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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sneak-preview: Chapter 23 of Ultramarathon Mom .............................................................................................................. Boston Marathon 2013: The Bombing

When I crossed the finish line in Boston, I was on cloud nine, but the primary emotion was that of relief because I could finally stop running. I was completely, physically empty. Like every other runner who’d just finished, I walked wearily forward and filtered into the mass of exhausted human beings as we wove our way farther up Boylston Street to be greeted and cared for by the B.A.A. volunteers. We first collected water and HeatSheet blankets. I was freezing by the time I’d gotten mine; it’s amazing how fast your body cools down. They were also handing out stickers to bind the front of the HeatSheets closed, but I didn’t have the energy or coordination to take it in my hand and stick it on, so I just stood there like a child and had one of the volunteers attach it for me. I wasn’t the only runner to do this, and a smile was all I could summon as thanks. Then we got our medals, a bottle of Gatorade, and a bag of food. The volunteers handing out these items were so friendly and were joking with us; they were clearly having a blast themselves. But several times I had to stop and bend over, holding onto my knees to rest. I knew I needed some energy in the form of food, but I was too spent to do anything more than stay in motion. The buses that held our bags full of clothing and personal items were still ahead, so I pulled my HeatSheet blanket as tight as I could around me and searched for yellow school bus #23. A few minutes later I’d found it and received my bag, then slipped behind the bus to put on some warm clothes. I peeled off my sweaty shirt and replaced it with a warm, dry, long-sleeved one, and a jacket. Another female runner who’d come back there with me saw me take off my shirt (of course I had a sports bra underneath) and said that she was too embarrassed to do that since there were so many people around. I told her it’s like giving birth…you’re so desperate you don’t give a damn how many people are in the room. She laughed and made a quick change.

From there I returned to the middle of Boylston because I needed to go back in the direction of the finish line to get to the runners’ exits. I was feeling better since I was now warm, and I was enjoying
watching the other runners, all of us sensing our mutual satisfaction and camaraderie. The atmosphere was charged with excitement, yet very controlled and peaceful. I didn’t want it to end.

And then in a moment it all suddenly changed.

There was a deafening noise. I looked up and saw a ball of white
smoke rising into the air on the right side of the road on the far
side of the finish line. Everyone around me stood still. My first
thought was that it was part of the event, a celebratory canon
shot or something. It didn’t really seem to make sense. It didn’t
fit in with the scene, in the atmosphere. I stood for a moment
to see what would happen next. But nothing did, so then all the
runners and I slowly began moving again; I was only able to take
another step or two before there was a second loud noise and
the accompanying smoke. But this time… I knew. And so did
everyone around me. The woman next to me said, “Oh, no. This
is not good.” We began to move faster in all directions. I took the
next street off of Boylston in the direction where I was supposed
to exit and meet my family. It was only a matter of a minute or
two before the sirens began; ambulances were being brought into
the area, one right after the other. There were still thousands of
runners trying to get to the exits, and the police were urging us to
the sides of the roads so that the ambulances could get through.
And they were coming at unbelievable speeds. I was trying to
push back against the crowds so as not to get hit by one of the
rescue vehicles flying through. Panic began to spread rapidly. I
was exhausted and began to get scared. Tears welled in my eyes,
and I was shaking. When I finally got to the runner’s exit, there
were men there who were telling us to get back. To go the other
way. But I knew that I was supposed to meet my aunt and father
just around the corner. I didn’t want to go the other way.
I wasn’t sure what to do, but then decided to take the risk and
moved forward, despite the warnings; I squeezed myself through
the metal barriers. When I was outside of the runner’s-only area, I
began to see spectators and families. There were parents running
down the street with small kids tucked under their arms. I felt a
brief wave of relief that my kids, for once, weren’t there. I also
noticed many people who had no idea that there was something
wrong. More than a block behind Boylston, they had probably
not seen or heard anything. When some of them looked at me and
saw the fear in my face along with the screaming ambulances,
they knew something wasn’t right. I tried to cover my face; I
didn’t want to scare anyone since I wasn’t at all sure what was
going on. Maybe (hopefully) it was nothing? But I was just so
exhausted after the race that I couldn’t help but let my emotions
out. I finally made it to the place where I’d planned to meet my
dad and aunt—under the large letter M. But they weren’t there.
Now I was really scared. What if something happened to them?
And where do I go now?

I took out my phone and tried to call my aunt Cathy, but the call
didn’t go through. I checked my messages, and she had sent me a
text, but it didn’t make any sense to me. Later that night I recalled
the text on my phone; it read: “I’m at the m sign on corner.” How
could I not have understood that? But my mind couldn’t process
anything; my cell phone felt burdensomely heavy and looked to
me like a strange device that I couldn’t even begin to understand.
Then, finally, after what seemed like an eternity but was probably
only a minute or two, I heard someone calling my name. It was
Cathy. She had briefly gone to look for me. I was so relieved. I
pretty much fell into her arms. My dad was right behind her.
I said, “We have to get out of here,” and we started walking in
the direction of Copley Plaza. Cathy practically had to carry me
the first couple of blocks; I was so completely drained. My poor
father was struggling behind us. I knew I needed to call home and
let them know I was safe. So at the next corner we stopped for a
second, and I called Frank. Thankfully the call went through, and
it was a panacea to hear his calm voice answer on the other end
of the line. I said in a panic, “I’m ok! I’m ok!” but at that point
he hadn’t heard any of the news yet, and he didn’t know what I
was talking about, but then he heard the sirens and mayhem in the
background of my call, and he knew that something was wrong.
I told him what I knew and promised I’d call him again shortly
since we had to keep moving; we just wanted to get away. Cathy’s
car was parked in the garage under the Copley Plaza Mall on
Boylston. We couldn’t get to it from Bolyston because the roads
were now closed off, so we thought maybe we could get there via
the glass overpass one block away. The ambulances were starting
to line up, and the police vehicles kept coming in, every make
of vehicle from Hummers to full-size pick-ups, suited up with
flashing lights behind the grill.

Once we finally made it into the Copley Plaza Mall, I began to
feel better. Safer. It was quiet. We found a bench, and I finally
got to sit down for the first time since finishing the race, almost
an hour earlier. But sadly there were other runners in there who
hadn’t been able to finish. The mall was on Boylston about a
quarter mile from the finish line, and some of them were stopped
right outside and went in there for safety. They didn’t have any
warm clothes, or water, or food. I gave my foil HeatSheet to a
woman in a tank top and shorts who told me she was stopped a
half mile from the finish. Others were given tablecloths from one
of the restaurants and had themselves wrapped up in those. People
were walking around with blank stares, texting their friends and
loved ones since the cell phone network had since been shut down
(apparently for fear of a triggered explosion).

We then learned that we were under lockdown. No one else
allowed in the building and no one out. We had to “ask” to go to the
bathroom. There was a bank or an electronics shop (can’t remember
which) in the mall, which was closed, but had a television that we
could see through the glass storefront with CNN reporting live
about the events in Boston. We were getting our information from
that and from our friends who were texting us about what was
going on from Internet or other news sources.

Then we got the news in a text from Frank: Two dead. Forty injured.
That was the first mention I’d heard about casualties. Oh, Lord.

My aunt Cathy looked at me seriously and said, “You know, we are
sitting here under the tallest building in Boston.” A perfect target.
“Maybe we should get out of here,” I replied. And that was
timely, too. Since, just then, after about an hour and a half of
lockdown, we were told that they were evacuating the building.
We had to leave. But where to? There were no trains or buses. We
didn’t want Lou, Cathy’s husband to come get us, because, really,
we weren’t sure how safe it was downtown. So we just headed
out and away. We kept walking and decided to try to flag down
a taxi or maybe hitch a ride. But of course, every taxi that went
by was already occupied. Plus, most of the streets where we were
had already been closed to public traffic and were cordoned off by
police with flashing lights. The undercover police cars were still
coming in at a constant rate, and this was about three hours after
the explosions. Where were they all coming from?

My poor father, at 70 years old and with weak lungs, kept having
to take short breaks. But it’s amazing what the human body can
endure under such circumstances. After walking for a while, we
came across a bench, and my father sat down. It was then that
Cathy spied a taxi at the next intersection that was empty. She
hailed him and had to do some wrangling to get him to take us
to Winchester—normally a 10-minute drive, but under those
circumstances it would be about an hour. We climbed into the
cab and breathed a sigh of relief. There were road closures and
detours, but we didn’t care; we knew it was over for us. We
listened to the radio in the taxi, and there was news of an incident
at the JFK Library in Dorchester. Another explosion? They
weren’t sure.

I then realized that the small toe on my left foot hurt, so I took off
my shoe to find a fat blood blister. Hard to believe how I did not
feel that until four hours after finishing a race. Just goes to show
how powerful the mind is.

All in all, I was one of the lucky ones that day to have come home
safe and without injury (except for a meager blood blister), and
I’m grateful that my father and aunt who were there to watch me
finish were also not hurt, though my dad had been in the vicinity
of the explosions but on the opposite side of the street just minutes
before. My heart breaks for those who were injured or killed and
for their families and loved ones. And quite naturally I carry some
guilty feelings—running is a very selfish sport, and most of those
injured were there to watch us, to cheer us on. My sympathies
are also with the B.A.A. and the volunteers who organized and
implemented such an enormous event that flowed with perfection
and was simply meant for the enjoyment of not only the runners,
but also the spectators, volunteers, and the entire city of Boston.
After seeing the quick reaction of the medical workers, hearing
about runners donating blood, and all the outpouring of support
for those injured, I know that for every ignorant, self-serving,
hate-filled human being, there are thousands upon thousands of
good, loving, helpful, and wonderful souls.
I know that I will always carry memories of that day with me—
good and bad. Although before the race I said it would be my oneand-
only Boston, I’ve since changed my mind. I know that I’ll
be back to run the Boston Marathon again, an opinion probably
shared by most of the runners on April 15, 2013.

Yes, Boston is strong.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Koordination für Anfänger :)

Vor kurzem, an einem eiskalten Wintertag Anfang Februar, ging ich mit Wolfgang Scholz in den Bergen über dem Zeller See in Österreich um eine kleine Laufrunde zu drehen. Wer ist Wolfgang Scholz überhaupt? Obwohl er in seiner Disziplin einer der besten Athleten der Welt ist, ist sein Name nicht sehr bekannt. Denn bis vor kurzem wurde sein Sport mehr in der Freizeit als im Wettkampf ausgeübt. Wolfgang ist Europameister im Nordic Walking über die 10 Kilometer Distanz und Vizeweltmeister in der Halbmarathon. Mit 44 ist er nicht unbedingt in der Altersgruppe, in der man normalerweise Weltklasse-Athleten findet, und obwohl er für seine Jahre in ausgezeichnetem Kondition ist, schreibt er seinen Erfolg der richtigen Technik und nicht der körperlichen Fitness zu.

Nein, ich fange nicht mit Nordic Walking an. Aber im vergangenen Sommer, als ich versuchte, die 85 Kilometer und 5000 Höhenmeter des Hochkönigman Endurance Trail, genau auf der anderen Seite des Tales wo ich mit Wolfgang stand, zu erobern, wurde ich mit Heldentaten von meinen Konkurrenten für das Rennen ohne Stöcke aufgenommen. Was diese anderen Läufer damals nicht wussten, war, dass es eher eine Frage der Unerfahrenheit und Naivität als der Heldentaten war, dass ich keine Stöcke mit mir hatte, und nach nur etwa 40 Kilometern wurden meine Oberschenkeln so fertig dass ich hätte alles getan, um überhaupt ein einziges Stöck zu haben, auf dem ich mich während die steilen Abfahrten lehnen könnte.

Dann wurde mir klar, dass ich, wenn ich weiterhin langdistanz Trailläufe in den Bergen machen wollte, lernen musste, Trekkingstöcke zu verwenden. Warum also dann nicht gleich beim ersten Mal richtig machen und von den Besten lernen?

Ich gebe zu, ich bin kein hochste-koordinierte Mensch. Aber da war ich also... ich rannte neben Wolfgang und versuchte mein Bestes, mich nicht über meine neuen Anhängsel zu stolpern, noch auf das Eis und Schnee zu rutschen. Und ohne auf meine Schritte oder Stöcke zu achten, begann er zu reden. Er startete mit den Grundlagen der menschlichen Kinetik in Bewegung und brachte mich dazu, mich darauf zu konzentrieren, was meine Brust, Schultern und Arme tun sollten, anstatt wie man die Stöcke kontrolliert. Schultern zurück, Brust offen, atmen. Halte die Arme nahe am Körper und übertragen Sie den Schwung des Armschwingens in die Vorwärtsbewegung der Beine.

Die Prinzipien waren sehr einfach und ich erkannte bald, dass ich so laufen sollte, ob ich Stöcke in meinen Händen hatte oder nicht. Aber ich war schnell außer Atem. Warum? Denn zusätzlich zu den Muskeln, die ich normalerweise beim Laufen verwende, konkurrierten die Waden und Oberschenkeln nun mit meinen Oberkörpermuskeln um den Sauerstoff, den sie alle benötigen, um zu funktionieren. Ich verglich es mit dem, was ich beim Schwimmen fühlte; Wenn jeder Muskel im Körper zur gleichen Zeit arbeitet, dann solltest du besser deinen Atem- und Sauerstoffverbrauch optimieren oder du hängst am Poolrand ausser Atem (mit mir).

Nach einer Zeit unterwegs, während ich seine Tipps einbaute, bewertete Wolfgang meine Technik, die "gut aussah" und er nahm dann ein Video auf, damit ich es selbst sehen konnte. Und obwohl ich gehofft hatte, mich an eine Gazelle erinnern zu können, die den Berg hinauf tänzelte, sah ich stattdessen eine Ultraläuferin mittleren Alters, die plötzlich eine sanftere, rhythmischere Bewegung in ihren Schritten zeigte als noch dreißig Minuten vorher.

* Wolfgang Scholz lebt in Regensburg, Deutschland und hielt Privat- und Gruppenunterricht in den Techniken des Nordic Walking und der allgemeinen Nutzung von Trekkingstöcken. Er kann über seine Internetseite unter https://pnwr.jimdo.com/ kontaktiert werden.

Monday, January 22, 2018

4. Asitz Skitour Race – Vertical Kurz (400 HM, 2.5 km)

Vertical Skitour Racing (Source: International Ski Mountaineering Federation)
I had a panic attack in the gondola. Just a minor one, where my heart started racing and that feeling of helplessness swept over me.

With Luca (right) and Anton Palzer (Austrian ski touring king!) 
The race started at 6 pm, after the slopes were free of the daytime skiers, the course could be marked, and the sun set behind the mountains welcoming darkness over the valley. This last point was the instigator for the panic. It was so dark in the gondola that I could barely see the faces of the people sitting just feet in front of me. The tall evergreens zipping by were a blur and the ground below was indiscernible.

What if I get lost? What if my headlamp batteries die out? What if I can’t finish the race, have to stop, and freeze to death out here because no one can find me in this blackness?!?

Crossing the Finish
Luca was with me. My daughter’s 17-year-old boyfriend. He’d also never done a ski tour race before, let alone any other kind of race. I kind of dragged him into it. The poor guy didn’t know what kind of a crazy family he was getting involved with. I could almost read his mind as we were being drawn upwards into the unknown… What am I doing here?!? I just wanted to date the pretty girl!

We exited the gondola at the middle lift station, which was also the starting point of the race. We arrived 25 minutes before the start and there was no place inside to wait, so we walked out into the cold night, looked at up the luminous mountain and the treacherous incline we were about to attempt. It was really steep. Could my skins grip that? What if it’s icy? I’ll just keep sliding back down into the starting line, crossing it in the wrong direction! And damn, it’s cold out here!

Then I spied the bathrooms and I told Luca I was going to check and see if they were heated. They were. And that’s where I remained for the next 15 minutes. Another one of the racers was in there, a 20-something-year-old woman from a nearby village who was also doing this for the first time.

Ten minutes before the start I went outside and did some jumping around and stretching to warm up, then put on my skis and headed to the inevitable.

"Finished" in every sense of the word
…3…2…1 and at the signal we were up, up and away! Almost immediately my pulse was in the red zone. Despite the insane incline, my skis held firm to the snow. Most of the skiers were quickly ahead, but I was at my limit and simply progressed as fast as I could, concentrating on keeping a smooth stroke and focusing on the path in front of me.

After the initial steep ascent, there was a section with a gradual slope but my pulse never seemed to slow down. The light from my headlamp was adequate though and mercifully supplemented by the skiers behind me. A few officials were on the course with lights to guide our path every few hundred meters, so thankfully I never felt that I could potentially get lost.

Around a curve and the lights at the finish line way up on the top of the mountain were in sight! On that flatter section I was passed by a man who’d been right behind me the whole way, but as soon as we reached another steep ascent I overtook him again and that’s how it stayed. The last ascent up to the finish was amazingly precipitous, my heart rate was at a max but there was no slowing down for fear of sliding backwards, so I just powered on with everything I had left. I heard some cheers but kept my head down, afraid to fall off balance if I turned in any direction. Then just when the burn in my quads was too much to bear, after an intensely anaerobic thirty minutes, the flash of the photographer’s camera signaled the end. But the beginning of a new addiction.

Mountain chalet with post race party

Post Race Party

Monday, November 20, 2017

Kale, quinoa & white bean soup

With the arrival of kale season it is time for a recipe with the king of the green veggies. This is currently the favorite soup of my whole family and it usually gets made a little differently each time. I have found several similar recipes on the Internet, and have taken the best ideas from them all and come up the general recipe here. You can also add whatever extra vegetables you happen to have in the fridge or substitute potatoes for the quinoa. Also, feel free to spice it up any way your taste buds desire.

Fresh kale plants in my car 
A brief nutritional note on kale... 
it has nearly 200% of our daily requirements of Vitamins A and C, it is loaded with Omega 3- and 6-fatty acids; plus, it contains major doses of Vitamin K (684%), folate, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. It puts spinach to shame!


Source: The Simple Veganista

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 large celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dried quinoa
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes, with juices
7–8 cups vegetable broth
100 g fresh kale, loosely chopped
3 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
Salt, black, and cayenne pepper to taste

Alternatives: Add carrots or other veggies; or you can use potatoes instead of quinoa, preferably a mix of white and sweet potatoes

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat, add onion and saute for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add in garlic and celery cook another couple of minutes. Add in the quinoa, beans, tomatoes and vegetable broth, bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes. Add in kale and parsley, keep on low heat, stirring occasionally, until kale wilts.
Eat with a warm, crispy loaf of dark bread. Yummy!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


(Click here for the English version)

Das ist Leni.

Sie und ich, wir sind gute Freunde. Sie macht das absolut klar, indem sie total ausflipps wenn sie mich in meinen Laufschuhen sieht.

Leni ist eine 7-jährige weibliche Schokoladen-Labrador und wir laufen seit einigen Jahren regelmäßig zusammen. Heute haben wir Bergsprints gemacht. Bergauf sprinten, bergab joggen, wiederholen. Zuerst dachte sie, dass ich verrückt war, aber nach den ersten paar Mal hatte sie den Dreh raus. Angeregt durch das Piepsen meiner GPS-Uhr fingen wir an, stoppen, dann umdrehen. Am Ende hatte sie Spaß mit dem Spiel und wollte nicht aufhören.

Aber Leni ist nicht mein Hund. Sie gehört zu unserem Nachbarn, was für meine Familie ein unschlagbares Deal ist. Wir passen auf sie auf, wenn ihr Familie unterwegs oder in Urlaub ist; wir müssen nicht früh aufstehen, nicht im Regen oder kalt spazieren gehen; noch müssen wir sie nicht füttern oder die Tierarztrechnungen bezahlen. Und weswegen liebt sie uns nicht weniger.

Hunde sind erstaunliche Tiere und können leicht mit ein wenig Geduld und Disziplin trainiert werden. Glück für mich, Matthias, ihr "echter" Besitzer, trainierte sie, als sie ein Welpe war, um mit ihm zu laufen. Als sie also bereit war, mit mir zu beginnen, musste sie nur ein paar englische Befehle lernen: right, left und straight ahead und natürlich, wenn wir einen Hasen auf dem Felde sehen, Holy shit, Leni! Slow down or you are going to kill me!

Matthias und Leni rannten an einem Sonntagmorgen einmal allein im Wald, als Leni plötzlich den Kopf hob, schnupperte in der Luft und hob die Geschwindigkeit. Matthias hatte keine Ahnung, was los war, bis er um die nächste Kurve kam und mich ungefähr 50 Meter vor ihm sah. (Geez, ich wusste nicht, dass ich so viel stinke!)

Leider ist etwa die Hälfte der Hunde übergewichtig. Das ist natürlich nicht die Schuld des Hundes. Abhängig vom Alter, der Rasse, der Größe und der allgemeinen Gesundheit des Hundes benötigen sie unterschiedliche Mengen an Bewegung, aber nur wenige bekommen das, was sie für körperliches und geistiges Wohlergehen benötigen. Abgesehen von den kurznasigen Rassen wie Bulldog, sind diese zwei oder drei kurzen Spaziergänge pro Tag, obwohl gut gemeint, höchstwahrscheinlich weit von den 30 Minuten bis 2 Stunden pro Tag, die das Hündchen erfordert! Die Rassen der Jagd-, Arbeits- oder Hütegruppen (z. B. Labrador Retriever, Hunde, Collies und Hirten) benötigen die meiste Aktivität, einschließlich mindestens 30 Minuten strenger körperlicher Betätigung auf 1-2 Stunden täglicher Aktivität (z.B. spazieren, im Garten spielen, Ballabruf, usw.).

Also, wenn Sie einen Freund oder Nachbarn mit einem Hund haben, geh kurz vorbei vor deine nächsten Lauf und bitten Sie, den Hund mitzunehmen. Sie werden definitiv am Ende mit einem über-glücklichen Hündchen und einem neuen wahren Freund belohnt.

Ich wurde oft gefragt, ob ich mich allein im Wald sicher fühle. Normalerweise mache ich mir keine Gedanke über zufällige Ereignisse, aber mit Leni an meiner Seite fühle ich mich auf jeden Fall sicherer, weil ich weiß, dass sie mich mit ihrem Leben beschützen würde ... und wie bei jedem guten Freund, das geht in beide Richtungen.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Running Canine

Leni with my Persian cat keeping her in sight

Meet Leni. 

She and I are good friends. She makes that absolutely clear by totally flipping out upon seeing me in my running shoes.

Leni is a 7-year-old female chocolate Labrador and we’ve been running together regularly for several years. Today we did hill sprints. Sprint up, jog down, repeat. At first, she thought I was nuts, but after the first couple of times she got the hang of it. Prompted by the beeping of my GPS watch we’d start, stop and then turn around and jog downhill. By the end she was having fun with the game and didn’t want to stop.

But Leni is not my dog. She belongs to our neighbor, which is an unbeatable deal for my family. We dog-sit her when they are on outings or vacation; we don’t have to wake up early, nor go out in the rain or cold for walks; nor do we have to feed her or pay the vet bills. And she doesn’t love us any less because of that.
running with dogs, ultrarunning, ultramarathon mom, holly zimmermann, canine runners
Dogs are amazing creatures and can be trained easily with a little patience and discipline. Lucky for me, Matthias, her ‘real’ owner, trained her when she was a puppy to run with him, so once she was ready to start with me all she had to learn were a few English commands: right, left, and straight ahead and of course, upon seeing a rabbit in the field, Holy sh*t! Slow down, Leni, or you’re going to kill me!
Matthias and Leni were once running alone in the woods on a Sunday morning when Leni suddenly raised her head, sniffed the air and picked up the pace. Matthias had no idea what was going on until he came around the next bend and saw me about 50 meters ahead. (Geez, I didn’t realize I stink that much!)

running with dogs, ultrarunning, ultramarathon mom, holly zimmermann, canine runnersSadly, about half of pet dogs are overweight. This naturally is not the fault of the dog. Depending on age, breed, size and overall health of the dog they need varying amounts of exercise but few get what they actually need for both physical and mental well-being. Except for the short-nosed breeds like Bulldog, those two or three brief walks a day, though well intended, are most likely far from the 30 minutes to 2 hours per day that the pooch requires! Breeds in the hunting, working, or herding groups (e.g., Labrador retrievers, hounds, collies and shepherds) need the most activity, including at least 30 minutes of rigorous exercise on top of 1-2 hours of daily activity (i.e. walking, playing, ball retrieving, etc.). 
running with dogs, ultrarunning, ultramarathon mom, holly zimmermann, canine runners
So, f you have a friend or neighbor with a dog, stop by on the way out for your next run and ask to take it along. You will definitely be rewarded in the end with an über-happy pooch and a new true friend.

I’ve oftentimes been asked if I feel safe running alone in the woods. Normally I don’t worry about random events, but with Leni at my side, I definitely feel safer, because I know that if she had to, she would protect me with her life…and, as with any good friend, that goes both ways.

Ready Leni? Here I come!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Training Start: Season 2018

Today was the big day. The anticipation had been building for three weeks.

Ok, that’s not exactly true.

Actually, it’s not true at all.

Mmmmm....that was delicious!
Since the Landkreislauf Ultra in the middle of September I’ve taken some time off. Three weeks to be exact. And I gained 5 pounds. Of course, I didn’t lie around on the couch and each chips and chocolate (ok, I give in, I did that), but there was some mountain biking with my son, a few short jogs and one easy 5k race, but essentially I did no serious training during that time.

My coach recommended two weeks off. I extended it to three, not necessarily because my body needed the extra week, but my mind did. Towards the end of the season I had to force myself out the door to go running or biking. During my strength training sessions, I’d find myself taking short breaks to check my messages and flip through my music. My head was just not in it. This is not surprising, since, according to my coach, I’d done 632 hours of training during the previous 12 months. That’s 26 DAYS of training, nearly a month, so a cool-off period to reflect on the past year as well as look forward to the future was definitely welcome.

MTB with my son who loves taking a slo-mo

But does a break really help? Or conversely, can it do some serious damage to the fitness level that I’ve worked so hard to achieve?

Yes and no.

High volume running takes its toll on the body and there is definitely a point of diminishing returns. But even worse than a performance shortfall is the risk of pushing too hard for too long, which can inevitably lead not only to injuries but inflammation and chronic stress response as well, marking the beginning of the end for an ultrarunner.

Enjoying nature in my garden
A short post season break ranging from one to four weeks is good for the body and soul. This period should ideally consist of one week of complete rest followed by one to three weeks of ‘active’ rest, whereby easy, fun activities on a daily basis are the only calorie-burners with the aim of maintaining flexibility and mobility. The decreased intensity allows vitamins and minerals to be replenished from the gorging; your body is healing, repairing any tissue damage and rebuilding; hormone levels are allowed to find their equilibrium. The immune system also gets a chance to catch its breath, which is perfect timing with flu season right around the corner. Plus, there is the benefit of extra time to do things you never have enough time for like family, friends, work and maybe even getting a head start on the taxes or cleaning out the garage. Towards the end of the break is a good time to sit down and plan out goals for the following season, which will help to provide focus and motivation when it’s time to start up again.

But you may also feel some depression due to a lower dose of endorphins. And then there is the weight gain. Why does it go to my belly and not my breasts?!? And fitness level will decrease of course, but that is ok, because if you’ve done things right in the past, then you have built a perfect platform on which to start training for the best season yet.

And when you start to get bored, then you know it is time to get back to doing what you love.

For me, today was the big day. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

An die Grenzen gedrückt...oder doch nicht?

(Click here to read this article in English)

Regensburg Landkreislauf 2017
Oberndorf nach Kallmünz • 74,4 Kilometer • 800 Höhenmeter

Holly Zimmermann Verpflegung Ultramarathon Mom Regensburg Landkreislauf Running

Sieht nicht so schlimm aus, wenn man sich die Zahlen ansieht. Nur 800 Höhenmeter über dieser Distanz ist fast flach. Verglichen, während des Hochkönigman Ultra Trail (85km / 5000m), in der Mitte des Rennens, gab es einen 1000 Meter Aufstieg auf knapp über 3 Kilometern, das ist ein 30% Anstieg. Also, natürlich, dachte ich über den Landkreislauf, 'Ok, ich kann das ziemlich leicht machen und vielleicht sogar etwas aggressiv angehen.‘

Ha, ha. Denk nochmal.

Jedes Jahr schaue ich die Strecke des Landkreislaufs vorher an, indem ich die Etappen entweder laufe oder radl. Dieser Ablauf ist wichtig mich mental vorzubereiten, und um sicherzustellen, dass ich mich während des Rennens nicht auf die Markierungen verlassen muss und mir Sorgen mache, dass ich eine Abzweigung verpasse, da ich bereits eine Geschichte habe, mich verlaufen zu haben. In diesem Jahr habe ich keine Chance bekommen, den ganzen Kurs zu sehen, nur die ersten acht Etappen und den Anfang der neunten. So bleiben 15 Kilometer im Unbekannten. Aber ich dachte, es wäre kein Problem, da die letzten 8 Kilometer sowieso an der Naab entlang sind, also dort sollte es keine Überraschungen geben. Aber was ich diesen 7 Kilometern vor dem Erreichen der Naab nicht vorwegnahm, war der lange, ausgezogene, unendliche, unaufhörliche und absolut ewig langsame Aufstieg durch den Schwaigerhauser Wald oder die quad-tötende, grausame steile Abfahrt in Wolfsegg!
Mit Nussi und Armin

Sehen Sie jetzt, was ich über den mentalen Aspekt des Ultras meine?

Es hat genieselt, als ich an diesem Morgen um 8:15 Uhr Oberndorf erreichte. Mein Radbegleiter, Nussi, habe ich getroffen, um ihm meine Wasserflasche, Gele, Sportbars, Sonnenbrillen usw. zu geben. Wir haben seinen offiziellen laminierten Escort-Pass an den Oma-Korb (was all unsere Vorräte hielt) auf der Vorderseite seines Fahrrades festgemacht, dann gingen wir zum Startbereich zusammen. Viele bekannte Gesichter, ein paar Fotos und dann das offizielle Aufwärmen. Aber nach 2 Minuten, als die Warm-up-Routine ein wenig intensiver wurde, schlich ich mich an die Seite zum beobachten. Ich hatte nicht vor, aus dem Starttor zu sprinten, also war ich warm genug.

Die ersten 20 Kilometer des Rennens waren relativ flach (wer es noch nicht weiss.... ich mag kein flach), die sich entlang der Donau winden, aber ich habe geplant, sie etwa 10 Sekunden schneller pro Kilometer zu laufen als mein geplanter Durchschnitt für das gesamte Rennen. Jedoch ist die erste Etappe mit Läufern verpackt und das Tempo war höher als ich geplant hatte. Und wie jeder Läufer erlebt hat, wenn er zu schnell ausgeht: ich fühlte mich gut, dachte ich könnte etwas Zeit meinen Schätzungen nach gewinnen, und vielleicht war ich in besserer Form als gedacht? Und so ging ich einfach mit dem Fluss. Natürlich wissen wir alle, wo das endete.

Zuschauen beim Warm-Up
Alles war gut: Ich legte eine gute Zeit hin. Ich fühlte mich gut. Nussi war in guter Form... unaufhörliches Chatten mit mir oder jemandem anderen in unserer Nähe. Ein paar Freunde aus meinem Laufteam begleitete mich auf der zweiten Etappe, Lorena für die gesamte Strecke und Barbara für ein paar Minuten, die Unterhaltung war nett und wir liefen in einem gefühlten sehr angenehmen Tempo. Staffelläufer feuerten mich immer wieder an, viele nannten mich namentlich, da HOLLY auf meine Startnummer gedruckt war ... Respekt! Viel Glück! Verrückt!!! ... riefen sie mir zu.
Dann begleitete mich Astrid mit einem großen Lächeln über die dritte Etappe und ich brauchte mir keine Sorgen um das Tempo zu machen, da ich direkt neben ihr blieb. Nussi war echt der Hahn im Korb.

Aber dann kam die vierte Etappe, das Feld hatte sich verbreitet, meine Laufteamkollegen hatten mich verlassen, und ich war alleine mit Nussi. Obwohl es die längste Strecke des Rennens war und 120 Meter Aufstieg hatte, habe ich mich darauf gefreut, da es mich endlich weg von der Strasse und in den Wald gebracht hatte. Also bin ich es angegriffen. Es war ein steiler Aufstieg gleich am Anfang, bei dem ich mich nicht verlangsamte; dann hob ich die Schwerkraft auf und schob mich während dem allmählichen Abstieg auf den kurvenreichen Wegen durch den Wald. Ich war in meinem Element. Bald darauf, mit dem nächsten Dorf Eitlbrunn in Sicht, erkannte ich, dass ich zehn Minuten vor Plan war bei km 31.

Ich fühlte mich wirklich gut.

Dann plötzlich... gar nicht so gut.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pushed to the limits...or not?

Regensburg Landkreislauf 2017

Oberndorf nach Kallmünz · 74.4 kilometers · 800 meters positive climb

Regensburg Landkreislauf Ultramarathon Holly Zimmermann Ultramarathon Mom

Doesn’t look so bad when you look at the numbers. Only 800 meters elevation over that distance is almost flat. Comparatively, during the Hochkönigman Endurance Trail (85km/5000m), in the middle of the race, there was a 1,000 meter climb over a distance of just over 3 kilometers, that’s a 30% grade. So, naturally concerning the Landkreislauf, I thought, ‘Ok, I can do this one pretty easily and maybe even approach it somewhat aggressively’. 

Ha, ha. Think again.

Every year I check out the course of the Landkreislauf by either running the stages or biking them beforehand. It is important for me to be able to mentally toss it through my mind as well as to make sure I don’t have to rely on the markings during the race and worry that I may miss a turn, since I do have a history of getting lost. This year I did not get a chance to check out the entire course, only the first eight stages and just the first part of the ninth. Thus, leaving 15 kilometers in the unknown. But I thought it would be no problem since the last 8 kilometers are along the Naab River anyway, so there should be no surprises. But what I didn’t anticipate in those 7 kilometers before reaching the Naab was the long, drawn out, never-ending, incessant and absolutely eternally slow climb through the Schwaigerhauser Forest nor the quad-killing, ferociously steep descent out of Wolfsegg!!!

Now see what I mean about the mental aspect of ultras?

With Nussi and Moderator Armin at the Start
It was drizzling when I reached Oberndorf at 8:15 that morning. I met my bike support, Nussi, to give him my water bottle, gels, sports bars, sunglasses, etc. We attached his official laminated escort pass to the granny-basket (which held all our supplies) on the front of his bike, then headed out to the starting area together. Lots of familiar faces, a few photos and then the official warm-up. But after 2 minutes, once the warm-up routine got a little intense, I sneaked off to the side to watch. I wasn’t planning on sprinting out of the starting gate so I was warm enough. 

Watching the warm-up

The first 20 kilometers of the race were relatively flat (which we all know I don’t like), winding along the Danube River, but I planned to run them about 10 seconds faster per kilometer than my planned average for the entire race. But of course, the first leg is packed with runners and the tempo was higher than I’d planned. But as every runner has experienced when going out too fast, I felt good, thought I could gain some time on my estimates, and maybe I was in better shape than I thought? And so I just went with the flow. Of course we all know where this ends up.

I was making good time. And feeling good. Nussi was in true form. Chatting incessantly to me or anyone else in our vicinity. A couple of friends from my running team joined me on the second leg, Lorena for the entire stretch and Barbara for a few minutes, so I was well entertained and ran what felt like a very comfortable pace. Relay runners were constantly cheering me on as they ran by, many calling me by name since it was printed on my start number… Respect! Good luck! Crazy!!! …were some of the comments. Then Astrid joined me for the third leg and I didn’t need to worry a bit about tempo, as I kept right next to her. But then came the fourth stage, the field had spread out, my running teammates had left me, and I was alone with Nussi. This was the longest leg of the race and had 120 meters climb, but it finally got me into the woods and I was looking forward to it. So I attacked it. There was a steep climb near the beginning that I didn’t slow down on; then I leveraged off gravity and pushed myself during the gradual descent on the winding trails through the woods. I was in my element. Soon after, with the next village, Eitlbrunn, in sight I realized I was ten minutes ahead of plan.

I felt really good.

Then suddenly, not so good at all.