Race Report: Westerwald 50K Forest Run 2009

On Wednesday after work we made my annual pilgrimage to Rengsdorf, near Koblenz, where I would run the 50K Westerwald (Forest) Run on Thursday. For once the weather and traffic cooperated and we had stress-free travel. We arrived an hour and half early at the Bed & Breakfast where we have stayed the last couple years, but the owners weren’t in, as expected, so we went to our favorite Italian restaurant in town for dinner. After some good food we returned to the B & B and checked in for the night.
I was up at 6:30 the next morning, it was already light out and a gentle mist was rising from the Koblenz valley below. We had a quick breakfast and I got ready to run. The sun was shining and it was fairly warm, I guessed around 16°C/61°F, I decided to go with shorts and a short-sleeve running shirt, but threw a long-sleeve running shirt in my Camelbak backpack – the weather tends to change fast in the Westerwald.
The sun was shining brightly as we arrived at the town swimming pool, where the race started. The race director recognized me as I arrived, and greeted me. As I went to collect my start card the young lady already had it in her hand, she said something like “We know our returning victims.” I greeted a couple of the other “returning victims” that I have met over the last three years. Another recognized the race shirt from the Bienwald Marathon that I wore; he ran the same marathon in March.
Shortly before the 8:00 a.m. start I said goodbye to my wife and joined the other runners that were gathering at the start. I guess we were around 70-80 runners, the most running the 50 km, a few running the shorter 31 km course. The race director mentioned that the course was not quite as demanding this year, but still challenging. Aid stations were located every 8-10 km, and so on. Soon he was finished and sent us off.
I really didn’t have any specific goal for the race, I just wanted to run at a comfortable pace and try not to wear myself out too much three weeks before my first 100K race. The sun was still shining as we left, but the sky was mighty dark off in the distance…
I fell into a comfortable pace, as we headed down behind the swimming pool and wound our way along the edge of the wood line and into forest. After a kilometer or two the course traversed a couple climbs, but they were gentle – I elected to keep running, the weather was cool and I felt good.
Around kilometer 4 we entered a nice runable section of forest, my pace kept increasing, until finally a climb into the next valley, towards the town of Niederraden, slowed my pace. Around kilometer 7, the course rounded a curve and I found myself at the first aid station. I stopped long enough to drink something, but didn’t waste much time there.
As I continued the course went over a serious of very gentle hills, I paused briefly around the 10 km point and walked a steeper section that headed over a grass covered field, but soon was running again. According to my Garmin I passed the 10 km point in 1:03:20, faster than I expected. The course continued over fields, sometimes on asphalt paths, sometimes gravel and dirt. We entered the woods again, then crossed under (over?) Autobahn 3, entered the forest again, and finally crossed over fields to the town of Linkenbach.
As this first part of the run progressed, the sky grew darker and dark, until finally we heard thunder in the distance. I felt a few drops of rain, but miraculously the storm turned away from us and eventually the sky grew clear again.
Just past Linkenbach, around kilometer 17, was the second aid station. My quads were already feeling a bit tired…it made me wonder if I’ve been pushing too hard lately. I ate a sports bar and a couple crackers, and downed some water, no turning back now.
The trail headed more or less downhill for the next 7-8 kilometers, my pace remained under 6:00/km (9:40/mi.) and my legs felt better. The trail ran along a mostly wooded valley, I believe there was a stream to one side, very beautiful anyway. Somehow I lost myself in my thoughts and admiring the course. My Garmin shows I passed the 20 km point in 2:04:18, way ahead of my usual time in the Westerwald, although I admit the course was easier up to this point.
Around kilometer 24 was our third aid station, I was feeling an energy deficit, so ate a peanut butter sandwich that I had with me and drank a sports drink. The trail traversed what a series of hills, not too long, or steep. I continued to run this portion, at a slightly slower, but steady pace. I passed the halfway point in around 2:35:00; I was making good progress, but hoped I wasn’t going too fast to where I need to be concerned about the next 25 km!
We continued to wind our way through the forest, occasionally passing over a short span of field, up, down, and around, finally arriving at the fourth aid station around kilometer 35 in the town of Obersteinbach. The folks were set up along the road, I stopped to drink and eat some crackers. I was feeling tired, I resisted the urge to sit down on one of the empty benches, I still had a lot of ground to cover.
The trail climbed out of Obersteinbach, along a road, and then off into the forest, I elected to walk some of the steeper sections. The few runners that I saw at this point we’re doing the same…it was quite humid and getting warm outside. We passed by the town of Krunkel, then over a bridge spanning Autobahn 3 and a railroad. Right after the bridge was a drink station, I drank some water, and it was somehow too warm for sport drink by this time.
The trail again entered a forested section for a kilometer or two; I walked up a hill then ran down the other side reaching the town of Oberhonnefeld-Gierend and the marathon point in roughly 4:35:00. My pace began to deteriorate over the next several kilometers, as the trail headed over fields, short stretches of forest and began to follow a woodline. Somewhere around here, maybe kilometer 44 or 45, a man and woman passed me. I tried to hang with them a bit, but couldn’t seem to muster the energy, so decided to at least try to keep them in sight.
I caught the couple shortly as they paused at the last aid station around kilometer 46. They took off soon after and I really didn’t need anything from the aid station so left soon after. The trail took a last couple short climbs, I was pooped, so walked most of these. The runners in front of me were doing the same, I guess we were all a bit tired by this time.
With 3 kilometers to go I noticed that I was still within range of finishing under 5 1/2 hours. Although it really didn’t matter, it did give me the boost that I needed to pick up the pace. I soon recognized the trail I was running on, the familiarity spurred me on.
The trail wound it’s way along the edge of Rengsdorf, finally connecting back to the trail that we headed out on several hours earlier. Shortly after this I reached the finish line, the race director and several other people were there to greet the finishers as they arrived, that’s what I like about this event! I found something to drink and made my way over to the swimming pool to find my wife.
I finished in 5:30:53, a very satisfying time, and a personal best for this distance. According to my Garmin the course this year traversed 2807 meters of ascent and 2754 meters of descent. My feeling was that the course was much gentler this year as compared to previous years, typically I need 6 ½ to 7 hours for the course.
In any case the run was incredibly beautiful, the organization optimal, the people friendly, and the other runner’s like family. That’s why I keep coming back!

5 thoughts on “Race Report: Westerwald 50K Forest Run 2009

  1. Congratulations Jack! Beautiful race report, I really felt like I was there. And what a fantastic PB for you! Well done!

  2. congratulations, very nice report (found it on the tv-rengsdorf homepage, mine in lauftipps.de will be ready this afternoon hopefully), and YES, it WAS incredibly beautiful this year, I enjoyed it at least as much as you even though (or because?) I took more time 😉
    but I don’t understand your garmin, it should be about 1000m up+downs, not more than twice as much 😎

  3. hallo,
    this is a very fine report – and congratulations. I was running too, but just a bit slower. 5.50h. Like you, I love the circumstances the race is planed and made real. gentle folks all along the way. I love it.
    I think your ups+downs are in feet not meters. It should have been around 900 meters.
    greatings 🙂

  4. Hi Jack,
    Thanks for this wonderful race report. I came across your blog in my search for an April / May trail marathon or 50km run in Germany.
    I would love to do this race next year (2010), as I might be in Germany for a short work trip during that time. Do you know the date of the race? Is there an official website with more information?
    Thanks in advance!

  5. Hi Jas,
    When you are still interested in doing the Westerwald 50K run this year the race takes place on Ascension Day, May 13th. The organizers have a website, also with the main facts in English. The race director speaks English if you have any questions, or I will be happy to help. I’ll be there with a couple German friends from my running club. Its a beautiful area, I hope you have the opportunity to participate.

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