Still Running but not Racing

This title basically sums up the rest of this year. I have been juggling work, home remodeling and trying to train and race for most of the year and it’s not working, most days I feel much like the runner in the picture from my previous post.

On July 14th I tried a very difficult Bärenfels Ultra, a race in Neubruecke, Germany consisting of three 21.3 km rounds, each with around 750 meters of elevation gain/loss. Other than running three marathons from April to June, I did not run ANY long runs in preparation for this race, in other words I was as about as unprepared as one can be. The first round was hard, but Bastian from my running club and I made it through, despite a lot of rain and really muddy, slippery trail.

Around five kilometers into the second round we started up one of the longest, steepest hills and I suffered muscle cramps in the upper thigh of my right leg that left me hanging onto a trunk of a tree in considerable pain – I couldn’t walk, let alone run, and we were in the middle of nowhere. Now Bastian is a newcomer to ultra-running, so was a bit shocked as I tried to stretch out the painful cramps and decide what to do. We were around 5 km from the start in the downhill direction, and maybe 1 km from an aid station at the top of the hill. I decided to try to make it to the top…I started walking, but every few steps had to stop and suppress the pain, the steep slope was not allowing my muscles to recover. I covered about half the distance and decided that there was going to be no way that I would be able to continue once I reached the top, Bastian ran ahead to try to the aid station to inform them I need a ride back to the start. I slowly made my way the last few hundred meters up the hill to the aid station, pausing every few steps as new spasms of pain shot through the thigh.

At the aid station Bastian said he was going to drop as well, but after some debate he finally agreed to keep running, the race organizers were sending a Quad to pick me up, and I knew I would be fine once I work the cramps out of my leg. The ride on the Quad was quite painful as we jousted over the rough terrain back to the start, but I was happy that I didn’t have to walk. After 20-30 minutes of sitting and massaging my leg muscles the pain subsided and I would walk around again without getting cramps again. After about 2 hours Bastian completed his second round and I couldn’t talk him into a third round, so after he rested a bit we headed home. I ended up getting credit for the half-marathon, Bastian the marathon. We both agreed the course was very challenging, and that we definetly would return another year to complete the ultra-discipline.

Under lessons learned can I only say that I was perhaps foolish to try to run one of the toughest trail races in Germany without proper training, but sometimes you have to go for it even when the odds are not in your favor – sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t.

I would highly recommend the Bärenfels Half-Marathon/Marathon/Ultra, the trail is tough, but very beautiful, and the organization and volunteers are first class.

For the rest of the year I don’t have any race plans, other than a half-marathon in nearby Karlsruhe, Germany in September. I will continue to run as time allows, but will commit most of my free time to bringing our home remodeling projects to an end so I can begin training in the new year. I will continue to read your posts, but will for the most part be missing in action until I return to regular training.

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