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.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him…

I know I’m dating myself, but some of you may remember the opening scene from the Six Million Dollar Man, where the Engineer states:

“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him, we have the technology! We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Better than he was before. Better! Stronger! Faster!”

I guess I can’t afford a bionic makeover, so I have to resort to old school methods of achieving the better, stronger, faster part, namely smart training and hard work.

This year’s training will focus mainly on rebuilding the running machine. My short term goal is to get my weight back down to around 68-70 kg (150-155 lbs), which means I need to lose 8-10 kg.

Parallel I also want to gradually increase my speed and endurance. I am still plagued by a pinched nerve in my back, it flares up when I stand on my feet for longer periods of time (> ½ hour). Speed training also tends to irritate the nerve, which is connected to my right leg and results in a numbing effect and pain. Usual sitting down for a few minutes usually will restore things to normal, regular gymnastic exercises for the back and stomach also seem to help delay flare ups.

My love is long distance, so of course I am signed up for some long races, such as a 12-Hour race at the end of April and a 50K trail race towards the end of May. I guess this year I will concentrate on getting to the finish line, next year I will try to get to the finish line FASTER!

24 Hour Race Afterthoughts

I ran my first recovery run last night with my favorite Running Buddy (RB), we took our time and I experienced no discomfort. The rest of the week I will do a bit of cross-training and probably will run with our running club on Saturday.

Looking back at my race on the weekend, I thought I would attempt to list my thoughts or lessons learned from my 24 hour run experience:


I didn’t train specifically for this event, the last training plan that I followed was for the 80 km (50 Mile) run in June, since then I ran a 52 km Ultra on July 17, and four long runs of 26-30 km, the last run 3 weeks before the race. Two weeks before the race I ran a half-marathon at 5:45 min/km average pace. My total yearly mileage prior to the race was approximately 50% compared to pre-2011 training years. My average weekly training was in the range of 50-60 kilometers, with almost no speed work.


I ran my first 10 km race of the year 6 days before the race, with no prior speed training, it destroyed my legs, not a good idea, but I don’t think it had any major repercussions.

Other than the half-marathon and 10K races I tapered properly, reducing mileage, fueled well and did my best to get lots of sleep prior to the race.

I picked up my start number the night before the race, had all my bags packed and everything ready to go. I had a bit of a restless sleep the night before the race; due to the large number of race participants I was worried that I wouldn’t get a park place along the course. I arrived almost two hours early race morning and there were still a few places available.

I didn’t have any specific race goal per se, but hoped to complete 120-130 kilometers if things went well, anything over 80 km would have been acceptable. I planned on a 20 minute run/5 minute walk strategy from the beginning, but figured the last 8-10 hours of the race would be mostly walking. I did not train with walk breaks, but had enough experience through the 5 ultra-races this year to feel confident this strategy would work. I brought most of my own food and isotonic drink, I did not know the isotonic drink being offered, so stuck with true and tried. I did nibble at some of the food at the aid station, and frequently drank water from here.

The Race

Based on the 1.2 km loops, I quickly adapted my 20/5 run-walk strategy to approximately 3.4 km running and 200 meters walking, beginning the walk break at my car after fueling. This worked very well for quite a long time, but at some point as my walking breaks started to increase I noticed I was having pain in my back and right leg, a result of a pinched nerve in my back. This is an old injury that using doesn’t bother when I run, but can quickly flare up when I walk on hard surfaces too much. Sitting a few minutes with my feet propped up every 3 rounds kept it from getting worse. The thought that remains is if I had stayed in the race and was reduced to mostly walking would I have spent more time sitting than walking? In any case I need to work on strengthening the back and stomach muscle to hold this problem in check.

I think my fueling was a success, the only incident seemed to be with the salted potatoes from the aid station, I think the heat of the day either reduced their quality or caused my stomach to reject them, but luckily I noticed this before it became a real issue.

If I Would do it Over Again

I would train accordingly, more races, more asphalt, more and longer runs. You get what you train for.

I think I would put together a crew to assist. During the event I watched those around me, those without crews had to scramble to get what they needed as they passed their cars, or fed primarily from the aid station. Those with crews usually ordered what they needed from their crews as they ran by and it was waiting by the time they completed the next round. When problems arose the crews responded working on blisters, offering massages, and suggesting what the runner may be lacking. Due to my experience and relaxed goals I did well without a crew, but if I was out to maximize my race results an experienced crew would be worth their weight in gold.