The Westerwald 50K Run in Rengsdorf, Germany remains to be one of my favorite courses. 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 definitely harder, my Garmin registered 1683 meters of elevation gain/loss.
Last Thursday, was Father’s Day in Germany, and a holiday (Day of Ascension), and my company was also closed on Friday. With this in mind I was not too concerned about my total lack of hill training for this race. I figured I would just run what I can and walk the rest, it couldn’t be too hard, and besides I had a long weekend to recover.
On Wednesday after work I drove to Niederraden, a small town not far from Rengsdorf, my wife had planned on going with me, so I booked a quaint little hotel where I thought she would be comfortable during my run. As it turned out my wife had an ear ache and decided to stay home, so I was on my own. I managed to avoid most of the traffic jams and after a very good dinner at the hotel, went to bed early and had a restful sleep.
The next morning I made my way to the Start, collected my Start packet and found a cup of coffee. This was the 8th time I ran this race, so quickly found a couple people I knew and chatted a bit before as we waited. A few minutes before the race the race director called us together, gave a safety speech and sent us on our way. Looking around I guessed we were around 100-120 runners, I heard earlier there would also be up to 800 walkers throughout the day, they could walk 12, 21, 33 or 50 km.
The weather was very mild, around 12°C at the start, 20°C by the time I finished, and sunny throughout. I was comfortable with short sleeves, shorts and a vest, but shed the vest after the first hour.
I started out running very conservatively, I knew the course would be tough, and I was not adequately trained. The first couple kilometers climbed slowly, then descended for about 4 km. Then we began the first of three major ascents of the day, I walked immediately, as did the others around me. In less than a mile we climbed around 270 meters (885 feet), partly climbing crude stairs built into the hillside, I was very surprised how tired I felt by the time we reached the top and the first aid station.
The next 6-7 kilometers were milder, rolling hills, but at around the 15 km point we descended. And then we descended so more, for almost 8 km, my quads burned by the time we reached what proved to be the lowest elevation point in the race (64 meters). Then we quickly climbed 100 meters, then down, then climbed 250 meters over about 4 km. By this time I was walking, slowly, 28 km into the race and I was giving serious thought to calling it a day and looking for a ride to the finish line.
Fortunately we had reached one of the highlights of the run, a beautiful view of the Rhine river valley below, although it was fairly level at this point, I walked and enjoyed the view. After a couple kilometers I reached an aid station, one of the men manning the station was a former race director, he knew me by first name, we had often talked to one another in the past. He seemed to sense I was not having a good day, and encouraged me to keep going, it will get better.
My legs were stiff from too much walking, I had already used almost 5 hours for the first 30 km, I knew there was still the biggest climb ahead of me…I did what seemed to come natural at this point, I got over it! The course was heading downhill, so I started shuffling along ath a slow run. This brought me a few hundred meters, so I kept it up, shuffling, walking, shuffling walking. Another climb, but only 60 meters, walking, shuffling…
At around 37-38 km was another aid station, I sat for a few minutes, ate something, then headed out, I needed an hour and half for the last 8-9 km, but I was still moving, shuffling the downhills. I passed the marathon mark in 7:07 hours, just as the course began the longest and probably steepest climb of the day, up to an elevation of 367 meters. I must have been in survival mode, I really don’t remember a whole lot about this climb, likewise the at the aid station at the top. I knew I was only 4-5 km to the finish, and it was almost downhill all the way.
I passed a few walkers, one pair said they had walked the 50 km (they started two hours earlier than the runners). I managed to run most of the last few kilometers, if you call a 9:00 min/km shuffle running. In any case I was very pleased to cross the finish line, after 8 hours and 38 minutes there were no cheering fans, we had to annotate our time ourselves (we received a card at the start that was stamped at each of the aid stations).
I wobbled down the stairs into the swimming pool area where the club had set up their tables. The organizers verified my start card, if all the stamps were present, then annotated my finish time for the finishers list, then wrote my time on my finishers certificate, there is no winners, no awards ceremony.
I showered, was happy there was still hot water and that I didn’t cramp up trying to get my shows off, the little things that are pleasing when you are reduced to your raw self. I sat and chatted with an ultra runner I knew, until I felt safe driving back to the hotel. I rested awhile, had dinner and went to bed early, but slept poorly, my quads were still running up and down the hills…
It’s hard to get in the habit of blogging once you fall away, oh well, here is a short update. I rested for a week or two after my 6-hour charity run in March, then continued training, 4 runs a week, averaging about 60 km (37 miles) a week. I have also been going to gymnastics twice a week, a functional gymnastic course on Tuesdays and circuit training on Friday evenings. The latter have done wonders for my back, I rarely have backpain any more.
In any case on this coming Thursday I am running my next event, a 50K race in the Westerwald Forest. I have run this event 7 times in the past, it is an incredibly beautiful area, but rather hilly:
The course this year is supposed to have 1540 meters (~5000 feet) of elvevation gain/loss. Unfortunately most of my training has been on flat trails, this race could prove to be quite interesting.
Wish me luck!
With just a few days until my 6-hour charity run I am trying to mentally prepare for the event. My training is far from adequate for a good race, so I am approaching the race conservatively. The last couple years I have needed well over 5 hours for a marathon, so I am hoping to run around 45 km, if my legs hold out this long.
In past years the race was held in a park in Fürth, Germany (near Nurnberg), this year the race will begin at a local soccer stadium on the edge of the town. The race course is 1902.15 meters long, or just under 2 kilometers. As I write there are 108 participants for the 6-hour discipline and several hundred more for the marathon, half-marathon and 10K races.
My training this year has not produced the results I was hoping for. My conditioning is much better than it was at the beginning of the year, but it is not at a level that will make me feel confident as I toe the starting line on Sunday. In the past I have often had my doubts before a race, but in most cases my training was at a level that still produced good results. This year my training, or rather lack of training, leaves no room for mistakes, I need to start slowly and stay focused.
In any case I look forward to my first race since last June, and this event draws a large crowd of spectators. There is nothing like a cheering crowd to help squeeze out a few more rounds.
My training for the 6-hour charity run is not going as well as I would like, I have been really struggling on my long runs. Two weeks ago I ran 22 km (13.6 mi.), but my paced dropped off a bit from the week before that, I needed almost 10 minutes longer. Yesterday I had 24 km on my training plan, but my legs were shot after only 20 km, I actually had to stop and walk a bit. I ended up with 23 km, by the time I got back to the house, but I was not happy.
I attribute my less than satisfactory performance to two things, the first being the functional cross training that I have been doing on Friday nights. This training is tough, and my body has not adjusted to it yet. Several of the exercises in the aggressive circuit training are currently beyond my conditioning; I have to do modified versions of the exercises, for the weak and old. I also contribute my current performance to not having adjusted my training plan to my age. I will be 58 years old this year, and I am still trying to train like I did when I was younger and in good shape.
I am not totally frustrated though, I know that I have to tweak my race training each year, it only takes a bit to figure out what works and what doesn’t. As far as the circuit training goes, it is hard, but this is why I am doing it, long term this is going to keep me running longer. The veterans in this course said they all struggled the first few months, but it does get better. I only have the added challenge of being one of the oldest in the group.
I signed up for my first event of the year, the six hour Down Syndrome charity run on March 19, 2017. I ran this event four times since 2011, running between 44-51 Kilometers. Most years I only ran the first five hours, the event being a bit too early in the season to run well. This year will probably be no different, since I am off to a slow start with my training.
I have been running four times a week, usually 12-14 km (7-9 mi) three times a week, and a long run. My last long run was 22 kilometers (13.6 miles), I hope I can gradually increase up to at least one 30 km (18.6 mi) run before my first event.
I have been also going to gymnastics training for the past month. On Tuesday nights I go going to a Functional Gymnastic class, which consists of a variety of aerobic and gymnastic exercises aimed at improving coordination and balance. On Friday nights I go to a Functional Cross Training class, which is basically high energy circuit training, aimed at strengthening the core muscles, especially the stomach and back muscles. These classes are important for me as I have been bothered by a pinched nerve in my back for several years. My therapist recommended doing exercises which strengthen the stomach and back muscles. In any case the training is tough, but a lot of fun, and I am making new friends.
My running last week started out much better than the week before, but a stressful work week eventually sapped my energy and motivation.
As I mentioned in my last post we travelled to Fürth in Bayern (Bavaria) over the weekend. We spent the afternoon with her on Saturday, than took the subway to the historic park of Nürnberg for Dinner. The weather was warm and mild, so we sat outside at one of the many restaurant beer gardens.
On Sunday morning we stopped by our friend’s house again before heading home. The time went by much too quickly.
Yesterday (Monday) I had vacation, so slept a little later, caught up on some paperwork, than headed outside in the afternoon to enjoy the summer weather we are having. I went for a 14 km run, than jumped on my bicycle for an hour ride.
Today I returned to work, but I look forward to a run after work, the sunny summer day are supposed to continue at least until Thursday, I want to enjoy it while it lasts.
Last Week in Training
Tuesday: 11 km (6:18 min/km)
Wednesday: 11 km (6:07 min/km)
Thursday:5 km (6:37 min/km)
Friday: 16 km (6:49 min/km)
Last week my running was really sluggish, the sudden jump in temperature to almost 90 °F may have something to do with it, or perhaps an extremely stressful week of work. On Sunday was one of the first sunny summer days this year where I didn’t have to work, so instead of doing my long run I opted to go bike riding with some good friends.
My Week in Training
Monday: 11 km (6:24 min/km)
Tuesday: 12 km (6:43 min/km)
Thursday: 13.3 km (6:41 min/km)
Friday: 7 km walking (9:16 min/km)
Saturday: 8 km with Running Club (7:46 min/km)
Sunday: 80 km with bike
This week is a bit cooler, I am trying to pick up the speed and distance, but it is too little, too late, to make a difference. I planned on running a forest marathon (literally through the forest) on July 24th, but I have my doubts at this point.
This weekend we are visiting a good friend in Fürth, Germany in Bayern (Bavaria), she lost her husband (age 84) a couple weeks ago and we want to spend some time with her. I am taking vacation on Friday and Monday so hope to get in a longer run or two.
My recovery from my marathon a week ago is going much slower than I would like, a sign that my conditioning is not what it used to be.
My week in running:
Wednesday: 10 km with Running Club (7:21 min/km)
Thursday: 8 km (6:24 min/km)
Friday: Walked for 70 minutes (about 10 min/km)
Saturday: 14 km (6:44 min/km)
On Sunday my running club sponsored their annual 5K and 10K run, the Asparagus Run. This met a bit of work, on Saturday afternoon I helped set up the tables in the schoolhouse where participants could pick up their start numbers. On Sunday I manned one of the water points on the 10K course with my friend Manfred. After the race I returned to the schoolhouse to take down the tables and help wherever else I could.
The award ceremony for the race was held in conjunction with the small street festival in Graben, which is the next town north of where I live. Most of our club that had helped out ate lunch together and cheered the winners of the race as they received their prizes.
Tonight I want to try to pick up my training again, I would like to run another marathon or two this year, maybe even try to run a sub-5 hour run if my training improves, but one step at a time.
My recovery from the marathon at the end of May has gone much slower than I have liked, I really notice the difference from previous years when I was training optimally. With my next marathon one week away (June 25th) there is really not much I can to prepare other than keeping the running machine from getting rusty.
On this past Saturday a lot of my running club met in Weingarten for the annual B.L.u.T Cancer Awareness and Charity Run. Our sponsor pledged 1.50 Euro per 1.3 km round, so we did our best to accumulate as many rounds as possible. I originally planned on run for an hour or two, but ended up running the entire three hours, completing 21 rounds, approximately 27 km. I have been running soft trails most of the year, so the 3 hours of asphalt and dogging kiddies (there were >1700 participants) really pounded the legs, my legs are still sore.
In any case I need to let the legs rest, the marathon next Saturday is just for fun, but I’m not well trained, so need to make sure that I am at least well rested.