The running year in review

It’s not quite the end of the year, but my race season has been over for a while, my last race being in June.

I ran four events this year. The first was a 6 hour charity run in March. I completed about 46 km with very little training. The lack of training was also a factor during my 50K run in May, the 1700 meters of elevation gain really kicked my butt. My third event was a night marathon in June. I was slightly better prepared for this, compared to the other two, and ran it a couple minutes faster than last year. The last event was a 2 hour charity run in July at our local church. This was a run for fun and to support the church youth group. Several from my sport club where I do the gymnastics also ran in the event.

Following these events I rested for a couple months, doing shorter runs and going to gymnastics/circuit training a couple times a week. Following a vist to New York at the beginning of November, I have now started to work on my base for next year.

My current training seems to be a mix of cross training and running:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 1.5 hours gymnastics
Wednesday: 1 hour body fit training (easy circuit training)
Thursday: 12 km run (faster pace)
Friday: 1 hour circuit training (intensive – e.g. Crossfit without the barbells)
Saturday 8.10 km run (easy pace)
Sunday: Long run (currently 24 km)

The 2-3 sessions of gymnastics/cross training per week have helped improve my overall fitness. My upper body strength has improved, and I rarely have trouble with the pinched nerve in my back.

I have also changed my diet, reducing sugars and processed foods. Now if I can only learn to go to bed earlier I will be all set.

I hope that these changes will allow me to run marathons for a couple more years. In any case it is a good formula for a healthier life in senior years.

I am already signed up for my first race next year, a 6 hour charity run in March 2018. I have run this race several times, it is always a good event to start the new year.

2016 in Review, Looking at 2017

My 2016 running year began with good intentions and some vague goals, but no real plan. My first goal was a 6 hour benefit run in March, but my condition was so bad that I decided against this. My next goal was a 12 hour run in May, which I ran, but with no real hope or intention of completing the 12 hours, I basically ran the marathon distance and went home. In June was the local 80K (50 mile) race not far from where I live, but for the second year I opted for the shorter marathon distance. I finished, but decided that was enough for one year, I didn’t have enough appetite for another race.

This year I am getting back to the basics, weight loss and core training. To address both of these problems I am changing my traditional way of training. In December I signed up for a functional circuit training course at our local gymnastic club (Turner Verein – TV). This 1-hour high intensity training consists of a 10-15 minute warmup, followed by 2 rounds of 10-12 body weight exercises. As an example, one of the exercises was to do pushups for 45 seconds – while balancing your hands on a basketball – I highly recommend it. I am hoping that two nights of gymnastics per week, plus some weight training on my own, will improve my core strength and eventually lead improved performance in future races.

My running goals for 2017 are currently rather blurred, they will really depend on how successful my training is over the next few months.

Current weight: 81 kg (178 lbs)
Current long run: 18 km (11 mi) @ 6:40/km (10:44/mi)

A Marathon on the Weekend

My legs are still tired from the charity run last Saturday, I blame the asphalt streets, this was the first run on asphalt since last year, and then right away 27 km. In any case I think it will be a long night on Saturday.

The marathon starts at 8 p.m., the course consists of the last 42.2 km of the 80 km (50 mi.) Fidelitas Night Ultra. The 80 km starts in Ruppur, Germany and consists of a long loop around the region. The marathon starts in Mutschelbach at one of the relay exchange stations. A shuttle bus is available an hour before the race to transfer the marathon runners from Ruppur to the Start. I ran this marathon last year, the first part is hilly, and at my speed the second half in the dark, so it’s not a course to try to run a new personal best. My days of running personal bests are over anyway, so I just want to enjoy the night, I always liked this course, but the 80 km is a bit too much, I just don’t have the conditioning.

My training is rather inadequate for the race, my longest long run lately was the 27 km last Saturday and the marathon in May. Thus my goals are very conservative, first to finish, and second to finish in under 5:15. For comparison, last year I finished in 5:20:50. The days of a sub-4 hour marathon are long gone, the age adjusted goal these days is a sub-5 hour, perhaps in September. But one step at a time.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.