Marathon Training Pretest

Yesterday was cool and rainy, I decided to use this break in the summer heat to test my legs. After talking with my wife last night, I decided to try to get ready to run the Baden Marathon in Karlsruhe on September 22. This leaves me with only 10 weeks to train, and my base mileage is questionable, so I decided to see how far I can run comfortably, so I can set a starting point for my long runs.

As I set out over the fields into the forest beyond, I decided to try to maintain an average of around 6:15/km (10:00/mi) and run at least 18 km (11 mi). I quickly dropped into my running zone and wound my way over the familiar trails.

By kilometer 16 I was beginning to feel the strain, my longest run since March was only 15 kilometers and that was in May. The rest of the runs were 10-12 kilometers. I pushed on, trying to ignore the increasing discomfort in my legs. By kilometer 18 I was ready to quit, but I was still 3 kilometers from home, so despite a steady decreasing tempo, kept moving. I struggled through kilometer 19, trying my best to keep the feet moving, my body was reminding me of marathons past. Finally I made it to the 20 kilometer point and decided to walk the last kilometer out, my legs were trashed.

I ended up running the 20 km (12.4 mi) in 2:07:11, an average pace of 6:22/km (10:14/mi), a bit slower than I hoped, but 2 kilometers farther than I figured on. I decided that if I can repeat this distance on the weekend and still walk on Monday, then I will start training for the marathon.

This morning my legs are in pretty good shape, but the muscles are a bit sore. In any case let the journey begin.

Cold Weather Training

After a very mild January, winter is finally upon us here in Baden, Germany. This past week found temperatures stretching down to -15 °C (5 °F) during the night and only reaching about -4 °C (25 °F) during the day, warm by some standards, cold for us. Having been raised in a cold hamlet in Upstate New York, where it could easily dip to -30 °C (-22 °F) or more, the cold slowed me down but did not prevent me from training.

For all practical purposes this past week was a recovery week from the 50K race that I ran the Saturday before. After resting the day after the race, I headed out for a short (6 km/4 mi) recovery run on Monday evening, where I was surprised to find my legs in pretty good shape. Encouraged by this, I ran a loop with my friend RB (Running Buddy) on Tuesday, braving some rather icy stretches of trail around our running club trails.

I had every intention of going to the pool on Wednesday night for some swimming, but this was the first day that the temperature really dipped down, so I wimped out. On Thursday my legs felt surprising good so close to finishing a long race, so I completed a 10 mile run, whereas the only problem I had was motivational, due to a combination of -5 °C and a bitter cold wind.

By Saturday the wind had died down a bit, so I headed out at 8:30 a.m. for a long run. The temperature was still -11 °C (12 °F), but I was dressed for success and made my way around the forested sections surrounding my area. I really didn’t notice the cold that much, until I tried to take a drink from my CamelBak, the hose was frozen solid…but after tucking it down my shirt for a while it thawed out enough to drink. I completed 28 km (17.5 mi) in around 3 hours, an average training pace for me lately. My legs were bright red and ice cold as I showered after the run, afterward I sat on the couch under a blanket for a while till they warmed up again.

On Sunday I ran by RB’s house and we completed a 10K loop through some of the same forest that I had run the day before. It was still -7 °C (19 °F) outside, but the sun was shining brightly, the kilometers seemed to quickly melt away, it’s always a pleasure to run with RB. It’s nice to see that her training is starting to pay off, she seems to be running easier than the past few months.

So I ended my “recovery week” with 72 km (45 mi.), the second highest mileage week this year and the first time I ran 5 days. My legs are in good shape for having run 50 km the week before. I did restrain myself from running my hilly route on Saturday, no sense pushing my luck. My next major event will be a 6-hour benefit run in the middle of March, followed by a marathon in April, and if my conditioning continues to improve a 12-hour race on April 30-May 1.

First race of 2012 on Saturday

Hmmm, I’m still not doing well with the blogging, enough said. My running is slowly improving, I have crept up to about 70 km (44 mi.) a week, with 4 runs per week. On Sunday I quite literally headed for the hills, completing 28 km (17.5 mi.) on my hilly route near the neighboring town of Weingarten. Over the first half I added a couple extra hill climbs which successfully pulverized my legs and left me straining over the last 30 minutes of the run. Over the long term this type of training builds the endurance that I need for the longer ultras. I hope through my efforts this year I can rebuild a long distance running machine that will carry me over a 100K or perhaps even a 100-Mile race in 2013.

On Saturday I have a race planned, basically a dress rehearsal for the rest of this year’s activities. Planned is a 50K race in Rodgau, near Frankfurt (Germany). The course consists of ten 5K loops, about 3K of forest and 2K of open fields with every round, all flat and fast for those so inclined. My training has been far too little to be thinking of speed, my number one goal is to finish, and number two, to finish under the 6 hour time limit.

This race is actually a very poor choice for a first race of the year, the looping course makes it far too easy to quit and go home. My performance during the last two races I ran last year, both marathon, was very poor, I expect Saturday to be especially hard, a couple more months of training would have been better. So why I am running the race, you might ask? Simple, we are beginning a major house renovation in March and I don’t know if/how much time will remain for training or racing. When I can fight my way through to the finish on Saturday, then my next planned race (a 6-hour race) in March should be more at my peak performance, and my training up to then should be enough to run a marathon in April as well. Makes sense to me anyway 🙂

Still Running A Way

On Saturday I went on a nice easy 5 mile run with members of my running club, the weather was mild, the company good. On Sunday I ran almost 20 miles, the first 1-1/2 hours alone, then an hour with my running buddy (RB), then the rest on my own. I was pretty worn out by the end of the run, but its only January, so I have a lot of leeway before the longer races begin. So far so good!

Slowly Increasing the Mileage

The autumn weather that we have been having is quickly changing to the first signs of winter, frosted windows on cars in the morning, near freezing temperatures and piles of leaves on the running trails. A great time of the year to run, really, and that is just what I have been doing, slowly picking up the mileage from a total of around 50 miles last month to 27 miles last week.

In comparison to a year ago my pace is very sluggish, probably a result of a still annoying pinched nerve in the back, a total lack of speed training for nearly two years and maybe even a bit of burn-out. I would like to try to bring my speed back up to what it used to be, but in the moment I not willing to put the work into it. I’m sure when the snow begins to melt after winter, the competitive juices will begin flowing like the sap in the trees, but for now I’m satisfied running with friends and enjoying the journey.