May 2010 Archives

Running, Cycling, Falling...

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This past weekend was filled with various training activities, including on Whitsun Monday, a holiday in our part of Germany. On Friday after work I suited up and headed out for along run. My goal was 4 hours, but after 3 hours 42 minutes I decided it was enough - the weather had warmed up dramatically compared to previous weeks and my body was not yet acclimatized.

On Saturday the sun was burning brightly, with blue skies and a gentle wind, I decided to get in some cycling time. I rode about 45 km (28 mi.) before I needed to get back to the house - my wife and I wanted to attend a Jazz festival.

On Sunday noon I went for a 16.5 km (10 mi.) run. My legs were a bit stiff, but the continuing sunny weather spurred me on.

Monday I headed out for another cycling ride, this time with a friends racing bike that I am trying out. This was the first time that I rode a bike with shoes that you clip onto the pedals. The results of this experiment were, well embarrassing and painful, as I preceded to get all tangled up in the process. I only took one bad spill that drew blood - after a panic braking action to avoid hitting a dog. Somehow I managed to fall on my side with both feet still clipped onto the pedals - thankfully I was wearing a helmet. I ended up cycling about 30 km (18.5 mi.), and can foresee using this bike for my upcoming Sprint triathlon in July...after all I only need to dismount once, right.

My back didn't seem to bother quite so bad this weekend, mostly when I stood around too long. I hope this is a positive sign, we'll see.

A Training and Health Update

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After completing the 50K run last Thursday I was able to continue training on the weekend without any problem. I ran the normal 11.2 km (6.8 mi.) loop at the running club with RB and other friends on Saturday night, and ran a hilly 25 km (15.5 mi.) run on Sunday afternoon. On Monday I rested, spending 2 hours in the garden after work planting potatoes and trying to get ahead of the weeds. I ran again on Tuesday and Thursday, and plan on running a long run this evening after work. I even managed a 1000 meter swim on Wednesday, despite the effort causing discomfort in my back.

The last week has also been filled with medical appointments. On Friday (the day after the 50K run) I was at my neurologist appointment, he didn't find anything out of the ordinary with my back, my nerves seem to respond normally and I wasn't experiencing any pain while I was there. He was a bit baffled that I ran a hilly 50K event the day before, especially after I explained the problems I have been having. He ended up sending me to the health center in Karlsruhe for an MRT, which I had on Wednesday. I also had a general check-up at my normal doctor on Monday. Other then the back problems, he said I am in good health.

My MRT revealed a white blotch around my third and fourth vertebrae, I will find out exactly what this is at my next appointment at the neurologist in the middle of June. If you haven't been following my blog, I began having pain in my lower back around the beginning of March. This occurs mostly when I try to sleep or stand up too long. When I walk to the train station mornings my right leg feels like it goes to sleep, and sometimes I have pain in the quad or foot. When I sit in the train the pain goes away by the time I reach my destination (< 15 minutes) and usually doesn't occur the rest of the day unless I walk or stand too much. The crazy thing is that I have no problem when I run, as evidenced by my 50K run last week. I do make an effort to run with good posture and to avoid rough terrain.

I also pulled a muscle at the end of my last marathon a month ago. This has since healed and I have been able to run more or less normal in the last week or two.

In any case it is three weeks until the 100K event in Biel, Switzerland. I am signed up for the race and, not withstanding any unforeseen problems, expect to be able to complete the event. I have scaled down my expectations and plan to run "just to finish", without any specific finish time in mind. I have up to 21 hours to finish the event and it is an easier course than last year's 100K event in Ulm, Germany. Last year I needed just under 12 hours to complete the distance.

My sprint triathlon is also looming on the horizon, July 11th being my debut in this new world. Cold rainy weather has discouraged me from doing much cycling, and I also neglected my swimming while recovering from the pulled muscle. As I reduce my running to taper for the 100K, I need to add more swimming and cycling.

It is going to be an interesting couple of months, especially because I still don't know exactly what's up with my back or what kind of treatment to expect. I have to remain patient and not overdo it until then. As long as I am still running without pain I will continue, but will scale back a bit on the speed and difficulty - at least from my perspective.

According to Wikipedia, Rengsdorf is a "collective municipality" in the district of Neuwied, in Rhineland-Palatinate (Pfalz), Germany. It is situated in the Westerwald Forest, about 10 km north of Neuwied, not far from Koblenz. The annual 50K Westerwald Run takes place on Ascension Day and is combined with a folks-wandertag (walking-tour day).

For the fifth year in a row my wife and I made our pilgrimage to Rengsdorf the night before the race, staying at our favorite Bed and Breakfast near the center of town. Once we checked in, we met our friends Brigit and Andreas, who were spending a week vacating in the area, for dinner at the local Italian restaurant. The couple are the same two that I have been training with to run the 100K race in Biel, Switzerland on June 11th.

The next morning we awoke to the sound of falling rain, nothing new for this race. We got around and headed down to the swimming pool where the race would start. Birgit and Andreas were already there and checked in. I left my wife to chat with them and picked up my race packet, which consisted of a general map of the route and a card that needed to be stamped at several checkpoints along the way. I greeted a few familiar faces, than rejoined our small group.

The race was scheduled to start at 8:00 a.m., so shortly before the 70-80 odd runners assembled in the parking lot on the edge of the starting line and received our briefing. It had stopped raining about an hour before, but the trails were still quite wet and slippery, we should take it easy out there. The race is not competitive; the runners keep track of their own time and submit it at the finish line. There are no prizes awarded, everyone who runs the course is rewarded with beautiful trails, friendly organizers and just a good time doing what runners love to do.

After the briefing the race director sent us off and we bid my wife farewell for the next 7-8 hours. Birgit, Andreas and I planned on running together, so started off at a comfortable pace. We hit the first uphill after a couple minutes, and as Birgit had warned me beforehand, we slowed to a walk, as we would with almost every hill on the course. This was fine with me, my pulled muscle from a marathon three weeks ago was mostly healed, but I didn't want to aggravate it.

We made pretty good time the first 8-9 km, encountering several small hills that we power walked, than bounding down the other side at a good pace. After an hour or so, we arrived at the first aid station at roughly kilometer 8.6 (5.5 miles),

Soon after the aid station we started down a long downhill section, where it soon became apparent to me that downhill running was Birgit and Andrea's strength, they almost succeeded in leaving me behind, I had all I could do to stay with them. The pounding downhill section continued for almost 2 miles, and then quickly turned into the longest climb of the day. We switched to power walking and ascended to the top of the next valley. This practice continued throughout the run, as we descended and ascended one valley after another.

By the halfway point my legs were feeling like they were filled with lead. My strength is uphill running, and today we were walking uphill, and running the downhills much faster than I was accustomed. Between the two, I was toast, my two companions were still top fit and ready to go. I voiced my problems and, as we were using the run as a training run for our 100K in Biel, they decided to let me set the pace - a little more time on the feet would actually be an advantage.

We continued over a good mixture of forest paths, field ways and asphalt covered bike ways and roads. I tried to ignore my heavy legs and took in the scenery that makes this run so special. The fields were in full bloom with yellow mustard plants and grass, the contrast picturesque. We passed by cows grazing in the meadows, looking totally content despite a herd of crazy runners tramping by.

By the time we reached the fourth aid station at around kilometer 37, I was wondering how I would ever be able to keep up with my two companions. I knew I was slowing them down and felt bad about this. As we tanked up at the aid station, I sat for a moment to try to pull myself together. I knew I would finish the 50K, but I knew I had to do something or I would continue to slow down. As my companions got another cup of tea I decided to run on ahead of them, I knew they would catch me in a short time.

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I headed out at the fastest pace that my legs could muster, the trail headed downwards over an asphalt road that bordered by scenic pastures and fields on either side. I was surprised when it took almost 3 km (2 miles) for my friends to catch me, Birgit said later they were chatting with another runner and stayed another 5 minutes as the aid station. In any case this proved to be an advantage for all of us, I was able to run my own pace and they could stretch their legs out catching up. Shortly after this we began the next hill climb, the last major climb for the day.

We power walked the relatively steep climb that brought us to the second highest elevation point for the race, and the last aid station. The hot lentil soup that was being offered looked and smelled really good, but I decided to repeat my strategy from the last time and headed out ahead of Birgit and Andreas. The path was level this time and the two caught up fairly fast.

We continued on downhill, Andreas running on ahead, Birgit staying near me. We encountered more and more walkers, a sign that we nearing the finish. I recognized several points along the way that confirmed this. We passed by a park on the edge of town, quite beautiful, but I had no time to linger, I had all I could do to keep from falling behind Birgit.

Finally we headed over the bridge near the finish line, Birgit was several paces ahead of me, but as the trail headed upwards I managed to close the gap. My wife was there to greet us as we passed unceremoniously over the finish line. I noted our time, 7:01:30, not too bad for a course with 1400 meters (4600 feet) of elevation gain/loss.

We submitted our race card with the control stamps and decided to got back to our Bed and Breakfast's to shower, it was still quite cold and damp out (6°C at the start, roughly 14°C at the finish). As my wife reported that the hot soup was already gone, we agreed to meet later for dinner at the local Italian restaurant.

The 12th Annual International Westerwald Run continues to be one of the most beautiful runs that I have experienced in Germany. The run is well organized, the trail well-marked and the people working the aid stations helpful and friendly. The course has the added attraction of changing each year, offering new sights and sounds, as well as varying terrain and levels of difficulty. I look forward to next years' run, and have a feeling that Birgit and Andreas have been infected by the Westerwald bug as well. But maybe next year we could run some of the uphills...

Here are a few pictures of the event: Pictures 2010

Here are a few more: More pictures

...and here.

The Westerwald Forest 50K:Finished!

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It was hard, I had to walk a lot, but I finished: 7:01:30

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Race Report to follow...

Race Report: Baden Mile 2010

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On Saturday, I ran the 21st Annual Baden Mile run in Karlsruhe, Germany. The 8.88889 kilometer (5.5 mi.) run begins in front of the palace and draws over 3000 runners each year. With the injuries that I have had lately I wasn't planning on racing the event, I was just there to have fun - of course the fact that my company was sponsoring those that chose to run the race had an influence.

My company picked up and distributed our start numbers a couple days before the race, so I arrived in Karlsruhe about 25 minutes before the event and parked in the big soccer stadium parking lot about 2 kilometers from the start. I waited about 10 minutes in my car, then jogged over to the start, passing through the beautiful gardens that surround the palace. With just minutes to go I joined the thousands of runners at the start, falling in about 2/3 of the way back.

After a couple minutes the starting pistol went off, or I guess it did, the crowd was too loud to hear anything. I started my Garmin and waited...it took at least 30-40 seconds for the crowd to begin to move, and then it was a slow walk. Eventually I could break into a slow run, then gradually picked up the pace. I guess it took almost 7 minutes to get through the first kilometer, but then the crowd thinned out a bit and I could get on my way.

As I picked up the pace to around an 8 minute mile, I was relieved that my leg didn't complain. I ran at this pace for a few minutes and tried to pick up the pace some more, but then I felt the discomfort that has been plaguing me in the left leg where I pulled my muscle during the last marathon. As I eased back to an 8 minute mile pace again the twinge disappeared, I decided not to push any harder.

I cruised over the rest of the race course maintaining this pace, I passed many hundreds of people, some who actually stopped and walked. I guess most of them started way too far in the front of the pack for their ability, or maybe I just started too far in the back. In any case it was good for my ego to pass so many people ;-)

Soon the sport stadium came into view and I knew I had less than a mile to go. My right foot hurt a bit, but my left leg was still fine. I rounded the corner and made the lap around the track to the finish line, just about passing a coworker in the last few steps. I finished in 46:16, about 4 minutes slower than my best time 3 years earlier, but totally acceptable considering.

I chatted for a couple minutes with coworker, then ran back to my car, 3 miles away. I guess I'm not in too bad of shape yet.

Tomorrow I'm heading off for my annual 50 km run in the Westerwald Forest, I'll let you know how it goes.

An Encouraging 11 KM Run

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Last night I met running friends Uli and Bernd at our local research center for a run. We headed over the mostly dirt paths towards Karlsruhe, Uli has had knee problems and my leg is still healing, so we opted for the softer path option. Bernd just completed a 3:23 marathon a couple weeks back so was like a Porsche stuck in second gear as Uli and I dictated the pace. We wound our way over 11 km (6.8 mi.) at an average pace of around 6:05/km (9:45/mi.).

My legs felt better than the last two days of running, but my back ached for the first time while running. Luckily after 15-20 minutes my back loosened up and felt better. On the down side my pulled muscle in the left leg started to throb a bit over the last few kilometers and my two running mates noticed (as I did) that my stride kept getting shorter on the left side. I managed to finish without any real suffering and felt fine later on when I got home.

This morning my back was fine, I slept good without any apparent back pain, the first night in weeks that I have slept through. I woke refreshed and full of energy, another first since a long time. I did experience the same numbing feeling in my right leg that I do most mornings (since March), a result of the pinched nerve in my back, but it was not as severe as usual. I guess I will see in the next day or two if this is a quirk or if I am getting better. I'm praying for the latter.

Tomorrow I am running the Baden Mile as part of my company team. The Baden Mile is a 8.88889 km (5.5 mi.) race in Karlsruhe that attracts over 3500 runners each year. Before my injuries I had planned on trying to break my 42:20 best time, but now I am just going to run for fun and try not to aggravate my injuries. When it doesn't rain maybe I'll bring my camera and document the event.

Running With Jacks Injuries

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I have been seriously slacking off with my blogging this year. I have been thinking about this lately, and particularly why I even have a blog. The main reason I started "Running With Jack" in 2005 was to document the journey to completing my first marathon. Now, over five years later I have quite a few marathons behind me and have completed up to a 100K event.

I started running races in May of 2004, the first race being the 8.88889 kilometer Baden Mile (Badische Meile) in Karlsruhe, Germany. For the most part I have run injury free, at least up to this year. This year seems to be a banner year for running discomforts. First I pinched a nerve in my lower back that still plagues me, then I pulled a muscle in my left leg while sprinting to the finish line during my last marathon.

Somewhere along the way my blog has evolved, for better or worse, but evolved nevertheless. Readers have come and gone, and blogs that I have followed have also come and gone.

I have been wondering where I want to go with my blog, and really didn't come up with a reasonable answer. But as I struggle to overcome my recent injuries I have been thinking to myself that I should at least document this struggle and my hopeful reentry in the race arena. So be it!

Here is a bit of history of my current health issues:

1. Somewhere around the end of February I noticed that I was waking up with a backache in the lower back almost every morning. Then for a couple mornings in a row I noticed that my leg had a "going to sleep" feeling as I walked to the train station, but generally disappeared the rest of the day. I went to my normal doctor and he said I have a pinched nerve and referred me to a neurologist. My appointment is on May 14th.

2. As I mentioned above, I pulled a muscle in the upper quad of my left leg while sprinting to the finish line of my last marathon on April 18th. This put me out of action for many days and has caused me to reduce my mileage drastically since then. I also missed a 50K race last Saturday and am very sceptical whether I can complete one next week. I am also concerned that it will prevent me from running the 100K race in Biel, Switzerland on June 11th.

Last night I ran with RB and others from my running club. As I headed out over the 11.2 km (7 mi.) loop I was not at all sure if I would complete it. Let me explain this a bit. With the last couple runs that I have done, the muscle that I pulled during the last marathon started to ache after 4-5 miles, sometimes so bad that I elected to end my run sooner than planned to prevent further injury. During the run last night the ache began towards the end, but I was able to finish the run without any major discomfort.

Tonight I am going to try another run with my running friend Uli, this will be a good test on how much stress my legs can take. Uli is experiencing knee problems, so we will be watching out for each other that we don't over do it.

As a note to myself, during the night last night I woke up several times, my back was aching and I could only sleep in certain positions. My leg again had the numbing feeling this morning as I was walking.

Running is my hobby, I run because I love to, so now that injuries have finally surfaced I am a bit frustrated, but God has blessed me with years of injury-free running and I'm sure I have many more years ahead of me. Runner's are not necessarily known for their patience while injured, I'm no different. But like a long-distance runner I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and head for the next marker in sight, not think about how far I have to go still or how far I have been.

Rebuilding the Running Machine

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With the reoccurring pain in my left leg last Monday and Tuesday I decided not to run for a few days and see if the body would heal. Last Thursday we had incredibly beautiful weather with the temperature rising to 86°F! After work I changed quick and headed out for a bike ride. I decided to head for the hills and rode over a hilly route that brought me through the beautiful Kraichgau region and back through Weingarten, near where I run my hilly runs. I ended up covering 45 km (28 mi.) in just over 2 hours. More importantly I got in a good workout, with multiple hill climbs, without any complaining from my legs or back!

On Saturday I decided to test my running legs, I headed out on a roughly 5 km loop with the intention of running as far as I could until my legs complained. The first 9-10 miles went well, I maintained roughly a 6:15/km (10:00/mi.) pace, but gradually I noticed soreness in the left leg muscle that I pulled at the end of my marathon a couple weeks ago. I completed the loop that I was doing and decided to quit. I finished 21.1 km (13.1 mi.) in around 2:15:00.

During my run on Saturday I noticed that my legs still have not recovered from the marathon, the first time in years that it has taken so long. It was clearly a wise choice not to run the 50K race on Saturday, I may have been able to crawl over the finish eventually, but it probably would have left me on the sidelines for many weeks to come.

This week I want to do three shorter runs between 5 and 8 miles on Tuesday thru Thursday, then rest a day or two and try something longer on Saturday. If this works out as planned I will try to run the 50K Westerwald Forest Run on Ascension Day (May 13). This race is particularly important as it will be the test to see if I have any hope of finishing the 100K race on June 11th.

I think May is going to be an interesting month, I hope it turns out better than April in the running arena.

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

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