Gutenberg Mainz Marathon Race Report

My fourth marathon, a race report in three graphs and eight images.

Settle in, this one got long (4000 words long). I wrote it in the format of a scientific paper as that is what I am also working on at the moment and it seemed a useful exercise. Hopefully, it’s a bot more interesting though. And it’s not written in the passive voice like so many science papers (incorrectly) are. (Had it been, there would be statements in it like, “A marathon was run by the experimenters. The results of this marathon can be interpreted in a number of ways, but that the successful running of this marathon (hereafter referred to as GMM) can be reasonably concluded…lucky for you, it’s written in a slightly more enjoyable fashion.)

Abstract

I ran my fourth marathon on Sunday, bested my previous PR by over 7 minutes, was rained on, got sunburn, had the wind in my face, stayed ahead of the 4:00 pacers and their red balloon the entire time, was cheered on twice by a guy in a motorized wheelchair blasting ’80′s pop music, saw running beer bottles, a red indian that I didn’t understand, several dwarves, and lots of really excited spectators despite the crap weather. I had an icy shower, saw the Wife finish smiling and with a new PR of her own, and had one of the best post-race massages I’ve ever gotten. Then I spent the next three days climbing stairs like an old lady and explaining to well-meaning friends that I didn’t win and this marathon is 42 kilometers long. I’ve also been making lots of graphs from the GPS and heart rate data I have from my Garmin. I usually don’t race with so much tech so it’s a bit overwhelming. The majority of those plots do not make their way into this report.

(and with scientific papers, here is where things would be behind a paywall, but again, lucky for you, all you have to do is click the button.)

Continue reading

TBT – running edition

Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of me running track in high school. Which is probably a good thing, come to think of it.

I was the slowest runner on the track team. I felt that I didn’t deserve to consider myself a member of the track team or a runner.

But, really, you know what the slowest runner on the track team is? A runner.

And I still am.

Here’s me at the end of my very first half marathon in 2009, 20 years after being that slowest runner and 5 years ago.

Image

I’ll post my marathon report from Sunday’s marathon a little later today. How did it get to be Thursday already?

Obligatory pre-race navel gazing…

OK, it’s two days to marathon day so it’s that inevitable time to come up with a race plan!

I’ve had input from a few running friends who all rejected my original plan of, “go hard until I blow up and see how far I managed to get.” I have absolutely no idea how to go about this despite some excellent advice from folks who know much better than I do what works when you’re actually concerned about finishing time for a marathon. And despite the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing or what I’m talking about, I shall do so ad nauseum for the next 2000 words.

tl;dr

The Wife and I are running a marathon on Sunday. I want to run it in less that 4 hours which is probably a bit of a stretch.

Preamble:

This will be my fourth stand-alone marathon. I didn’t run one last year as I got a wee bit burned out after Ironman and couldn’t face starting up again immediately after it for marathon training. Previous years were always one fall marathon using a Hal Higdon intermediate training plan (except the first one, that was his beginner plan). This year, I’m still a little burned out on triathlon and have gone back to running as my primary outlet for masochism training.

 GOALS:

For the race itself:

Continue reading

Happy Easter!

It’s a beautiful day to run 21 miles…I just got my confirmation letter for my May 11th marathon in the mail and through some bizarre clerical error (or possibly because I *slightly* overestimated my finishing time *cough by 15 minutes or so cough*) I’m in starting block 2. Yeah. Not exactly where I belong on this one. My race strategy has been: run pretty hard and see where I blow up, but after talking to an old friend on the phone the other day, I’ve changed it to: run hard and try not to actually blow up. He’s a smart man. It’ll probably be a lot less unfun that way.

And the Wife will be either biking or swimming for a good long workout as well. She’s run into a bit of a shin splint issue, possibly from my overly ambitious training plan, but I have every confidence that she’s going to make a quick and easy recovery. I keep telling her that right at the start of taper is the absolute best time to get injured before a race, but I’m not sure she believes me yet. Regardless, she’s done all the long runs in spectacular fashion and this last one on my plan has something to do with my insane idea that I want to qualify for Boston this year so she shouldn’t worry about missing it. At all. Actually, she shouldn’t worry at all, regardless. I had a wonderful spring getting to do most of my runs with her and all I want is for her to feel 100% again. I couldn’t care less if actually races. (But it would have been fun to see her running with a race number that says “Wolfgang” on it – long story involving me not being aware of the cutoff for registering for this one and the very active race number buying and trading forum and a 75 year old guy who thinks we’re a cute couple or something like that. Regardless, if it turns out that she can’t run it, I’m sure we can find a Bernd or a Frank or a Mike to pass the race number along to.) So to my dear Wife, please stop worrying and happy Easter!

Of course we color eggs even though we're both adults and don't have kids :-) Dave the Minion is quite excited about it.

Of course we color eggs even though we’re both adults and don’t have kids :-) Dave the Minion is quite excited about it.

...as is Dukie the cat. Maybe we should start making catnip eggs and hiding them for him to find...

…as is Dukie the cat. Maybe we should start making catnip eggs and hiding them for him to find…

TBT Edition: Easter and Mom

Well, it’s Thursday again so I’ve once again gone into the pitifully small set of old photos that are not still stashed in my brother’s basement. Here’s one of my mom at Easter in what I believe is 1998 (most of my photos are neither timestamped nor labelled, because I’ve never been organized enough for that and somehow always believed that I’d be able to look at an image and know exactly who was in it, where it was taken, and when. Yeah. I’m an archaeologist’s nightmare.). In 1998, I was still a 20-something and my mother would still send me a little basket of Easter goodies no matter where I was living. Actually, she still does. Moms are great.

My mom, our living room, Easter 1998. I have no idea what she's trying to grow in the red solo cups...

My mom, our living room, Easter 1998. I have no idea what she’s trying to grow in the red solo cups…

And as a bonus, here’s a close up of yours truly in the picture behind my mom. That’s her living room and apparently in 1998 she still had one of my Sears Portrait Studio photos from when I was 8 or so on the wall. Because she never throws anything away and probably preferred to think of me as cute little girl instead of the nutcase that was me in my twenties.

The photo behind my mom on the wall is a wee little me at the Sears Portrait Studio

The photo behind my mom on the wall is a wee little me at the Sears Portrait Studio

Best Pie Ever (Strawberry-Rhubarb Version)

The best thing about our crazy non-winter here (it never got really cold enough to wear my really excellent new winter jacket more than twice, it didn’t snow at all, and it basically rained all winter with temperatures just above freezing) is that local strawberries have already started showing up at the market. That means that rhubarb season and strawberry season are going to be coincident for longer than the usual scant week of overlap. And that means that I’ve attempted to make strawberry-rhubarb pie for the first time ever.

Look at my pie! Now go make your own!

Look at my pie! Now go make your own!

A side note

There is no German word for pie. If you look it up in the dictionary, you find “die Pie” or possibly ” gedeckter Obstkuchen” which translates as covered-up fruitcake which is…not the same thing at all. I posit that the lack of pie in both their vocabulary and their lives is one reason why Germans have the reputation for being so dour and humorless.

An additional side note

Germans are not humorless. We just don’t get their sense of humor most of the time. When we think they’re angry and yelling at each other, they are actually telling jokes, except that you have to have read both Nietzsche and Schopenhauer in order to appreciate them.

On Pie Crust

In the US, I generally bought the Pillsbury frozen pie crusts after one or two disastrous experiments with Crisco-based crusts that never got flaky or ever tasted any good at all. But the other day, I really wanted to make a quiche (I’ll post a recipe for that later in the week or early next week.) and couldn’t just go to the store for a pie crust (see above paragraph regarding Germans and the embarrassing lack of pie in their lives.) so I had to make my own. After a good long perusal of various recipes on the internet, I came to the stunning realization that I didn’t need to use shortening. I could just use butter for the whole damn thing (Note that I am not the only one to have ever had this revelation, when I was searching for strawberry-rhubarb recipes, I discovered that Smitten Kitchen had the exact same thought, only six years ago! ) And the quiche came out tasty and amazing! And the crust was both tasty and flaky. And caused the Wife to say I make the best quiche ever, or at least very good quiche. Regardless, I no longer fear the pie crust, rather I embrace it in all its flaky, buttery goodness. And I possibly did the dance of joy for a few minutes over my Mad Baking Skilz!

On to the pie.

It seems that every strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe on the internet comes from this one which came from a 1997 issue of Bon Appetit (I don’t know where they got it from, but really there are only so many ways to combine strawberries, rhubarb, and sugar in a pie crust) My version is a slightly tweaked version of the slightly tweaked version that Smitten Kitchen posted in 2010.

Ingredients:

  • 1 double crust pie dough, refrigerated (see below for crust recipe)
  • 750 grams (1.5 pounds) fresh rhubarb (*this is weight before trimming. you should have the same volume of cut up rhubarb as strawberries. Too much rhubarb and the pie will always be runny.)
  • 500 grams (1 pound) fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten and blended with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)
Pre baking, artfully crimped edges, decorative slits, and everything

Pre baking, artfully crimped edges, decorative slits, and everything

Preparation

  1. At least several hours before you want to make the pie, make the dough and store it in the refrigerator
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F or 180°C (with Umluft – if you don’t know what that is, you don’t have it; otherwise 200°C)
  3. Prepare the rhubarb – clean and rinse it, cut off the leafy bits and the wider bit at the other end. Cut it into 1.5 cm (1/2 inch or so – yes, I know the conversion is inexact. Cooking is an inexact process.) pieces. No need to peel according to Rhubarb Central (for all your Rhubarb needs)
  4. Prepare the strawberries – wash, rinse, hull and cut into pleasing sized pieces that seem like the right size for a pie. If they’re about the same size as the rhubarb pieces, that’s probably about right.
  5. Roll out 1/2 of the pie dough (one of the refrigerated disks) to a 12″ circle and put in 9″ pie plate (I use the fold into quarters method to get it into the pie plate.
  6. Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and cornstarch together in a bowl and pour it into the pie plate.
  7. Roll out the other disk of pie crust, trim it to 11″ and cut decorative slits in it.
  8. Place it over the tasty mess of berries in the pie plate. Then fold both dough crusts under and “decoratively crimp” the edges together. You’re on your own there. Pie dough crimping is a giant sucking black hole of internet advice, videos, and tutorials. Do the best you can or spend all of Thursday inadvertently watching pie-making videos.
  9. Optional: Take the leftover dough, roll it out and make whimsical decorative accents using cookie cutters or whatever is handy. Glue your artistic masterpieces to the pie dough with the egg yolk glaze/glue.
  10. Brush the glaze over pie dough.
  11. Put the pie on a cookie sheet or other solid surface (the recipe I used didn’t say why. I assume to prevent inadvertent spill-over from reaching the bottom of the oven.)
  12. Bake it for about 20 minutes
  13. TURN DOWN the oven temperature to 350°F (175°C and turn off Umluft) and cook an additional 20 to 30 minutes until pie is golden brown and juices are visibly bubbling.
  14. Remove pie from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Seriously, let it cool. Then the fruit mixture will have time to set properly and the pie won’t be runny. We solved the problem by making it the night before and eating it for breakfast.

Just after baking, as we waited for it to cool enough to eat.

Just after baking, as we waited for it to cool enough to eat.

What to do with the constructed, cooked, and cooled pie:

Serve with whipped cream. Possibly for breakfast. Or dinner. I am assuming that you know how to make or buy whipped cream or can use the internet to figure it out. We flavored ours with a bit of vanilla and that was a perfect complement to the pie. This pie is not too sweet and really, it’s better that way, the tastes of the strawberries and the rhubarb really come through.

Breakfast Pie

Pie, it’s what’s for breakfast

My pie dough:

Ingredients for two crust pie:

  • 2 ¼ cups (280 grams) whole wheat flour (you can use white flour here, I just like the taste of the whole wheat and how well it pairs with the strawberry and rhubarb)
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) white flour + additional white flour for surfaces
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (225 g) very cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup ice water + 1/4 cup additional ice water

Method:

  1. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  2. Cut the cold butter into cubes, add it to the dry ingredients and use a pastry blender to blend it to the “pea sized crumble” stage. Don’t over mix. And yes, a pastry blender is a little thing you use in your hand, you don’t need the stand mixer for this at all.
  3. Add 1/2 cup ice cold water and mix with a rubber spatula until things come together. Add up to ¼ cup additional water as necessary just to get the dough to stick together (add by teaspoonful)
  4. Divide dough in half, cover with plastic wrap and shape into two disks.
  5. Put the dough disks in the refrigerator for no less than 2 hours.
  6. If you’ve never done this before and need pictures to help you out, go here.
A close-up of our whimsical decorative dough cut-outs. Yes, they're cats. No, they are not evenly spaced around the edges and no, they don't all face the same direction. Cats, remember?

A close-up of our whimsical decorative dough cut-outs. Yes, they’re cats. No, they are not evenly spaced around the edges and no, they don’t all face the same direction. Cats, remember?

And that’s it. Best pie I ever made.

And if you’re wondering…

When this thing is going to be a triathlon blog again, well I’m getting on the road bike on Friday for the first time since October and tonight I am going to swim with my little Wednesday night group for the first time in over a month. Now I’ve got to stop nattering on the blog so that I can get my run in today before swim group meets. Also, I just got my MIO Link in the mail and I can now measure my heart rate without feeling like I am suffocating (claustrophobia reaction to the usual chest heart rate strap). It’s very pretty and seems to function just fine and I will write more about it when I’ve had more than one run while using it.

And also, no, I had absolutely no idea who Smitten Kitchen was until this week when I needed a good pie recipe. But giving credit where it is due is a good habit to get into. Also, she has good pie crust tutorials.

Happy Pie-ing!

Obligatory cat pictures

As I was setting up a shot of the pie with some slices taken out just to show how nice and not-runny the filling is, Captain Dukie photobombed me.

As I was setting up a shot of the pie with some slices taken out just to show how nice and not-runny the filling is, Captain Dukie photobombed me.

Then so did Devil-kitty. I then gave up on getting this shot the way I wanted it, preferably without a cat in it.

Then a minute later so did Devil-kitty. I then gave up on getting this shot the way I wanted it, preferably without a cat in it.

In which IKEA and Chocolate are more useful than not

Well, in all the excitement of marathon training and discovering the joys of pie crust (see tomorrow’s post) I somehow managed to completely lose the partially finished blog post that was to have been titled, “The Swedish Horse of Depression – How IKEA and my insufficient language skills took a perfectly reasonable quaint winter custom and turned it into something else entirely.” I will attempt to recreate that post here for your reading pleasure.

Let me explain. No, it will take too long, let me sum up.

I’ve been battling pretty hard this winter against depression. I don’t know if it’s just a really bad case of SAD, or something less winter-dependent. In any case, there have been days (weeks, really) where getting out of bed is hard, I’m so tired I feel like I can’t do anything, and that the parts of my brain that deal with decisions and anything more intellectual than watching the Musketeers on the BBC iplayer are a bit beyond my abilities. My poor Wife has been doing her best to remain cheerful and helpful throughout, but I know it’s not easy for her.

Anyway, so in a cheering-up expedition about a month or so ago, we went to IKEA, because where else would you go to remember all that is good in life? As we were heading out with our haul of meatballs, kitchen tools, bedding, and more nondescript shelving, I saw something colorful and adorable on a shelf in the food area.

It was this. A chocolate horse wrapped in brightly colored foil. I read the German description of how the Swedes would make these colorful items for their children during the long dark winter nights. And I thought, “Of course! That’s brilliant! Making chocolates during the winter to help ward off the depression that comes with twenty hours of darkness a day! We must have one!”

I then proceeded to embellish the tale with the idea that at winter’s end, there would be a great party at which much chocolate would be consumed, after the chocolate horses were broken in ceremonial fashion to signify the end of the long night and the coming of spring. It was so logical and clear in my head that I was utterly convinced that that must be what the Swedes were doing.

Then, of course, I said all this out loud to the Wife (who shall be known henceforth as the Wife Who Knows All Things about All Things, Especially Swedish Customs and IKEA Related Trivia or W.WKATATESCIRT for short) who immediately said as anyone who doesn’t inhabit my brain and correctly interpreted the explanatory sign would, “Well, no. Those horses were wood. They were brightly painted toys.” So then I was left with the question of why? Why would IKEA mislead us so?

And then I realized something Important. It didn’t matter. If the Ceremonial Breaking of the Chocolate Horse of Depression ™ was going to help me, then that is what we were going to do. And we did.

We set the Chocolate Horse of Depression ™ on the table in a suitably danger-free area.

Behold, the Chocolate Horse of Depression. (as sold by IKEA)

Behold, the Chocolate Horse of Depression. (as sold by IKEA)

Then I got one of my wooden swords out. My favorite wooden sword, in fact. (Yes, I have a favorite wooden sword. Doesn’t everyone?)

You can't actually see me in the picture, but trust me, I'm on the other end of the wooden stick.

You can’t actually see me in the picture, but trust me, I’m on the other end of the wooden stick. I believe this shot is actually me in mid-swing. Devil-kitty is not impressed.

And then I smashed the adorable, brightly-colored Chocolate Horse of Depression ™ with a few well-placed blows.

The first of which cracked it pretty neatly open.

The first of which cracked it pretty neatly open.

And after the thing was reduced to tiny little pieces, it was transferred to a bowl and symbolically consumed (Actually, no. It was literally consumed. But with symbolic meaning.)

Also, note out really clever and cool coffee table. Which is a cheap IKEA table with a sheet of glass over it and a nice selection of our race numbers as decoration.

Also, note our really clever and cool coffee table. Which is a cheap IKEA table with a sheet of glass over it and a nice selection of our race numbers as decoration.

So that is the quaint Swedish custom of breaking and eating the Chocolate Horse of Depression ™  at the end of a long winter. And I am doing better. But I have no idea if that has to do with the ceremony, the coming of spring, the 50 miles a week I’m running (And that’s a post for another day. The one about how I usually use exercise to help manage my generally mild to moderate depression, but when I reach the level of marathon and ironman training and it’s not helping, then I know there’s something NOT RIGHT with my stupid head.) or just some other utterly random event that set my brain chemistry back on the upswing to normal. In any case, I think we will be breaking the Chocolate Horse of Depression ™ every winter, possibly more than once, if necessary.

Training update: Last week was a cutback week, so only 42 miles, the week before was 52 miles and this week is another 53 miles. It’s my last high-mileage week before tapering starts. And I am right there on that razor’s edge of overtrained, so I think I did it right this time around.

Here is the teaser for tomorrow’s post:

My entirely homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie just after getting its egg yolk sponge bath and just before it went into the oven. Tune in tomorrow to see what it looked like after it was baked, along with the recipe.

My entirely homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie just after getting its egg yolk sponge bath and just before it went into the oven. Tune in tomorrow to see what it looked like after it was baked, along with the recipe.

I’ll be posting the recipe tomorrow because this is possibly the best pie I’ve ever made. It’s so good that I’m going to be making it again for my mother-in-law this weekend when they are visiting for Easter.

And finally, Devil-kitty looking especially silly:

Devil-kitty, who should possibly be called Derpy-kitty based on this photo.

Devil-kitty, who should possibly be called Derpy-kitty based on this photo.

 

Go for it!

How the heck is it already Thursday again? Time, stop moving so fast, please.

Several things happened recently that seem connected and that require discussion.

Over the weekend, A(short for his real name), a person fairly close to me died. He was a boss, a mentor, and a friend. He died of an awful complication to a horrible disease and he wasn’t even fifty. His fire, his spirit, his zest for life, and his attention to detail in all aspects of his work and life marked him as special. He could make people cry easily with his brutal honesty, but rarely did so. He could use his force of personality to command the attention of a room full of people, and then use his sometimes surprising humor to set them all at ease before laying out whatever impossible, time-critical task we had to somehow finish this time. He worked hard, played hard, and found joy in life. It was much too soon to lose such a bright star. I miss him.

I have also joined an informal German class last week. Most of the members of this group are women and mothers (it meets at 10 am, what do you expect?). One of them is a 61 year old grandmother from Morocco. I had no idea she was that old until we did an exercise yesterday where we all said our ages out loud. We also learned that she married at 14, had her first child at 15, raised 7 children and now has 20 grandchildren. By most accounts, a successful life. She, however, due to the culture she was raised in, never learned to read and write. So she is now. At 61. In a second language. With joy and anticipation.

The message I am taking from these things is that:

1) It is NEVER too late to start.

2) But you have to start TODAY because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

So go out and do it now. That thing that you always meant to do. It’s time. Don’t wait.

 

And of course, an image for TBT. This one is remotely connected to A.

The stalwart researchers on a month-long bio-physical interactions cruise off the coast of Barbados, 1996. This is where I learned the salp joke.

The stalwart researchers on a month-long bio-physical interactions cruise off the coast of Barbados, 1996. This is where I learned the salp joke. That’s me, 4th from the left.

It’s sort of a funny story. So, I’m not particularly good at telling jokes. I tend to drag them out too long, I don’t judge my audience well, etc. One of my favorite jokes is about hyperiid amphipods. It goes like this:
“How many hyperiid amphipods does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”

“None! They screw in salps!”

…and that’s the joke. Which only a very small subset of marine biologists even gets. So telling it to a room full of systems engineers is fairly high on the futility meter. A thought the room’s reaction (blank stares, dead silence) was so hilarious that whenever he was feeling down, he’d ask me to tell him the salp joke again, usually in front of an unsuspecting engineer, just so he could watch the reaction again. The telling got better every time. A, this one’s for you. I hope it makes you smile even now.

TBT: high school hair edition

And it’s been more than a week for the blog, did y’all miss me?

Since it’s Thursday already (this week went by fast, apparently, that’s what deadlines and jetlag will do to you) I can just post this picture.

It’s from the spring of 1988 when I was a senior in high school, visiting my excellent friend Joeshlabotnik (who now has over 66,000 photos at his Flickr account) at college. Yes, I still have the jacket, packed in a box in my brother’s basement and waiting for the next big high school reunion. What is interesting is that I actually weigh the same now as I did in that picture (racing weight, yay) and my hair is currently as long and as unmanageable.

TBT 1988

TBT 1988

So the big questions is: should I get a haircut and how short?

in running news, I ran 170 miles in March, highest monthly total ever. And I’m feeling surprisingly uninjured these days.

In running toy news, the MIO Link optical wrist band heart rate monitor is now available for pre-order and ships April 10th!