Running toward Easter

After two days of rest I laced up and ran 16 km (10 mi) last night. Our spring weather took a dip yesterday, it was only 9°C, compared to 20°C+ on Saturday. As I headed out I realized right away that I was under dressed in my long sleeve shirt and running shorts, the wind chilled me to the bone, I wasted no time getting over the fields and into the protection of the forest behind. By this time I already had 4 km behind me, at a speed that I hadn’t planned on, so decided to keep the pace going. I finished my 16 km (10 mi) run in about 1 ½ hours, around 8-10 minutes faster than I have been running this distance lately, very satisfying to say the least.

Tonight I want to run with RB, she has to work later than normal, so can’t make it to our running club run, so I offered to wait for her and we can run from our village. On Thursday I plan on another 16 km run, but will probably keep the pace down a bit. With my 12 hour event in two weeks I need to think about tapering a bit, or at least not destroying my legs by running faster than I’m used to lately.

This weekend is Easter weekend, which means in Germany that we have Friday and Monday free. I am trying to plan my running so that I am not running on Easter Sunday, as we are invited for afternoon coffee and afterwards dinner at some friends. I am also hoping to go on a bicycle trip on Friday or Monday with some friends from my running club, but the weather is not looking promising.

Nuremberg, long run, and upcoming 12-hour race

Last week I spent a few days in Nuremberg at a training course for work, but brought my running shoes with me to keep the training going. I stayed at a hotel on the outskirts of the city, so within minutes I was able to run on the numerous bicycle and farm paths connecting the fields.

On Friday I took the day off and drove back from Nuremberg after taking care of some errands. I was home by noon, and as the day was sunny and bright, decided to get in my long run. I had 32 km (20 mi) on the plan, which I accomplished in 3 hours and 32 minutes, a bit slower than planned, but not by much.

On Saturday evening I ran with my running club, we ran a new 10K course that we will be using for the annual 10K Asparagus Run that we put on at the beginning of July. Most of the club members weren’t familiar with the route, so we want to run it once or twice so we can direct the participants on race day.

In 2 ½ weeks is my next race, the Salinenlauf (Saline Run), a 12 hour event held in the town of Bad Dürkheim in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Bad Dürkheim is a spa town in the Rhine-Neckar urban agglomeration (Wikipedia). The course is 693 meters long, running oblong around the Graduation tower in the center of town.

Race Course Saline Run 2014

A graduation tower is a structure used in the production of salt which removes water from a saline solution by evaporation, increasing its concentration of mineral salts. Graduation towers can be found in a number of spa towns, primarily in Germany but also Poland and Austria. The mineral-rich water droplets in the air are regarded as having beneficial health effects similar to that of breathing in sea air.

I attempted this race two years ago, but around 4 ½ hours into the race a storm knocked out the power and the race was cancelled, frustrating to say the least. Strangely enough I couldn’t interest any of my running club to join me for the run, I guess the health benefits of running in the salty air are outweighed by the fear dying of boredom from running around in circles for 12 hours. But I’m going to give it my best anyway, besides it’s a good way to make new friends.

Running, biking, and enjoying the Spring

As I drove home from work on Thursday I was still thinking when I should do my long run, I typically run a long run on Sunday, but this Sunday was a potential opportunity to do a bicycle tour with some friends, so I was look for an alternative. In any case I set out on my planned 16 km (10 mi) run, after the first 10 km I was feeling better than normal, so decided to run a couple more hours, then I would have my long run behind me for the week.

I reduced my speed slightly to pace myself out for the now planned 32 km (20 mi) run, and widened the circle I was more or less running in to accumulate the added mileage. By the two hour point I reached what I considered the point of no return, now I had to finish the run because I won’t be fit enough to try it again the next day. I ended up running 31 km instead of 32, but it turned out to be my fastest pace for a long run this year.

To round my running week off, I ran an 11 km recovery run on Friday and a loop with my running club on Saturday night. I ended up with 75 km for the week, enough to get me over the finish line of a marathon, but not very fast.

On Sunday was a bright, sunny day, a bit chilly (16C/60F), but was supposed to warm up to around 24C/75F by late afternoon. I met friends Paul and my running buddy (RB) on the other side of town, than we rode our bikes to the neighboring town of Graben to pick up Manfred. Our tour guide Paul than led us on a tour around several of the neighboring towns, mostly over paved field paths connecting the farmer’s fields in the area. The spring weather we have been having the last few weeks has caused the countryside to burst with color from budding trees, green grass, and yellow mustard fields.

After a couple hours Paul and Manfred had to get back to their families, so RB and I decided to stop on the way home for some obligatory cake and coffee at a local bakery. We found one with a Café with seating outside and enjoyed the pleasant weather as we renewed our energy before heading home.

This week I have to be a bit more creative with my running, I have a business trip in the middle of the week, so have to plan around it.

Running + Dieting = 1…

…one, tired Jack that is. It is practically an art to finding just the right amount of calories to keep the training flowing, while keeping the weight loss going. I ran 10K last night with my running club and reduced my calorie intake last night and this morning. The last half hour before lunch was particularly difficult, I was working on proofreading a new software document and my eyes almost hit the table. I ate a couple of pieces of fruit and went outside for a few minutes of fresh air, I guess I’m good for a couple more hours.

Tonight I have 16 km (10 mi) on the training plan, but have pretty much decided to move my long run from Sunday to tomorrow night (Friday), so may reduce it a bit. Last week I ran a 30 km (18.6 mi.) long run in 3 hours 21 minutes. My goal this week is 32 km (20 mi.) in around 3½ hours, shouldn’t be a problem.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him…

I know I’m dating myself, but some of you may remember the opening scene from the Six Million Dollar Man, where the Engineer states:

“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him, we have the technology! We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Better than he was before. Better! Stronger! Faster!”

I guess I can’t afford a bionic makeover, so I have to resort to old school methods of achieving the better, stronger, faster part, namely smart training and hard work.

This year’s training will focus mainly on rebuilding the running machine. My short term goal is to get my weight back down to around 68-70 kg (150-155 lbs), which means I need to lose 8-10 kg.

Parallel I also want to gradually increase my speed and endurance. I am still plagued by a pinched nerve in my back, it flares up when I stand on my feet for longer periods of time (> ½ hour). Speed training also tends to irritate the nerve, which is connected to my right leg and results in a numbing effect and pain. Usual sitting down for a few minutes usually will restore things to normal, regular gymnastic exercises for the back and stomach also seem to help delay flare ups.

My love is long distance, so of course I am signed up for some long races, such as a 12-Hour race at the end of April and a 50K trail race towards the end of May. I guess this year I will concentrate on getting to the finish line, next year I will try to get to the finish line FASTER!

Blogging is like dieting,…

I have come to the conclusion that blogging is a lot like dieting, it’s hard to get started again after procrastinating for a long time, there are lots of good intentions, false starts and downright frustration when you realized you have slipped up again.

Anyways, at least I have been running, training, and even completed my first marathon for the year, albeit with only mediocre performance. Again like dieting, you only get good results when you are willing to commit to meeting your goal.

Since I completed the 100 mile distance in 2010 I have been pretty much without a particular goal, other than to keep running and do some running events. The old Jack model that completed the 100 miles is badly in need of an overhaul…the weight needs to come back down (at least 8 kg), the speed needs to come back, and the endurance needs to be reprogrammed in the old running machine.

Currently my condition is equivalent to that of 2005, the first year I ran marathons. I needed 4½ to 5 hours to finish a marathon that year, but I managed to bring my time down to 3:36:13 by 2009. This year I started competing in the Male 55 age group, so it is going to take a lot more effort to improve.

Anyway I figured since I am more or less starting over, I may as well document my journey. Who knows, there may still be someone in Blogland left out there…

Jack (is back?)

2013 in Review

The end of the year is upon us and I find myself thinking about where I have been this year with my running and fitness, and where I want to go next year.

After almost a 6 month race pause in 2012 I began the year with new hopes for a good race year, but we decided to renovate a couple more rooms in the house, so again my running took a backseat for a few months. Towards Spring I tried to pick up the training, but somehow never got up to speed, quite literally. I completed 7 marathons or more during the year, but almost all of them significantly slower than years past. This was really not a surprise, I only ran about half of the mileage that I usually do, and much of this was at an easy gait.

By September I seriously considered not running any more races, but the German 24 hour championships were being hosted by a local running club, so I decided to participate, non-competitively mind you. If you read my race report you know I ran 100 km in around 16 ½ hours and called it a night. Two weeks later I ran a marathon, my slowest ever, also no surprise considering my lack of training. After the September events I went on vacation and have spent the last few months resting and limiting my mileage.

After a very mediocre year I am looking at the upcoming year with mixed feelings. On the one side I would like to try to regain some of the fitness that I experienced a couple years ago, when I could run for hours with little thought. On the other side I know how hard I had to work to reach this level and maintain it. At almost 55 years old I wonder how much time and energy I want to commit, and more so, if my busy life will allow me to reach my goals.

I think each of us has to make similar decisions, for some it is easier than others, we each have to decide where to draw the line. For me I have to spend the next several months working on the core, including losing weight, building strength and endurance, and trying to run faster and farther.

As far as goals, I guess my goal for 2014 is to be able to look back over the year and feel satisfaction in knowing that I gave my best efforts to improve my fitness and to complete any races that I do.

I wish all of you a blessed New Year!

24 Hour Race Afterthoughts

I ran my first recovery run last night with my favorite Running Buddy (RB), we took our time and I experienced no discomfort. The rest of the week I will do a bit of cross-training and probably will run with our running club on Saturday.

Looking back at my race on the weekend, I thought I would attempt to list my thoughts or lessons learned from my 24 hour run experience:

Training

I didn’t train specifically for this event, the last training plan that I followed was for the 80 km (50 Mile) run in June, since then I ran a 52 km Ultra on July 17, and four long runs of 26-30 km, the last run 3 weeks before the race. Two weeks before the race I ran a half-marathon at 5:45 min/km average pace. My total yearly mileage prior to the race was approximately 50% compared to pre-2011 training years. My average weekly training was in the range of 50-60 kilometers, with almost no speed work.

Pre-Race

I ran my first 10 km race of the year 6 days before the race, with no prior speed training, it destroyed my legs, not a good idea, but I don’t think it had any major repercussions.

Other than the half-marathon and 10K races I tapered properly, reducing mileage, fueled well and did my best to get lots of sleep prior to the race.

I picked up my start number the night before the race, had all my bags packed and everything ready to go. I had a bit of a restless sleep the night before the race; due to the large number of race participants I was worried that I wouldn’t get a park place along the course. I arrived almost two hours early race morning and there were still a few places available.
Strategy

I didn’t have any specific race goal per se, but hoped to complete 120-130 kilometers if things went well, anything over 80 km would have been acceptable. I planned on a 20 minute run/5 minute walk strategy from the beginning, but figured the last 8-10 hours of the race would be mostly walking. I did not train with walk breaks, but had enough experience through the 5 ultra-races this year to feel confident this strategy would work. I brought most of my own food and isotonic drink, I did not know the isotonic drink being offered, so stuck with true and tried. I did nibble at some of the food at the aid station, and frequently drank water from here.

The Race

Based on the 1.2 km loops, I quickly adapted my 20/5 run-walk strategy to approximately 3.4 km running and 200 meters walking, beginning the walk break at my car after fueling. This worked very well for quite a long time, but at some point as my walking breaks started to increase I noticed I was having pain in my back and right leg, a result of a pinched nerve in my back. This is an old injury that using doesn’t bother when I run, but can quickly flare up when I walk on hard surfaces too much. Sitting a few minutes with my feet propped up every 3 rounds kept it from getting worse. The thought that remains is if I had stayed in the race and was reduced to mostly walking would I have spent more time sitting than walking? In any case I need to work on strengthening the back and stomach muscle to hold this problem in check.

I think my fueling was a success, the only incident seemed to be with the salted potatoes from the aid station, I think the heat of the day either reduced their quality or caused my stomach to reject them, but luckily I noticed this before it became a real issue.

If I Would do it Over Again

I would train accordingly, more races, more asphalt, more and longer runs. You get what you train for.

I think I would put together a crew to assist. During the event I watched those around me, those without crews had to scramble to get what they needed as they passed their cars, or fed primarily from the aid station. Those with crews usually ordered what they needed from their crews as they ran by and it was waiting by the time they completed the next round. When problems arose the crews responded working on blisters, offering massages, and suggesting what the runner may be lacking. Due to my experience and relaxed goals I did well without a crew, but if I was out to maximize my race results an experienced crew would be worth their weight in gold.

Race Report: The German Championship 24H Race in Karlsruhe

Most thought I was really of my rocker this time when I said I was going to run in the 24 hour race in nearby Karlsruhe. They were not alone, I was questioning my own sanity for wanting to run in a 1.2127 circle for hours at a time.

My training this year has been hardly appropriate to run a marathon, let alone for such an ambitious plan to stay in motion for 24 hours. With this in mind I arrived about two hours early at the Sport Institute on the campus of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) where the race was to begin and found a reserved parking place for my car on the course. I was well prepared with extra clothing, food, drinks and anything else I could think of that I might need over the next day. After being satisfied that I had everything in order I walked the roughly 200 meters to the Start. I met several familiar faces along the way, and chatted a bit with René and Teddy both ultra-runners that I meet frequently at the races, Teddy I knew since the 100 Mile KuSuH race in 2010.

Promptly at 10 a.m. 117 set off from the starting line, some with ambition to become the latest German Champion for the 24 Hour discipline, others like myself who just wanted to see how far they could propel themselves.

I quickly fell into a routine, every third round I would stop at the aid station at the start or my car to eat and drink, then walk about 200 meters before picking up the pace. The ran the first 25 km in just under 3 hours, according to my Garmin with an average pace of 6:57 min/km (11:11 min/mile), almost too fast for my condition.

As the afternoon progressed the temperature increased to 30 °C, and on the sunny portions of the course much warmer.

Fortunately there was also longer shady stretches along the way that offered some relief. It was during this time that Walter from my running club came by to watch the race for a bit. It was encouraging to see a familiar face at this point, the heat was starting to take its toll, my pace dwindled and I was taking longer walk breaks. At around 32 km (20 mi) I hit a low spot and decided I needed to sit down for a while, so set up my folding chair by my car and propped my legs on the cooler for 3-4 minutes, as luck would have it my car was in the shade at this point and I quickly cooled down. After a short break I walked my 200 meters and could continue running.

This cycle seemed to work well, so I continued with it, run 3 rounds, sit and eat/drink, walk 200 meters, and so on. Around kilometer 44 (27 miles) I took a longer break and changed my socks, reapplied Vaseline where needed. I had been eating some cooked potatoes with salt the last couple hours which seemed to work for me for a time, but this time noticed they were a bit slimy, probably due to the heat. At this point I noticed my stomach was rebelling, so switched to my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I reached 50 kilometers in just under 7 hours, and still had an uneasy stomach, I decided to stop and make a toilet break at the Start line and sat there long enough to get remarks from the spectaters afterwards that I had been taking a nap in there. Anyway the bathroom break was worth it, I felt much better afterward and could pick up the pace again. I stayed away from the potatoes which and didn’t have any stomach issues the rest of the time.

For the next 3-4 hours I following my run 3 rounds, sit and eat, walk 200 meters, continue without any incident. Darkness came, with it cooler temperatures and the course was well-lighted either by streetlights or lights set up by the organizers, so we didn’t need flashlights.

By the end of the first 12 hours I had reached around 79 km, almost 50 miles. I celebrated with a piece of cake and a fresh pair of socks and shirt. My legs were really tired by this point, my running pace had slowed to a crawl, and I knew I couldn’t continue for another 12 hours like this. I decided to take a walk break with every round, so for the next several hours I ran a kilometer and walked 200 meters, and every third round I propped my feet up and sat a bit.

As I continued my rounds I tried to figure out how best I should continue, I really didn’t have any set goal for the race, but based on my limited training this year (average 50-60 km/week) I estimated at this point I could finish with 120-130 kilometers if I could keep moving.

By midnight, 14 hours into the race, the field was thinning, I saw less and less runners. During one of my sit down breaks I chatted with the friendly crew parked next to me about this, they said a lot of runners plan to run 100 km (62 mi) then sleep for a couple hours before continuing. I thought about this as I ran and as it became with each round more unlikely that I could continue the whole night long, decided to complete 100 km and at least take an extended break for an hour or so, maybe even sleep for a couple hours. I then figured I would have at least 3-4 hours where I could complete another 20-30 km.

So was the new plan anyway, as I sat for a bit by kilometer 97 the rain began, first a few drops, whereas I donned my running vest and started my round, then a cloud burst after the next round. As I started out on my 83rd round, which would put me over 100 km, the rain was falling in buckets, the wind driving it with force, and the sky was brilliant with a lightning display. I was already soaked to the skin, normally this doesn’t bother me, but as I thought about finishing the round and trying to get dry again so I could lay down for a while, I couldn’t imagine it.

As I reached my car the rain continued drenching the course, I made the final call, 83 rounds, 100.6 kilometers was enough, time to pack up and go home. I drove home with no regrets, the storm continued making even driving difficult. My wife was awake when I arrived home, the stormy winds broke her sleep, I think she is happy that I wasn’t outside in the weather.

I completed 100.6 kilometers in just over 16½ hours, slow but sure. I’m sure I could have accumulated more mileage if I had stayed on and waited out the weather, but it was enough for me. I was surprised that running continuously in circles was not at all as boring as I thought it would be. I really didn’t think about this fact at all, I think chatting with other runners and the crew next door on occasion helped me to maintain my sanity. And for me the race was low stress, I had no set goals, I ran a pace that was comfortable and walked and took breaks as I felt I needed to. All in all it was a pleasant experience, I don’t know if I would do it again, there are much more scenic runs waiting, but the experience was enlightening, sometimes you don’t need a reason to try something new.

Coming Out of Hibernation

Actually I haven’t been sleeping, I have been looking at blogging languorously, having no particular inclination of putting my thoughts on the information highway. With race season slowly winding done I thought I would break the silence and do a short summary of the year to date.

I have been running and training, albeit with less enthusiasm and only about half the mileage as previous years.I haven’t run any marathons yet, rather I shuffled through several ultra-marathons:

March: Word Down Syndrome 6-Hour Benefit Run – 44.7 km (only ran 5 hours 15 minutes)
May: Westerwald 50K Ultra – 7:08:10
June: Schefflenzer 50K Ultra – 6:53:28
June: Fidelitas 80K Night Run (50 miles) 10:46:24
July: Bretten Night52 52K Ultra – 6:45:29

My finish times have suffered due to the lack of training, but as they say you get what you train for, I’m okay with this.

I’m signed up for the Baden Marathon in nearby Karlsruhe on September 22nd, the last marathon or more for this year. I had intended to race this race, but never started my 4 hour training plan, so a few weeks ago I started looking around for a new adventure, something a bit out of the ordinary, and something I can do within the limits of my slothful training.

He who seeks will find, in the form of the “25. Deutsche Meisterschaften der Deutsche Ultramarathon Vereinigung (DUV) im 24h-Lauf” which roughly translates to the German Ultramarathon Consortium 25th Annual 24 Hour German Championship Run. Although this is a run for the best 24 hour runners in Germany, it is also an open run, which means normal mortals can also run in 1.2 kilometer circles for up to 24 hours, I mean why should elite runners have all the fun.

Yes you read this right, the course is approximately 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles), flat, asphalt, in a park, about as boring a run as you can imagine. So why on earth am I going to run this you may ask, especially when I will probably end up with about half the distance of the elite runners? The answer is: no good reason, and to be honest I try not to think about it too much or I may talk myself out of it by the weekend. Regardless of the sanity of this race, I am lining up at 10 a.m. on Saturday with 100+ other assorted crazies and we are going to see who submits to boredom first. I’m sure there will be a few, like myself, that will be wowed as we are lapped time and time again by runners attempting to set a new German record. And regardless how much mileage I accumulate, one thing is sure, I still get the same finisher shirt! I’ll let you know how it goes.