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Race Report: 50K Schwaebischer Alb Marathon

Pre-Race

We arrived in Schwaebish Gmünd around 5 p.m. on Friday, checked into the Guesthouse (hotel) where we would be staying then drove the 10 minutes to the sport hall to pick up my start number and take a look around. There were a few booths set up in the sport club where they were selling running stuff and other health related articles. We took a quick look through, but didn’t find anything interesting. Next we walked to the center of town, the market plaza (Marktplatz), where the race would begin on Saturday. This was about 10 minutes from the sport club. We also located the Information Center where my wife would be meeting friends of her boss for a tour of the town the next day. After returning to the sport hall we drove back to the guest house and had an excellent meal in their restaurant.

On Saturday morning we woke up at 7:00 and had breakfast at the guest house restaurant. After breakfast we finished getting ready and made our way to the sport club where we parked our car and used the rest rooms. About a half hour before the race, we made our way to the Start in the market square.

The Race

A few minutes before the race began I joined the other participants at the starting line. Promptly at 10:00 a.m. the starting pistol went off and the 1100 participants (50K/25K run and 30K walk) surged slowly forward. We wound our way through the city streets for the first kilometer, then followed an asphalt bike path out of the city and into the countryside.

I concentrated on keeping my paced down the first 4K/2.5M of flat or downhill sections, around 6:15K (10:00/M). Around kilometer 4 we started reached the first rolling hills, but these were gradual and quite runnable, I eased my way over these without thinking much about it. I continued on at an easy pace as the kilometers continued to accumulate. At the 6K/4M point was the first aid station, I grabbed a cup of water on the way through. Aid stations would be located approx. every 6K thoughout the race.

At around kilometer 8 (5 miles) we started the first real climb, about 140 meters, but spread over 3 kilometers. I kept running slowly up the hill, my breathing was good and I didn’t feel like I was working too hard. I passed the 10K point with a time of about 1:06:00, about what I had planned on. At the 11K point the path went downhill again for a couple kilometers, but then we started the first major climb of the day, an over 250 meter (740+ feet) climb. I dropped down to a hill climbing jog planning on walking whenever it got too steep. As it turned out it never felt steep so I ended up running up the whole mountain.

Coming down the other side was quite a workout for my quads, but I still felt fresh so didn’t pay too much mind to this. I passed the 20K point somewhere around 2:18:00, still within my estimate. The race continued on along over some small rolling hills until around kilometer 23 (14.3 miles), where it started to gradually climb. Shortly after kilometer 24 the trail suddenly started heading almost straight up, slowing everyone to a slow snails crawl up a side of a mountain and the waiting finish line for the 25K runners.

One important note that I would like to add at this point. I had anticipated the race route only having about 20-30% asphalt surfaces, but up to this point it was more like 95% and would end up being around 80% asphalt for the entire race – I didn’t train on any asphalt all summer long!

I passed over the 25K line at almost exactly 3 hours, which is an average pace of 7:12/K (11:35/M), not too bad considering the two major hill climbs. As I rounded the top of the mountain we went down a steep quad-burning path that I didn’t think would ever end. It finally did after 2 kilometers, only to turn into the third major climb of the day.

The third hill was at least a dirt path, correction, a mud path that again seem to go straight up and again seemed to leave everyone walking. As soon as we got to the top we turned around and went down almost the same way that we went up. By the time I got to the bottom, around the 32K (20 mile) point my quads were aching and worst yet my entire legs felt totally beat up from up to now probably 80% asphalt that we had been running on.

I continued to plod along, again on asphalt bike paths. Around kilometer 33 we went up a smaller hill climb, which I walked, then started a long (7K/4.3M) downhill which pounded whatever was left of my quads to jello-pudding.

By kilometer 40 (mile 25) I was reduced to running for 5-10 minutes, then walking for a minute. My energy level seemed to be fine, but somehow my legs just didn’t seem to want to move. The last hill climb at around kilometer 42 (26 miles) actually was a relief – I ran (jogged) most of it. From around kilometer 43 to the finish line was all downhill and all asphalt – I wanted to run the rest of the way, I wanted to run fast, but somehow my mind and legs couldn’t get it together. My energy was good, my stomach was a bit queasy, but my legs were asphalt-beaten-to-death.

The last 7 kilometers where tough, time seemed to stand still. I ended up running from object to object, taking 1-minute walking breaks when I couldn’t push the legs anymore, then running on. Three runners passed me during this time and I didn’t see or hear any others, it left me wondering if I was the last one. At around the 48 kilometer (29.8 miles) I reached the edge of the city and could hear the crowd at the finish line. I plodded along, taking a quick walk break at kilometer 49, then plodding on. Shortly after this the path rejoined the one that we took at the beginning of the race and I knew that finish line was only about 5 minutes away.

I continued on and soon came up behind another runner. I slowly closed the gap between us, but as soon as he saw the finish line he pulled ahead and finished ahead of me. In any case I passed over the finish line in 6:28:34, at least I made my goal of 6 ½ hours for the race.

I placed 442/464 overall and 83/87 in my age group (M45). I know this doesn’t sound terribly impressive, but this race was one of the races in the Europacup for Ultramathons 2006. The Europacup consists of six ultramathons that take place across Europe each year. Many of the runners were competing in this European championship, so it does not surprise me that I was at the back of the back.

Conclusion

I am very pleased with my finishing time, considering the 1100 meters of elevation gain and the amount of asphalt trails. My goal was to finish in around 6 ½ - 7 hours, which I did. The race route was incredibly beautiful, particularly in the forests where the leaves are changing. I had hoped that I wouldn’t need to take so many walk breaks toward the end, but I’m okay with that, I still had a great race and no one can change my mind.

Comments

I agree - well done!!

Sounds great to me Jack. It surprises me that there were that many people ahead of you.

I hope the legs heal up quickly and you're able to enjoy a bit of rest.

Great job!!! It sounds like a really pretty race, love the pics!!!

Well done!

Great race and nice report too. Tough competition. Sorry about the asphalt! Hope you can take it easy for awhile now and bask in the glow of another 50k finish.

your pics make me homesick - hahahaaaa!!

i'm glad you had a great race.

Did you say that that doesn't sound impressive?? It's sounds damn impressive to me!! GO JACK! awesmome report (which i as usual, am late to read!) 740+ climb?! Good grief! and i'm cryin' like a GIRL over a 200 foot climb tomorrow! You're amazing jack! I'm glad i read this before tomorrow. Just the inspiration I need!

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