Back to Training

Over the weekend my running club sponsored our annual 5/10K race, so I volunteered much of my time helping to setup and working at the water point. Instead of running on Saturday I elected to carry the rest of building supplies left over from our house renovation, from the attic into the shed. This required 40-50 trips up and down two flights of stairs under heavy load.

On Monday I picked up the training again, running 18 km (11.2 mi) with a 6:23 min/km (10:17 min/mi) pace. It was incredibly humid when I ran, by the time I was done I felt like I had run twice as far.

Last night I ran 12 km (7.5 mi) at a slightly easier pace, enjoying a nice forested trail nearby. It was raining gently as I ran, a nice change to the hot, humid weather we have had lately.

My next big race is the Wolff Sports Ultra Trail in Feucht, Germany on August 23rd. This race is an approximately 85 km trail race through a mostly forested area, just south of Nuremberg. This will be the race debut, so details are sketchy, but did find a Trailer video on Youtube:

I have pretty much decided to run the Hornisgrinde Marathon on July 20th, instead of the Bretten Night52 Ultra the day before. Both are hilly courses, but I am concerned that the 52 km race will wear me down too much and I won’t be able to continue training.

Running in New York

Ever since my fateful attempt to complete the Canandaigua 50 in 2007 I have wanted a rematch, but it just hasn’t worked out, either my training was sufficient or the vacation timetable didn’t fit. This year is no exception, my condition is the worse than it was in 2007. This is unfortunate as this year I am flying alone to visit my family in Upstate New York, so time wise it would have worked out.

The good news is if you have the desire there is always a plan B! The Adirondack Marathon in Schroon Lake, NY is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful marathon courses in the state. On September 28, I will be there to make my own assessment. Of course Jack would not be Jack if there was not a catch to this adventure…apparently the course is supposed to be a bit hilly…

The race starts on Main Street (Route 9) in the town of Schroon and heads north. Runners will complete one full loop around Schroon Lake on paved roadways (except for one half-mile stretch of gravel road in mile 3). The first four miles are rolling or flat. Miles 4-12 feature short, but steep hills along a two-lane country road on the east side of the lake. Miles 13-18 are flat, along the east shore. Then, there are long, gentle hills on Route 9, leading north to the finish in the town of Schroon.

Adirondack Marathon Elevation Profile

Adirondack Marathon Elevation Profile

…maybe I should start doing some hill training after all.

Last Nights Training: 8K (5mi.) run easy recovery pace.

Recovery Week

The body is healing nicely from the race last weekend. I had a lot of chafing from the wet clothing coming in contact with various areas of the body, the worst being the waistline on my backside. In most cases applying Vaseline before a race prevents this, but due to the wet conditions this eventually became ineffective, and I did not bring any with me to reapply.

I went for a short recovery run last night, an easy 6K (3.7 mi), just enough to loosen up the muscles a bit. Tonight I want to run the short loop (8K/5mi) with my running club, than probably do cross-training until the weekend.

I mentioned in my last few posts that my training was hardly adequate to run a good race. In my peak years (2008-2010), I was running 80-100 kilometers per week for 5-6 months prior to this race, with at least 10-12 hilly long runs and almost weekly speed training. This year, in comparison, I averaged 50-60 per week with no hilly long runs and not speed training. The only hilly runs I did this year prior to the race were two other hilly ultras. My last training long run was in April, since then the only distance runs I did were 3 ultras, including the two hilly ones.

When I consider the training that I have done this year, plus the fact that I am 7-8 kilograms heavy than normal, my race results for this year have not been so bad. In any case it shows me that I only get what I am willing to put into it, e.g. mediocre training = mediocre results.

I of course have race plans for the rest of the summer, my target race is a 90K trail race at the end of August. My thoughts now are how to best use the approximately 7 weeks of training that I have until the event. There are a couple trail marathons this month that could provide useful training opportunities, or I could also return to my hilly training trails and start pounding the quads back into shape.

Race Report: The Fidelitas Night Run 2014

The annual Fidelitas Nachtlauf (Night Run) in Karlsruhe-Rüpurr, Germany is an 80 km (50 mi.) run through the plains and foothills bordering the Black Forest.

I arrived early and managed to get a parking place near the finish line, in a stadium a few hundred meters down the road from the Start. I collected my start number and returned to the car, as it was raining steadily. Eventually the rain stopped and the sun attempted to come out, causing the humidity level to rise. I made my way to the Start about 10-15 minutes before the race and chatted with a couple people I knew as we waited.

After a few words from the organizer, the race started fairly promptly around 5:00 p.m. I started towards the back, I knew my training this year was totally inadequate to be pushing the pace. The first part of the course is mostly flat, beginning with a forested section, than running through the neighboring town of Durlach, then over open fields before reaching the first relay exchange station at approximately kilometer 18. For many this is a difficult part of the course, particularly by hot summer temperatures, this year it was only around 22°C, but very humid. I passed two unfortunate runners in the open fields that succumbed to the heat and humidity, fortunately the race is well organized and they quickly received assistance.

After the first relay station the course changes to a series of rolling hills, which continues over the next 40+ kilometers. This is typically my favorite part of the course, but this year I did not do any hill training in preparation, and even though I walked all of the longer/steeper climbs, it still took its toll.

By the time I reached Singen, at around kilometer 36, I was already fighting the urge to give up. I stopped at the aid station on the edge of town and ate a little bit from the table, and as a couple more runners approached, decided to at least continue to Mutschelbach, where the night marathon had started, at least there I could probably get a ride back to the start.

From Singen the course climbed over one of the steepest hills on the course, so I walked the next kilometer to the top. As I walked a runner passed slowly by me with his son, probably 10-12 years old, who wanted to run with him the 3-4 km from Singen to Mutschelbach. Perhaps it was only my fatigue, but the two seemed to effortlessly make the climb, albeit slowly, but were out of sight by the time I reached the top. At the top I managed to get my feet moving faster again and eventually arrived in Mutschelbach.

In Mutschelbach I sat on a bench and ate a little more and tried to clear my head of all the negative thoughts I was having. I was joined by a stranger who must have noticed I was a bit bewildered, he asked me how I was doing. I told him the truth and promptly switched the subject, asking him who won the last game of the World Cup Soccer, an answer which he gladly provided. The slight diversion was enough to get me back on my feet, I headed on down the course out of town.

I passed the marathon point in the town of Langensteinbach, over 5 hours 30 minutes, actually better than I expected. I stopped at the aid station for some Coca-Cola, my stomach was not happy, cola usually helped. I sat for a minute, but it was raining and I quickly started getting cold, I knew I had to keep moving. I ran to the edge of town and walked the steep hill into the now almost black forest behind.

It’s funny the things that motivate us when I minds are shot, I caught up to a Christmas tree, or rather a runner with two large flashing red lights on the back of his running pack, a headlamp and a flashlight in each hand, thinking this guy must really be night blind. In any case all this light was too much for me, so I passed him and tried to put some distance between us. Fortunately, the next few miles were runnable and soon I enjoyed the limited light from my own flashlight.

I stopped at the next aid station and drank some more cola, if nothing else the sugar was doing me good, I just hoped they didn’t run out of coke before the race was over. I moved on, walking up the next hill on to an open plateau where I could switch of my light and run on the asphalt-covered fieldway to the next town. It was raining quite hard and the wind was cold, I started to shiver a bit, and knew I needed to get out my running jacket from my pack at the next aid station.

I passed the 50K point as I began the long, steep downhill, I did my best to keep a steady pace, running through the town, then walking the steep hill on the other side, then ran a few more hundred meters to the aid station. It was still raining hard as I sought a dry corner to get out my running jacket. I ate half of a sandwich, then made my way up the next uphill, a good 10 minute walk to the top, then ran down into the town of Langenalb and stopped at the aid station.

As is true with most races, if you keep going long enough you will eventually start feeling better. The cola had done its work and my stomach was doing well, the negative thoughts were contained and I was moving well. The physical hardest part of the course was behind me, now I only had to fight the darkest (literally) part of the course. At the aid station two runners were waiting for transport back to the Start. I sat and chatted a minute, one had turned his foot on a stone, the other said the humidity and rain was too much, he had enough. As their ride arrived I got on my feet and headed out of town, determined that I would not join the list of non-finishers.

The trail turned to gravel and dirt as I left town, then turned into the forest, one of the darkest parts of the course. I switched to my brighter flashlight and ran on, it was mostly downhill to the next aid station. This forest section is always a little spooky and after seeing no one for at least 10 minutes a mountain bike suddenly came barreling down the hill behind me, the operator yelling a greeting as he flew by. After getting back into my skin, I kept up a relatively good running pace down into the town and aid station below.

They were out of cola at the aid station, so I moved on, I knew the next 10K or so was through a lonely, dark, but mostly flat section of forest, with 2 aid stations in between, approximately 2-3K apart, I set my sights on the next aid station and started running. To my surprise I caught and passed a runner, then another, then the two “missing” women. I stopped at the next aid station just long enough for some more cola, than kept moving, again catching and passing two runners, one remarking how anyone can still be moving at a pace like that. My pace was actually quite pitiful, I was running maybe 5-6 minutes and walking 1-2 minutes, Galloway would be proud.

After an eternity I reached the next aid station in Ettlingen, 9 km to go! By this time I could only manage about 5 minutes of running before having to walk a bit, but I tried to keep the walking to a minimum. I caught three more runners by the time I reached the last aid station, and with less than 5K to go I kept moving. The next 3-4 km again went through dark forest, time went into slow motion and it seemed to take forever before I finally broke out of the tree line…but then I knew I only had 1K to go, I kept pushing, winding my way down the streets and onto the track to the finish line.

With 11 hours and 19 minutes (exactly) my second slowest finishing time for the course, but considering how many times I thought about giving up midway through the race, quite acceptable. Despite my slow finish, I was 104th out of 135 finishers, as well as an unknown number who didn’t finish at all. I guess other people where having their difficulties as well.

Other than some chaffing issues due to the constant humidity and rain, I came through in pretty good shape. On Sunday the stairs were taunting, and the legs are still sore, but that will soon pass. My training this year was not at all adequate to run this race well, but at least I knew this beforehand and kept the pace down. Even then it became a mental battle quite early into the race, if I was a less experienced runner I would have surely thrown in the towel. When you run enough of these races you somehow learn to eventually blot out the temporary discomfort and keep going on automatic pilot, then it’s only a matter of keep fueling and staying on your feet.

Another race behind me

Last night was my 61st marathon or more, an 80 km (50 mi) race, the Fidelitas Night Run. Despite very humid conditions, lots of rain, and thoughts of quitting, I finished with a time of 11:19:00, my second slowest time for this race overall. I’ll try to get a report up in the next day or two.

A bit of pre-race jitters

For the first time in many years I find myself getting pre-race jitters over the 80K race on Saturday night. Really there is no logical reason for this, I have run the race 7 times previously, and it will be my 61st marathon or more, I should have no apprehension whatsoever. But I do, much like a student who failed to properly prepare for an exam.

Confidence is gained through solid training, and that is exactly where the problem lies, I have trained, but the training I did was minimal, around 50-60 kilometers a week with no hill or speed training. Based on my race experience, and performance thus far this year, I am pretty confident that I will complete the race, but I know it will not be easy and that I need to run a very smart race to prevent failure.

As is true with almost every race, I already have my sights on the NEXT race, or series of races as the case may be:
• July 12 – Bärenfels 63K Trail in Neubrücke, Germany
• July 19 –Night52 Ultra (52K) in Bretten, Germany
• August 23 – Wolff Sports 90K Ultra Trail in Nürnberg, Germany
• September 14 – Pfälzer Forest Marathon in Pirmasens, Germany
And, if all works out:
• September 28 – The Adirondack Marathon in Schroon Lake, NY, USA

Last night’s training: Rest day

Defining the right path towards Fitness

So after much thought on how my current state of fitness is not where I want to be, I am trying to define a path that will change this. There are several key points that come to mind:

• The Diet: I have reverted to bad eating habits, junk food, too much processed food, bingeing etc. I need to get back to eating healthy, lots of fresh fruit and veggies, lean meat etc.
• Crosstraining: Largely neglected, this needs to be incorporated into my training plan, especially over the winter. I need to (re)develop core strength.
• Speed work: You don’t get faster by running slow runs like I have been doing.
• Balance: Life keeps happening, as Neca recently wrote – “Something is always happening – that’s life. The trick is to find the balance to do the things you NEED to do, plus a few you want.”

Last night’s training: 8K in 56:52 (7:07/km, 11:26/mi), with Running Club

On the wrong path

Last night I was thinking about my next race, the 80 km (50 mi) Fidelitas Night Run, and looking over my race reports from past years for this race. I have run the event 7 times already, but the last two times I didn’t prepare a race report, which disturbs me as I like to use these to document what went right or wrong. This led to thoughts about why I started blogging in the first place back in 2005, to document my running journey, especially the training aspects which are a valuable tool in training for and running races.

In the last couple years I guess I have had blogger burn-out, which I now find regrettable as I now have a very large gap in documenting my running journey. In the same timeframe my running has changed, the running flame has gotten dimmer, partly due to other commitments in life, but also partly due to a lack of motivation. After running the 100 mile race in 2010 I was tired, physically and mentally. I have kept training and running races, but only half-heartedly, really not striving for anything more than to run “just to finish”.

As I stand in front of the door of my 55th birthday next month, I ask myself whether it is because I’m getting old or what? But when I look at the older members in my running club I know that’s not true, they may not run marathons any longer, but what they do run, they run with their heart in it.

No, I think I am just getting soft and lazy, unfortunately quite in the literal sense, my weight has crept up, the muscles lack the tone they once had, the clothes are too tight, terrible, just terrible. Even without having documented my training in the last years, I know what the problem is, I have no real plan, I run mostly at casual speeds, I rarely do any crosstraining, and my eating habits are way too similar to before I started running.

My training this year began with good intentions, I was going to lose weight, I was going to cross train, I was going to do speed work, I was going to blog…yeah I was going to. Now midseason and only 3 pound lighter, and still 20 pounds too heavy, I need to make some changes, and I need to stop putting it off any longer.

So as I taper for my race on Saturday I have some time to work on a new training plan.

Last nights training: 10K in 1:06:12 (6:37/km, 10:39/mi)
Weight: 77kg
Weight at beginning of 2014: 80kg
Goal weight: 70kg

Race Report: 24 Hours of Rhineland-Palatinate 72K Trail Run

I mentioned in my last post that I found a new 72K trail race, similar in characteristic to the Westerwald run, but when I tried to sign up online they were booked solid, so I signed up for the 80K Fidelitas Night Run taking place on June 28th. Well as luck would have it, I received an e-mail a few days later saying a runner had to drop out and there was a starter place available, if I still wanted to run the event I should let them know, so I did.

The Pfalz Trail Run is part of the “24 Stunden von Rheinland-Pflaz” (24 Hours of Rhineland-Palatinate) event, a benefit Wanderung (hike) used to raise money for Kinder in Not (children in need), and also to encourage tourism in the region. The run version of this event covers the same 3-Stage, 72 kilometer course as the Wanderung, the only difference is the runners can run straight through and the walkers hike one stage at a time, taking a lunch and dinner break in between the stages. The run is classified as an Erlebnis (experience) run, which means there is no winner, no clock, and no finisher list. In other words it’s just for fun, if you consider running 72 km (~45 mi.) with 2228 meters of elevation gain/loss a form of enjoyment.

As I mentioned the race is broken into 3 stages:

• The Day Stage: 26.5 km with 772 meters of elevation gain/loss
• The Dawn Stage: 21.5 km with 729 meters of elevation gain/loss
• The Night Stage: 24 km with 727 meters of elevation gain/loss

I arrived in the small town of Hennweiler around 7:00 a.m., in plenty of time to pick up my start packet in the market square and enjoy the breakfast provided by the organizers. There were no start numbers, just a Road Book with a rough map and description of the 3 stage course, and for the runners 2 bottles of water. This event originated as a hiking event and the manning of the aid stations planned for the hikers, the runners were more or less on our own, the only concession the organizers made was to deposit cases of water bottles at 2 designated points on each stage, for experienced Ultra runners, not a problem as long as we know about it ahead of time (I had my Camelbak).

Shortly before the 8:30 a.m. start of the event, the local mayor called the roughly 270 Wanderers and 8 (eight !) runners together in the parking lot of the market square and went through his little speech, encouraging the hikers to hang tough and stay safe. There was no mention of the crazy little group that actually planned on running the course, maybe he wasn’t informed? After finishing the starting pistol went off, and realizing I was at the back of most of the hikers, I quickly sped around them before we got to the narrow trail outside of town. Soon I was alone, with only a fleeting glimpse of a couple runners ahead of me, it would be the last time I would see them, or any other participant, for quite a while.

Holiday Region Hunsrück Slate and Castle Route

Holiday Region Hunsrück Slate and Castle Route

The course quickly changed to what would be repeated throughout the event, an uphill climb, either short and steep or long (1-3 km) and gradual, followed by a corresponding downhill, followed by a somewhat flat section, repeat. The steep sections were steep, as in hang on to the tree when you are going down or you will fall on your face. The course itself was a good mix of asphalted field ways, gravel roads and dirt single trail, mixed in with cobble stones, stones and roots of every size imaginable, stairs, bridges, rocks, and anything else nature could think of to trip you up. This was one of the first “Trail Runs” in Germany that at least tried to live up to its name.

I completed the first stage in good time and without falling on my face. I replenished my sports drink and had something to eat at the market square. By this time it was midday, the hikers were probably still a couple hours behind me, so there were only a few from the organizers sitting around. As I set out on the second stage I noticed the temperature was still around 18°C, very mild compared to the summer days we had lately, and very important considering the severity of the trail ahead of me.

The second stage began as the first had, a couple kilometers through the fields, then up into the hills. The “Dawn” stage passed by the Wartenstein castle (, located high above the Hahnenbachtal, north of the town of Kirn. This area is located on the edge of the Nature Park Soonwald, an area with rugged cliffs and clear streams, surrounded by large forests. The sheer beauty of the attractive and varied landscape kept my mind off the accumulating mileage and particularly the pounding my legs were receiving from the constant uphill climbs.

I arrived back at the market square around 3:30 p.m., approximately 7 hours into the race. They were serving dinner, but the line was long, I decided to change my socks and refuel first, by the time I finished I managed to get some food without waiting too long. It appeared most of the hikers had just finished their first stage and were eating before heading out on their second. I didn’t see any other runners, so assumed I was the last, but this made no difference to me, I was taking it easy, I hadn’t trained for this type of race so knew better than to push it.

After around a 20-25 minute break I headed out on stage 3, by this time I running only the flat and downhill sections, and even the pleasant scenery did not distract me from my weary legs. This stage passed by the ruin of the castle Schmidtburg, a castle built in the year 926 and destroyed during the War of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697) by French troops in 1688. The castle is divided into an upper and a lower castle and was one of the largest in the area.

Ruins of Schmidtburg Castle

Ruins of Schmidtburg Castle

Several kilometers into this stage I was passed on a downhill by another runner, the first that I had seen since the beginning of the race! He appeared to be doing much better than I was, as he easily ran past and asked how I was doing. I remarked that mentally I was top fit, but could use some new knees, which caused him to chuckle. Somehow contact with another human offered renewed my energy and chugged along with new determination. The last stage was gentler than the first two, but the trail had a lot of protruding stones and roots, so I had to stay alert to avoid falling on my face.

With approximately 5K to go the course bid it’s last farewell, climbing to the second highest point of the day. During the climb I caught another runner who was clearly struggling, I walked with him for a couple minutes, his legs kept cramping. As we approached the top he assured me that he would make it to the finish line, but would have to walk, so I ran on. From this point it was mostly downhill or flat, so I did my best to run much of it. The runner that passed me earlier in the stage passed me again, he said he had stopped for a break, I again let him run ahead, he wasn’t looking quite as fresh as before, but was still better off than I was.

After a while the course broke out of the forest one last time and I could see the town of Hennweiler ahead. I ran most of the rest of the way and arrived uneventfully back at the market square. I reported to the organizers that I had finished, which kind of surprised them, I guess they noticed the surprise in my face as they said most of the hikers just leave. They pointed me to the showers and said there was lots of food left if I was hungry. I showered and joined a couple of the runners, one that I knew from previous races, he was finished a couple hours ahead of me, but he is 20 years younger too.

In any case I finished a very difficult course, requiring around 10 ¼ to 10 ½ hours of actual time on the trail, I spent another 30 minutes on breaks between the stages. As this event doesn’t count as an official marathon or ultra, I would probably not run it again, but could picture doing it as a hiking event. I think this course would be especially enjoyable if done in a group, either walking or running. I can also picture returning to this region on vacation, there are numerous trails winding through the national forest, and lots of tourist attractions that warrant a closer look.

The event itself was for the most part well organized, the only advice I would offer is if they want to attract more runners they should at least have a finisher list and post it on the Internet, even if the finishers have to keep track of their own time. The folks in Rengsdorf have been doing this for years with the Westerwald Run, and it works out very well.

Post-race Race Planning

Today is a bright sunny day, I would much prefer hopping on my bike or tying my running shoes, to sitting at my desk at work. With luck it is Friday and we have a 3-day weekend ahead of us here in Germany, AND the weather is supposed to stay warm and sunny!

I’m almost at the end of my lunch break, and because I can go for a run or bike ride, I thought I would at least get my thoughts out so I can continue working.

I ran the 50K race in the Westerwald forest a week ago, and because I kept the pace down, already am well on my way to recovering. And like I typically do during recovery, I am already looking for the next race. In previous years I usually have my entire list picked out with training plans to match, but this year I am winging it.

A couple nights ago I found a new trail race, similar in characteristic to the Westerwald run, i.e. it started as a Wanderung (walk event) and they decided to offer a run option as well. The event is 72 km, a good mixture of forest, trail and asphalt, and because it was originally a walking event, a 24-hour time limit. The event starts at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday June 14th, sounded good and doable. I was all stoked to participate, had the green light from my wife, and when I went online to sign up learned they were booked solid, so back to the planning board.

There are several other options available, one this weekend, but it’s just too soon after the 50K. On Friday June 19th is a 50K race in Ulm, but it starts at 11:00 p.m. and we are invited to a birthday party the next day, it would not be good to show up half asleep.

I also considered the Fürth marathon in Bayern on June 29th, but this would require an overnight and most of the hotels in the area are already booked solid. It’s also a city marathon, and I’m trying to avoid them.

This leaves the Fidelitas Night Run on June 28th, an 80K (50 mile) event that I have run 6-7 times, its nearby, a nice course and I can sign up latest on race day. The downside is that I really question my conditioning, 50 miles is 50 miles. My training has been limited this year, probably only about 2/3 of the mileage that I usual run, no hill training, no speed training, and shorter long runs than previous years.

So today I am trying to convince myself that running an ultra, especially at my level, is 80% mental and that I have enough training to get me to the finish line. Having run 60 marathons/ultras over the last 9 years I have pretty good instinct about a race, and my instinct is telling me to go for it, but keep the foot on the brake. In other words, instead of trying to run it in under 10 hours, plan on 12+ and walk more often. In any case I still have a couple weeks to think about it.

For July I have three possible races: a trail marathon, a 50K and/or a 52K.
If I can get off my butt and do some real training, there are two trail race possibilities for August, the circa 70K Panorama Run in the Algau region (3000 meters elevation gain/loss), or a brand new Trail Ultra near Nuremberg, circa 90K with 950 meters elevation gain/loss. At the moment the 90K sound more doable, but we’ll see.