March 2010 Archives

9 1/2 Weeks before my 100K Race

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I have noticed that the majority of the blogs that I read have been posting less and less over the last six months, sadly my own blog falls into this category. In my case I am often faced with either training or blogging, there are many days where there is not time for both. Enough excuses, let me try to catch up.

Overall I am satisfied with my performance at the 50K on 21, after the first couple loops it was clear to me that I was running at a pace that was a bit too fast for me, but decided it was more important to continue as long as I could with Birgit when it became clear she was having a good day. It does bother me a bit that I couldn't recover once I slowed my pace down, in past years I could usually pick the pace up again after a rest.

The week following the 50K (last week) I went on my first recovery run with Birgit on Tuesday night, we both had tired legs, but no cramps or negative effects from the race. We kept the pace slow and chatted through around 7.5 km (ca. 5 miles), just enough to loosen up the legs. On Wednesday I ran around 15 km (9 mi.) with RB at our normal pace (around 10 min./mi.). On Thursday I met Ironman finishers Bernd and Uli for a run, we ran 11 km (7 mi.) at a slightly faster pace (9:20 min./mi.), they are running the Vienna Marathon/Halfmarathon on April 18.

On Saturday morning I was up early and at the trailhead of my hilly running route in Weingarten around 8:00 a.m. I ran 32 km (20 mi.) at a faster than normal pace for this hilly terrain, around 6:24/km (10:20/mi.). This was about 30 seconds/km faster than normal - and excellent training for the hilly German Wine Street Marathon that I am running on April 18.

On Sunday I met RB under dark and dreary skies for a two hour run. We ran for maybe 25 minutes before the skies opened up and drenched us, by the end of our run we looked (and felt) like a couple wet kittens. It has been a long time since I have been caught in a hard rain, we were drenched through and through! Unlike most days I didn't linger when I dropped RB off at her apartment, there was a cold wind and I was soaked. Luckily both of us survived without catching a cold.

Last night I ran out of running friends, so went for a run on my own. The trails were still wet from rain that had fallen earlier in the day, but I wanted to test my speed. After warming up for a kilometer I increased my pace to around 5:15/km (8:27/mi.) and managed to hold it more or less for most of the 20 km (12.4 mi.) run. I finished with an average pace of 5:19/km (8:33/mi.), my fastest run so far this year.

This morning (Wednesday) my legs, particularly the knees, are feeling the effects of my spontaneous speed training. I want to add a faster run in this range to my weekly training schedule. I don't need this for my 100K race on June 11th, but I would like to run a marathon or two under four hours during the summer.

The last couple months I have been waking up with some back pain. My walks to the train station in the morning have generally been accompanied by a feeling of my right leg going to sleep. This is a classic symptom of a pinched nerve in the lower back. Since it seems to only occur early in the morning or when I am standing for long periods of time, and doesn't bother me at all when I run and swim, I have been trying to ignore it. It seems to be getting slowly better, bothering me only the mornings after I swim or work in the garden the night before. I suppose it would get better faster if I would stop running, swimming and working in the garden for a couple weeks...in any case I am monitoring it carefully and hope it doesn't turn worse.

Pfungstadt, in the district of Darmstadt-Dieburg in the state of Hesse, Germany, lies approximately 10 km southwest of Darmstadt on the Modau river, almost exactly halfway between Frankfurt and Heidelberg. The township consists of a population of 25,117 inhabitants, spread over several villages including Pfungstadt, Hahn, Eich and Eschollbruecken.

On Sunday morning the population of Eschollbruecken expanded by a couple hundred while most of the general population was still wrapped tightly in their sleep. A rather hardy looking group of roughly 70 people linked up under cloudy skies at 9:00 a.m. for the 19th Annual Eschollbruecken 50K Ultra run. Approximately 130 folks would join the runners at 11:00 a.m. for the 25 km discipline. The 5K course is mostly flat and consists almost entirely of dirt and gravel paths and forest trails.

I had planned on running the event alone, as I couldn't find anyone desiring to run so far so early in the year. But my prayers were answered when Birgit called me the day before and decided she could use a good long training run as part of our 100K training.

As we waited for the countdown for the start of the race the first raindrops could be felt, I prayed that we would be spared a potential drenching so early in the race. My thought were interrupted as the race began, we quickly fell into a comfortable pace and made our way around the first loop.

The 5K course ran as follows, out of the stadium, over a short wooded section, up the bank of a flood dam. Once on the dam the course wound around in sight of the local Autobahn, for about a kilometer, then headed back down the bank of the dam through a winding section of woods, eventually looping back over the bank of the dam that we crossed earlier around the 2 kilometer point. The course then turned left and wound through the forest, over a county road closed for the race, to the other side of town and along the edge of town. Right before the 4th kilometer the trail zig-zagged into the forest again switching to single-track for a few hundred meters, then merging at the edge of the forest with the same path that we followed earlier, to the stadium. As the course reached the stadium the organizers used part of the playing field to gather the remaining meters necessary to make each round exactly 5K - we zig-zagged over the playing field past a row of cheerful volunteers who placed a check by our name each time we passed.

At the end of each loop was an aid station with an assortment of drinks, fruit, chocolate and cookies. Birgit and I began fuelling after the first loop, nibbling away at anything that looked good.

I had planned on a leisurely 6 hour race, Birgit apparently didn't have the same plans, we ran the first 30 km at a 5-hour pace. Being the gentleman that I am I let her set the pace and did my best to stay with her, but after around 34 km I hit the wall hard and ended up dropping behind. I knew Birgit was having the race of her life so no point in interfering. By the time I completed the loop Birgit was already started on her next, and my legs were tired. I walked it out a bit, then decided I needed to keep going.

The next loop was hard, try as I could, I couldn't get my pace going again. I did my best to keep moving, running 1-2 kilometers at a time, taking a quick walk break, then continuing. I keep eating and drinking a lot at the end of each loop and by the last loop I started feeling a bit more energetic. My pace was still slow, but I managed to run most of the last loop.

As I approached the stadium Birgit was waiting with a big smile on her face, I knew then that she had a good race day! I handed her the car key and asked her to bring my jacket, I still had to wind my way around the playing field. I crossed the finish line, glad to be done, in 5:43:58, well under my planned 6-hour finish!

Birgit ended up finishing her first 50K race in 5:28:38, good enough for second place in her age group. More importantly she gained a shot of encouragement as she trains for her first 100K in June! When her training continues like it has been she doesn't need to worry about finishing, rather her husband and I need to worry about keeping up with her!

Off to the races

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On Saturday my wife and I helped celebrate running friend Birgit's 50th birthday, lots of her family and mutual friends were there, the night was short! On Sunday I met RB for a run, we ran about 8 miles, the weather was mild and the chatter flowed freely.

On Tuesday evening I met Birgit for two loops around the local research center, the training for her first 100K event in June is going well. Together with her husband Andreas, we will be running a marathon in April, a 50K in May and the 100K in Biel, Switzerland. I try to run with one or both of them at least once a week.

On Wednesday I met RB for another run, the weather was warm and friendly, with the temperature climbing past 16°C (60°F), I guess Spring has finally arrived. It's always a pleasure running with RB, the time flies by. We plan on running another round this evening if the weather holds, the forecast is calling for a storm, but hopefully later tonight.

On Sunday I am planning on driving to Pfungstadt (near Darmstadt) and run the Eschollbruechen 50K race. This race consists of ten 5K loops on a flat, mostly dirt path and can be run quite quickly. Being my first race of the year I plan on taking my time and just try to get through it. Although I have run a couple long runs over 20 miles I don't feel especially well prepared for the race. I guess physically it shouldn't be a major problem, but it always takes a race or two before I fall into my mental groove that is so important for ultra running.

I would have preferred to start the race season with a marathon, but it didn't work out with the scheduling, so nothing left to do but jump in and give it my best. We'll find out together whether my race report is the first chapter of a good race year or the beginning of a horror novel.

A Snowy 21 Miles

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It was still dark out as I crawled out of bed at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday. Although this is late compared to my 4:45 a.m. wake-up on a workday, it was still early for a Saturday.

I had a quick breakfast - granola with milk, a glass of tomato juice and a cup of coffee - standard for me. I already had my running clothes and Camelbak laid out from the night before, so only had to suit up and drive to the trailhead of my hilly route in Weingarten.

It was just getting light out as I ran my flat warm-up kilometer before heading up the first hill. My training plan called for 34 km (21 mi.), and with a hilly marathon coming up in April, I decided that I needed to run at least part of the long run over the rolling hills around Weingarten.

As I headed up the first hill I was surprised by how much snow remained, just 6 miles away in my town the snow was already gone. I slipped a bit as I made my way up the steeper part of the climb, but it was still runnable. I was more concerned with the ache in my back and the cramp-like feeling in my right leg. Sometime over the last couple weeks I had pinched a nerve or something in the back and I have been waking to a sore back, and when I walk to the train station mornings the cramp-like feeling surfaces. Usually by the time I get to work I don't notice it any longer, so haven't given it much thought. But this morning it had my attention.

I made it to the top of the hill and as I made my way over the plateau my leg and back felt better, and soon I was in my groove and didn't even think about it again. The first 10K flew by and I made my way down the next valley and started up the hillside lined with the vineyards that give Weingarten (wine garden) its name. I chose a slightly different route and soon was chugging up a steep slope that I didn't know existed, good training!

At the top I reached another plateau that I was familiar with and headed over some short rolling hills towards the town of Obergrombach, eventually connecting to the made bicycle trail that lead to the next town, Johlingen. The rolling hills continued as I headed over the plateau, my direction of travel had reversed and now I ran against an icy wind on a snow covered asphalt bike bath between open fields. It was not especially cold outside (0°C/32°F), but the stiff wind chilled me to the bone. I passed another runner on this lonely trail who looked like she would have been happier running on a beach about this time. Eventually I made it to the edge of the plateau and followed the winding bike path down into Johlingen, relieved to be out of the wind.

With about 10K to go I connected to the 80 km race course, which I run every June. Normally I run past cheering crowds as we make our way through Johlingen, but today I was headed in the opposite direction and I was alone. Soon I was headed uphill again, this time on a treacherous snow-covered farm path. It was slow going, especially as I left the cover of the town and ran between the fields. I found myself running against the wind again, dodging patches of ice, all the while heading uphill. About halfway up Ted Nugent's Stranglehold kicked in on my IShuffle, I dug in and let it carry me over the top.

With less than 4 miles of level or downhill trail to go I relaxed and tried to enjoy the rest of the run. I arrived back at my car and looped around the parking area a couple times until my Garmin showed 34 kilometers. With contentment I stretched a bit and munched on a PB & Honey sandwich, life is good!

My pace was a bit slower than I would have liked, 6:56/km (11.09/mi.), but okay considering the snow-covered trails. The pace is in the ballpark of my 100K pace, so entirely acceptable.

By the time I got home I was pretty cold from the sweaty clothes, so took a warm bath and had a hot lunch. I relaxed for an hour and was soon piddling around doing some chores around the house...I remember the days when a shorter run would reduce me to the couch the rest of the day. I guess my training is going pretty well, I guess I'll find out for sure when I run my first race of the season.

On Friday after work I headed out for a 32 km (20 mi.) long run. I had planned on completing this run on Saturday, but decided it was better to accompany my wife to her aunt in Fürth (Nuremberg) on Saturday and Sunday.

I made my way out over familiar trails towards the local research center, over the county highway to my running club trail to the north, then east over the bridge spanning the railroad toward the neighboring town of Spoeck. With 5K to go my pace slowly started to dwindle, but I put my face to the wind and ran steadfast over the open fieldway's back to the house. I ended up with an average pace of 6:19/km (10:05/mi.) for the 32 km (20 mi.) run, not earth-moving, but respectable for this old goat.

On Saturday morning my wife and I were up early so we could make the 2 ½ hour drive to her aunt before the German traffic flooded the Autobahns. I was a bit alarmed when I opened the front door to retrieve our daily newspaper, there were several inches of new snow blanketing the roads and landscape - I mentally added clearing the sidewalks to my list of to-do's before we left.

The roads were in terrible shape as set out shortly after 7:00 a.m., I guess the town didn't take the weather report from the day before seriously. The several inches of snow remained unplowed and there was no sign of a sander. I had to keep the speed down as we slid our way over the county highways to the Autobahn.

The 3-lane Autobahn (A5) towards Frankfurt was only partially cleared, but luckily there was very little traffic, not normal for any day. Autobahn 6 towards Nuremberg was not much better, especially over the mountain passes around Heilbronn. It was first in Bavaria that the road conditions improved, I guess they are used to having snow in the winter and know how to keep the roads clear. In any case we arrived safely in Fürth in just over 3 hours, remarkable considering the road conditions.

We spent Saturday visiting my wife's aunt in the hospital and tiding up her apartment where we were staying. We enjoyed a quiet meal in a small restaurant down the street and made plans for the next day. My wife had an appointment with the doctor and social worker on Monday, so had to stay an extra day. I had to work on Monday so decided to head home early Sunday morning to beat the traffic. The roads were clear the next morning and I made good time on the Autobahn. Later I met RB and we made our way over our normal Sunday loop. I spent the rest of the day catching up on some cleaning and other tasks around the house.

On Monday after work I met my wife at the train station and spent some time catching up on her aunt's condition. Her aunt went into a nursing home on Tuesday and is doing fine in the moment. The doctor's are reluctant to give any figures on her life expectancy, but the cancer is spreading and they doubt she will make it through the year.

I went on three runs so far this week, ranging from 8-11 miles, Saturday I want to go on another 20 mile (32 km) run, but this time on my hilly route. On Sunday afternoon I will probably do another loop with RB if it doesn't snow again. I hope I can get in a total of around 55 miles this week, this will leave me prepared for my first race of the year in a week or two. I'll have to see how the week folds out.

A Stormy Weekend

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Oh where has the week gone, I am turning into a once-in-a-while blogger, which makes my blog boring and defeats my own goal of using the blog to log my training. There are a couple excuses that I could use, to cover my laziness. For example, my wife's favorite aunt is slowly losing her battle with cancer, she is going on hospice care this coming week. My wife has been helping her out over the years and is her point of contact. Her aunt lives three hours away, which makes for a busy life for us both.

I have been able to continue with my training, but have had to twist and bend the schedule to fit in housework, shopping, and other things that allow my wife more time to take care of her aunt's requirements.

I had intended on running a 30 km (18.5 mi.) run and a 26 km (16 mi.) run last weekend, but a storm with hurricane strength winds blew across Germany threatening these plans. I ended up running 28 km (17.4 mi.) on Friday night in the dark before the storm picked up, and running 24 km (15 mi.) during a lull in the storm on Saturday. I also snuck in a windy 14 km (8.7 mi.) run on Sunday before the next round of tree-breaking winds kicked in.

A 13 km (8 mi.) run with Birgit on Tuesday revealed some of the damage that the storm did to our area, trees were down and debris was everywhere, we had to watch our step to avoid stumbling over the residue. Last night I stopped at the pool and got in a quick 1000 meters before heading home, tonight I'm running with RB and maybe our friend Uli.

I have my first marathon option coming up very shortly, either the Bienwald (Bee Forest) Marathon on March 14th, or the Eschollbrucken 50K on March 21st. At this point in time I'm not sure if I will make either event, it depends on my wife's aunt's condition. In the meantime I will keep training, the 100K main event is on the horizon (June 11).

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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