Dec 31, 2013

Catching up - 2013 in review

The year starts with a decent slap in the face. My attempt at Brasil 135 ends after 16 hours and 90km with severe leg pain due to insufficient training. 

Spring marathon season on the other hand is a blast.

The Weltdownsyndromtagslauf, a fundraiser people suffering from down syndrome, which is organised by Anita Kienle and her Laufclub 21, is my season opener. All the usual suspects show up to this small scale event and it is the perfect place to catch up with some old and make some new running friends.

Freiburg and Bonn marathon on two consecutive Sundays both under the four hour mark boost my confidence. Also, in Bonn I accidentally meet a - on first impression weird and overly extroverted - fellow dressed up as some sort of Superman. He calls himself Marathonman. Turn out, his name is Trent Morrow, he is from Australia and attempting to break the Guinness Book record for most run marathon races in a year (157). We take a couple of pictures together, talk a bit and shortly after loose sight of each other.

Düsseldorf marathon is one of my favourite spring races in Germany. Unfortunately, this year it is also on the day after my 20 year high school reunion; so I leave the party late, have a quick shower and then take the train to Düsseldorf rather drunk. Why run at all? I promised Merlin, a colleague of mine, that I would join him at his first marathon. The first 10 miles are ok, the I start getting sober and not feeling to well. Things get better after a while, right in time before said colleague hits the wall at mile 20. We suffer through the rest, but make it in a somewhat respectable finish time.

A long weekend in the beginning of may brings me to the Rhoehn-Weser-Trail, a 193km 4day run through a rather scenic part of Germany more or less following the river Fulda from its spring to its mouth. The event consist of only three starters, of which one only participates for the first day. Nevertheless, the route is just beautiful, our race organiser meets us with the support vehicle every hour our so for food and drink, and I spend the days alternating in conversation with my fellow runner, listening to audiobooks and just enjoying the quiet of the countryside.

After a 2 week break I fly over to the US for Chuck Savages New England Challenge. 5 marathons in 5 days in 5 states. The series is very low key, between 30 and 50 runners per race, most of them fellow Marathon Maniacs, naturally. The races themselves are nothing spectacular, basically running in loops around a park or golf course. And they start at 6 in the morning, which takes some getting used to. I also encounter Trent, the Marathonman, again. We have a lot of time to talk and become fast friends. The week is rather stressful, not so much because of the running, but because it is always followed by a couple of hours of driving, changing hotels, and there isn't time for much else. Friday night I fly back to Frankfurt, arrive Saturday afternoon, get some rest and on Sunday morning head out for the Darmstadt Knastmarathon, a race run inside a federal penitentiary. Pouring rain and a temperatures of about 5C (40F) are to much for my seventh marathon in a week, so I quit after 15km, visit Peter and drink beer. There is more than one way to spend a Sunday.

The next stunt after 5 in 5 is 3 in 2. The first weekend in June I start out with the 6 hour run in Fellbach, running loops in the blasting sun without a bit of shade until I finish the marathon distance, then I drive on to Mannheim, sleep for an hour and run the Mannheim marathon which starts at 7pm. Still way to warm. Only 4 hours sleep, another 3 hour drive and I make it just in time for the Eifel marathon on Sunday morning. This one is a trail race, it is cold and raining and I hate every bit of it.

100km at the 24h race in Stadtoldendorf the next weekend round up the spring season. ALso, it gave me Palladium level with the maniacs.

Summer I intended to have a couple of triathlons, however, this didn't work out too well.

First one is Ironman Frankfurt. Last year I didn't finish this one, so I have a score to settle. Swim goes well, as always. The bike still sucked, but not as bad as last year and the run is stellar, 4:36, my best IM marathon, and the second best IM finish.

Ironman Zurich, my backup race, has an Olympic triathlon on the day before to which I got a free entry. I figure it is a good training. The weekend is brutally hot, and the 10k run on Saturday feel longer than most marathons. Sunday morning I feel like crap. I make it to the start area, and think back to the run the day before. Do I want to do that for 40k? After being grilled on the bike for 6+ hours. I pack my back and cycle back to my air conditioned hotel. After seeing the other athletes coming back to the hotel, I am rather happy with my decision. 

70.3 Wiesbaden happened without me due to a bee sting.

Inferno triathlon is the race where I really get my ass handed to me. Inferno as I find out the hard way, is what triathletes do once Ironman gets to easy. The swim is 3km through the beautiful but rather cold Thuner lake. This is a real open water swim, not following some buoys along the cost, we swim from one coast to the other. The water is a deep blue and the view is just spectacular. After transition to the first bike session, I have bout 200m to get into the right gear, then the climbing starts. The first bike course is only 97km (60mi) long, but has a vertical gain of 2200m (7200ft), which doesn't sound all that much, until you take into account, that about two third are flat. Even with the easiest gear ratio that Shimano offers, I am left to suffer with a cadence in the forties for most of the mountains. I miss the cutoff by a good hour. This is something that I really have to train specifically for for at least a year should I ever wish to try again. Oh, in case you make the bike leg, there is a second bike leg, this time on a mountain bike, 30km with another 1200m of vertical gain before you can finally tackle the sun, which offers a vertical gain of 2200m over 25km ;-)

Last triathlon for the year and my birthday present for myself is IM Lake Tahoe. I arrive at SFO a week before the race, have to stand in line for two hours for my rental car - thank you Budget - and then drive up to Reno. California style, my bike box on the backset of the red Mustang convertible. The lake Tahoe area is very beautiful and quiet, unfortunately it is also at altitude (above 6000ft) which makes breathing a bit difficult. I settle into my hotel and spend a week relaxing, enjoying the scenery and cycling in the autumn sun. All goes well until the day before the race the weather changes. Rainstorms and a severe drop in temperature. Snow the night before the race. WTF? I come to sunny California, I don't want snow!

Race morning I am almost frozen solid before I enter the water. While only 18C warm, the lake actually feels warm, and I enjoy the swim (apparently I am one of very few persons to do so). The water is so clear, I can underwater see swimmers 5 meters to the side of me. And them the snow covered mountain tops. Awesome. Once I leave the water, however, the fun ends. Transition is a mess, the tent is so crowded I have to wait do even enter, changing outside is impossible to to both the temperatures and regulations - we are in a country run by religious fundamentalists, after all. Once on the bike, I try to settle into a rhythm, but never manage to get warm. I suffer for about three hours until the sun is powerful and the hills steep enough to warm me up. But at that time I have already spent way to much energy. After the about 110km on the bike I quit. I probably would have made the bike cutoff, but only marginally, and that would have meant running in the dark and cold, and I simply did not have enough energy left for that. The score will be settled next year.

So, out of five events, 2 DNS and 2 DNFs. There is room for improvement.

Since Lake Tahoe was towards the end of September, the fall running season was rather short. Cologne offers a half marathon and a marathon on the same day, timed in a way that you can run the half first, have about an hour and then run the full. Which I do with my buddy Markus (his first Ultra) and enjoy thoroughly.

Frankfurt marathon is a blast. I meet fellow Swedish maniac Anders, the biking viking; and Dirk runs his debut marathon in 3:05. Some people just have talent. And I run my best time for the year.

The ARQUE run, labelled as the 80% marathon is great as always, and sits at the center of a long running weekend that starts the day before with a 35km run from Frankfurt to Wiesbaden to have lunch with Rolf, and then 40km more to pick up the race packet.

The Eisweinlauf from Offenburg to Baden Baden is the last event on my schedulde. Immaculately organized and with the best assortment of food and drink, over 100 runners journey the 63 km through the wine region of southern Germany in a single group at a slow and steady pace. Nothing beats Gluehwein - warm, spiced red wine from mile 15 on.

That pretty much sums up 2013 running wise. What's next?

The milestones for 2014 are Brazil 135 in January, IM Melbourne, Frankfurt and Lake Tahoe in March, July and September respectively. Marathons to fill up the calendar.

Join me, if you like. Have an awesome 2014 everyone and feel free to comment at any time.

Tuna, candied and dried - An Alinea recipe

This one is meant as an amuse-gueule, in Alineas winter menu being served directly after the famous  hot potato/cold potato dish. ...