March 2007 Archives

A Marathon a Month?

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I was looking over my race schedule last night and tweaking my training plan accordingly. I was originally planning on running a 100K race in May, but it was cancelled due to extensive storm damage to the forests where the race was to be held. There are a few other 100K runs around Germany and Switzerland that I could run, but my wife and I have decided that we have other priorities so long as she is unemployed.

I am seriously considering cutting out most of the shorter races this year and just run a marathon a month until at least October. My goal is to stabilize my marathon pace and try to move “the wall” a little closer to the finish line. The marathons in April and May will be training runs. In September I want to try to set a new PR at the Karlsruhe marathon - it is a nice flat course well suited for this purpose.

I am registered for a 10K race on this coming Sunday, as well as a HM on April 14th. I also plan on running the 80K/50M Fidelitas Night Run on June 24th, but so far the club has not received the necessary permit – I am keeping my fingers crossed. The 50M race takes place practically in my backyard, I train regularly on part of the course when I do my hill runs. This will be my main event for the year, I am hoping to finish under 10 hours (last year my time was 10:19:09).

I was standing at the trailhead talking with some of the members of my running club last night when one of them asked if I wanted to run intervals with him. Now being a complete interval virgin, I thought this might be a good opportunity for me to try out this weird science. So we started running with the mid-pack group to warm up a bit, then Walter started my Interval 101 class. Having only read about how one should go about doing this, I decided to just go with the flow, in this case just mimic Walter who sounded like he knew what he was doing.

After our warmup we settled down to a slightly slower pace, then gradually increased this for a minute or so, then Walter picked a point on the horizon and we accelerated at a good clip until we reached the designated point. From there we decelerated gradually for a minute or two, then (to my surprise) took a walk break for about a minute. After this we repeated this sequence over and over for approx. 8-9K, then finished with a 1K cooldown jog.

When we returned to the trailhead after the run a couple of the group started haggling Walter that he was doing intervals incorrectly, e.g. that it was wrong to take walk breaks, we should have run slowly. A couple more said it was fine to do walk breaks if we thought we needed to.

So what do you guys think? What is the correct way to run intervals, and/or what has worked for you?

Swim Night and May Marathon Planning

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I stopped at the swimming pool on the way home from work last night and knocked out a kilometer of laps in the 25 meter pool in Blankenloch (the next town south of where we live). It was several weeks since I was swimming last, but I quickly fell into a groove and had a good workout. I think my freestyle is slowly improving despite not ever having a freestyle swim course.

My wife took the train to Mannheim yesterday (40 minute ride) and talked to the firm that is offering the technical writing course that she has decided to take and returned totally motivated to do this. The school has stated that 80% of the last few classes found jobs within a few months of completing the course, so hopefully my wife will have the same luck.

I was talking to my wife last night about race plans for May. Last year I ran a 50K in May as a preparatory workout for my 50-mile run in June. I have narrowed it down to two possibilities, the same 50K that I ran last year, or the Mannheim Marathon.

My wife favors the Mannheim marathon because it wouldn’t require an overnight stay, and being on a Saturday evening, she wouldn’t have to work the next day. It may also be possible that we can take the train, which would eliminate the need (and expense) of finding a parking place. The minus point (for me) is that the marathon is a city marathon = asphalt. I ran the Mannheim marathon in 1995 as my first marathon, the streets are brutal on the quads.

The 50K race is farther away (3-1/2 hours) and due to its early starting time either requires that we lose a lot of sleep or stay overnight the night before the race. The race is also on a Thursday holiday, which means my wife has school the next day (Friday). The plus point is that the run is almost 100% forest trail or gravel/dirt paths and has lots of nice hills and scenery to keep me occupied.

In either case I mentioned that my wife doesn’t have to go with me to the race, she can stay home and relax. But my wife seems to think that I might overdo it and not be able to safely drive home, so for her this option is not an option.

Anyway, we still have time before I have to sign up for either race, so I’ll wait and see how the next several weeks develop. My training will remain the same in either case, my main objective being the 50-miler in June.

An Easy 10 Mile Run

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When I got home from work last night it was a sunny 19C/66F and I was anxious to head out for a run. I decided to take advantage of the sunshine and run more field paths than forests. My legs were still a little tight from the runs over the weekend, so I set out at an easier pace. The beautiful spring weather brought out the masses, I passed numerous runners, walkers and cyclists as I wound may way over bike paths, field ways and a small stretch of forest. At one point some logging work forced me to detour onto a small single track path through the woods, how beautiful, I’ll have to remember that route.

I eventually wound my way back over the last of the fields and headed home, completing roughly 16K/10M at an easy pace. I am already looking forward to my next run on Wednesday, the entire week is supposed to stay warm and friendly. Tonight I want to stop at the swimming pool on the way home for some laps, it has been much too long since I have done this last.

Spring has returned!

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Saturday’s near freezing temperature, rain, and snow was replaced with warmth (14C/57F) and sunshine by Sunday afternoon. My wife dozed off on the couch, so I decided to go for any easy run. It was quite windy as I wound my way over the field paths and bike trails surrounding my town. People were out in masses, walking, talking and enjoying the sunshine. I ran for about 54 minutes, covering around 9K/5.6M, an easy run on a beautiful day!

My body has been stiff and kind of achy the last few runs, in particular a lower abdominal pain which I’m a bit concerned about. I beginning to believe that I didn’t allow myself enough recovery time after the last marathon. I have also been slacking off on my cross-training and diet, luckily my weight has remained consistent. In any case I can tell that my fitness level is not what it was a year ago.

I have committed myself to a few shorter races in the near future. The first will be on April 1, an annual 10K race in the neighboring town of Blankenloch. Several of my running club will be participating, so it should be fun. Based on my running for the last week I will probably treat this more as a fun run. I also am signed up for a hilly half-marathon on April 14th, but again this will be just a training run – it follows part of the 80K/50M race route that I will be running in June.

I have been planning on running a training marathon on April 22, but based on my slower recovery from this month’s marathon it may not be such a good idea. At this point I would favor a hilly 50K trail race on May 17th in the Westerwald Forest. I ran this ultra last year and found it to be challenging and just a beautiful place to run.

Lastly, my wife has decided to pursue the technical writing career path, rather then the bookkeeping. Now it is only a question of whether she can still get into the course that begins in April.

Winter has returned

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Last night it was a cool 5C/41F, rainy and windy as I set out on a run around my 14K/8.7M loop. I was carrying a lot of baggage in my mind from a stressful week and seeking to leave some of it on the trail. I turned on my MP3 player and lost contact with the world for the duration of my run. I felt tired and sluggish, but was happy to be outside even in the soon pouring rain. By the time I returned home my body was much more tired than it should have been for such a short distance, but my mind was clear.

This morning my wife went to the second day of her spreadsheet class and I headed out for a long run. My goal was to run around 2-1/2 hours, including a couple hill climbs. It was a cold 3C/37F, breezy and raining as I set out over the first 7K/4M stretch that would bring me to my hills in Untergrombach. By the time I arrived I was already soaked to the skin and the entire hillside was covered with snow.

I started climbing the hillside taking the same path that I did last week, but soon I ran into ice on the steep portions, so found a more gradual way around the backside of the mountain. As I continued my climb the rain turned to a thick snow, but I was at least able to continue my climb, although it was slow going. Finally I reached the top where I had planned on doing some loops around the rolling hills on top, but the asphalt paths were treacherous and I was starting to get cold. I decided to head back home, I wasn’t feeling the best anyway.

I retraced my steps back towards the house thinking I would run some of my normal trail, but the rain and wind picked up and I felt like a frozen chicken by the time I reached the end of my town. I decided an extra 30 minutes of running wasn’t worth getting sick so called it a day, reaching the house after 2:14:50. After a warm bath and some hot food I finally got warm and was able to carry on with the rest of the days activities.

When I left the military and moved to Germany to live with my wife in 1990 it was not an easy decision. My wife made it easier because she had a good job in a printing company as a digital media designer. This allowed me to work at low paying jobs for several years while I finished my Bachelor and Master degrees in the evenings. My wife also took care of most of the housework as well so I had adequate study time.

This week my wife has been offered two opportunities from the unemployment office for retraining. The first, you may remember me talking about, is a two month bookkeeping course which would prepare for an entry level job as a bookkeeper.

Yesterday she was offered an 8-month schooling in Technical Communication, or as it was formerly known, as a Technical Writer. This latter training would strongly utilize her experience from the printing company, requires extensive English, would be more challenging and demanding, and ultimately would pay much better.

From the job market perspective, generally speaking currently there are more bookkeeping jobs being offered in Germany than technical writing jobs, but according to the company offering the Technical Communications program, 80% of the last 4 classes found work in that profession.

I work as a general engineer with my company and my duties include Documentation Management, Translating, Internet Design and Technical Communication. I have at least given my wife some idea what to expect as a Technical Writer. I think that my wife would excel in this field.

So now my wife is faced with a major career decision, should she wait and hope that one of her job applications works out, or should she take one of the schoolings that is being offered, and if so which one? She has until next Thursday to decide…

I offered my opinion last night when she asked, but I know that she needs to make the decision. It is my opinion that when the unemployment office is paying for the school, the transportation and sending the unemployment check each month then she should take advantage of this.

So with all that in mind I find myself thinking back to my first several years living in Germany and it is becoming clear what I need to do, namely keep the path free for whatever route my wife decides to take. I guess this means I need to spend less time tweaking my running schedule and start figuring out how the washing machine, stove, vacuum clean and iron operate…does housework count as crosstraining?

A 11K Run with my Running Club

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Thank you everyone for your kind comments and wishes. Although this is not the first time my wife or I have faced unemployment, it is the first time we have faced this with a large mortgage payment due every month. The current economic situation in Germany is not so rosy and with my wife fast approaching the half-century mileage marker she is a bit nervous. But my wife is a fighter and skilled in what she does, she only needs a chance to show a business what she can do.

Last night I made it a point to spent some time with my wife when I got home, patiently listening as she bad-mouthed the German unemployment office personnel (easy to do, they are so incompetent), then met my running club at 6 p.m. for a run.

It was a rather chilly (5C/41F) first day of spring as we huddled together at the trailhead. Usually the groups stand around and talk until the running club leader has to kick us out onto the trail, but this time the groups didn’t need much motivation.

I started with the mid-pack for the first 10 minutes or so, but the front runners were taking their time so a broke off with another runner and we eventually caught up with the faster group (who were running slower than normal too). I felt pretty good so fell right into pace, but after awhile they started speeding up and before long we were flying along (for me) at a 5:00/K (8:00/M) pace. Now my mind was totally against this exerted effort, but the body was willing, so this turned into quite the battle of wills. Luckily my body won and I again settled into a groove and chained myself to the taskmasters setting the pace. But these dudes must have been suffering from spring fever or something, because as we neared the last kilometer they again accelerated, leaving half the group behind and me gasping for breath by the time we got back to the trailhead – but I hung with them!

All in all it was a good workout, not the fastest 11K loop that I have made with the club due to the slow start, but definitely a good workout towards the end.

Time to take a step back??

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I have had trouble getting to sleep the last couple nights, my wife is home using up the last of her vacation days before the end of her job contract and is not a happy camper. She has been faithfully applying for every job that has come up, but competition is rough and nothing has worked out yet. On a positive note the unemployment office has offered to pay for an intensive bookkeeping class beginning in April if she doesn’t find a secretary/admin. assistant job by then. This should at least increase her chances of finding work somewhere. I am trying to remain positive about the situation, especially around my wife, who is feeling discouraged in the moment.

In any case I have been giving a lot of thought to the entire situation and am thinking it is best when I tone down my training a notch. I feel it is more important at the moment when I commit more time and energy to supporting my wife, rather then trying to improve my running.

I will continue to run and race, but not necessarily at the intensity that I have enjoyed. Besides, it will be hard to run a PR race when my mind is not concentrated.

I have been trying to talk my wife into taking a Nordic walking course for awhile, I think now I will make the suggestion that we take one together. Maybe it would help her if we could walk out some of her frustrations, wish me luck.

When I got home from work last night the sky was a dark gray-black and the first blast of hail had already been through. My wife’s only comment was that I should hurry up and run before the next storm wave come through.

As I slipped outside for my run the first rain drops began to fall. I warmed up the first kilometer then, then picked up the tempo to about 5:30/K (8:51/M) as I took off over the windy fields. After about 20 minutes I approached the woodline of the forest that I pass through and the rail soon turned to a pelting hail. I headed for a thicker portion of the forest and kept the pace up. By the time I finished around 10K at this tempo the hail had turned to snow, then rain, and finally quit altogether. I slowed my paced down to a comfortable 6:00/K (9:39/M) and headed home. By the time I reached the house after around an hour and half of running the sun was shining brightly! What’s up with that?

Tonight I have weight training on the schedule, the first time in quite a long time. I want to start up slowly and gradually get back into a routine. I also need to try to get to the swimming pool this week, I have been neglecting that as well. I am discovering that it is hard to keep my focus this year due to several distractions in life, not the least being my wife’s continuing job search. It’s probably better that I don’t try a 100K at the moment, I don’t think I have the mental toughness that I would need.

Pictures of my run last Friday...

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A few of you expressed interest in pictures, so I found some pictures of Untergrombach where I ran up the mountain on Friday night. The pictures were taken in November, 2006 I do promise that in the future I will bring my camera and take my OWN pictures.

The hill in the distance taken from the filled-in quarry near Untergrombach - notice the church steeple hidden on the right and the chapel on the top of the hill:
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A step closer:
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Starting the accent:
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Up and up...
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A view along the way:
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The chapel at last:
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A view from the top:
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Almost Springtime

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With the official start of spring just days away mother nature is not giving up winter easily, we are back to near freezing temperatures, strong winds and lots of rain. Yesterday afternoon was so uninviting that I curled up on the couch for a nap rather than taking my planned bike ride.

In an effort to boost my motivation I signed up for a half-marathon in Straubenhardt on April 14th. This town lies along the 50-mile Fidelitas Night Run route that I plan on doing in June and will be a good practice run. The slightly hilly run is also quite scenic and is quite popular among the local runners. I found a picture of last year’s race, I hope the weather will be so nice for this years race:

straubenhardt3.jpg

The half-marathon, along with a marathon on April 22, and either a marathon or 50K race in May are part of my training plan for the 50-miler in June. All three races will be on hilly terrain and will probably be run at a training pace. I haven't really scheduled in any tapering time for the races and I expect that recovery will also be very limited. After the 50-miler in June I will return to running asphalt as I train for a city marathon in September.

Some of you may remember that I said I wanted to run a 100K this year. Well I still do, but I am leery about committing myself to an extended training plan and resources when my wife is still searching for a new job.

A 1-1/2 Hour Training Run

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On Saturday morning my wife went to a spreadsheet class that she signed up for and I headed out for a run. I had planned on around a two hour run, but after the first hour it was clear that my run up the mountain the night before had taken more out of me than I figured on. I decided to cut the run short and returned home after about 1-1/2 hours. This brought my mileage for the first week after my marathon to 53K/33M, pretty close to what I planned.

Today is a dark, rainy Sunday, a good day to start reading my new running book by Herbert Steffny, a former Olympic runner, biologist and now well-known author of several German running books. I have been thinking about using one of his marathon training plans to train for a city marathon in September.

Have a great Sunday!

Heading for the hills!

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Last night I decided to try a new route to Untergrombach, a town about 7K/4.3M away that borders one of the higher hills in the area. The route to Untergrombach is mostly asphalt bike paths and half of it parallels a busy county highway (e.g. loud). I have generally avoided running this way because I don’t like the busy traffic that occurs during the time that I usually run. However in an effort to find a new running route with some hills I decided to try it again. The first 20 minutes wasn’t too bad, but then I hit the 3-4K section that follows the highway. It was so loud from traffic that I had to turn up my MP3 player! I suffered through it, including having to dodge about 8-10 cyclist and a dog walker who thought they owned the path. I finally reached the church in the middle of town that is the trailhead for the long climb up onto the mountain. I had planned on just running to this point and turning around and going back. But there I was staring up toward the mountain and I just did what any runner would do, I started climbing :-)

Untergrombach.jpg

Ignoring the fact that I just ran a marathon the weekend before, I climbed from around 110 meters (360 feet) elevation to around 264 meters (866 feet) over roughly a mile distance. The run upwards included at least three quad busting sections that would leave most pedestrians panting. Although the climb was steeper than I am accustomed to on my normally hilly long run route, I was motivated and kept up a steady hilly climbing pace. As I popped onto the top of the ‘mountain’ I received a couple strange looks from a couple dog walkers who had obviously driven up the mountain. I did a loop around the small chapel and restaurant and started home again. The run down was quite enjoyable after the climb and the good feeling carried me back home. I ran for 1:50:00, around 18K/11M according to Google Earth.

This morning my quads were toast, and my wife had absolutely no sympathy whatsoever, her only words being “Aren’t you supposed to be recovering from a race?”. My only regret is that I didn’t bring my camera with me – I guess I’ll have to run up the hill again next weekend ;-)

Racing Events for April

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Tonight I want to go for about an hour run, tomorrow (Saturday) morning around 2 hours. My current plan is to slowly build this up to two hours/four hours in preparation for my 80K/50M race in June. The Friday night runs will be at a faster tempo, the Saturday morning runs will be hilly runs whenever possible. If this doesn't work out with my wife's schedule I'll shift the runs to Saturday and Sunday mornings (eliminating any chance for sleeping in).

I was looking over my race dream list last night and realized I have a marathon (or longer), a half-marathon and at least one 10K on the calendar for every month through October! Hmmm, maybe that is too much…

Events for April:

April 1: Stutensee Stadlauf (10K village run in the neighboring town of Blankenloch).

April 14: Straubenhardter Panoramalauf: A hilly half-marathon in the foothills of the Black Forest.

April 22: Northern Black Forest Marathon: A hilly marathon in Egenhausen, also in the foothills of the Black Forest. This will be a training run, my goal around 5 hours. Last year I finished the marathon in 4:42:00. The course is a good mix of forest paths, hills and asphalt.

Fall Marathon - Part II

I was talking to my wife about the Baden Marathon in Karlsruhe in September, she has more or less given me her blessing. I was also looking over a sub-4 hour training plan last night that sounds like it will fit to my schedule...

Last night I had a nice run with my running club, although we had a relatively small turnout despite perfect weather. I hung back with the mid-pack group who I figured would maintain around a 6:00/K (9:39/M) pace, just about right for my recovery. The four of us eased our way around the 11K loop trading running stories and getting mouthfuls of little bugs that the warm weather (62F) seemed to have brought out. After about 5K two of the group headed back to the trailhead and the Tri-guy and I continued on around. Somewhere around the 8K/5M point I felt really good so started easing the pace up a bit. Tri-guy seemed to adapt nicely to the pace increase and we finished off the last 3K with a decent 5:30/K (8:51/M) pace. After we finished Tri-guy said with a big smile that normally he doesn’t finish so strong, but if I can do it after just finishing a marathon then he felt obligated to keep up.

After the run I went home and showered then drove to the monthly get together that the running club has. We were about 15 people stuffing our faces and swapping tales, it was a great evening.

Fall Marathon

I have just about talked myself into running another city marathon in September. After talking with several experienced marathoners last night and reading your comments I think I can come up with a better training plan and get a lot closer to a 4-hour finish. Of course there is only one way to prove it, do it!

Post-marathon Critique

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On Monday, the day after my marathon, I was on vacation so took advantage of the beautiful weather outside and went for a 30 minute bicycle ride. I also had vacation yesterday (Tuesday) and went for a 50 minute recovery run later on in the morning. My legs were a little stiff, but no aches or pains, I think my recovery will go quickly. I felt so good in the afternoon that I cleaned up the yard in the back of the house – of course the sunny 17C/63F day made it a real pleasure. Today I’m back to work and looking forward to a run with my running club this evening.

Post-Marathon Critique

Last Sunday was my 8th marathon (11th if you count the three I walked in the 1990’s) and I am satisfied with my finishing time and new PR of 4:29:36. As with every marathon I like to list what I felt worked/didn’t work with my pre-race preparation. I find this to be an invaluable tool for future race training.

Pre-race Training: I think my average 4-days a week training was adequate for a 4-1/2 hour finish. My average long run pace of 6:30/K (10:28/M) was 15-30 seconds slower per kilometer than previous training periods, but this is normal through the winter months. Other deviations in training include almost no hill training, cross-training and racing. I did train more on asphalt in anticipation of the all-asphalt race.

Tapering: I tapered for almost three weeks, which was almost too long of a break. I think I could have done better in the sleep and eating department the last week prior to the race. I put in a lot of overtime at work prior to race weekend which left me somewhat sleep deprived and more stressed out than normal. I did get a couple good nights sleep before the race.

Race day: Race morning went smoothly, everything seem to fall into place as planned, no problem.

The race: I ran out of energy much sooner than I did during any of my long runs. By mile 20 I seemed to be running on empty. I am still trying to decide if I am still going out too fast, didn’t fuel properly during the run or am just a wimp.

Post race: I think I have the post-race plan down – following the race immediately went into recovery phase, drinking a glass of sports drink and eating a banana and walking around for awhile at the finish line. After showering I carbo-loaded with a beer and a sandwich, then ate a meal within 4 hours of the race. I drank water throughout the rest of the day. I had some cramping of the feet while changing and showering at the sports center following the race, but was fine the rest of the day. My legs were really tight the next day, but I made it a point to move throughout the day. By Tuesday my legs were almost normal.

Lessons learned: I think I did a pretty good job adjusting my pace during the race whereas I at least finished with my head high. On the other side I think I need to work on my overall endurance, so I can hold my race pace throughout the race and don’t need to adjust my pace (e.g. slow down).

So send me your ideas on how best to build myself up for those post-20 miles.

Bienwald Marathon: A few race pictures

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Kilometer 2:
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Kilometer 4:
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The half-marathon turnaround:
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The long road:
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The 11K loop:
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Entering the station right before the finish:
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Bienwald Marathon Race Report

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The Bienwald, or Bee Forest surrounding Kandel, Germany has long been on my mind. After suffering a DNF on the seemingly endless asphalt forest paths in 2006, I swore off ever running a ‘city’ marathon again. However, thoughts of ‘unfinished business’ continued to plague me throughout the year until I again found myself at the starting line in 2007.

It was a cool 2C/36F as I lined up with approximately 1300 other runners, the sun was shining brightly and spirits were high. I settled towards the back of the pack, I didn’t want to make the same mistake of starting too fast like I did last year. The starting pistol went off promptly at 10:00 a.m. and those around me patiently waited until we could move forward. As this race was also a regional HM/M championship, I guess there was a large percentage of experienced runners in the crowd.

I heard the ‘peep’ from my chip as I passed over the starting mat and I started my stopwatch. The first 10 minutes we remained grouped together as we passed through town, but the pack started breaking up as we started down the road towards the next village. I settled into a roughly 5:35/K (9:00/M) pace, slightly faster then I planned on, but it felt comfortable. The wind was gusting off and on, but the sun was warm and after about a half hour I unzipped the sleeves on my running jacket and stowed them in my pocket.

We ran through the next town and the first aid station, I drank a cup of water and continued on. The runners had really thinned out by now, I guess there were a lot of speedy runners due to the regional championship. I passed the 10K in around 56:30, still on pace and still not too fast. I was still feeling fresh and had to concentrate on keeping the pace. Soon after the 10K point we again passed an aid station, this time I walked long enough to gulp down a sports drink.

Soon after this, I turned onto a long road that had been closed for the event and before long the first half-marathoners came thundering by on the other side of the road. The kilometres clicked slowly by, I passed the turn-around point for the half-marathon and continued down the long road. I knew from last year we would first turn around at approx. 19K/12M. My pace remained strong and the temperature outside continued to rise. We eventually entered another town and wound our way around, eventually reaching the turnaround point and heading back through town and onto the long straight road again.

After another 10 minutes or so I passed over the timing mat at the halfway point, my time around 2:01:00 (the official time isn’t posted yet). Just past the 21K point we turned off the long road and began a 11K out and back over a bike path through the forest. This was the loop that broke me last year, I entered the loop with determination, my time was good, I was still feeling good.

The kilometers ticked slowly by, the trail offered little to divert a runner from the task at hand. I made it to the turn around point and began the trek back to the long road. By kilometer 28 (17.5 miles) my pace was fading fast, I could almost feel my energy level depleting. As an aid station came up I took a walk break and ate a sports bar, then continued on. I tried to pick up the pace again, but only managed it for a short time before I again started slowing down again. I eventually passed the 32K point in around 3:12:00, still within range of a 4:15:00 finish, but I knew I would be hard-pressed to accomplish this.

By this time I had already passed the point where I gave up last year, but I was losing steam fast. I started taking a 1 minute walk break every kilometer, this put me at the 36K/22M point at around 3:50:00. My legs hurt and my stomach was queasy from the sports drink that I had been drinking at the aid stations. At the final aid station I switched to water and continued on towards the finish, 6K, 5K, 4K...the time seemed to crawl slower than my pace.

I was honestly struggling by this point, my energy level was null and just wanted the race to be over with. As I neared the finish I knew 4:15:00 was out of the question, and 4:30:00 would be close. I continued to run/walk to the finish, always moving, forward…as I made it to the edge of town and the last kilometer I blocked out the urge to walk and plodded at a slow run towards the stadium and the finish. I saw very few runners, the most were already done, but I didn’t care, I only had one thought, cross the finish. I knew I was close to my old PR (4:30:07) and that I had to keep moving. I entered the stadium and began the ¾ loop to the finish line.

Time seemed to stand still as I focused on my target and slowly drew myself over the finish line. My wife and our friend Eva were waiting as I finshed, sweet! The race was hard, but after the DNF one year ago the Bienwald marathon was mine! As an added bonus I even set a new marathon PR, albeit by 31 seconds. I’ll take it thank you!

I finished 532/638 overall, 142/144 in my age group, not terribly impressive, but that's not the point, right! I finished the race that beat me last year and for me that was really what it was all about. Now I can head back to my dirt trails and search for some races with less asphalt and some hills!

A new marathon PR - by 31 seconds...

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So I completed the marathon that I DNF'd last year and set a tiny PR to boot. I finished in 4:29:36, the first time I broke 4-1/2 hours. It was not easy, I had to work much harder than I had counted on, but I succeeded. I'll try to get the full report posted by tomorrow. Have a nice day.

Sunday is Marathon Day!

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My back is feeling much better today, hopefully this will not be a factor with Sunday’s marathon. Overall I feel well rested and ready to give the race my best. It is supposed to be warm and sunny on Sunday, but a strong wind from the southwest will be a factor (I’ll be running against the wind the first half of the race). The marathon route is flat, 100% asphalt/concrete surface, partially over open fields and is considered to be a fast track if the wind holds off.

As always I have three specific goals in mind based on my training and the kind of day I’m having on race day:

Bad day goal: Finish under 4:45:00
Good day goal: Finish under 4:30:00 (my current PR is 4:30:07)
Race of my life goal: Finish under 4:15:00

These times are very conservative, but with a general lack of speed-work in my training over the winter probably pretty realistic. In any case I am going out conservatively and try to maintain a fairly consistent pace. In the past I have always gone out faster and bonked the last 10K, this time I want to try to run smarter.

A Quick 9K Run and Back Pain

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I went for a quick 50 minute, 9K run when I got home from work last night. After dinner my wife wife crawled back onto the couch for some fever-induced sleep and I worked a few more hours on a project for work.

I woke up this morning with a terrible pain in my right lower back, I don’t know if I slept in a strange position or what, but it still hurts like crazy, I can barely sit here and write. Of course this has me all freaked out just a few day before my marathon…what’s up with this old body of mine…

Springtime in March?

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Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day with the temperature creeping towards 60F by lunchtime. My office was extremely loud all morning with at least three groups of conversation going on most of the time. This always drives me nuts, especially when I have a lot of work to do like this week. I decided I need some fresh air, so I grabbed a coworker and we did a 3K walk around the forest next to our company. This regenerated me and I was able to get quite a bit done the rest of the day.

This is my wife’s last week of work, next week she starts using up her vacation and overtime hours which will bring her up to the end of her contract on April 10th. She has applied for a variety of jobs, but competition is high and so far she has had no luck. I pray that she will find something soon, she is not the type to stay home. Speaking of home, she has the flu and is home with fever - what a great last week of work, phewy! Call me selfish, but I am trying to stay as far away from her as possible so I don't get sick right before my marathon, wish me luck!

Tonight I want to go for an hour run, perhaps with my running club, I’ll have to see when I get home. I also plan on doing a 30 minute run on Friday night to loosen up, the last training before the marathon on Sunday. The weather for Sunday should at least be warm, based on current weather report anyway. Of course it was the same way last year and it ended up snowing, we'll see...

The Hell Run Ultra Cancelled

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It was a sunny 13C/55F when I got home last night, but dark storm clouds were accumulating to the south – I knew I had better hustle out the door if I wanted to avoid another rain shower. I warmed up for a kilometer or so, then picked up the pace, cruising through the first 10K in 52:45 (5:17/K, 8:29/M). I then slowed down to a comfortable jog for the remaining 4K, just as the first sprinkles of rain began to fall. By the time I got home the sky had cleared again and the sun had returned – crazy weather anyway.

The long-term weather forecast for marathon day on the 11th is calling for mild temperatures (around 12C/54F) and a good chance of rain showers. I’m fine with this, but hopefully the wind won’t be too bad.

As Rob commented yesterday, I’m going to just try to enjoy the marathon on Sunday. This doesn’t mean that I will be stopping for breakfast along the way, rather it will allow me to concentrate on my real goal which is to stabilize my pace which will reap benefits in later races.

The Hollenlauf (Hell Run) 2007 Cancelled

I am still tweaking my race schedule for the next six months. The 57K/101K Hollenlauf (Hell Run) on May 12th has been officially cancelled due to hurricane winds wiping out half the forest where the event is held. Organizers were denied a permit for this year.

So I am leaning strongly on the 72K Guthsmuths Rennsteiglauf, which is held on May 19th. Here is a description from their website:

“The GUTSMUTHS-RENNSTEIGLAUF is a cross-country race named after GutsMuth. It is run along the Rennsteig, a long-distance walking - or running! - route that traverses the Thüringer Wald (the name given to Thüringen´s romantic, wooded part of the mid-German hills). The GutsMuths is the longest cross-country race in Central Europe, and quite certainly one of the most beautiful. Each year those who participate as runners or walkers number around 15,000. In Eastern Germany it has acquired an almost religious significance. Run regularly since the 1970´s, it was the GDR´s biggest amateur sporting event and those who reached the finishing line were accorded high esteem in sporting circles. Still, today, people are proud to be branded "a GutsMuths runner." Pride of place is taken by the Super Marathon, which starts in Eisenach. Distance: 72,7 kilometres; altitude at start 150 m above sea level, highest point reached 970 m; altitude of finishing point in Schmiedefeld 740 m.”

The race has a 12-hour time limit, which with the elevation gain could be tight. We are going to have to decide soon on this race as it will be filling up fast due to the Hollenlauf cancellation.

A Two-hour Powerwalk

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Yesterday’s weather was the exact opposite of Saturday’s: sunny, warm (16C/61F), no wind, blue skies. My wife went next door to spend a couple hours with a sick neighbor, so I decided to take a walk. I headed out over the same route that I ran on Saturday morning, but this time instead of being pelted with rain and hail I was flooded with sunshine. It was an unseasonably warm day and people were out in droves, walking, running, and cycling. I power-walked for about two hours, covering somewhere between 13-13.5K (8+ miles), good for around a 9:00/K (14:30/M) pace. It was a good workout and not quite to hard on the legs as running the same. More importantly it helped burn a few of the calories that I seemed to have accumulated during the last week or two of tapering.

The walk really helped clear some of the baggage that has been eating away at the back of my mind. For example, I have been kind of stressed out about my marathon next Sunday. Although I have tried to be relaxed about the whole thing, I have actually been more nervous about the race than I care to admit. My training has not been as aggressive as it was last year and I’ve been concerned that I will pay dearly for it on race day. Anyway I’ve come to terms with myself and am going to just go and enjoy the race and not be too concerned with when I finish. My main concentration will be to try to maintain a consistent pace throughout the race, something that I have not achieved with my first four marathons.

Rain, Hail and a Two Hour Run

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This morning I crawled reluctantly out of bed at 6:15 a.m. and got ready for my run. My plan was to run for two hours on asphalt bike trails, at roughly marathon pace. Although it was a mild 45F outside, a peek outside revealed strong winds and driving rain – I dressed appropriately and headed out. The first kilometer was through town, the rain had let up some, so I thought I was going to get over a stormy run. But as I headed out over the open field ways towards the neighboring town of Blankenloch I headed into the wind and was pelted by a furious storm of rain and hail.

As I approached Blankenloch I turned and headed through the middle of town seeking shelter from the wind. The hail dissipated and the rain let up so I headed back out of town and continued my loop. Over the last 6-7 kilometers the sun managed to break through the clouds and motivated me to make up some of the time I lost during the short storm. I finished my roughly 20 kilometer (12+ mile) run in 2:00:55, almost exactly the pace I was seeking.

I do have to admit that I started out very sluggish, my muscles were tight and I had all I could do to get any decent pace going – and this after two days off from training. I have slacking off with my cross-training lately and I think this is a side effect.

Have a nice weekend!

Last night I decided to run with my running club, I showed up 15 minutes early and there was not a soul in sight. This really didn’t surprise me as it was quite stormy outside: strong gusts of wind, a pouring rain, thunder and lightening in the distance. By our official start time, 6:00 p.m., there were 7 diehard runner’s assembled, compared to the usual 30-40 that show up. The thunder and lightening had dissipated, so I set off at a good trot with Walter, who is training for his 4-hour marathon goal in May. We were drenched by the end of the first kilometer, from the pouring rain and deep puddles that sometimes covered the entire width of the trail. We had a good time slipping and sliding through the mud and talking about the 80K run that we both plan on running in June. We ended up finishing the 11K/6.8M run in 59:00 minutes, a decent time despite the weather and trail conditions. And of course afterward we did what all ‘real runners’ do after a good run, we stood in the rain for 30 minutes catching up on the running news…all in all a perfect night ;-)

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