Training Update

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.

2016 in Review, Looking at 2017

My 2016 running year began with good intentions and some vague goals, but no real plan. My first goal was a 6 hour benefit run in March, but my condition was so bad that I decided against this. My next goal was a 12 hour run in May, which I ran, but with no real hope or intention of completing the 12 hours, I basically ran the marathon distance and went home. In June was the local 80K (50 mile) race not far from where I live, but for the second year I opted for the shorter marathon distance. I finished, but decided that was enough for one year, I didn’t have enough appetite for another race.

This year I am getting back to the basics, weight loss and core training. To address both of these problems I am changing my traditional way of training. In December I signed up for a functional circuit training course at our local gymnastic club (Turner Verein – TV). This 1-hour high intensity training consists of a 10-15 minute warmup, followed by 2 rounds of 10-12 body weight exercises. As an example, one of the exercises was to do pushups for 45 seconds – while balancing your hands on a basketball – I highly recommend it. I am hoping that two nights of gymnastics per week, plus some weight training on my own, will improve my core strength and eventually lead improved performance in future races.

My running goals for 2017 are currently rather blurred, they will really depend on how successful my training is over the next few months.

Current weight: 81 kg (178 lbs)
Current long run: 18 km (11 mi) @ 6:40/km (10:44/mi)

Summer Weather and Nürnberg

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.

Bratwurst Röslein, Nürnberg, Germany

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 in Running

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.

A Father’s Love Letter

My Child,

You may not know me, but I know everything about you.
I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
I am familiar with all your ways.
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
For you were made in my image.
In me you live and move and have your being.
For you are my offspring.
I knew you even before you were conceived.
I chose you when I planned creation.
You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book.
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
And brought you forth on the day you were born.
I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me.
I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love.
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
Simply because you are my child and I am your Father.
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
For I am the perfect father.
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Because I love you with an everlasting love.
My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore.
And I rejoice over you with singing.
I will never stop doing good to you.
For you are my treasured possession.
I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul.
And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me.
Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart.
For it is I who gave you those desires.
I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine.
For I am your greatest encourager.
I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles.
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you.
As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart.
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes.
And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth.
I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus.
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
He is the exact representation of my being.
He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you.
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you.
I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love.
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me.
And nothing will ever separate you from my love again.
Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen.
I have always been Father, and will always be Father.
My question is Will you be my child?
I am waiting for you.

Love, Your Dad
Almighty God

Recovery and Running Club Event

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.

Race Report: The 7th Annual Fidelitas Night Marathon

I arrived 2 ½ hours early in Karlsruhe Rüppurr, Germany for the 7th annual Fidelitas Night Marathon. The one downfall of this race is you have to pick up your starter packet before 6 p.m., 2 hours before the race begins. The 80 km (50 mi.) ultra-runners were already 30 minutes into their race, I recall being a bit sad that I wasn’t with them as I picked up my packet, I’d run the ultra-distance 8 times in the past.

The shuttle bus to the Start in Mutschelbach was scheduled to leave first at 7 p.m., so looked around to see if there were any familiar faces. Most of the people that I would have known were already running, and the crowd that had sent the runners off had already dispersed, so I returned to my car and read some from a book I had brought along for the occasion.

Shortly before the bus was due to arrive I made use of the facilities in the sports arena and walked over to the bus stop. When the bus arrived I found a seat and a minute later one of the newcomers to my running club plopped down beside me, a pleasant surprise, I didn’t know he was running the event. Chatting with Clemens made the trip short and helped to keep my mind positive.

We arrived a half hour before the 8 p.m. start, the start area was also a relay exchange station for the ultra, so there was a small crowd gathered. I learned later that there were 56 participants for the marathon distance, a few more than last year. I was pleased to see Linde, who I ran most of the way with last year. I talked with her and her husband for a while, then used the facilities again which were close by in the local town offices.

I always like a few minutes to myself right before a race, so sat in one of the chairs in the hallway of the building. The marathon course starts out with rolling hills, before dropping down into a valley around kilometer 24. The rest of the marathon is more or less level, with only a few bridges to cross. Last year I needed just over 5 hours and 20 minutes, and this year I had done even less training than the year before.

In the 2 previous months I had only done 2 long runs, the marathon on May 28th, and a 27 km run the weekend before this marathon. So as I stood up and made my way to the start I made a mental note to start out very conservatively, my only goal was to finish.
This year Linde was much better trained than I, she had just finished a 72 km Ultra a few weeks before. Running with Clemens was also not an option, I knew he was a much faster runner; he ended up finishing 70 minutes ahead of me. So as the start signal sounded I wished both of them luck and let them run on ahead of me.

Having run the race the year before, I didn’t bother reading the race description on the website, so was surprised when the course suddenly turned as we ran out of town and headed up a steep hill. It turns out that last year’s course was 500 meters too short, and there was also a new construction site blocking the normal course way, so the organizers had to change the course. It is also interesting to note that beginning this year they had a new member on the organization team, Monika, who I knew from my ultra-running days, she normally finishes in the top 3 in the woman’s division in the races she participated in. I also thinksshe LOVES to run hills, so I had to think of her as I huffed and puffed the almost mile long ascendant out of Mutschelbach.

Although I hadn’t done any hilly runs in the last few months, my hilly runs over the winter and early spring paid off, I passed several people as I made my way over the rise. It had rained often throughout the day, so as we turned off the road at the top of the hill onto a tractor path through the fields things quickly turned to mud, shoe deep and lots of water, with no way but to go through it. Fortunately after a couple hundred meters we entered the woods and better trails.

I quickly settled into my normal long run pace, this part of the course had a lot of rolling hills, I ran these relatively effortless, I felt good and the light sprinkling of rain that began quickly dissipated.

After 5 or 6 kilometers we connected back to last year’s course, and soon passed the first aid station. Aid stations were set up every 5-6 kilometers, offering normal snacks and drinks for the ultra and marathon runners, at this point I only needed some water, which I drank in passing. At some point in the next 4-5 kilometers I passed Linde and the woman she was running with on one of the steeper hill climbs, she said last year she wasn’t a hill climber. I expected to pass me later on in one of the downhill or flat stretches, so it became a bit of a game for me to avoid this from happening for as long as possible.

I ran the first 10K in around 66 minutes, and the first 20K in 2:16, a good steady pace considering this stretch contained the majority of the 541 meter elevation gain (the course has a 622 meter elev. loss). I was still feeling reasonably good as I arrived at the aid station at around 20K in Langenalb. It was already dark at this point, so I dug my flashlight out of my Camelbak, the next section of the course was downhill through some thick woods, I knew I would need it. Linde hadn’t caught up to at this point, so I didn’t waste any time at the aid station, grabbing a few pretzel stick a slug of watered down coke.

At this point the course winds down through the woods into Marxzell, passing by my coworker’s house, over the street, past another aid station then right onto a tractor path on the edge of the woods at roughly kilometer 24. When I ran this stretch as part of the 80 km run it was normally dark and lonely, with most of the faster runners far ahead of me. This was not the case with the marathon version, in the last few years they have allowed participants to have bicycle riders accompany them, good for them, but for me it ruined the atmosphere. Worse I had a runner going roughly the same pace, but not constant, which means we kept passing each other, and the lady on the bike accompanying him had the annoying habit of zig-zacking all over the place. Luckily at the next aid station he stopped for a longer break and put some distance between us.

After about 30 km (~18.6 mi) my lack of training was taking a toll, I knew if I kept trying to run I would be walking before I finished the race, so I switched to Galloway, running 8-10 minutes, then walking 1-2. Normally there are two aid stations on the 11K stretch between Marxzell and the next town Ettlingen, but I don’t know if I was so zone out or what, but I only remember passing 1 of these. In any case this stretch felt incredibly long, and my walk breaks kept increasing.

I was very relieved when I finally entered Ettlingen and made my way to the aid station at the local swimming pool at kilometer 35. I took a short break and shook out some of the dirt and little stones that had accumulated in my running shoes, most of the rest of the course was asphalt and I knew the little stones would wreak havoc on my feet. I took a deep swig of energy drink that I had in my Camelbak, and made my way over the last 7 kilometers.

I passed by the old military based where I was stationed in the army as I ran out of Ettlingen. My mind filled with pleasant and not so pleasant memories as I continued into the night. It was getting more and more difficult to run at this point, even with the run/walk strategy I was using. There is no replacement for good training, and a lack of it will tell on you in the last stretch of a race.

From Ettlingen to the next last aid station is roughly 4K, but almost a straight shot, so running this in the dark is very much like driving the highways in the Midwest of the USA, mile after mile, hour after hour, of straight road seeing only corn fields and almost nothing else. It seemed like it took hours to cover this stretch, but in reality it was more like 33 minutes. In any case I was again relieved to see the lights of the final aid station.

As I mentioned they changed the course this year, and as I also mentioned I didn’t bother to read the race description. So as I left the aid station I was thinking I had another 4-5 km to run, mostly through a winding section of woods that again seems to go on forever. Had I looked at the course description I would have known that in reality I only had 3K to go and might have sped up a bit, particularly on the last kilometer or two. I heard the small crowd in the Stadium, but previous years we first ran past and in a long loop before entering, so I was very surprised when suddenly the course turned directly into the stadium. Now, rather than 2 meters to go I suddenly had only 200 meters! I made my best effort to break into some resemblance of a sprint and crossed the finish line.

As I collected my finisher’s medallion and got something to drink, I spotted Monika the ultra-runner-organizer and chatted with her for a bit. She asked how I did and I mentioned I was almost a minute slower than last year. She replied then I was actually faster than last year, because last year’s marathon course was 500 meters too short. Hmm, does that mean I had just run a personal best for this course…

As always, this race was well organized, the helpers friendly, and the aid stations adequately stocked. I also find the course changes very positive, especially eliminating the last loop right before the finish. Maybe next year I will have more time and desire to train and can once again run the ultra distance, but if not the marathon run has also become one of my favorite courses.

A Marathon on the Weekend

My legs are still tired from the charity run last Saturday, I blame the asphalt streets, this was the first run on asphalt since last year, and then right away 27 km. In any case I think it will be a long night on Saturday.

The marathon starts at 8 p.m., the course consists of the last 42.2 km of the 80 km (50 mi.) Fidelitas Night Ultra. The 80 km starts in Ruppur, Germany and consists of a long loop around the region. The marathon starts in Mutschelbach at one of the relay exchange stations. A shuttle bus is available an hour before the race to transfer the marathon runners from Ruppur to the Start. I ran this marathon last year, the first part is hilly, and at my speed the second half in the dark, so it’s not a course to try to run a new personal best. My days of running personal bests are over anyway, so I just want to enjoy the night, I always liked this course, but the 80 km is a bit too much, I just don’t have the conditioning.

My training is rather inadequate for the race, my longest long run lately was the 27 km last Saturday and the marathon in May. Thus my goals are very conservative, first to finish, and second to finish in under 5:15. For comparison, last year I finished in 5:20:50. The days of a sub-4 hour marathon are long gone, the age adjusted goal these days is a sub-5 hour, perhaps in September. But one step at a time.

Running for Charity

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.