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.

Race Report: The Westerwald 50K Run 2014

A week ago (may 29th) I ran one of my favorite ultra runs, the Westerwald 50K run in Rengsdorf, Germany. This race, in the vicinity of Koblenz, offers a beautiful course, including a lot of forested trail. Originally the event started out as a Wanderung (walk), but at some point in time a run option was added. What is particularly nice about the event is that each year the course changes, sometimes making it easier, sometimes harder. This year was in the middle with about 1200 meters of elevation gain/loss.

I ran this race as my first Ultra in 2006, at that time there were only about 50-60 participants that did the 50K run, and several hundred walkers walking 12, 33 or 50K. This year there was 174 runners signed up for the race, and quite probably many more signed up on race day. In any case the parking lot was full when the director gave the pre-race briefing.

In former years my wife accompanied me, and we usually arrived the night before the race and left the day after the race. This year was the seventh year that I ran the event and my wife had no interest in traveling, so I woke up at 4:00 a.m. in order to have enough time to drive to the race before the 8:00 a.m. start.

The weather was cool and mild, the forecast calling for a dry day with a maximum temperature of around 18-20°C, almost perfect for this race. I arrived about an hour early, collected my starter packet and found a cup of coffee. I watched the other people arrive, several I knew from previous years or other races, I chatted with a couple for a while until it was time to go to the starting line.

Like every year the start is very informal, the race director went over any last minute information, then something to the effect of “Okay, you can go now” and we were off. I haven’t trained as much this year, so started off slowly, stopping to walk at the first hill climb, the faster folks were already ahead, so most around me also walked.

After the first few minutes we were already in the forest, the cool fresh air was delightful. The trails were for the most part in good shape, despite the rain we had the day before. I settled into a comfortable pace, I really had no goal for the race than finishing. As my Garmin peeped at 10K I noticed the time of 1:06:00, not bad considering there was 2-3 hill climbs where I walked mixed in.

I continued at this pace for the first 25-30 kilometers, with the exception of around the 21K point where we transcended the steepest part of the course, where we literally climbed step built into the side of the hill to reach the top. This was a real quad-buster, and definitely reminded me that I had not done any hill training this year, I was totally out of breath by the time I reached the top.

Going down the other side was also an adventure, this part of the trail was still slick from the previous days rain, and steep! Even the walkers had to creep down slowly!

Trying to avoid a slide in the mud.


I continued to plug along he course, walking the uphills and trying to maintain as steady of a pace as possible on the rest. My lack of training was starting to catch up to me by the 35K point, I really had to fight the urge to walk. Somewhere around this time I took a few minutes to sit down at one of the aid stations, taking in a few extra calories from the food offered, then stretching before leaving. After a while this seemed to revive me somewhat and I could continue on as before, albeit a bit slower.

A Beautiful Trail!


With around 5K to go I was tired and just wanted to get the race over with. I wasn’t really suffering or hurting, just tired, I had been up since 4 a.m. and it was catching up to me. I tried to concentrate on the scenic trail as I slowly counted down the last miles. I passed dozens of walkers that walked the shorter courses, several made comments similar to “Here comes another one of those crazy runners”…Yes, thank you :-)

Finally I turned onto the asphalt road that would lead up the hill to the finish line, I was tired, but very satisfied, I finished much better than expected, 6:37:30 about average for this race, and I was poorly trained.

Approaching the Finish.


I collected my finisher certificate and showered, then had some hot soup before heading home, a most satisfying way to spend Fathers’ Day in Germany.

The 12-Hour Saline Run in Bad Dürkheim 2014

Bad Dürkheim is a spa town in the Rhine-Neckar urban agglomeration, and is the seat of the Bad Dürkheim district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Well known for its mineral springs, Bad Dürkheim also has a graduation tower, known locally as Saline, a part of the town’s spa facilities. With a length of some 330 meters, it is one of the largest of its kind in Germany. 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. The tower consists of a wooden wall-like frame stuffed with bundles of brushwood. The salt water runs down the tower and partly evaporates; at the same time some minerals from the solution are left behind on the brushwood twigs.

Two years ago Gabi and Peter Gründling organized a 12 hour race around the Saline tower, but unfortunately a storm caused a power outage and ended the race prematurely. Two years later runners again toed the line, and this time, despite massive amounts of rain, the clock kept running.

The Saline Run consists of a 693 meter loop around the graduation tower, participants attempt to assemble as much distance as possible over the 12 hour period.

The course was well lighted, and refreshments were offered every 693 meters. This year 116 participants signed up for the event, 113 toed the line at 9:00 p.m on Wednesday, April 30th. Some arrived planning to run a few hours and use the race as a training run, others were in for the long run, or even to win. I arrived with my intentions landing somewhere in the middle, I hoped to complete at least 80 Kilometers (50 miles), but knew my training was limited and anything could happen.

Race day was also a work day, after finishing a full day’s work, I headed home, ate, then made the 1 hour drive to Bad Dürkheim. Arriving about an hour early, I collected my race packet and chatted with a couple runners I knew until our race briefing a half hour before the race. As the race director went over the rules the storm clouds grew denser and just before the start of the race many made last minute decisions to grab jackets out of the car, a wise decision as it would turn out.

Promptly at 9:00 p.m. the race began, true to most ultras there was no mad rush at the start, rather participants leisurely jogged off on their first round. I fell into a comfortable pace, completing the first 10K in around 63 minutes. After a few hours the rounds were starting to get longer, at least mentally, I tried distracting myself by chatting with some of the other runners, this worked for a while until the rain started. And rain it did, first lightly, then in buckets. One side of the graduation tower has a paved path, but the other is packed sand. On one end of this latter side has a slight depression, it was only a matter of time before there was standing water on the course.

After several hours of seemingly constant rain and wet feet I decided to take a longer break. By this time I had accumulated 43-44 kilometers, around 27 miles, and was really starting to feel the long day behind me. As the rain continued I went to my mini-van parked a few hundred feet from the course, changed, and dosed off for a while. An hour or two later, just passed 4:30 a.m. I believe, the rain stopped and I set out on the course again.
By this time the course had thinned out a bit, some had gone home, some were taking longer breaks as I had done. I settled into a run and walk routine, accumulating another 5-6 kilometers before the rain started up. In a short time I was again soaked to the skin, this time with no dry clothing left, I had gone through all that I had brought with me.

Finally around 7:30 a.m., about 1½ hours before the end of the race, I decided I had enough and turned in my number. I debated whether to wait around for the closing ceremony, but that was first at 10:30, so I decided to drive home. I ended up with 56.133 kilometers, around 35 miles, less than I had planned on, but considering the course was a 700 meter circle, definitely enough for me.

My next long race is on May 29th, a 50K trail race in the Westerwald Forest, one of my favorite courses. After running two races in circles, it will be a very welcome change.

Looking back

Last night I had nice run with RB, she got home later than normal from work, so we ran a shorter loop. I ran the long way around town to her house to add a couple kilometers, so at least got my planned mileage in (10K). Yesterday was one of the warmest days we have had this year, around 27°C. We really felt this during the run, as we aren’t acclimatized to the “heat” yet. Fortunately it is supposed to cool down again before my race next Wednesday, not that it really matters, the race starts at 9 p.m.!

Next month marks the 10th anniversary that I have been running races. My first race was the Baden Mile, an 8.88889 km run around the city of Karlsruhe here in Germany. I owe my “running career” to the prompting from one of my coworkers who talked me into running with the company team that participates in this event each year. I haven’t run the event for a few years, but to mark my 10th anniversary of running races I signed up and will run the Baden Mile on May 11th as part of our company team.

Next year will be the 10th year that I have been running marathons and to commemorate the occasion I am thinking about rerunning the first marathon that I ran, which was in Mannheim, Germany.

Times have changed since then, I was rereading my blog entries from 2005 last night, it is quite amusing (now) how much anxiety I went through the final weeks before my first marathon.

Next week I plan on running a 12-hour race, but about the only anxiety that I really have is if I get off work in time to make it to the event before the race starts (we have a late meeting at work). I do wish that I was better prepared, two years ago I ran the race with expectations of running a 100+ kilometers, but a storm knocked out the power after 4 ½ hours and they had to cancel the race. This year I know I will need to have a really good day just to reach 80 kilometers (50 mi), but I will give it my best anyway.

Running Club Night

Last night I ran the 11.2 km (7 mi) loop with my running club. Usually I run with my Running Buddy (RB), but she had to work late, so I ran with Conny and Crew (CC). We ran the first couple kilometers at around 6:00 min/km (9:39/mi), a minute faster than I run with RB, but fine for me. At around km 3 a couple of the CC group started running intervals, but I stayed back with 2 remaining members, with my 12-hour race a week away, there is no need to overdo it.

At the 5K point the two ladies I was running with broke off and took the shorter running trail back, and I picked up the pace some and eventually caught the rest of the CC group as they slowed between intervals. Shortly after they took off on another 800 meter interval and I figured I wouldn’t see them again until after the run. Much to my surprise they stopped and walked after the interval, so I again caught up and passed them, and remained ahead until the end of the run. I ended up with a faster than normal run, but managed to avoid blowing out my legs a week before race day.

I plan on running 2-3 more times before the race, probably the same distance as last night. Over the weekend I need to try to rest and catch up on my sleep, this will do more good than more mileage.

Running and Bicycling over Easter

I hope everyone had a pleasant Easter weekend. Easter in Germany means for most a 4-day weekend. I began tapering for my next marathon, so had time for other activities, including cleaning out the garden and shed. On Sunday we had a really great afternoon and evening at friends of ours, the weekend goes by entirely too fast, regardless of how long it is.

I ran a couple shorter runs on Friday and Saturday, Saturday with my running club. On Monday I went on an 80 km (50 mi) bicycle trip with friends from the running club. The weather was typical spring weather, a mixture of sun, wind, and even a few drops of rain towards the end. Our destination was lunch at the winery Bitzel in Winden, in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany. The trip went without incident, the food was excellent, and the mood festive.

Bitzels in Winden

This week I will continue my taper for the 12-hour run on April 30, running 10-12 km a couple times to keep the muscles loose and the weight down.

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.