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:

Training

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.

Pre-Race

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.
Strategy

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.

Coming Out of Hibernation

Actually I haven’t been sleeping, I have been looking at blogging languorously, having no particular inclination of putting my thoughts on the information highway. With race season slowly winding done I thought I would break the silence and do a short summary of the year to date.

I have been running and training, albeit with less enthusiasm and only about half the mileage as previous years.I haven’t run any marathons yet, rather I shuffled through several ultra-marathons:

March: Word Down Syndrome 6-Hour Benefit Run – 44.7 km (only ran 5 hours 15 minutes)
May: Westerwald 50K Ultra – 7:08:10
June: Schefflenzer 50K Ultra – 6:53:28
June: Fidelitas 80K Night Run (50 miles) 10:46:24
July: Bretten Night52 52K Ultra – 6:45:29

My finish times have suffered due to the lack of training, but as they say you get what you train for, I’m okay with this.

I’m signed up for the Baden Marathon in nearby Karlsruhe on September 22nd, the last marathon or more for this year. I had intended to race this race, but never started my 4 hour training plan, so a few weeks ago I started looking around for a new adventure, something a bit out of the ordinary, and something I can do within the limits of my slothful training.

He who seeks will find, in the form of the “25. Deutsche Meisterschaften der Deutsche Ultramarathon Vereinigung (DUV) im 24h-Lauf” which roughly translates to the German Ultramarathon Consortium 25th Annual 24 Hour German Championship Run. Although this is a run for the best 24 hour runners in Germany, it is also an open run, which means normal mortals can also run in 1.2 kilometer circles for up to 24 hours, I mean why should elite runners have all the fun.

Yes you read this right, the course is approximately 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles), flat, asphalt, in a park, about as boring a run as you can imagine. So why on earth am I going to run this you may ask, especially when I will probably end up with about half the distance of the elite runners? The answer is: no good reason, and to be honest I try not to think about it too much or I may talk myself out of it by the weekend. Regardless of the sanity of this race, I am lining up at 10 a.m. on Saturday with 100+ other assorted crazies and we are going to see who submits to boredom first. I’m sure there will be a few, like myself, that will be wowed as we are lapped time and time again by runners attempting to set a new German record. And regardless how much mileage I accumulate, one thing is sure, I still get the same finisher shirt! I’ll let you know how it goes.

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.

Building up Slowly

Yesterday I took a night off from training and did some finishing work in our guest bathroom upstairs in the house. This is one of the four rooms that we remodeled in the shed that is attached to our house. Most of the remodeling is done, but there are dozens of little projects left to do, but these jobs can be spread out over the year, so I should be able to spend more time on my training.

From June to October I ran an average of 3 times a week, in November I increased this to four times a week, and started running my long runs again (i.e. over 12 miles). As my conditioning has been improving I have slowly added some faster mileage, using mixed in with my midweek run(s). I have to be very careful with speed workouts, I’ve noticed my pinched nerve in the back is easy aggravated when I do too much too soon. I have been slack on doing any core and upper body training, so want to slowly mix in some Crossfit/weight training and swimming.

For now I am going to try to continue to run about 50 miles a week for a while, slowly building up my training speed and endurance. On January 26 is my first race, a 50K race in Rodgau, Germany near Frankfurt. I finished the race last year in about 5 ½ hours, but was in slightly better condition, so this year it will be a good test of my fortitude.

My 50th Marathon/Ultra

Unfortunately my house remodeling is getting most of my free time lately, regular posting is pretty much on hold this summer. I did want to remark that I just completed my 30th marathon last Sunday, which brings my marathon/ultra race total to a golden 50!

My next event will be the 64.8 km Bärenfels Ultra in Neubruecke, Germany on July 14th, it will be especially challenging as I haven’t had any time to train for it. I actually let myself get talked into it (yeah, twist my arm) by Bastian from my running club, he just finished his first ultra, a 50-mile race, and has caught the ultra fever…and of course every ultra runner knows how to treat that…run another race! The Bärenfels is a trail race, 3 rounds, each with about 650 meters altitude difference, a good test to see what Bastian is made of, unfortunately I may not see it, I will probably be way behind the much younger man…

Bärenfels Ultra

66 Days to Form a Habit

Based on a quick Google search it takes on the average 66 days to form a habit. So I guess if I want to use my blog as an efficient training tool again, I had better get started.

My marathon this past weekend was my 29th marathon and my 48th marathon or longer (19 Ultras). I state this not to ring my bell, but rather present my only planned goal for the year, which is to finish my 50th marathon or more. Number 49 is coming up on Monday night, a 12-hour run in Bad Dürkheim, Germany. The course is not very exciting, a 776 meter loop around the town’s salt works and resort area, from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., fun right. I picked this race because I knew that my training would be sporadic during this timeframe due to our house renovation. The race will easily allow me to accumulate at least a marathon distance without any real strain, at least if I don’t die of boredom first, or trip and fall on my face. Actually the run could end up being interesting, there are currently around 80 people signed up, I guess we will have lots of time to get to know another. And who knows, I may have a good day, or night as the case may be, and rack up some quality mileage.

In any case I am taking it easy this week, do only a few short recovery runs and trying to limit my remodeling activities, especially the few days before the event.

I also am thinking about my 50th marathon or more, as first choice I thought about doing the annual 50 mile race that is in our area in June, but my marathon last weekend showed me this may be a bit ambitious, I may stick to a 50 km trail race that I found that takes place at the beginning of June.

First race of 2012 on Saturday

Hmmm, I’m still not doing well with the blogging, enough said. My running is slowly improving, I have crept up to about 70 km (44 mi.) a week, with 4 runs per week. On Sunday I quite literally headed for the hills, completing 28 km (17.5 mi.) on my hilly route near the neighboring town of Weingarten. Over the first half I added a couple extra hill climbs which successfully pulverized my legs and left me straining over the last 30 minutes of the run. Over the long term this type of training builds the endurance that I need for the longer ultras. I hope through my efforts this year I can rebuild a long distance running machine that will carry me over a 100K or perhaps even a 100-Mile race in 2013.

On Saturday I have a race planned, basically a dress rehearsal for the rest of this year’s activities. Planned is a 50K race in Rodgau, near Frankfurt (Germany). The course consists of ten 5K loops, about 3K of forest and 2K of open fields with every round, all flat and fast for those so inclined. My training has been far too little to be thinking of speed, my number one goal is to finish, and number two, to finish under the 6 hour time limit.

This race is actually a very poor choice for a first race of the year, the looping course makes it far too easy to quit and go home. My performance during the last two races I ran last year, both marathon, was very poor, I expect Saturday to be especially hard, a couple more months of training would have been better. So why I am running the race, you might ask? Simple, we are beginning a major house renovation in March and I don’t know if/how much time will remain for training or racing. When I can fight my way through to the finish on Saturday, then my next planned race (a 6-hour race) in March should be more at my peak performance, and my training up to then should be enough to run a marathon in April as well. Makes sense to me anyway :-)

So back to running and blogging.

Another year come and gone, welcome to 2012 everyone, I hope you had a happy holiday season.

Looking back the running year 2011 began quite vaguely for me. After the 100 mile race in 2010, my body was worn out and calling for a rest. This, together with the implementation of a new system at work, left me running without a plan. After the first couple months I decided to limit my training to 3-4 days a week and run some races, but with no specific goals. I ended up running 2 ultras and 4 marathons, but all at a comfortable pace. With the exception of a pinched nerve in my back, which has plagued me for almost two years, I had an injury free year.

I am also beginning this year with rather vague goals. Last year was the year of recovery, this year will be the year of home improvement, with a long list of major home remodeling that needs to be done. I have several marathons and ultras planned, but am unsure on how much time I will have from week to week to train.

Several weeks ago I started running long runs on my hilly course in nearby Weingarten. I hope through regular hill training I can gradually rebuild my endurance that was missing last year. I also increased my running to 4 days per week, whereas at least one run is at a faster pace. I plan on adding regular speed workouts as my body adjusts.

So I guess my primary goal for 2012 will to rebuild my endurance and speed so that I will be ready for a good race year in 2013.