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.

Blogging is like dieting,…

I have come to the conclusion that blogging is a lot like dieting, it’s hard to get started again after procrastinating for a long time, there are lots of good intentions, false starts and downright frustration when you realized you have slipped up again.

Anyways, at least I have been running, training, and even completed my first marathon for the year, albeit with only mediocre performance. Again like dieting, you only get good results when you are willing to commit to meeting your goal.

Since I completed the 100 mile distance in 2010 I have been pretty much without a particular goal, other than to keep running and do some running events. The old Jack model that completed the 100 miles is badly in need of an overhaul…the weight needs to come back down (at least 8 kg), the speed needs to come back, and the endurance needs to be reprogrammed in the old running machine.

Currently my condition is equivalent to that of 2005, the first year I ran marathons. I needed 4½ to 5 hours to finish a marathon that year, but I managed to bring my time down to 3:36:13 by 2009. This year I started competing in the Male 55 age group, so it is going to take a lot more effort to improve.

Anyway I figured since I am more or less starting over, I may as well document my journey. Who knows, there may still be someone in Blogland left out there…

Jack (is back?)

2013 in Review

The end of the year is upon us and I find myself thinking about where I have been this year with my running and fitness, and where I want to go next year.

After almost a 6 month race pause in 2012 I began the year with new hopes for a good race year, but we decided to renovate a couple more rooms in the house, so again my running took a backseat for a few months. Towards Spring I tried to pick up the training, but somehow never got up to speed, quite literally. I completed 7 marathons or more during the year, but almost all of them significantly slower than years past. This was really not a surprise, I only ran about half of the mileage that I usually do, and much of this was at an easy gait.

By September I seriously considered not running any more races, but the German 24 hour championships were being hosted by a local running club, so I decided to participate, non-competitively mind you. If you read my race report you know I ran 100 km in around 16 ½ hours and called it a night. Two weeks later I ran a marathon, my slowest ever, also no surprise considering my lack of training. After the September events I went on vacation and have spent the last few months resting and limiting my mileage.

After a very mediocre year I am looking at the upcoming year with mixed feelings. On the one side I would like to try to regain some of the fitness that I experienced a couple years ago, when I could run for hours with little thought. On the other side I know how hard I had to work to reach this level and maintain it. At almost 55 years old I wonder how much time and energy I want to commit, and more so, if my busy life will allow me to reach my goals.

I think each of us has to make similar decisions, for some it is easier than others, we each have to decide where to draw the line. For me I have to spend the next several months working on the core, including losing weight, building strength and endurance, and trying to run faster and farther.

As far as goals, I guess my goal for 2014 is to be able to look back over the year and feel satisfaction in knowing that I gave my best efforts to improve my fitness and to complete any races that I do.

I wish all of you a blessed New Year!

The Schefflenzer Ultra 50 km Race 2013

On June 1st I participated in the Schefflenzer Ultramarathon, a private invitation race limited to 200 participants. Listed were a 100 km, 50 km, marathon and half-marathon walking, I chose the 50 km discipline. The start was in Billigheim-Allfeld in the Neckar-Odenwald are of Germany (30 km north of Heilbronn).

It was raining as I woke up at 4:30, and continued to rain as I began the normal 70 minute drive to Billigheim. As I switched from Autobahn A5 to A6 the heavens opened up in a drenching downpour, with winds pounding the highway, a car flew by on my left and promptly spun momentarily out of control as he hydroplaned, with luck he was able to regain control and moments later I passed him as he significantly reduced his speed, obviously shaken from his near catastrophe. The 70 minute drive took 30 minutes longer than normal, but at least I arrived safely. I grabbed my umbrella and walked into the sports hall to pick up my start number.

The 50K and marathon start was scheduled for 8:00 a.m., the 100K runners had left two hours earlier. While I waited for the event to begin I sat and drank a cup of coffee and chatted with a couple people I knew. Due to the rain the race director moved our pre-race briefing inside, no sense getting wet until we needed to.

The course is about 3/5 paved field paths and streets, 2/5 dirt forest ways, but with the amount of rain we had the dirt turned into sucking mud and in many cases the asphalt paths turned into flowing streams up to 10 cm deep. In any case the course is very scenic, the most being over rolling fields and forest, with a total of around 1000 meters of elevation gain/loss.

The rain subsided as we left the shelter of the sport hall and began the run, the forest paths were still dripping from the previous downpour, but the first several kilometers remained otherwise dry. However this did not last long, the rain soon returned and remained, finally letting up again later in the afternoon.

The first 20-30 km went by fairly uneventful, the field ways and forests in this part of Germany are extremely beautiful, the area has lots of small towns and farms which offered distraction from the slimy mud on the forest paths and small ponds created on the paved paths through the fields.

My lack of training this year was felt as I passed the 30 km marker, my legs were tired and I was walking more often than I liked, I tried not to let this bother me and continued on the best I could. Somewhere along this part of the course I met “Teddy” that I knew from the 100 Mile race I completed a few years back. He was running the 50 km and later in the day a half-marathon, a little training for a future 100 mile race.

Near the 40 km marker I passed two American soldiers stationed at Ramstein, they had spontaneously decided to run the 50 km race, with no special training other than their normal PT raining in the military. They were struggling, but their youth would carry them through they finished about 40 minutes after I did, in about 7 ½ hours. In any case passing them motivated me to continue, I mean if they can finish without any special training, I can do it with some training. The weather was also slowly improving by this time and I was running on automatic pilot, the kilometers slowly melted away as I headed back towards Billigheim.

After I crossed the finish line I found a bit to eat and drink, then headed off to the showers. The water was still hot, it felt so good washing away the layers of sweat and mud. Feeling half-human again I had a cup of coffee and a piece of cake before heading home.

Last year I was impressed by the excellent care and organization of this race, this year they outdid themselves, the helpers, especially in the remote aid stations, offered excellent service despite extreme weather conditions, and all this with upbeat attitudes and a smile! I can only compliment the organizers and helpers that made this event happen. In any case I highly recommend the event, the course very beautiful and even though hilly, not extreme. The event is also small enough that the organizers and helpers can offer a little more personal touch that large events can never compete with.

Another 50 Mile Week

This past weekend I continued with my two-a-day run on Saturday and long run on Sunday. I was a bit more sluggish on my run Saturday morning, I ran the same 16 km (10 mi.) loop as Wednesday and Thursday, but was 10 minutes slower than Wednesday and 20 minutes slower than Thursday. I attribute my decline in performance to my renovation efforts at the beginning of the week, this wreaked havoc on my recovery from last weekend’s running. My late Saturday afternoon 9k/5.5mi run was better, I ran an easy pace with RB at our running club meet.

On Sunday my legs were stiff but I made it through my planned 30 km (18.6 mi.) long run. My average pace was 15 seconds/km slower than the week before, but remained constant and I did not need to pause, except to pee. The 7:05 min/km average pace is much slower than I would like, I am definitely going to work on bettering this before I try to run a normal marathon. I finished the week with 87 km, around 52 miles, I believe my highest mileage week since 2011.

I have one more long run on this coming weekend before my 6-hour event on March 17, I hope to complete 32 km (20 mi). The weather is looking more favorable, we should finally get a couple days above freezing temperatures.

Running and Remodeling

Last week I had to mix in some home improvement in with my marathon training, which made it more difficult to keep up with my training plan. My Saturday early morning 10 mile run was especially hard, most of Friday night was spent running up and down a ladder as I installed ceiling panels in our new storage room. Most of the day Saturday was spent painting the walls in the storage room, but somehow I managed to complete the 9 km loop with RB and our running club at 4 p.m. RB also joined me for an hour of my 28 km run on Sunday. Surprisingly I felt better on this run than I did the previous morning, but still had to fight my way through the last few miles.

On Monday and Tuesday we had a plumber and floor-tiler finishing off our new guest bathroom, so I had to take a couple vacation days off. I spent the days building some storage shelves and other tasks, so took a break from running. Last night I went for a faster 10 mile (16 km) run, surprisingly I averaged 5:35 min/km (9:00 min/mile), one of my faster runs lately. I hope this is a result of my intensified training of late, I guess I will know next week when I try it again. Tonight I am repeating the same loop, but at a more relaxed pace. For the next two weekends I will try to repeat my two-a-day runs on Saturday and my long run on Sunday, hoping adding a mile or two on to the long run each weekend.

On March 17 is my first marathon or more, a 6-hour benefit run for Downs-syndrome. This will be a good test of my current conditioning and will provide some feedback as to how I need to tweak my training for the 80 km (50-mile) run in June.

My Weekend Training

Over the weekend I continued training according to my new training plan, Saturday morning around 8 a.m. I headed out for a 16 km (10 mi.) run, averaging 6:13 min/km, at 4 p.m. I ran a 9 km loop at our running club with RB, averaging 7:22 min/km. Yesterday I ran a 28 km long run at an average pace of 6:51 min/km. I think my body is slowly getting adjusted to the training; I was a few seconds faster on my long run than last weekend. That said, I was still pretty wiped out after the run, I still have a long ways to go before the long runs become “easy”.

Current Training Plan

I have been looking over my old training plans from years past and none of them fit to where I currently am with my conditioning and where I want to go with my training. Typically this time of year I have several months of core and muscle training behind me and am ready to really start building up the endurance, unfortunately after almost a year of home renovation it is an entirely different scenario.

Before I list my current outlook on training let me talk about my racing goal(s) for this year. My first goal is to complete the 80K (50-Mile) Fidelitas Night Run on June 22 in under 10 hours. I took a break from this run last year, so need to build up to this distance again. I was considering a 100K race 3 weeks before this run, but considering my current condition, I think it is too much too soon. From May to July I plan on completing at least four 50K races, most of them trail races. I hope my training and racing will leave me in shape to run a marathon under 4:15: (my best marathon last year was 4:49) at the end of August or September. These are fairly vague goals, but at almost 54 years old, I have to be careful about setting overzealous goals.

For the next two months I want to try the following training plan:

Monday: Cross training
Tuesday (or Wednesday): 16 km (10 mi) run, marathon pace or faster
Wednesday (or Tuesday): Cross training
Thursday: 16 km run, 1 minute slower than Tuesday
Friday: Rest or light cross training
Saturday (morning): 16-20 km, 1 minute faster than long run pace
Saturday (evening): 8-11 km, recovery pace
Sunday: 25-34 km, long run

To test this training I am running a 6-hour benefit race in March, last year I ran 46 hard kilometers, this year I am looking for an easier 50. I will reevaluate my training after this race, as my focus will turn to training for the 50-miler, which has a lot of hills.

Training is dragging

At the moment my training is dragging a bit, at least compared to previous years. I think the main problem is that am trying to train like I did when I was better conditioned and am trying to do too much in a short time. I am also a couple years older, so need to make adjustments for this as well. My next planned race is a 6-hour benefits run in March, which means I have around 7 weeks to train. I think the next couple weeks I am going to try concentrate on core training, than gradually increase the mileage up to the race. My goal for the 6-hour race is 50 km, but anything over the marathon distance is acceptable.