June 2010 Archives

Another 50-Mile Run Completed

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My friend Birgit from my running club and I finished our 5th running of the 80 km (50 mi.) Fidelitas Night Run over the weekend. Despite a very warm temperature on Saturday at 5 p.m. we managed to finish in 11 hours and 23 minutes. I'll try to get a report together in the next day or two.

A Triathlon Dress Rehearsal

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I have been playing with the ideal of a short Triathlon for a couple years, but didn't trust my swimming enough to do this. After my freestyle course over the winter a couple friends of mine from my running club, Bernd and Uli - both Ironman finishers, gently nudged me to the point where I heard myself say that I would do it. I have tried to keep up with my swimming since then, but other than that have been training for my ultra runs.

With my sprint triathlon less than 3 weeks away my friends suggested a dress rehearsal. With about as much enthusiasm as a cow going off to the slaughter, I agreed and last night we met at a local quarry pond (Baggersee).

Under the careful supervision of my two masters, I laid out two transition stations and we walked through what we wanted to accomplish over the next hour or so, namely a mini-triathlon.

The water in the quarry ponds in our area usually start warming up in the hot days of May and June, but unfortunately we haven't had too many of them. The good news was that the last couple of days were around 80°F and the pond had warmed up considerable (according to my mentors). The bad news was that the "warmed-up" temperature was still around 17-18°C (63°F). I don't have a neoprene suit, and in most cases these aren't allowed during the summer events anyway. I was not looking forward to freezing my tiny hiny off!

As we began our min-Tri I wore a normal bathing suit and elected to wear a tight-fitting running shirt hoping it would keep me warmer. I also had a bathing cap and my goggles. Friend Uli wore her Bikini in an attempt to convince me that the water was not THAT cold, and for safety Bernd wore a complete Neoprene suit in case he had to fish one of us out of the pond (I don't think he meant Uli).

I walked to the water and tested it gingerly, and much to the surprise of my two mentors (and myself) I dove in and started across the pond. I quickly discovered that it is incredibly hard to breath correctly when you are shivering. There was a small island about 40-50 meters from the shore, I headed for this, trying to swim the freestyle, but mostly using the breast stroke because I couldn't get enough air. By the time I reached the island and turned I was very near panicking, but my mentors stayed near and encouraged me. After a while I settled down as I got used to the water and was able to freestyle swim, but much slower than I would in a swimming pool.

After a few loops I decided we should continue with the next portion of our experiment and exited the pond and ran to the first "transition station". I wiped my feet quickly and put on my running socks and shoes, then realized I forgot my running shorts, but managed to pull them over the shoes. I decided to exchange my wet shirt for a dry own, then put on my sun glasses, helmet and headed to the parking lot with my bike. Bernd, who was going to accompany me was a bit slower as he had to wiggle out of his wetsuit.

We headed out on a 10 km ride, a bit slower than race pace, but good enough to give me the feel for the bike portion of a tri. As we finished I hopped off my bike and deposited my sun glasses and helmut at the second "transition station" and grabbed my baseball cap. I started heading across the parking lot, Bernd first changed from his cycling shoes to running shoes.

I haven't done any speed training this year (period), so he quickly caught me and we ran on. After about 10 minutes or so we turned around and headed back to the "finish".

I learned a lot in this short session, having a couple experienced triathletes walk me through a tri is invaluable! I have a rough idea of how the transitions should run and can practice these a bit on my own. This was the first time that I swam, cycled and ran one after another. The practice session gave me a bit of insight on how this might feel during the sprint tri.

On Saturday night is my 80 km (50 mi.) event, then I can spent the next two weeks cramming for my triathlon debut!

Another Ultra this Weekend

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Recovery weeks are always fun, first the weariness and stiffness from the race, then the listlessness from the lack of activity, and sometimes even a bit of post-race depression when the adrenalin wears off. I spent the last couple nights trying to catch up on odd jobs around the house, plus fighting a flood of strawberries in our garden, 42 kilograms so far this year and there is no end in sight.

I also have lots of ideas floating through my head on other races that I would to participate in, but so little time, so many races.

Speaking of races, this weekend I will be running the local 80 km (50 mi.) race, the Fidelitas Nachtlauf (Night Run). I've done absolutely zero specialized training for this race, thus will be using it for a long run for my main event in September, the KuSuH (who did their homework and knows what this is? Google knows).

Last year I ran the Fidelitas Night Run in 9:02:05, a new personal best. This year I will run/walk at my kilometer killing 100 pace, so expect to take around 12 hours. My 100K running partner Birgit may decide at the last minute to run with me, but is still undecided. We went for a 10 mile run last night, she is leaning in the right direction with her decision.

I have also been trying to swim and cycle a bit more in anticipation of my first sprint triathlon on July 11th, unfortunately the weather has not been cooperating and I have done much less than planned. Tonight I am meeting friends from my running club at a local quarry pond (Baggersee) for some training. The two Ironman finishers are going to do a run through including swimming, cycling and a short run, complete with transition stations. I am dreading the ice cold water, but need to get used to it. I don't have a Neoprene suit...luckily the sprint Tri has only 500 meters of swimming.

I'll let you know how my evening goes...

Recovery Week and a Little Secret

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I ran only a short 4 mile recovery run on Monday and 7 miles on Wednesday so far this week. This weekend I hope to make a slow 2 hour run and spend some time at the pool. My recoery is going really well, the slow pace that I ran at the 100K race reduced wear and tear and should have me in good shape for the 80 km (50 mi.) race on June 26. I also want to spent some more time at the pool in preparation for my sprint Tri on July 11, should be interesting.

I have been reluctant to make it public until after my 100K race, but with that behind me, I guess it's time to give you a hint to my plans for the Fall: KuSuH.

Here is a part of the KuSuH:


The Morning After Biel

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The adrenalin was still pumping as we crossed the finish line, the tired and weariness temporarily forgotten as we celebrated our victory. We eventually walked over and picked up something to drink, then collected our finisher running shirts.

I knew I needed to keep moving to avoid getting cramps, so said I would meet them in the Curling Hall where showers were available. I found our bags and sat down, it felt so good to sit down. I awaited, expecting to lock up in a painful cramp at any time, but was spared this experience. Soon Andreas and Birgit joined me and I said I would watch their valuables as they showered. I sat and gave thanks to my lord for giving me the strength that I needed, he gave me peace.

After I showered we walked slowly to the car and Andreas drove to our rooms where we would be spending the night. The hotel, or more correctly, Bed & Breakfast without the breakfast, was in typical French design (we were in the French part of Switzerland). This meant we had small compact rooms with the showers and bathrooms in the hallways. We were fortunate that each room had there own separate shower and bathroom. In some B & B's more rooms share one.

We settled in and agreed on a time to meet to go to dinner. I went to my room and collapsed on the bed and slept for an hour or two. It is interesting to note that my bed was raised above the floor, I had to climb a ladder to get in bed, very similar to the bunk bed I had as a kid. In any case it proved to be a major hurdle when I tried to get DOWN from the bed - I very nearly fell on my face!

After surviving this near mishap and hobbling down the stairs to the bathroom (and up again) I waited a bit for Andreas and Birgit to get around. We eventually set out over the obstacle course to the restaurant, namely lots of stairs, then 4-500 meters to the restaurant. We arrived in one piece and were greeted by a beer garden half full of blue 100K finisher shirts. We quickly sought a table (to avoid collapsing - okay I'm stretching it a bit) and enjoyed a good meal. We all had a healthy appetite, I seriously considered ordering another meal...but didn't.

We eventually returned to our rooms and before long I was snoozing away, waking up almost 11 hours later. We enjoyed breakfast together and made our way leisurely back to Germany. We stopped at a favorite restaurant about halfway home. We had all mentioned that we just wanted a snack, but with menu in hand Birgit and I began to order like we hadn't eaten in days. Andreas at least, remained hard and ate a hearty soup. I had roast pork with a thick sauce, spaetzle and a salad...mmmm. Birgit had roast beef with horseradish sauce, salt potatoes and a salad. This time we were all indeed full (well maybe not Andreas) the servings were enormous.

The drive home was uneventful, my friends dropped me off at the house, my wife rewarding them with a bucket of fresh strawberries from our garden. I spent the rest of the day doing my laundry and bugging my wife.

Last night I planned on running a half hour recovery run. Conny sent and e-mail inviting me to run with her and a small group at our running club, sure why not. I filled them in on the details of the 100K event as we looped our way around, but turned off after 4 km (2.5 mi.), they were a bit too fast for me, plus I didn't need to run the whole 6.8 miles so soon. I jogged the 3 km back to the car and headed home for a relaxing night.

So what's next? First up is the next appointment with my neurologist on Friday, he needs to interpret the results of my MRT that I had several weeks ago. My pinched nerve or whatever, still bothers, its time to find a solution.

Obviously I can still run, and have plans to run some more. Next up is the Fidelitas Night Run on June 26, I've participated the last four years in this 80 km (50 mi.) event and would enjoy doing it again this year. If my recovery goes well I'll be there. Last year I set a new personal best, this year I am not even going to try. I will be using this race as a training run for an event that I plan to run in September. Birgit may also do this, Andreas declined...but we'll see.

Race Report: The Biel/Bienne 100K 2010

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According to Wikipedia Biel/Bienne is a city in the district of the Biel/Bienne administrative district in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. It is located on the language boundary and is throughout bilingual. Biel is the German name for the town, Bienne its French counterpart.

The city lies at the foot of the first mountain range of the Jura Mountains area, guarding the only practical connection to Jura in the area, on the north-eastern shores of Lake Biel. The city has about 50,000 inhabitants and its origin has been traced to the times when Celts settled in the region. Biel is the heart of the Swiss watch-making industry. Trademarks such as Swatch, Omega, Rolex and many others are closely associated with the city of Biel.

The small but beautiful historic center, with its gothic church (15th century), impressive guild halls and fountains decorated with flower, entice one to stroll, while restaurants brimming with character wait to greet visitors on their terraces. Biel also makes the ideal starting point for cycling tours with a wide selection of routes to choose from, including the Vegetable Route which passes along the more than 60 varieties of vegetable cultivated in the area.

The Biel/Bienne 100K, which celebrated its 52nd year in 2010, is one of the oldest ultra marathons in the world and is also one of the largest 100K events in Europe. These are probably reasons why it is often referred to as the "mother of all 100K".

After my debut with the 100K distance last year in Ulm, Germany, I couldn't wait to run the distance again. I voiced this desire with members of my running club last year and my friend Birgit mentioned she wanted to run a 100K to. She eventually pressured her husband Andreas into it as well and we have been training together off and on over the last 6-7 months.

As we arrived in Biel on the day of the race I had mixed feelings about the race, with a pinched nerve in my back I knew anything could happen. I tried not to think about it as we collected our start packets and found a place to relax for a few hours. A few hours before the race we walked over to the pasta party and fueled up a bit for our big event, then headed back to the car to make final preparations.

We arrived at the start about 10 minutes before the 10:00 p.m. starting time and found a place in the middle of the roughly 1500 runners. We planned on running the race together, but we all knew this plan could change quickly as the mileage rises. The temperature was around 24°C, but it was quite humid, you could almost feel the humidity rising from the streets. I hoped that it would cool down soon; otherwise we would be in for a hard night.

Finally, the countdown and we were off, in other words, we stood there a half minutes, shuffled forward, braked, the finally started to roll forward. We eventually broke out of the pack and could pick up a comfortable pace.

The first five kilometers wound their way through the streets of Biel, we were surprised at how many spectators lined the streets. Eventually we left the lighted streets and made our way out of town, over the field ways towards the next town. Headlamps and flashlights bobbed comically up and down as we ran along, we didn't need ours, and the others provided enough light. The warm, moist air caused us to sweat profusely, I began to wish that I had left my jacket in my bag, I had it tied around my waist and it added to the warmth.

We paused to drink at the aid stations at around the 5K and 10K, but only briefly. Soon it became apparent that Birgit was motivated and we were moving too slow for her. She discussed this with Andreas and decided to pull ahead of us. I had a feeling I would see her again before the race was over; it was much too humid for her, not her weather. I continued on for awhile with Andreas, but somehow the pace just wasn't working for me. As we started to climb a hill Andreas stopped to walk and I ran on ahead saying we would see each other on the downhill. He eventually caught me around the 20K point, but by the next climb I again pulled ahead.

As I walked through the aid station in the town of Ammerzwil at roughly kilometer 25, I spotted Birgit up ahead, I caught up with her and she explained the heat was getting to her. We ran on together, reducing the pace a bit, and after awhile she began feeling better.

I was not feeling particularly energetic as we proceeded, it was still hot after nearly three hours, and the humidly was worse if anything. The halfmarathon and marathon runners, who started later, buzzed by us like we were standing still, not particularly motivating to say the least.

Every so often we would run by groups of spectators dotted along the way, especially in the little villages and farm. Apparently the bars didn't close that night, there were guests line up in tables and chairs in almost every town, some of the guests fully intoxicated, but at least remembering to cheer us on.

In Kirchberg at kilometer 56 was one of the relay exchange stations, Birgit stopped to change into a dry shirt and I sat down for a few minutes and kept my eyes out for Andreas. He didn't show ups, so we continued on.

Soon we arrived at the so-called Ho Chi Minh Trail, a single-trail stone and root covered path through the woods that is revered by many, detested by others who stumble through in the dark hours. We were fortunate that it was already light enough outside to run without a flashlight. It was still dangerous, there were stones and roots everywhere, daring you to take your eyes off the path. At times we ran along the bank of a stream with fields below to the right of us, with just a little imagination you could picture yourself running along rice fields in Southeast Asia - the minefields and traps in the form of stones and roots waiting to take your life.

We continued to chip away at the mileage, but so much of it the trail is only a blur, perhaps a dream as we slept through the night while plodding forward. We ran when we could, walked when we needed and even sat down for a few minutes at the aid stations. The warm, humid air remained as the daylight accompanied us once again on our journey, trying to draw our desire to continue from our weary bodies.

We left the Ho Chi Minh and returned to more comfortable dirt and gravel paths and asphalt. With time asphalt became our friend, you don't have to worry about picking your feet up as high, or stumbling over a stone.

I remember telling Birgit that if we reach kilometer 80 and are still running we should have no problem finishing the race. We were still running at said point, but right after this we began the brutal climb to the town of Arch. If this were a training run we would chatter our way up as we ran, but after 11-12 hours on our feet we walked. What goes up must come down, as the say goes, and I did not look forward to pounding down the other side. I lived through this and we kept moving.

Our running time kept growing shorter, the walking perhaps longer, my Garmin shut off along the way, who knows. Each time that we would start up after walking it grew harder to get the feet moving, we both experienced this, nothing like sharing misery among friends.

Somewhere around kilometer 93 I heard (or did I imagine it?) someone yelling. Birgit responded first, Andreas was behind us and gaining on us quickly (relative at this point). He caught us and after a brief hello kept going, he was on a roll and didn't dare stop. This spurred Birgit on and having nothing better to do I did my best to stay with her. Luckily (for me) a hill soon slowed her down to a walk again, but at the top off she went. I stayed with her, but Andreas was already out of sight, I figured that was that.

We nibbled away at the kilometers, after kilometer 95 every kilometer was marked...96, 97, Birgit suggested we take a walk break at around 98.5 km and try to run the rest in. I tried to negotiate, but we were in Biel and Birgit said she saw Andreas up ahead. 98, 99, when can we walk? "He's waiting for us!" I guess that means we run...Andreas was waiting 3-400 meters from the finish line, we joined him and all ran hand in hand over the finish. FINISHED!

There was so much that we saw and felt over the 14 hours forty-six minutes and 59 seconds that it took us to complete the 100 kilometers (62 miles). The emotions rise and fall, as does the terrain. We encouraged each other as we went, kept an eye on one another, wondered together how Andreas was doing, and were both overjoyed when he caught up to us. The feeling of crossing the finish with two good friends after such a long race is powerful. I am so happy for Birgit and Andreas, not only did they both finish, they finished together. I am so blessed to have been able to share this experience with them and look forward to our next adventure. God bless!

100K = Finished!


Biel, Switzerland 100K = 14:46:59


Running 100K in Biel on Friday Night

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The past week I have been tapering for the 100K race that I am participating in on Friday night in Biel, Switzerland. I ran three shorter runs of 6-8 miles on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. I added some cross-training to keep the body from rusting away. On Wednesday and Friday I went swimming, including a cold swim in the outdoor swimming pool (water temp. 21°C). On Thursday, a holiday in Germany, I went on a 90 km (56 mi.) cycling tour with a dozen members of my running club. I also went for a spin on Sunday, covering about 20 miles in the sun with 90°F temperature.

Last night I joined Birgit, who is also running in Biel, for a 10K loop at planned race pace (7:00/km, 11:15/mi.). We made our way leisurely over a mostly forested loop, trying to stay in the shade, as it was 88°F and humid. On Friday we will be riding together to Biel with her husband Andreas, who is also running the event. We are both excited and nervous, normal feelings really. It will be the first time that Birgit and Andreas will be running a 100K, the second one for me. I'm a bit nervous because I am not in as good of shape as I was last year, but I guess with the right pace I'll pull it off.

Tonight I am running for an hour or so with RB, I'm looking forward to it, we haven't had the chance to run together so often this year.

The 100K event begins at 10:00 p.m. on Friday night, in Biel Switzerland. We plan on making the 3 hour drive around 10:00 a.m., thus beating the traffic that typically clogs up the Autobahns in the late afternoon. This will also give us a chance to catch a nap in the sports hall before the race.

Currently the weather forecast is not looking friendly, the prognosis is calling for rain, with temperatures of 14°C at the start of the race, dropping to 10°C by morning, and rising to 16°C by midday on Saturday. The temperature is okay, but the thought of rain causes me to cringe. Well, at least it won't be too hot :-)

The 100K course in Biel has three major climbs, but they are not so long or steep, I'm not concerned about them. My 100K race last year was harder, and actually the 50 km race that we ran in May had more elevation gain and loss. We are planning to run the race together, normally we run about the same pace. Of course anything can happen during such a long race, so we will adapt as the race goes on.

Despite my injuries and reduced training I am still feeling confident that I will finish and am really looking forward to the event. That said, I also have a bailout plan in case the pinched nerve in my back gives me trouble (it normally doesn't when I run). I didn't have any trouble with the 7 hour 50K race in May, so think I have a good chance of completing the 100K. I have no specific race time in mind, but anticipate needing longer than my race last year (11:52:02), despite the easier race course. Hopefully we will all master our problems along the way and be able to cross the finish line together.

I'll try to get started on my race report when we get back on Sunday afternoon. Say a prayer and wish us luck!

My Last Long Run Before the 100K

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The time is quickly ticking away to the start of my 100K event on June 11 in Biel, Switzerland. I completed my last long run on Saturday evening. At 10 p.m. I strapped on my headlamp and placed my reserve flashlight in my CamelBak and headed out for a 3 hour run.

It was an overcast night with the smell of rain in the air as I made my way through town to the forest on the other side. As I entered the forest it grew still, other than the occasional rustle of wildlife. I turned onto a dirt and gravel logging path and turn my headlamp off, there was a bit of moonlight breaking through the cloud cover. As I made my way to the local research center I was startled by a large animal, probably a deer, hopefully not a wild pig. I turned my light on for a moment, but heard nothing more, I continued.

I looped around a corner of the lighted compound of the local research center, then turned onto the asphalt bike path towards Karlsruhe. I let my mind wander a bit as I ran over the smooth path. My training the last few months was so much different from the last several years since I started running marathons. The pinched nerve in my back and the pulled muscle in my leg forced me to redraw my training plan almost on a weekly based. My leg injury healed, I'm still waiting on the prognosis on my back - at least I can continue to train. I wondered if my training was going to be enough, a 100 kilometers, 62 miles, that's a long way no matter how you look at it. My successful seven hour 50K run in May was promising, but could I make it for 12-14 hours with the training that I have completed?

My thoughts were interrupted as I came up on the turn that would lead me on the rest of my run. I entered a logging road that led me through a thick section of forest, it was eerie, I could barely see the line of trees on each side of the road. I turned on my light and continued on, no sense risking a fall, and besides my goal was to test my lights. A bug flew into my eye as I continued, one the dangers of running with a headlamp at night.

After a while I arrived at the edge of the forest and ran along the canal, it was light enough to run without my light, I shut it off. I turned back towards the local research center and passed near the opposite corner of the compound, I had about 10 kilometers behind me. I entered a short section of forest that would bring me to the open fields towards Linkenheim. For the next 20-30 minutes I ran on dirt and gravel or asphalt paths leading from field to field. The sky was still overcast, but it was light enough to run without a light. Off in the distance I could hear music and laughter, probably a party, I took a swig from the sports drink in my CamelBak, cheers!

The fieldways gave way to an asphalt bike path that would lead me to the dirt and gravel trails of my running club. I hadn't seen another sole for nearly two hours, and wouldn't until the end of my run.

I headed over the familiar paths of my running club, weaving and winding my way to our trailhead. It was strange arriving at the empty parking lot in the middle of the night, I kept going, over the railroad bridge and back into the forest. My legs felt good, I felt like I could easily run for several hours more, in a couple weeks I would need to! With less than 5K to go I broke out of the woods and headed over a field on a grass covered trail. The lights of my town guided me as the trail turned to asphalt, and eventually to streets. I was satisfied with my run, and somehow the serenity of the night had soothed the soul, I silently thanked God for the privilege of experiencing it. We should give thanks in all that we do.

My wife was still up when I reached the house, she worries about me when I'm running alone at night. I talked a couple minutes with her, then showered and relaxed a bit before heading off to sleep. It was a good night for a run, we'll see if I can say the same about Biel.


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