Welcome to 2019

Welcome to 2019. I am currently training for a 50K race on January 26th, hoping that this will spring me into a new race year. Yesterday I finished a 32km/20mi long run, with an average pace of 6:37/km (10:39/mi), not to shabby for these fast 60 year old legs.

Most weeks I have only been running 3-4 days, so my total mileage is quite low, so I don’t have any high expectations for my race, I just want to finish.

1st Annual Friedrichstaler Forest Run – 2018

My second race in 2018 was a 10K race in my hometown Stutensee-Friedrichstal. The race was sponsored my Gymnastics Club, so I felt obligated to run. Despite not having run a 10K in many years I managed to cross the finish line in 53:29. The following is a translated excerpt from the clubs report:

Light rain and 5 °C, not the most optimal conditions for the 1st Friedrichstaler forest run. The race in Friedrichstal was the last race that took place within the framework of the Stutensee CUP and was first held by TV Friedrichstal this year. In spite of the external conditions, 220 runners of all ages had arrived for the start at the Walter and Margot Giraud-Halle. Mayor Lutz Schönthal gave the starting signal for the 170 participants of the 10 km race at 11:00 o’clock, October 28, 2018. 15 minutes later, the 5 km runners made their way. Both routes were mainly on forest trails through the autumn Hardtwald.

Waldlauf 06
Friedrichstaler Forest Run

All runners were provided with drinks and fruit by the helpers of the TVF after the finish line. The spectators were able to get comfortable with hot sausages or coffee and cake during and after the run in the Giraud hall.

Race Report: The Pfälzer Forest Marathon 2018

The good news is that I finished the very hilly Pfälzer Forest Marathon in 5:16:53, only 11 minutes slower than the last time I ran the marathon in 2010.The down side is I was wiped out afterwards, and had to hobble to my hotel and face a restless night ahead of me, and many aching days thereafter.

The marathon course is one of the most beautiful that I have run in Germany. The course has some good climbs, beautiful wooded sections with fantastic views, and is about 85% logging or single-track trails. I found the organization very good, the fans enthusiastic and the overall experience well worth the drive to get there.

But the results of the marathon inspired me to continue training, and I want to prepare for a 50K race in January of 2019.

In any case I try to run 2-3 times a week, nothing long, just enough to keep the weight down. I have also joined a gymnastics club and work out with them 2-3 times a week, this has done wonders for my back.

Next year I will be 60, and I am trying to decide where I am going with my running. The years of running were very enjoyable, I made a lot of friends, but many of them no longer run, or limit themselves to just running for exercise. The body has slowed down, the recovery time for runs has grown longer, and the fire that propelled me forward all the years has grown dim. Like everything in life there is a time and a place, I only need to search the soul before I know where to go.

Marathon # 70

I had planned on running marathon number 70 in March of this year, but the flu got the best of me and I postponed it, and then again, and again, for almost a half year.

Finally with minimal training I got enough motivation to tackle the job, marathon # 70 is history!

I will post a race report later this week.

The running year in review

It’s not quite the end of the year, but my race season has been over for a while, my last race being in June.

I ran four events this year. The first was a 6 hour charity run in March. I completed about 46 km with very little training. The lack of training was also a factor during my 50K run in May, the 1700 meters of elevation gain really kicked my butt. My third event was a night marathon in June. I was slightly better prepared for this, compared to the other two, and ran it a couple minutes faster than last year. The last event was a 2 hour charity run in July at our local church. This was a run for fun and to support the church youth group. Several from my sport club where I do the gymnastics also ran in the event.

Following these events I rested for a couple months, doing shorter runs and going to gymnastics/circuit training a couple times a week. Following a vist to New York at the beginning of November, I have now started to work on my base for next year.

My current training seems to be a mix of cross training and running:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 1.5 hours gymnastics
Wednesday: 1 hour body fit training (easy circuit training)
Thursday: 12 km run (faster pace)
Friday: 1 hour circuit training (intensive – e.g. Crossfit without the barbells)
Saturday 8.10 km run (easy pace)
Sunday: Long run (currently 24 km)

The 2-3 sessions of gymnastics/cross training per week have helped improve my overall fitness. My upper body strength has improved, and I rarely have trouble with the pinched nerve in my back.

I have also changed my diet, reducing sugars and processed foods. Now if I can only learn to go to bed earlier I will be all set.

I hope that these changes will allow me to run marathons for a couple more years. In any case it is a good formula for a healthier life in senior years.

I am already signed up for my first race next year, a 6 hour charity run in March 2018. I have run this race several times, it is always a good event to start the new year.

Race Report: The Fidelitas Night Marathon 2017

As I waited for the shuttle bus to the Starting line in Mutschelbach, I wondered to myself how the evening would unfold. As seems to be the norm lately I was undertrained and had no clear goals, just finish it. The 80 km (50 mi.) ultra-runners were already almost an hour into their race, this year rather than being sad that I not among them, I was content that I chose “only” the marathon distance. The marathon course is the last 42 kilometers of the 80 km course.

As I loaded onto the bus there were familiar faces, I later learned 60 runners ran the marathon, 119 the 80 km, plus several relay teams. There was a lot of nervous chatter as we rode the 30 minutes to Michelsbach, I felt relaxed, for me there was no reason to be nervous, this was my 11th time on the course, including the 8 times that I had run the ultra.

As we lined up at the starting line for the 8 p.m. start we had to quickly make room for the first place ultra runner as he sped by us, covering the first 38 km in 3 hours. With seconds to go we quickly line up again and were off. I quickly found a comfortable pace and tried to knock out as much distance as possible before it got dark.

The day prior to the race were extremely hot, up to 36°C (97 °F), for the race we had mid-80’s °F and it was cooling down fast. It was however quite humid, I was soon dripping in sweat, especially as I made my way up the first hill at km 6. I was moving much better than I expected, covering the first 10K (which contained half of the 200 meter elevation gain) in 67 minutes.

The steepest and longest climb at kilometer 14-15 slowed me somewhat, but from there it was 3-4 km downhill. It was just beginning to get dark as I made my way down through a thickly covered forest, I could still see enough without a flashlight, so tried to hurry before I needed one. Just a runner passed I took my eyes off the trail for a split second and next thing I knew I was flying over a stone into the dust.

As I picked myself up my knees hurt, I was bleeding heavily from the left knee a bit from the right, and my hands were scraped. The other runner stopped and asked if I was okay, but not knowing myself I waved him on. I checked the left knee, blood was flowing, but it was not deep, I wiped the dirt away with a tissue and set out again, badly shaken, with busted pride.

I was soon able to get back up to the approximate pace I had been running, but I was still concerned about the left knee. I stopped long enough at the next aid station to wash out the wound, the red cross volunteer asked if he should look at it, but I it wasn’t deep enough to bother and appeared to have stopped bleeding.

I passed the 20K point in around 2 hours 19 minutes, the fall had cost me some time and now it was dark. I made my way through a 8-9 km stretch of dark forest, impossible to navigate without a flashlight. My knees hurt as I tried struggled to maintain a reasonable pace. At km 29 I took another couple minutes to wash the wound on my knee again, I again declined any help from the aid station, running with a thick bandage was not an option for me. I set out again, passing the 30 km point in 3:49:42, my pace declining considerably.

At this point my lack of training was apparent, I had to switch to Galloway, running for a while walking for a while. My only focus was to keep moving, I was determined to finish this, regardless how long it took.

I was relieved when I finally reached the lighted streets of Ettlingen, I tried to run though the town, taking advantage of the light. I stopped only for water at the aid station, then quickly continued on out of town, onto the asphalt path running between the fields. Due to construction they changed the course at this point, diverting it in an entire other direction, I lost track of how far it was to the finish.

After a small eternity, the course finally returned to the original course, only a couple more kilometers to go. I was plodding away like an old plow horse at this point, and it felt like I was wearing blinders due to the dark. A runner passed me and somehow spurred me on a bit. I also heard the announcer at the stadium, I knew I was close.

Pulling whatever was left of me together I entered the stadium and plodded around the track and over the finish line, finished! I was very surprised to see my finish time of 5:14:51, this was almost 7 minutes faster than the previous year and a personal best for this course. Who knew?

I decided to shower at the stadium before driving home, I was stiff, but had no cramps. Before I left I had the red cross check out my knees, they cleaned and disinfected them, and bandaged the left one. The cuts from falling on gravel were not deep, they should be heal nicely in a couple days.

Today (Monday) my knees hurt a bit, I think I bruised them as well, but otherwise I recovering nicely. I have a business trip the rest of the week, so can enjoy some well-earned rest.

As always this event was well-organized, the volunteers friendly, and the course beautiful. I already marked my calendar for next year.

Race Report: Westerwald 50K 2017

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…

Coming up next

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:

Elevation Profile Westerwald Run 2017

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!

Race Report: World Down Syndrome Marathon

The motto of the World Down Syndrome Day Marathon this year was “Overpowered by you”, the running club 21 that sponsored the race wants to point out the great love for trisomy 21 children, which emerges after the first shock of having it. Down syndrome was described by the neurologist John Langdon-Down, but it was not until 1959 that the genetic cause was discovered: the unusual division of the first cell. It is not a hereditary disease, but it just happens. Due to medical advances, 21 victims can be much older nowadays. But one thing medicine does not do – it is in these special people: the happy laughter [Joe Kelbel – www.marathon4you.de].

My wife and I arrived in Fürth the day before the race. We met an old friend of ours, had lunch together and spent some time catching up before heading to our hotel for a relaxing evening. I went to bed early and was up 2 hours before the race on Sunday for breakfast. After checking out of the hotel my wife dropped me off at the TV Fürth 1860 soccer stadium and went to spend the day with our friend.

I dropped my bag off at the bag drop and found a seat in the sport hall and spent some time people watching, I had about 20 minutes before the race started. As usual for this race there was a diverse mixture of participants, some doing the ultra, marathon or half-marathon, others the 10K or fun run. I recognized several ultra runners, I found out later that some had run the 6-hour run the day before in Nurnberg or another ultra in Würzburg, Germany.

About 10 minutes before the race I made my way to the Start on the track in front of the sport hall.
Waiting for the Start
The course was new this year, in previous years the 6-hour charity race was held in a park in the middle of Fürth, but the event outgrew the facilities offered there, thus the change. The course was also longer, previously each round was approx. 1.3 km, this year just under 2 km. The new course also had two small hills, which seemed insignificant at the beginning, but provided 391 meters of elevation gain/loss by the end of the event. The old course was entirely flat.

Promptly at 9:00 we counted up to 21, the traditional way of starting this race. My training this year was sparse, with only three long runs between 24-26 kilometers (15-16 miles). I set my goals accordingly, try to finish a marathon, and keep moving as long as possible. I settled into an easy pace, around 6:45 min/km (10:53 min/mi). The course circled out of the stadium, down a small hill to the main road.
Small Hill
We turned right on the sidewalk to the next street.
Right along a row of houses, past an annoying man with a loudspeaker, before climbing a small hill and back into the stadium area.

At around kilometer 1 was the aid station, which offered a good variety of salty and sweet, and diverse drinks. The course continued in front of the sport hall, past cheering spectators to the next street.
Then right back to the same road as before.

Along the road to the same path that we used to exit the stadium, up the small hill in to the stadium.

Around the track to the start, repeat.

It rained lightly off and on, but not enough to soak the spirit of the runners. I finished the first 5 rounds (~10K) in 1:07:48, my pace remained steady, I felt good. Based on my Garmin I finished 20K in 2:16:39, and 30K in 3:30:13. By this time, my pace was slowly decreasing, but I still felt reasonably strong.

Around 32 kilometers I stopped for a minute or two to adjust the sock on my left foot, somehow it wasn’t sitting right and I was worried a blister would form. I finished a couple more rounds and started feeling the mileage in my legs, I decided to take a short walk break (~100 meters) every second round, right after the aid station. By kilometer 40 (4:54:14) I was reduced to tortoise speed, but with only one lap before passing the marathon distance I plodded along as best I could.

After passing 42 kilometers (5:09:54) I started to take more frequent walk breaks. My legs were tired, the two little hills on the course had turned to mountains that I need to walk up. But as I pushed myself over the last couple laps I was at peace, I had rediscovered the feeling of going beyond, a seemingly indescribable state of mind, or feeling of contentment.

I finished what was to be my last lap, with 11 minutes to go I knew I wouldn’t have time to complete another lap, and didn’t feel like standing out in the (then) rain waiting for them to measure my last distance. According to the official race results I finished 24 laps, or 45.65 kilometers, in 5:49:18. I place 62 out of 114, quite surprising really.

I wobbled to pick up my bag, my wife arrived and waited as I showered, then we headed home. The next day (Monday) I had vacation, I felt good, so good in fact that I spend a few hours working in the garden. Last night I went to gymnastics class, I was quite surprised that I could keep up with the group, the legs were a bit sore, as they are today, but I feel good enough to go for a recovery run this evening.