Sunday, April 30, 2006

My 43K Training Marathon

The Short Version:

Today I participated in the Northern Black Forest Marathon, finishing in 4:42:00 (the time was rounded off, it was actually a couple seconds under this). Due to some construction the marathon was extended from the traditional marathon distance to 43K/26.7M – which is about a half mile further than normal. The race consisted of two loops with about 1/3 asphalt bike trails or roads and the rest mostly gravel logging roads with a few dirt sections here and there. There were no mile (or kilometer) markers, which caused me (and many others) to go out too fast, but I was able to hang in there. Despite taking 3 minute walk breaks every 30 minutes, I still finished within 8 minutes of my best marathon time to date (and today was a half mile further). All in all a satisfying “training” run.

The Long Version

The race today was a dress rehearsal for my 50K race on May 25th. I wanted to test my run/walk strategy, which is 30 minutes running/3 minutes of fast walking for the duration of the race. With my previous marathons I always tried to run straight through, so this was a new concept for me and one that I have been training with during my long runs over the past month or two. The race was primarily a Nordic walking race, but walkers and runners were invited as well. There was no mass start, marathon participants could start between 8-10 a.m., 10K and HM participants could start between 8-11 a.m. On the back of the start number was a list of checkpoints (5K, 10K, 15K, 20K, 25K, 30K, 35K) whereas the participants had to stop at these check points and have their number signed. The start number was in a plastic envelope which could be attached to a belt or shirt. The starting time was written on the start number at the starting line when the participant wanted to start the race.

The entire course was a continuous bunch of rolling hills, with the highest elevation gain being around 100 meters (approx. 300 feet). The marathon route basically consisted of two loops. As I mention in the short version there were no mile markers, and only about half of the checkpoints (aid stations) posted the distance, so participants were pretty much on their own as far as determining speed. It was a cool and frosty 3C/37F at the start of the race, but was sunny and warmer by the time I returned.

I didn’t taper for this race, my only pre-race preparation was to reduce my 20K run to 14K last Wednesday and my 14K run to 8K on Thursday (I actually ran it Friday).

In any case we were up at 6 a.m. and on the road by 6:45. I wanted to try to start at 8 a.m., but it took longer to get to the race than I had anticipated, so I started at 8:36 a.m. The first 4K/2.5M were asphalt paths running between the neighboring fields and over gently rolling hills. I passed probably a dozen Nordic walkers on the way, I noticed write away that everyone was friendly and not in any particular hurry. I exchanged greetings with almost everyone I passed, it was an awesome environment compared to city marathons.

Just after the 4K point I turned and headed into the forest on a gravel logging path and eventually caught up and passed a few runners. At the 5K checkpoint the girl didn’t have a pen so waved us through. Shortly after the checkpoint was the highest climb for the course, but very gradually, rising a 100 meters over probably 500 meters distance – with the first loop it felt almost effortless.

So the trail continued over the rolling hills and the 10K point popped out of nowhere at a road crossing. The young man manning the checkpoint at least had a pen, but no cups – I refilled a half-liter water bottle that I was carrying with me. I was a little skeptical that the 10K checkpoint really was at 10K, based on my time I would say it was closer to 11K or 12K – but no matter. After the checkpoint began one of the most scenic portions of the run, on a dirt and gravel path that wound along a stream for about 30 minutes, ending by an old mill of some kind. This was also where the next checkpoint was, this one was marked 17K (34K for loop 2). I wish I had my camera with me, it was a really beautiful location – the mill, a small goat farm and a little waterfall – all nestled in a small river valley surrounded by forest.

The climb out of this little valley was short and abrupt, I ran it the first loop, but had to walk up it the second loop. After a couple rolling hills the trail turned back onto the original asphalt path where I started. Here we had to backtrack to within 1K of the finish, then loop around a field and onto the asphalt path again for the second loop. I am curious how many people gave up with the sport club within view – definitely not a motivating factor.

So by the end of the first loop I was still feeling fine, keeping the speed down, taking my walk breaks, drinking, eating etc. It was first around the 34K/21M point where my legs started feeling really tired. I munched on some salted pretzels and it seemed to get better for a short time. For the most part I tried to ignore the pain and kept going. I did notice that my speed was declining rapidly, but managed to keep moving anyway.

The last 4K, which were on the asphalt path, where pure hell – my legs were hurting and on the asphalt they were being beat to a pulp! As I was not overly concerned with my race time I elected to take a couple extra walk breaks. I at least managed to run the last kilometer in, albeit without any sprint and glory this time.

I was satisfied with my 4:42:00 finishing time, I really hadn’t planned on returning in under 5 hours, as this was a training run.

My wife was waiting for me in the sport clubhouse – she had brought her homework from the evening class with her to work on. We were generally disappointed with the food that was available from the group and elected to wait until we got home to eat. I did have a sandwich and a coke before we left. I was also disappointed that the race T-Shirt was not included in the event registration. My wife told me that several people had already complained about this and several other things, so I left them alone this time.

So as I said this was a dress rehearsel for my 50K and I did learn a few things. I started out too fast and ran too many of the hills on the first loop. I think my legs would have felt better if I slowed down and walked the hills. The salted pretzels seemed to have helped, I need to try them on my two remaining long runs before the 50K. I also carried a couple pieces of candy with me which I consumed after the 20M point to bring my blood sugar up – this really seemed to help in the energy department – I didn’t feel as much fatigue as normal.

In any case, 5 hours later my legs feel much better, a little achy, but I can walk up stairs (the ultimate test, right ;-). I will probably try to go out for a 15 minute jog tomorrow as a damage assessment. I hope that I am able to continue training on Wednesday with a 14K/8.7M recovery run. On Saturday is the 8.88889K Baden Mile race that I do every year with my company – I told everyone that I am going to walk it this year – no one believes me ;-) In any case this means I have to do my hilly long run on Friday. I will decide how long when once I get out and start running – I would like to do at least 2-2 ½ hours.

Have a great week!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Tomorrow's Training Marathon

Yesterday I went for a shorter 45 minute run, about 8K/5M, at an average pace of 5:30/K (8:51/M). I reduced the mileage slightly this week in anticipation of a longer training run on Sunday (tomorrow). I have wanted to test my run/walk strategy that I plan on using for the 50K race on May 25, so am participating in the Northern Black Forest Marathon. This marathon, along with a HM and 10K race, are being held by the Nordic Walking Club in Egenhausen, a small town in the northern Black Forest.

What makes this event different is that it is primarily a Nordic Walking event, but is also open to runners and walkers. There is no mass start, participants can start anytime between 8-11 a.m. Participants will be individually timed. There are no prizes, no age groups, everyone who finishes will receive a certificate with their finishing time printed on it. There are aid stations set up along the way with drinks, fruit and sports bars.

This will be just another long run for me, only a little further than normal. I will use the same 30 minute run/3 minute walk strategy that I have been training with over the last couple months. This has worked well during my long runs up to 3 hours 15 minutes, tomorrow I will see how it works with the marathon distance. It is important for me to continue with my training on Tuesday, so I will add as much walking as I feel I need to. I am not placing the run under any time constraints, I be done when I’m done.

The marathon route is supposed to be a mixture of forest trails, gravel roads and some asphalt bike paths. The elevation gain is less than I had expected, only 100 meters (around 300 feet), so it should be a relatively easy run compared to the hilly long runs I have been doing. In any case I will post a report on Sunday night or Monday. Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

I can’t wait to go back to work so I can relax – well, then again maybe not. Anyway, yesterday we were up at 7 a.m., had a leisurely breakfast, then my wife was off to one of the bureaucratic offices to get some paperwork done. As it was looking dark and stormy I vegged out by trying to catch up with bloglines for two hours – still not caught up – y’all write too fast. After I felt the dust setting on my head I decided I should get up and do something. First order of business was my weight training. As I finished up I noticed that the sun was out so I went outside and swept off the lower skirting around the house so I could start painting. My wife still wasn’t home so I made a quick omelet and a green salad for lunch, then headed outside to start painting. Three hours later I was finished and decided to go to the swimming pool. My wife was studying her Business English, so elected to stay home. I completed about 1100-1200 meters at the pool, a mix of freestyle and breaststroke. So that was yesterday.

Today I was again up at 7 a.m. - as I had a haircut appointment at 8:30. After the haircut I stopped at the garden with the intention of mowing the lawn, but it started pouring rain. I puttered around cleaning the garden house a little bit hoping the rain would let up so I could at least pull some weeds – no chance, so I headed back to the house. My wife was studying again so I decided it was an opportune time to get my run in.

So with the temperature approaching 18C/65F and with a gentle rain falling I headed out for a 14K/8.7M loop. After about 20 minutes the rain stopped and the sun came out – the humidity was terrible, I was wearing a light running jacket over my running shirt and it felt like I was running in a sauna. I was soaked from inside out and outside in. I still managed to keep up a pace of 5:38/K (9:03/M), a bit faster than I had planned on.

So as I write we just finished lunch and my wife wants to study some more. The sun is still shining so I am heading back to the garden. My wife has school tonight so she needs the car by 4:30 p.m. – got to go!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blogger is a Pain in the Blog

Blogger, my blog host, is seriously getting on my nerves. I have been trying to post pictures and links the last few days but have been unable too. Yesterday I tried to post a comment on Thomas’s site and it wouldn’t post, it wouldn’t post, it wouldn’t post and BLAM finally it posted three times – what’s up with that? I think it about time to start looking around for another blogging host – any suggestions?

Anyway as a work around for the picture problem I have copied the pictures that I wanted to show to one of my websites. Here are the links:

1. Some pictures of the front of our house and the masonry work that I was doing this week.

2. Some pictures of our trip to Karlsruhe last Sunday.

Our humble house on the corner was built in 1715 and is one of the oldest houses in the Village of Friedrichstal, Town of Stutensee. Friedrichstal was originally a Huguenot settlement, built from Huguenots that fled religious persecution in France and/or Switzerland.

The house was purchased by the village around 1775 for use as a Lutheran School. A local historian has also stated that the house was used as a toll house at some point in time, but could not provide any further information.

We did discover a picture of the house in a local history book that was probably taken around the 1920’s or 30’s. This picture shows some of the original timber frame construction. The timber frame has long since been plastered (cemented) over, but we still see some of the timbers in the upper part of the shed (right side of the house).

Being a history buff (and active hobby genealogist) it is totally fascinating living in a house that was built in a time when America was still in its infancy. We keep hoping that we will stumble across more information about the house. I guess you can imagine why I have a hard time imagining moving back to the United States anytime soon (that and the 30 days vacation a year ;-)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Home Improvement XT and A Great Tempo Run

Today was a busy day, I was up early and drove to the German equivalent of Home Depot to pick up some masonry cement and some paint.

Most German houses are some kind of brick construction which has a layer of masonry cement splattered on the outside for insulation. Over several years time water seeps behind this cement layer and the layer starts crumbling. The lower 3-4 feet skirt around the front and side of our house has several patches that need repairing. So this was my job for the day.

The first order of business was to walk around with a masonry hammer and knock down any cement that was crumbling. This left 3 major areas of around 4 square feet each to repair. Step two was to paint a sealer over this exposed area in preparation for plastering, or re-cementing the area.

I had these first two steps done before lunch, and as I had to let the sealer dry for 2-3 hours decided it was an opportune time to get my run in. My wife had gone grocery shopping, so I left a note and headed out.

It was just after 12-noon, the sun was shining, the sky blue, the temperature was already 21C/70F and a gentle breeze was blowing – perfect weather in my book! So off I went on my 14K/8.7M loop. I quickly settled into a comfortable pace and put it on cruise control. It was beautiful outside - the trees are all budding, the fields are growing, I love the springtime.

I was feeling quite good so just kept cruising along. I made it back to the house just in time to jump in the shower and sit down for lunch. My average pace was 5:22/K (8:39/M), not a bad tempo run consisting my long run this past Saturday.

So after a long leisurely lunch with my wife I went back outside and finished my project – all the mortar work is down, I only need to let it dry out a couple days then I can start painting. I only hope the weather holds out.

Tomorrow I want to head to the pool for some laps, on Wednesday I will do another 14K/8.7M run and probably a shorter run on Friday. Sunday I have a longer training run scheduled so need to take it a little easier this week.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

An Afternoon in the City

Today was a picture perfect day of being lazy. First we slept till almost 8:30 a.m., something that doesn’t happen too often in this household. Then after church, rather than going swimming I let my wife talk me into going to the nearby city of Karlsruhe for a market festival.

So we drove to the next village where we caught the streetcar to Karlsruhe, whereas upon arriving at the market square did not find a festival! My wife apparently didn’t read the fine print, the festival ended last night. Being flexible people we took a stroll through the palace gardens and discussed what to do next. We decided to backtrack with the streetcar and go to the local brewery and have lunch in their beer garden (Biergarten).

The Hoepfner Biergarten is a favorite place for the local city dwellers to sit and spend a warm sunny afternoon on the weekend. I was a little concerned about finding something healthy on the menu, as most beer gardens specialize in bratwurst, pork schnitzels and other fatty foods. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fiery pasta dish and a green salad on the menu, which turned out to be quite good and about as healthy as I was going to find.

In any case we had a good time sitting in the sun, chatting and watching the interesting people around. All in all an interesting afternoon, despite missing the market.

I took a couple pictures, but so far Blogger has not let me upload a picture, maybe tomorrow. Have a nice Sunday!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Three Hour Fifteen Minute Hilly Long Run - Yeah Baby!

So I just got back from an awesome long run an hour ago. I was up at 5:30 a.m., had breakfast, grabbed my stuff and drove to the neighboring town of Weingarten to run some hill loops. After some calisthenics and a 6 minute jog along the semi-flat base of the “mountain”, I turned and started tackling the first loop.

So up the hill, a steady climb for around 5-6 minutes, then some gentle rolling hills for about 20 minutes before heading back down again. Then it was a left turn and up the second major hill, about a 4-5 minute climb. The second hill is slightly steeper than the first, but I sailed over it! So after another 10-15 minutes of rolling hills I finally wound back down the mountain side to where I started. I finished the first loop in almost exactly 1:15:00.

So without skipping a beat, it was back up the hill for the second loop. As I crossed over the crown of the hill top and started down one of the rolling hills, I had a dude with a tractor and wagon stop me and ask if I had seen a pile of new logs on top of the hilltop – I guess he was picking up the logs for someone. Unfortunately, I run kind of tunnel-visioned so couldn’t honestly say that I had seen any or not – I had passed so many piles of logs already. He just kind of shook his head and drove away, probably totally convinced that I was out of my mind, crazy runners anyway!

In any case, I cruised around the second loop, again making it up the second major hill without falling apart, albeit a bit slower than the first time. My legs were getting a bit tired by that time, but I knew it was nothing to worry about – just push on – so I did. The second loop took about 6 minutes longer than the first, but I was still cruising.

So back up my heartbreak ridge a third time – last week I had to walk part of it by this time, this time I pushed myself up to the top and over! So by this time I was trying to figure out where I need to turn off to be back to the “finish” by 3:15:00, by goal time for today. I found a turn that did the job, basically a short cut to the trail that I take down the hillside.

I arrived back at the car after running for 3:17:15, mission accomplished. My legs were tired, but I knew I could push them further. I trained with walk breaks again today, roughly a 2-3 minute walk break every 30 minutes.

Before my run I ate a small breakfast consisting of a glass of tomato juice, a slice of whole wheat bread smeared with peanut butter and honey, a liter of water, and a bowl of granola with low fat milk. During the run I drank 2 liters of sports drink (from my CamelBak), ate two sports bars and peanut butter and honey sandwich.

As I write I am drinking water and just finished a cup of coffee. I am impatiently watching the clock, hoping that it will speed up so lunch will be ready soon. I’m a bit hungry – you know, something simple, like a side of beef or something…

It is a lovely day outside, warm and sunny. I believe it was 9C/48F when I left for the run this morning and 19C/66F when I came back. Despite wearing shorts, short-sleeve running shirt and a thin running vest, I was still totally drenched in sweat by the time I finished.

So today was the first day of my vacation (if weekends count), we are mostly staying home doing some home-improvement stuff and working in the garden. Next Sunday (April 30th) I am doing a slightly longer training run. Let’s see, I guess it’s about 4 weeks now until my 50K race, I can’t wait – it’s gonna be great!!!

Friday, April 21, 2006

An Easy 14K Run

Last night was a pleasant 21C/70F as I headed out the door for a 14K/8.7M run. My only goal was to keep the pace down so that my body recovers fast enough for my long run on Saturday morning. I ended up managing a relatively consistent pace, finishing with an average pace of 5:54/K (9:30/M). This morning my legs are slightly tired, but in a good way – I don’t anticipate having any trouble on Saturday morning.

Today is my last day of work before a two week vacation, so I have a lot of work to do. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What a wonderful night for a 20K run!

It was a warm, sunny, 20C/68F outside as I left for my 20K/12.4M run last night. The birds were singing, the trees budding, the air was fresh with the fragrances of springtime – I love this time of year.

I concentrated on maintaining an easy pace, around 6:00/K (9:39/M). I cruised over my normal running path, eventually turning west and running an extra 6K/4M loop around the Graben Running Clubs trails before reconnecting to my path. I finished in 2:02:37, for a pace of around 6:05/K.

Later on in the evening my legs felt kind of stiff and sore, but this morning they are much better. I think the longer run in the middle of the week is quite challenging, and I'm sure I will eventually reap benefits from this. Tonight I want to run another 14K/8.7M run, but at recovery pace.

On Saturday I have a 3 hour and 15 minute long run on the schedule. I will be running this in the hills of the neighboring town of Weingarten, as I have for the past few weeks. For me these hilly long runs are very aggressive runs, at least compared to all the flat long runs that I did throughout the winter. But I am slowly starting to feel the benefits of these runs on hilly terrain. My other runs during the week, on flat land, are starting to feel slightly easier.

In any case I have a lot of miles to cover in the next few weeks before my 50K race on May 25th. I hope the old body holds up. Happy running!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Training is going swimmingly... Jank (Bill) put it yesterday in a comment. Last night I stopped at the larger swimming pool in Karlsruhe to do my laps and was pleasantly surprised to see that the pool was almost empty! My first thought was “Tonight is the night to practice my freestyle stroke!” I still haven’t had a freestyle class yet so I usually end up beating myself (and anyone else foolish enough to get in my way;-) to death in a short time.

I warmed up with two breaststroke laps (1 lap = 50 meters), then halfway through the next lap I switched to my rendition of freestyle. This ended up leaving me gasping for breath by the end of the lap, a normal occurrence for me. So, on the return lap I switched to breaststroke. Then I turned around again, swam halfway, then tried again. I repeated this for a couple more laps and gradually noticed that I was relaxing and my breathing was improving!

So then I started increasing the distance, 30 meters, 40, then an entire 50 meter lap! Then I started alternating 1 lap breaststroke, 1 lap freestyle. Finally, as the grand finale, I swam a lap out and a lap back, freestyle! My wife, who met me at the pool after work, commented that my form was quite crude, but it seemed like I was much more at ease then other times when I tried the stroke.

In any case this was a major breakthrough for me, I probably swam around 500-600 meters of the 1400 meters total using the freestyle stroke. I can’t wait for the next trip to the pool!

After a small dinner, I took advantage of the sunny weather we had outside and went to the garden to pull weeds for two hours. I wish I had brought my camera, all the spring flowers are in full bloom.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Daydreaming + Running = Skinned Knees

Today was Easter Monday, a holiday in Germany. I spent some time with my wife this morning, then, as she needed to study for her night school, suited up and went for a run before lunch. My goal was a 14K/8.7M tempo run.

It was a fairly mild day, cloudy with temperatures hovering around 15C/59F. The wind was blowing slightly as I started out on my run. I quickly fell into a 5:30/K (8:51/M) pace and wound my way over my normal trail. My legs were kind of stiff from the long run on Friday, but after a few kilometers I loosened up and but on the cruise control.

As I entered the forest I must have been dreaming about the next race or something because next thing I knew I was laying face down in the mud after tripping over a root. Luckily I only skinned my knees and bruised my pride. After inspecting the "bod" for damage, I decided that I could continue. So after looking around to make sure no one saw how dumb I was, I continued on my merry way...

I finished my run with an average pace of 5:17/K (8:31/M), a little faster than I had planned, but totally satisfying. As I write my knees hurt a little, I hope they are back in shape for my 20K (12.4M) run on Wednesday.

Tomorrow night I want to stop at the pool and do some laps (if my knees feel better). Have a nice week everyone!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A 3 Hour Long Run and a 14K Recovery Run

I am a day behind in my training report. Yesterday (Friday) morning was a holiday in Germany (Good Friday) so I didn’t crawl out of bed until almost 8 a.m.. I still managed to eat breakfast and drive to the neighboring town of Weingarten for my long run by 9 a.m. On the schedule: a three hour hilly long run.

I followed more or less the same loop as last week:

- Approx. 6-7 minutes of warmup on a relatively flat forested logging trail.
- A six minute hill climb (about 150 meter elevation change).
- Approx. 20 minutes of rolling hills.
- A rapid decent to the base of the hill.
- A second hill climb, apprx. 4 minutes.
- Another series of rolling hills, followed by a descent to the base of the hill and the starting point.

The first loop took around 70 minutes. The second loop took a couple minutes longer than the first.

I filled in the remainder of the time by backtracking the loop and doing several small hill climbs and a couple loops along a small upgrade near my starting point. In any case I ran for 3 hours and 1 minute, taking a 3 minute walk break approx. every 30 minutes.

To make a long story short: The first loop was fine, the second loop was hard, and the final 40 minutes or so kicked my butt. It was a terribly good workout, in other words it pushed me hard, I was sore today, but not to the point where I was reduced to a vegetable on the couch.

So that was yesterday, today my day went like this: First, I spent two hours wandering around shopping with my wife (I wandered, she shopped). Second, we worked for over three hours in the garden (I mowed the grass for the first time!). Third, I ran a 14K/8.7M recovery run.

My recovery run went well, I was tired, so took it slow and enjoyed the warmer, sunny weather that we had in the late afternoon (17C/63F). My average pace was still 5:52/K (9:26/M), so I can’t complain.

My total mileage for the week 74K/46M, exactly what I had scheduled. Tomorrow is Easter and a rest day. Normally I go swimming after church, but the pool is closed. It is a good day to spend with my wife, so I will do so.

Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Fast Tempo 20K Run

It was a humid 9C/48F and windy as I headed out for my 20K/12.4M run. I was a little tired so elected to bring my MP3 player for motivation. But this proved unnecessary as the wind carried me over the first half hour of running. My tempo quickly picked up to a crucifying rate as I sped over my route in the reverse direction. I first came out of my daze after about 90 minutes as my legs started screaming at me to slow down. Shortly after this I changed directions and headed into the wind, paying for every enjoyable kilometer that I had had up to that point. The last 25 minutes were tough, my legs ached from the too high of pace that I had been following, each minute found me struggling to keep any essence of speed. Finally I wound my way back through the village to my house and collapsed on the doorstep – well maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I was pretty well spent by the time I arrived. I walked for 10 minutes after the run to try to loosen up the legs some.

This morning my legs are a little sore, but I am not complaining. It is my opinion that to improve our running we need to push once in awhile. Of course the trick is to learn how to push ourselves without going overboard and getting injured. I have been fortunate so far, but considering the mileage I have been doing lately last night's run was probably getting close to the boarder line.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, a holiday in Germany. Saturday is supposed to be our only good day of weather for the weekend, so I am thinking about moving my long run from Saturday morning to Friday morning (tomorrow), which will allow me to spend the day in the garden on Saturday.

My wife wants to take a drive through the Black Forest sometime this weekend, but I heard they still have snow in the higher elevations. As I just took off my snow tires on the car, as it is spring in our area, this may keep us from making this trip until the snow is gone.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Swim Night and some Strength Training

Last night I stopped at the swimming pool on the way home from work and swam 1300 meters, mostly breaststroke. It seemed to have taken a little longer than normal, somehow my energy level was depleted.

After a spaghetti dinner I went upstairs in the shed and worked out with free weights for 20 minutes. I banged my elbow against a door at work yesterday morning and it was bothering me during my strength training. It is still bruised and sore this morning. Ouch!

The last couple nights I have been late getting to bed - Monday because I wasn’t tired, last night because I was doing a backup of my computer files (it’s been over a year – yikes). This morning I had a hard time crawling out of bed at my usual 4:45 a.m. and I have already succumbed to my habit of eating sweets when I am tired. It’s a good thing for my diet that I have a 2 hour run tonight.

Our weather is really crazy this spring. After a warm, sunny weekend we are back to rain and winter jacket weather.

On a positive note: We have a 4-day weekend coming up this week, Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays in Germany! That means I only have to work 4 days this week and 4 days next week. Oh, and did I say that we have two weeks vacation right after that (April 24 – May 5). I love working in Germany!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pictures from our Weekend Trip

With a little help from Adobe Photoshop I was able to quickly put together a slide show of the pictures from our weekend trip to Fuerth, Germany. To view the pictures use the URL:

A 14K Tempo Run

Last night was a brisk 7C/45F as I headed out into the wind and rain to do my run. My goal was to complete my 14K/8.7M loop with an average pace of 5:30/K (8:52/M). My legs were a little stiff from walking on all the cobblestone streets over the weekend and from sitting on the train for 4½ hours yesterday. But I quickly settled into my desired pace and maintained this for the entire run.

This morning my legs feel really good, which is a good thing because I have a lot of miles to cover in the next six weeks. Tonight is swim night, followed by some light weight training.

I started working on the pictures that I took of our travels on the weekend. I will provide the link when I am finished. Have a nice week!

p.s. Here is the first picture to wet your appetite – a view from our hotel, overlooking the market square.

Chocolate Heaven

Dear Jon,

If you were to die and go to chocolate heaven I think I know where we can come and visit you. It surely would be in this Chocolatier that I found in Fuerth, Germany. I tasted the best pralines that I have ever, ever had in my life time. Of course I haven't had the honor of trying yours yet ;-)

p.s. I don't know what pralines cost in the USA, but in this shop a package of 10 small pralines cost 10 Euro, which is about $12 (US).

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Weekend in Fuerth, Germany

My wife and I enjoyed a nice weekend in Fuerth, a town just north of Nuremberg, in the Upper Franken region of Bayern. We rode the train from our town (Stutensee-Friedrichstal) to Nuremberg, then the subway to Fuerth. Aunt Sigrid (Siggi) picked us up at the train station and brought us to the hotel. Although Aunt Siggi has a rather large condominium, she prefers that we stay at a hotel and always insists on treating us to a hotel on the market square in the middle of the old part of town.

Our primary purpose for the visit was so that my wife could do her aunt’s taxes. So around 8:30 a.m., after a good breakfast at the hotel, my wife took a taxi to her aunt and I went for a run.

It was a warm and sunny 12C/54F outside as I headed out. From previous trips to Fuerth I new that across the street and down a block was the entrance to the city park, one of the favorite jogging areas for the locals. Sure enough I met dozens of joggers, skaters, bikers and dog walkers and I started looping around the park. A loop around the park took about 20 minutes and I ran about 4½ loops (90 minutes). I had wanted to run for 2 hours, but I hadn’t counted on it being so warm – thirst was becoming an issue. As I didn’t have anything to drink with me, I decided that 90 minutes was enough and headed back to the hotel for a shower. This turned out to be a good idea anyway as we did several hours of walking over hard cobblestone streets in the afternoon.

So after rehydrating, showering and a quick call to the womenfolk, I made my way over to the market square and main shopping area across from the hotel. “The women” wanted that we meet at the aforementioned park for lunch, so I had about 2 hours to kill.

Anyway, on Saturdays there is a small farmer’s market on the market square – residents can buy fresh produce, honey, cheese, bread and such things. As I passed the bakery stand I felt a sudden drop in blood sugar, so purchased one of the fresh pastries from the vendor. They also had coffee, so I sat at one of the benches at the edge of the market and enjoyed the sunshine while doing some people watching. My wife and I both love to sit and watch the people go by, especially in larger cities as you see some pretty interesting people sometimes.

After finishing my coffee I continued on my way. I needed some new shoes for work so looked through a couple shops, finally finding a suitable pair. Of course, I had to check out the running shoes while I was there (too expensive). The highlight of my shopping experience was finding a Chocolatier. I guess you can all figure out what they sell, the prices were sinful, but mmmm.

So after depositing my new shoes at the hotel I walked over to the park to meet my wife and her aunt. As I was a little early I took a quick walk around and took some pictures (coming soon). I then joined the ladies at the café located in the middle of the park for a delicious lunch. After lunch we took a nice long walk around the park and surrounding town. This of course was followed by a cup of coffee at a café afterwards.

After coffee Aunt Siggi returned home to get dressed for the evening activities and we returned to the hotel. Later we met at a favorite Greek restaurant for dinner, then took in a musical (The King and I) at the local Theater. We finally returned, exhausted, to our hotel room about 11 p.m.

On Sunday I had intended on getting up early and do a couple laps around the park, but I couldn’t force my eyes open until almost 8 a.m., which left too little time to run. My wife wanted to go to a flea and antique market across the street in the market square, so we had breakfast and then proceeded to the market. Rain clouds were forming over the market square as we made our way around the flea market. It was a little smaller than we had anticipated, but still interesting. My wife collects old scales, mostly the type used by small shops and businesses in the “old” days. It wasn’t her day, there were none to be found. I collect John Deere toy tractors, an even harder item to find in a German flea market.

As we returned to the hotel the first drops of rain began to fall. We called Aunt Siggi and set up plans for the rest of the day. We had to catch our return train at 3:15 p.m., so Aunt Siggi suggested that we come over to her place for lunch. So after checking out, we took a taxi to her house and chilled out until it was time to go.

All in all it was a really nice weekend, our only regret was not being able to stay longer. On the other side my diet suffered greatly from the massive quantities of food that made it’s way to my mouth. At least most of the food was healthy food! Today I am limiting myself to mostly fresh fruit and veggies in an effort to purge the system.

I took some picture and will try to post these in the next day or two.

So this morning it’s back to work and tonight back to training. On April 30th I have a training marathon and in six weeks a 50K to run!

Friday, April 07, 2006

A 2 Hour and 42 Minute Hilly Long Run

Yesterday it warmed up from a 0C/32F frost at 6 a.m. to a more comfortable 12C/54F by early evening when I set out on my 2 hours and 45 minute hilly long run. With a little pre-planning and preparation I was able to reach my starting point at the base of our largest hill in the area, located in the neighboring town of Weingarten (11K from our house), by 4:45 p.m.

After a quick warm-up I ran an approximately 1K loop before heading up “the hill”, a 160 meter (525 feet) climb that puts me on the very top of the “mountain”. At the top of the hill I followed an assortment of dirt logging roads and crushed stone paths up and down a number of foothills before heading back down to the base of the mountain. At this point I was about a mile from my starting point, but it was on the other side of the mountain. So back up and over the mountain, this time about a 80 meter (260 feet) climb. From here it was a rapid downhill trot to where I started . The first loop took about 70 minutes.

So back up the mountain I went, albeit a little slower than the first time - over the same foothills, down the mountain, up the mountain - then I tried a new path back to my start. This added a few more rolling foothills and a gentler downhill before return to the start. The second loop took about 80 minutes.

Then it was back up the mountain, at least that was the intent, halfway up my legs told me to take a hike, so I did, walking up the rest of the way (3 minutes). By this time I had about 20 minutes left so I wound my way back down mountain taking a few new trails that I hadn’t been on yet. By the time I reached my car I had run for 2 hours 42 minutes and decided this was close enough to my goal of 2:45:00. I took 3 minute walk breaks every 30 minutes, except for the last one (when I headed up the mountain), which was after 20 minutes. I am really not sure how fast my tempo is, so I can only estimate what my mileage was, I wrote 24K in my journal, but it was probably more.

My legs provided more than enough evidence to the quality of the workout. I felt like I had just done about a zillion squats or something. This morning my legs feel great - no cramps, pain or soreness. I feel like I could go out and run another loop or two around the mountain!

So I just ran 5 out of the last 6 days for a total of 84K/52M (at least). Included in that is a 10K race where I set a new personal best. I am really amazed at how well my legs feel today!

So at 4 p.m. we have to catch the train to Fuerth where we are visiting my wife’s aunt. My running stuff is packed, as is my camera. I will do my best to get some pictures!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A 14K Tempo Run

Yesterday after work it was a cooler 7C/45F as I headed out for a 14K/8.7M run. My goal was a 5:30/K (8:51/M) tempo run, but I slowed down the last 4 kilometres so ended up with an average pace of 5:38/K (9:04/M). After the roughly 10K point I decided I should slow down a little and save my legs for the 2:45:00 hour long run in the hills tonight after work.

During my run last night I could feel that my legs have not totally recovered from my long run and race last weekend, but I don’t think this will be a factor in my long run tonight. Worse will be the mental fatigue from working all day and then running so long. But this will be good training for the mental battle of my first 50K run in May, right!?

p.s. For you geeks who like table and statistics, I created a couple tables with my personal best times and all the races that I have run. You can either click here or on the link "My Races & Personal Best's" on the right link bar. This page also includes links to all my race reports for the races that I ran (at least since I started blogging). Have a great day!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tuesday Night Swim Night

Yesterday I took a 25 minute walk with a coworker during lunch, this worked wonders in loosening up tired legs muscles. After work I stopped by the swimming pool and swam 1300 meters in laps, mostly breaststroke, but with a little “attempted freestyle” mixed in. By the last lap I was slowing down and getting pooped, I guess all the running over the weekend caught up to me (note: I swim my laps without any breaks).

This morning I feel a little tired and fat (swimming makes me hungry), but my legs feel good. Tonight I want to run a 14K easy pace run. Tomorrow night I am going to run my long run up and down the hills of Weingarten (a neighboring town). According to my training schedule the run should be two hours and 45 minutes, so I may need to bring my flashlight with me. I am a little skeptical about running a longer run after a full day’s work, but we’ll see how it goes. On Saturday I need to make up my mid-week 20K run. As we will be away visiting my wife’s aunt in Fuerth, near Nuremberg, this will consist of several loops around a large park that is nearby. It will be a nice change of scenery anyway!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Stormy Weather and a Recovery Run

Last night after work it was a cool, windy, rainy, 11C/52F degrees as I headed out for a 14K/8.7M recovery run. My legs were a little sore from the satisfying workout at the race on Sunday, so I ran at “Jack’s interpretation of a recovery pace”, or a pace of around 6:00/K (9:39/M). The weather was crazy during the almost 85 minutes that I ran. First it rained, then it was sunny, then it rained, then sunny, then rain, then sunshine – all in the 85 minute timeframe. But I was fortunate, 15 minutes after I finished the wind picked up, it rained HARD, we had a hail storm, and then it poured again! One of my neighbors came straggling in shortly after, from walking her dog, looking like a half-drowned cat.

This morning I still feel a little soreness in the legs, but they are better. I’ve slept like a stone the last two nights, I think the house could have been wiped out by a tornado and I wouldn’t have noticed it ;-)

We are going to one of my wife’s aunts in Fuerth (a suburb of Nuremberg) this upcoming weekend, so I have to adjust my runs for the rest of the week:

- I need to move Saturday’s hilly long run to Thursday night.
- I need to move Wednesday’s flat 20K run to Saturday (in Fuerth).
- I need to move Thursday’s 14K run to Wednesday.

I have to take a day vacation on Friday to take my car in for inspection and to wait around for the water company to exchange our water meter. We have to head to the train station at 4 p.m. in order to catch the train to Nuremberg.

We will be staying at a hotel in the middle of the older section of Fuerth (my wife’s aunt doesn’t have a guest room). On one side of the hotel is the old Market Square were they have a neat farmer’s market every Saturday morning. Across the street is a large park with lots of running trails, so you KNOW my running shoes will be packed! I’ll try to remember to pack my camera too!!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Picture: Jack on the run!

My coworker surprised me with this picture this morning. I believe this was right after we came off the bridge and passed the 8K marker. We were just about to turn right and head out of town again. The tall dude directly behind me kept trying to pass me, but somehow I managed to stay ahead. In the end I wore him out and left him in the dust. Yeah, I'm gloating ;-)

It's official, I shaved 49 seconds off my PB

So the results of yesterday’s 10K race are finally in:

My official time: 48:18 (new personal best, yahoo!)
Ranking (men): 106/215
Age class ranking (M44): 22/37

First place male: 33:19 (age 27)
First place female: 36:37 (age 29)

The total number of runners was as follows:

Men: 215
Women: 70
Students: 66
Bambini’s (Under 10): 58

This is far less people than I thought were present. The organizer’s were expecting over a thousand people, so I guess they were disappointed. But the sad thing is they still ran out of T-Shirts! Can someone explain this to me, I come in 106th place and they don’t have any T-Shirts left, what is wrong with this picture?

Anyway it was a fun race, my muscles are a little sore today, but I know that I can still complete my training run tonight – so mission accomplished – and a new PB too!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Great Day for a 10K Race!

I woke up this morning at 8 a.m. feeling fresh and still filled from the massive meal that we had at the neighbor’s birthday party the night before. I stuck my head outside and checked out the weather: mild, partly sunny, a slight wind and 9C/48F. Over a small breakfast I pondered what I should wear for my 10K race at 11 a.m. The weather forecast called for mild weather turning to rain my mid-afternoon. I decided to go with running shorts and a long sleeve running shirt. At about 9:45 my wife and I drove to next town, Blankenloch, where the race was held. We had to get there early because the town was closing off the main street at 10 a.m. and we wanted to park near a friend’s house that lived near the Start.

I picked up my race number and promptly started looking for the restrooms. Um, where were the restrooms? I wondered around for a few minutes and didn’t find any! I went back into the building where they were issuing the start numbers and asked. Of course nobody knew anything, but they suggested I could ask some dude standing outside. Ugh! I mean this was the 1st Annual Stutensee Town Run, but let’s be for real people, you have to realize that when a thousand runners show up you have to have a plan. So I went outside and got directions to an elementary school halfway back to our town and I took care of business. When I finally rejoined my wife she promptly told me that the club finally put up a sign for the restrooms, right next door to where I picked up the start number, of course!

Okay, so I ignored this inconvenience and walked around a small market that was set up in the area and waited for the start of the race. About 15 minutes before I made another pit stop at the restroom and then warmed up for the race.

I was feeling surprisingly good considering my hill run on Saturday morning, so pondered what pace I wanted to run. As I said in a couple of my posts this week, it was important for me to not push too hard, as my training for the 50K is rather short and I can’t miss any training runs. So I decided to just run and have fun. By this time the tempeature was up to 12C/54F and the sun was shining. Let's race!

I lined up in the middle of the pack and saw the wife of one of my co-workers. We talked for awhile until the Start pistol went off. The pace quickly picked up and I lost her immediately. I got caught up in the masses and of course started faster than I had planned on. I passed the 1K marker in 5:04 (8:09/M pace), a little fast, I made a note to slow down a bit if I feel winded.

So we wound around the town of Blankenloch, I passed the 2K marker, oops 4:50/K (7:47/M) – too fast, I don’t want to burn myself out. I missed the 3K marker, but passed the 4K marker with a time of 19:35, which was an average pace of 4:51/K (7:49/M) for the first four kilometers. I was getting a little winded (we went over an overpass about this time) so slowed down a bit, I guess. About this time I hear a familiar huffing and puffing and Mr. Friedbert Vetter, the ultramarathon runner that I talked I barely beat at the cross-country race in January slowly came running by me. We exchanged greetings as he passed and soon he was out of sight.

I missed the 5K marker and by the 6K marker I decided to stop looking at my watch and just run. We headed out of town and into the forest, onto the same trail that I ran my long runs all winter. Of course the familiar route caused me to speed up again, or it felt like it at least. I missed the 7K marker and as we approached the town again, we passed over a small bridge and the 8K marker on the other side. From here we turned right and headed out of town again and over dirt field path. I was starting to feel the run from the day before about this time, but focused and put on the cruise control.

I crossed the 9K marker and was really having to push it to keep the pace up. My mind and body were both complaining by this time and I had all I could do to keep it up. Then I see a familiar blue “Phillipsburg Running Club” shirt up ahead and knew right away that Mr. Vetter was just ahead, I had almost caught up to him. I dug down deep and picked up the pace, one more kilometer, I had to pass this dude!

I stretched it out, taking advantage of my longer stride and slowly crept by, again hearing his distinct huffing and puffing as I passed. Five hundred meters to go and the blue wonder was going to make me pay for every meter, he stuck to me like glue, I could hear his breathing with every step.

Finally we round the last corner and I saw the finish ahead. I put everything on the table and moved forward. The legs whined, my lungs felt like they were going to burst – almost there – finished. My wife was there and shouted a greeting, but I huff-puff, couldn’t, huff-puff, say a word at this point so waved and walked it out until I could catch my breath.

I went back to the finish and surrendered my micro-chip arm band and got in line for my T-Shirt. They were out (of course) so I put my name on the list – they will have more next week.

I rejoined my wife, who had in the meantime collected our friends and staked out the best place to eat. We agreed that what the race organizers had to offer was not worth the trouble, so our friends suggested a Chinese restaurant around the corner. I wanted to take a quick shower at the sports club, so told them I would meet them there.

We had a nice lunch, followed by coffee at our friends house, all in all a great day.

I am still waiting on the official results of the race. They were supposed to post them on their website, but I guess it was too much to hope that they would do it the same day of the race – I mean their people didn’t even know where the restrooms were .

My unofficial time based on my watch was 48:16. As my previous best time for a 10K race is 49:07, I hope my watch is right!

A fantastic two and a half hour training run!

Saturday I woke to the pitter-patter of rain so rolled over and slept another hour until 6:30 a.m. After a small breakfast I suited up and drove over to the neighboring town of Weingarten, or in other words to the nearest hills in our vicinity. I warmed up a little, strapped on my new CamelBak Rim Runner, and started running several loops around the mountain, including three major climbs from the very bottom to the very top (about 165 meter/500 feet elevation difference). During the two and a half hours that I ran I took four 3 minute breaks, approximately every 30 minutes. I guess I ran at least the 22K/13.6M that was on the schedule. The goal was time on the feet, not speed or distance. When I was done I still felt I could have gone much further, so I this was a good sign!

I stopped at our garden club located in the same town on the way home. After changing quick in our garden house, I spent 90 minutes cleaning up the garden before heading home.

At 5 p.m. we went to our neighbors and help celebrate a birthday. The neighbors wife turned 40 and invited over 60 people for what can best be described as a feast! A five course meal with nothing less than massive quantities of food, drink and fun!

We finally made it home about 11 p.m., stuffed like Thanksgiving turkeys and totally beat. I was glad that my 10K race today started first at 11 a.m., but that is another story – stay tuned!

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