Sunday, July 17, 2005

Race Report Honisgrinde Half-Marathon July 16, 2005

On Saturday I ran the Buehlertal-Hundseck Honisgrinde Half-Marathon for the second year. Last year I ran the race as my first ever HM, with a time of 2:06:24. Race conditions last year were 28C/83F, sunny and warm.

The weather this year is part of my story and had some effect on my finish time. The short story is that this year I set a new personal route record, cutting off 11 minutes from my old record. This was still not good enough for a new HM personal record, but this was not one of my goals anyway for this race. Anyway the following text is my story, long-winded (I guess I didn’t run hard enough), so pour a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and bear with me.

My story begins on Friday, the day before the race. My wife and I decided to go a day early and stay overnight at a bed and breakfast in Buehlertal. When we made reservations the owners mentioned that we should show up at lunch time, or after 6 p.m. at night, as they had a working farm and would otherwise would be in the fields. So we decided to arrive at lunch time so that we could use the afternoon to play tourist. We arrived at the “Sonnenhof” (Sunny Farm) just before 12:00 and caught the farm wife preparing lunch for her husband. The farm house had a large upstairs with 8 rooms (with baths) that the family rented out to tourist in the summer and skiers in the winter.

We got settled in, had a picnic lunch that we brought with us and decided to check out the town and area. We drove the kilometer to the downtown area and checked out the local shops for a while, eventually stopping by the local tourist information center to see what was offered in the area. We noticed that one of the main attractions seemed to be a waterfall, which was conveniently on the way to Hundseck where my race was being held on Saturday. I wanted to check out the Start area for my half-marathon (HM) anyway, so we decided to stop and look at the waterfall.

This turned into the first adventure that we experienced on this trip. The waterfall was not on the main road, but about a 20 minute walk over rather hilly terrain. My wife felt up to it (despite the 32C/90F temperature) so we parked at a parking lot above the waterfall and hiked down to the falls. Having visited Niagara Falls at least a dozen times, I guess I had rather high expectations. The “waterfall” was actually a mountain stream that wound its way down to the valley below, we did not find anything larger than maybe a meter drop at any one time. We are still wondering if we missed the falls somewhere. The walk back just about killed my wife, as it was all uphill. I enjoyed it as it loosened up the muscles for the next day.

Wandering in Hundseck
Anyway once we got back to the car and got some oxygen for my wife we drove on to Hundseck to check out the Start line.

Hundseck is a local ski area, the tents where the start packets were be handed out were supposed to be located in a parking lot behind the ski lodge (left side of left picture above). Being the day before the race, I guess they didn’t set them up yet. The right picture above is a view down the mountain towards Buehlertal. The tents were still not set up, so we drove farther up the mountain to the next ski lodge and had some cake and coffee. After relaxing a while, we headed back down to Buehlertal and our room. My wife took a nap and I went for a short walk and took some pictures of the “farm”. The owner had 8 milk cows, numerous goats and some chickens. Not much compared to North American standards – it was obvious that they made most of their money from tourists.

Back on the Farm
After I returned we decided to go out for dinner at a restaurant that we had noticed nearby. I had a Black Forest specialty, beef, pork and lamb chunks with noodles and sauce, salad and for desert ice cream with a hot raspberry sauce. Yum-yum!

The next day we had a delicious farmers breakfast with fresh rolls and bread, homemade butter, jam and some Black Forest ham slices. The race was at 5 p.m. so we had a relaxing day just sitting on the large balcony and relaxing. About 3 p.m. we headed back up the mountain to Hundseck.

The tents were there this time, so I checked in, got my start number, used the port-a-potty and sat with my wife in the tent for awhile. The parking lots filled quickly, we were glad that we had showed up early.

When we arrived it was sunny and hot, temperatures being over 34C/93F! Then the storm clouds started rolling in. I the Black Forest this happens quickly and the storms here can be quite devastating. About 45 minutes before the start, as the thunder and lightning drew closer, the organizers announced that the race may need to be postponed if the storm gets too close, they would let us know. 10 minutes later the rain came down in buckets, I mean I have never experienced such a hard rain in Germany. Everyone huddled in the main tent and waited for the verdict.

Waiting out the rain
Despite the severe rain, the storm was short-lived and after another 10 minutes it dissipated, the sun came out and the organizers announced that the race was on. The Start was located about 1.6K/1M from the tent, so I joined the other and headed off in this direction at a slow jog to warm up a bit. Despite the rain, it was still sweltering hot, you could actually see the steam rising from the roads. We made it back into the woods were the Start line was located and barely got there and into place when the starting shot went off.

The first kilometer snaked its way back over the same narrow trail that we had just walked. There really was not a chance to get off to a fast start, as close to 400 runners attempted to squeeze along a logging trail. I passed the first kilometer (KM1) marker in 6:08 (9:52/mile), not bad considering. I was in no hurry, I knew what was waiting around the corner. We popped out of the woods, ran by the FINISH and made our way back towards the parking lots.

Coming up to the road by the parking lot we made a quick left and started climbing.

Around the corner and up the hill
Up we went, for almost 1.5K/1M, this is where my hill training really paid off, I actually PICKED UP MY PACE going up this stretch, averaging 5:30/K (8:51/M) for KM2 and KM3. I passed a lot of people, some who actually stopped to walk this early in the race. Just past KM3 it started slowly leveling out, I felt good at the pace I was going so kept going. KM4 passed by, 22:01, oh-ho, too fast, I slowed down just a touch. By KM5 and the first drink station I was running a steady 5:30/K (8:51/M). The next challenging part of the race came up, a very long stretch (4-5K) of gradual upgrade, hardly noticeable until your energy is zapped! I new this stretch from last year so concentrated on maintaining my pace. By approximately KM10 we past the original start, my time was 54:xx at this point, I had lost a minute somewhere, but that was okay.

So back down a little hill, then back up, past the finish and off to the parking lots, the beginning of the second round. Around the curve, my wife snapped a picture (see picture above on the left. I am the runner in dark clothes on the left).

Back up the hill – I started passing people again – thank my hill training!! I gained back my last minute by the time I reached the top, I settled down to my 5:30/K pace again. I grabbed an energy drink at the approx. 15KM marker (original 5KM marker) and started up the gradual upgrade. My legs were getting sore, but I knew this was nothing to worry about and kept up the pace. I managed to maintain my 5:30 pace right up to KM19, in which case I picked up the pace slightly. By the time I past the 20KM marker I was getting low on energy. My legs felt okay though and I pushed on the best I could. The last kilometer was up a gentle slope, but by this time it felt like the big mountain again. I was breathing heavier as I past the 21KM marker, I new the finish was just around the corner, I could hear the people cheering. I did my best to sprint around the corner and over the finish. My wife snapped a picture.

Jack the finisher
I was pooped, but proud, I knew I had beat my time from last year by a good 10 minutes. I jogged on for a few hundred meters than turned around and jogged back to the finish to get a drink and my finisher T-Shirt. I told my wife to go on ahead back to the tent and I drank a cup of water and jogged the kilometer over to the tent. I walked around a couple minutes, stretched a minute or two, than joined my wife. The weather was still warm and clear so we had some food and hung around until the results were posted. My time 1:55:03, eleven minutes, twenty-one seconds faster than last year. About one and a half minutes slower than my HM record. Considering the humidity, heat and trail, still a really good time! I’m totally happy!!

I was 224th our of 381 finishers, 36th in my age group (57 finishers). The winner finished in 1:17:37 (26 years old). The winning female finished in 1:30:47 (41 years old).

About 8 p.m. we made our way back to the “farm”, I showered and we sat on the balcony until dark. What a nice day.

This morning I was able to wish one of the other guests at the Bed & Breakfast good luck on his race, he is running the Honisgrinde Marathon today, his first. What is interesting is that he lives in Mannheim, where I ran my first marathon. Small world!

All and all we had a really great weekend, I hope y’all had fun too!

Way to go Jack! The pictures are beautiful...sounds like a great weekend. And the food....ahhhh. And 11+ minutes faster than last year:)
Oh sure, susan stole my comment. Great job Jack. Love the pictures.
Eleven minutes - wow!! The whole weekend sounds lovely and the race sounds like a challenging one.

Do all the races in Germany start in the evening?? Why is that when the temps are so high?
What a great, strong race! It sounds like the perfect weekend. :)
Nice job, Jack! Sounds like the a great way to spend the weekend :-) And I have the same question as Lara regarding the start times...
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