July 2009 Archives

I didn't take my camera on Sunday for the cycling trip through the Black Forest, but I found some pictures that will give you somewhat of an idea of the event. The day was organized by the Forchheim, Germany cycling club RSV Concordia 1920 Forchheim e.V. Being my first cycling event I have nothing to compare the trip to, but the event was well organized, the aid stations well stocked and with friendly people, the route itself quite beautiful and challenging. My friends and I chose to ride the 75 km route, there were also 50, 115, and 154 km routes available for other "skill levels".

Starting easy:
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The first aid station at the 25 km point, the route was still flat:
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Upwards through the Black Forest:
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...and up...
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...and would yo believe, up...
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...almost there...
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...chugging to the top:
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Looking down...
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...was the view worth the effort...
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...I think so:
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The trip down the mountain went fast, I wimped out and applied the brakes on the curvy roads at 55 kph (35 mph). Others flew by at scary speeds. But eventually we reached the Concordia clubhouse back at the start and sat down for some food and fun.
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Running and Cycling, Lots of Cycling

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Wow, already a week since my last marathon, how did I get so busy. I ran a few times last week, nothing long, between 5-9 miles per run. I also supplemented this by riding my bicycle to work three days, for a total of about 43 km/26 mi. per day.

Speaking of cycling, I went on the longest bicycle ride of my life on Sunday. I met RB and a few other friends from my running club and we rode the street car to Forchheim, Germany - near where I work. The Forchheim Cycling Club (Concordia) sponsored a Cycling day, offering 50-154 km routes through the Black Forest. My little group chose the 75 km (47 miles) route, and only a few mountains.

The route took us south over some gentle bike paths, then turned up into the Black Forest to Gaggenau and Gernsbach. From here we battled our way up to Schaufenberg near Baden-Baden, then rolled back down towards Rastatt, finally heading back to Forchheim. After fuelling up we pedalled the 25+ kilometers back home, getting in somewhere around 105 km (65 miles) for the day, a new distance record for this beginner.

It was a great day, perfect weather, good people and a challenging route. Next weekend we are heading out again, this time in the Kraichgal area, northeast of where we live. The Kraichgal area has lots of rolling hills to contend with, I've run parts of it - I hope the summer weather holds.

It was shortly before 6 a.m. on Sunday when I quietly left the house and made the hour drive to Hundseck, near Bühlertal, Germany in the Black Forest. My objective was to break my course record, and perhaps even set a new personal best, at the Hornisgrinde Marathon.

The air was cool (9°C/48°F) and fresh when I arrived at Hundseck, a ski resort in the winter and a hiking paradise in the summer. As I parked my car and walked the 50 feet to pick up my start number, I paused and looked out over the valley - it had rained earlier and a mist was rising from the forest beds below. I have run both the half-marathon and marathon twice in the past and was well aware of the beauty of the area, as well as the challenge I was up against - this is not a marathon for someone with weak knees or a weak will.

I picked up my start number and sat and drank a cup of coffee in the festival tent near the start. As I waited, it started to rain...I quietly hoped that it would subside before the start of the race. I chatted with an older gentleman (69) that I have often seen at races in the area, he said he was running his 231st marathon that morning, and hoped to finish under 4 hours!

Inspired, I took my place at the starting line shortly before the 8:15 a.m. start. After a few minutes the starting pistol went off and I advanced forward with the approx. 270 marathon runners. We headed over the parking lot, passing by the fest tent, and onto a dirt & gravel logging trail.

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The first few miles of this trail are pretty much downhill, but the trail was narrow and the runners were bunched together for the first 5-10 minutes.

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Eventually the group started breaking up as the fast runners left us and the slower fell behind. Soon I was able to pick up the tempo to my desired pace, around 5:15/km (8:30/mi.).

I ran on pausing briefly at the 5 km aid station to test the sports drink, it tasted good, I would be able to use it during the course of the race. The course continued, flattening out, and then some more downhill. The air was cool and fresh from the earlier rainfall, occasionally I caught a glimpse of the foggy mist that was hanging over sections of the valley towards France - this really is a beautiful course, that's why I keep coming back.

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I passed the 10 km point in 52:34, right on pace and feeling strong. The course continued gradually downhill, then level, then down some more. I drank at every aid station, usually mixing a half cup of water with a half cup of isotonic sports drink. I passed by the half-marathon point in 1:51:02, still right on pace, and still feeling good. I knew that if I could hold the pace I would have a good race, but I also knew the tough part was ahead.

Shortly after the halfway point the trail took the first climb of the day to Wegscheide (translated: fork in the road), it wasn't too steep so I was able to continue to run, albeit slower.

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After a kilometer or two the trail started going down again until we reached the Stausee, a lake seemingly hidden in the middle of the forest.

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Here began a roughly 15 minute out and back along one shore of the lake, pretty, but I personally don't care for out and back's.

I retraced my steps on the out and back and headed off on another trail that I knew would be heading upwards shortly. I wasn't disappointed, after around the 27 km (17 mi.) mark the trail started heading upward, and more or less continued to do so until the finish line!

I chugged along up a seemingly endless uphill climb, runnable, but taxing. I eventually passed the 32 km (20 mi.) mark, in 2:51:02. With 10 km to go I knew I still had a chance of breaking my 3:57:14 personal marathon best, I put the blinders on and pushed on - the hardest was yet to come.

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The trail leveled slightly and I managed a couple more kilometers near my starting pace, but after 36 km (22 mi.), the trail began an uphill climb that would indeed continue until the finish line. My quads were burning by this time, but I kept the pace up as best I could. After 5-10 minutes of climbing my Garmin was telling the story, my pace was dropping off and I couldn't seem to get my legs moving again.

I struggled to keep the pace going, to at least not slow down any further - I could still shave a couple minutes off my personal best if I kept moving. I knew from previous years that the last 1200 meters was up the side of a ski slope, a quad-buster to say the least. When this stretch didn't appear at around 41 km (25.5 miles), I quickly realized that my Garmin was not showing the correct distance, it was at least a kilometer to far ahead - this spurred me on faster for a few hundred meters, I would be hard pressed for that personal best now...

I finally reached the asphalt road at the bottom of the hill that I had been dreading, and I only had four minutes to get to the finish line (1200 meters) if I wanted that PB - I knew there was no way, not with the climb that I had before me - not even if it was downhill for that matter.

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Disappointed I climbed up the hill as best I could, maybe I could still break 4 hours. I passed several runners who stopped to walk - it was that steep, but I kept moving. My breathing was redlining, my quads burned, the hill didn't end. I hummed my favorite hill climb song (Stranglehold - Ted Nugent) and kept plowing forward. Finally I passed the clubhouse where the showers were and could see the last turn up ahead, about 300 meters until the finish line.

I reached the turn and scrambled up the steep bank that would bring me by the ski lift and the finish line.

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I did my best to "sprint" the last 50 meters to the finish line, but it was almost laughable...I was just so glad to be done! I collected my race T-Shirt and walked it out, my quads were throbbing - the muscles were twitching. I finished in 4:00:25, three minutes shy of a personal best, a half minute shy of a sub-4:00, but 14 minutes faster than my previous best time for this course (2007).

I'm totally satisfied with the way I ran the race, I was much stronger than I was in previous years, despite doing only a third of the normal hill training compared to previous years. Next year I may spend some more time running my hilly route, the last climb of the race got the best of me, maybe next year I can take it back!

This morning I ran the Hornisgrinde Marathon in Bühlertal, Germany for the third year in row. This year I missed a personal marathon best by just four minutes, finishing in 4:00:25, and that on a tough hilly course! I at least improved my course record by 14 minutes, I'll try to post a report in the next couple days.

The Past Week in Summary

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I am stuck in a bad blogging phase, allowing normal life to interfere with my blog writing. I am working on "getting over it".

A brief summary of the past week:

  • I ran three times, including a half-marathon on Saturday evening with RB - she placed 3rd in her age group!
  • I rode my bike to work four times (so far) in the last 8 work days , 21.4 kilometers (13+ miles) one way.
  • I started my Crossfit workouts on Monday night, but am limiting this to twice a week the first week or two until my body getting used to it.
  • After several weeks of rain I have been spending many hours in the garden trying to clean it up , so far the weeds are winning.

I am running a marathon on Sunday in the Black Forest, the first 25 km are flat or downhill, but the last 17 uphill! I needed 4:44 last year, I want to try to break my course record of 4:14 - it is supposed to be cool and rainy. It might work out!

Running, Cycling and Too Busy

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I am quite thankful that last week was a recovery week, as life has been incredibly busy. I guess this is best evidenced by my failure to write any entries. I have at least been trying to scan my favorite blogs so I can follow your adventures.

Following my 100K and 50 Mile runs in June (12th and 27th) I decided it was time to get some rest. My body rebounded very quickly from the runs, but I could feel the weariness setting in. So last week I only ran three short runs, 4, 7, and 8 miles respectively.

I also rode my bike to work last Friday, about 15 miles one way. I have been wanting to do this for a long time, but the lack of a shower facility at work always stopped me. Last week my coworker rode his bike to work, changing his clothes when he arrived, and no one seemed to be bothered with the sweaty clothes lying in the corner, so I decided to go for it.

The first half of the bike ride to work is on a long straight, paved bike path, so it went fairly quickly. But then I have to traverse Karlsruhe, a city of almost 300,000, this took a little longer. The last 5 kilometers were over a paved bike path and some gravel forest trails. I need around 65 minutes to reach work, just a few minutes longer than with train and streetcar.

On Tuesday after work, 5 members of my running club met at my house and we drove to Weingarten to try out my hilly running route. We warmed up with a relatively flat kilometer, then headed up the hill. About halfway up the first started walking, I could tell the group haven't done any hill training for awhile. I ended up modifying my route to take this in consideration. After about an hour and a half I brought five weary runners back to the cars, I'm curious if any of them will run again with me next week ;-)

The next morning (Wednesday) I rode my bicycle to work again. This time I had to fight a strong headwind, it was hard going at times. On the way home it was still windy, but this time it was in my favor, I made good time. Later, I joined my running club for a run...half of those that ran with me on Tuesday were missing...I hope they are all right ;-) No, actually they had other plans, one of the reason they ran with me on Tuesday.

I settled in with some of the normal group that I run with. As luck will have it, they wanted to run at a faster pace. By the halfway point I was really feeling the hill training from the night before, and the cycling to work and back from earlier in the day, but I managed to hang with the group. This morning my legs are a bit tired, a credit to some good training.

My next major race will be on July 19, the Hornisgrinde Marathon, a countryside marathon in the Black Forest. The first half of the marathon is mostly flat or downhill, but the second half is a steady climb, it's tough, especially if you expend all your energy during the first half. In any case it's a beautiful course, in the middle of the Black Forest, and only about 45 minutes away.

Applying the brakes...

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I have had a super year of racing so far in 2009, the higher mileage training plan that I have been following this year has paid dividends. I succeeded in setting new personal best times with the half-marathon, 50 km and 80 km (50 mile) distances and completed my first 100K race in under 12 hours. I am also confident that I could have improved my marathon best time had I been trying in March (I elected to pace a friend instead).

But now its time to slow down a little, my wife needs attention, my body needs a rest, our garden needs weeding and my job is hectic. So I'll be cutting back to running 3 times a week, with some occasional crosstraining - just enough training to allow me to continue running a marathon a month. Who knows, maybe I'll still manage that marathon PR!

Ich habe wirklich eine Super Laufjahr bis jetzt gehabt, die höher Woche Kilometer hat wirklich rentiert! Ich habe neue Bestzeit mit Halbmarathon, 50 km und 80 km gelaufen, und mein erste 100 km in unter zwölf Stunden geschafft! Ich glaube auch dass ich fit genug in März ein Bestzeit mit Marathon zu laufen (es war für mich mehr wichtig mit meine Lauffreundin zu bleiben).

Aber jetzt ist es Zeit zum langsamer machen...um zu mehr Zeit mit meine Frau zu verbringen, zu ausruhen, die Garten sauber machen, und die hektische Arbeit zum besiegen. So, ich wurde mein Lauftraining zurück auf 3 Tagen setzten, und gelegentlich ein bisschen Crosstraining machen - genug wo ich kann immer noch ein gemütlich Marathon am Monat laufen. Wer weiß, vielleicht dass reicht für eine neuen Bestzeit.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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