I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’ “How do you do?”
They’re really saying “I love you”

I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Oh yeah

[Louis Armstrong; Lyrics: George Weiss, Bob Thiele]

Perhaps it’s because I just registered for the Big Sur International Marathon 2014 on April 27th, 2014… 😉

Fairy...I am a huge admirer of Woody Allen and my favorite quote from him reads as follows:

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” [Woody Allen]

It’s not only funny, but also unbelievably comforting, I believe. Makes you smile at yourself when again things don’t turn out as you had planned. As you had expected. As you had prepared everything so diligently. So carefully. So sure it will work along schedule and project plan. As it had to.

As these things go, I had 3 New Year’s resolutions this year:
1. Run the San Francisco Marathon
2. Change something about my job and
3. Finally fulfill a dream that I have been having since I was at university: travel Iceland by bicycle

And as these things also go, and even as the year is barely half through, I have to admit that I only managed to live up to two resolutions:
First, I ran the San Francisco Marathon successfully three weeks ago. What an awesome event! I have blogged about it already.

Second, I changed my job significantly this week taking on a new challenge for SAP — and for myself. What an exciting opportunity!

Trolls...But number three, I had to cancel last week due to number two. And with that, the infamous “window of opportunity” has closed for this year — particularly given the weather conditions in Iceland. There’s currently no way to fit the trip into my schedule. Seems I know one New Year’s resolution for next year already.

But perhaps, just perhaps, these dreams you have for years are supposed to remain dreams. Just for the sake of it. Just to remind you that there’s more to long for. Otherwise — would it have been such a big dream over so many years?

Towards Greenland...So I sit in LH454 again, flying over the Norwegian Sea, approaching Greenland ahead, wondering whether everything does indeed happen for a reason as they say or whether it was the trolls and the fairies, watching us pass Iceland on the inflight info system, somewhere several hundred kilometers below and to the southwest, on our route from Frankfurt to San Francisco, absorbing the surreal scene like through a tiny window of a Sojus space capsule floating silently on its orbit in outer space, dreaming that one day, one fine day, one fine day finally, I am going to make it to Iceland… 😉

Last Sunday was the day: I am slowly recovering, trying to avoid stairs and too much walking around. The only good thing about the pain in the muscles and joints is the fact that you can easily tell they are still there. And that obviously I was putting a strain on them. If it wouldn’t hurt today, I wouldn’t have tried hard enough yesterday. That’s for sure. So all is at is should be, I guess.

San Francisco Marathon 2013 -- Start LineSan Franscisco Marathon 2013! Starting time was from 5:30am to 6:30am and runners were scheduled to get over the starting line in several waves, each at like 10 minutes distance. Since I was a bit too conservative about my finish time when I signed up last year, I ended up in wave 5 and soon figured out that I was in better shape than anticipated. So I was in a small crowd of people leaving the pack and closing in on the wave that started before us… That pretty much remained the case till during half of the run… Passing people which — actually — is a quite motivating moment when running. I was always thinking how it must feel if you start in a wave that’s too fast for you and you have other runners constantly passing you… Not exactly what I would like to have on my mind for 42 kilometers… 😉

The first 10K were just awesome! What a scenery! Starting at Pier 1, following Embarcadero and passing Fisherman’s Wharf, the Marina and then climbing up the hill towards Golden Gate Bridge which one could see coming closer slowly all the way since Fisherman’s Wharf! Blue skies above, the morning sun covering the Sausalito and Tiburon hills in a warm yellow light! These are the moments when you know why it was worth getting up at 4 in the morning.

Crossing Golden Gate Bridge was an event in itself. I know it may appear a bit sentimental, but this bridge is just a beauty in itself and running across it with thousands of fellow runners made the whole Marathon pay off already. The only downside was the relatively narrow running tracks in both directions and the fact that so many people were “squeezed” together so that getting along at your own pace was somehow difficult.

San Francisco Marathon 2013 -- Crossing the Golden Gate BridgeAfter having passed Golden Gate in both directions, the track turned through Presidio and the city behind towards Golden Gate Park. A nice part of the Marathon with great views onto the Pacific ocean occassionally, finalizing the sections of major ascent along the trail and giving hope to the Half Marathoners that the end — pardon — the finish line was near.

In Golden Gate Park, the Half Marathoners were send towards their finish line, while the Marathoners were send in turns left and write through the park. It felt as if there were water stations every 500 meters — something that would have been helpful rather towards the end of the Marathon where it felt as if they had forgotten one or the other… But perhaps that perception was only the result of my more and more desperate mind 😉

The second half of the Marathon actually was a bit disappointing from a scenic perspective. Leaving Golden Gate Park and going down Haight-Ashbury and Mission, things became more and more “boring” and when things finally turned towards the SF harbour area it was hard for me to keep up a high spirit and the previous pace (I had covered 36k after 3 hours). After several more turns that apparently were leading into the “wrong” direction — I knew the finish line is close to Bay Bridge — the track made it back towards the North, finally passing the AT&T Ballpark and laying out the last 1km in front of me. The last 6k had taken me 39 minutes to finish. Ouch! Couldn’t keep up the prior pace. But getting closer and closer to the finish line, and making it over it finally, was totally rewarding. That’s the moment when the pain of the past hours is all of a sudden forgotten!

I tend to believe that running a Marathon mimics life to some extent — it’s ups and downs, easier parts and more difficult ones, and it is 70% will to make it through and not give up if things become bumpy –, but there’s one big difference: While you can always predict how long a marathon is and what turns its track will take, life tends to have more sudden and surprising changes in direction in stock for you occasionally…

Running the marathon was awesome and I was totally happy to finish it successfully in 3:39h. Fun at its best!

And the City? She again left a mark. I ran the Marathon for her, I believe. And I am sure I’ll be back for another round soon…

Tomorrow’s the day. The day of the race. The San Francisco Marathon 2013.

I am totally excited. I have been waiting for this day for months now. Preparing. Thinking about it. Getting myself ready. Running a marathon in the City. Finally.

This morning I went out for a last run to stretch a bit and see how I feel. A slow and easy run. Not far from my hotel, but taking me to where the start and finish line will be tomorrow. At Pier 1 on Embarcadero. Nothing to see so far of the preparation, but tomorrow morning at 5:30am, when tens of thousands will be eager to get over the start line at a chilly 12°C, everything will be ready.

Let’s see how the 26.2 miles passing through the 49 square miles surrounded by reality will feel like. I am sure it will be fun. A lot of fun actually. And an extra bit of fun when I reach Bay Bridge again and make it over the finish line 😉

The City. I love her. She again leaves a mark.

IMG_6496

Life’s a marathon. You need courage to start, strength, endurance and will to pertain and a bit of luck to be successful. Not all of us have their share of luck though.

That’s why Susan Keohan, one of our esteemed SAP Mentors, has initiated the SAP Community Challenge Fund Raising Campaign during SAPPHIRE NOW 2013 benefitting Doctors Without Borders.

During the 3 days of SAPPHIRE NOW 2013 from May 14-16 in Orlando, Florida, all the participants who sign up for the challenge will contribute to the fund raising by logging footsteps made, kilometer covered running, coffees consumed or any other “challenge” they come up with.

Susan put it like that:

“It is well known that over the course of the conference, attendees will be logging some serious footsteps. Some may even organize into morning runs – before the heat of the day can beat on us. Practically everyone has a smartphone that can track your distance or some other device like a Fitbit that will also track it.

If you will be doing enough running or walking, and prefer to track something else, how about how many coffees you consume, or how many evaluation cards you fill out after a session?  Or how many SAP Mentors you can get photographed with?  
You decide – anything that is fun, OK?”

I personally will contribute to the challenge by running and counting the kilometers covered. My goal is to go for the marathon distance over the three days of the Sapphire Now event. Let’s see whether I go beyond ;-)…

At the end of Sapphire Now 2013 in Orlando we will do the math, sum up all the contributions made, e.g. kilometers run, and make a corresponding donation to Doctors Without Borders based on our individual commitment.

Want to join and support the campaign?

If you want to support the campaign with your own contribution, either as participant or as sponsor of one of us already signed up participants, please don’t hesitate to sign up at our SAP Community Challenge Fund Raising site on the SAP Community Network or drop me a note that I should enter you…

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

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… of the cold. 10°C yesterday when I was out running, now we’re back at 2°C. It’s a freezing cold Siberian wind blowing from the East that takes all efforts to stop me, creeping through my soft-shell jacket, showing no merci with me. I feel like a turtle that wants to hide its head away in its shell, trying to minimize the skin surface that is exposed to fierce nature. For a moment the question passes my mind why I am out here? I wish I were 5725 miles away, somewhere warmer and less windy. But then I tell myself that I am not that easy to break. So all of me retreats into my inner shell, cutting myself off from the surrounding, my eyes locking in onto the trail ahead of me, my feet mechanically pushing me forward like a clockwork. The cold air hurts in the lungs with every breath and forces tears into my eyes. Which are nicely complemented by the song that I have chosen to keep me running today because of its powerful beat: Dry Your Eyes from Angels & Airwaves. LOL 😉

Sometimes, especially when traveling and in spots where I have not been before, I love running because it’s a beautiful way of exploring the surrounding. You take a steady pace, not too fast, and just keep going while you let your eyes absorb the scenery: a city just waking up early in the morning and people pouring out of the subway on their way to work, the illuminated shop windows in a main street at night immersed into magic neon light, majestic mountains encircling a lake in the Alps. When in “exploration mode”, I keep running and my mind nearly feels like floating around freely, open, curious, all around, going here and there, just absorbing. It’s a great way of finding out more about new places.

But sometimes, like today, when you know your way by heart, if one could send you out there with your eyes blind-folded or at pitch-black night, because you know the trail by heart, you’ve run there a hundred times, know every pothole you need to avoid and every tree root you shouldn’t stumble over, and if then the weather seems to have made plans to play games with you, then running is the exact opposite. Then I lock myself in. I don’t look left or right, just straight down in front of me. I put the music to maximum volume, have some song with a decent pace push me along, every part of my mind concentrated somewhere inside me (hopefully the head ;-)) and there is just one thing to do: Keep running. Forget all the rest. And keep going.

I like it both ways. The latter one is a bit harder to your will. But if I get into it, and add a bit of anger about the cold, or the wind, it’s the perfect mood to push myself over the limit. Just like today. Because when you start against the wind, and as usual want to return home after a while, the wind will have to blow in your direction at some point in time, no matter what. And that makes you just “fly” back home.

It got dark by the time I return back home. What a lousy weather. Enough of it now. Let spring come please. But for now I feel — fantastic again 🙂

“When I was a child growing up in Salinas we called San Francisco “the City”. Of course it was the only city we knew, but I still think of it as the City, and so does everyone else who has ever associated with it. A strange and exclusive word is “city”. Besides San Francisco, only small sections of London and Rome stay in the mind as the City. New Yorkers say they go to town. Paris has no title but Paris. Mexico City is the Capital.

San Francisco put on a show for me. I saw her across the bay, from the great road that bypasses Sausalito and enters the Golden Gate Bridge. The afternoon sun painted her white and gold rising on her hills like a noble city in a happy dream. A city on hills has it over flatland places. New York makes its own hills with craning buildings, but this gold and white acropolis rising wave on wave against the blue of the Pacific sky was a stunning thing, a painted thing like a picture of a medieval Italian city which can never have existed.

I stopped in a parking place to look at her and the necklace bridge over the entrance from the sea that led to her. Over the green higher hills to the south, the evening fog rolled like herds of sheep coming to cote in the golden city. I’ve never seen her more lovely. When I was a child and we were going to the City, I couldn’t sleep for several nights before, out of bursting excitement. She leaves a mark.”

FROM John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley, 1962


[Teton Gravity Research Aerial Reel – The Bay Area in 4K from Teton Gravity Research on Vimeo]
Tip: Maximize video to fullscreen! And don’t miss lighted Bay Bridge at around 2mins 45secs…

It’s cold. 0°C. And it’s pitch black. I can barely see where I am putting my feet. Strangely different than usually. Takes me a while to realize it’s a totally clear sky this night. All those stars above. Beautiful. But no moon anywhere! That’s why it’s so damned dark… And there’s no one outside it seems. During a whole hour I only see 3 cars.

I would have thought it’s more difficult today after the 30K the day before yesterday. But already when I start it feels as if my body is running without me. It is as if I had retreated myself completely into my head and my legs and feet keep running on their own. I can barely feel my body.

The cold wind is blowing over the fields. Nasty. A lot of noise around my ears. So loud it’s sometimes even hard to understand Train’s “This’ll Be My Year” that keeps hammering into my ears in an endless loop… Counting down the hours…“.

What the heck am I doing out here???

Today’s the day. As if the gods had known it and are for once supportive to me, the sun’s shining when I wake up. It’s still only 2°C outside, but boy, the sun is shining. Finally. Today we will have our first rendezvous this year. Like every year on April 1st. The day starts with an appropriate breakfast — pankakes, maple sirup, icecream, orange juice, and a cappucchino, to get into a mix of Californian and Italian feeling. Ready for our day.

It was a Monday as well. April 1st, 1996. A very remarkable day for me actually. It was my first day as an employee of SAP Labs LLC. At the time still in Metro Tower in Foster City, before SAP Labs moved to Palo Alto where it is still today. I had just finished my Computer Science studies at university and had been working on connecting the SAP R/3 system to the Internet as my diploma thesis, when this whole thing turned out to be the start of a development project at SAP: the Internet Transaction Server. It makes for too long a story, but I ended up having the opportunity to come to California and work on the project at SAP Labs for 3 fantastic years. 

When I open the garage, she’s still there. I am relieved. Sometimes you wonder how you would react if the door opened and she was gone. Just a small pile of red rust left on the floor. Where she had been before. But she’s still there. As I have left her last October. Hidden under a red cover. It’s almost a celebration to uncover her. Carefully pulling the cloth off and revealing her step by step. Till finally, she’s back in old beauty. A bit older, but who isn’t? Still in perfect shape and her eyes blinking in the sun… She’s my 1969 Alfa Romeo Spider 1750. A real beauty, I think.

Alfa Romeo Spider 1750

I can still remember how exciting it was to arrive in California and start living and working there. Everything was a new experience and needed to be explored. I only knew San Francisco from the movies or stories I had heard and now being there, visiting the City in all its beauty, absorbing the buzz and the new impressions was for sure worth an experience. That’s when my love for the City got started. Love at first sight. She really left a mark with me.

Some careful wipes with a soft cloth to get the last signs of winter off — some dust here and there. We need some checks of fluids and the battery — still fine. So I carefully take a seat behind the steering wheel. Insert the car keys, send a prayer to heaven and turn the ignition. The engine gives it a try, but only for a split second. We try it a second time. Nothing. Hey, we’ll need some time together again, as it seems. Lot’s of talking. Begging. And finally, I’ll get her started… Not very smooth yet, but we’ll get there. As every year…

Alfa Romeo Spider 1750

We worked in a small team. Just four guys and a mission: Get the product ready in no time. I can remember how we worked like crazy: Thomas G did the development and benchmarking tools, Michael B did the R/3 specific protocol adaptations, I did the server core and the installer and Michael H took care of all the rest, including our travel itineries to Germany and back every few months. Some days we worked through all night, just to get the next milestone done or reach yet another looming deadline. It was the best team I ever worked in. The most influential project that I ever had the opportunity to be part of. Lot’s of hard work, but also lots and lots of fun! 

So finally, after some time getting warm with each other, we can take off… Leaving town behind us. Driving through the open fields. The cold wind blowing around my head, the wooden steering wheel feeling nice and soft in my hands, the sun above, the heating slowly getting warmer from below. It’s that very special feeling again. The one that makes her so unique. And she’s getting into it as well. Her engine gets warmer and runs smoother and smoother with every mile that we pass. She’s back to life. Finally. I think we’re getting into it again this year. It’s all memories and nostalgia about previous summers we’ve spent together. It will take some time, but we’ll get there again. We’ll have a great time together.

The three years passed like nothing. For some or the other reason the decision was taken to go back to Germany and not stay in California. It’s difficult to tell in retrospective what set the trigger. Many reasons coming together. But I guess you have to loose something first to really learn to appreciate what you had. Till today I wonder from time to time why I didn’t stay in California? How would my life have been since then? How would it be today? What opportunities did I miss? Was it right to go back to Germany? But then, in the end, I tell myself that it doesn’t matter. Decisions were taken differently at the time. Even though it was one of the best times in my life, it’s the past. And so things are as they are. What does it help to speculate about what could have been? It’s all memories by now. The only thing one can influence is the future.

Me and herSo Maybe this will be my year