Food

So last week I mentioned that we would not be partaking in any snow sports, as we were in the midst of a warm up that would make conditions less than ideal. Well, that warm up happened, as did some other things. So you won’t have to suffer through pics of us on the slopes this week.

Knowing that would happen, I asked for topics. A dear friend commented that I should talk about food, as it has been an ongoing discussion between us lately (and for many years).

A professionally trained chef*, she has some incredible insights to food preparation and use. Other education in psychology leads to a fascination with relationships with food, which is where our conversation has been going lately. And I think that’s where she wanted me to go with this post.

But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll just post a picture from several years ago. It was a great afternoon snack with Goddess. Until that point, I really disliked white wines, even as we lived in the heart of the white wine region of Germany. Then we had a proper chardonnay at a roadside café in Dijon, France, accompanied by some lovely escargot.

That buttery chardonnay was a wine changer for me.

It didn’t hurt that the afternoon light was perfect for a picture.

* She’ll protest that I called her a chef, insisting that she is not. But she is, especially to us lay-people. Besides, I have pictures of her, in an official setting, where she’s wearing her toque blanche. That’s good enough for me.

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Reflections

Our travels in Europe aren’t all about cities, food and beverage.

Sometimes they involve the countryside, food and beverage.

A couple of months ago, while still in Afghanistan, I was talking with Goddess about our R&R trip and how we could loop through Italy, Austria and Switzerland for a week or so, slowly enjoying the sights.  A bit of research on the Alps and I realized that we could make a trip to the Matterhorn (Monte Cervino to the Italians).  So we did.

What a great part of Italy!  Our visit in October meant that we were between tourist seasons, so the towns were all but deserted.  That meant that most of the hotels were shut down.  But so were the restaurants.  So for our two nights there, we had to eat at the same place.  No matter, since the food was great, as was the service (including letting us walk out the door with an uncorked bottle of wine to take back to the hotel).

Anyway, we were there to see the Matterhorn.  Being on the Italian (south) side, it isn’t the classic view that all of you Disneyland visitors would recognize.  That’s on the northeast (Swiss) side, where rooms cost four times as much, is only about 20 miles away from Breuil-Cervinia as the crow flies, but a 3-4 hour drive away in the wrong direction from our overall plan.

So we really had the place to ourselves.

Except for earlier in the day, where two busloads of Japanese tourists swarmed over this same vantage point.  But they were extremely polite in the typical Japanese way, greeting us with “bonjour”, since we looked much more like the locals that they did.

And were surprised when we’d respond with “konnichiwa”.

Fun times.

Matterhorn Reflection

Huge props to Goddess and her infinite patience with me.  We sat in this same spot for 90 minutes, with me taking a photo every 90 seconds or so, working different filters and lighting (especially with that post in the foreground).  The temperature was falling rapidly into the uncomfortable range, but she didn’t gripe one bit.  She knew I was in a happy place, enjoying the scenery that I love, doing something that I love to do.

Christmas Pudding

The neighbors invited us over for some Christmas Eve dinner.  He’s British, she’s German.  His sister flew in from England last night, dealing with the entire Heathrow mess that’s been going on for a week now.  But she made it.

Complete with Christmas Pudding.  First made back in October, complete with fruit, bread and rum.  Stored to meld together.  All ingredients becoming one for our pleasure tonight.

Topped with cognac.  Lit on fire.

Only one word can describe this culinary delicacy –

“Sex in your mouth”!

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Weinachtsmarkt Overview

I’ve been doing a lot of writing about Weinachtsmarkts.

And showing a lot of details from those markets.  But if you haven’t been to one, those details don’t really give you a feel for the market.

So here’s  an overview of one, the Bad Wimpfen Weinachtsmarkt, the oldest Christmas Market in Germany (seit [since] 1487).  And that’s the Blauer Turm (Blue Tower) in the background, dating back from the 13th Century

All of those booths are selling something – ornaments, glüwein, or smoked horse meat (which is amazing, BTW).

The best part is seeing the continuation of history.  History that stretches back further than the discovery of North America by Europeans.

Celebration

Last Thursday Goddess and I celebrated our 10th anniversary.

I did have to work (see previous post).

But luckily we got done early.  So instead of heading home, Goddess and I drove east into Austria and spent the better part of a week in Vienna.  The drive was only a few hours, so we got checked in and settled by 2 pm.

And in European fashion, we started celebrating with some snacks and wine.

 

Anniversary

After that it was time to go find some dinner.

We needed the fuel for the next four full days of non-stop touristische adventure.

Those that have toured with us know that we aren’t afraid of a bit of walking.  All day long.  Typically 12-13 hours from the time we leave the hotel until we walk back in.  Interspersed with a stop for lunch (to include local beverage), a mid-day snack (to include local beverage) and dinner (to include local beverage).  Although this trip we skipped lunch quite a few times.

We discussed our tendency to eat and drink our way across any city we visit.

But what better way to get to know the culture than to find some hole in the wall down some side alley, sit for a bit and watch the world go by?

Vienna’s perfect for doing just that.  And with the city laid out the way it is, it’s easy to hit all of the major attractions by walking.  But while we take a quick look at the major attractions, we prefer to experience the real city.

In those four days, we nooked every nook and crannied every cranny that Vienna had to offer.  But unlike Venice, where we got looks of “What in the world are you doing back here?  The tourists are over that way”, we never ran across that in Vienna.

The best part?  Well, other than celebrating 10 wonderful years with Goddess.  We hit town smack dab in the middle of Gans season.

That’s Goose season for you Yankees.

Goose is served in the restaurants for only 10 days each year, from early- to mid-November.  Paired with an excellent wine or one of the many great local beers, goose graced our plates more than a few times.  More often the Vienna’s signature dish – wienerschnitzel.  And no, I’m not talking about Der Wienerschnitzel, the hot dog and burger chain spread across the southwestern US.

Hopefully we ate enough goose that they’ll consider doing it again next year.  ;^)

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

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.>

Building

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. 

Ace

This won’t mean much to most, but it’s a bit of bragging.

Being in the military, fitness is a significant part of our job.  Matter of fact, we’re actually afforded a couple of hours every day during work hours to work out.  How perfect is that for me?  So we set aside the first two hours of the day for organized Physical Training (PT).  The downside for me is that the workouts are basic enough to challenge those that aren’t in shape, but not so challenging that it breaks them (that’s not the goal).  So I’ll often run the five miles to work and then start PT.  Then I’ll run home at the end of the day, stretching my afternoon run from 5-13 miles or more if need be.  Rinse, repeat the next day.

Anyway, the proof was in the pudding this week.  We had our PT test, which consists of a waist measurement, crunches, push ups and timed 1.5-mile run.

The waist measurement has been the bane of my existence.  In order to get a perfect score of 50, one must have a waist measurement of less than 32.5″ (for men).  Age is not a consideration, nor is height.  It’s actually measured just below the navel.  And for every half-inch greater than 32.5″, one loses 1.25 points.  Even though I was in shape to race Ironman-distance races, I still had enough around the mid-section that I’d lose 8 points before I even started.

But thanks to switching to a Primal/Paleo diet at the start of my deployment to Iraq, those inches have all but melted off.  I did lose some weight by switching, but mostly the fat melted away as my body composition shifted.  But don’t mistake my use of the word diet to mean that I went on a diet.  No, I actually had done a lot of research and decided that the way I had been eating hadn’t been working for me, so I modified the way I was eating.  For those who don’t know what Primal or Paleo diets are (and don’t click on the links above), the gist of it is getting back to a more natural way of eating, minimizing the processed foods and eliminating grains (for many different reasons).  Some mistakenly call them “low carb” diets, which they are not; it’s just a matter of getting carbs from natural sources, not processed sources.  Perhaps that will be a different post, since this one is already getting sidetracked.

Anyway, thanks to the sculpting that the diet change has brought about, I now measure at a cool 32.0″ just below the navel.  So that hurdle is out of the way.  The rest is easy.

Crunches – must do more than 47 in one minute.  Done.

Pushups – must do more than 40 in one minute.  Done.

Timed 1.5-mile run – must run faster than 10:21 to get full points.  Done, with a very comfortable, evenly paced 9:45.  Even after putting  20-miles on the legs in the previous 36 hours.

Now, I’ll admit I took advantage of my age group.  Once one turns 40, the run time gets a bit slower and the pushups and crunches are a few less; only the waist measurement doesn’t change.  But I actually ran faster than the 35-39 and 30-34 age groups require for a perfect score.  So next month’s goal is to add the few extra pushups and crunches and then ace the 35-39 age group PT test.  After that…

Plus, it’s fun to leave the twenty-something’s strewn all over the track during the run.

40!

Well, it’s a few more days until I hit that milestone.  Honestly, just another day in my book.  But today, as part of the B-Fit Birthday Challenge, as well as giving me something to focus on for training while here in Iraq, I ran 40 miles (well, 41.5) in celebration of my fitness.  But before I get to the report:

Thank you all so much for your generosity!  So far you’ve managed to donate almost $700 to the Fisher House, which is incredible.  Absolutely incredible.  I’ve had donations from family, friends, the blogging community, as well as complete strangers who heard what I was doing through word of mouth (or e-mail).  Your generosity is astounding.  THANK YOU!

Anyway, on to the run.

I started off at 11:50pm, about 5 minutes behind schedule.  Nice and cool, a slight breeze, the waning moon climbing in the eastern sky.  The first 27 miles, which I ran solo, went by very quickly.  Very comfortable too.  The temperature at midnight was 88F (31C) and it cooled down to 77F (25C) before sunrise.  Now, keep in mind that temperature range is very cool for me; you might recall that all of my long runs this summer started with temps around 106F (41C) and would often never cool below 100F (38C) the entire time.  So this was a welcome change.  Matter of fact, there were points on the run that I actually felt chilled!

I started off at a very comfortable 11:00/mile pace, which was my average pace goal for the entire run.  The next few miles were actually quicker, dropping down into the 10:40s.  I maintained a steady pace, using the 4-minute run/1-minute walk strategy that has served me well.  By mile 13, my average pace dropped below 10:30/mile, which was quite a bit quicker than I had planned.  But I was feeling good and my heart rate stayed right where I needed it to be, so I kept at it.  By mile 26 I was down to a 10:24/mile average pace and actually hit 26.2 miles (full marathon) just 4 minutes off of my PR for that distance!  I was feeling strong.

The overall pace dropped slightly over the next 10 miles, then the wheels came off right after mile 36.  Even then I was able to hold a decent forward motion and I knew I was going to finish.  Here’s the accumulated pace (bars) overlaid with my actual pace for that mile (line):

Note that refueling are off the clock.  Although not reality for an organized run, had I left the clock running while I was doing those things, I’ve found that it really messing with my overall pace and gives me an unrealistic picture of my effort.  In a supported race, I’d have someone handing me my fuel.

Anyway, the last 10 miles were a 15K race that happened to be scheduled for this morning.  It worked out perfect, since all of the folks that planned on supporting me during the last 10 miles also planned on doing that run.  When I first started planning this run, all I asked was for support during that last 10 miles, knowing that’s when I’d need it most.

I got to the start line about 30 minutes prior to the race start.  It worked out perfect, since I was able to change socks, shoes and shirt.  The dry clothes felt great.  Plus, I had a chance to eat some real food.  Anyway, the race started about 15 minutes late, but I was OK with that.  The pre-race brief really put my whole run into perspective.  The unit that had organized the run lost one of their own this past week, leaving behind a pregnant wife and 5 year old son.  The race was dedicated to him.

Cruising through the crowd, it was fun to listen to the folks complaining about how they felt at mile 3.  I coulndn’t help but smirk as I went by.  The course was a fun course, being more a trail run that an road run.  It was a welcome change, especially since the first 30 miles were all on asphalt.  But the way they soak down the dirt, it becomes harder than concrete and nowhere near as smooth.  But I was pretty adept at finding lines in the softer sand.  Even through this stretch, my run pace was averaging 9:00/mile, while the walk breaks kept my mile splits between 10:00  and 10:30/mile pace.

After mile 36, we transitioned from the dirt roads back to the asphalt.  The transition between these two runs flipped the switch.  A small rise and turn and that was it.  Immediately, the legs decided they just weren’t going to move as fluid as they had.  So I just kept working through it.  My overall pace started dropping pretty rapidly, but I knew I was going to finish.

At mile 37.5, I stepped into the porta-loo.  That was a good sign, since I was doing everything I could to make sure I remained properly hydrated.  For some reason I decided to stop my Garmin, which I never do for a potty stop.  And since it’s something I don’t normally do, I didn’t restart it.  I realized that mistake 1.5 miles later.  And since part of the requirements for the B-Fit Birthday challenge are to post a bit of proof, I needed to make sure my Garmin showed at least 40.0 miles.  So my 40-mile run now became a 41.5-mile run.

But that was OK, since it lined up well with another run I was participating in.  The folks that put on the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon had put together a 42-mile “fun run”, which just happened to be today.  No entry fee, no support, just folks getting together to run.  Pretty much what I was doing, so I signed up as the Baghdad contingent.

Those last miles were tough.  My watch was beeping at me to keep me on schedule for the 4-minute run/1-minute walk plan, but I ignored it.  Luckily my very understanding support crew kept supporting me even though they were beginning to hurt too.  When I wanted to just walk the rest of the way, they’d wordlessly start running, knowing I’d follow.  So we managed to get across the line.

Details:

40.0 miles

Total running time: 7:15:57

Total clock time: 8:25

Fastest pace a 3:58 mile?  Yeah, right.

And the quick GBU rundown:

The Good:

– I absolutely nailed this taper.  Perfect.  Although I had struggled with maintaining a high mileage peak during August and I was concerned, the taper really set me up for a great run.  Even a week ago, I was starting to get concerned, but then this week I could feel my legs getting real twitchy and just begging for a long run.  Even last Sunday’s half-marathon was just a tease for them.  This week’s nightly 3-4 mile runs were just a tease too.

– Carbo load period.  This was difficult for me to get through.  Having done an excellent job of sticking to a Paleo/Primal diet, the only way that I could load properly for this run was to eat stuff that I hadn’t had in almost five months.  And honestly, I hadn’t missed it.  By the time I woke up just prior to the run, I knew that I had loaded properly, feeling completely bloated.  I know the load was a signficant part of my success.

– Electrolyte load period.  Hindsight over my past race issues pointed to a lack of electrolytes, even though I regularly take pills during the events; turns out that those were just staving off the inevitable, which was compelete depletion, since I’m such a heavy sweater.  Discussing with other endurance athletes, we came to the conclusion that I’d likely need to load up on electrolytes in the days prior to the event.  I did, and it worked very well.  None of the issues that I had in the past.

– Pacing.  Working (and working, and working) on pacing during my long runs this year has really helped.

– Thanks to Ramadan, the call to prayer started at 3am.  I can’t describe how beautiful the prayers sound, echoing through the night.

– Great support!  Not just here, but around the world.  A co-worker ran with me virtually while in Afghanistan, Goddess ran with me in Kentucky, and the many folks here who supported me via e-mails and actually running.  I couldn’t have done it without them.

– 40 miles!

The Bad:

– Doing something out of practice.  Stopping that Garmin at mile 37.5 really changed the face of the last few miles.  I knew I’d have to run a bit past the finish line of the 15K to make the full 40, but having to run a full two miles after that was mentally tough.

The Ugly:

– ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

And for now, a few days off from running, then nothing focused for a little while.  But not too long, since I now need to teach my legs how to run hills over distance, since I’ll be running the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey marathon soon after I return home.  And that marathon is nothing but hills.