May 2008 Archives

Running Through the Storm

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I took Wednesday night off from training in order to attend a seminar (XML and InDesign). Thursday night was another super humid day, with around 89-90°F and no wind. I completed a 16K/10M run and felt like I’d run twice that.

On Friday night when I got home from work I changed and drove to Weingarten, 11K away, to run my hilly route. It was dark and stormy looking as I ran up the first hill. As I reached the top my wife called and said there was a storm warning for our entire area and wondered when I was coming home. I told her I would run shorter loops and try to stay in the general vicinity of the car in case the oncoming storm proved to be fierce.

I continued on and it was not long until the sky turned even darker and I heard thunder in the distance. I tried not to let this distract me as I continued around my normal loop. As the thunder and lightning got closer I started running a loop that passed a wandering hut every 14-15 minutes. This sat on a plateau on top of the hill that I had climbed among the rolling hills. Every loop gave me a pretty good mix of short hills and faster sections. After about an hour the storm was upon me with pouring rain, thunder and lightning. The wind however remained relatively calm, so I continued running knowing that it really wasn’t dangerous unless the wind picked up and started knocking down branches and trees.

The rain continued at a good rate for about 45 minutes to an hour, but we never got any hail that often accompanies such a storm. Sometime after two hours the rain stopped and the sky cleared somewhat and I expanded my loop to include a longer hill climb. It turned into one of those beautiful moments in the woods, right after a rain when the air is clean and fresh, its quiet and a mist starts rising from the trees. I startled a couple dear as I turned onto one trail, this is why I run!

After about 2-1/2 hours I started to feel the effects of last weekend’s marathon, so decided to head back towards the car. About this time my wife called again to see if I was still alive, she is always afraid a tree is going to fall on me or something (I love you too).

I made it back to the car about 10 minutes shy of a 3-hour run and decided it wasn’t worth doing an extra loop for the 10 minutes, I was pretty hammered and soaking wet from the rain. I stretched quick and headed home for a shower and some food, mission accomplished. I estimate I ran around 26K (16 miles) and at a slightly faster pace than I normally run my long run.

This evening I want to run an hour or so at an easy pace to loosen up and Sunday will be another rest day. Next week is a high mileage week, I hope the body is ready…

Drenched in Humidity

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When I finished my 15K/9M run last night I looked more like I had gone swimming then running. It was 31C/88F outside and so humid it felt like you could slice the air with a knife. I kept my pace down, partly as I am still recovering, and partly due to the humidity, and had a good run. My legs have loosened up nicely and the soreness in the right ITB area has disappeared, I would say my recovery is going well.

Today is a rest day from training and over the next couple days I am going to slowly up my mileage and see how I feel. On Thursday night I plan on running about 10 miles at around marathon pace. If that goes well I want to run for 2-1/2 to 3 hours on Friday after work. The 50-mile race that I am running at the end of June begins at 5 p.m. at night, so I want to get used to running longer at this time of the day. In this part of Germany this is also the hottest time of the day, so this will help me get used to the heat.

Training for the rest of the weekend will depend on how the next couple of runs go, but I will probably stick with one more 10-12K run on Saturday or Sunday, taking a rest day on the day that I don’t run.

If my legs are feeling up to it then I will try to get up to 50-55 miles next week, including a 3-4 hour long run. The week after will be similar with my long run being the Furth marathon on Sunday, June 15th. This will be followed by almost two weeks of tapering until the big event on June 28, the 80K Fidelitas Night Run. Should be fun :-)

A 7-Mile Recovery Run

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Last night I intended to go for a 5-mile recovery run. When I got home from work it was a balmy, humid, 32C/90F and I was running late, so I was curious how this was going to go. As I started out I was kind of stiff the first 5-10 minutes, but as my legs warmed I fell into an easy pace and made my way around my 8K/5M loop. By the time I reached the halfway point I felt so good that I decided to keep going a bit, I ended up with almost 7 miles by the time I reached home.

Later on I did a damage assessment and tweaked my training plan for the 80K Fidelitas Night Run coming up in just over 4-1/2 weeks. I really don’t have too much to complain about in way of recovery. I took Sunday off and only did some leisurely walking. I have a bit of tenderness in the right ITB area, especially when I sit too long without walking around, but this is not out of the ordinary. My run last night went better than I expected, so I think I will be able to meet my training objectives for the 50-mile run on June 28th.

When I think about it, there really is not a whole of time left to train. The majority of training time will be used for race specific training, a couple real long hilly runs. If my body cooperates, this will mean probably one more medium long run of 2-1/2 hours this coming weekend, and two more long runs in the 4-5 hour range on the weekends following that.

On Sunday we received a call from my wife’s aunt in Furth, near Nuremberg. She was wondering when we were going to come and visit so my wife can finish doing her taxes. She also mentioned that the Furth marathon is coming up on June 15th. Afterward my wife mentioned that it would be good to get her aunt’s taxes out of the way…so guess where I will be doing my last long run before the 50-miler…
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Race Report: Mannheim Marathon 2008

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On Saturday, May 24, 2008, I successfully ran my 10th marathon, the MLP Marathon in Mannheim, Germany. The marathon is a city marathon beginning in the center of the city and winding though the neighboring towns of Neuostheim and Sechenheim to the east, back through the city and over the Neckar River bridge to Ludwigshafen, Mundenheim, Rheingonheim, Hochfeld, Niederfeld and finally back to the finish.

Based on my experience running the marathon in 2005 I knew that parking is always a problem for this race, so we arrived about 3 hours before the 6:10 p.m. start. We found a parking place about a quarter-mile from the start and we worked to the Rosengarten, a large conference center near the start. In the front of the building my wife and I bumped into the other two members of my running club who were also running the marathon, Conny and Gerd. We chatted a few minutes and agreed to meet at the start of the race. After picking up my race packet my wife and I parted, she went shopping and I decided to go to a nearby park where Conny and Gerd were waiting for the beginning of the race. I sat with them for an hour or so, then rejoined my wife in front of the Rosengarten about 45 minutes before the race.

After using the bathrooms in the center we walked outside and joined Conny and Gerd. About 20 minutes before the race my wife went on to meet some friends at a nearby restaurant, and we fought our way through the crowd to our starter block. Conny and Gerd were trying to break 4 hours and I was going to use the marathon as a training run, so we were in different blocks, but I lined up with them anyway. They were still trying to talk me into running the race with them – I decided to start with them and bail out when I felt the pace was beyond what I trained for.

It was around 26C/79F, quite humid and dark gray clouds were threatening as we waited for the starting pistol. After an eternity the starting pistol went off and we waited to move forward. I hit the start button as we wobbled over the start mat and we were off.

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Conny was our pacemaker as we set off, quickly setting on about a 9-minute mile. This felt comfortable for the first 5K or so, but after slowing to get some water at the 5K first aid station, Conny picked up the pace to about 8:30/mile to make up for the seconds we lost at the aid station. I hung with them, but when they didn’t slow down again I started questioning whether this was such a good idea for me. They eventually slowed some, but I knew that if continued at this pace I would not be in any shape to continue my 50-mile training next week – so I bailed out around the 9K marker and took a pee break.

I took off again at a slightly slower pace, probably around 9:15/mile, eventually passing the 10K marker in 55:24, about 4-1/2 minutes ahead of my planned pace. My legs loosened up a bit with the slowed pace and I cruised along and enjoyed the sights and the crowds gathered to cheer us on. By this time we had circled around Seckenheim and were on our way back to the center of Mannheim.

We passed within a block of the start but turned north and made our way to the bridge that crossed the Neckar River into Ludwigshafen. Somewhere past the 16K/10M marker I turned onto the entrance ramp that led to the bridge. The bridge was the only hilly part of the race and three years ago when I ran my first marathon here I stormed over the bridge and was rewarded with severe cramping later on. I took it easy this time as I covered the almost 2-mile stretch and entered Ludwigshafen feeling strong.

The course wound its way around the streets of Ludwigshafen and eventually I passed the halfway point in 2:02:01, a good 10 minutes ahead of my planned pace. The course continued on down a long street that seemed endless. It was still warm outside and from time to time a few drops of rain would fall. The humidity was quite high and although I had been drinking water regularly I could feel the effects. I was still cruising along at about a 9:15/mile, but as I neared the 25K/15M aid station I hit a low point. I think this was more of a mental thing – my legs were aching a bit from the had streets, but nothing out of the ordinary.

When I arrived at the aid station I took some time and drank some isotonic drink, ate half of a banana and a piece of sport bar. I walked for about 2-3 minutes, then headed out again. The kilometers clicked by way too slow for my taste at this point, I wasn’t having fun. I stopped and walked through the next water station at around the 27-28K point, then picked up the pace again. I repeated this at the 30K (18.6 miles) point, crossing the timing mat at this point in 3:16:48.

Somewhere along this stretch I had a heart-to-heart talk with myself and decided I was letting my watch control me. This was supposed to be a long TRAINING run and, even though I had slowed my pace, I was still treating this mentally as a beat-the-clock race.

Just before the 32K/20M marker I took a walk break and walked through the marker and formulated my plan for the rest of the race. I had a pretty good feel for when I was starting to push the pace out of the comfort zone – measured mostly by my quads, so decided to run 12-15 minutes, followed by a 1-2 minute walk break.

I ran to the next aid station, just past the 34K marker, and walked through downing a sports bar and some isotonic drink. I ran on to around the 36K marker, then powerwalked a couple minutes until I reached the entranceway to the bridge that would take me back over the Neckar River. As I started running up the bridge most around me started walking. This inspired me to continue and I ran over the bridge and back down into Mannheim. I walked through the water point at kilometer 38, but then continued running.

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The streets were crowded with cheering fans so I pushed on past the 39K and 40K markers, the latter being only a couple hundred feet from the finish line. But this course is cruel in that it runs more or less by the finish line and takes you out on almost a mile out and back. I knew this, and as I left the crowds behind I took a quick minute walk, then plodded on.

My legs were still working and after another eternity I finally rounded the turn that would bring me to the finish line. With the lights of the Rosengarten in my sights I plodded my way down the street, actually picking off a few people as I went. Finally with about 400 meters to go I picked up the pace and as I ran through the roaring crowd, actually sprinted the last 200 meters over the finish line!

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I hadn’t looked at my watch since the 30K marker, so was quite surprised to see that I finished in 4:37:15, a very satisfying time for a training run. I guess I will find out over the next couple days if I overdid it and need extra time to recover. My 50-mile race is less than 5 weeks away!

Gerd and Conny finished a good half-hour before me, Gerd in 4:02 and Conny in 3:56. For Conny this was good enough for her to finish 3rd in her age class (W50). I believe this was a new PR for Gerd, I congratulate both of them on a super race! When its time for me to break 4-hours I know who can pace me in!

Another Marathon Behind Me

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The short story: I lined up at the Mannheim Marathon with two from my running club who were trying to break 4 hours. I ran the first 9K with them at a faster pace than planned, said my fairwell's, crossed the 1/2 marathon point in 2:02:01, had a real low around the 14-15 mile point, but applied my ultra-run/walk strategy and rallied with a finish time of 4:37:15. I'll try to get the full report up by tomorrow night.

Heading to Mannheim

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In a few hours we will be heading to Mannheim so I can run my 10th marathon. I have been fighting a roller coaster of emotions on this one. When I ran with my running club on Wednesday there were several people who tried to talk me into to running faster than I planned and had trained for. Two of the club are trying to break the 4-hour barrier and they are confident that I could do it too. I think that if I had trained with this purpose in mind I could probably do it. However I have been training for a 50-mile race, not a fast marathon.

The problem is that I let the thought of potentially breaking my PR sink in and distract me. From the beginning my goal for tonight has been to run a strong, steady race, but not so fast that it will leave me unable to resume my training on the following weekend. This is the race that I have prepared for and this is the race I need to run. Unfortunately I went through a couple days of unrest before I found my way back to the right path that I need to take. At least I have been staying off my feet, eating well and taking in lots of fluids.

The race begins at 6:10 p.m. in Mannheim, the weather report is calling for a sunny afternoon around 25C/77F, followed by a chance of thunder showers and stormy conditions towards evening. To me that spells warm, humid and windy - especially over the bridges. But I'm up for it, I don't need to hurry - maybe I can encourage some faltering soul along the way. Catch you on the other side!

Calm before the Storm

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On Saturday is my next marathon, in Mannheim, and I’m a bit nervous about it. Really, I should not be the least bit nervous as I have it scheduled as a training run and this will be my 15th marathon (or greater) race. However, memories of my first marathon, 3 years ago on this very same course, haunt me as the days count down. That first marathon turned into a humbling experience after I locked up with severe cramps around the 15 mile point and more or less crawled over the finish line after almost 5 hours and 11 minutes.

I have promised myself that I will be diligent about keeping the pace down and really use it as a training run, but I know how that goes – calm for the first couple miles till I fall into a groove, then next thing I know I’m running a PR pace until I blow my quads. I should know better by now…

Actually I really do need to keep the pace down, five weeks after the marathon is my 50-mile race in Karlsruhe-Ruppur, the Fidelitas Night Run. If I want to do well with that race I need 3-4 more weeks of hard training (50-60 miles/week). I am also trying to talk my wife into letting me run a tough 63 km (39 mile) trail run three weeks after that. In other words, I don’t have time for a long recovery after the marathon.

Last night I went for an easy 9 km (5.5 mile) run and will repeat this again on Thursday. I may also run the 11 km loop on Wednesday with my running club if my legs feel fresh. Otherwise I plan on chilling out until Saturday night, 6:15 pm when the marathon begins.

Last weekend at my half-marathon I picked up a flyer telling about a 10K run in a nearby town that started at 10:30 at night! Since my marathon begins at 6 p.m. and I will very likely crossing the finish line after dark (yeah I’m slow), I thought what better way to get used to running late at night than do a 10K night run!

Gondelsheim is a small town in a hilly area about 15 miles from where I live, so getting there was quite easy. I arrived about an hour and half before the race because I had been warned from members of my running club that parking was a problem. I found a parking place about 5 minutes from the start and collected my start number. At the fest hall there was, of all things, a Country-Western band playing – I sat and listened to them for awhile – they need practice…

There was a 5km walking event that started at 9:00 p.m., I helped cheer them on as they completed their two round around town. The race loop was 2.5 km, so the 10K race was for loops. With each loop there were three hills to climb, each with an elevation gain and loss of about 30-55 feet. For those of you who live in a hilly area this may not seem like much, but most people in this area live in the flatlands. In any case for a 10K race, you definitely feel the hills after four rounds. The loops ran around the streets of Gondelsheim, which were closed for the race. Most of the streets were pretty well lighted, but there were a few dark spots that made the potholes and other road obstacles hard to see.

I warmed up with almost a round before the start of the race, then took my place in the middle of the pack at the start. I chatted with another guy from my running club that decided to run the race at the last minute and soon we were off.

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The kilometers were marked, but a couple were hard to see. I missed the first marker, but crossed the second in 9:53, a super pace for me! This didn’t last long as the steepest climb came up right after it, I chugged over it without too much problem, then flew down the other side and winded my way back to the Start and around again.

I felt like I didn’t lose too much time on the second round and as I made my way over the Start again (at 5K) I noticed my time was about 20:43, still a decent pace. However as I made my away around the third time the hills started taking their toll, I was sucking wind. I kept pushing on, trying not to slow much more.

As I made my way around the final loop I started passing people, including some still on their third loop. I passed on guy going up the first hills, he passed me on the second and I passed him again on the third and toughest hill. As I flew down the hill and the last 500 meters to the finish line, I could feel him breathing down my neck and I didn’t let up the pace, eventually sprinting the last 200 meters (flat) to the finish line!

My final time was 48:28, a couple minutes shy of a personal best, but I am very satisfied as this was a hilly course. I finished 89th out of 206 overall, 19th out of 26 in my age class.

I hung around for a few minutes after the race and cheered the other runners in, but it was getting chilly, so I headed home for a shower. It was a fun race and I feel great this morning. Bring on Mannheim!

A 15-Mile Medium Long Run

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My marathon next Saturday in Mannheim is scheduled as a training run, so I really haven’t reduced my mileage by much this week. However, I did cut my long run down to just over 2-1/2 hours. Although I run ultra distances, I still have respect for the marathon distance, especially for a city marathon like Mannheim – my legs simply do not hold up as long when I am pounding pavement.

In any case I did my long run on Friday night after work. It was a rather humid 25C/77F as I made my way to Weingarten to run my hilly route. I work my Camelbak and was ready to go. I climbed the first hill, then immediately went down again and climbed it again on a different trail. I did this a couple times, gradually working my way around the “mountain”, hammering up the hills at a slightly faster tempo then normal. After about an hour and a half I switched to the rolling hills on the plateau on top and cruised around for about 70 minutes longer before calling it a night.

At the end of my run I still felt good enough for another loop or two, for me a sign that my training is effective. Of course the real test will be at the marathon…we’ll see what happens.

On Wednesday the sun was again shining brightly when I got home from work, so I headed out the door for a 10-mile run at slightly faster than marathon pace. At 29C/84F, I believe it was the warmest day of the year so far, in any case it felt wonderful – the miles ticked away in no time – it was one of those runs that you wish you would have every time!

Over the last year or so, I have been thinking a lot about running and life in general. People ask me sometimes why I run so much and so far. I ask myself sometimes what I am trying to achieve and why. Most runners are spurred on by the hope of a new best time, or maybe beating a competitor. I’m not as motivated in this direction as others, but I do try to beat the clock from time to time.

If you have been reading my blog lately you probably read that my sister-in-law Karen passed away unexpectedly on May 1. The pastor from the missionary school that she was a part of wrote a thoughtful blog entry honoring Karen and the life she lived. It really spoke to my heart and I thought I would repeat a portion of it here. You can read the whole entry at http://www.life-mission.org/blog/.

“The church is a foretaste of the New Creation. As a church we are to model now the kind of relationships that will characterize the New Creation. That's the key to understanding Karen's life.

Butch told us about Karen's life and said, “Karen loved God and people. Her smile brought joy to everyone she met. She tirelessly served people. She enjoyed birding, music, and reading, but her greatest joy was knowing, loving and serving people.” Karen's life reflected the gospel message. She bet her life on the gospel. It was worth it to her. She lived that future reality in the now. The New Creation was dawning in Karen's every action. Karen answered the prayer we pray every morning: Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as in heaven. She had caught a vision of this kingdom of love, believed in it, lived it, worked to bring it about. Karen lived this way and fully expected to keep living this way for all of eternity, and that thrilled her.

Karen's life spoke. It pointed to a future hope. Her life gently urges us to rethink our priorities. What's worth living for? What matters? Ambitions do not matter. Material possessions do not matter. Reputation does not matter. People matter. Real people. Specific people. In the end only relationships matter.

What can it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? This isn't about going to heaven and avoiding hell. This is about missing the thing that matters most in this universe, the thing that makes us human, the thing that gives meaning to human existence. Our soul is the center of who we are. We were made for relationships, for love, for friendship. If we center on things, center on career, center on achievements, we lose our soul.

God is all about love, about community, about people - knowing them, loving them, and serving them. The gospel is about the restoration of a community of mankind in love with the Trinity and with each other. It's good news that God is creating a place where His family can be happy, healthy, and whole; a place where we can know, love, and serve each other – for therein is true joy.

Karen awaits us for the dawning of that New Creation. If she could be here now she would smile that incredible smile, and let us know that with Jesus she is making a place for us in that new New Creation.”

Race Goals for Mannheim Marathon

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I went for a short 5-mile recovery run last night. I really don’t need a recovery run after a half-marathon, but the run was unscheduled, I hadn’t planned on running the day after the race. My excuse is the weather, it was 83F and just plain beautiful – blue, sunny sky, no wind – I kept the pace down, around marathon tempo, and felt great afterward!

Speaking of marathon, the Mannheim marathon is just around the corner, in 10 days to be exact. I plan on using this for a training run for the 50-mile race coming up five weeks after the marathon. The problem is that I am feeling in pretty good shape for the race and find myself tempted to try to speed up things a little in hopes of breaking my standing 4:14 PR.

On the other side I know that if I push too much I will need an extra week or two to recovery and could jeopardize having a good 50-mile race. I guess I’ll just wait and see how the weather is on race day and how I’m feeling. If everything falls into place on race day I’ll let up on the brakes and see what happens.

With that in mind I have set my race goals:

Bad day: Break my course PR of 5:10:56 (my first marathon in 2005)
Good day: Finish under 4:30
Race of my life: Finish under 4:14:13 for a new PR

With the dust barely having settled from the 50K race on May 1 and my next marathon less than two weeks away (May 24), most would probably not get the idea to sign up for a half-marathon. As we entered the second week of beautiful, sunny spring weather, I couldn’t think of a better thing to do on a three day weekend (Monday was Whit Monday, a holiday).

I have run the South Pfalz 10K and HM before and knew it was a flat, forested course, with mostly smooth (a few tree roots), dirt trails. The half-marathon normally only draws a couple hundred runners, so it never gets too crowded, other than at the start. The other advantage is that we have a good friend that lives in Rulzheim, where the race is held, so my wife can enjoy some company while waiting for me.

We arrived about an hour before the race and, as my wife waited for her friend Eva, I picked up my race number and took my place in line at the bathrooms. The latter is about the only negative thing I can say about the race – they just do not have adequate facilities for all the runners!

I talked with Eva for awhile, then with one from my running club that was also running the half. Finally about 15 minutes before the start of the race I warmed up for a few minutes, then took my place in the middle of the pack.

The sun was shining and the temperature was already in the mid-sixties (F). The beautiful weather drew a lot of last minute entries. I later read that 427 ran the 10K and 319 the half. The 10K runners started the race at 9:00, the half at 9:20. The course was the same for both races, the half-marathon was two rounds plus.

I really didn’t have any goal for the race, I hadn’t done any speed work, and really didn’t want to destroy my legs with a marathon 11 days away. So when the starting shot went off I decided to just run at a comfortable pace and see what happens.

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It was a bit crowded at the start as we surged forward, but soon thinned out and I fell into around a 5:00/km (8:00/mile) pace. The pace felt good and I cruised around the first loop without slowing.

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I managed to keep up the pace for about half of the second loop, but as the outside temperature rose and the last weeks high mileage took its toll I felt myself slowing. I decided not to fight it too much and cruised to the finish line. Apparently I didn’t slow much more after than, as I still crossed the finished line in 1:48:20, my third fastest half-marathon time!

I was totally satisfied with my finish time, at least until I figured out that my second best HM time (and course record) was only 8 seconds faster – then I kicked myself in the head for not sprinting to the finish ;-)

After showering, I rejoined the ladies and we watched the awards ceremony before heading home. All in all it was a good run and a great day, I look forward to doing it again next year.

Another Running Weekend

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We had a beautiful, sunny weekend with temperatures up into the low 80’s (F), and somehow I couldn’t get myself to sit behind a PC and blog. So let me try to catch up a bit.

On Friday I went on a short 5 mile run to try to loosen the legs up. On Saturday morning I went on a 3 hour run, somewhere around 27K/17M. My legs were still not in the best of shape following the 50K race on the first of May, but I took it easy and made it through the run. On Sunday I took a 30K/19M bike ride, it was again a beautiful afternoon and almost perfect for touring.

Monday (today) was another holiday in Germany, so I decided to run a half-marathon as a training run. I ended up finishing in 1:48:20, with which I am totally satisfied. I’ll try to get a short race report up in the next day or two.

Have a great week!

Excuse me while I wipe my tears…

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I thank each and every one of you who offered your condolences after my post on my sister-in-laws sudden death. They truly mean a lot to me. Today I received a very special comment that means everything to me, read it, I think you'll understand:

“Thank you my dear brother for posting this. I love you and with great tears and comfort I was privileged to be Karen's husband. This will never be taken away. Love, your brother Tim”

I love you too brother...

20 Kilometers or Bust

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Last night I ran the 4.5 km to my running club trailhead and met the group for a run. I hadn’t been for a few weeks so decided I should not procrastinate any longer. I fell in with the mid-pack group, many who are training for a marathon.

Two of these are running the Mannheim marathon that I just signed up for, so I chatted with them about their goals. Conny said she is going to try to pace Gerd to a new personal best, around 4:10:00 or less. I had planned on using the marathon as a training run for my 50-mile race at the end of June, but as we ran I found myself contemplating whether I could keep up with them and break my PR of 4:14!

As the group increased the pace for some interval training I quickly discovered that my legs were still not recovered from the 50K race six days before – I really had to struggle to keep up with them. Eventually I focused and fell into a groove and I was fine until about kilometer 8 of the 11 km loop. I basically hit the wall at this point and almost dropped back, but saved face at the last minute when the group leaders slowed a bit. I dug in again and ended up hanging with them to the bitter (for me) end. After a quick stop for some water and a few parting words, I jogged the 4.5 km back to the house – mission accomplished, I finished my 20 km (12.5 miles)!

Westerwald Feedback

A couple German race reports have started to trickle in from the Westerwald 50K. One participant wore a Garmin and posted the actual Altitude range. According to their Garmin the race had a total 1,597 meters of ascent and 1606 meters of descent – I thought it was a total of 1500 meters of elevation change, who knew!

If you are interested in looking at more pictures of the race and beautiful Westerwald Forest, a couple participants posted pictures here and here.

I have been advancing very cautiously into race season this year, mostly due to an expected increase in my workload for my job. Any of you who have been reading my blog for a longer time might notice that this slow-motion entry into race season is just not my thing, normally my wife has to pull in the reins so that I’m not signing up for every race in the vicinity.

Last week before my 50K race I finally sat down with my boss and discussed projects and deadlines for the next few months. He knows I run and knew why I brought this up. The result of this discussion was basically that the major project that will take the lion’s share of my time this year is still in analysis phase, so I probably won’t be fully involved until at least mid-summer. In other words, my evenings and weekends will be free to train at least until the end of June.

After much haggling I also got a green light from my wife, so immediately signed up for a half-marathon on Monday (May 12th) and the Mannheim marathon on the 24th. I also plan on running the 80K (50-mile) Fidelitas Night Run on June 28th, but am waiting a few weeks to see how the marathon goes. I may also squeeze in my favourite countryside marathon in the Black Forest (Hundseck) at the end of July. The latter I should be able to do even if I can’t keep up the training intensity at the end of June.

The rest of the year will probably just be local 10K and HM races, whatever I can squeeze in along the way. Hopefully I can set a PR or two, we'll see.

The Mannheim Marathon

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I made a spontaneous decision on Sunday to run the Mannheim City marathon on May 24th. Although this brought back ugly flashbacks of the grueling death march that was my first marathon in 2005, the event coincides with my June 80K (50-mile) race training almost perfectly, is regional and doesn’t dent my budget as badly as others. The selling point with my wife is that she has friends in Mannheim that she can hang out with while I run.

So I have work to do, Mannheim is in 2-1/2 weeks, the 50-miler in 7-1/2 weeks!

Our tears have been shed, but Jesus has wiped those tears away and provided comfort that passes all understanding. Karen we will miss you…

50K Race After-Actions Report

The LT Rengsdorf posted the results of the 50K run last Thursday on their website. There was a total of 108 runners, 17 for the 31K run, 91 for the 50K run.

Out of the 91- 50K runners, 55 turned in their finishing times at the end of the race (it was optional). Based on these results, my 6:23:34 finished placed me 43rd out of 55 – so I indeed was not last :-)

The fast times (recorded):

Male: 4:32:30
Female: 5:19:30

That said and done let me remind you that this is not a competitive race, it was all about finishing and having a good time.

I didn’t overly train for this race, if anything I was less prepared than the previous two years. I did do pretty good with my pre-race routine. I tapered, sort of, reducing my mileage the last two weeks. I got a couple good nights sleep the days prior to the race and ate pretty healthy.

We left a bit earlier to drive to Rengsdorf the night before, which had us eating dinner by 7:30 p.m. instead of an hour later like last year. I think contributed to a good nights sleep the night before the race.

I ate a smaller breakfast than normal two hours before the race, but drank a lot of water – I think helped get me off to a good start. I pushed a little harder the first half of the race and started drinking sooner. I did get behind on taking in calories which caused me to crash around kilometer 33-34. I recovered well by taking in a lot of calories and was able to continue running for much of the race.

I didn’t have any cramping and, although my quads were unhappy from all the steep downhill’s, they held up pretty well. I attribute this in part to taking a salt tablet fortified with calcium and magnesium every hour. I did miss an hour, whereas it is interesting to note that I crashed in the hour after this – I don’t know how much this contributed to my wall.

Under lessons learned: I think for future races I need to start taking in calories sooner. I also need to experiment more with the salt tablets – they seem to help.

Excuse Me While I Grieve...

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Never leave your e-mail unread for an extended weekend, you might miss something important. I checked my e-mail last night and learned that my beloved sister-in-law Karen passed away unexpectly last Thursday. She was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday after suffering from severe headaches and vomiting, she passed away on Thursday evening, it turns out she had a rapid onset of leukemia that resulted in multiple strokes. In tribute to one of the most caring, loving, giving person that I ever met, let me repost what the missionary group that she worked for wrote:

Our Friend Has Gone Home

Karen Niles, an original member and dearest friend, died on Thursday, May 1st, Ascension Day. Unexpectedly, she had a rapid onset of leukemia that resulted in multiple strokes. She was 43 and is survived by her husband, Tim, and two boys, Jordan and Derek. We loved her beyond words. She was an incredibly kind and giving person and she loved God completely. Our loss is great, but she is now in the presence of our Lord and awaits us for the dawning of the New Creation.

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Please pray for us during this difficult time.

Karen was born and raised in Wilmington, DE. After high school she attended University of Delaware for 1 year, she received missionary training at Hammonton based Life Mission Training Center in 1984. Her charitable work took her to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Philippines, U.S. Virgin Islands and various U.S. locations. She served in a variety of capacities during her 24 years with Life Mission, mainly focusing on administration, worship and hospitality. Karen loved God and people. Her smile brought joy to everyone she met. She tirelessly served people. She enjoyed birding, music, and reading, but her greatest joy was loving, serving, and knowing people. Her absence has left a giant hole in the life and hearts of her family and friends. Her presence will always be felt as she now lives out her life before the face of God. Karen is survived by her husband Timothy Niles, her sons Jordan and Derek at home, her mother Helen Wolfe and her sister Kathy Saffouri. Family and friends are invited to attend her viewing Tues. eve 5:00pm with services at 7:30pm at Life Mission Fellowship, 111 8th St Hammonton. Donations may be made in lieu of flowers to Life Mission Fellowship (PO Box 467 Hammonton, NJ 08037) for the creation of a memorial garden in Karen's memory. Arrangements by Marinella Funeral Home Hammonton 609-561-1311 (www.marinellafuneralhome.com).

We arrived at our Gasthaus (B & B) around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, in plenty of time to get checked in and head out to the Italian restaurant that we frequented the last two years that I ran the Westerwald 50K in Rengsdorf, Germany. However upon arriving at the restaurant we were surprised to find the place closed. Luckily we passed another Italian restaurant on the way, so backtracked and enjoyed what proved to be some good pasta. After dinner we returned to our room and I laid out my stuff for the race in the morning. Then evening was clear so we sat on the balcony and enjoyed the beautiful view of the Westerwald Forest and Koblenz in the valley below.

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I slept relatively well for being the night before a race, waking up shortly before my alarm clock went off at 6:00 a.m. I went through my morning routine, than woke my wife up. After she got around we had breakfast and around 7.15 we headed over to the town swimming pool where the race was to start.

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I collected my start card and sat with my wife for a bit. I recognized several people from previous races and after a bit the race director came over and said hello. There were almost 90 people signed up for the 31/50km runs, with more arriving every minute, drawn by the clear skies – the first time in years that it didn’t rain on race day!

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Yes we were blessed with cool, but clear weather, I guess it was around 7C/45F right before the 8:00 a.m. start – it would later warm up to around 17C/63F, almost perfect temperatures for a race! I was optimistic that I was as ready as I would ever be for the race and like most there anxiously waited to get under way.

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Shortly before 8:00 we made our way over to the start area and our race director gave us some last minute instructions.

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Of particular relevance this year was that a recent storm had left parts of the race route cluttered with fallen trees and branches and that we should be careful while running over these obstacles.

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And finally he bid us best wishes for a great day on the course and joking added “…see you in a few minutes…” which we all chuckled to as we set out on the 50K course.

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We started climbing almost immediately after leaving the Start, not a climb that caused anyone to walk, but rather a healthy climb that kept are pace in check for the first couple kilometers. The morning was truly beautiful, the sun was shining and the beauty of the area came shining through.

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I fell in behind a man and two women who were running a similar pace. As we went up and down a few hills they pulled ahead on the downhills and I caught them on the uphills. The trail was quite, asphalt paths, logging trails and even a generous share of single-track trails such as the one below.

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I made it to the first checkpoint at kilometer 8 (mile 5) without encountering any steep hills that required me to walk. I stopped only long enough to get my control card stamped and to fill up my water bottle. After the checkpoint we began a 5k long downhill that gave the quad and knees a good workout. The route went a couple hundred feet down a road, and then cut literally over a pasture, whereas we had to straddle the fence at each end! This brought flashbacks of my upbringing on a dairy farm in central NY state, the only thing missing was dodging piles of cow manure :-)

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I had lost my three running companions back at the checkpoint so when the 31K and 50K routes split at the 9K point just past the pasture I stopped to water my favorite tree. I remember thinking at this point that a steep downhill must be coming up soon. As I continued on I soon realized how the Rengsdorfer define “steep”. At the top of the hill I stopped and snapped a picture of the valley below just before descending the hill.

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The next kilometer proved to be the steepest downhill I believe I have ever run, it was a quad-busting, pain-in-the-knees, downright sick, but sure got the adrenaline pumping! Wow what a rush, it was like one wrong step and you would be rolling down the hill! So down, down, down I went for what seemed like forever. I discovered that skipping down was actually easier on the quads and knees. As I reached the bottom of the hill I knew that one of the longer, steeper climbs of the course was somewhere around the next bend.

And so it was, around kilometer 15 the trail dipped and started climbing up out of a deep valley. I ran what I could, but decided to save my energy as the steepness increased. I finally reached the top and the second aid station at kilometer 18. After refilling my bottle and downing a gel I started out again. The course again went up for a few minutes, but then down another grueling downhill that beat the rest of my quads to death. It felt good at the moment and I tried not to think of the abuse my legs were taking.

Around the half-marathon point (around 2-1/2 hours into the race) the trail leveled out and I fell into an easy run for maybe 10-15 minutes. I took this picture somewhere along the way, it may have been this stretch.

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I ran a short uphill, then down a short descent to the third aid station just before kilometer 28. My legs were hurting pretty bad by this time, a result of the steep downhill’s I guess, so I tried stretching a bit. I took an extra minute or two and mixed up a bottle of isotonic drink from the mix I was carrying with me. I knew my quads were a major issue now, so down a couple salt tablets with added calcium/magnesium. My pace was deceasing by this point, but I was not overly concerned – I was still under four hours and was well ahead of schedule. I left the aid station, snapping a picture before heading up the hills in the background.

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Soon I began running up the second major ascent of the day, it was not as long as the first, but quite steep. I was experiencing a low and I chose to walk most of it. I recovered somewhat during this walking break, my walking became stronger and my spirit lifted. I believe it was along this stretch that I came up on a younger woman who seemed to be in worse shape than me. I asked how she was doing and she said what I had already noticed. I encouraged her but moved on when she seemed to want to deal with her own demons. Eventually she would get a second wind and pass me at the next aid station!

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At the top of the second climb the trail took another dive downwards between kilometer 30 and 32. My legs ached with every step, but I managed to run it down. The trail started the last major hill climb and I was perfectly content to walk. I stopped to fill my bottle at a “tea station” (only offered water and tea) at kilometer 33, but didn’t waste any time there. I knew I had to keep pushing on or I would end up walking the rest of the way to the finish line. I forced myself to run some of the gentler parts of the uphill. I passed a lot of walkers who were walking the event (Wandering). Somehow “whizzing” by the walkers spurred me on.

Around kilometer 38 was the next aid/control station. I ate a sports bar and part of a banana, but didn’t stay long as there were 20-30 “Wanderers” collected there gaining strength for the rest of their walk. I was also in a bit of a hurry as I had not seen another runner for at least a half hour, so was worried that I was last (like it really mattered). I pushed on running when I could and walking when that didn’t work.

Somewhere after the 5:00 hour point I passed the 40 kilometer marker. I recall seeing the marker, but didn’t think to look at my watch. I didn’t think to look at my watch at the 42K (marathon) marker, but I guess it must have been around 5:15:00.

I was feeling better by this time and was headed downhill. I did my best to keep running, I guess I was running for 5-6 minutes and walking for a minute or so. I kept this up until the last aid station at kilometer 45. Here I refilled my bottle and pushed on. The trail climbed again, but I again was passing lots of walkers which continued to spur me on. Finally the trail headed back down again and as I passed the 48 kilometer marker I knew I was on my way home.

I continued to pass a lot of walkers as the swimming pool came into sight at the top of the hill. The last kilometer went uphill and I let my pride get in the way and propel me at a slow run all the way up. Finally I crossed the finish line, with the handful gathered there cheering me in, mission accomplished!

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My legs were stiff and aching, but I felt like I add energy to go another round – well at least for another hour or two.

The course was incredibly beautiful, as it always is in Rengsdorf. The nice weather this year brought out more runners and noticeably more walkers. My only regret is that I didn’t take the time to take more pictures along the way, mere words cannot describe this beautiful area. The race director and volunteers did an excellent job of making this a truly memorable event. The family atmosphere and friendliness make this an event that I treasure and I already am marking my calendar for next year. Thank you TV Rengsdorf for another great year!

Westerwald 50K: Finished!

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On Thursday I ran a challenging 50K race in the Westerwald Forest in Rengsdorf, Rheinland-Pfalz (Palatinate), Germany. The 1500 meters (4921 feet) of elevation change did their best to sap the energy from my body, but I stuck with it and crossed the finish line in 6:23:34!

A full report with some pictures that I took on the way will follow later this weekend.

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