The Schefflenzer Ultra 50 km Race 2013

On June 1st I participated in the Schefflenzer Ultramarathon, a private invitation race limited to 200 participants. Listed were a 100 km, 50 km, marathon and half-marathon walking, I chose the 50 km discipline. The start was in Billigheim-Allfeld in the Neckar-Odenwald are of Germany (30 km north of Heilbronn).

It was raining as I woke up at 4:30, and continued to rain as I began the normal 70 minute drive to Billigheim. As I switched from Autobahn A5 to A6 the heavens opened up in a drenching downpour, with winds pounding the highway, a car flew by on my left and promptly spun momentarily out of control as he hydroplaned, with luck he was able to regain control and moments later I passed him as he significantly reduced his speed, obviously shaken from his near catastrophe. The 70 minute drive took 30 minutes longer than normal, but at least I arrived safely. I grabbed my umbrella and walked into the sports hall to pick up my start number.

The 50K and marathon start was scheduled for 8:00 a.m., the 100K runners had left two hours earlier. While I waited for the event to begin I sat and drank a cup of coffee and chatted with a couple people I knew. Due to the rain the race director moved our pre-race briefing inside, no sense getting wet until we needed to.

The course is about 3/5 paved field paths and streets, 2/5 dirt forest ways, but with the amount of rain we had the dirt turned into sucking mud and in many cases the asphalt paths turned into flowing streams up to 10 cm deep. In any case the course is very scenic, the most being over rolling fields and forest, with a total of around 1000 meters of elevation gain/loss.

The rain subsided as we left the shelter of the sport hall and began the run, the forest paths were still dripping from the previous downpour, but the first several kilometers remained otherwise dry. However this did not last long, the rain soon returned and remained, finally letting up again later in the afternoon.

The first 20-30 km went by fairly uneventful, the field ways and forests in this part of Germany are extremely beautiful, the area has lots of small towns and farms which offered distraction from the slimy mud on the forest paths and small ponds created on the paved paths through the fields.

My lack of training this year was felt as I passed the 30 km marker, my legs were tired and I was walking more often than I liked, I tried not to let this bother me and continued on the best I could. Somewhere along this part of the course I met “Teddy” that I knew from the 100 Mile race I completed a few years back. He was running the 50 km and later in the day a half-marathon, a little training for a future 100 mile race.

Near the 40 km marker I passed two American soldiers stationed at Ramstein, they had spontaneously decided to run the 50 km race, with no special training other than their normal PT raining in the military. They were struggling, but their youth would carry them through they finished about 40 minutes after I did, in about 7 ½ hours. In any case passing them motivated me to continue, I mean if they can finish without any special training, I can do it with some training. The weather was also slowly improving by this time and I was running on automatic pilot, the kilometers slowly melted away as I headed back towards Billigheim.

After I crossed the finish line I found a bit to eat and drink, then headed off to the showers. The water was still hot, it felt so good washing away the layers of sweat and mud. Feeling half-human again I had a cup of coffee and a piece of cake before heading home.

Last year I was impressed by the excellent care and organization of this race, this year they outdid themselves, the helpers, especially in the remote aid stations, offered excellent service despite extreme weather conditions, and all this with upbeat attitudes and a smile! I can only compliment the organizers and helpers that made this event happen. In any case I highly recommend the event, the course very beautiful and even though hilly, not extreme. The event is also small enough that the organizers and helpers can offer a little more personal touch that large events can never compete with.

Back to Basics

I have been having a hard time trying to get back to regular training and blogging. The former is taking place, but not at a level that is showing any real improvement. The latter has obviously not been taking place, so I am going to try to return to the basics with my blogging, providing shorter entries which will act as a training log for my own benefit, and then see where it goes from there. Now how long does it take for something to become a habit…

Another 50 Mile Week

This past weekend I continued with my two-a-day run on Saturday and long run on Sunday. I was a bit more sluggish on my run Saturday morning, I ran the same 16 km (10 mi.) loop as Wednesday and Thursday, but was 10 minutes slower than Wednesday and 20 minutes slower than Thursday. I attribute my decline in performance to my renovation efforts at the beginning of the week, this wreaked havoc on my recovery from last weekend’s running. My late Saturday afternoon 9k/5.5mi run was better, I ran an easy pace with RB at our running club meet.

On Sunday my legs were stiff but I made it through my planned 30 km (18.6 mi.) long run. My average pace was 15 seconds/km slower than the week before, but remained constant and I did not need to pause, except to pee. The 7:05 min/km average pace is much slower than I would like, I am definitely going to work on bettering this before I try to run a normal marathon. I finished the week with 87 km, around 52 miles, I believe my highest mileage week since 2011.

I have one more long run on this coming weekend before my 6-hour event on March 17, I hope to complete 32 km (20 mi). The weather is looking more favorable, we should finally get a couple days above freezing temperatures.

Running and Remodeling

Last week I had to mix in some home improvement in with my marathon training, which made it more difficult to keep up with my training plan. My Saturday early morning 10 mile run was especially hard, most of Friday night was spent running up and down a ladder as I installed ceiling panels in our new storage room. Most of the day Saturday was spent painting the walls in the storage room, but somehow I managed to complete the 9 km loop with RB and our running club at 4 p.m. RB also joined me for an hour of my 28 km run on Sunday. Surprisingly I felt better on this run than I did the previous morning, but still had to fight my way through the last few miles.

On Monday and Tuesday we had a plumber and floor-tiler finishing off our new guest bathroom, so I had to take a couple vacation days off. I spent the days building some storage shelves and other tasks, so took a break from running. Last night I went for a faster 10 mile (16 km) run, surprisingly I averaged 5:35 min/km (9:00 min/mile), one of my faster runs lately. I hope this is a result of my intensified training of late, I guess I will know next week when I try it again. Tonight I am repeating the same loop, but at a more relaxed pace. For the next two weekends I will try to repeat my two-a-day runs on Saturday and my long run on Sunday, hoping adding a mile or two on to the long run each weekend.

On March 17 is my first marathon or more, a 6-hour benefit run for Downs-syndrome. This will be a good test of my current conditioning and will provide some feedback as to how I need to tweak my training for the 80 km (50-mile) run in June.

My Weekend Training

Over the weekend I continued training according to my new training plan, Saturday morning around 8 a.m. I headed out for a 16 km (10 mi.) run, averaging 6:13 min/km, at 4 p.m. I ran a 9 km loop at our running club with RB, averaging 7:22 min/km. Yesterday I ran a 28 km long run at an average pace of 6:51 min/km. I think my body is slowly getting adjusted to the training; I was a few seconds faster on my long run than last weekend. That said, I was still pretty wiped out after the run, I still have a long ways to go before the long runs become “easy”.

Current Training Plan

I have been looking over my old training plans from years past and none of them fit to where I currently am with my conditioning and where I want to go with my training. Typically this time of year I have several months of core and muscle training behind me and am ready to really start building up the endurance, unfortunately after almost a year of home renovation it is an entirely different scenario.

Before I list my current outlook on training let me talk about my racing goal(s) for this year. My first goal is to complete the 80K (50-Mile) Fidelitas Night Run on June 22 in under 10 hours. I took a break from this run last year, so need to build up to this distance again. I was considering a 100K race 3 weeks before this run, but considering my current condition, I think it is too much too soon. From May to July I plan on completing at least four 50K races, most of them trail races. I hope my training and racing will leave me in shape to run a marathon under 4:15: (my best marathon last year was 4:49) at the end of August or September. These are fairly vague goals, but at almost 54 years old, I have to be careful about setting overzealous goals.

For the next two months I want to try the following training plan:

Monday: Cross training
Tuesday (or Wednesday): 16 km (10 mi) run, marathon pace or faster
Wednesday (or Tuesday): Cross training
Thursday: 16 km run, 1 minute slower than Tuesday
Friday: Rest or light cross training
Saturday (morning): 16-20 km, 1 minute faster than long run pace
Saturday (evening): 8-11 km, recovery pace
Sunday: 25-34 km, long run

To test this training I am running a 6-hour benefit race in March, last year I ran 46 hard kilometers, this year I am looking for an easier 50. I will reevaluate my training after this race, as my focus will turn to training for the 50-miler, which has a lot of hills.

Training is dragging

At the moment my training is dragging a bit, at least compared to previous years. I think the main problem is that am trying to train like I did when I was better conditioned and am trying to do too much in a short time. I am also a couple years older, so need to make adjustments for this as well. My next planned race is a 6-hour benefits run in March, which means I have around 7 weeks to train. I think the next couple weeks I am going to try concentrate on core training, than gradually increase the mileage up to the race. My goal for the 6-hour race is 50 km, but anything over the marathon distance is acceptable.

Still some snow, but the trails mostly clear

Yesterday the temperature slowly crawled above the freezing point and much of the remaining snow has melted, so I decided to try a run on the local forest trails. The roads and asphalt bike paths leading to the forest were pretty much free of ice and snow, except for a couple shady places. The forest paths still had snow and ice in the middle, but on each side of the path the snow was gone where hunters and forest workers had driven through. For the most part I was able to cruise through my run without hesitation, but as it got dark I did slow a bit because I couldn’t see if there was ice or not. I ended up with a 16 km (10 mi) run at an average pace of 6:06 min/km (9:49 min/mi).

Tonight I want to run again, RB may run part of the run with me if the weather stays nice. On Saturday I want to run with my running club, and on Sunday I want to try to get in 20 miles.

Still Icy

The weather in my area remains cold and the trails slick. A picture from last weekend that has been circulating around on the Internet shows how bad it was on the day I tried out my spikes (see last post).

The roads are now clear, but unfortunately my cold continues to linger, so I have decided not to run the 50K on the weekend. This will give me approximately 2 months to prepare for the next opportunity, a 6-Hour race on March 17.

Runing with Spikes on the Ice

My cold is better, but doesn’t seem to want to go away, after running on Tuesday I decided to wait a few days to run again. On Friday after work I headed out for a faster 11 km loop, but a light snowfall left the trails in bad shape, so my fast 11 km turned into a slow loop.

Training on the weekend was further complicated by freezing rain on Saturday night, luckily I ran a 8 km loop with RB at our running club before the trails froze. On Sunday morning I woke up to a thick layer of ice on the streets and sidewalks. It was so bad that church was cancelled, it was just too treacherous outside…so my wife was rather surprised when I said I was going for a run…but I had a mission, I wanted to try out my spikes that I had bought a few months before. The soft metal spikes are housed in a thick rubber frame that straps onto the bottom of my running shoes, conditions were perfect for putting these to the test.
Shoe Spikes
The side streets where we live and many of the sidewalks were still solid ice as I gingerly started out, but the spikes were fantastic, I could run at normal speed without any slippage, amazing! As I headed out of town I turned a couple heads from those hacking away at the ice in front of their houses, they must have thought I was insane, but I was having a great time, and the longer I ran the more confidence I had in my spikes. On the forest paths where I ran the night before was packed snow with a layer of frozen rain on top, normally very dangerous, but I cruised right through without a second thought, the spikes really made a difference. I ended up running 22 km (almost 14 mi.) at normal long run pace, which is 10 km shorter as what was on my training plan, but I thought it better to shorten the run as my cold is still lingering.

The temperature is supposed to stay below freezing this week, which means I will most likely need to continue wearing my spikes. Next Saturday is the 50K race in Rodgau, Germany, but most likely I will not participate, as I am not fully recovered from my cold and the weather is not promising. If my conditioning were optimal I would probably consider it, but I haven’t run a marathon since last June and have only done a couple long runs between 15 and 19 miles…I either need to be strong physically or strong mentally, when both are less than optimal than for me it’s better to keep training for another day.