Tag Archives: racing

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.)

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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:

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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…

2014 Resolutions and 2013 Wrap-up before it’s so late it’s irrelevant

Today, we took down our adorable tiny Christmas tree and all the wonderful cards we received. The last day of Christmas is always bittersweet. We have also managed to eat every last bit of Christmas cookies, candy, and cake that was left in the house, so it’s well and truly over until next year.

One batch of the roughly 1000 pounds of fudge we made for the holidays. Sadly, all of it has been given away and/or consumed.

One batch of the roughly 1000 pounds of fudge we made for the holidays. Sadly, all of it has been given away and/or consumed.

And now for the important parts of this post. What we did and what we’re going to do.

What we did last year:

Short version – last year I did an Ironman. Which I shall never tire of saying, sorry (not really. Ironpeople are never sorry for bringing it up. Again. Maybe this year I’ll actually finish last year’s race report.). I was going to run up a mountain this year, but instead, I’ve decided to qualify for the Boston Marathon and just like that, another obsession is born. The Wife has decided to do her first 70.3 triathlon this year, so we have some fun training times ahead of us.

Long version – here’s my season recap for this year which basically says that I did an Ironman (did I mention that already?) and got a bunch of PR’s along the way, which was nice. Here’s last year’s resolutions post where go into stupefying detail about how to write resolutions and then give a laundry list a mile long of all the things I wanted to do or work on during 2013. Here’s the (hopefully less painful) summary of last year:

  • Ironman (see above.)
  • 4:00 marathon – cancelled because I was too tuckered out from Ironman (see above) to do anything meaningful with the rest of the fall. Poor, poor, pitiful me.
  • Flossing. Yep, still flossing. Like a boss.
  • Basic medical care, cats + humans. Behaving mostly like an adult and doing this stuff when we’re supposed to. Except the dentist. I never did go back to have the ancient cavities replaced. They still don’t bother me at all, giving me zero incentive to actually have things done.
  • Being a Scientist. Working on it. Was harder than I’d imagined. But there’s still hope.
  • Being a German speaker. Passed the B2 German exam and the civics exam for residency in May!
  • Being a home handyperson. Not really. Something had to fall off the (overly ambitious) list and this was it. Not that things are in bad shape, but I still want to reorg the bathroom and living room the way I did with the kitchen in 2012.
  • Getting wedding rings and having the accompanying wedding. Yeah, that one worked out pretty well. In case you were wondering, yes, we are legally in a Lebenspartnership here, but that’s like a civil union and not like a marriage. For US Immigration purposes, we needed a wedding and a marriage, so we had (another) one. It was beautiful and we had so much fun with it and that’s the one perk of same-sex unions. We get to (in fewer than half of the US states, though) have a lot of weddings. To the same person. (Because we have to in order to satisfy different states and countries patchwork and not wholly equal laws and regulations. So to counteract the lack of equality in a lot of places, we express our joy in those places that do consider us equal under the law by having more parties there.) OK, same-sex equality rant over. This is supposed to be a tri-blog, after all.

What we’re going to do this year:

I’ve decided against running up a mountain this September as it interferes with both our vacation plans and my BQ plans.

My A Races:

  • Mainz Marathon (May)
  • Frankfurt Marathon (October)

My B Races:

  • Frankfurt 1/2 Marathon (March)
  • Wiesbaden 70.3 (August)

My C Races:

  • Platte, Fertig, Los (only 450 meters of climbing in 5 miles up Plattestraße in Wiesbaden) (March) (Yes, I’m doing this one just for fun. For some definition of fun.)
  • Frankfurt City Tri (As usual, the week before Wiesbaden. I’ll probably do the sprint distance again. Maybe I’ll get first woman on the bike again this year.)
  • Lauf für Mehr Zeit – Frankfurt’s AIDS charity run. (September) If we’re not on the beach in Crete.
  • Cologne Triathlon Weekend (September) I may do the Oly here for fun since the swim is so beautiful and I’ll be there anyway, sherpa-ing for the Wife at her first half-iron distance triathlon. (Go Wife!)

Intense BQ-based navel-gazing ahead

(with a side-order of Maffetone nattering)

First, about navel-gazing. That refers to omphaloskepsis, or the act of meditative belly-button contemplation. Which is different from naval-gazing, which involves looking excessively at pretty boats, er ships. So, originally I’d hoped to BQ this May in Mainz, but then I realized that Mainz would only count towards 2015 when I will still only be 44 and the BQ time is 3:45 which is 17 minutes faster than my current marathon PR. However, Frankfurt, in October will count towards 2016, when I’ll be 45 and only need to pull off a 3:55, a mere 7 minutes faster than my PR. A majority of the predictors imply that based on my 1/2 marathon and 10k times in 2013, I should be able to swing a 3:53. I’m going to try for that at both Mainz and Frankfurt with some fun triathlon in the middle along with a couple of cool holidays.

Maffetone. Still not sure I believe in him. I’ve started HR training this month and seriously, keeping the HR below 180-43 (+5 for good behavior the last 4 or 5 years) is making me into one angry runner. I was reduced to almost 13 minute miles in the middle of Sunday’s long run. People were walking faster than I was running. I snapped at the Wife. It was miserable all around. I think I may have had a HRM malfunction in the middle of the run or something. Or the constriction around the chest (which triggers my claustrophobia) started to bother me. Or I have no aerobic fitness or something. I don’t know. But I cannot wait until March when I can get one of these fancy optical HRM that I get to wear around my wrist instead of my chest. I will stick with the Maffetone method at least until the end of February, but if my paces aren’t improving by then, I’m going back to the usual. In case you were wondering, all this started because the Wife has gotten so fast that I can no longer rely on running with her to keep my long run pace slow enough anymore and since I’m wearing the hated strap, I thought I might as well go all the way and see what happens.

So here’s my marathon training plan for the next few month in graphical format:

My weekly total mileage and long run length up to and including the Mainz Marathon this May. Races are marked as red dots on the long run (blue) line.

My weekly total mileage and long run length up to and including the Mainz Marathon this May. Races are marked as red dots on the long run (blue) line.

That’s the quick version of what I’m up to for the next year. Oh, and blogging. I resolve to blog no fewer than 52 times this year (that’s once a week at a minimum).

 

Captain Dukie was a bit traumatized by our being away for almost two weeks at Christmas. So now, all of my seated activities involve peering over a cat. For example, breakfast.

Captain Dukie was a bit traumatized by our being away for almost two weeks at Christmas. So now, all of my seated activities involve peering over a cat. For example, breakfast.

 

Season recap 2013

Well, it’s been most of the season and I haven’t managed to finish a blog post all summer or this first half of fall. Which is a shame because it has actually been a banner year for me. Let me explain; No it will take to long. Let me sum up:

So far this year to date I have achieved a PR in every race I entered. Every single one. Every distance, every race. It appears that Ironman training has been good for me on the whole. I escaped major injury (or rather, I trained well and listened to my body) and I finally got my iron levels to something approaching normal. I have no idea how long I’d been training and racing before this while being iron deficient. So thanks to my doctor for making me get blood drawn every three months and take iron supplements regularly.

Me doing my best impression of Daniel Craig as 007

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Oops, suddenly it’s mid-February

…and I haven’t posted my wrap up from last year yet or any of the absolutely fascinating things I’d meant to post from this year so far. I’ll try to be a better blogger in the future….

Only a month late, here’s my wrap –up of 2012:

2012 Year in Review

2012 was a great year in some respects, not so good in others.  It was my first full year of marriage to my wonderful Wife, which was great. It was also a year that I was sick with a pretty significant flare-up of Ulcerative Colitis and associated problems (like anemia) for most of the spring and summer, going into fall. So without further ado, here’s my 2012 race wrap up so that I can move on to the more fun posts like:

–       A pictorial of an exploratory run in Spain in January while German was covered in snow

–       My kitchen renovation – it is beautiful and efficient, let me show you it

–       How to succeed at swim seminars without really trying (actually that’s not true, I was trying as hard as my little arms could pull me)

–       The hash I’ve made of trying to make my own training plan for this year

–       Cinnamon buns of love

–       Chapatis – easier than you think

–       Lembas pancakes – healthy and cashing in on Hobbit-mania (maybe next will be Die Hard Donuts)

–       Eggplant chili

–       Weekly training updates

–       Why I have to be crazy to train for Ironman along with doing aikido three times a week.

–       But look, despite all the chili, cinnamon rolls, and chapatis I’m making in my beautiful newly redesigned, significantly more efficient kitchen, all this training is making me seriously buff!

All these and more after I finally get this wrap-up out of the way.

So then, in 2012 I raced in 5 triathlons, 5 running races, and did a few other significant things.

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Race report: Frankfurt Silversterlauf 10km

A race report the day of the actual race? Unheard of! And did I mention that I’m still flossing daily, too?

Today was the Frankfurt Silvesterlauf, the annual New Year’s Eve run through the forest by the sports stadium. Let me tell you about the swag for this race.  There is none.  You pay 10 Euros for the privilege of running 10 km with about 1,900 other runners and there is no tech shirt, no medal, no beer mug, or belt buckle at the end. If you are the fastest man or woman, you get a free airline ticket to wherever you want in Europe. That’s it. Which is actually, well, it’s fine.  We don’t really need any more tech shirts, we’ve got two drawers devoted to them as it is, medals would just get added to the ever growing piles of them and if I manage to miraculously chop 15 minutes off my time (note sarcastic eye-roll here.  The written word is hard to convey nuanced emoting sometimes) the free airline ticket would be nice.

I did get an excellent year-end swag from this race, though. Another PR! And a big one, too.  I haven’t been particularly conscientious about racing 10k’s or remembering how fast I ran them.  According to the internet, the fastest 10k I previously ran was in 2009 the week after my first half marathon and was an incredibly muddy trail run in the rain.  I did that one in 56:26.  The second fastest stand alone 10k I ever ran was this spring the day after an iron injection while I was both anemic and nauseous from the iron.  That was 56:32. Last summer, I posted my fastest timed 10k time at the end of an Olympic distance triathlon and that was 54:13. So, with that setup, it would have been almost impossible for me not to PR today and I am happy to report that I was gloriously, statistically unremarkable today.

Race day started as it usually does with me getting the runs and needing to poop several times before leaving the house.  And needing to pee four times after arriving at the race start. What was unusual was that we were 7 minutes early for our train and didn’t have to run a single step before the actual race if we didn’t want to. We chatted with a lovely bi-national couple (he was from Scotland, she was German) on the train, which is also completely not unusual for me.  I have one of those faces or something. Strangers always talk to me.  Like the Swede at the marathon this year. Or the random guy who started quizzing me on bike locks and where to get them the other day at the farmers’ market. When you spend time with me, you just get used to talking with lots of strangers. It’s a perk, really.

It rained like crazy most of the night last night and on and off all morning, so I was a bit worried about what to wear for the race and especially what to wear on my feet.  While I have 4 or 5 pairs of running shoes (ok, 6) in current rotation, none of them are particularly useful for cold, wet races that are partially on paved trails and partially on dirt trails.  I’ve only got one pair of actual trail runners and they’re so big and bulky that it’s like running with combat boots on. And since I’ve started running mostly in my Pure Flows, the heel rise on my trail runners makes them feel like wearing  a pair of Jimmy Choo’s or something. So they were out. My usual race shoes, K-Swiss Blade Light Runs have drainage holes in the bottoms which are great for triathlons in summer, but for muddy trails, not so much. I ended up going with the Pure Flows because they’re my most comfortable shoe at the moment, even if they are rather oddly colored. There was another woman in the changing room who had the exact same shoes on. She was German. Or a lesbian, sometimes it’s hard to tell.  Anyway, she looked fast and serious. I passed her in the first kilometer /glee!

OK, on to the reporting of the actual race.  I knew that we were too far back in the 50:00 to 1 hour corral, but there were almost 2000 runners and it was truly impossible to make our way any farther forward. This race is annoying in that in about 700 meters, the relatively wide, paved road it starts on narrows to a running trail through the woods where it’s really difficult to pass people. So, my first mile and a half was significantly slower than intended. I learned my lesson last year at the half marathon which starts from the same place and where I left my whole race in that first mile frantically trying to pass people in order to hit my pace.  I just stayed left, stayed relaxed, and hoped I would be able to make it up later when the traffic jam cleared. Spoiler alert! I did!

Times for miles one and two: 8:43, 8:26. My goal was to run just under 8:30 miles and come in around 52 or 53 minutes, so I was a bit worried that I had some time to make up.

The next two miles were gently sloping down hills and I spent them chasing down other runners and passing them.  When I got to the point where there were fewer women around me, I started concentrating more on them. The weather was perfect, cool and not raining. It was almost sunny once or twice. I was wearing the squirrel shirt, arm warmers, capri length tights, and my calf compression sleeves.  Most of the folks around me were wearing considerably more. I was a bit cold at the start, but I know that I’ll be ultimately happier when I’m not overheating at the end and I was warm by mile 3 and had my arm warmers pushed down by mile 4.  Seriously, I don’t know how all those people in jackets and hats survived without heat stroke. Anyway, I passed a lot of other people, both women and men, and didn’t get passed my a single woman from the start to mile 5 or so.

Miles three and four were 7:57 and 7:59, respectively.  Note the sub-8 minute miles that I ran like a boss right in the middle of a 10 k race without freaking out or worrying or anything.  I got to the 5km timing mat in 26:15, so exactly on course for a 52:30, right where I wanted to be.

Mile five was the second of the three hills (the first was unremarkable and happened in mile 2) and I slowed down a bit to 8:24. I was on pace for an 8:08 mile until that hill, but it was a fun hill. Right after it was when I started to feel tired in the legs and regret slightly those fast miles in the middle. This was also where I got passed by Inga with the blond braids.  Really, I have no idea what her name was, but she was strong, had amazing calf muscles (I know, I got to watch them from behind for the rest of the race, but they got kind of far away towards the end).

Mile 6 was 8:06 and still passing people. The third hill is at the end of mile 6 and it was also a fun hill. According to the wife, that is because I am a masochist. I sprinted the last 0.26 mile (my tangents weren’t too bad today!) at a pace of 7:38 and finished the whole shebang in 51:31, which is a whopping big PR! Merry New Year to me! Running is significantly more fun when I’m healthy and uninjured at the same time. I highly recommend it as a race strategy.  I finished 118 out of 533 women (there were over 1300 men running, yet another instance of the weird German/European bias against women in road races and triathlons.  This race in Washington, DC would have had about an even split between men and women) and 22 out of 90 in my age category.

Just as I finished, an older guy that I’d been running with and pacing for a few kilometers started talking to me. He wants me to join his running club and gave me a banana.  He also congratulated me on my PR and I barely escaped his conversation in time to see the Wife finish in around 57 minutes as she said she would.  Actually, I failed utterly to see the Wife finish as she as usual overestimated her finishing time and underestimated herself.  But just when I was starting to worry that something happened to her, she came up from behind me, tea already in hand. She finished in 56:15, not a PR (Her 10k PR comes from a net downhill course on a perfect running day and was until today faster than my 10k PR) but a course PR of over a minute.  She was also happy, ran negative splits, and basically ran a great race.  Other than missing her at the finish, it was a great day all around.

In conclusion, running is fun when I’ve trained properly, am fit, and don’t let my brain wreck a perfectly good race. Also, my favorite squirrel shirt has been upgraded to my lucky squirrel shirt.  I’ve worn it for my last three races and PR’d at all of them! Skvörl! I’m thinking of getting a more permanent version with the German pronunciation key on it for me and all my cheer-me-on team for Ironman Frankfurt this year.  So there you go.  Swag for you if you come to Frankfurt on July 7th and give me moral support! And you don’t even have to run a race to get it.

woman wearing a shirt with a squirrel on it

The Wife made this for me the night before the Frankfurt Marathon, Best Luckiest (and still best) race shirt ever 🙂

Gratuitous picture! Devil-cat using his cute-camouflage to blend into his surroundings.

Gratuitous picture! Devil-cat using his cute-camouflage to blend into his surroundings.

Advent day 18 Let Sleeping Triathletes Lie

In Advent Calendar news, guessed wrong today, it was lightning bolt, not AC/DC logo as predicted…as for music, try the NPR All Songs Considered Holiday Party here.

In useful things to have bookmarked in your browser news:

  1. My favorite online unit converter for food: here
  2. The recipe for Spitzbuben that I’m going to use this year.  I’ve never made them before so it’s somewhat experimental pending tomorrow’s outcome.
  3. McMillan running has updated their pace calculator and it’s here.  It’s telling me that based on my last marathon time, my goals for my next 10k (on Dec 30) and next 1/2 Marathon (in March) are completely reasonable.

In “Stick a fork in me, I’m done news:

Today I:

  1. Went to German class (3 hours)
  2. Did an hour of jo staff practice
  3. Ran 7 miles along the muddy river trail
  4. Did the dishes
  5. Made lunch (spinach quesadilla on linseed tortilla with leftover tuna and tomato salad)
  6. Did 2 hours of aikido
  7. Talked with my adviser and planned out the next month of work that will lead hopefully to the super-secret goal I’m not telling anyone about yet
  8. Folded the last load of laundry
  9. Created a cookie making spreadsheet for all the Christmas cookies we’re baking tomorrow so that we know what we need to buy at the store
  10. Worked out the next week of my off-season training plan for us
  11. Finished the prep and cutting of all the gift fudge (and taste tested the fudge) (OK, Wife did most of this while I hovered and felt guilty for not doing more)

And now I am done. Goodnight internets.

This is what happens when my wonderful Wife gives me a back massage after a long day...

This is what happens when my wonderful Wife gives me a back massage after a long day…

And this is the view I have every morning between 4 and 4:30 when Devil-cat decides that he is undeniably starving to death and must be fed. NOW.

And this is the view I have every morning between 4 and 4:30 when Devil-cat decides that he is undeniably starving to death and must be fed. NOW.

Eeep!

So, today is the day that I realize that there are only 30 weeks to go until Ironman and I completely freak out and can’t sleep because I have managed to convince myself that the month I’ve just taken it easy post-marathon was way too long, all my fitness is gone, I’m already behind the 8-ball and all hope is essentially lost.  This is partly because I found one 36 week plan and realized that I can no longer choose that plan as an option. There are literally hundreds of 13 to 28 week plans that I am still clearly capable of following and even Joe Friel himself says 23 is a good number of weeks and that even gives me 7 weeks of base building and strength work at the gym before it even starts. I’m going to have to get over these bouts of training panic because I can’t spend too many nights not sleeping over things like this.  I had a pretty good season that ended on a couple of great races, I’m healthy again, I needed these few weeks of non-plan based recovery and now I need to start off-season basebuilding with a clear heart and calm mind.  If by some miracle, you happen to stumble across this and have already done your first Ironman, feel free to tell me that I’m worrying about nothing and not helping myself at all by doing this.

This weekend I’ll post a recap of the last season (all the races I never wrote or finished the race reports for in one easy post) and the first part of my training plan for the winter and next season – the year of the Ironman. In July, you can help me plan which beach I’ll be sleeping on for a week as reward for whatever happens on that first Sunday. Also because it will be my birthday. To clarify, my birthday is in July, not this weekend.  The IM is also in July. The plan is to be done this weekend.