the complete kit. Now I’m in the process of slimming it down and making weight/warmth/comfort/calorie tradeoffs.

When I first started to gather together the stuff on this list it was clear that all of my “family camping” gear simply wasn’t going to be suitable due to size and weight. I have a pretty good 3 season sleeping bag and a nice two man North Face tent, but even these would take up nearly all of my 24 available litres and probably most, if not all, my target weight allocation. So, it was time to do some research and get out the credit card…

Target weight and Calories

My target weight for my full pack was around 6.5 kg and a minimum of 4,500 kCals of food over the two days. Currently, with food, my full pack has a measured weight of 7.1 kg, which I think is acceptable given that I’m carrying 6,000+ calories. I expect I will adjust the food one way or another once I do the mini marathon in the Brecon Beacons in the next few weeks. I should also be able to drop some of the weight.

The Kit List

Below is the google spreadsheet I used to compile my pack list. A few notes about the columns in the sheet:

– “Item” – The thing
– “To buy?” – Do I need to buy the item? (‘x’ = still to buy, ‘-‘ = waiting to be delivered)
– “Packed?” – Is it currrently packed in my bag?
– “Quantity” – The number of the item I intend to pack
– “Weight (g)” – Weight in grams per item
– “Total Weight (g)” – Total calculated weight (Quantity x Weight)
– “Can be lighter?” – Can the item be made lighter somehow?
– “OMM Required” – What part of the required OMM kit list does this item satisfy

Under the section called “Clothing (running)”, I don’t count any of this towards my total pack weight. Things that say “pete” are items that my teammate Pete will buy or carry.

Below in the green sections you can see the totals. “Total Weight (g):” = The total weight of everything. “Total Pack Weight (g)(not running gear or pack itself):” = as described. “Total Pack Weight (g)(not running gear or pack itself, minus 1/2 shared):” = as described, weight of gear minus half the shared team weight (e.g. this is the actual weight of the gear in my pack I will take).

Under the food section I also calculate out the kCals in each item and total that up as well. See the previous post about my Trail Mix recipe.  Note: You may need to scroll to the right in the spreadsheet to see the calorie calculations.

As far as extravagant items I have on the list that are “extras”, I have a lightweight sleeping mat and pillow, a pocket knife and a slightly heaver thermal survival bag (which I intend to use with my sleeping bag at night).

I’m pretty sure I’ll be making many changes to this pack list over the next couple of months, so check back for updates. I’ll also post articles on research I did into specific items on the list.

OMM Preparation: Todd’s Trail Mix

I have a pretty basic trail mix recipe that I like to take out with me to sustain me between proper meals, especially if I’m doing an activity that sucks up my energy.

Todd's trail mix in bowlIngredients

Essentially, there are 3 ingredients that you mix in more-or-less equal parts:
– Honey roasted Peanuts (180g – one bag)
– Plain chocolate M&Ms (165g – one bag)
– Raisins (180g – measured)

Total Recipe Batch Weight: 528g

In the past I’ve added other stuff like pretzels in there, which is nice too, but I find that this is simple and gives me the most satisfying texture and mix of flavours.  It’s also fairly easy on the stomach (at least for me) and packed with calories.

Calories

– Honey roasted Peanuts (5.87 kCal/gram, 1056.6 kCal/recipe batch)
– Plain chocolate M&Ms (4.89 kCal/gram, 806.85 kCal/recipe batch)
– Raisins (2.93 kCal/gram, 527.4 kCal/recipe batch)

Total Recipe Batch kCals: 4.528 kCals/gram, 2390.85 kCals/recipe batch

Sealing the trail mix bags

Sealing the trail mix bags

Preparation

1) dump ingredients into large bowl, 2) mix with clean hands.

Depending on the situation, I may seal the mix in 23x33cm Ziplock Mylar Bags using an iron on the top edge.  These bags have a notch in the top so it’s easy to rip open.

If you have a favourite  trail mix recipe, then please share in the comments below. Enjoy!

New Adventure: Rogue Runs Mini-Mountain Marathon 2015

cover4What is this Adventure and why am I going?

The Rogue Runs Mini-Mountain Marathon in the Brecon Beacons, Wales, UK is a two day mini marathon event.  I’m going mainly as training for the OMM (see earlier post).  This seems like a nice and relaxed opportunity to understand how mountain marathons work and if my gear/camping equipment will work out once I get to the OMM.  They use the same electronic gating system and honing my navigation is my goal.

We’re only doing the one day short course to ease into the scene, with an overnight camp to try out the tents, etc.

Who am I going with?

I’m going with long-time family friends Thursten and Thursten’s brother-in-law Pete.  Chris might also come, although he’s nursing a busted knee at the moment.

What’s the story so far?

So far I’ve done the prep work for the OMM, which will feed into this trial run.  Check out the OMM articles for more info.

General Event Info…

https://sites.google.com/site/roguerunsevents/home/our-events/mini-mountain-marathon

Dates: 19-20 September 2015

New Adventure: The Original Mountain Marathon (OMM) 2015

The OMMWhat is this Adventure and why am I going?

The Original Mountain Marathon (OMM) is an endurance race where teams of two navigate a series of checkpoints across the wilderness.  Participants need to run with all the stuff to sustain their team for two days in the mountains, including food, cooking and camping gear. This year the OMM will be held at Tweedsmuir Hills in Scotland.

I’m doing the OMM this year because I sort of fell into it… long-time family friends Chris and Thursten had already committed to go as a team and they talked me into it at the pub.  I did some research and decided “what the heck, let’s do it.”  Once Pete agreed to be my teammate, then I was in.

Sounds pretty crazy huh?!  Well I guess I’ll find out! (Especially since I’ve never done this type of thing before since I was a Boy Scout).  I have to say I’m not much of a runner, but the combination of navigation and self-reliance really appeals to me.  My goal is simply to finish and use this as a springboard to go on other adventures.

Who am I going with?

I’m going with long-time family friends Chris, Thursten and Thursten’s brother-in-law Pete.  Pete is my partner for the OMM.

What’s the story so far?

So far I’ve done quite a bit of research on gear, buying of said gear, initial packing, some training and plotting with the others.  The event itself is only about a month-and-a-half away, so there’s still plenty to do.  I’ll be adding new posts about my preparation and research in the coming days.

General Event Info…

https://www.theomm.com/events/the-omm-2015

Dates: 24-25 October 2015