Countdown to the Wolff Sport Ultra Trail

For all practical purposes is my marathon training finished for the year, with less than two weeks until my (approx.) 85K (53 miles) Trail race in Feucht, near Nuremberg, there is nothing more I can do to prepare, other than normal tapering procedures.

I took a look at the starter list for the event, the maximum number of participants for the race was not met, there are 18 signed up for the entire distance, 9 others will be running 1 or more stages of the 5 stage race. It appears that I am the oldest participant, although 1 is only a few months younger, most have Ultra race experience and several have completed some tough trail races.

I am definitely back of the pack with this race, which translates into my needing to run my own pace and not be drawn out by the younger and probably stronger participants. The race has a 14 hour time limit, in years past no problem, but this year I will need to be fully concentrated, I don’t have the training base to run well, so I will have to run smart.

The race begins on Saturday, August 23rd at 6:00 a.m., a good thing, as it can get really hot in the summer days of August. The race course is a large loop on the Frankischer Duenenweg, a hiking trail through the forested sections east of Nuremberg. The course is split into 5 stages, 20.6K, 15K, 12.5K, 20.1K and 18K respectively. There are only 4 aid stations on the course, at the end of each of the first four stages, so we will need to carry food and drink.

The URL for the race (in German):
A Trailer for the run is available on Youtube:

Race Report: Hornisgrinde Marathon 2014

The weekend of July 19-20 was a heat wave over Europe, with temperatures reaching 37°C (99°F) in our region of Germany. For many, the hot summer days is a difficult time, the danger of falling into physical lethargy increases with each degree on the thermometer. While many seek reprieve at the pool, in the shade or a Biergarten (beer garden), here’s my hot tip: The Hornisgrinde Marathon in the densest forest in Germany and at an altitude of 900 meters. Where else could you enjoy a marathon at Sahara temperatures?

I arrived at the forest parking area in Hundseck, located just below the Mehliskopfes, a popular ski slope in the winter months. The Black Forest was still groggy from sleep, the birds chirping, the smell of pine forest, a mist rising over the valley below. At 6:30 a.m. it is already 22°C (72°F), but the sky was overcast and rain threatening.

I strolled up a small hill, where a large tent is set up, I was one of the first to arrive, but at this event there is no frantic running around at the start number pick-up, no long lines at the port-a-potties. The day before, on Saturday, was the half-marathon, I read there were 174 finishers. On this day were the marathon at 8:00 a.m. and a 10K race shortly after this, these races drew 168 and 215 participants respectively. I collected my start number and found a cup of coffee, recognizing a few faces as other racers began to arrive. It began to rain as I waited, cleansing the air, but this was short lived and soon the humidity returned.

Promptly at 8:00 we headed out from the Start before the large tent, there were a few spectators, many waiting for the start of the 10K race. We headed over a comfortable mountain trail in the pine forest, the first half of the marathon is more or less flat or downhill, resulting in the pace increasing relentlessly. I planned an easy 6:30 min/km (10:28 min/mi) pace, but passed the 10K marker in around 60 minutes, and the 20K marker in 2:01:18, a bit too fast for my level of training.

Hornisgrinde Marathon - Start

Mosquitoes and fly were constant companions as we weaved our way through forest and meadow, occasionally we were rewarded with panoramic views over the dark forest covering, but mostly we had to be content with lofty pine and firs reaching towards the heavens. Shortly after the halfway point the trail ran along the Stausee, a lake that was a favorite goal for hikers, evidence by the large number that I passed as I made my way along the shoreline.

Hornisgrinde Marathon - The Stausee

Hornisgrinde Marathon - The Stausee

After the Stausee the course began to gradually climb, and would continue to do so, for most of the last 17 km of the race. As expected, my pace slowed with each gradual climb, my legs took the opportunity to remind me that I hadn’t put in enough training time in this year.

I chugged along up one uphill climb after the other, trying to stretch out the pace where the trail leveled out. The last 10K found me taking ever increasing walk breaks, common when running Ultras, but not necessarily during a marathon.

Hornisgrinde Marathon - km 37

Hornisgrinde Marathon - km 37

The last few kilometers were especially hard, I took a dive over a stone and my hands and one knee were bleeding, what a sight. Anyway I finally reached the last hill, a steep 1200 meter climb to the finish line. About 200-300 meters from the finish line the course turned up a steep bank and I jogged over the finish line. I noted my time 4:56:38, my slowest time ever for the course, but at least under 5 hours, which had been my goal for this training run.

Next up is an approx. 85 Kilometer Trail race on August 23, near Nuremberg, Germany. I guess I should do some hill training before then, at least to try to get my mind set, it’s too late to try to improve conditioning.

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