Day 7 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swim Adventure: Hitting 10k – by adding up a week of swims

Yesterday being Sunday,  I took the whole family to the local pool in the afternoon. It was lots of fun for everyone, we even brought a picknick. And what is more, after 6pm, the pool had cleared enough to almost swim unimpeded. I put in 2175 meters. Without doing so on purpose, I hit exactly 10.000 meters for the week that way. Nice. I marvelled over it briefly since it is displayed on my trusty Garmin Swim watch (“Distance this week”). But now, Monday morning, the counter is back to zero.  With probably  too much work today and tomorrow to go swimming even briefly, and then the Christmas days, I wonder how many swims I will get in this week. And whether I can really reach swimming 10k in one go in Open Water competitively in two years’ time. Not that I don’t have the ability; I just don’t see how I can make the time to hit the pool for a  sufficient amount of time.

Maybe I really need to start getting up at 5am. Anyway, here is a summary of the swim from Garmin Connect:

Summary from Garmin Connect of my swim, 21 December 2014
Summary from Garmin Connect of my swim, 21 December 2014





Day 5 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swim Adventure: Picking a race and turning pool time into a date night

Been looking at which Open Water races to compete in next year on my way to the Big 10k. There are some races in Spain that look perfect date-wise and my better half and I could both sign up for, not to mention maybe one or two of the kids, as they have  shorter sections too:


The 5k Garbet to Coléra on 23 August 2015


The 6k or 3k Swimtrail in L’Ametlla de Mar  on 5 September 2015

Unfortunately, the also very enticing “Oceanman” Swim in Cala Montgó is on 13 September; it has great distances for all ages and abilities according to their website, but that is the day before school starts back in Bavaria. No can do. Perhaps the Oceanman is one for the final stretch of the Great Big Marathon Swim Adventure?

Anyway, summer is far off and many laps to be swum till then. Had a wonderful swim date with the wife last night.  The Wellenberg pool has an outdoor section with a wonderful view of the Ammer Alps, and after swimming we relaxed in the warm water, steam trailing off the surface into the winter night. Romantic and relaxing. Nothing like having a date with the love of your life poolside after yet another stressful and demanding week at work. I highly recommend it: quality time and exercise and a great setting all rolled into one.

Speaking of exercise: I swam 2k, given that I wanted to spend time with my wife not just under water, but the times were not bad considering. All up I lapped 1,925 m at an average 1:40 min/100m in 35:40 mins according to the watch:

Screengrab of swim last night from Garmin Connect
Screen grab of swim last night from Garmin Connect


Day 4 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swim Adventure

Whoaw. Inspirational time in the water: I swam with a powerhouse in the next lane this time. She kept pushing past me, doing very fast laps, then lots of drills and variations. We had a quick chat when she got out, and turns out she is a former Bavarian state level swimmer. Inspiritational stuff. So I pushed myself a bit more because of that distance-wise (not that I was silly enough to think I could race her), since it was just great to be in the water with someone so competent and with great technique.

Ok I need to have a quick rant here for a minute: My trusty Zoggs Predator Flex Reactor goggles (read my review here) broke yesterday. They have been used a lot and bounced around my swim bag, so I am not upset. But it brings up the question of gear in the water and something that has caught my attention as I started swimming in different pools around these parts: Why is everyone (ok, some guys) wearing those little fins when swimming in a tiny 25m lap pool? And what are those gloves some swimmers are wearing? Yep. Gloves. I am both impressed and surprised when I see all the gear some people bring poolside. With triathletes, I guess it comes with the territory: The amount of gear you need for biking in particular makes it natural to have lots of stuff in use. Me, who barely has time to swim and six mouths plus pets to feed, I just have my bathers, goggles and watch. Sometimes a Zoggs kickboard, which also works as a pull buoy. No mp3 player, usually no paddles. No isotonic drinks. Anyway will post some gear reviews soon as I will need to at least add some new goggles to my collection.

Ok, end of rant! To the workout summary:
I was in the water for a good hour, of which I spent 55.29 minutes. Swam 3175m, in other words 127 laps. My SWOLF, by the way seems to be a consistent 35. I have no idea whether this is good, or how I can use this data to improve, so will need to learn more about that when I have some time.

Workout – 3175m, as usual taken from my Garmin Swim:
1250m (more than just a warmup I guess) in 20:54 mins at 1.40 mins/100m
125m mixed (pretty sure I backstroked, but hey)
550m casual free, mixed 2/4 stroke breath, focus on technique in 9:48
250m breaststroke with butterfly kick, at 2:07/100m
1000m free in 17:44 at 1:46/100m
I did cool off with a few loose laps but had the watch stopped

Swimming again immediately after a practice day meant I was relaxed about times. Before jumping in the water, I had decided to just aim for a comfortable 2k. Then the awesome abilities and energy of my lane neighbour convinced me to do more. At this stage I am just happy to make it to the pool almost every day, despite the hectic pre-Christmas season and still not normal hours at work. My awesome wife is even taking me for a swim (followed by a nice dinner) on our date night tonight. Bless.

The phase I am in seems to be the “just try and get pool time in every day” stage. If I can keep this up till spring, gradually getting my middle aged body used to working out every day and at the same time increasing the training distances, then this milestone is achieved. Around February, I could be averaging 20k a week this way, or roughly 3k per workout per day. That is about twice as much as I do at the moment. I may need to get up at 5am every day to get that in before work, but I am happy to do so (or at least I think I could get that happening). Once I hit this stage, I can look at the timing of my workout phases ahead of some prospective racing in summer/early autumn. Can’t wait to “taper” with some Mexican food at the excellent “El Puente” in Oberammergau tonight ;-)

Calm and good. Slept really well again, and feel physically better than ever thanks to getting into the water obviously. Look forward to more quality time with the wife and kids this weekend.

This will hopefully be dinner tonight – as my wife is taking me on date night at El Puente in Oberammergau. Image (c) obviously El Puente.


Day 3 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swim Adventure

Yesterday I swam 2.7k in our local 25m indoor pool. I was swimming for just over 47 minutes to do 109 laps according to my Garmin Swim. Mucked around a bit for drills (also: did not put drill timer on) but sets should still be accurate.

200m warmup at 1.34 minutes per 100m
1000m comfy but not slow in 17.22 mins
1000m with a higher rate in 16.36 mins
about 450 mixed drills with a kickboard and then a bit of paddles
100m Cooldown breast stroke with butterfly kick

Was disappointed with time of first 1000m set. Was I overgliding? I decided to set my rhythm at a higher pace (giving myself a mental “tick-tock” clock) and then go again. Ok, I was almost a minute faster. But somehow still felt underwhelmed. I guess because I want to break the 15 minutes/k for so long now.

Breaking the 15minutes per 1 kilometer ist not a primary goal but a personally important one. Albeit one I expect to tackle during this Great Big Adventure on the way.

Ok. Slept well and woke up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after that swim. Fixed a special brekkie for the wife since it is our wedding anniversary. But I am very pensive after a long interview with a very interesting woman who is fighting cancer. The interview is for the paper and radio, but I might post some more about this in English on the blog. Makes you humble and grateful.


Day 1 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swim Adventure: The Goal and how and why I want to get there

Given my, um, imperfect record of sticking to goals, and in order to avoid making this seem like a fanciful New Year’s resolution, let me go on the record today, right now, 16 December 2014, with my next swimming goal: the magical 10k Open Water Swim. That is a lot more than I have ever swum in one straight go. And certainly more than my longest swim in the ocean so far (which was from Portbou in Spain to Cerbère in France this year).

Let’s make this Day 1 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swim Adventure (TM)!

Ah, the excitement of gearing up for a great new journey. There are many elements I need to get my head around, and of course I should make the whole project SMART: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-Related.

The goal:

– [ ] Compete in and complete a 10k Open Water Swim – in 2016 or 2017

Anyone have a suggestion for the competition? Drop me a line in the comments. Ideally, it would be in Catalonia or Bavaria.

The steps:

– [ ] Identify the right race, and
– [ ] some smaller races leading up to it for 2015 – there is a 7k one in Catalonia I am looking at
– [ ] Get a training and general fitness plan
– [ ] Sort out nutrition
– [ ] Logistics! Plug all of it into my busy life plan: my faith, my beautiful wife, the family and work have priority. This will be difficult, but I know it is doable.

The training plan:

– [ ] Will try and use Garmin connect (or is there a better service?)
– [ ] Needs to keep me motivated and fit my busy schedule. I can get an hour pool time in on average in for 3-4 days a week at the moment; that may not be enough.
– [ ] At the moment, a typical training session would typically look like this:

  • 1x200m warm up
  • 1x1000m / 2000m at regular pace (=ca. 16 mins, mini-goal: 15 mins)
  • some drills (kickboard back and front, pull buoy laps, etc)
  • 4×50 cool downs / breast stroke laps

Staying motivated and on track:

– [ ] blog regularly
– [ ] track training using my Garmin Swim watch and publish it – [ ] set smaller goals, like competing in a shorter race in 2015 – [ ] try and meet fellow swimmers in Bavaria / maybe join a Masters club

The nutrition:

– [ ] need lots of advice and knowledge here
– [ ] must be simple, not a hassle on top of feeding the busy family with lots of little kids – [ ] will try and track using MyFitnessPal, but probably don’t have the time
– [ ] I would like to lose some weight, but this is not a major issue; health and recuperation/regeneration is priority

Most importantly: remember that this is an adventure! Do it for fun, as a good challenge to personal growth – and just general happiness. No pointless hassles. I have enough stress in life.

A bit about my motivation and back story:
Swimming makes me happy. I just love being in the water. I learnt swimming very early, then trained at school and did so competitively as a child in South Africa. Over the years I tried many other sports, and enjoy(ed) several, in particular SCUBA diving, water polo, fencing and cycling. But nothing comes even close to swimming. And I always came back to it. As life got busier and more complicated, I learnt that swimming also helps me to de-compress from an incredibly demanding job and any other stresses in life. It helps me stay sane and physically healthy. And it is relatively cheap and simple to do: Grab some bathers, a pair of goggles and a towel. Done.

Luckily I was able to swim in many fantastic pools over the years, particularly in Australia. I badly miss the swimming culture of Oz whilst I am here in Germany (where swimming is relatively terrible, and even on a decline – though thanks to the Triathlon boom, there are some small exceptions). Aussie pools on the other hand were generally so bloody good that they even kept me out of the ocean: that was for diving and surfing. Why deal with getting to the coast just to encounter currents, sharks, jelly fish, rocks, swell and – in Sydney – pollution, when there are world class pools everywhere, and at least one nearby? When I discovered ocean swimming in the Spanish mediterranean four years ago, I realised that this was another fantastic way to swim – and thanks to meeting Tony, an inspirational Spanish-German triathlete, ended up doing my first OW swimming competition, which I not only completed but did so in a decent time.

In short: Swimming makes me happy, healthy and sane – and it probably can make you benefit too. If you have a particular motivation or question, let me know in the comments. Would love to read why you swim.

The Digital Revolution does not change the most important thing about journalism

A most important point about the digital revolution in journalism currently under way is this: That whilst it changed pretty much everything, from paradigms of scale to the organisation of knowledge and the tools of all trades, it did not change the actual role and function of journalism. Nor did it change its importance for a free and democratic society. However, whether it means that society can free itself of the false idol of journalistic objectivity is an altogether different and urgent question.

As many others have described, the digital revolution changes apparently everything; and it continues to do so, in a way that is unprecedented since Gutenberg and/or Industrialisation. Maybe even more so. Professionally and personally for me, few things have changed my daily work, challenged my thinking, driven my professional curiosity and academic studies over the last two decades as the digital revolution of media and journalism. And of course as I am writing this, the revolution continues.

This is a dispatch from the trenches. 

Like other journalists of my generation, I lived through the revolution as it radically changed the tools and practices of the trade. For a short period of about 28 months around 2008-2010,  probably like no other editorial manager around the globe at that time, I worked on developing and maintaining sets of editorial standards across dozens of languages and different cultures for a large and complex public broadcaster, right as the digital revolution brought in the massive deprofessionalisation of journalism, but also liberated and empowered the craft in ways previously not imagined. And like quite a few other philosophically inclined people, I dove (dived?)  into the epistemological and even the ontological aspects of what does not change but matters even more than any aspect of the digital revolution: the concept of objective truth in journalism, and the social function of journalism in particular and mass media in general in society.

Hang on there, Christoph. 

Are you really saying that journalistic truth, objectivity and the function of media don’t change? Not even since Facebook and WhatsApp? Yes. I know that is a contentious claim, but one I would argue can be proven both inductively and deductively, not to mention anecdotally.

As a print journalist, I saw how the revolution made newspapers first easier to produce and then seemingly obsolete before taking the latest turn – “glocalisation 2.0”- which I will deal with in this post briefly too, if I have the time, but intend to deal separately at another time. As a TV reporter, I saw how the revolution first made the field work easier, faster and better – and then break all the rules before moving away from TV to form its own eco-system as a form of social medium (e.g. YouTube). As an online and social media journalist, I saw how the web and the technological means at our disposal helped create new and amazing expressions of journalism – from “Medium” to Twitter. At the same time, I witnessed a lowering of professional standards of practice, from research to publication, across the vast phenomenon of not just lazy journalism (aka “the land of lousy hacks”) but media instituions: The revolution has already brought to light that some alleged bastions of quality journalism (in particular broadcasting networks) are in fact just tabloidist ventures operating behind a veneer of cultural gravitas and legitimacy, and compensating for a lack of fairness and objectivity with ideological zeal previously hidden to an analogue public. In this new era, the digital public it constitutes is a different beast altogether.

(Compare – carefully, with a view to content and form –  a print edition of the “Spiegel” during its heyday in the second half of the twentieth century to the – by some measures massively successful – website of 2014, and you will be instantly struck by the differences, but also the similarities underneath which shine through when compared.)

Obviously, there is a lot more to be drawn from what I have summarised here. But since my train ride will be over in a few minutes, let me bring it back to the point of this rambling piece:
That whilst the digital revolution has changed pretty and conitues to change just about everything, from paradigms of scale to the organisation of knowledge and the tools of all trades, it has and will not change the actual role and function of journalism. Nor did it change its importance for a free and democratic society. Consider what happened in the “Arabellion”, the “Arab spring”. Consider the “filter bubbles” in which people spend their time on Facebook [note: link is to a piece in German].

Ok, I hear you say, so journalism is still required. D’uh! What’s the point of all of this?

Firstly, I don’t think it is a banal point at all. Secondly, it makes me very excited and optimistic about the future, but also concerned that we need to explain this – and its implications – to young (and older) journalists. Thirdly, it is not just about empowering journalists. We also may see the digital revolution as a means of what Gaston Bachelard called a useful “epistemological rupture”: As an opportunity to look at assumptions and unquestioned premises around the function of journalism. And in particular of the nasty, false idol of journalistic objectivity – of which I must write more very soon.

Was unrecht ist an der Welt

Stimmt es, dass die durchschnittliche Aktie heute in unter einer Minute gekauft und wieder verkauft wird? Ist doch egal, wie viele Sekunden es dauert: Das Bild illustriert, in welch schwindlig-absurden Extreme der Kapitalismus wirklich eskaliert ist, in dem wir leben. Dabei gibt es zwischen einerseits diesem Kapitalismus, vor allem dem Neoliberalismus, und andererseits dem genauso wenig erstrebenswerten Sozialismus einen dritten Weg. Ich bin überzeugt: Ein Weg, über den wir nachdenken und reden sollten. Der Weg des Distributismus. Schon gehört?

Lange bevor der katholische Konvertit Tony Blair und sein evangelischer Genosse Gerhard Schröder von einem “dritten Weg” sprachen, gab es den schon. Seine Befürworter und Vordenker, allen voran die Katholiken G. K. Chesterton und Hilaire Belloc, waren überzeugt: Ein Weg, der die Freiheit und Würde des Einzelnen respektiert (egal, welcher Religionszugehörigkeit). Ein Weg, der nachhaltig ist. Ein Weg, der die Produktion wie auch die Macht auf viele Schultern verteilt. Ein Weg, der das Eigentum anderer Menschen respektiert. Und ein Weg, der nicht nur im Land der sozialen Marktwirtschaft gerne ignoriert wird – oder wütend kritisiert und abgelehnt. In etwa so, wie die wirtschaftskritischen Passagen in Evangelii Gaudium.

Anders als die katholische Soziallehre, in deren Kontext und Tradition er in vielerlei Hinsicht steht, ist der Distributismus eine waschechte eigene ökonomische Philosophie. Und anders als die Soziallehre ist er zudem mittlerweile so sehr in Vergessenheit geraten, dass er leisten könnte, was Gaston Bachelard einen nützlichen “epistemologischen Bruch” genannt hat: Er fordert viele Annahmen neu heraus, die wir als Selbstverständlichkeiten blind akzeptieren. Damit ist nicht (nur) der absurde Hochfrequenzhandel an der Börse gemeint, sondern einiges mehr in unserer Gesellschaft. Einen Anfang könnte die Lektüre der günstig erhältlichen Essays, etwa “Was unrecht ist an der Welt” von Chesterton machen.

(Ursprünglich publiziert als “Standpunkt” auf

Getting back into swimming

After a month and a half of mayhem and crazy hours at work, I finally got to go back into the water today. I knew it was going to be a minor revelation. But I did not know it was going to be the one I ended up having.

The moment I pushed off the wall was nothing like at a normal practice. Usually that split second I push off, the world just goes quiet. If you swim regularly, I am sure you know that glorious feeling. Not today. I felt like a puppy scrambling across a slippery floor with paws too big for his little body for the first laps. Like an insect that was trapped in honey for too long and suddenly breaks free, flying madly into the air, somersaulting with exuberance and the new thrill of unencumbered freedom. So though it was not like a normal swim, it still was absolutely bloody glorious. Just different. I slithered and pawed through the water. Then my body clicked back into its element. Like, you know, a fish to water. It is hard to describe without going all pathetic or kitschy.

On one level, I really feel more at home in the water than on land. The reason it felt different at first today probably was not just because of several weeks without swimming. I suspect the lower back pain I suffer from had something to do with the feeling of release. You see, the many hours commuting in now cold weather, the very tough work challenges (though exciting and ultimately very successful) of the last month, coupled with a lack of sleep and exercise, not just swimming, had really taken its toll.

Anyway, I swam a moderate k, just then and there. No stretching or warm ups. Took me exactly 17 minutes according to my Garmin Swim, which all things considered isn’t bad.
Then some drills, kicking and a bit of back stroke. All up just a very mellow 1400 meters, but enough to feel born again and incredibly keen to get back into the water.