Saturday, June 11, 2005

Race Report: Ettlinger Altstadtlauf 2005

I have a new recipe for ending a long hard week at work, set a new PR! Yep that’s right, nothing better than to apply all that built up stress for something constructive. To be honest I didn’t wake up yesterday and say to myself “today I’m going to try to set a new personal record”. No, it was more like how am I going to get everything done today.

Luckily running fever is contagious. A couple dudes from my work, one from my office, the other across the hall, were also signed up for the race. Both of them had also done the Baden Mile (8.88889K) run on the “company team” and they were all fired up for this run. I mean for them this was “the race” of the year, 10K! It’s kind of hard NOT to get motivated when you heard their enthusiasm. Anyway by the time I headed home from work I was ready to rock!

So let me stop for a moment and talk about the City of Ettlingen , where the race was held. Ettlingen, a 1250 year old city with a population of about 38,000 people, is often referred to as the door of the Black Forest. Lots of old timber-frame houses, a small palace, numerous site seeing objects, overall a great place for a city run! Ettlingen is of special importance to me, I spent 3 ½ years of my military career stationed on the edge of this city, I am very familiar with the area where the race is held and look forward to running up and down the same streets that I did as a soldier. If nothing else I know how “hard” the streets are, lots of cobblestones, holes, obstacles etc.

So the Altstadtlauf (old town race) was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., I got home about 4:00, my wife (who only works a half day on Friday’s) had pasta on the table, so I ate a light meal, laid out my running stuff, then tried to relax for a while on the couch. We headed out for the town of Ettlingen about 6:00 p.m., realizing from having made the run last year that we should try to get there an hour early because of rush hour traffic and because parking is always a problem. As anticipated we got caught up in a traffic jam, crawled through the town finally reaching a parking lot about a 10 minute walk from the Start.

I left my wife to wander around the various vendors and food stands at the Start and I went and collected my starter kit. At this race this was a T-Shirt and a Start number with some type of barcode embedded in the number. I found my wife gave her my T-Shirt and warm-up jacket, and being as it was about 30 minutes before the race, made a last pit stop at the toilets, then warmed up. When I finished I headed to the Start line.

The start was actually on the way to the Finish, so the kid racers who were participating in a 1000M or 3.3K race were still coming in. They got a lot of support as the 900+ 10K racers were standing around waiting for them to finish so we could start. The race actually started 5 minutes late because the kids took a bit longer than anticipated. But it was great watching the little pee-wee racers giving their all on what was probably for most of them a first race. Awesome!

Note from Jack’s book of running tips: Cheering other racers before starting your own race is a great way to get the adrenaline flowing! Clapping, jumping up and down, and generally making a lot of noise will get your blood pumping, and leave you totally primed to DO IT, YEAH!

So about 7:35 the last of the pre-teen racers went by and we quickly lined up on the street at the Start. After a relatively short time the countdown was heard, …4, 3, 2, 1, pistol shot…then nothing. Being in the middle of the pack of 925 racers, I think I just stood there for an eternity before I could finally start waddling forwards, but then all of a sudden everyone surged forward! It was kind of like a wave that reaches it’s peak then slams down on the beach, I mean you could almost hear some of the runner’s burning rubber as they accelerated. I got caught up in the rush for a minute or so, but caught myself and shifted back down a little, I didn’t want to burn myself out in the beginning.

We ran down a straight road for about 500-600 meters, past a residential section, past the swimming pool, past the soccer field, into the industrial section of town. Just before the 1K point the track narrowed as we switched from the street onto a wide sidewalk, then onto a service road that eventually snaked between two factories. At the beginning of this service road was the 1K marker, I checked my watch 5:20, not bad for the first kilometer (8:35/mile).

So on down the dirt-covered service road we went, for maybe 300 meters, then we turned left through a gate to a factory, over a parking lot, out the gate on the other side, past a pretty lady with a tambourine banging out enthusiasm and cheering at the top of her lungs. Man if she can do that with such enthusiasm then I can pour on the steam! I shifted up a notch trying to bring my pace to under 5:00/K (8:03/M).

Back onto a street, left turn onto a highway. I know this street, it connects to the main street in Ettlingen. Back past the factories (on the other side), the soccer field. Aahh the 2K marker, 10:21, a little faster, still not fast enough. System check, legs good, heart still not overworked, breathing calm, pick up the speed just a little…

We entered the residential section again, here was some major crowd participation, the weather was good, lots of people out cheering. Yep, come on Jack keep the head up, don’t forget to smile! Another ½ kilometer, lots of timber-frame houses, we were near the center of town. The street changed from asphalt to cobblestone, we turned left again, across a small bridge, through the old city gates into the old market area of Ettlingen, this is the part of town that is supposed to be 1250+ years old, almost all timber-frame building, all so beautifully maintained, shop on the bottom, apartments on top, I love this town!

People everywhere, from the shops, the windows, the beer cafes, lots of cheering, the fat Italian cook, complete with apron and spaghetti sauce standing outside his restaurant giving support. A couple trying to get him to run with us – he laughs with his belly bouncing.

Another left turn, wow look at all the people, both sides of the street are lined with cheering masses of all ages! I see the start banner, people everywhere, I look for my wife, too many people! I pass under the start, end of the first round (time 16:38) – how far are we now?

So back down the straight road, past the residential section, the swimming pool, the soccer field…the 4K marker, what’s my time 20:06, oh yeah looking good, pace strong and comfortable, PR possible!

Into the industrial section, onto the service road, left turn, through the gate, across the parking lot, through the gate – the tambourine lady has been joined by a dude with a drum, she is still cheering at the top of her lungs – bless her heart. Come on legs do your thing, we’re gonna do it!

Left onto the road, past the factories, soccer field, swimming pool, houses – I missed the 5K marker somewhere. Keep pushing, move those legs. I hooked onto a dude with a baseball cap that was running just a bit faster than my pace and let him draw me along, gosh he looks like he is out for a Sunday stroll, not even breathing hard. I stuck to him like glue, sometimes running beside him, sometimes dropping behind when he speeded up, but I stuck!

The cheering crowds again, ahh the 6K marker, 30:08, keep pushing, move! Left run, over the bridge, through the gates, through the crowded market square, the jolly cook is still out there, but looking kind of tired. Run! Another left, more cheering, the Start banner coming up again. Through it, totally focused now, I will break my PR tonight!

Just a short lap now, down the straight road, past the residential section, the swimming pool, left right before the swimming pool, down a small road, across a bridge, left, we’re heading back. The dude with the baseball cap starts speeding up, we head back onto the highway, I pass him, he passes me…past the swimming pool, past the houses, the 8K marker – 39:59. Hold the pace, keep the legs moving, my lungs start complaining, sending little messages to my brain, “We need to talk about this!” The brain wisely ignores this whining, sends a message to the legs, “You need to pick up the pace, let’s do it!”

Push, push, push, run, run, run, my breathing is getting fast, gosh I’m not used to running so fast. “Shut up, don’t think about this, the legs are fine, what are you complaining about!” Hey dude in the baseball cap, where are you going, I think he hit the turbo – oh the 9K marker, time to do it. Concentrate, don’t look at your watch, push, you are a machine, push, faster. Left turn, over the bridge, through the gate, through the market area.

The baseball cap dude is way ahead, got to catch him, come on legs you have GOT to move faster, left turn, okay this is it the last 500 meters. PUSH! The brain is just going nuts, sending signals everywhere, “Remember this is it, it’s make or break it time folks, we may never be this close to a PR again!” I see the Start banner, my lungs feel like they are going to burst, come on, just a couple hundred meters, push, under the banner, right turn, there’s the finish – remember those kids you cheered for, their determination, sprint dam it!

Done, hit the stop watch, air I need air, huff, puff, air, puff, puff, wow, gosh, whew, air. Got to walk, puff, puff. Air, I need a drink. Ahhh tea, drink, drink. Okay do I dare look at my watch, I close my eyes, look, open one 49:53! ALL RIGHT, I DID IT. Oops spilled my tea. Ahhh, here comes my wife, she said 49:51 official time! She watched me finish, awesome, sweaty kiss for her.

OH YEAH a new 10K PR!! And what is even more sweet, I broke the 50 minute barrier! It took eleven 10K runs, but I finally did it. WOW! I’m all choked up. WOW!

Anyway I grabbed some more tea and rejoined my wife watching the runners come in. The dude from across the hall at my company finished right behind me, 50:13 (last year he smoked me!). His wife ran too, finished in 1:01:46, a new PR for her too – ALL RIGHT!

The dude from my office was slower this year, 59:45. It is noteworthy to mention that he 7 years younger than I am and did not train “at all” for the Baden Mile, and ran only once for twice to train for this race. He is in good physical shape as he is renovating his house from top to bottom, but has no time to train. Imagine what he can do if he trained, an animal! I looked around for the dude with the baseball cap, but didn't see him again, I wanted to thank him for pulling me along!

We eventually headed over to the beer stand and had a couple rounds, enjoying our victories and making plans for the next joint adventure. Racing is great, sharing the finish with friends is even better!

Today my legs are tired, but no pain, no cramps. And my “under-50” PR is a sweet victory. So how is your weekend going!

Great job. Isn't it neat when you look at your watch and go heh, wait I could PR. It just gives you extra adrenaline to finish and do it.
WHoohoo! Great race and congrats on the PR, Jack! Got goosebumps reading your report. Fantastic! 10K is such a scary race distance for me, don't know why, just can't do it right. You certainly don't have that problem.

Great job!!
Jon sent me by and am I ever glad he did, you definitely deserve kudos for your PR and the description of the race! There is a taste fest every year in a town called Clarkston that has a 10k & 5k race before the eats, you could have been talking about this race, again, Great Job! Run Good! Russ
Wow! What a great report and congratulations! What an incredible time that was!

You're a great writer, I really loved reading through your report - thank you for all of the details, almost feels like I was there watching ;)
You made me feel like I was right there with you, Jack! And that's not just "a PR" - you kicked some serious butt! Four full minutes AND under 50. Sounds like the perfect way to spend an evening! :)
Congratulations Jack! Sounds like a great race and a wonderful little city to run in!! Good for you!
Woohoo, Jack, congrats on the PR. I love this race report!!! You rock!
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