Time flies and my second week in the IBM Corporate Service Corps already comes to an end. This week was dominated by a series of interviews with employees of CECOEDECON. We learned a lot about this NGO and it’s wide ecosystem from rural villages up to the united nations level. I also got a chance to dedicate some time to learn about the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030 (SDG). At the Climate Summit 2014 where the SDGs were finalised, Kofi Annan explained the importance of these global goals with the statement There is no “Plan B” for climate action as there is no “Planet B”. It could not be said any better…
During the week, we visited the field. We went to the place were CECOEDECON started 35 years ago. I liked seeing their company motto at the entrance of their premises saying “where action speaks louder an words”. – We saw the result of a project CECOEDECON ran 10 years ago. They supported villages that suffered from water resources for their agriculture and personal needs.
Together with the locals, they built some dams to create a large lake to store rain water. The dam was built based on local material, local knowledge to identify the best area to use and historical methods that were successfully applied in this region in the past. Today, this lake serves the needs of about 200 families and it’s agriculture needs in the villages around. Apart from availability of water over the entire year, farmers happily noticed that their buffalos now create a larger volume and better quality of milk. The Buffaloes now regularly have the possibility for a bath, which is important for Them and they have access to stronger grass, etc.
After the dam, we were able to talk to 2 teachers of CECOEDECON. They train 35 women from rural villages about child care, malnutrition, etc. these women were elected in their villages to participate in this training. As the training takes 4 weeks, they stay at the CECOEDECON premises for the entire time.
As we arrived at the headquarters of CECOEDECON, we were invited to have lunch in the board room. This was different than usual. Many of the people that were present at the office were assembled at the board room. The reason was that Hindus celebrate Pitru Paksha to remember their forefathers. The food which consisted of at least 20 different choices was all prepared by the founder himself to remember his father. We were pleased to witness such a tradition.
This weekend, we went for a 2-day trip to Agra. From Jaipur, it took us about 5.5 hours to drive this 230 km to Agra. The reason for this long time lies in the fact that the maximum speed that our bus was riding on the highway was about 80 km/h. Most times, our bus had to ride slower due to other cars, trucks, cows, tractors, etc.
Early afternoon, we first stopped at our hotel where I enjoyed a first view of the Taj Mahal, directly from my room. The Taj, however, was planned for Sunday early morning. That’s why we visited the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah (also known as “Baby Taj”) as well as Agra Fort. These are very impressive monuments. Both are heavily influenced from the arabic world. However, you find multiple references to acceptance of all religions. Many walls, pillars, etc unite hinduism, islam, christian and jewish religion in a single design. They must have been very open to all major religions.
In the evening, we chose one of the top rated restaurants of tripadvisor, only a few hundred meters away from our hotel. We were lucky that we went early. Half an hour later, people already had to queue to get a seat. This would have been difficult for us, being a group of 10 people…
Sunday morning, we met a 5 am to arrive at the gate of Taj Mahal as one of the first. When we arrived at 5:10 am, we joined a group of 4 people. The plan worked well to see Taj Mahal without many tourists. We had to wait until 6 am until the gate officially opened. In the mean time, about 200-300 people queued behind us, with the same goal to enter Taj Mahal as one of the first of the day. The Taj Mahal, one of the 7 new wonders of the world, is a symbol for eternal love: The Mogul built this mausoleum for his wive, who gave him 14 children, to demonstrate how much he loved her. – Visiting the Taj Mahal in the early morning was a good advise I read in multiple places: There were fewer people than can be expected later in the day. Even so important is that temperatures were not yet so hot at this time.
In Fatehpur Sikri, another huge fort, we then experienced a site around mid-day, which was very hot. As visitors have to take their shoes off, they layed carpets on the floor so people can cross the big areas barefoot without burning their feet due to the heat on the ground…
The last stop was at the Stepwell in Abhaneri, about 100 km before Jaipur. These world heritage listed steppwell is a huge water storage. People used the stairs to walk down to the water level to collect water. This Stepwell is very attractive from a design point of view, creating nice regular patterns.
This weekend finished our first week in India. Our CSC team was able to recharge our batteries in order to be ready for week 2 where we continue working with our four NGO partners.
Time flies. Natasja and I have spent a significant amount of time doing interviews with our client. We also did a good amount of research on the internet about the ecosystem our client is embedded in, to get an external view to the company. As a result, we have a much better understanding of the company, it’s challenges and how we plan to perform the following three weeks for our strategy review.
Today, we were presented with our office. This will be a good place for taking interviews with employees and partners in different roles, located at or visiting the headquarters. We are in the fortunate situation that our room is air conditioned and breezy. At temperatures of 36°C around mid day, this is a great comfort for us two Europeans…
During this week, I learned a lot more about India, it’s people and it’s culture. One thing which is very refreshing are the vibrant colours you discover in various places like temples, plants, colourful sarees, etc. I discovered that the neighbour building of our client processes colour powder, apparently mainly used in templates. For a while, they leave the coloured material on the roof to let it dry. As a next step, this material is going to be processed to a finer grain, before it will be packaged and sold to it’s customers.
The first week is now almost over. Tomorrow, we will be heading to Agra for a 2-day trip. Sunday morning, we plan to see the famous Taj Mahal at sunrise. I look forward to a very interesting weekend with all 10 of us IBM CSC India 32 team members!
Today was the first day we were with our client CECEODECON (Centre for Community Economics & Development Consultants Society). It took us one hour from the hotel to their headquarter office. Half of the time was lost as the taxi driver did not find the address of our client. I must admit that the numbering system of buildings was not clear to me either. Our taxi frequently stopped the car in the street to ask people of the way to our destination. After a while, and some phone calls with Manish, the CEO of CECEODECON, Manish promised to send someone to pick us up. As we were in the morning rush hour, the streets were full of cars, motorbikes, some camels, cows and a huge number of pedestrians. I was wondering how they will find us. While waiting, a motorbike rider stopped in front of our car checking us up in the car. It took a moment for us to realise that this was the person Manish sent to guide us to his office.
We finally made it to his office in the basement. We were introduced to Sharad Joshi, the founder of CECEODECON. We had long and very informative sessions that allowed us to better understand the client, its core capabilities and its challenges. It was an intense day with loads of new information to digest.
On the way home, we witnessed a procession for the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, a Hindu festival in honour of the elegant-headed god Ganesha. In the front, there was a car playing loud music, followed by about 200 people all in a special bright red gear. This procession stopped the entire traffic as they crossed a main street. Interestingly, all cars stopped, waiting the procession to cross the street. No horns were used at this time and I did not see motorbikes squeezing in between the cars. I also discovered an elephant which likely was decorated for the festival, with a painted tail and some coloured stars on his legs…
At 3:10 am in the morning my plane landed in Jaipur. To me, such an arrival time is very unusual. I was told that in Jaipur, and other India cities, many international flights arrive during the night. I was surprised to see so many people at the airport arrivals, waiting for friends, family members or business partners. Amongst them, I was relieved to quickly identify a sign with my name. Satish from our local partner organisation provided me a warm welcome in Jaipur. He joined me on the transfer to the hotel, which was relatively quick: There were only a few cars in the street, the number of dogs and cows was almost higher at this time of the night but our driver was well used to surround all obstacles on the way. I was happy to enter my room and finally go to bed at 4ish in the morning.
However, the first night was very short. I was eager to join the team at 9:30 am to discover the city of Jaipur together. I was the last one of our team to arrive in Jaipur. Unfortunately, our team lost two team members. Johnny from China had to cancel due to a customer project and Wale from Nigeria had visa issues. He was promised a visa for September 27 which is almost the end of our 4 week assignment. I am sorry that Johnny and Wale can’t make it as they both put a lot of energy into preparation work before the start of our trip.
After 12 weeks of preparations, having spoken to all members of the team on many phone calls, I finally had the opportunity to meet my team members face to face. This is always a special moment: You have an image of a person, based on a profile picture and the voice you hear over a long period of time. And then you finally see the person in front of you. Although this is the first time you meet face to face, you bond very quickly.
We were guided through the city of Jaipur, which is also known as the pink city. This is because of the color of the stone exclusively used for the construction of all the structures in today’s old town. In 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour. Since pink denotes the color of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the whole city pink in color to welcome the guests. The tradition has been sincerely followed by the residents who are now, by law, compelled to maintain the pink color.
Indian streets are always noisy. Every driver uses it’s horn in many situations. The streets are crowded with cars, busses, Tuk-Tuks (many of them are battery powered!), motorbikes, normal bikes, cows, horse carriages, etc. Motorised drivers regularly use the horn to indicate the vehicles in front of them that they are approaching from the back. It looks very chaotic and hectic. Everyone seems to be late. Therefore, all drivers in the streets take every single opportunity they see to come to their destination faster. Of course, there are rules – but no-one follows them, except the red lights. Interestingly, I have not yet seen any crash in the streets nor do the cars look damaged. They might have some scratches of passing objects too close but no big damages.
Our tour first started with Fort Amer, a few km outside of Jaipur, elevated in the mountains. This is a very impressing, huge location for a Maharaja and the full entourage, all made of sandstone. Totally unexpected, I learned that Jaipur has the largest “Jantar Mantar” which is a sundial with a precision of 2 seconds. The larger the sundial the more precision it provides. The park includes a number of different sundials which have a history back to the 18th century. We finished our tour walking up the Hawa Mahal, also known as the palace of winds.
One thing I was very curious about my India experience was the local food and how I will like it from both a flavour and a spicy point of view. In this context, I also had a very positive start: The first Lunch and Dinner were delicious and surprisingly mild. My history of Indian cuisine I enjoyed in Europe is little and very different to what I have experienced in Jaipur on my first day. I wonder if this was coincidence… In any case, I will have plenty of opportunities to learn more about Indian cuisine and look forward to experience more!
This first day with my team for the next 4 weeks was very positive. I learned a lot more about my team and I look forward to work with them for this unique IBM Corporate Service Corps project in Jaipur.
This week, I will depart to Jaipur, India to start my engagement in the IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC). The CSC is part of IBM’s Global Citizen’s Portfolio initiative. It is a program to develop leadership skills while addressing economic challenges in emerging markets. This involves IBMers who can contribute valuable and much-needed skills, talent, and capabilities in emerging market countries and help make an impact in that country.
This video gives you an idea of the impact a former CSC team made for handicapped people in India:
I will be working in a team of 12 IBMer from 11 different countries (Brasil, Mexico, US, Canada, The Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Nigeria, China, Australia and myself from Switzerland) as the CSC team “India 32”.
During my engagement in Jaipur, I plan to regularly provide updates on this unique journey through this blog as well as on Twitter (@mfehr_ch). Stay tuned!
I did it! My 2nd Ironman distance race and it was Challenge Roth, one of the must-do Ironman distance races in the world.
The swim in the channel worked very well for me. After a (usual) rough start, the field was spread out after about 400 meters. Quickly, I found my rhythm and I was pleased to notice that I regularly overtook other swimmers. As every swim cap was marked with the start time, I was pleased when I could see a swimmer next to me with 5, 10 or more minutes start time before mine… This motivation kept me going well. After the 3.8 km, I felt that I could swim longer, if required…
The bike course is 2 laps of 90 km each, with many rolling hills. As I am not the fastest in climbing hills, I liked this terrain, especially the downhills. On the first lap, I was riding fast and I had to keep the pace a bit back to avoid burning all energy too early. The highlight was Solarer Berg, being known for the Tour-de-France atmosphere with the many spectators cheering bike riders on. I decided to enjoy this moment on this slight hill, with less than a meter of free space to my left and right side…
During the second lap, the wind picked up. The combination of the time into the race and the wind made my second lap a bit slower. Nevertheless, I finished the bike leg in my anticipated time below 6 hours for the 180 km.
So my run started at 3 pm with the sun burning the strongest of the day. Thanks to a reconnaissance training weekend earlier, I knew that the run requires a lot of mental strength: More than half of the marathon is along the Rhein-Mainau channel, being straight, looking the same wherever you are along the channel. Luckily, the run stretch has a loop at both ends along the channel. In between, there is a “harbour” with many spectators. I divided the marathon distance into smaller segments between these landmarks. This allowed me to focus on the next milestone during the race. Towards the end, my carve muscles signaled signs of cramping. As I changed my nutrition to coke after 15 km, I ate less than I probably should have taken. I continued running but I was hoping that I will not have to stop with a cramp. Luckily, at km 40, Eva, Oli, Martin and his girl friend were cheering me on in Roth. I was very pleased they were there. For the next kilometre, my thoughts were still with this positive surprise and kept me forgetting the risk of a cramp. A few hundred meters before entering the station to finish the race, a spectator told me “Nearly there, now enjoy the last part of your race finishing in the stadium”. The stadium was full of spectators, my name was announced by the speaker and I did follow the advise I just got, enjoying this long race in this fantastic atmosphere.
I am pleased that this race went well. During my 6 month preparation phase, I had one ski-accident and a bike-accident, resulting in my training interrupted twice. Most important was that I was ready on race day to perform this endurance race. Especially the 4 weeks of many hard and long trainings before the race gave me good confidence that I was ready for this challenge! Thank you Matthias for the training plans and advise that prepared me for race day, July 17, 2106!
10 days ago, I was able to pick up my new Garmin 920XT at Tempo-Sport. I was curious about this new model since it’s announcement early October. Thanks to DC Rainmaker, I already got a good impression from his detailed and interesting review about what to expect. I want to share my personal impressions with the new 920XT.
The first positive impression is the weight of the watch. It’s interesting that 11 g down to 61 g can make a difference: It feels (and is) much lighter than the 910XT.
When going for a run with my 910XT, I was used to wait a moment until the GPS signal is found. This time is now significantly reduced and now takes a few seconds only. The first two exercises, I forgot to press the start-button. The reason is that the “enter” and “start” function are with the same button. When you select your desired sport (run/swim/bike/your own), the display shows up with your heart rate, etc. Initially, I did not look any further, assumed that the exercise already started.
One of the most convenient additions is the automatic upload of training data to Garmin Connect. When coming back home, my data is uploaded before I even open the door as soon as the watch detected my home WLAN. If I am not at home, the same happens as soon as my watch recognises my iPhone and data is synchronised this way (through a Bluetooth connection).
You can also use the Garmin 920XT as a smart watch, linked up with your iOS device. All notifications from the iPhone show up on your watch, alerted by a vibration. Interestingly, the event occurs on the watch first, before it appears on the iPhone. – It made me aware, how many notifications my Phone is generating. Based on this experience, you might want to change the way notifications appear on your iPhone (and the 920XT consequently) or turn this functionality off on your watch.
For the first few days, I used to wear my 920XT on a daily basis. I have charged my watch once, a week ago. Since then, I trained a total of about 7 hours. The battery still shows about ⅓ of capacity available. It is nice to see that the battery is better so the watch requires less frequent charging.
The only thing I don’t like was the initial setup. Actually, this us the second user experience after holding the light watch in your hand… The setup does not ask which measuring units I prefer. It asked me about my weight in pounds and my size in feet and inches. – After the setup, I then changed the units to my preference. As a result, the auto-lap took place at 1,6 km in the next run… – Garmin, this can be done better! – I noticed that my watch is a “European model”. So it would make sense to set the default value of measuring units to kg and metric as most countries in Europe use these units. – Garmin, I am willing to help beta testing for your next new units.
A few days ago, Garmin announced an update of the firmware for the 920XT. It adds some additional modes for ski/snowboarding. According to DC Rainmaker, it also adds some Connect IQ features which enhance the functionality of the watch even more. This demonstrates that “there is more to come”, making the watch even more powerful in the near future.
Einmal mehr habe ich wieder die Termine der diesjährigen Seeüberquerungen auf dem Zürichsee zusammengetragen. Die Saison startet anfangs Juli mit der Stadtzürcher Seeüberquerung und endet am 31. August mit der Zolliker Seeüberquerung.
Die Seetemperaturen spielen eine wichtige Rolle, ob die Veranstaltungen durchgeführt werden können. Daher werden alle Termine von den Veranstaltern erst kurz vor der Durchführung bestätigt oder im ungünstigen Falle abgesagt
Alle mir bekannten Termine auf dem Zürichsee sind hier ersichtlich und werden regelmässig aktualisiert. Diese Termine können auch direkt auf Deinem Kalender abonniert oder einmalig importiert werden.
Am 8. Dezember war es endlich soweit: Nach 7 Monaten Vorbereitung fiel am Ironman Western Australia (IMWA) der Startschuss zu meinem bisher längsten Rennen über die Ironman-Distanz.
Vor dem Start
In der Woche vor dem Start in welcher wir bereits in Busselton waren, machten wir uns mit der Umgebung, Klima, Zeitzone, Wind und Temperaturen vertraut. Letztere hatte ich anders erwartet und die wenigen gepackten warmen Kleider wurden sehr wichtig! Anstelle der heissen Sommertemperaturen betrugen die Morgentemperaturen in den ersten zwei Tagen jeweils knapp 10°C. Im Jahr zuvor waren am IMWA mit Temperaturen von 35°C leicht andere Voraussetzungen…
Wegen einem Hai-Alarm war der Strand beim Busselton Jetty (= Schwimmstart) am Montag geschlossen. Diese Warnung wurde zum Glück nach einem Tag wieder aufgehoben. Somit stand auch aus dieser Perspektive nichts mehr im Weg für den Start am Sonntag.
8. Dezember 2013, Race day
Um 3 Uhr ging der Wecker los. Der letzte Countdown zum Start um 05:45 Uhr hat begonnen. Nach dem Frühstück noch ein letzter Check ob der Chip sitzt, die Uhr bereit ist, etc. Danach ging es von unserer Unterkunft die Strecke von ca 400 m zur Wechselzone. Diese kurze Distanz war vor und nach dem Rennen definitiv ein grosser Vorteil!
Das Wetter zeigte sich ebenfalls von der besten Seite: Die Temperaturen waren für maximal 24°C prognostiziert. Am morgen hatte es so gut wie kein Wind. Dieser sollte erst gegen Mittag einsetzen. Somit herrschten die besten Voraussetzungen von dieser Seite!
Da die Profis um 05:30 und 05:35 Uhr starteten, blieb uns nur 10 Minuten Zeit um in’s Startgelände zu gelangen und einzuschwimmen. Das genügte jedoch problemlos. – Und so stand ich also am Start meines ersten Ironman. Da neben mir noch ca 1600 andere Teilnehmer starteten, nahm ich mir vor, aussen rechts zu schwimmen. Damit wollte ich sicherstellen, dass ich nicht eingeklemmt werde und von möglichst wenig “Querschwimmern” beeinträchtig werde. Der Start verlief bestens. Ich konnte mein Plan bestens umsetzen und fand schnell meinen Rhythmus. Beim Wendepunkt bei 1,9 km gab es den vorauszusehenden Effekt, dass jeder möglichst nahe an den total 3 Wendebojen vorbei schwimmen will. Die rund 5 Minuten im Bereich der Wendeboje waren dann auch anstrengend und unruhig. Kurz darauf ging das Feld aber wieder in die Breite und ich hatte wieder genügend Platz um die zweite Hälfte in Angriff zu nehmen. Nach einer Stunde und 16 Minuten war ich bereits wieder aus dem Wasser, 4 Minuten schneller als erwartet. Praktisch gleichzeitig hatte auch Belinda das Schwimmen absolviert.
Die Bike-Strecke von 180 km ist in 3 Runden à 60 km aufgeteilt und flach. Ich hatte mir vorgenommen, die ersten 120 km defensiv, die letzten 60 km leicht schneller zu fahren. Dieser Plan ging perfekt auf. Die dritte und letzte Runde war darum in mehreren Aspekten die schönste: Dank dem erhöhtem Tempo machte ich sehr viele Plätze vorwärts und wurde dabei lediglich von einer einzigen Person überholt. Für dieses Finale hatte zusätzlich auch noch der Wind eingesetzt. Am meisten spürte ich dies als ich zum ersten Wendepunkt entlang der Küste fuhr: Mit 42 km/h düste ich auf die Wende zu um nach der 180° Wende mit gemächlichen 24 km/h gegen den Wind zu kämpfen… – Erleichtert erreichte ich in 5:57 die Wechselzone, womit ich auch mein zweites Ziel, die Bike-Strecke unter 6 Stunden erreichte.
Ich war gespannt, wie ich den Marathon starten werde und wie sich die 42 km nach einem über 7-stündigen Aufwärmen anfühlen wird. Der Start verlief sehr gut und ich fühlte mich bestens. Die vielen Koppeltrainings über die letzten 7 Monate haben sich sehr positiv ausgewirkt. Danke Coach! Mit der Verpflegung (alle 30 Minuten ein Gel) musste ich vom Plan abweichen: Die Einnahme der Gels war im Lauf unangenehm. Diese fühlten sich für mich im Mund “trocken” an. So musste ich auf das Angebot der vielen Verpflegungsposten des Veranstalters “ausweichen”. Dabei gab es für uns Europäer auch ungewohnte Angebote: Jelly Beans, Vegemite oder Wasser-Melonen hatte ich auf Europäischen Triathlons noch nie gesehen. Da ich Wassermelonen sehr gerne habe, versuchte ich mich damit zu verpflegen. Mein Magen hatte damit keine Probleme.
Bei Kilometer 30 musste ich meine Geschwindigkeit abrupt reduzieren: Eine riesige Blase war an meiner kleinen linken Zehe geplatzt. Der nächste Sanitätsposten war nur einige hundert Meter entfernt. Dort angekommen musste ich 2-3 Minuten warten, bis der Arzt wieder zurück war und sich meiner Zehen annehmen konnte. In dieser Wartezeit konnte ich wenigstens meine Schuhe ausziehen und mich am Verpflegungsposten nebenan in Ruhe mit Wassermelonen verköstigen. – Die geplatzte Blase war schnell verbunden. Auch die rechte kleine Zehe, welche bereits bedrohlich angeschwollen war, hatte der Arzt ebenfalls mit Pflaster geschützt. So konnte ich nach ca 8 Minuten Unterbruch wieder auf die Laufstrecke um die letzten 10 km in Angriff zu nehmen. Erfreulicherweise war ich sehr schnell wieder im Rennen. Die Blase war schnell vergessen und ich fühlte mich sehr gut und erstaunlicherweise frisch. So war auch die letzte Runde im Lauf davon geprägt, dass ich viele Läufer überholen konnte. Das war ein beflügelndes Erlebnis! 3 km vor dem Ziel platzte dann auch noch die Blase an der rechten Zehe. Da diese bereits mit Pflaster geschützt war, verzichtete ich auf einen weiteren Stop, denn ich hatte nur noch eines im Sinn: Die Ziellinie nach total 226 km mit einem grossen Freudensprung zu überqueren. Dort wurde ich nach 12 Stunden und 28 Minuten mit den obligaten Worten “Markus, You are an Ironman” begrüsst. Ich war sehr glücklich, dass ich meinen ersten Ironman erfolgreich und ohne nennenswerte Probleme finishen konnte. Dass ich auch alle meine Zeitvorstellungen unterbieten konnte war ebenfalls eine grosse Befriedigung.
Auch Belinda verlief das Race sehr gut. Sie konnte ihren 5. Ironman ohne Zwischenfälle mit einer neuen Personal Best Zeit abschliessen. – Im Ziel überraschte ich Belinda mit einem Heiratsantrag. Die Strapazen der letzten 12 Stunden waren sofort vergessen und sie antwortete mit einem klaren JA. Durch den grossen Applaus der Zuschauer und Volunteers kam es uns vor, als ob wir den Ironman gewonnen hätten! Die Volunteers wollten uns zu diesem Ereignis spontan Champagner anbieten. Leider gab es aber nur Wasser, Gatorade und andere Softdrinks. Das war auch besser so, denn der Champagner wäre uns nach diesem 12-stündigen Sonntagsausflug nicht gut bekommen…
Der Tag nach dem Rennen
Belinda und ich hatten uns beide sehr gut erholt. Wir hatten keine nennenswerte Schmerzen. Einzig meine Zehen weigerten sich, bereits wieder in Schuhe eingepackt zu werden.
Am Montag Abend wurde der Abschluss mit dem Award Dinner gefeiert. Wie bereits die Welcome Party am Freitag war auch der Abschluss perfekt organisiert. Da können sich die europäischen Organisatoren ein Vorbild nehmen.
In der Zwischenzeit sind wir bereits wieder zurück in der kalten Schweiz. A propos Temperaturen: Die Temperaturen in Perth waren eine Woche nach unserem Wettkampf mit 42°C etwas wärmer als die 24°C vom 8. Dezember…