Race Report: The Fidelitas Night Marathon

What do you do when you are poorly trained and your favorite Ultra is coming up on the weekend? With just two runs long runs up to 24 km (15 mi.) in the last month, and having just returned from a trip to the USA three weeks before, most people would not have the idea to run a long distance race. Rest assured I didn’t either, at least until a day or two before the race. But don’t worry, old age is catching up to me, so rather than run the 50-Mile (80 km) Ultra, I decided to downgrade and run the night marathon.

The Fidelitas Night Marathon begins at 8:00 p.m. at approximately the 38th km of the Ultra race route, and follows the same route to the finish line. Because I wasn’t signed up for the marathon, I had to arrive early in Rüppurr, where the Ultra begins, to guarantee a starting number. I ended up getting there shortly before the Ultra started at 5:00 p.m., so helped cheer them on as they started the race. It was a cool day, around 16 °C (61 °F) so I settled in my car with a book and waited for the bus that would transport us to the starting line.

I arrived at the start in Mutschelbach about an hour before the start, so found a place to sit out of the cold wind until shortly before the start. Shortly before 8:00 p.m. I lined up with the other 48 participants and soon after the starting gun sent us off into the night. I ended up tagging along with 4 other runners to first 10-15 minutes, and after a bit started chatting with the female runner in the group. It turned out she lives in the same town as I do, and we had the same time goals (just to finish), so we decided to run together as the other three runners began to outpace us.

The first half of the marathon contains the majority of hill climbs, nothing really long or steep, but due to my lack of training we walked the hill climbs to save energy. Lucky for me Linde wasn’t worried about the pace, she was happy she didn’t have to run alone when it got dark. Despite a couple short walking breaks on the hill climbs we finished the first 10K in around 1:07:00 and the first half of the marathon in about 2 ½ hours. When I consider my longest training run was the week before (24 km / 15 mi.), this was for me totally acceptable.

About two hours into the race we had to break out the flashlights, it was an overcast night and the forested sections of the course were dangerous without a light. After around 28 km (17-18 mi.) my pace started noticeably dropping, the lack of training taking its toll. I had warned Linde from the start that this would occur sooner or later, fortunately she was very patient and encouraging throughout the night.

The last 10K was mostly Galloway, with regular walking breaks every couple kilometers, but mostly just for a minute or two. Having run the Ultra 8 times previously, I knew the course like the back of my hand, so really never had any doubts about finishing, it was only a question of how long it would take. In any case I was happy to finally see the streetlights of Rüppurr as we wound our way out of the last forest section and headed toward the sports stadium and the finish. I did my best to keep running as we entered the stadium and circled around the running track to the finish line.
Linde and I exchanged congratulations and joined her friends who were waiting for her. I stood and chatted with them for a few minutes, but my legs were tired, so I excused myself, and headed home. We ended up finishing in 5:20:50, one of my slowest marathons ever, but without proper training I really didn’t expect anything different.

After an 8 month break from racing, it is good to know that I still have the mindset to keep going when it gets tough, now I only have to work on the speed and endurance. I also was able to enjoy at least part of my favorite race course, and made a new friend along the way.

As always the Fidelitas Ultra and Marathon were well organized, the helpers friendly and encouraging, and the route well marked. For anyone looking for a somewhat different run in Germany, both of these runs come with my highest recommendation.

Race Report: Hornisgrinde Marathon 2014

The weekend of July 19-20 was a heat wave over Europe, with temperatures reaching 37°C (99°F) in our region of Germany. For many, the hot summer days is a difficult time, the danger of falling into physical lethargy increases with each degree on the thermometer. While many seek reprieve at the pool, in the shade or a Biergarten (beer garden), here’s my hot tip: The Hornisgrinde Marathon in the densest forest in Germany and at an altitude of 900 meters. Where else could you enjoy a marathon at Sahara temperatures?

I arrived at the forest parking area in Hundseck, located just below the Mehliskopfes, a popular ski slope in the winter months. The Black Forest was still groggy from sleep, the birds chirping, the smell of pine forest, a mist rising over the valley below. At 6:30 a.m. it is already 22°C (72°F), but the sky was overcast and rain threatening.

I strolled up a small hill, where a large tent is set up, I was one of the first to arrive, but at this event there is no frantic running around at the start number pick-up, no long lines at the port-a-potties. The day before, on Saturday, was the half-marathon, I read there were 174 finishers. On this day were the marathon at 8:00 a.m. and a 10K race shortly after this, these races drew 168 and 215 participants respectively. I collected my start number and found a cup of coffee, recognizing a few faces as other racers began to arrive. It began to rain as I waited, cleansing the air, but this was short lived and soon the humidity returned.

Promptly at 8:00 we headed out from the Start before the large tent, there were a few spectators, many waiting for the start of the 10K race. We headed over a comfortable mountain trail in the pine forest, the first half of the marathon is more or less flat or downhill, resulting in the pace increasing relentlessly. I planned an easy 6:30 min/km (10:28 min/mi) pace, but passed the 10K marker in around 60 minutes, and the 20K marker in 2:01:18, a bit too fast for my level of training.

Hornisgrinde Marathon - Start

Mosquitoes and fly were constant companions as we weaved our way through forest and meadow, occasionally we were rewarded with panoramic views over the dark forest covering, but mostly we had to be content with lofty pine and firs reaching towards the heavens. Shortly after the halfway point the trail ran along the Stausee, a lake that was a favorite goal for hikers, evidence by the large number that I passed as I made my way along the shoreline.

Hornisgrinde Marathon - The Stausee

Hornisgrinde Marathon - The Stausee

After the Stausee the course began to gradually climb, and would continue to do so, for most of the last 17 km of the race. As expected, my pace slowed with each gradual climb, my legs took the opportunity to remind me that I hadn’t put in enough training time in this year.

I chugged along up one uphill climb after the other, trying to stretch out the pace where the trail leveled out. The last 10K found me taking ever increasing walk breaks, common when running Ultras, but not necessarily during a marathon.

Hornisgrinde Marathon - km 37

Hornisgrinde Marathon - km 37

The last few kilometers were especially hard, I took a dive over a stone and my hands and one knee were bleeding, what a sight. Anyway I finally reached the last hill, a steep 1200 meter climb to the finish line. About 200-300 meters from the finish line the course turned up a steep bank and I jogged over the finish line. I noted my time 4:56:38, my slowest time ever for the course, but at least under 5 hours, which had been my goal for this training run.

Next up is an approx. 85 Kilometer Trail race on August 23, near Nuremberg, Germany. I guess I should do some hill training before then, at least to try to get my mind set, it’s too late to try to improve conditioning.

Race Report: 24 Hours of Rhineland-Palatinate 72K Trail Run

I mentioned in my last post that I found a new 72K trail race, similar in characteristic to the Westerwald run, but when I tried to sign up online they were booked solid, so I signed up for the 80K Fidelitas Night Run taking place on June 28th. Well as luck would have it, I received an e-mail a few days later saying a runner had to drop out and there was a starter place available, if I still wanted to run the event I should let them know, so I did.

The Pfalz Trail Run is part of the “24 Stunden von Rheinland-Pflaz” (24 Hours of Rhineland-Palatinate) event, a benefit Wanderung (hike) used to raise money for Kinder in Not (children in need), and also to encourage tourism in the region. The run version of this event covers the same 3-Stage, 72 kilometer course as the Wanderung, the only difference is the runners can run straight through and the walkers hike one stage at a time, taking a lunch and dinner break in between the stages. The run is classified as an Erlebnis (experience) run, which means there is no winner, no clock, and no finisher list. In other words it’s just for fun, if you consider running 72 km (~45 mi.) with 2228 meters of elevation gain/loss a form of enjoyment.

As I mentioned the race is broken into 3 stages:

• The Day Stage: 26.5 km with 772 meters of elevation gain/loss
• The Dawn Stage: 21.5 km with 729 meters of elevation gain/loss
• The Night Stage: 24 km with 727 meters of elevation gain/loss

I arrived in the small town of Hennweiler around 7:00 a.m., in plenty of time to pick up my start packet in the market square and enjoy the breakfast provided by the organizers. There were no start numbers, just a Road Book with a rough map and description of the 3 stage course, and for the runners 2 bottles of water. This event originated as a hiking event and the manning of the aid stations planned for the hikers, the runners were more or less on our own, the only concession the organizers made was to deposit cases of water bottles at 2 designated points on each stage, for experienced Ultra runners, not a problem as long as we know about it ahead of time (I had my Camelbak).

Shortly before the 8:30 a.m. start of the event, the local mayor called the roughly 270 Wanderers and 8 (eight !) runners together in the parking lot of the market square and went through his little speech, encouraging the hikers to hang tough and stay safe. There was no mention of the crazy little group that actually planned on running the course, maybe he wasn’t informed? After finishing the starting pistol went off, and realizing I was at the back of most of the hikers, I quickly sped around them before we got to the narrow trail outside of town. Soon I was alone, with only a fleeting glimpse of a couple runners ahead of me, it would be the last time I would see them, or any other participant, for quite a while.

Holiday Region Hunsrück Slate and Castle Route

Holiday Region Hunsrück Slate and Castle Route

The course quickly changed to what would be repeated throughout the event, an uphill climb, either short and steep or long (1-3 km) and gradual, followed by a corresponding downhill, followed by a somewhat flat section, repeat. The steep sections were steep, as in hang on to the tree when you are going down or you will fall on your face. The course itself was a good mix of asphalted field ways, gravel roads and dirt single trail, mixed in with cobble stones, stones and roots of every size imaginable, stairs, bridges, rocks, and anything else nature could think of to trip you up. This was one of the first “Trail Runs” in Germany that at least tried to live up to its name.

I completed the first stage in good time and without falling on my face. I replenished my sports drink and had something to eat at the market square. By this time it was midday, the hikers were probably still a couple hours behind me, so there were only a few from the organizers sitting around. As I set out on the second stage I noticed the temperature was still around 18°C, very mild compared to the summer days we had lately, and very important considering the severity of the trail ahead of me.

The second stage began as the first had, a couple kilometers through the fields, then up into the hills. The “Dawn” stage passed by the Wartenstein castle (http://www.schlosswartenstein.de/), located high above the Hahnenbachtal, north of the town of Kirn. This area is located on the edge of the Nature Park Soonwald, an area with rugged cliffs and clear streams, surrounded by large forests. The sheer beauty of the attractive and varied landscape kept my mind off the accumulating mileage and particularly the pounding my legs were receiving from the constant uphill climbs.

I arrived back at the market square around 3:30 p.m., approximately 7 hours into the race. They were serving dinner, but the line was long, I decided to change my socks and refuel first, by the time I finished I managed to get some food without waiting too long. It appeared most of the hikers had just finished their first stage and were eating before heading out on their second. I didn’t see any other runners, so assumed I was the last, but this made no difference to me, I was taking it easy, I hadn’t trained for this type of race so knew better than to push it.

After around a 20-25 minute break I headed out on stage 3, by this time I running only the flat and downhill sections, and even the pleasant scenery did not distract me from my weary legs. This stage passed by the ruin of the castle Schmidtburg, a castle built in the year 926 and destroyed during the War of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697) by French troops in 1688. The castle is divided into an upper and a lower castle and was one of the largest in the area.

Ruins of Schmidtburg Castle

Ruins of Schmidtburg Castle

Several kilometers into this stage I was passed on a downhill by another runner, the first that I had seen since the beginning of the race! He appeared to be doing much better than I was, as he easily ran past and asked how I was doing. I remarked that mentally I was top fit, but could use some new knees, which caused him to chuckle. Somehow contact with another human offered renewed my energy and chugged along with new determination. The last stage was gentler than the first two, but the trail had a lot of protruding stones and roots, so I had to stay alert to avoid falling on my face.

With approximately 5K to go the course bid it’s last farewell, climbing to the second highest point of the day. During the climb I caught another runner who was clearly struggling, I walked with him for a couple minutes, his legs kept cramping. As we approached the top he assured me that he would make it to the finish line, but would have to walk, so I ran on. From this point it was mostly downhill or flat, so I did my best to run much of it. The runner that passed me earlier in the stage passed me again, he said he had stopped for a break, I again let him run ahead, he wasn’t looking quite as fresh as before, but was still better off than I was.

After a while the course broke out of the forest one last time and I could see the town of Hennweiler ahead. I ran most of the rest of the way and arrived uneventfully back at the market square. I reported to the organizers that I had finished, which kind of surprised them, I guess they noticed the surprise in my face as they said most of the hikers just leave. They pointed me to the showers and said there was lots of food left if I was hungry. I showered and joined a couple of the runners, one that I knew from previous races, he was finished a couple hours ahead of me, but he is 20 years younger too.

In any case I finished a very difficult course, requiring around 10 ¼ to 10 ½ hours of actual time on the trail, I spent another 30 minutes on breaks between the stages. As this event doesn’t count as an official marathon or ultra, I would probably not run it again, but could picture doing it as a hiking event. I think this course would be especially enjoyable if done in a group, either walking or running. I can also picture returning to this region on vacation, there are numerous trails winding through the national forest, and lots of tourist attractions that warrant a closer look.

The event itself was for the most part well organized, the only advice I would offer is if they want to attract more runners they should at least have a finisher list and post it on the Internet, even if the finishers have to keep track of their own time. The folks in Rengsdorf have been doing this for years with the Westerwald Run, and it works out very well.

Race Report: The German Championship 24H Race in Karlsruhe

Most thought I was really of my rocker this time when I said I was going to run in the 24 hour race in nearby Karlsruhe. They were not alone, I was questioning my own sanity for wanting to run in a 1.2127 kilometer circle for hours at a time.

My training this year has been hardly appropriate to run a marathon, let alone for such an ambitious plan to stay in motion for 24 hours. With this in mind I arrived about two hours early at the Sport Institute on the campus of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) where the race was to begin and found a reserved parking place for my car on the course. I was well prepared with extra clothing, food, drinks and anything else I could think of that I might need over the next day. After being satisfied that I had everything in order I walked the roughly 200 meters to the Start. I met several familiar faces along the way, and chatted a bit with René and Teddy both ultra-runners that I meet frequently at the races, Teddy I knew since the 100 Mile KuSuH race in 2010.

Promptly at 10 a.m. 117 set off from the starting line, some with ambition to become the latest German Champion for the 24 Hour discipline, others like myself who just wanted to see how far they could propel themselves.

I quickly fell into a routine, every third round I would stop at the aid station at the start or my car to eat and drink, then walk about 200 meters before picking up the pace. The ran the first 25 km in just under 3 hours, according to my Garmin with an average pace of 6:57 min/km (11:11 min/mile), almost too fast for my condition.

As the afternoon progressed the temperature increased to 30 °C, and on the sunny portions of the course much warmer.

Fortunately there was also longer shady stretches along the way that offered some relief. It was during this time that Walter from my running club came by to watch the race for a bit. It was encouraging to see a familiar face at this point, the heat was starting to take its toll, my pace dwindled and I was taking longer walk breaks. At around 32 km (20 mi) I hit a low spot and decided I needed to sit down for a while, so set up my folding chair by my car and propped my legs on the cooler for 3-4 minutes, as luck would have it my car was in the shade at this point and I quickly cooled down. After a short break I walked my 200 meters and could continue running.

This cycle seemed to work well, so I continued with it, run 3 rounds, sit and eat/drink, walk 200 meters, and so on. Around kilometer 44 (27 miles) I took a longer break and changed my socks, reapplied Vaseline where needed. I had been eating some cooked potatoes with salt the last couple hours which seemed to work for me for a time, but this time noticed they were a bit slimy, probably due to the heat. At this point I noticed my stomach was rebelling, so switched to my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I reached 50 kilometers in just under 7 hours, and still had an uneasy stomach, I decided to stop and make a toilet break at the Start line and sat there long enough to get remarks from the spectaters afterwards that I had been taking a nap in there. Anyway the bathroom break was worth it, I felt much better afterward and could pick up the pace again. I stayed away from the potatoes which and didn’t have any stomach issues the rest of the time.

For the next 3-4 hours I following my run 3 rounds, sit and eat, walk 200 meters, continue without any incident. Darkness came, with it cooler temperatures and the course was well-lighted either by streetlights or lights set up by the organizers, so we didn’t need flashlights.

By the end of the first 12 hours I had reached around 79 km, almost 50 miles. I celebrated with a piece of cake and a fresh pair of socks and shirt. My legs were really tired by this point, my running pace had slowed to a crawl, and I knew I couldn’t continue for another 12 hours like this. I decided to take a walk break with every round, so for the next several hours I ran a kilometer and walked 200 meters, and every third round I propped my feet up and sat a bit.

As I continued my rounds I tried to figure out how best I should continue, I really didn’t have any set goal for the race, but based on my limited training this year (average 50-60 km/week) I estimated at this point I could finish with 120-130 kilometers if I could keep moving.

By midnight, 14 hours into the race, the field was thinning, I saw less and less runners. During one of my sit down breaks I chatted with the friendly crew parked next to me about this, they said a lot of runners plan to run 100 km (62 mi) then sleep for a couple hours before continuing. I thought about this as I ran and as it became with each round more unlikely that I could continue the whole night long, decided to complete 100 km and at least take an extended break for an hour or so, maybe even sleep for a couple hours. I then figured I would have at least 3-4 hours where I could complete another 20-30 km.

So was the new plan anyway, as I sat for a bit by kilometer 97 the rain began, first a few drops, whereas I donned my running vest and started my round, then a cloud burst after the next round. As I started out on my 83rd round, which would put me over 100 km, the rain was falling in buckets, the wind driving it with force, and the sky was brilliant with a lightning display. I was already soaked to the skin, normally this doesn’t bother me, but as I thought about finishing the round and trying to get dry again so I could lay down for a while, I couldn’t imagine it.

As I reached my car the rain continued drenching the course, I made the final call, 83 rounds, 100.6 kilometers was enough, time to pack up and go home. I drove home with no regrets, the storm continued making even driving difficult. My wife was awake when I arrived home, the stormy winds broke her sleep, I think she is happy that I wasn’t outside in the weather.

I completed 100.6 kilometers in just over 16½ hours, slow but sure. I’m sure I could have accumulated more mileage if I had stayed on and waited out the weather, but it was enough for me. I was surprised that running continuously in circles was not at all as boring as I thought it would be. I really didn’t think about this fact at all, I think chatting with other runners and the crew next door on occasion helped me to maintain my sanity. And for me the race was low stress, I had no set goals, I ran a pace that was comfortable and walked and took breaks as I felt I needed to. All in all it was a pleasant experience, I don’t know if I would do it again, there are much more scenic runs waiting, but the experience was enlightening, sometimes you don’t need a reason to try something new.

Race Report: The Schefflenzer 50K Ultra 2012

The Schefflenz is a small tributary of the Jagst River in the North of Baden-Württemberg. It crosses idyllic and hilly meadowed valleys flanked on both sides by forests on its 23.5-kilometer course. This picturesque scene is the site of the Schefflenzer ultra run offering a marathon, 50K and 100K disciplines.

After being disappointed with the premature closing of the 12-Hour Salinenlauf the month before due to a storm, I was looking for a good substitute for my 49th marathon. The Schefflenzer seem to offer everything I could look for in a race, scenery, good organization, hills, and due to my lack of training this year, a very generous cut-off time (16 hours). I first considered running “just” the marathon, but my ultra-blood spoke louder and I signed up for the 50K. I at least managed to maintain some of my sanity and reframed from signing up for the 100K…

It took me roughly an hour to drive the 100 kilometers to Billigheim-Allfeld where the race was held. The Saturday morning races began at 6:00 a.m. with the 100K, and 8:00 a.m. for the marathon and 50K. I reached the sport facilities around 7:00 and collected my starter packet. The event is small, with all together maybe 100 runners, walkers and Nordic-walkers. I picked up a cup of coffee and sat watching the other participants arrive. A couple people I recognized, one ran the same 100 Mile race that I ran back in 2010, I chatted with him for a few minutes before getting ready to run.

The start was uneventful, a short safety briefing, then we were off. My last regular training long run was at the beginning of April, I did run a marathon in April and ran 38 km by the 12-Hour run, but I wisely chose to keep the pace down. I was hoping for a 6 hour finish, but I knew that would be a best case option.

The course started out fairly easy, field paths, forest ways and a continuous series of rolling hills. Mixed in over the race course were some good hill climbs for flavor and many, many beautiful picturesque moments of beauty that left the runner wanting more.

The weather was fairly cooperative, it got fairly warm, reaching 26°C, but the sun mercifully chose to stay behind the clouds keeping conditions relatively bearable, especially in the forested sections. I plugged away running many of the gentler hills during the first 30+ kilometers, walking the steeper climbs, and pausing a bit at the aid stations to tank up. My lack of training began to be felt somewhere around the 32 km (20 mile) point, my speed declined, all the hills seemed to be steep and it took much more determination to keep from just walking.

I passed the marathon mark just under 5 hours, I pretty much figured that my 6 hour finish not going to happen, my legs were already trashed. I settled on plan B, which was to finish under 6:30.

I continued over the beautiful landscape, occasionally passing through or near small town, many filled with lovely old timber-framed houses and well-kept gardens. Several runners passed by during the last hour of my race, I was walking much more than I liked, but my legs were cramping a bit when I ran too long. In any case I kept moving, trying to distract my discomfort with the continuing scenic course. After a short eternity I finally saw the edge of town and doubled my efforts trying to beat the clock, I managed to run in just under 6:30, in 6:28:31, good enough considering my training.

I helped myself to the goodies being offered at the finish, tried to sit a bit, but kept getting leg cramps – the first time in a long time that this was so bad, I guess there is no substitute for quality training. After a while I managed to waddle to the showers, then sat and had a piece of cake and some coffee before heading home.

The course, organization, and warm friendly atmosphere left a very good impression; I definitely will be back again. Next year they are adding a 100 Mile race, hmmm I wonder I will have enough time to train for this over the winter and spring…

My first 12-Hour Race: A Bust

On April 30th I lined up with around 70 other runners for the first running of the Bad Dürkheimer Salinenlauf, a 12-Hour race run around a flat 776 meter loop in the middle of the town of Bad Dürkheim. I was on track for meeting my goal of 100 kilometers, but alas my plans were dashed as a storm came through and took out the power, flooded the finish area, and basically blew away anything not tied down. The organizer regrettably cancelled the race after 4 hours and 40 minutes. Most of the runners were storm-proof veterans who would have kept going, but without support (and official timing), all but two diehards packed up and went home.
In any case I was running much too slow, I finished with less than 38 kilometers (23 miles), less than a marathon, thus it did not qualify as my 49th marathon as planned. In any case I am already signed up for an alternative for my 49th marathon, the Schefflenzer 50K Ultra on June 2. The Ultra is a good mixture of field and forest trails, in a very beautiful part of Germany, just above Heilbronn – almost the exact opposite from the rather boring 776 meter round course that the 12-Hour race offered.

Race Report: The German Wine Route Marathon 2012

Bockenheim an der Weinstrasse is in the collective municipality of Bad Durkheim in the district of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. Bockenheim lies at the north end of the 85 km long German Wine Route, and has even adopted an epithet referring to its location there: an der Weinstrasse means “on the Wine Route” in German.

The Weinstrasse Marathon takes place every second year; I first ran the event in 2010 with a friend from my running club (Birgit) as part of our training for the 100 mile race that we completed the same year. This year Birgit is limiting her racing, and no one else in our club was interested, so I ran the event solo.

The weather was not promising as I made the hour drive to Bockenheim, rain was predicted and the gray skies did not offer anything in contrary. I arrived about two hours early, mostly to get a good parking place. The sun came out as I waited, than disappeared, it rained, than the sun came out again…all within about 30-40 minutes…a trend that would continue throughout the day, making the decision on what to wear difficult. The temperature was around 10°C (50°F) and the sky turned a threatening black, so I finally grabbed my running jacket as I started the 5 minute walk to the Start, this would turn out to be a wise decision.

I lined up at the start with roughly 3000 marathon and half-marathon runners, and soon the starting pistol went off. I slowly surged forward with the mass as we headed down the main street in town and made the first climb at around kilometer 3. The race course was a continuous series of uphill and downhill ascents and descents, with 1-3 miles of flat stretches separating them. The hills were not terribly challenging, but this was definitely not a fast race course. This however, was one of the reasons that I picked this race, in another week I will be attempting a 12-hour race. My goal for the race was a finishing time of around 5 hours, which hopefully would leave me in decent shape.
For a more detailed description of the course and some pictures refer to my race report from 2010:


The first half of the race was non eventful, I passed over the halfway point timing mat in 2:07:54, a little faster than I wanted, but okay. I was pleasantly surprised shortly before this by the appearance of Lena from my running club, with some friends of hers. She ran up and gave me a hug and wished me a good race as I ran by, thanks Lena!

Shortly after the halfway point the course turned and we headed into the wind and our way back towards the finish. As I mentioned earlier the weather was changing almost every half-hour, when the sun came out it was so warm on the asphalt roads that we ran that I had to remove my jacket. But each time the rain returned, mixed with a steady to gusting winds, to pelt us into submission as we headed up and down the vineyards towards the finish.

With 10K to go I was pretty beat and was taking regular walking breaks. The lack of training (only about 60% of what is normal for me), too aggressive pace during the first half, and the weather were beginning to take their toll. I remembered that my goal was 5 hours, so relaxed and took my walk breaks as I felt the desire, ran when it felt good, and even sat down for a couple minutes for some hot tea at one of the aid stations. Sometimes you have to concentrate on your main goal and not be distracted by the race frenzy.

Eventually I began climbing the last hill that would bring me through town to the finish line. I saw that I would easily finish under 5 hours so took my time. Runners sped by, trying to squeeze a few more seconds out of their race, I’m usually among them, but not today. Finally I saw the finish line and did speed up a bit, passing over the finishing mat with a net time of 4:55:19, mission accomplished.

A day later my legs are tired, mostly due to the lack of hill training (and training in general), but I am confident that my slower overall pace will leave me in no worse shape for my 12-hour run on April 30th.

I would recommend the Weinstrasse Marathon for anyone that is looking for a well-organized, scenic marathon and is not afraid of asphalt and hills. This is not a fast marathon route, but very scenic, and there are several other activities that coincide, such as a wine festival in a neighboring town.

Race Report: The Rodgau 50K 2012

On Saturday I finished my first race of the year, a 50K race in Rodgau, Germany, not far from Frankfurt. I believe this race is the first ultra of the year that takes place in Germany, so tends to be a meeting place for the Ultra scene as they begin a new year. As my wife and I arrived at the sport hall to collect my start number I passed several familiar faces. As I waited in line, Monica from the running club in Karlsruhe stopped for a quick chat, we run several of the same races each year, she ran her first 100-Miler last year, the same on that I ran the year before.

After I collected my start number, my wife left to meet an old school classmate that lives in the area, and I headed into the big gym to wait for an hour or so for the start of the race. I chatted with a couple people I knew, then found an empty chair on one wall and relaxed for a while. About 15 minutes before the race I walked the 850 meters to the start, arriving a couple minutes before the start, good timing, I didn’t have to wait too long in the near freezing temperature. I was surprised to see a light dusting of snow on the ground, and hoped the trail wasn’t icy.

My thoughts were interrupted by the last count down and the starting pistol. I was positioned near the back of the roughly 1000 runners, so patiently waited for the wave to move forward. After a minute or two I was able to walk, then run forward, we wore embedded chips in our start numbers, so our race started when we ran over the timing mat.

I flowed slowly forward with the crowd, it would take a few minutes before we had elbow room. The course consisted of a relatively flat 5K loop, starting in a forested section, with an aid station at 0.8K, roughly a 1 kilometer stretch of field, 1K of forest, another kilometer of field, then back in the forest to the start – 10 rounds for 50 kilometers. The weather was not bad, a slight wind, around 0°C at the start, warming up to around 3°C as the day progressed. The light dusting of snow was quickly beat away by the runners, and ground into mud in the forested sections, but still firm enough to run well.

I started out conservatively, running each of the first 6 rounds in a very consistent 31-32 minutes. I felt good, despite limited training, but on the 7th round I started to feel the mileage, I lost about 2 minutes. As I came to the aid station again I got a small snack to eat and sat down for about a minute to rest the legs, before running on. After a kilometer or so I felt better and was able to run through the round, but this would be my slowest round with 36:28 minutes. I repeated my little break as I swung by the aid station, again eating a little snack, but tried not to linger as long. I was again able to run the loop without pause, shaving off a minute from the round before.

As I passed the start again I drew strength from the fact it was my last round, stopped only briefly at the aid station and did my best to keep moving forward. The kilometers clicked slowly away, 46, 47, 48 – I wanted so much to stop and walk, 49, I could hear the crowd at the finish line. I dug in as I headed around the last curve and made my way over a straight-a-way that would carry me to the finish line. My steps grew lighter as I saw the red LED’s that displayed the time at the finish line and somehow found the strength to sprint ahead passing two runners in the last few meters, much to the approval of those supporting us at the finish line. Out of breath and happy I walked it out and did a damage assessment, I felt surprisingly good! I collected a coke to drink and sat for a couple minutes to regroup, then walked over to the sport hall to meet my wife. My 5:31:56 finish time was just about a minute slower than my personal best for this distance, not bad considering I wasn’t even sure if I would finish the race under the 6-hour time limit!

So time to rest up for a few days, then get back to training, in 6-7 weeks is my next race, a 6 hour Benefit Run for Down Syndrome, I look forward to breaking my 51.29 km record!