Off to the races

My bags are packed, my running shoes and clothes laid out, in less than 9 hours I will be lining up for my first marathon in almost a year. I need about an hour to drive to Bad Durkheim, where the race will be held.

I am a bit nervous about the race, mostly because I don’t know what to expect after an eleven-month pause from racing. The event is a 12-hour race, if I was in peak condition I could easily complete 80 km (50 mi.). However, I am not in peak condition and this is not my goal, my goal is to complete the marathon distance in around 5 hours. If I am still feeling good after this I will decide how long I want to continue, but I need to get some sleep, I have to be fit Monday morning.

For the first two years this event we had bad weather, the first year (2012) was a bad storm which caused a power outage, whereas they had to cancel the event after around 4 ½ hours. The second year (2014) was similar, lots of rain, with standing water on the course. This year is not looking good either, the report is rain with storm conditions. As I write it is quite humid outside, a good sign that we are in for a thunderstorm.

In any case I have everything I need to run up to 12 hours, regardless of the weather. How far I run will depend on how well the first 4 hours go, if I am reduced to walking by that time, then I will finish the marathon distance and call it a night. If my “ultra memory” clicks in and I am running on autopilot, then we’ll see what happens.

Counting Down to Race Day

This past week I began tapering for my first marathon, I still ran five days, but reduced the mileage from around 80 km per week (~50 mi.) to 58 km (36 mi). This week I will probably run just 2 shorter runs, my legs have felt really heavy and tired lately, I think the rest will bring more than running.

On this coming Saturday at 10 p.m. is the 3rd Durkheimer Salinen Run, this will be the third time that I am participating. According to Wikipedia, Bad Durkheim is a spa town in the Rhine-Neckar urban agglomeration, and is the seat of the Bad Dürkheim district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. “Saline” translates to salt works, the salt is won through a graduation tower, known locally as Saline, and is part of Bad Dürkheim’s spa facilities. With a length of some 330 meters, it is one of the biggest of its kind in Germany. The course is run around the Saline, this year the course has been lengthened to 929 meters, so I only need to run 46 rounds for a marathon 😉

The event is run every two years, the first time I was still halfway fit, I was planning on running at least 100 kilometers, but a storm knocked out the power and they had to cancel, I only managed 38 km. For two years I ran with only limited training, after 55 km and a drenching thunderstorm I decided I had enough. This year I have even less training, and I haven’t run a race for almost a year. My only goal is to run at least the marathon distance, time unimportant, this will be a test run to determine how the rest of my running year should go.

This Weekend in Running

With two week to go (less as I write) until my first marathon event this year, I contemplated whether to run one last long run on the weekend. As primary goal for the event is just to finish, I decided in favor of this and suited up.

It was raining when I left work, but the sun came out by the time I was home, so I decided on shorts and a short-sleeve running shirt. Unfortunately after about 45 minutes into my run the weather changed for the worse, heavy rain and a cold wind. Two and a half hours into my run I was drenched and cold, so decided it would be far worst to catch a cold at this point than to get in a few more kilometers, so headed home, finishing with about 25 kilometers.

On Saturday I ran a loop with RB (my running buddy) at our running club, Elizabeth joined us for the first half. On Sunday after lunch I ran a faster 10 km and on Monday (a holiday in Germany), 12 km at roughly the pace I want to run my marathon. Today I have to work late, so will take a break.

I have been averaging around 70 kilometers (43-44 miles) per week since February, much less than a few years ago, but I think adequate for my first race this year. At almost 57 years old I have noticed that I lack the ambition that I had in the earlier years of running. I also have noticed that I need longer to recover, especially when I push the pace or increase training distances too quickly. With this in mind I want to taper a little before the race on May 28th.

The Present Condition of the Running Machinery

I have determined that getting back into a habit becomes more difficult as you get older. Yesterday I sat done wanting to write a blog entry and I didn’t know where to begin, so didn’t write. Today I am just letting it roll out.

In two weeks I am running my first marathon (or more) since June of 2015, so thought I would document some thoughts are my current state of readiness for said event.

For my one and only marathon last year I finished in 5:20:50, my slowest marathon ever, which prompted me to hang up my racing shoes for the rest of the year. I began my marathon training this January and it has progressed slowly, by conditioning was so poor that I had cancelled a marathon planned in March and didn’t sign up for one in April. At this point my parrot predictor is predicting a marathon finishing time of around 4:40 which would be okay at this point, but based on how I feel on my long runs, very optimistic.

In April I began looking for a marathon that would be a good candidate to launch my race season. Most races in the area just didn’t fit to my schedule or level of training, for example the Westerwald 50K with over 1400 Meter elevation gain, seemed like a bit too much. I ended up selecting the 12-Hour Salinen Run in Bad Dürkheim. The race fits well with my schedule, and will allow me to really test how far my legs can carry me. The disadvantage, some may say, is that the course is a 693 Meter loop, which most would probably say would the most boring run ever.

I have run this race twice in the past, the first time a power outage ended the race prematurely, the second time I quit early after running 55 km (35 mi.) due to a drenching thunderstorm that washed away my desire to continue. As far as boredom goes, I never experienced this, in the past I knew several of the participants, so it was pretty hard to get bored when you are running with a bunch of ultra runners with lots of time to talk.

I really can’t image holding out for the entire 12 hours, this is not even a goal, but I am hoping that I can at least match my 55 km that I completed 2 years ago, this should be doable even if I have to stop and take a nap in between (the race starts at 10 p.m. and goes until 10 a.m. the next day). A race-of-my-life goal would be 70-80 km, but I would really need to be having a good day to complete this, at least with my current conditioning.

In any case I have gotten older, slower, and have let my conditioning decline. Despite these obstacles I am looking forward to toeing the starting line, I have missed the race atmosphere, once you have been there you don’t forget it.

runningwithjack is back

After taking almost a year off from running races and blogging I decided to give both another try. It was actually a brother of mine who helped me make the decision to continue sharing my training and thoughts; he mentioned he enjoyed reading the blog to see what we were up to here in Germany.

My first hurdle was getting “runningwithjack” up and running, it seems my blog was a victim of a host server change, so first step was to contact Guru Jeff and get my site reactivated (thanks again Jeff!).
Jeff mentioned that most breakingthetape users have moved on to Facebook and other social media locales, so didn’t automatically reinstate the sites. Not being a big fan of these other social media (the word “trust” comes to mind), I decided to continue with BTT.

Since my marathon in June 2015, I have still been running, but had no real ambition to run another race. I hit kind of a runner’s mid-life crisis, if such a thing exists, where my declining speed and endurance led me to question what I am racing for. In the past the answer to this question was always “because I can”. But at the beginning of this year, this was very questionable.

My lack of a training plan led to other bad habits, like overeating, so at the beginning of 2016 I found myself at 84 kg (185 lbs.), the highest weight since 2004. I have managed to bring this down to 73 kg (160 lbs.), but the body fat content high and the muscle tone diminished.

I first planned on running a marathon in March, but my first couple months of attempting longer runs, led me to postpone this decision, in April also. Finally, I decided to take the dive and signed up for an event. So on the 28th of this month I will once more toe the line of a race.

Race Report: The Fidelitas Night Marathon

What do you do when you are poorly trained and your favorite Ultra is coming up on the weekend? With just two runs long runs up to 24 km (15 mi.) in the last month, and having just returned from a trip to the USA three weeks before, most people would not have the idea to run a long distance race. Rest assured I didn’t either, at least until a day or two before the race. But don’t worry, old age is catching up to me, so rather than run the 50-Mile (80 km) Ultra, I decided to downgrade and run the night marathon.

The Fidelitas Night Marathon begins at 8:00 p.m. at approximately the 38th km of the Ultra race route, and follows the same route to the finish line. Because I wasn’t signed up for the marathon, I had to arrive early in Rüppurr, where the Ultra begins, to guarantee a starting number. I ended up getting there shortly before the Ultra started at 5:00 p.m., so helped cheer them on as they started the race. It was a cool day, around 16 °C (61 °F) so I settled in my car with a book and waited for the bus that would transport us to the starting line.

I arrived at the start in Mutschelbach about an hour before the start, so found a place to sit out of the cold wind until shortly before the start. Shortly before 8:00 p.m. I lined up with the other 48 participants and soon after the starting gun sent us off into the night. I ended up tagging along with 4 other runners to first 10-15 minutes, and after a bit started chatting with the female runner in the group. It turned out she lives in the same town as I do, and we had the same time goals (just to finish), so we decided to run together as the other three runners began to outpace us.

The first half of the marathon contains the majority of hill climbs, nothing really long or steep, but due to my lack of training we walked the hill climbs to save energy. Lucky for me Linde wasn’t worried about the pace, she was happy she didn’t have to run alone when it got dark. Despite a couple short walking breaks on the hill climbs we finished the first 10K in around 1:07:00 and the first half of the marathon in about 2 ½ hours. When I consider my longest training run was the week before (24 km / 15 mi.), this was for me totally acceptable.

About two hours into the race we had to break out the flashlights, it was an overcast night and the forested sections of the course were dangerous without a light. After around 28 km (17-18 mi.) my pace started noticeably dropping, the lack of training taking its toll. I had warned Linde from the start that this would occur sooner or later, fortunately she was very patient and encouraging throughout the night.

The last 10K was mostly Galloway, with regular walking breaks every couple kilometers, but mostly just for a minute or two. Having run the Ultra 8 times previously, I knew the course like the back of my hand, so really never had any doubts about finishing, it was only a question of how long it would take. In any case I was happy to finally see the streetlights of Rüppurr as we wound our way out of the last forest section and headed toward the sports stadium and the finish. I did my best to keep running as we entered the stadium and circled around the running track to the finish line.
Linde and I exchanged congratulations and joined her friends who were waiting for her. I stood and chatted with them for a few minutes, but my legs were tired, so I excused myself, and headed home. We ended up finishing in 5:20:50, one of my slowest marathons ever, but without proper training I really didn’t expect anything different.

After an 8 month break from racing, it is good to know that I still have the mindset to keep going when it gets tough, now I only have to work on the speed and endurance. I also was able to enjoy at least part of my favorite race course, and made a new friend along the way.

As always the Fidelitas Ultra and Marathon were well organized, the helpers friendly and encouraging, and the route well marked. For anyone looking for a somewhat different run in Germany, both of these runs come with my highest recommendation.

Running 2015

After almost 10 years of training for and running marathons and more, I have decided to take a break. This decision is based on several factors, but the most dominant is the performance decrease over the last couple years. This has further led to a decrease in motivation, which has led to an even further decrease in performance due to the lack of quality training. In an effort to break this cycle, I am stepping back for a while and catching up with other things in my life.

I am still running, but have started to do more cross-training and other sports. I am also working on a plan for the second half of the year that will hopefully prepare me for a new year of racing in 2016. I will attempt to document this progress once I sort it all out.

Where have I been

I just left the following text in a comment on one of my favorite bloggers, so might as well post it here. I think as we pass the “half time” of our life this thinking dominates our lives as we realize our time on earth is really only a vapor, and we begin to reorganize our priorities to allow more time for what really matters. I have been reorganizing my priorities over the last couple years, less marathons, less time doing sports (although my wife says it is still more than what “normal” people do) and blogging has pretty much dropped off the horizon, although I still enjoy reading some of my favorite blogs.

In 2014 I reduced my training, and still ran several marathons and ultras:

March: 6 Hour World Down Syndrome Benefits Run – only ran 5 hours (45K)
April: 12 Hour Salt Works (Saline) Run – quit early, ran 55K
May: Westerwald 50K Race – 6:37:30
June: Pfalz Train Run – 72K in 10:30:00
June: Fidelitas Night Run – 80K (50 Miles) 11:19:00
July: Hornisgrinde Trail Marathon – 4:56:38
September: Adirondack Marathon (NY) – 5:21:46

This year will probably be less, I am currently training for a 6 hour Benefits Run on March 15, but just for fun.

The Race that Wasn’t

I was really looking forward the first annual Wolff Sports 85K Trail Ultra on August 23rd, but sometimes life gets in the way and other things become more important than running a race. I won’t elaborate, but let’s just say it was more important that I stay home that weekend. In any case I am looking forward to running the event next year on August 15th.

I have been continuing my training, shifting from training for a long trail race to running a marathon, namely the Adirondack Marathon in Schroon Lake, New York on September 28th. The course should be quite beautiful, especially if the Adirondack region is in it’s Autumn splendor. I don’t have any specific goal for the race, I am flying over from Germany just two days before the race, so may have to deal with some jet lag, but its a course to enjoy, so I won’t be in any hurry anyway.

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: