PR!

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

What?????

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.

Surges

This weekend, watching the young men and women compete in their high school cross country championships brought back many great memories.  And certainly got the legs twitching, wanting to jump out there and join them.

I’m sure I could have held my own.

Today, flying through the forest, racing against only myself.  Dodging branches, wondering if roots were hidden under the fresh carpet of fallen leaves, wondering  if it’d all come to a crashing halt with a twisted ankle or busted knee.

But not spending too much time focusing on negative thoughts.

Relishing the burning of the lungs, the burning of the legs.

Reaching the next cross road, then turning to jog along it for a recovery stretch.

Not knowing when the next cross trail is going to appear, forcing a turn and bringing the searing lungs and legs back.

Surging

Smiling.

And it’s a shame that you can’t see the full sized copy of this image.  The sharpness of dirt being thrown up around those feet is pretty amazing.

Rudderless

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.

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!

Sometimes…

…I’m amazed that I get paid to do what I do.

Especially when I can wake up and look at scenes like this right outside the door*.

Watzmann Sunrise
Watzmann Sunrise

Watzmann overlooking Berchtesgaden and Königsee.

*Only on certain trips.  Although it wouldn’t take any arm-twisting at all to get me to move there permanently.  Especially for the trail running.

Faded Colors

While out searching for fall color to shoot, we went to a nearby German War Memorial.  And found something new.

Mind you, this is a memorial that I run through usually once a week.

Normally the run keeps us to the main path, so there’s little exploration.  But while walking slowing along the memorial, Goddess and I spied a small building tucked away in the bushes off to the side.  So we had a look.

Turns out that the building, which is actually a small circular, roofless memorial, is a gateway to a cemetery laid out in the forest.  This was quite a surprise, considering that for the past year and a half, I had run past just yards away and never noticed.

While all of the remains in the main memorial grounds are German veterans of World War I, this cemetery was solely for World War II veterans.  Compared to the WWI gravestones, which are laid out in orderly lines in long rows, this WWII grounds had pairs of crosses scattered about the grounds facing in different directions.  But the crosses weren’t the gravesites, as they did not have any names or dates or unit designations on them.  They were just there.

Instead, the head stones were nothing more than bricks with the veteran’s name and dates.  Other bricks had unit designations, presumably to mark where members of that unit were buried.

So while we set out to find some color (there was some), instead we found a place to reflect.

Just a few feet off the beaten path.

So while we did find color, it just wasn’t appropriate for these images.

Bavarian Knee Buster

Just got back from a rough week in the Bavarian Alps.  Business calls, you know.  ;^)

Days full of meetings, nights full of discussion.  I know that all of the world’s problems were solved at least once, but I doubt anyone took notes.  Sorry world.

But one afternoon was set aside for a team-building hike.  Seven of us decided to make it a run.  Nothing long, just 5.5 miles.  Starting at 3,575’, dropping down to 2,000’.  And then back up.  Did I mention that this was in 5.5 miles?

Profile goodness:

Trail Berchtesgaden, Germany 3-30-2010, Elevation - Distance 2

That’s 2,029’ of total climbing.  Sorry guys, not the 2,400’ that the Garmin was telling us, but I warned you that the Garmin adds a bit.

And the driveway at the bottom of the steep climb?  Corrected grade of 45%.  That’s before it got steep.

Somebody please remind me – who’s idea was it to run this thing?

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

Whew

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.