Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Intermezzo #74: Prelude for 2015.

It's been a year ago I posted my last G-Shock article. I had the idea for a sabbatical year for a long time. For moments in 2013 it was pretty hard to make new 50 Gs articles. Simply because I was running out of Gs. I might have collected over 600 (now nearly 700) G-Shocks in the past 14 years, there are quite some doubles, specially from special models.
Also, writing a good article takes research and time. An average article takes me about 10 hours of writing, editing, taking photos, editing photo's, etc, etc. and that while I have a full 40 hours job, that changed from a pretty relaxing job 10 years ago (on a school with 700 students) to somewhat hectic and very busy now (now nearly 1500 students).
I pretty much enjoyed my Sabbatical year. I didn't had to buy G-Shock models just for my 50 Gs weblog. I only bought about 20 Gs this year. That's about half I usually do. On the other hand, it's getting harder to get nice Gs for a fair price. There are many collectors with deep pockets, who buy up whole stock and sell them for double the price or more. I tried to stay away from this practice as far as I could, but this year I even had to buy watches for inflated prices. Lately I had to buy a "Giveaway" G-Shock, where 1000(!) of them were given away during an event, for $300,-. This watch would be worth $150 max 5 years ago and frankly, I think for such a model, it should be the market price. Living in Europe makes it nowadays near impossible to get the great models. I was pretty sad I couldn't get the hot looking Bape x Coca-Cola model, as it has 2 of my favorite themes on it: Bape and red.
With more free time I enjoyed other things. In February I met a guy at a LEGO exposition who designed a BR 103 TEE locomotive. As a child I always loved the TEE trains and specially the BR 103 series locs and wagons. I bought his building instructions and in about two months I collected all the parts over whole Europe. The best part of the design is that the loc is 8 studs wide, instead of 6, which LEGO usually uses. This gives the train a more natural look. The guy told me it would cost me about €125 - €150 to get all LEGO parts. I can assure you, you may double that. Specially on shipping costs on rare bricks. After I finished the locomotive, I started designing wagons myself. My idea was that a good looking train would have at least 4 wagons. A usual TEE train with a BR 103 loc has probably st leadt 10 wagons. Also here I stumbled upon high costs. By buying from many different sellers, the shipping costs just kept adding up. Until now, 9 months later, I only finished 2 plain wagons. I'm still intended to make a different passenger wagon and a restaurant wagon. Theses wagons look pretty plain, bit there are at least €100 in bricks. With only two finished wagons and two to go, this will be a slow, ongoing project beside my Gs.
With more free time, I had also more time to ride my bicycle. And I took that time. While in the past years I had to be happy to ride 600 to 700 kilometers, I rode about double this year and enjoyed it to the max. We bought another car, and I bought a bicycle carrier. This gave me more freedom to ride everywhere I like. Still I enjoy exploring the islands here around and I find new roads and tracks almost every ride.
I have planned a little ahead. Before 2015 started I have finished roughly writing 8 articles yet and 3 or 4 are ready to publish. I also get help from my good friend Christofono, who will try to write 12 articles. A bit of a relief, only 38 articles on my shoulder. As I plan to visit Japan, this time with my son Bram, again end 2016, I also try to limit my G-Shock buying as much as possible. This also means 2016 will be an obligatory sabbatical. Traveling to Japan for two will be very expensive. Though I look forward to meet my Japanese watch collector friends in Tokyo and Kyoto again.
Well, this was about what I wanted to write in this prologue for the next series of 50 Gs, but maybe you like the expansion of our LEGO Winter Village collection. I made several building movies, so here they are for your amusement. Check them out below:
Cheers to a new year of 50 Gs G-Shock articles. I hope you look as much forward to it as I do. Let's hope we will finish December 2015 again with a set of beautiful articles. I have heard a bit about what's coming up this year and I look forward to some great released. I hereby want to wish my readers a good G-Shocking New Year with lots of joy, new G-Shocks and a good health. Happy New Year!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Intermezzo #73: Memoires of the Broom Bicycle

Since I have started 50 Gs, I have tried every year to write something before or just after the annual Kustmarathon (Coastal Marathon). Before I started 50 Gs I also posted some pics or television screen shots on the WatchUSeek G-Shock Forum. For those who didn’t know, I am the so called "Bezemfiets”, in English "Broom Bicycle". While bicycle races have a Broom Wagon (originally called "Voiture Balai") since the Tour de France of 1910, long distance running races (like marathons) have usually a Broom Bicycle. For many years (I think it was since 2004 or 2005) I am the Bezemfiets of the Kustmarathon, the most beautiful and heaviest marathon of our country. 
Unlike regular marathons, this marathon is not intend to break World Records by running on asphalt, but to endure the runners over three islands against the natural elements. The Start is in Burgh on Schouwen-Duiveland. The Marathon follows roughly the coastline over the Storm Surge Barrier to North-Beveland to Zoutelande on my home island Walcheren. The marathon’s route is over beaches, the Eastern Scheldt Surge Barrier and over the dunes. As the marathon is always held on the first Saturday of October, this means good chances of strong (stormy) head winds, rain, spring floods and other discomforts.
photo: Ilonka van den Hengel
Choices, Choices, Choices...
Often, weeks, sometimes months, before the start, I start already thinking: "Which G will I wear". The models in rescue orange are always a favorite, as I work closely with lifeguards. I haven’t bought many special G-Shocks for this kind of occasions this year, but in my mind I had piled up several candidates. Do I really need some criteria to choose my Gs? Well, not really. During the race I am in continuous contact with the communication centre where I can reach life guards, medics and chief of safety. Do I really need a Tidegraph? The answer is no, but I really like to have have a graphic display of current tides. Do I need an Altimeter? It’s nice to have the altitude on my watch, but I have also a GPS corrected barometric Altimeter on my Garmin Edge 800. So this year I was thinking about a Frogman and a Rangeman. Actually, I was thinking on bringing them both, but frankly I forgot to strap on my Rangemen, so a Frogman it was. First I was thinking about the pink I.C.E.R.C. Frog, but no. It does not color well with my orange safety vest. There has never been an Orange Frogman as far as I know (except for Riley’s modded Frog), but yellow goes nice with signal orange. I choose my basic yellow GF-8250, which is a tribute to my beloved Men In Yellow Frogman. The Frogman I bought in Kyoto,December 2010. A nice watch and a good souvenir of a great trip.
I recently bought a new "All Weather" camera for taking photo’s during my cycle trips along the islands. I got it just a few weeks before the marathon. Before I had this this camera, I made photo’s during my bicycle rides with my iPhone, which has quite some disadvantages between a point and shoot all weather camera. While an iPhone is far from water resistant and has a touch screen, which need to unlock your screen and open your camera app, my new camera can be operated with one hand, starts up lighting fast and also has a high quality of photo’s, higher than I actually expected from an action cam. I don't even have to stop riding for taking a photo. 
The Kustmarathon was not a real hard one this year. Okay, was a strong (4 Bft) headwind, but for people living on these islands, this is hardly considered wind. Also the weather looked good. Maybe the 20ºC was a bit warm for the runners. Some rain was expected at the end of the day and during the briefing the latest update was that rain would enter our country around 20:00. As the arrival limit of the Marathon is set at 18:00, there would probably be no problem. 
First of course, I needed to get to the start in Burgh, after the briefing in Zoutelande. As usual, transport was arranged and about an hour before the start I was in Burgh. 
At arrival I went to the ring around the church. The Mountain Bike marathon was arriving on the other side of the ring. For the mountain bikers, the route was very heavy, because they had high tide. 
Nearly 11:45. It's getting crowdy at the start boxes. The runners get nervous. I regularly check my Frogman. Several runners want to take a photo of them, me and my "Bezemfiets". It's 15 minutes before the start. It is high tide. After about 4 kilometers we all had to go over the beach, which isn't too easy with high tide. At the highest part of the tide there will hardly be hard sand to ride over. But first things first, we need to start. 
The first part of the Marathon goes through the forrest and the dunes of Schouwen-Duiveland. Unlike the dunes on Walcheren and North-Beveland, the dunes here are wide, instead of one row. It's always amazing to ride here behind the runners. A very beautiful part of the course.
Arrival at the beach. Yes, my Frogman was right. This is high tide and at it's highest point. There is no hard part on the beach at all. Luckily for me I stumbled upon the Lifeguard truck of Domburg. "Do you want a lift?", they asked me. Well, that gesture was more than welcome. I even got a good place on the stretcher in the back, with a good view over the beach and the last runners.
The next part of the Marathon is (for me) pretty easy. The course leads over the 10 kilometer long Storm Surge Barrier. Actually it's over 3 storm surge barriers and 2 artificial islands, crossing the Eastern Scheldt. 
Bas, the last runner on the barrier. He had caught a cold earlier that week and was quite behind his usual marathon schedule. 
The ravage next to the checkpoint on the artificial island Neeltje Jans after the Marathon has past the refreshing point. As we pass, volunteers will clean this up, as they know, when the Bezemfiets passes, there will be no more runners. 
After running more than an hour, the last runner reaches the island North-Beveland.
Our former head of support staff at school. He is enjoying his retirement, but every year he stands here on North-Beveland to encourage me. Every year I look out for this brief meeting.
The route over North-Beveland is relative short. After crossing a dike, and a footpath, we reach the Veerse Gat Dam (the dam between North-Beveland and Walcheren).
At the end of the dam, the biggest challenge for the runners begin. It's 8 kilometers over the beach to Oostkapelle. At the dam a truck is already waiting for me, so I can be brought to lifeguard station at the checkpoint where the runners leave the beach. 
The Marathon has a strict time table. I have to look constantly at my watch. Will my last runner be in time? The gaps between the last runners were getting pretty big. 
Bas arrived just on the time limit at "De Piraat" (15:45). He had lost more 10 minutes behind the scheme on the beach. The man in the yellow hi-viz shirt arrived together with him, but he was not looking fit enough to let him through. We (the lifeguards and me) decided to take him out of the race. The course now leads through a beautiful dune landscape to Domburg
Big brother is watching us...
Ai Ai. I didn't see that coming. When we passed the "High Hill" of Domburg, my last runner Bas decides to give up. It was true he was running on the limit of the Marathon, but somehow I expected him to arrive in time. He didn't sound too tired at all, but he just couldn't get enough air to speed up a little. A pity, as we could get along pretty well. A remarkable side note, he did not walk a single time, until he stepped out of the race. Luckily I had the cross motors near me. They arranged transport for him. The new last runner had passed already more than 15 minutes from where I was at that moment. It was not easy to get to that last runner. I had to ride on a sandy footpath over the dunes with a strong headwind. But, hey, this marathon is supposed to be tough. After a good 10 minute sprint, I reached the next last runner at Westkapelle. Luckily he wasn't running very hard, so I could catch some breath. 
It was the 11th official Kustmarathon. Before the first official Marathon there was a an unofficial marathon over the same course, organize by a group of running friends. At the end of the dike at Westkapelle, at the tank, we pass the 500 km point for the runners who have participated all 11 marathons and it's predecessor. 
When you thought you had it all, there is this last part of dunes, with high climbs and descents. Believe me, after running more than 37 kilometers, these stairs are pretty high and tough. For the Bezemfiets it's also quite a climb, with a mountain bike on my neck. 
In the meantime, the sky did not look hopeful. A dark rolling cloud was coming from the north-east, while there was a strong wind coming from the south-west. A dangerous combination. 
Of course I encourage the last runner to keep a good pace, but with such weather in our back, I really tried to encourage him very hard. In a thunderstorm the dunes are not pretty much the best place to be.
The highest point of the Marathon. 
While the last runners have to go for about a kilometer over the beach, I ride via a detour to the Boulevard of Zoutelande. The last runner arrived with some heavenly sound and light effects in the distance...
Only 7 minutes before the Marathon is closed. Will my last runner make it... At least I could see hime coming from the beach. 
If you scroll the video above, you can see us arrive from the 18th minute, just after the "Bags and Pipes" have passed. You can recognize me from my new Cube LED lamps, I bought just a few days earlier. (Might not show up when viewed on a mobile device).
Not a minute too late we arrive at the finish. The last runner finishes officially 1 minute and 40 seconds late, but in the final corrected results, he was in at 5 hours, 59 minutes and 57 seconds. Unbelievable. At the time we pass the finish it started to rain very, very heavily. Luckily I could ride into the tents. Although it was not really heavy for me this year, I was very glad I was in. 
There was a very good atmosphere in the tent. Nothing showed there was a quite heavy thunderstorm going on outside. I had a few beers and a warm sausage, before my chauffeur brought me home. I really could use a hot shower. 
Well, it was probably not a usual G-Shock article or intermezzo, but I hope you enjoyed my little "finger exercise". It has been a while I have written a full article. I liked to show you my little adventure, but also wanted to look if I am still capable of writing an entertaining article, so I hope this article found you well. I also hope my readers will like the slightly new design. I managed to make the main text field wider, so the photo's could be bigger too.