It’s not too often that I talk about companies or products here.  I have talked about some cycling, running and triathlon related products over the years, especially once I’m confident that it’s something that I like.

This is one of those times.

Actually, a moment to rave about some phenomenal customer support from one of the companies.

The company is Light & Motion, creators of personal lighting systems for pretty much any activity you want to engage in, on ground, in the air or in the water.

The story:

I bought a set of Stella 300 Dual headlights back in autumn of 2009.  I needed them for my bicycle commute to/from work in Germany.  If you’ve lived in Germany, the winters are cold and dark.  Very dark.  Especially if you spend a large amount of time riding through the forest, hoping to dodge any deer or boar that want to cross the trail.

Brilliant riding!

They treated me extremely well through 3.5 brutal German winters, including two in a row that the German weather service declared “the worst in 40 years”, followed by “the worst in 41 years”.

Days like this:

Winter Riding in Germany

Except when I was commuting, it was pitch black except for what the Stella would illuminate.  Which on a snowy ride like this, pretty much everything was illuminated for a good 30-40 yards ahead.

Like I said, brilliant riding.

Here in Oregon, I don’t need them for daily commutes, instead breaking them out on occasion, like every Monday to get home from the bike polo game.  A couple of months ago I realized they were not working as they had, or should.  So I contacted Light & Motion.

A bit of talking back and forth and they suggested that I send it in for a look.  Which I did.

They arrived back at my front door today, an almost completely brand new set.

Looking at the work order, it mentions that they replaced the cable (that runs between the battery and the lights) as well as changed out the lights.  In other words, they rebuilt a new set, which is great since they no longer make this model.

So the lights are almost five years old and completely rebuilt.

They covered it under warranty work!

The quote that they gave me prior to the work was extremely reasonable, coming in at around 1/10 the cost of buying a new light kit.  I was pleased with that, knowing that their standard warranty length is two years.  But three years after that point, they still covered it.

Amazing service that was completely unexpected.  Unexpected, but greatly appreciated.

Broadcasting their excellence to the world is the least I can do.

So if you’re in the market for headlamps or headlights or dive lights, buy from Light & Motion.

I know any lights I buy in the future will be from them.



A marker to adventure.

PCT Tree

We’re just a few miles from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  You might remember other posts with pictures of the trail marker.

For the past six weeks I’ve been reading all of the blog posts on the PCT Journalist.  The Journalist is the collection of blogs from many of the thru-hikers, many of whom started at the US-Mexican border down in California back in April.  It’s quite interesting to read their stories, good and bad.

Thru-hiking the trail (all 2,663 miles of it) isn’t something that we’re discussing in this house.  Well, there might have been a mention or two, surprising first brought up by Goddess.

I know I’ll keep her.

But we use sections of the trail quite often, especially as I get out in the wilderness and look for places to take pictures.

Anyway, I’ll be giving back a bit this weekend, attending the PCT Association’s Trail Skills College, which happens to be held right up the road.  Close enough that I can be there in 45 minutes, far enough away that it’s a fun little camping trip.

After that, checking the schedules to see where work needs to be done.  We’ve stumbled across tree falls that have blocked the PCT, although I’m sure those are cleared already.  But there are plenty of others, plus trail repairs and erosion mitigation.

All things that need to be done, yet are another excuse to get out in the wilderness.

Good stuff.


Over the weekend, I’ll be disconnected, which is a great thing.  But I will be thinking about bicycle races.  There are plenty going on right now or starting this weekend that are all pretty impressive in their own rights.  What makes the races even better is that, thanks to technology, we can follow in real time.

  • The pros are racing in France in the Critérium du Dauphiné, where many are using it as their final tune-up race before next month’s Tour de France.
  • We’re just over 36 hours into this year’s Race Across America (RAAM), a 3,000 mile fully supported time trial, running from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD.  The racers sleep but an hour or two a day, otherwise they’re on the bike.  This year’s leader is the defending champion (7 days, 22 hours, 52 minutes) and he’s already put a sizeable lead over the rest of the solo racers.  But it’s still early, as he’s at 700 miles in, near the Four Corners area and hasn’t stopped for a nap yet.  Live tracking here -> .  The teams start on Saturday, and being able to relay across the country, they’ll catch up to the solo leaders about four days later.  It’s impressive to watch.
  • This year’s Trans Am Bike Race started last Saturday in Astoria, OR and wends its way eastward to Yorktown, VA.  It’s longer than RAAM, clocking in at 4,223 miles, but it’s fully self-supported.  No outside help.  The racers carry whatever they need, buying food along the way (with no outside help) or grabbing a hotel room if they need it.  The idea is to work on your own to get from one coast to another.  There isn’t a time limit, so some riders may be out there for over a month; this differs from RAAM, which does have a time cut-off.  Live tracking here ->
  • Finally, this year’s Tour Divide will have its official kickoff tomorrow, 13 June.  This race runs north to south, crossing both the Trans Am Bike Race and the RAAM routes.  Those races tend towards road bicycles; the Tour Divide leans heavily towards mountain bikes, as it runs the roads at trails that follow the continental divide from Banff, Alberta, Canada to the US-Mexican border in New Mexico.  The Trans Am Bike Race actually borrowed its rules from the Tour Divide – it’s a  solo effort where the rider must be self-sufficient, only resupplying or sleeping in locations that are available to all other riders; no help from friends, family or strangers.  Live tracking here (once they get started) ->

Plenty of goodness there.  Amazing efforts and tests of endurance in each one.

Fun to watch.

But don’t forget to get out there and do something yourself!

Well, That Was Fun!!!

If you look up at the top of the page, it says “Bill’s Racing, Rambling and Photos”.  For the past couple of years it’s been more like “Bill’s Photos and Rambling”.

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been any racing (which there really hasn’t), but there have been a few posts that leaned towards the athletic.

But if you look at my Races tab, the last race I have entered was back in January, 2010.  That was a great race in a blizzard – the Rodgau 50K.

Since then, it has mainly been play.  Fun runs in the Alps and fast stair climbs.

Then there was a grand bike tour.

But that’s not a race.  Although there was some racing.  Mainly me trying to catch up to the pack every time the road moved off of level or we hit a secteur pavé.

Although I could leave the fellas scattered by the wayside once I got the diesel engine wound up and started the sprint from a kilometer out.

And while that’s all great, great fun, it’s not an organized race.

And the reality was, as I posted in February of last year, I was athletically rudderless, not really interested in pursuing a specific athletic goal.  Mainly because most of the ones that interest me take so much time away from Goddess.  In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m quite keen on the Goddess.  That means I am quite protective of my time with her, so I wasn’t wild about the 4-6 hour (or more) weekend training days that marathons, ultra-marathons or grand bike tours require.

So I just kept an unfocused training regimen, focused on having fun and staying fit, while not demanding too much time from Goddess.  And I kept a thought in the back of my mind, which I did verbalize to a few folks, that I wanted to remain fit enough that I could fake my way through a half, whether that be a half-marathon or a half-Ironman triathlon.

That brings us to today.

On a lark a couple of months back, I signed up for the Heidelberg Half Marathon.  It was to be interesting, since I had no plans to specifically train for the race, just rely on my fitness and see how it worked out, since my training at the time was focused on a grand bike tour.  Plus, considering that I have not run greater than seven miles in the past two years, save for one other lark of a 14-miler that involved running straight up the side of the Alps, then back down, running 13.1 miles was going to be a stretch.  Especially this one, with some pretty steep sections and 3,400′ of cumulative climbing.

I was going to have to rely on the diesel engine and hope that the suspension held up.

Here’s the race map, overlaid on terrain:

Heidelberg Half Marathon
Heidelberg Half Marathon

That gives you an idea of the terrain.  But it doesn’t tell the truth like the profile does:

Heidelberg Half-Marathon Profile
Heidelberg Half-Marathon Profile

Like I said, this was a lark.  In the previous week, I had run three times, including a fairly fast 1.5 miles for my fitness test.  Before that, I had not run in a month, thanks to a combination of things.  I had injured myself playing frisbee, which halted any running.  Then I went on the grand bike tour and didn’t have time to.  Then I got back and came down with some crud that kept me down for over a week.

And that led into this week.  Monday was a slow 5-miler to make sure everything still worked properly.  Wednesday was a hill run which included the same set of stairs in PR; this time I set a new PR and ran up the entire set of stairs without stopping, although the pace was decidedly slower than 9:35.  Then on Friday was my PT test, so basically it was a short race.

In short, I didn’t train for this half-marathon, nor did I taper.

I was walking into it cold.

When I signed up, I took a stab at a finishing time and selected two hours.  I based that on the terrain and hope.  Unfortunately, hope is not a technique.

I seeded myself appropriately in my corral (#4 of 4), towards the back.  I cracked jokes with a few first-timers that I’m surprised we weren’t surrounded by people with walkers, complete with tennis balls.  We were only there a few minutes, then the gun went off for our group (some 850 people).  It was time to settle into a comfortable pace and see how the day worked out.

It wasn’t long before I was passing people.  That turned out to be the theme of the day.  I started out near the back of the 3,445 that finished and I finished 1,416 overall.  The math is simple – I passed over 2,000 people in 13.1 miles.  On this course.

Luckily a good portion of this run is on familiar ground, with the first large hill being part of our normal Monday run.  So I knew what to expect.  However, the course splits from where we normally head back down to the valley and continues upstream, then crosses further up than I am familiar with.  Then heads straight up the other side so that we can loop behind the Heidelberg Castle.  So after the midway point, it was all new territory.  And that kept my effort in check.

The only spots I walked were the water points.  No sense in trying to run and drink, instead sloshing water all over myself.  Although plenty of people did and gained nothing from it.  I did find it interesting that so many thought that they were saving time, although they had to slow down so much to prevent the sloshing that they might as well have been walking.

The flats were OK.  The uphills were great, probably because that’s where I passed huge chunks of people each time.  At one point, in the closing miles, we were climbing a series of cobbled switchbacks that were steeper than 20% grade and I had a flashback to the grand bike tour.  And the downhills were fun, cruising past many folks who just weren’t comfortable with letting go.  I was amazed at how many were walking the gradual downhills, even only halfway through the race.

As you can tell, I had a great time.

But there was one significant annoyance, for which I’m partially at fault.  The race is capped at 3,500 registered participants, mainly due to the narrow streets in Heidelberg as well as the narrow trails through the forest.  My fault was ignorantly seeding myself way at the back.  The annoyance were the many, many, many runners who could not hold their line while running, instead darting side to side even though they gained nothing from the maneuver.  I spent more time than I cared guiding people with my forearm, especially when their erratic movement threatened to push me off the trail and down the hill or into a ditch.  Or gently guiding someone forward who would dart into an open spot, but not overtake the people around him, while many of us were flying downhill at a much greater pace than they were.  But once we got past that section (and ran straight up a wall), the crowds were all but torn apart and the running became smoother.

My piriformis started talking to me at about the eight mile mark, but nothing more than a gentle reminder that I was abusing them.  In the closing miles, my calves started twinging, telling me that they were close to cramping up.  I’ve been there before, so knew how hard I could push it, keeping right at that point where they would twinge, but nothing more.  In the last half mile, a time where I’m usually flying past other runners, I didn’t.  But none caught and passed me either.

So the time?


Without training for it.

Just keeping myself fit with a good mix of high intensity and endurance training, mainly on the bike.  And that time fit nicely within the cluster of times for the half-marathons that I trained specifically for.

The trick will be seeing how I walk on Tuesday morning.

Now about that half-Ironman…


Yep, a running personal record.  A blistering 10:31/mile pace!


good internet friend asked me a week or so ago if I was still running and/or cycling.  Probably because I hadn’t been talking about it here.  Odd, considering the first word after my name in the blog title is “racing”.

Well, you long-time readers might recall my rudderless post early this year after a few years of running marathons and ultra-marathons.  Even without a goal to work toward, I decided that I needed to be at least fit enough to fake my way through a half-marathon at any time.  And I’ve held true to that, running a great 14-mile mountain route in late October with 6,000′ of elevation gain, 2/3 of which was in the first four miles.

Good times.

That came through a great six months of short, high intensity workouts, alternating days between Crossfit-style workouts and intervals.  I never ran more than just over seven miles during that time (at that was a fluke).  But the majority of my runs were quick, working on leg turnover and speed.

Anyway, so what’s that got to do with a PR?  Well, it’s the fastest I’ve run this course.  So that makes it a PR.

I covered .91 mile in 9:35.

Not much to get excited about, eh?  I guess it depends on perspective.

Here’s the profile.

That’s 350′ of gain in .91 miles.  Thanks to way too many steps to count.  Thankfully, I guess, someone painted a number on every single one.  But honestly, after 200 (just over a third of the way up), it just doesn’t freakin’ matter.

And if you pay attention to the grade percentage line (the thin brown line), you’ll see that there’s a good stretch of 55%.

That’s after the false flat about midway up, where the stairs turn slightly to the right.  Approaching that landing, you think you’re reaching the top.  Only to have your hopes crushed as you see the wall continue ahead of you.

But a run with a great group of fast guys will keep you from even noticing.

Because all you can see in front of you are two legs moving as fast as they dare and that ghastly sound coming from your mouth, a mixture of half gasp, half sob.

Perhaps a tonal shift as you lose two or three hopes and/or dreams.

So it wasn’t an organized race.  It wasn’t even on a calendar, other than an announcement for a farewell run for a great guy.  A farewell run that turned into a race for a few of us.  A race where the real speed demon didn’t show up, so I actually won this one by a few strides.

And if by winning I mean that I pushed my heart rate into numbers that have been impossible for some 15 years, then yeah, I won.

But that was yesterday.

Today was my first bicycle commute in over seven months.  A nice brisk 30F for the morning and a balmy 37F for the afternoon.  It sure made me look forward to riding through the winter, regardless of the weather.  Because, as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

Besides, I’ve now got just four months to train the butt to be ready for a week of several back to back 200km rides.

I hope the legs are up for it.


Last weekend, while standing on the frozen ground, waiting for the men’s race at the Cyclocross World Championships, I realized that the annual Rodgau 50K was run that same weekend.

And that’s when I realized I hadn’t raced in a full year, since last year’s 50K.

A full year without a race?  It’s been a while since that’s happened.

And I don’t know what to think about that.

It’s not a bad thing, nor is it a good thing.  It just is what it is.  I really haven’t felt the need to push through more marathons or ultra-marathons.  I really haven’t felt the need to chase a half-marathon PR.  I haven’t felt the need to focus more on bike races.  And without a pool nearby that opens at a reasonable hour (say, before 10am), that leaves swims (and triathlons) out of the picture.

So I haven’t registered for any races.  And without a race on the schedule, my training is pretty non-focused.  I just do what I do.

And I’m actually OK with that right now.

I can still grind the big gears for an hour if I want to.

Then follow it up with a a pretty hard 10K.

I can even still outrun most of the young ‘uns at work.

And that’s a lot of fun.  :^D

Heck, I could even fake my way through a half-marathon tomorrow if I were properly motivated.

But that motivation would require focus.  Focus that I’m lacking right now.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article recently covering endurance sport widows.  And I think the article gets to the core of my lack of focus.

I told Goddess that I won’t train/race anymore Ironman-distance tri’s until after I retire.  It just takes too much time away from her, especially those 5-7 hour training Saturdays.

I haven’t told her, but right now I have no desire to train for the marathons and ultra-marathons mainly because I don’t want her to have to see me step out the door for a 3.5-hour run on Saturday and a 90-minute run on Sunday, almost every week.

Lately (the last few months), I’ve either been out of the house for work averaging 13-hours each day.  Granted, that includes my bicycle commute to and from work, but that commute isn’t much longer than if I drove it every day.

So I already spend too much time away from her.

Mind you, she’s extremely supportive, understanding that I need to be doing something.  Even during some of my more reckless endeavors she’s been there supporting me, even if it means getting up at ungodly hours to drive to a race, then sleeping in the car while I run through the mud in a cold pouring rain.

And tolerates me when I say “I’m going to do that again”.

That’s just one reason why she’s a Goddess.

So I don’t have anything scheduled for this year either.  Unless I run across something that really piques my interest.

But something tells me that I’ll be spending way too much time away from Goddess as it is, so I’m not looking too hard.

Rodgau 50K – A new level of slickery

Well, the DOMS is really set in good.  Walking outside on the ice and snow is quite entertaining, especially for Goddess and Skinny.

Peaking and tapering went well for this race.  The only unknown going into it was the weather.  All week leading up to the race, winter was in full swing, with several inches forecast for the entire area in the days leading up to the race.  At one point, models were indicating up to 12” of fresh snow on top of whatever they had on the ground already.  So we just didn’t know.

Luckily, race morning broke with crystal clear skies and a Wolf Moon to greet us.  But it clouded up on the drive to Rodgau and left us wondering when the big blob of snow in Belgium would finally make it to the Frankfurt area.

Since this was my first race in Germany, I really had no idea what to expect.  The final e-mail that was sent out Thursday said that over 1,000 people had signed up, which was huge compared to last year’s ~250 finishers.  Coupled with the expected snow and cold temperatures, the organizers were at a loss as to how things would work out (or so I could figure out with Google’s translator).  But it did turn out fine, with only about half as many showing up as had registered.Rodgau 50K Pre-race

What a great concept – pre-register, show up, pay your entry fee, race and leave.  No huge cost loss to the organizer, since there weren’t any t-shirts or medals to hand out.  The only thing that it looks like they had extras of were the beer and soda afterwards.  But that carries over well into whatever event the Rodgau running club holds next.  So for those folks that registered but didn’t show, they weren’t out anything and I doubt the organizers were either.

From the registration/parking area, it was about a mile walk to the start line.  Goddess, Skinny and I got there about five minutes before the gun went off.  It was a cautious walk, since the road was covered with chunky ice and some slick snow.  Wouldn’t you know it, so was the course.  Right before the start Goddess took a picture (right).  And no, that’s not a belly under that jacket; that’s my Fuel Belt.

Lots of German talk over the loudspeakers, a German countdown and the gun went off.  With 400+ crowding the start chute and a chip time system, it was just a matter of filtering down to the side of the crowd, squeezing in and then through the chute.  Off we went, over the ice, which was fairly slick.

The course was a 5km loop through farmland and forest.  Fairly flat looking, with looking being the operative word.  Just a few hundred meters into the course, we took a hard right U-turn; luckily they had spread sawdust over the corner to keep everyone from slipping (too much).

It took the first 5km lap to thin out the crowds, but that was fine.  For the most part everyone was doing pretty good, mainly trying to figure out how the footing would treat us.

The first few laps were pretty non-eventful.  With the temperature hovering right at freezing, everyone was warming up and getting settled in for a few hours (or more) of work.  Right after mile five I was lapped by the leader, so that meant he was at mile eight.  And for the rest of his race, like clockwork he lapped me every five miles.  Right after mile seven I was “chicked” by the lead female, so she was already at mile ten.  Just like any other big race that has the Kenyans and other fast runners, it’s always impressive to watch those with perfect form and quick turnover.  Unlike me.  I’m comfortable with the fact that I’ll never be the fastest or strongest.  But if it comes down to having a hard head, I may just win.

By the end of the third lap (15K/9.3mi), the ice was getting pretty beat up and started softening, which was a nice development.

For a little bit.

I hit the half-marathon point at just under two hours.  Not too fast at most other races, but would, in hindsight, be the beginning of a longer than anticipated 50K.

Rolled through 25K (15 miles) at a very comfortable 2:27, which kept me on pace for a sub-5:00, which was my goal.  But between 28-30km (17-18 miles), things started to stiffen up.  Rodgau 50K 18-miles Nothing horrible, but definitely a change to the previous miles.  Mentally I worked through everything, identified what was uncomfortable, and just kept pushing forward.  Nothing was wrong, just a bit of discomfort.  At left, that’s me at 30.2km (just over 18 miles).  When Goddess asked me how I was doing, I said “I’m not dead yet”.

Once I hit the feed station at 30.5km, I sucked down two Powergel’s, had a bit of banana and a coke.  I figured I needed a bit more fuel than I had been taking in.  Normally I’ll suck down a Powergel at 40 minutes and then every 20 minutes after.  But considering how narrow the road was and the knot of people, I decided that I’d be fine with just taking in fuel every time I hit the feed station, which was working out to every 27-28 minutes.  That meant that instead of taking in 300 calories per hour, I was taking in 200.  A huge difference?  Probably not.  But by this point, that meant I was 300 calories deeper into a hole than I normally would be.

The extra banana and coke helped out for the next 10K, but the stage was set.

During this stretch, between 30-40K, I noticed that the ice, which was softened with all of the abuse, was turning very, very slickery.  We had worn a few bare spots through the fields, which were nice.  But for the most part, it was still ice and snow.  These long stretches of ice and snow offered little traction.  Based on feel, I figure that there were two separate 1-2km stretches where we were lucky to have 40-50% of our energy translated into forward movement.

The rest of the energy was strictly “Scooby Doo” motion.  You know, when Scooby and Shaggy start running when they see a “ghost” and their legs just spin in place.  That kind of motion.

Good times.

I rolled through the marathon (42.2km/26.2mi) at 4:40.  Not great, but not horrible.  Putting it into context with the sub-2:00 half, I realized what was going on.  But I didn’t realize how Rodgau 50K 28-milesmuch “fun” the last five miles were going to be.

Not soon after the marathon, the wheels came off.  Not gently.  But with great force.  Folks talk about hitting a wall; this wasn’t a wall, but my legs turning to stone.  All other systems were go, but the legs had had enough.

Right about that time, the snow started drifting gently down.  All day long it had been cloudy, with a stiff cold breeze.  But no snow.  Slowly the spigot was opened and pretty soon it was dumping.  Well, without a breeze, it would have been dumping.  With the wind that we had, the runs through the field were interesting in the sideways snow that dropped visibility down to less than 100 meters at times.  Once in the forest, the flakes drifted down, making for beautiful scenes.  At right, that’s me crossing the timing mat at 45K (28 miles); Goddess asked me how I was doing and I said “I’m still alive”.

The saving grace of the new snow was that it increased our traction over the ice.  Too bad my legs weren’t there to take advantage of it.  But this is where my stubbornness pays off – I just put my head down and keep moving forward.  Which got me to the end.

5:51:46, almost an hour longer than I had hoped.  But a good time considering the conditions.  Another surprise, once I downloaded the data and ran the route through the terrain maps, was that the “flat” course had a total of 1,230’ of climbing/descending through the 50K.  Those gentle rolling fields were sneaky, I tell you.

Am I disappointed?  Nope.  Not in the slightest.  Could I have run a better race?  Absolutely.  Even though I’ve been racing a while and have learned a lot, I learn better from my mistakes.  And in this race, there were plenty of learning opportunities.

So right now the legs are tighter than they’ve been in a long, long time.  The stairs are my nemesis today, especially going down.

And I’m already looking for another marathon in a few months time.

Oh, and how bad was the snow and wind at the end ?  Compare my race number from the picture at 28 miles (above right) to my race number below, just three miles (40 minutes) later.Rodgau 50K Post-race


All done with this training cycle.  Now for a bit of active recovery this coming week.

But first, I need to give credit where credit is due.  I’m married to a true Goddess.  The one who asks me what I want to do during my holiday break, to which I answer “sleep and run”, and she gives me that “Are you serious?” look, to which she already knows the answer.

So that’s what I did over the past two weeks, which was my last Base period before racing at the end of January.

All told, 110.97 miles of running in the past two weeks; 50.43 miles last week, 60.54 miles this week.  Snow, rain, well below freezing, well above freezing.  The whole stinkin’ gamut.  And it was all good.

I did get a few commutes to/from work on the bike, but swapped one ride home for a run, which served two purposes.  And instead of 35 minutes to get home, it took 1:20.  So it really didn’t impact the home life too much.

And the runs were a mix of short hill runs, medium tempo runs and long steady runs.  In other words, a normal training plan.  But it wasn’t all normal.

– A 10-mile tempo+ run last Monday, which started out slow thanks to the 50 miles of the previous week.  The first three miles were OK, but nothing to get excited about.  Then the gears switched and I was rolling through the forest at a comfortable clip, finding my groove.  The (+) portion of the tempo was when I decided to go visit an old friend, the pain cave, whose threshold I hadn’t crossed in quite a while.  I didn’t want to get too deep in, but decided to head over, open the door, look around the make sure that the drapes hadn’t been stolen.  Nothing was disturbed, but there was definitely a layer of dust from lack of use.  I’ll have to get back there soon.  So even after the slow opening miles, I finished the 10 miles just a few minutes off my 10-mile PR.  But I did feel it the next day.

– The 20-miler on New Year’s Eve was a mixed bag of weather.  It was a steady 45F, rapidly changing from sun to pouring rain and back again.  Since the rain was going to be intermittent, I left the shell at home, which made for a few borderline hypothermic moments.  Luckily it cleared out just before sunset, which let it cool down quickly into the upper 30’s(F).  So soaking wet, cold.  I couldn’t get into a warm shower fast enough.  But that worked out well, since it was New Year’s Eve.

– New Year’s Eve detraining – lots of resveratrol was consumed, which my doc (“drink early, drink often”) swears is good for my heart.  And let me tell you, the German’s know how to greet a new year.  I swear every family up and down the street bought hundreds of euro of fireworks.  It looked like a war zone out there.  It did my teenaged-boy heart good.  And though I was perfectly fine the next day, I just didn’t get out the door to run.

– Today’s 15-miler through the ice/snow was great, especially considering the amount of miles these legs have endured in the past 14 days.  Although after a poor night of sleep, I wasn’t too motivated.  Goddess got me through that (something about “get out now”).  The legs were heavy and tired, but found their rhythm after a few miles.  Then a nice negative split.  Nothing too drastic, but considering the abuse that I’ve put myself through, I can’t be anything but pleased with that.  It was a great way to close out the cycle.

So now it’s a recovery week, which will include some thigh-busting skiing in the Alps.  And if that doesn’t teach the quads who’s boss, I don’t know what will.


Year in Review – 2009

Lots of thoughts during these long runs about posting a year in review.  Some discussion with other folks on their year’s in review.  For me, the review is only meaningful to the one posting it, unless the numbers posted are compared to the year’s goals and/or previous year’s totals.  Otherwise they’re just numbers.

So for those of you who want numbers, you won’t find them here (unless you read above).  I look through my numbers fairly often in both Training Peaks and SportTracks.  Matter of fact, I keep a rolling 10- and 28-day chart in my SportTracks to make sure I’m not doing anything too crazy.  With the move to Germany this year, there wasn’t any sense in setting annual goals, since there were way too many variables.  All of my short-term goals were early in the year (March’s LBL 60K and April’s Country Music Marathon) and were resounding successes, even if I didn’t meet certain time goals.  I learned quite a bit, including how much I enjoy a good trail run.

But thanks to the commute to/from work, my bike mileage jumped considerably over last year, which had a six-month chunk taken out thanks to a deployment to Iraq.  No cycling during that time.

And what will 2010 bring?  Who knows.  A 50K at the end of January, then I’ll start searching for something to do later in the year.  The Antwerp 70.3 looks fun (I love that distance triathlon), but finding a swimming pool with good hours is a trick.  The local pool is open 10am-10pm, but is too far from work for a lunchtime swim.  After work I’m usually too knackered to do anything.  Plus, that’s Goddess’ time.  So unless I think I can pull off a 70.3 without any lap time…

So here’s to a great year for each and every one of you.  If you’re one that makes resolutions, I hope that the resolve you currently have lasts through the year.

Building Up & Breaking Down

Lovin’ the weather here in Southwest Germany.  Winter finally arrived last week, smack dab in the middle of my recovery week.  Not just a tease, but a full-on, in your face arrival.

Thursday morning’s very isolated snow-shower pretty much shut down any commute for anyone on the south side of Heidelberg.  But not for me.  Gotta love the bicycle.  I floated through the forest and across the fallow fields on a pillow of fresh snow.  Shaking my head at all the poor folks in their single-file parking lots.  Once I got into town, I dropped the tire pressure to 35 p.s.i. and the studs stuck to the ice.  No issues at all.  My commute was extended by only 2-3 minutes, which would be about the time that it took for me to let the air out of the tires as well as account for some creeping around corners (I haven’t found the edge of control with the studs yet).  For those on four wheels, the commute was extended anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes.

Friday was a bit more of the same in the afternoon, but everyone on four wheels seemed to behave themselves.  Then the cold set in.

Saturday was a bit chilly, dipping down to +4°F (-15°C) and gradually warming up to +12°F (-11°C) by early afternoon.  Luckily there wasn’t much wind, so the run wasn’t bad at all.  Matter of fact, I layered too much and was peeling off layers, caps and gloves just a few miles into the run.

Here it is, Monday, the Winter Solstice, and we still have a fair covering of snow on the ground.  Perfect for jumping in to the next Base period.  But I’m jumping ahead of  myself.

As I said above, last week as a recovery week.  That made it week three of my Base 2 cycle for my next race on January 31st.  Being the “old guy” that I am, following Friel’s protocol of using three week cycles for folks over 40, vice the four week cycles for those under 40, has worked quite well for me.  Especially since I’m not focusing on long-course triathlon right now, but instead basically living the life of a duathlete.

So Base 2 was a good cycle.  Through the second week I pushed my running mileage up to 35.5 miles.  Nothing extravagant, but on top of my 90-miles of commuting each week, the legs are getting abused a bit.  And with another Base cycle, leading into my Build cycle, I’ll be dancing very close to my upper manageable limit of 60 miles per week of running.  That’s not counting the commute.

Besides, if I’m to run more than 60 miles per week, I better be getting paid for it.

The workload wasn’t overwhelming, but for some reason the recovery took a bit longer than normal.  Perhaps all of the holiday parties?  Typically I’m good to go by Wednesday.  Last week it took until Saturday before I felt fresh.  But that’s OK. 

It’s the result of doing good work.  And some good parties.

Today’s run, warmer than this weekend, looked similar to the photo at right, although not as deep.  The nice thing is that it adds a nice bit of strength training to the run.  Although strength training in the middle of 10-mile runs are typically not the best thing for the legs.

But it’s good work.

Since I’ve taken this week off from work, the commute isn’t necessary.  So that leaves my legs fresh for the runs, which will tally up to ~50 miles.  Next week there will be just a few commute days, so bike mileage will remain low, but I’ll have to ramp up the miles through the weekend, seeing how close to 60 miles I can dance without overdoing it.  And then rush headlong into the next recovery week, which includes several days of skiing.  But it’ll be good recovery from running.

What’s interesting is that right now, with a full Base cycle followed and Build cycle still to come, I’m aerobically in better shape than I was going in to last March’s 60K Trail Run and significantly better than when I ran my 40-miler in September, 2008.  That isn’t a subjective feeling, but looking objectively at output from the Training Load plug-in for SportTracks.  So things are looking good.  The trick will be keeping injury free over the next few weeks as I ramp up the miles.

Then crank out an enjoyable 50K in six weeks.

But my challenge right now isn’t with the running.  It’s with eating.  I know that’s a funny thing to say during the holidays, but it is what it is.  With this workload I need to be ingesting approximately 4,000 calories per day on average.  That’s a lot of food, especially since I don’t eat a “normal” western diet, full of processed carbs, fats and salt.  Basically, if I can’t identify it as something that came directly from a plant or animal, I eschew (or would that be “won’t chew”?) it.  Within reason, of course, because life’s too short to be that strict about anything.  And although I could reasonably identify a Whopper as mostly coming from animals and plants, I stay away from that stuff as much as possible.  And the recent results of my blood work tell me that I’m definitely on the right track.

So I’m typically falling short of that 4,000 calorie mark by somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200 calories.  That’s a lot to miss.  It does hamper my workout recovery.  And since it’s such a large daily deficit, I’m not losing weight since my metabolism is slowing down to hold on to every calorie I ingest.  Basically, my body is going in to survival mode. 

Someone hand me a cookie!

<DISCLAIMER: Any and all training that I describe works for me and flies in the face of much conventional wisdom.  The reason it works for me is that I have a few decades of activity and fitness under my belt and know that my body can recover quickly from a given workload.  So don’t think that you could, or should, jump from 35 miles of running one week to 50 miles the next.  If you do, you’ll get hurt.>


Gotta love the feeling of a good Build period.  It’s been a while.  Eight months, to be exact. 

Eight months ago was the Build for the Country Music Marathon.  But since finishing that race, training has been very unfocused, occasionally non-existent.  And that’s what works for me.  I’m typically the opposite of everyone else, building and peaking for some great late winter, early spring races.  Summer is not for me.

Basically it boils down to the fact that I generate a lot of heat when I run.  A lot.  When it’s 30°F (-01°C), I’m still in shorts, although I will start out with a long sleeve that typically gets pushed up to the elbows just a few miles in.  Once it reaches 20°F (-07°C), I’ll cover the legs up and start thinking about a full cap.  The range in between 20-30°F will get me to put on different ear coverings and occasionally gloves (that usually don’t last but a mile).

Summer races?  Forget it.  Unless they also involve a swim and bike.  Then I just deal with the run.

So here I am, in the middle of December, building for my next race.  Mid-December, when most of you are taking a break from the year’s schedule, just thinking about your upcoming Base schedule, hoping not to put on too much weight during the holidays.  Me?  I’m realizing that I’m not eating enough to keep up with the additional 2,000 calories a day that I’m burning above my daily caloric needs to stay alive and function.  Simply put, I need to eat more.  Easier said than done, unless I start eating at Burger King every day (no thanks).  But I’ve got to fuel to race.

My next race?  A 50K (that’s 31 miles for y’all that only use the Imperial system) on January 31st, 2010.  Fifty kilometers is not a huge race for me (after last year’s 41-miler and last March’s 60K (37.2 miler), but something to focus on.  The 50K is just for fun, mainly to see how the Germans run their races.  And to give some focus to my training.

So this weekend was my first 20+ miler weekend of this cycle, getting ready for the race.  That’s when I know I’m building strong.  Instead of single long runs, I function better with “double-long’s”, which are two days in a row of long runs.  That’s every weekend for the next five weeks. 

My first experiences with double-longs are almost two years ago and they’ve served me well.  One thing I’ve learned since then is that I can actually build to 32-mile weekends (22 on Saturday, 10 on Sunday) and recover well.  Much better than if I do a 24-26 miler on Saturday and take Sunday off.  I guess I’m weird that way, since it flies in the face of every training plan put out there by the experts.

So here I am, at the tail end of this first Build cycle.  I’m now entering my “recovery” week, which I definitely need.  Amazing how I can enter this weekend completely knackered, yet still push through comfortably.  Saturday morning it was everything I could do to drag my carcass out of bed.  But I did, had a bit of breakfast and some coffee, then headed out the door.  The first few miles were slow, but that’s OK.  By mid-way through the 13.1 mile run, I was cruising, powering up and over the overpasses (it’s pretty flat around my house, so I find the hills where I can).  I finished strong.

Today, I was hobbling for the first hour or so.  I guess that’s a sign of aging, but I refuse to accept it.  Although it’s inconvenient, it works well with goals of my second long run of the weekend, which is to get the body used to running hard and fast when it’s tired and sore.  So Sunday’s run is always with the goal of running a negative split (i.e. run the second half of the run faster than the first half).  Sounds easy, until you do it with 15-25 miles of running in your legs in the previous 24-30 hours.  It builds a skill that comes in very handy after 20 miles in any race of marathon distance or further. 

So that’s the framework for the weekend now.  This weekend, it was 13.1 miles on Saturday, 8 miles on Sunday (that’s 21.1 miles for the math-challenged amongst you).  Since next week is a recovery week, I’ll back off to 9 miles on Saturday, 6 miles on Sunday.  After that, the next Build begins, so it’ll be 15 on Saturday, 10 on Sunday.  And so on over the next few weeks.  Then to race.

So enjoy the holidays, enjoy the food, enjoy the drink.  Most of all, smile when you drive past that lonely runner out there in the snow and wind.  Because most likely they’re someone just like me, who’s schedule is offset six months from yours. 

RUTS – A Training Run

This isn’t a race report.  A race didn’t happen.

For me, anyway.

A 90-minute drive out to Paducah, packet pickup, scouting out the course (a 1/2-mile horse track) and a bit of futzing around and “GO” was yelled just after 8pm.

Since it was a 10-hour time trial, there wasn’t too much movement at first.  Other than the relay teams, which took off like bats out of hell, the rest of us settled in to somewhere near a 9-10 minute/mile pace.  Early on the hoof marks from the horses gave some of us a concern, especially wondering what they’d be like at 3 am when we were all tired.  Luckily they were flattened out a bit in the first couple of hours.

The first few miles were a bit stiff, which was understandable considering I hadn’t run in three weeks and other than the Country Music Marathon, hadn’t run anything longer than seven miles since April 16th, over six weeks ago.

Since the track was slightly banked, the plan was to run the standard counter-clockwise for the first two hours, then switch to clockwise for two hours, then back to counter-clockwise for two hours, continuing to the end.  That worked well, switching up the scenery a bit every two hours so that you weren’t looking at the exact same turns/straights for ten hours.

I talked to a couple of people in the first couple of hours, mostly because they were interested in my 6-minute run/1-minute walk strategy.  So we talked as long as the run or walk session lasted, then I continued.

The one beauty of this run was that I got to do what I haven’t been able to do since I haven’t been running – think about whatever comes to mind.  Mind you, my brain is usually going a million miles a second on a variety of topics at once.  But when I run, I can actually settle on one topic and think it through.  And that’s how this race became a training run.

The legs were feeling real good during miles 7-18, but I had already thought things through.  I wasn’t going to run the full ten hours.  There was still way too much stuff to be done to get us ready to fly to Germany on Tuesday and my taking all night to run ten hours, then sleep most of the day away, would really put us into a bind.  Besides that, Goddess was out there supporting me in every way possible, getting ready to sleep in the truck and then tip-toe around me in the room as I slept all day.  I just couldn’t, and wouldn’t, put her through that.  She’s my Goddess for a reason.

During mile 18, the legs started to protest their longest run (barring the marathon) since late March.  I wasn’t surprised.  But I also knew that no matter how I felt at that moment, it would change.  But my mind was already made up – I’d go four hours or 20 miles, whichever came first.  Turns out that both happened at the same time.

So I pulled off the track, informed Goddess of my decision and turned my chip in.  Being the Goddess that she is, she pressed me really hard to make sure that I was doing what I needed to do and not doing it because it was suddenly becoming more difficult.  I was quite adamant that I was.  So she acquiesced, helping me pull the shoes off and packing stuff away.

We had a pleasant drive home and slept in bed, instead of a truck or grassy field.

And I’m great with that!


A couple of moments:

– Watching the high school cross-country relay team get ready for a night of fun by playing Frisbee and goofing around really took me back to my cross country days.  Those were certainly some good times.

– Watching the volunteer who handed out drinks and food for a couple of hours, then run his leg of his relay team, then get back to the table to serve really impressed me.  He said we were the crazy ones, but I shook his hand for his dedication.

– With the truck parked in the infield and the tailgate facing the track, Goddess got to see the full rhythm of the run, from slow to fast, painful to fluid.  And she certainly helped.  For several laps, she held up pages from her “Shape” magazine to let me enjoy the models as I passed.

– At about three hours into the run, they had piping hot Little Caesar’s pizza delivered.  I’m not a fan, but damn it tasted good at that point.

– At about that same time, the stable workers started showing up.  Apparently they didn’t get the word that we would be using the track, so they stood there for a while trying to figure out what they were going to do, conversing on cell phones and with each other.  But mostly they leaned against the fence and enjoyed watching the women jog by.

– I broke out the mp3 player for this one.  It was a completely closed course and there was plenty of room to maneuver, unlike a trail race, so I brought it along.  Goddess suggested that I put them in, so I did.  But the battery was dead since I hadn’t used it in six months or so.  I guess that should have been something to check on the night before.


Closing thought:

Steve Durbin and the crew of the West Kentucky Running Club (WKRC) put on yet another great event.  They were the ones that put on the 60K trail race that I ran in March.  Not only did they put on the event and man the timing station and feed table, they ran the race.  If you are ever in the Paducah area, definitely look to see if they’re holding a race.  You WILL NOT be disappointed.


And we’re off to Germany.  See you on the other side.