Cold Weather Training

A year ago, during one of the very short periods of proper cold weather in Berlin, I was out doing my laps in it and thinking. I do a lot of thinking when I’m riding. Quite a bit is of looping through a rhythm as I breathe in and out to the circling of my legs, feet locked into pedals. It’s usually a 4/4, but cuts to a 2/4 when things get dire. Sometimes I go for a 5/4 so I don’t get too obsessive about it all. Another part is saying, “Please stop. Please stop. This feels awful.” That’s one of the voices in my head, probably mine, yapping. In turn, my thighs go through waves of wanting to vomit, like peristalsis moving from gut to legs; my lower back finds various positions to complain in, as do arms, shoulders, toes, hands. My saddle is up in my business, stabbing me in my junk. All skin on the windward side is inexorably being chilled to numbness, along with much of the leeward side of my arse.

My nose is keeping up a consistent drip, a rivulet of watery snot coating my upper lip. Eyes get in on the game too, and my mouth is pulled into what would be described as a “horrible rictus”. I try and remember to make it a smiley one. Apparently that makes suffering easier. “Oh God, I’m going to die. I can’t bear anymore.” goes me, as I keep going, round and round, soaking up aches and enduring the road hammering up into me, heaving cold air in and out of lungs.

So I was riding like that, pretty typical, and it was one of the truly cold days of January, there’s been a light dusting of fine, very dry snow, which ran along the ground beside me in the tailwind. The sun was low and doing that sublime winter thing where the air is iridescent, like it could almost be the arctic. This was around Tempelhofer Feld, the old airport in central Berlin, now a vast parkland. It was empty. I’d seen a couple of runners, and that was it. A 6.6km loop in almost 3 square kilometres in the middle of a city, empty. And I thought, “I should write about cold weather training and suffering and endurance.” Then it warmed up and we didn’t have much of a winter until this last week.

Winter in Berlin is broken compared to when I first arrived, almost a decade ago.

Below -5° extra layers offer diminishing comfort, especially if there’s wind raking the numbers even lower. Air feels like cold liquid. Effort doesn’t generate heat that makes it to the surface or extremities. During 90 minutes of riding, once the initial warm-up buffers against the cold, it’s a slow leeching of heat, sense, motors skills, thinking. My legs feel naked, my cheeks raw. The airport field empties somewhere around -5° also. A handful of runners, some uncomfortable commuters grinding towards heat death, if it’s sunny, one or two huddled out of the wind, sucking in what little warmth can be felt. The sun hangs low and weak above the horizon, far away. The air soaks up all its heat, passes none on.

I can feel my body locking into position, I try and shift more, get on the drops, get a little more aerodynamic, more forward and back on the saddle, occasionally stand up to shake some fatigue from my legs. All the while, nose goes drip, drip, drip. It’s a race between hypothermia and getting the laps in. Pretty bloody stupid.

Today, -6° and 25km/h wind flowing Finland and the Baltic, I tried to think into words the experience of getting through a session of this. Already I forget what it’s like. I remember arriving home, fingers and thoughts slushy and slow, getting into the shower to recover, after-care, kind of like a BDSM session, the very not pleasant ache of blood returning to the surface, and how cold, like cuts of meat from a butcher’s coldstore, my thighs and arse were.

There’s a training measurement called Functional Threshold Power, which you find by hammering as utterly hard as you can for a full hour. There’s a shorter, 20 minute version which gives a more-or-less similar number, but somehow doesn’t conjure the grotesque horror of laying yourself out for 60 minutes. Even backing off for 10 seconds is enough for some recovery, and it becomes not so much a physical limit, as a mental one of meeting “Please stop!” with “Just one more.” for each pedal stroke and each breath, each inhale and exhale, and doing that for each minute and all those seconds. And that’s not to diminish the physical wretchedness, gasping like a walrus, feeling blood draining through legs, everything going jelly. I’ve never done the FTP test, mainly because it terrifies me, mentally I’m not sure I could remain so utterly consistent for a full hour. I might like suffering, but I only play in the shallows.

Back to the cold, then. Probably also playing. Like the heat, you can’t really train for cold. You can understand how one’s body and person responds to and behaves in decreasing temperature, build a familiarity, but actually train for it like training for hill climbing or cobblestone riding or riding muddy off-cambers? It’s like the death zone in mountaineering, over around 8000 metres where there’s insufficient oxygen to keep you alive. Once you’re in there, you’re dying, it’s just physiology and the day that determines how quick. Too hot or too cold, same thing, your body is shutting down.

I want to veer off into pleasure here. Thinking about where I scrape out grains of pleasure and ecstasy in my life. This suffering is pleasure. During and after. Each pedal stroke, one after the other, I find a way with enduring, persevering with discomfort. It becomes only me, my breathing, the cold and wet. I become untouchable. When I was a dance student, and in the years immediately after, I was trained in the ceaseless analysis of self dancing, like picking a scab. Climbing was an escape from this. I never asked questions too close to the ones dance worries incessantly: Why do I do this? How do I do this? Perhaps now I’m stronger in myself resisting questions like these. Not all acts must be subject to dissection and justification — but having maybe a certitude or confidence in doing these things without converting to language why or how — or even considering these questions relevant, I can think about what happens when I subject myself to discomfort.

Finding language then, for things I don’t contemplate or consider in words. Finding a language of pleasure, of which ecstasy is part of the terrain, when as a life lived, there is little in the way of conventional pleasure.

[edit] I started thinking about writing cold weather training a year ago, February 2nd, 2017. A year later, February 25th and 26th, just before I went to Australia, when winter turned on some proper brutal weeks, I wrote most of this. I’d planned to write more, edit it a bit, something, things which didn’t happen. Now it’s July 21st, the middle of one of the hottest and driest summers in Europe on record, Berlin has been having weeks on and off of 30°+ days, I find it strange to think of and remember that particular day in February in this heat. I’ve been training a lot since the start of May, it’s become, or becoming something of an artwork (like my blog is a life project), one of the solo endurance performances I’ve been thinking around. I wanted to write about those, so it makes sense to start with this, if for no other reason than keeping my notes in order.

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Berliner Mauerweg — Western and Northern Route

Continuing art goals. 113.5km of the Berliner Mauerweg from Zehlendorf to Kreuzberg the long way around. One pinch flat on the way. Interesting variety of psychosomatic complaints that each went away when they realised I wasn’t stopping. Sometime around Invalidensiedlung I too realised I wasn’t stopping and went way past my usual ‘long ride’ distance (cyclocross does not prepare me for long days of arse pounding). Beautiful countryside, cheerful Germans everywhere, some cobbles, some truly shameful city ‘bike paths’ that were worse than the cobbles, decided that riding the route counter-clockwise, and finding alternate side-streets through some of the industrial mess of Schönholz (it isn’t) and Wilhelmsruh (also isn’t) is the way to get it done. Sometime in the coming weeks maybe. I’m not sure I have the capacity to get through 50 more kilometres yet. Unknown territory and all.

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Berliner Mauerweg — Southern Route

Over the last month (yes, that month), I decided I need more goals. Art goals. So I put down hypothetical / future works I’d like to make onto my other website, and went for another ride. The last month’s riding, being when I couldn’t hammer myself and had to practice restraint, turned out to be rather bloody good for me. So, sitting around thinking about how I could ever turn me doing Paris–Roubaix into An Art, and people mouthing off about how it takes ‘hard work’ to get what you want — nah fam, it doesn’t work like that, that’s the lie of meritocracy — I thought, fuck ya’s all, you want hard? See me. And thought a good preparation would be to cycle the 167 or so kilometres of the former Berlin Wall. Some of which I’ve already done, so I know it’s got cobbles and all, and is a madness in that department.

167 kilometres is also a pretty good single day race, and going from roads to cobbles to gravel, through the city, around Brandenburg, fields and lakes and forests, it’d make a banger of a women’s Spring Classic, Germany’s own Strada Bianche. Just saying, UCI.

Under-slept, with pockets full of energy bars, I decided to reconnoitre the southern part of the Berliner Mauerweg, starting from where Kreuzberg turns into Alt-Treptow, just over Lohnmühlenbrücke on the Landwehrkanal, working out how that connects to Johannisthaler Chaussee (which is the part I know up until Waltersdorfer Chaussee), and then all the sketchy bits following the Berlin-Brandenburg boundary until I ended up in the arse of Zehlendorf, a spit away from Größer Wannsee. Then back through Steglitz. Dead weird out there. 80-ish kilometres, a bit under half the full loop, plenty of stops while I looked at my GPS track and worked out if I was going in the right direction. Gloriously beautiful fields blooming with late-spring flowers, farm life everywhere, cheerful southern Berliners everywhere. And cobbles. Oh my, cobbles. I am so, so very far from hard.

Next up is Zehlendorf up to Frohnow, via Spandau, which covers most of the route I don’t know, and gets me used to spending those hours in the saddle, something I don’t have a habit for. Then it’s just another hundred kilometres, a lot more cobbles, and that’s Paris–Roubaix.

Isabelle Schad — Fugen, at HAU3

Isabelle Schad’s Fugen, for which I was artistic assistance, returns to Hebbel am Ufer this week, for two shows, followed by a return of Solo for Lea at Sophiensæle on the weekend.

Dear friends and colleagues,

We would like to invite you to the reprise of the pieces Fugen and Solo for Lea by Isabelle Schad.

Both pieces are part of a series of works that Isabelle Schad subtitles as portraits and will be shown as Double Bill on the same weekend in HAU Hebbel am Ufer and Sophiensaele Berlin.

We would be very happy to see you here or there.

Fugen
Thursday, 05.04.2018, 19:00
Friday, 06.04.2018, 19:00
HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin (HAU3)

Solo for Lea
Saturday, 07.04.2018, 19:30
Sunday, 08.04.2018, 19:30
Sophiensæle, Berlin

Fugen “… is a complex work that challenges both the choreographer Isabelle Schad and her audience in previously unseen ways. And thus creates opportunities to go beyond borders.” (Katharina Schmidt)

With Fugen, Berlin choreographer and dancer Isabelle Schad continues her work between musical concepts and their expression in movement. Coming from a music background and a lifelong interest in the polyphonic work of J.S. Bach, she attempts to look at her own (hi)story and the origins of (her) movement between discipline and pleasure. Fugen is an autobiographical work in which the performer’s body serves as an example for the construction of the individual within disciplines and systems one cannot escape from.

Solo for Lea, “A study in minimalism, a physical portrait and a sculpture in motion … a sublime draft.” (Elena Philipp)

Solo for Lea is a meeting between Isabelle Schad and Lea Moro. The work attempts to draw a very personal portrait of Lea Moro, dealing with the specificities of her body, its rhythms, its contours, colours and energies, playing with form-aspects of cubism and Picasso’s drawings in one dash. Together Schad and Moro engage in constellations of forming and disfiguring, in which the body itself becomes the stage: the space, place and matter that is the subject of observation.

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As Melanie Said: ✊✊✊💪💪💪💥💥💥💥

Late-night email from Melanie Lane. Wonderwomen, for which I was dramaturg, won the 2017 Leipziger Bewegungskunstpreis. Mad props to Mel, Rosie Rascal and Nathalie Schmidt, Robert Bartholot, Florian Bücking, and Fabian Bleisch — and LOFFT Theater in Leipzig, where we premièred.

Isabelle Schad — Double Portrait, & Turning Solo, at HAU3

Two shows by and with friends this week: Isabelle Schad’s première at HAU of Turning Solo with the brilliant Naïma Ferré, and Double Portrait, both of which I saw in June showings in Isabelle’s studio in Wiesenburg.

Dear friends and colleagues,

We would like to invite you to the Berlin Premiere / world premiere of the new pieces Double Portrait and Turning Solo by Isabelle Schad at HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin.

We would be very happy to see you.

  1. Berlin premiere / world premiere
    • Friday, 15.12.2017, 19:00, HAU Hebbel am Ufer Berlin (HAU3)
  2. more performance dates:
    • 16.12. 2017, 19:00
    • 17.12. 2017, 19:00
    • 18.12. 2017, 19:00

With Double Portrait and Turning Solo, Isabelle Schad continues a series of works which attempt to create distinct and personal portraits through a purely physical approach, moulding respective rhythms and energies into choreographed experiences.

Double Portrait — the portrait for Przemek Kaminski and Nir Vidan — seeks to form a solo for two persons with their bodies, movements and subjective rhythms. Each of them finds his prolongation in the other. In changing interdependencies a shared space defines self and other, intimacy and care, colliding forces and violence creating a web of connectivities. The work plays with aspects of Frances Bacon’s paintings, their complexity in visual rhythm, their intensity and immediacy.

Turning Solo — the portrait for Naïma Ferré — is based on her fascination with spinning for long periods. This whirling practice is brought into dialogue with Schad’s research around axial and weight shift, around inner movement material and its extension into the world, around energetic fields that characterise oneself and others. Little by little an initially minimalist study in movement becomes a shimmering jewel, a rotating sculpture, the choreographic portrait of a dancer.

Credits Double Portrait
concept and choreography: Isabelle Schad / co-choreography und performance: Przemek Kaminski, Nir Vidan / dramaturgical support: Saša Božić / sound: Damir Šimunović / lighting: Bruno Pocheron / stage: Isabelle Schad, Bruno Pocheron, Charlotte Pistorius, Thomas Henriksson (painting) / costumes: Charlotte Pistorius / head of production: Heiko Schramm / production defacto: Andrea Remetin

Credits Turning Solo
concept and choreography: Isabelle Schad / co-choreography und performance: Naïma Ferré / dramaturgical support: Saša Božić / sound: Damir Šimunović / lighting: Bruno Pocheron & Emese Csornai / costumes: Charlotte Pistorius / head of production: Heiko Schramm

Isabelle Schad — Turning Solo
Isabelle Schad — Turning Solo
Isabelle Schad — Double Portrait
Isabelle Schad — Double Portrait

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Candy 3

Two years of riding on Shimano PD-M540 pedals and the axles are destroyed. I seem to wear out bike parts like a grinder. And after my entire clipless pedal life being on Shimano, I decided to swap to crankbrothers. Which means I need to re-cleat my shoes. And need new shoes. My bike. Such a vacuum for money. But who cares? Let’s all enjoy the sublime engineering of a yet to be unboxed pair of Candy 3 pedals.

Tighten Those Cones

Aside

My glorious Fulcrum Racing 5 CX wheels needed the front wheel’s cones tightened. Break out cone spanners and all the usual mess for a hub-gutting. But, no! All I need is a 2.5mm hex key to spin the pre-load ring tighter. Could probably be done without even removing the wheel. Out-farking-standing.

Isabelle Schad in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, & Jakarta (& elsewhere)

Blog-posting from Isabelle Schad’s mailing list for all youse in Vietnam & Indonesia who didn’t know she’s touring & running workshops until now. Also various dates for various works across Germany and Europe.

Dear friends and colleagues,

we cordially invite you to the following performances and activities in autumn 2017.
We would be very happy to see you, here or there.
Nice Greetings.

Solo for Lea
31.08.2017 / Monoplay Festival / Zadar (HR)
19. + 20.10.2017 / Künstlerhaus Mousonturm / Frankfurt (DE)

Der Bau
20.09.2017 / Europe meets Asia in Contemporary Dance / Hanoi (VN)
24. + 25.09.2017 / Europe meets Asia in Contemporary Dance / Ho-Chi-minh-Stadt (VN)
29. + 30.10.2017 / Komunitas Salihara / Jakarta (ID)

Double Portrait
10.10.2017 / showing / Lazareti / Dubrovnik (HR)
13. + 14.10.2017 / Premiere / Zagrebacki Plesni Centar / Zagreb (HR)

Workshops
21. – 22.09.2017 / Goethe Institut / Hanoi (VN)
01. – 02.10.2017 / Goethe Institut / Jakarta (ID)
21. – 22.09.2017 / Lighting Workshop with Emma Juliard / Goethe Institut / Hanoi (VN)
16. – 18.10.2017 / Künstlerhaus Mousonturm / Frankfurt (DE)

Isabelle Schad — Showings: Double Portrait, & Turning Solo

Two new works from my good friend, Isabelle Schad,one this weekend, the other the end of the month. Both are early showings before their Berlin première at HAU in December.

All the deets:

Showing – Isabelle Schad: Double Portrait, mit Przemek Kaminski und Nir Vidan

Im Rahmen von informellen Showings werden erste Arbeitsergebnisse der für 2017 geplanten Neuproduktionen vorgestellt.

“Die Bilder sind eigentlich immer im Zwischenbereich, hybride, also nie eindeutig definierbar. Sobald ein Bild wirklich nur eine einzige Aussage haben kann, so eindeutig ist, dass jeder Zuschauer dasselbe sieht, versuche ich eigentlich immer etwas zu verändern oder dieses Bild wieder loszuwerden.”

— Isabelle Schad, Auszug Interview mit Wolfgang Horn, Theater: Ein Fest! Tanzplattform 2016, 3sat

Double Portrait, 16. & 17. Juni 2017 / 19.00
Turning Solo, 30 Juni & Juli 2017 / 19:00
Wiesenburg-Halle, Berlin-Wedding, Wiesenstrasse 55, 13357 Berlin

Anfragen und Reservierungen unter: schrammheiko@gmx.de

Isabelle Schad (Konzept, Choreographie), Przemek Kaminski, Nir Vidan (Co-Choreographie und Performance) Sasa Bozic (Dramaturgische Beratung), Damir Simunovic (Sound), Bruno Pocheron (Licht), Charlotte Pistorius (Kostüme), Heiko Schramm (Produktionsleitung), Andrea Remetin (Produktion defacto), Isabelle Schad (Fotos)

Uraufführung: Oktober 2017, Zagreb, Croatia
Berlin Premiere: Dezember 2017, HAU Hebbel am Ufer Berlin