June 2008 Archives

On Saturday was the 30th annual 80K (50 mile) Fidelitas Night Run in Ruppurr, by Karlsruhe, Germany. This was the third year that I participated in the race, here is my story.

I arrived at the PSK sport center almost two hours before the start of the race and got my start packet before it got busy. One of the members of my running club was already there, so we sat and chatted until the rest of our group showed up. There were five of us running the entire race, plus five running the relay – four as part of our running club relay, and the other for another club that he belongs to.

It was a beautiful day outside, sunny with a cool breeze, around 26°C/79°F – hot, but not too hot. We visited until shortly before the race started, then lined up at the Start. I settled in toward the back of the pack and soon we were off.

I really wasn’t sure what kind of performance to expect from my old bones as I started over the first few kilometers. I had run my fastest marathon to date just two weeks before, but knew I had had a good recovery and this would not be an excuse. I settled into a comfortable pace, around 6:00/km (9:39/mi.), and just kind of played it by ear.

I ran and chatted with a couple guys that were running about my pace for 15-20 minutes until they decided to speed up. We let the forested section of the course and turned into the town of Durlach. At this point it was still semi-shady so I kept the pace going. We passed by the train stationed and eventually back out of town. At this point the hottest section of the course began, a roughly five mile section of unshaded, asphalt bike paths that would bring us to the town of Grotzingen and our first hill climb.

There were a couple aid stations along this section that were very welcome, I was sure to drink at each one. I entered Grozingen and stopped at the aid station for a banana, then headed up the hill bringing out of town. I ran about half the hill, then walked the rest, I knew I needed to conserve my energy for later. At the top I passed the 20K point (according to my Garmin), my time 2:01:42, very good considering walking the hill. I cruised along the familiar trails where I run my long run on weekends, eventually heading down the other side of the “mountain” into Johlingen.

On the other side of Johlingen we again climbed, this time a series of three smaller hills, I elected to walk most of them, my time was already 10-15 minutes ahead of lasts years time. I passed one of my running club members, Walter, around the 30K point (time = 3:07:29), he was slowing but still seemed to be moving well. Later I would find out he dropped out after around 35 km – knee problems, the same problem as last year.

I ran down a long downhill section into the town of Singen that left my right knee feeling a bit sore, I ignored it and kept moving, the biggest hill climb was right before me. The hill out of Singen to Mutschelbach is the longest and steepest hill of the race, I again chose to walk it. This was a good recovery for my legs and especially my knees, they felt like they took quite a beating coming down the long hill into Singen.

I passed through Mutschelbach and an aid station, a couple of my running club were there, they asked where Walter was. I mentioned that I passed him around the 30K. I kept moving, climbing a long, but not so steep hill towards Langensteinbach. On the way I passed the marathon point, in roughly 4:33:13, about five minutes ahead of last year.

In Langensteinbach I stopped at the aid station at the firehouse where my drop bag was. It was still much too warm for a running jacket so I tied it around my waist. I had a PB & Honey sandwich in my jacket pocket but could only eat half of it, my stomach was not in the best of shape. I gathered my things and ran on. It was getting dark, but I was still able to see enough without my flashlight.

I trekked through a forested section and then climbed up the hill, then down a steep hill into Ittersbach, passing the 50K point in 5:38:26. I drank a couple cups of sports drink at the aid station and climbed the last major hill of the day. By this time I needed my headlight, and to make matters worse was starting to have some digestive issues. I spent several kilometers hoping I would find some bushes if the need should arise and also trying to figure out what I ate or drank that was throwing my system off.

At the next aid station I started drinking cola and ate a couple pieces of dry bread. My stomach was rumbling up a storm and I felt like I was going to vomit or worse at any time. I did my best to ignore my inconvience and plodded on to Langenalb. At the Langenalb aid station a runner caught up with me that I recognized from several ultras that I ran, we talked a bit and he suggested that I drink malt beer (non-alchoholic) or cola, and not to drink any more water. My stomach was still unsettled so I tried the malt beer and headed out.

The course headed down a 2-3 mile, gradual downhill through one of the darkest sections of the course. The forest was thick and black, even with a headlight you had to stay concentrated on the logging road in front of you to avoid tripping over a stone or root. This part of the trail seemed like it goes on forever, mostly due to the tunnel-vision I guess.

I was glad when I finally popped out onto the lighted streets of Marxell. I ran by a co-workers house and down the last hill to the aid station below. I drank some cola, ate another piece of bread and kept moving. After a few minutes my stomach ached, I almost wished that I would vomit and get it over with. But this was the least of my worries in the moment, I was in desperate need of a restroom and there were none to be had. I walked for a minute or two and weighed my options, the next town was about 8K/5M ahead. We were running through a dark, forested section on a logging road and I saw no lights around – so decided to keep running and stop if I had too.

As I ran my stomach settled down somewhat and I managed to keep going to the next aid station. I drank some more coke and moved on. My urge for a rest room declined and I was able to push forward, running most of the way to Ettlingen. As I left the dirt logging trails and started pounding my way along the asphalt streets of Ettlingen my knee started to ache again. As I pulled up to the aid station I grabbed some more coke and walked a bit. The relay members of my running club and Walter were just outside the aid station, I was able to cry on their shoulder a bit. Walter said my time was still really good, I would at least break 10 hours if I could keep the pace going.

With 9K left and nothing better to do I moved on – around the corner where I prompted threw up! So finally getting that behind me, I was able to again pick up the pace and run a bit more comfortably. Actually I was running and walking by this time, but now I tried to limit my walking to 20 steps before pushing on for another kilometer or so. According to my Garmin I alternated a 7:00/8:00 pace every other kilometer (around 12:00-13:00/mile) through this section, not bad for this stage of the game.

With 5K to go my stomach was feeling slightly better (finally) and my knee at least allowed me to run. I was so ready for the race to be over with, I just wanted to sit down. I crossed over the bridge of the Autobahn and knew I had about 4K/2.5M to go. I plodded on trying to keep up with a couple people that had past me at the last aid station. With about 2K to go they stopped ahead of me and started looking for trail markings – nothing. We talked about what we should do, then decided to take the path that led straight on. I was not in shape to argue or to think or that matter, so followed along.

We came upon some marking and figured we were good to go, a few minutes later we rolled into the stadium, unfortunately the wrong one – we were back at the start, the finish was in a different stadium. By this time a couple more runners showed up and we mingled in confusion for a minute, then decided to backtrack. We took another path that eventually led us to the proper stadium, but of course on the wrong side – but the helpers waved us in and over the finish line – from the wrong direction – but they didn’t make a big deal out of it – apparently we were not the first ones to lose the way. And not the last, people were going from every direction imaginable – it seemed like the funniest thing at the moment.

Anyway I crossed the finish line to the cheers of my running club group and others around, my time a satisfying 9:31:41, 6 minutes slower than the year before, but very good considering the stomach issues.

I found something to drink, then joined my club members as we waited for the other to arrive. Birgit arrived about 20 minutes later, good for under 10 hours and a new personal best. The last of the relay team accompanied her in. Her husband Andreas came in five minutes later, also under 10 hours, great job.!

The first half of the race went really well, if I hadn’t had stomach issues I would have probably finished closer to 9:00-9:15, but that’s what makes an ultra so interesting – you never know what you’ll face when you start running. I guess I did okay hanging in there, I think next time I may need to bring my own sports drink – what was offered didn’t work for me this time around.

So know I look forward to slowing down for a week or two. It is Monday as I write and I already have run my first recovery run. My knee is a bit tender, but after it warmed up it didn’t bother me any longer. Have a nice week!

Fidelitas Night Run: Finished!

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After a strong start, and some severe stomach issues after 50K, I still managed to creep over the finish line of the 50 Mile race in 9:31:41. I'll try to post the rest of the story tomorrow!

50 Miles or Bust

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My drop bag is packed and I’m really to run 50 miles! Too bad I have to wait until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday (sigh!). The weather report is calling for a warm 27C/81F, with lots of sunshine. Tack on a few degrees on the hot, un-shaded, asphalt bike paths that make up a large part of the first 20K of the race and you have the makings of a hot race.

I have been studying the race course map to refresh my memory, I find that a good knowledge of the course is very beneficial when the going gets tough. I am really looking forward to the run, there are four other members of my running club running the entire race, plus four others running the 4-person relay.

With race day looking quite warm I plan on taking it easy the first 2-3 hours, then trying to pick up the pace a bit when it cools down - or worst case at least try to maintain a good pace as long as possible.

I’m going to do my best to try to beat my 9:25 finish time from last year, if not, then whenever I’m done. Wish me luck!

The week is slowwwwly ticking by, the pre-race jitters taking their toll. It is not that I am nervous about my upcoming 50-mile (80 km) race, no, more like anxious to get on the trail and see how I do. My training has been different this year, I did less hill training, but ran several faster paced long runs (marathons). I wish that more of the long runs where in the heat, but alas the weather stayed cool - at least up until a week ago.

The race starts at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday in Ruppurr, a suburb of Karlsruhe. The current weather prediction is calling for almost 90°F and sunny, with around 47% humidity – we’ll see.

Like always I have three goals for the race on Saturday:

Bad day: Finish under 11 hours
Good day: Finish under 10 hours
Race of my life: Finish under 9 hours 15 min. (10 min. PR)

I feel like my training has prepared me for a good race, especially if the last marathon was any indication. Unlike my last marathon, I need refrain from pushing myself too hard in the first half of the race, no matter how good I feel. Fifty miles is all about patient, steady, forward motion – I’ve learned the hardway.

I'm going on a short run tonight, maybe 8-10 km, then another 30 minutes on Thursday - just enough to keep Rigor mortis from setting in ;-)

Now if it would only cool down a little earlier at night so I can get to sleep...

Hot, Humid and Still Running

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Where did the weekend go, I thought we were supposed to have more time during tapering? Let me try to catch up…

On Friday night my wife had a company dinner, so I went for a two hour run on my hilly course in Weingarten. It was a humid 26C/79F and sunny as I set out. I warmed up with a relatively flat kilometer, than started up the first hill. I hadn’t run any real hills for a couple week and felt this as I rounded the top and started down again. I ran halfway down than started up again on a portion of the 50-mile race course – the steepest portion! With the high humidity I was drenched by the time I got to the top – I hope it’s cooler during the race.

I continued over the race route for about 30 minutes, eventually running down a long steep hill in the full sun into the town of Johlingen. To the amazement of a couple dog walkers I then turned around and ran back up again. I heard a remark from one of them about being crazy to run in this heat…

I paused at the top of the hill long enough to drink some water, then headed back towards the cooler woods. I ran another half hour or so over the rolling hills, then headed back to the car, finishing in just over two hours. I ran at a slightly faster pace then most of my hilly long runs, that with the high humidity left me comfortably tired by the end of the run.

On Saturday it was again warm, sunny and humid, around 31C/88F. My wife got home late from her company dinner, so I tried to be quiet to let her sleep in. I picked up around the house and did the dishes. It was a nice day so I decided to grill lunch, steak, bratwurst, peppers and potatoes. Later in the afternoon I decided I needed to work off some calories, so went for a bike ride, around 28K/17.5 miles.

When I got home my wife wanted to look at camcorders, so off we went to the electronics store. We ended up buying a Sony DCR-SR 35E, which had good reviews and seems like a decent mid-price camcorder with a harddrive.

On Sunday the temperatures again shot through the ceiling (33C/92F), and the humidity was worse than Friday. With it becoming even more likely that race day will be more of the same, I decided some heat training should be on the agenda, so I implemented my patented (not really) technique:

1. Sit for 3 hours in the sun and bake.
2. When the humidity is at its worse, e.g. when the thunderstorm clouds start gathering in the distance, go for at least an hour run on a sunny asphalt bike path.

I made it back just as the first raindrops began to fall…and I was pooped…it was hot! A couple of neighbors were eyeing me strangely from their shady lawn chairs as I ran up to the house – my clothes were soaked and I was dripping streams of sweat…anybody want a hug ;-)

This morning is again super humid and the storm clouds are moving in. The initial weather report for this coming Saturday’s 50-mile race is 24C/75F and cloudy, I can only hope. If not then I know that I can handle the heat, I only need to keep the pace down and drink like a fish.

Have a great week!

Resting and Recovering

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Last night was a rest night, I took advantage of the free night to catch up on some bookkeeping, went grocery shopping with my wife and spoiled her with dinner at the Black Cat Restaurant.

My wife said that she has officially passed her probation time at work, she now has an unlimited job contract – next step more money! She also warned me that she has a huge project that has to be finished before our vacation in October, this may require working nights and on the weekend at home. She was not shy to let me know who is going to be cleaning the house then…

I am also really busy at work so will probably need to put in more overtime over the summer. So I guess this means the 50-mile race will be the last major race this year. After that I will probably cut my running down to about three times a week, hopefully enough to maintain my weight and some level of fitness. I may do a marathon on the third weekend of July, but just for fun, e.g. no additional training required. I’m sure there will be a few 10K and HM off and on…

Tonight I want to run for about two hours on my hilly route, specifically over part of the 50-mile race route. Sunday is supposed to be sunny and over 90°F, so I want to run an hour in the heat. It is beginning to look like the 50-mile race is going to be a hot one, yuch!

A Fun Run with the Running Club

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I had an enjoyable run with my running club last night. I wanted to take it easy as I am still recovering from my marathon last Sunday, so I found several like minded runners and we set out on the 11 km loop, average around 6:00/km (9:39/mile) for the entire round.

Afterward I stuck around and chatted with Brigit and Walter who are also running the 50-mile race on the 28th. Walter had knee problems last year and had to bail out around he halfway point, this year he is hoping to finish in around 10 hours. Birgit has run the race 3-4 times, but not since 2004 – she is hoping to finish in under 10 hours. We did not commit to run together, but did not rule it out either, we’ll wait and see.

Fuerth Marathon 2008: A Few Pictures

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The Start:
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Enthusiastic support from our fans (here for the half-marathone runners):
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The first aid station in the park (and every 2 km after this):
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Lots of bridges to cross...
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...and interesting towns...
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...and countryside...
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...and even a few small hills!
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Interesting aid stations, e.g. through the middle of a tent...
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...a culture center...
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...and slowly back to Fuerth.
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Around the last corner...
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...a few more steps...
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...give it all you got...
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...success!
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Riding the sub-4 marathon wave

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Wow, talk about a runner’s high, I’m still riding the sub-4 marathon wave, what a feeling of accomplishment! My legs are doing pretty good, a bit tired but no unwarranted aches or pain. Last night I went for a 9K/5.5M recovery run to try to keep the legs loose. Tonight is a rest night, then hopefully tomorrow night I can start easing back into some normal running. I am officially tapering now for the 50-mile race, which is just 11 days away. I need to be really careful with my training until then.

So what happened on Sunday? When I lined up for the race I was still planning on a slow training run of around 5 hours. But as I think back over the week or so before the race there were signs that I was lined up for a good race. The first was the training marathon the weekend before, which I finished in around 4:25, with lots of energy to spare. I wrote it off as a mistake in the distance, that it was not the full marathon distance (it was a Volksmarch marathon). Next was the 11K run with the running club on Wednesday night, it felt so effortless, and that following 20K runs on Monday and Tuesday nights.

I had a very relaxing day in Fuerth on Saturday, my wife was doing her aunts taxes, and I spent time napping on the balcony :-) By Sunday morning I was well rested, well fed, and ready to roll - the only thing missing was a spark.

The spark came in the form of a distraction from my normal concentrated running, i.e. fighting with my new Garmin. Normally I don’t try new things for a race, but since I was going to run the marathon as a slow training race I decided it was as good of a time as any to test my new Forerunner.

Luckily for my race I didn’t bother to read the handbook, so was fiddling with the cursed device for the first couple kilometers which totally got me off pace. Also luckily my pace went in the right direction, namely faster, and I cruised the first 10K away without so much as thinking twice about it. By that time I was feeling so comfortable with the pace I decided to keep going with it for awhile, the rest is history.

I did have to make a conscious decision at some point in the race to sacrifice my upcoming 50-mile race performance in favor of a new marathon best time. It took a while to decide this, but in the end I feel I made the right decision. If my recovery goes as well as it has for other races this year I may still run an acceptable race on June 28th! I see no reason to change my race strategy or pace, if the mind is willing I think the body will follow.

If you have been racing for any length of time you probably know that every race is different and some go better than others. I always have three goals in mind when I line up for a race, a good day goal, a bad day goal and a race of my life goal. With that said, Sunday at the Metropol Marathon in Fuerth, Germany was different. My only goal was to take it easy and not wear myself out two weeks before my 50-mile race. I was not totally successful in meeting this goal, rather the race took a totally unplanned turn.

We arrived in Fuerth on Friday night after fighting traffic jams over half of Germany. We checked into the hotel and crashed in bed soon after. On Saturday we slept in until around 8:00, had breakfast and I went shopping with my wife. The hotel is located in the middle of the market place, so it was only a short walk. Afterward my wife went to her Aunt’s house and I picked up my race packet across the street in the main square. I picked up a new pair of Asics at the runner’s market, then had some pasta at an Italian restaurant on the square. Later in the afternoon I walked the 2.5 km to Aunt Sigrid’s house. We closed off the day with dinner at another Italian restaurant.

On Sunday I woke up about two hours before the race, had breakfast, then chilled out in our hotel room until about 15 minutes before the raced started. We could see the start line from our hotel room, which was cool.

I lined up with the roughly 800-900 runners who were running the full marathon. The half-marathon had started a half hour earlier and the 10K was scheduled to start a half hour later (9:30). It was a cool 15C/59F, with a slight wind, and the sky was dark and stormy looking.

I chatted with a group of men from England and next thing I knew the starting pistol went off. I was pretty much in the back, so it took a minute or two to get over the starting mat, we wore chips so it didn’t matter anyway. I was also wearing my new Garmin 205, but had turned it on in the hotel room and it didn’t find the satellite. I didn’t notice this until almost the 10 minutes into the race. I had to turn it off and on again and it finally found a signal just past the 2 km marker.

In any case I started off at an easy pace around 6:00/km (9:39/mile). My plan was to try to maintain this pace for at least 15-20 miles, then take it easy the rest of the way, hopefully finishing in around 5 hours…that was the plan anyway…unfortunately I got teed off when I realized that my Garmin hadn’t found a signal and my pace increased with my anger. At the beginning of the fourth kilometer we reached the first bridge of the day and when most runners slowed down for the climb, I sailed over it and kept on going, my Garmin clocked my pace at 5:27/km.

I tried to slow my pace back down, but my legs felt good and the pace stayed around 9:00/mile. I settled down and started to enjoy the run, my Garmin was functioning and displaying my time for each kilometer just past each course kilometer marker. I passed the 10K marker in roughly 55:13, almost the same as the first 10K by the Mannheim marathon in May. I remember thinking to myself that I should slow down soon or I would burn my legs out too soon.

The race course was really incredible, winding through small towns, over fields and through parks. There were spectators everywhere lending their encouragement. I have to give the kind people of Bavaria credit, they sure know how to may you feel welcome, I never saw such enthusiasm in all the other races that I have participated in!

Anyway the kilometers ticked away and I was still feeling way too good for my own good. I knew I was trucking along much too fast when I passed the 4:15:00 pacer about an hour and half into the race. If that wasn’t bad enough, I passed the 4-hour pacer at the 20K marker! By this time I knew that I had to make a decision, either slow way down and save my legs for the 50-mile race, or keep going and come what may. I don’t know if it was the sun that had come and was cooking my brain or what, but I decided to keep my pace up for as long as I could!

I passed the halfway point in roughly 1:58:00, about four minutes ahead of my Mannheim Marathon time. As I was running I recalled that my legs began to ache from the asphalt roads in Mannheim shortly after the halfway point, so I decided to take a couple aspirin and a calcium-magnesium tablet. I was also well-hydrated with water and isotonic drink, taking advantage of the water/aid stations every 2 kilometers. After the halfway point they also started offering fruit, muesli bars and coke.

Since around the 10K point my pace had more or less leveled off, I was running a fairly constant 5:30/km (8:50/mile). As I continued on I saw the 3:45:00 pacer about a hundred feet in front of me…my only thought was that when I hit the wall it was going to be ugly…I tried to block the thought out of my mind and kept going.

I passed the 30K marker in around 2:45:00, a good half hour ahead of Mannheim’s time. As I finished the marathon in Mannheim in 4 hours 37 minutes, I knew that if I could just keep the pace under 6:00/km, I would set a new personal best. I thought about it for a moment, then thought about the risk that I was taking in regards to my 50-mile race…took two Ibuprofen and made my decision.

I pushed on trying to keep the 3:35:00 pacer in sight, but when I stopped to pee, he disappeared. However I was satisfied to see that the 4:00:00 pacer was also not in sight behind me, so encourage I got back to work.

As I said before the spectator participation was truly awesome, and it seemed to grow stronger the farther into the race I went. Around the 35 km point I was starting to feel ragged, my legs were sore and my energy was wearing. I ate a gel, downed a couple isotonic drinks and ate a half banana hoping to keep the wall at bay. As I started running again I passed through a small town where it seemed like the entire population had come out to cheer us on, complete with a brass band and hundreds of kids! Somehow this motivated me and I was able to squeeze out a couple more miles before my tempo began to fade.

With 5K to go I was still running, but it was turning into a real battle. My legs ached and my body was whining something about wanting to slow down. I tried to focus on just one thing, mainly that I was having the race of my life and today would never happen again, and who knows if I would ever have another day like it – I struggled on. With 3 km to go I felt myself slowing waaay down, I fought it trying to change my pace – lengthening my stride, shortening my stride, anything to get the legs moving again. Finally I reached the edge of town and started winding my way through the familiar streets. The spectator crowd was enormous, this spurred me on.

The minutes clicked slowly by, the race seemed to have no end…finally the 41 kilometer marker…only 6-7 minutes. I could hear the announcer at the finish line, I tried to push forward, but I had nothing left to give. After an eternity I rounded the last corner and made my way down the main market street of Fuerth. My legs felt like they were going to fold on me, I was a bit lightheaded, but one step in front of the other…

I had not looked at the total time on my Garmin since the 30K marker, but I knew I had broken my 4:14 personal record! With a joyful heart I finally stumbled over the finish line, I did it! I was elated, but in the excitement (and weariness) I forgot to shut my Garmin off or look at my time…

I made my way down the lane to get something to eat and drink. My legs were sore, but not as bad as I had anticipated. This was the first marathon were I didn’t need/choose to take any walk breaks, I even managed to jog through the aid stations! I found a spot on a bench and sat down for a few minutes, I was weary and soaked with sweat. There was still a breeze blowing and I was getting cold…I decided to go back to the hotel and shower. As I got up I noticed a couple runners walking by with their race certificates (Urkunde), so asked where they got them. They pointed me to the right tent and I wobbled my way over there. As I stood and waited for them to print my certificate out I talked with a runner from Scotland. When he got his certificate he headed off to the showers and I finally took at a look at my finishing time…I was not prepared for what I saw 3:57:14, my first sub-4 marathon – a new PR by 17 minutes! I’m still giddy…

After work yesterday I went for a quick 5 mile run to loosen up my tired legs. It was a cool 24C/75F and looking like rain as I cruised out over the bike paths surrounding our town. I made it back to the house just as the first rain drops began to splatter my forehead, good timing :-)

After work tonight we making the 3-4 hour trip to Fuerth, near Nuremberg to visit my wife’s Aunt Siggy. Tomorrow while the ladies are catching up I want to pick up my race number and check out the runner’s market.

Aunt Siggy always says her apartment is too small for us to stay, so puts us up in a local hotel on the market square. It turns out this is very advantageous for the marathon on Sunday, the hotel is a mere 100 meters from the Start, how cool is that!

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It is supposed to be quite cool (60’s F) and maybe rainy on Sunday, should be a good day for a run. I’ll try to take some pictures, have a nice weekend!

Feeling a Little Homesick

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Internet radio is cool, especially for this old small town New Yorker living in Germany. When I get homesick I like to listen to the local radio station back home, in my case Big Frog 104 in Oneida Co.

Sometimes this backfires and I feel even more homesick than before, yesterday was one of those days. Last night I found myself checking job ads and house prices in St. Claire Shores (above Detroit), where dear friends of ours live. Sometimes we talk about moving…but so far our piggy-bank hasn’t been full enough for such a drastic move (sigh).

I've lived with my German wife here in Germany for 18-1/2 years. I think we have it good here, I really can't complain, but sometimes I really miss family and friends. Blogging helps...

An Easy Run with the Running Club

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I went for a nice easy run with my running club last night. I have been putting on the mileage lately and didn’t particularly feel inspired to push last night, so found a few like minded souls to share my time with. We had a good time jabbing and running as we ran the 11K loop in around 67 minutes.

Afterward I compared 50-mile race plans with Birgit and Walter who are running also running the race. Birgit wants to try to break 10 hours we may end up running together for part or most of the way. I’ve never ran a long race with anyone before.

Tonight I want to run a shorter loop to loosen up the legs, then rest until the marathon on Sunday. Hopefully I won’t get carried away and blow my quads two weeks before the 50-miler…

Beating the Heat

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Last night I took advantage of the warm (31C/88F), sunny, humid weather to get in some heat training in preparation for my 50-mile race in 2-1/2 weeks. While most non-runners hid in their offices, homes, or favourite biergarten, I took to the streets and knocked out a two-hour run on the asphalt bike trails in my area.

I can only hope that the 50-mile race is a cool 20C/68F like last year, and not 37C/99F like it was several years ago – because last night I was sweating buckets and could feel the energy being sucked from my body, whew! It took me about five minutes longer to complete the roughly 20K run than the night before when I ran mostly in the cooler woods.

The training run had to be, he who does not train in the heat will get beaten by the heat on race day! I hope there are several more hot days before the race!

A 20K Recovery Run

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I wasn’t quite sure how my legs were going to hold up as I headed out for a run last night. My legs were a bit tired from the long run on Saturday, but no aches or pain. As I headed out over the fields towards the woods on my 14 km loop, the sky quickly started turning gray. It was fairly warm (30C/86F) and quite humid, so I knew we were in for a thunderstorm. I just hoped I would be done running before it hit.

I cruised around my loop at an easy pace, around 6:00/km (9:39/mile). My legs were stiff the first few kilometers, but quickly loosened up as they warmed. After about 45 minutes I could hear thunder in the distance, but I was already on my way back to the house. A few minutes later it rained lightly, but soon let up and the sun came back out – what’s up with that?

By this time I was about 4-5 km from the house, but still felt good so decided to loop around again. I eventually made it back to the house a minute or two shy of the two hour mark, completing probably around 20 km – not bad for a “recovery” run.

I am feeling in good shape for the 50-mile race on the 28th. This is my last high mileage week for the event, highlighted by another 42 km long run this coming Sunday, namely the Fueth Marathon. I would like to complete the marathon in 4:45 to 5:00 hours, which should leave me fit enough to run a good 50 mile race two weeks later. That’s the plan anyway.

Following my long training run on Saturday my legs are recovering nicely. I had some tired muscles, but no pain or abnormal soreness.

Thomas asked if I was sure that the marathon on Saturday was 42 km? My answer is that no I am not sure, I question this myself. I would like to think that I am in super shape and ran this training marathon faster than the Mannheim Marathon a couple weeks before. With my 50-mile race coming up in three weeks I think I will choose to believe it was close enough to the marathon distance.

Rob had an interesting post this week about justifying his position as a runner. He stated: “My typical line, as of late, is that I am tired of being a slow ultra runner and I want to return to being a faster marathon runner. There always seems to be a saying or justification that I use to somehow make my running make sense. If I am running slow, it must be school, work and other life happenings that make it so, and I make sure to let other people know it. I think we all do this to some extent. We qualify a race as a training run, which in a way protects us if we do poorly.

At first I thought, yeah that’s me alright! But when I think about it this is not completely accurate. I do run a lot of races as training runs, but my goal from the get go is, well, to run them a slower than normal pace so I don’t beat my body up. Most of my so-called training run marathons are programmed into my training schedule and in most cases I seem to run these faster than some of the marathon’s that I have “raced”.

Call me a lazy marathon runner if you like, but I have never had the ambition to continually run record breaking races. That said, I do try to improve my personal bests each year, with success I might add. With the exception of my first couple marathons I have never trained for a fast marathon. My fastest marathon to date (4:14) was run on a hilly course that most would not consider ideal for setting a personal best. However since the core of my long runs are run on hilly trails in preparation for the 50-mile race that I run in June, this is where I excel.

I’m happy where I am at with my running in the moment. I am still passionate about running and can’t imagine not doing it. I love participating in races and prefer to run many at a slightly slower pace, as opposed to a few at a fast pace. This may change in the future, but for now I’m happy being in my little comfort zone.

Are you where you want to be with your running?

Pictures of Schoemberg

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I found a few pictures of Schoemberg from a former trip and hike:

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Yesterday I was up at 4:30 a.m. and, after a small breakfast, on my way to the beautiful resort town of Schoemberg. Schoemberg is located about 20 minutes south of Pforzheim in the foothills of the Black Forest and is a very popular hiking region. Each year Schoemberg sponsors a Wandertag, or hiking day, where hiking fans can walk the IVV 10K, 20K, Marathon or 50K trails.

My plan was to run at least the first 3-1/2 hours of the marathon trail, as preparation for my upcoming 50-mile race in three weeks. As I arrived at the sports hall around 6:15, there were already dozens of people on the way. I picked up my start card, threw on my CamelBak and started out. The marathon and 50K trail followed the road I had just driven for about a kilometer before ducking off into the woods. The 10K and 20K trail headed off in the other direction.

It was a bit cool outside (around 55F) for a short sleeve running shirt and shorts, but I warmed up quickly. The trail was more or less flat for the first 10 minutes, but then started heading downhill on a winding logging trail. I settled into an easy pace and concentrated on enjoying the very scenic forest trails.

Every 4-5 kilometers (estimated – the trail was not marked) was a “control station”, where I received a stamp on my start card (proving I passed this point) and water or tea. It was also possible to buy something to eat, but I had everything I needed with me.

I passed dozens of hikers as the kilometers clicked away. I also played cat and mouse with another runner who said he was running the 50K trail. I finally lost the runner when he stopped to eat something at a control station. The trail up to this point had been a nice mix of gravel and dirt logging trails, single track trails, and sidewalks, the latter as we passed through some small towns. After an initial long downhill, the trail seem to weave it self over several small valleys. There were lots of hills, but none steep enough to warrant walking.

After around 2 hours, the marathon and 50K trails split and I turned onto the marathon trail. I had been running everything up to this point, stopping only to get my stamp at each control station. As I continued on the trail switched to single track and climbed up one of the larger hills of the day. As I ran along a ridge the view of the wooded valley below was breathtaking. However as the way grew rougher I didn’t dare take my eyes of the trail, as I had to traverse roots, rocks and trees – real trail running!

After three hours or so the trail headed over several grassy fields and eventually back onto some logging trails. I stopped at a control station and ate a PB & Honey sandwich that I had with me. The folks at the station said I was the second one so far for the marathon, another had been through about a half hour before. I took a salt tablet and aspirin to combat growing fatigue in my legs, then headed out again.

The trail mileage was not marked, so I really was not so sure how far I had to go still. Eventually the marathon and 50K trail merged together again, it had been almost 1-1/2 hours since I had seen anyone on the trails, so it was motivating when I finally saw a few people as the trail merged with the 20K trail. By this time I had been running for around 3-1/2 hours, and guessed I must have between 10-12 kilometers to go. I had planned on taking walking breaks every 25 minutes, but I had only taken one so far, on the steepest hill. My legs felt good, so I decided to keep running.

I passed dozens of walkers on the 20K trail, including a couple Americans, but I knew if I stopped to visit I would stiffen up, so kept going. The trail merged with the 10K trail at around 4 hours. I guessed there must be 7-8 kilometers to go, which put me much farther ahead as I thought. Shortly after this I passed a sign that said “Schoemberg 5 kilometers”, but figured the trail would wind around and it would be much longer than that.

My legs began to tire and I started thinking about taking a walk break. I had been running through a thick forest for about a half hour and saw daylight ahead, thinking there must be a field coming up. I decided to run to the field, then take a break. As I emerged from the woods I was very surprised to see a town a few hundred meters ahead, and the parking lot of the sports center!

I jogged in the last half kilometer reaching the sport hall in 4 hours 25 minutes, 12 minutes faster than my finishing time for the Mannheim Marathon a few weeks before! What's up with that?

I picked up my certificate for completing the event, then took a shower. I chatted with a few of the wanderers while eating some lunch of braten and spatzele, then headed home. My legs were a bit tired when I got home, but felt better than after some long runs. After resting for an hour I felt good enough to go shopping with my wife, imagine that.

Schoemberg, in the northern Black Forest, is an incredibly beautiful area. I completed several hikes here in the 1990’s, including the marathon, and am still enchanted with the dark forest paths and rolling fields. This year it served as a wonderful training opportunity for my 50-mile race. If I feel half as good during this race as I did in Schoemberg it will be a good year.

Jeanne over at Not Born to Run tagged me, I’m a sucker for a pretty face.

Five questions for enquiring minds.

Q1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

Non-existent. However I was running 5-8kms, 2-3 times a week in 1993-1994. I was also really big into Volksmarching from 1990-1997, logging over 3000 kilometers.

Q2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?

My worst run/race experience was probably my first marathon, I went out way too fast, cramped up, and slogged my way for most of the last 10 miles. Since then I've learn to go home before it gets that bad.

I really can’t think of a best race experience…the feeling of accomplishment after finishing a strong run/race is always a “best experience”.

Q3. Why do you run?

I just have to use Jeanne’s answer „Silly question—so I can eat, of course!“

Q4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

I think the best advice I have been given about running is to run my own race, don’t run to please anyone else.

The worst advice, probably “Du übertreibst!“, which translates to going overboard, or carrying to excess. I generally start hearing this when I have run more than 1 or 2 marathons in a year (e.g. in April or May ;-)

Q5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.

I consider my life so routine and normal that I can’t think of anything exciting for this question.

When is a Marathon a Marathon?

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I want to run a Volks-marathon tomorrow morning for my long run. The International Federation of Popular Sports (IVV or Internationaler Volkssportverband) marathon course is an official IVV event with a marked trail. Volkssport events are non-competitive events, thus are not timed and most people tend to walk them.

In the last three years I have ran 10 marathons (and five ultras). I also completed three “Volks” marathons in the early 90’s, running about 10-20% of the distance and walking the rest. When someone asks me how many marathons I ran I always say 10, as I don’t count the “Volks” events or ultras.

Is a marathon a marathon, or is a marathon a marathon only when it is marketed as a running event? And what about the ultras that I completed, and the 38 mile DNF 50-miler? Should these be listed in my total number of marathons?

Is there a proper etiquette on this subject?

I don't lose any sleep on this, but sometimes I wonder...

Last night I met my running club at our trailhead for a run. I was a bit early so warmed up with a quick 7-8 minute jog before the people started showing up. It was still quite humid outside, but at least the temperature went down a bit compared to the last few days.

Thick, dark rain clouds were moving in as I set out with the mid-pack group. I stuck towards the back of the little group of 10 runners, I was in no hurry, this week is my highest mileage week in my 50-mile training cycle. I chatted with Birgit, who is also running the 50-miler on June 28th, our goals are similar so I was wondering about running the race together. About the time our conversation got around to this the group leaders suddenly picked up the pace considerably. Next thing I knew I was running near 10K pace and Birgit had disappeared behind us, apparently she is much smarter than me and didn’t follow the group.

I was feeling good so hung with the group for about a kilometer, until they again took off at an even faster pace – turns out they are training for a fast 10K race taking place in the next couple weeks. I bailed out and jogged back to Birgit and the other two runners that had stayed with her. We finished the last 5K at a nice relaxed pace that left me feeling like I could do another loop, which is good because on Friday night or Saturday morning I have a 4-hour long run planned.

There are now five from my running club that are going to be running the 50-mile race, plus 4 more that are running it as a relay team. I guess I’ll have some company this time if they don’t run too fast.

So How is the Diet Going?

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The heat and humidity that we have been having is still lingering. It was nearly 29C/84F as I made my way out the door, but with a little wind for a change. For the second day in a row I had 20km/12.5mi. on my schedule, but this time I wanted to run at least part of it at a faster pace.

I ran to the trailhead from my running club and set out over the 11K route that I usually run there. This route is advantageous for a faster paced run as it is flat and consists of well maintained dirt-gravel logging trails without any roots to trip over. I gradually increased my pace until I was running around 5:30/km (8:50/mile). This was roughly the point where my legs warned me that if I kept increasing the pace they would be dead in the morning. So I ran about 4-5 km at this pace, then slowed down again for the rest of the run.

So what’s up with the title? If you have been reading my log for awhile you might have read that I started running about 4-1/2 years ago to lose weight. After many years of too much food and too little activity my weight was surpassing the 240 lbs. mark, which was enormous for my 67 inch height. Through walking, then running I got my weight down to around 170 lbs. and have held it for over three years now. Generally during race season my weight drops to around 165, but I was never able to get under this for more than a day or two at a time.

This race season I also dropped my weight to 165 lbs., but in the last few weeks I have managed to drop below that. This week I am down to 161 lbs. and so far have been able to hold it, even while fuelling some longer runs. I am hoping that I can continue and bring my weight down to a lean (for me) 155 lbs. by July 30th (my birthday). If that doesn’t work, than I hope I can maintain the 161 lbs. Worst case I hope I can stay under 165 lbs. over the winter. Nothing like a race-of-my-life, good day, and bad day goals for my diet too, huh!

Oh, and for any of you searching for a diet plan, mine is simple:
1. Eat healthy, but in controlled quantities.
2. Cut out as much fat and sweets as possible.
3. Drink lots of water.
4. Run at least 50 miles a week, preferably on hot, humid days.

A Flat 20K Road Run

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When I got home from work last night the sunny skies were quickly being covered by an angry looking mass of gray-black clouds. It was quite warm (29C/84F) and very humid, so I knew we were in for a storm. I suited up and hurried out the door hoping that I would get my planned two hour run over before the storm hit.

One of my objectives was to get some training in on pavement, so I headed out over the many asphalted bike paths in our area. Due to the high humidity if felt much warmer outside for the first hour. I quickly fell into my groove, roughly a 9:30/mile pace. The first 10K went uneventful, then the wind started picking up. At first this helped cool things down, but soon I was running against the wind over open fields –and I started hearing thunder in the distance. Luckily the storm moved in slowly and I made it back to the house before the thunder and lightening were near enough to worry.

I ended up running for 1:58:04, which, according to Google Earth, was right around 20K. My legs were a bit tired towards the end, but feel fine this morning. I hope they hold up for the 55-60 miles (90-98 km) that I have planned this week…

Saturday at 5:00 p.m. I met members of my running club at our trailhead for a run. Normally I don’t run on Saturday’s with the club as I do my long run on Saturday morning, but I did my long run on Friday night in preparation for the upcoming 50-mile race. My legs were a bit tired, so I showed up early and warmed up with a 7-8 minute run before heading out with the group over the 11K loop.

I fell in with the mid-pack group, several who were recovering from races, including the Mannheim marathon that I also ran. We started out at an easy pace, around 6:12/K (10:00/mile). I was in no hurry, my legs were still recovering from the almost 3-hour hilly run the night before (and the marathon the week before). After about 5K those recovering took the shorter route back to the trailhead and I continued on with a couple of the guys who wanted to run the entire loop.

We seemed to immediately pick up the pace, which kind of worried me, but my legs held up as we cruised around. We did a faster 2-3 kilometers, whereas I fell several paces behind, than backed off again, whereas I caught them again. I didn’t watch the time for each individual kilometer, but we ended up averaging about 5:25/K (9:00/mile) for the last 6K.

I ended up with 80K (almost 50 miles) for the week, not bad for a “recovery week” after a marathon. I attribute this to running the marathon at about 45 seconds/mile under my normal marathon pace, which allowed me to recover much faster. I should mention that my legs are not fully recovered, but enough to continue my training anyway.

On Sunday my legs felt good enough to do some cross-training. I decided to do some cycling, whereas I cycled around 40K (25 miles). This gave my leg muscles a good workout, but without stressing my running muscles. When I got back I also did about 10 minutes of rowing, whereas I used the upper body as much as possible.

This evening (Monday) I want to run around 20K at marathon pace, we’ll see how the legs hold up. Have a great Monday!

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