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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Base Training: Not Just For Endurance Runners

Back in late fall 2016, as I was contemplating my race calendar for the upcoming year, I shared my thoughts with my coach and he said, “Sounds good. That gives us time for three months of base training.”

What exactly is base training? And how important is it? 

Base training could principally be described as ‘training to train, not training to race.’ It is a period used to strengthen the muscular and aerobic systems and get the body prepared for the greater stresses that are applied when training to race. The goal of base training is to develop a runner’s aerobic potential to its maximum before implementing anaerobic training, which fine-tunes the body to run at greater speed.

Cross-country skiing is a great aerobic exercise
Physiologists experimenting with endurance athletes at Cologne University found that fine muscular endurance can be attained by exercising continually for long periods, i.e. two hours or more at a time (not split up within a day, but can be a run/bike or other multi-sport combination). ‘Continually’ means over a period of many months, the longer the better, and it can even have cumulative effects when done over several years, when racing- and off-seasons are in between. Sustained use of muscles for lengthy periods develops new capillaries within the muscles, which increase the efficiency of oxygen consumption in the muscles and better facilitates waste product elimination. Another benefit is training of the heart. Our cardiovascular system learns to do its work more easily, reflected in a progressive decrease in the resting pulse rate.

TRX (Source: Club Solutions Magazine)
Once the aerobic system is developed to its maximum, then four to six weeks of anaerobic training can follow prior to racing. More than six weeks of anaerobic training is counterproductive because improvements reach a point of diminishing returns and introduces the risk of burnout (lowering of blood pH).

Nevertheless, base training is more than just a lot of easy running. This is also an ideal time to work on strength training when it isn’t interfering with other high-intensity or speed workouts. Of course this doesn’t mean you should head to the gym for some heavy weightlifting, but working those supporting muscles that help you to keep your running form all the way to the finish line can be beneficial. For me this means a lot of functional exercises that target core muscles in the abdomen and back, which include variations of the standard push-up, lunges, and squats and may use aids such as a kettlebell, suspension (TRX), resistance training with latex bands (TheraBand), and exercise balls. These exercises are all about proper form, so it may be a good idea to have a specialist walk you through them first. I’ve had several sessions with physical trainer Christian Wolf (yourbodyisyourmachine.de) and within a very short time found myself surprisingly happy with the results. Stability on the trails in an ultra distance mountain race is, in my opinion, nearly as important as endurance.

One thing I love about base training is that running is more about ‘time on my feet’ rather than distance covered, so I go “off-road”, sometimes following the deer trails through the woods in deep snow, jumping over shrubs and ducking under the low branches. This keeps the fun in running. A win-win.

'Off-road' with Leni the Lab
But can base training help short- and middle-distance runners too? You bet! Whether you are an 800-meter specialist or marathon runner, you can benefit by maximizing your steady-state level prior to anaerobic training. As so poignantly stated by the athlete and coach Chris Hauth, “The prize never goes to the fastest guy. It goes to the guy who slows down the least.”

For more information on Base Training check out the books: Running with Lydiard by Garth Gilmour and Arthur Lydiard (the godfather of athletic coaching); The Lore of Running by Dr. Tim Noakes; or Daniels’ Running Formula by Dr. Jack Daniels….three of my favorites.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Himmlische-Herbst Kürbissuppe

Super einfach...alles in einem Topf!
Kürbissuppe mit Grünkohl Topping
(Source: Minimalistbaker)

Ich habe diese Suppe gestern gemacht und war so überzeugt, dass ich heute das Rezept gleich aufschreiben und posten muss! Dass die Suppe mir geschmeckt hat, ist kein Wunder, aber dass es allen meiner vier Kinder geschmeckt hat, war eine riesen Freude. Eine hat sogar bemerkt, wie sie die Energie spürt, die es liefert!

1 mittelgroßer Hokkaidokürbis
2 Karotten
1 gelbe Zwiebel
1 Knoblauchzehe
2 Kartoffeln
2 Liter Gemüsebrühe
25g Mehl
100 ml Hafermilch (oder Mandel-, Soja-, Kokos-, Reis-, etc.)
1 EL Ahornsirup
½ TL Salz
¼ TL Muskatnuss
Schwarzer Pfeffer nach Geschmack
Knoblauch-Grünkohl-Sesam Topping (beliebig...aber dein Körper wird es lieben)
100 g Grünkohl
1 Knoblauchzehe
2 EL gerösteter Sesam (3-4 min in eine trockene Pfanne rösten)
1 Schuss Olivenöl
1 Prise Salz

Den Kürbis und die Karotten waschen und in grosse Stücke schneiden. Die Zwiebel und Knoblauch enthäuten und die Zwiebel in 4 Stücke schneiden. Die Kartoffeln schälen und in 4 Stücke schneiden. Die ersten sechs Zutaten in eine grossen Topf zum kochen bringen. Auf mittelere Hitze noch 30 min kochen lassen. Den Topf von der Hitze wegnehmen und 30 min ruhen lassen. Mit einem Püreestab oder in einem Mixer das ‚,ausgeruhte“ Gemüse in der Brühe purieren bis keine Stückchen mehr drin sind. Jetzt müssen wir einen Roux machen, um die Suppe zu verdicken.... einen halbvollen Kaffeebecher mit Suppe füllen und dazu noch das Mehl addieren und mit einer Gabel schlagen bis es glatt ist, dann zur Suppe hinzugeben. Den Suppentopf wieder auf niedrige-mittlere Hitze stellen, die restlichen Zutaten hinzufügen, und weiter 15 Minuten kochen lassen.
Für das Grünkohl Topping: Olivenöl und klein geschnittenen Knoblauch in der Pfanne kurz braten, dann den Grünkohl und Salz dazugeben. Einen Deckel daraufstellen und 5 Minuten garen lassen. Den gerösteten Sesam unterrühren und fertig für einen Löffel in die Suppenschüssel!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Polar Circle Marathon: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Which way to Santa Claus?
I was wide awake, without the alarm, at 3:45 am.

Breakfast started at 5:30 and that was when my roommate Marianne (from Norway) and I were more than ready to get down to the cafeteria. Two pieces of toast with margarine and jelly, oatmeal and tea. Then upstairs to get dressed under multiple layers, much too much clothing for anything ordinary.

The busses taking us to the Start were supposed to leave at 7:00 but it was 7:20 before we finally got underway. It was still dark. 'Bus' is just a general description for the vehicle we were transported in, because what we were actually travelling in were windowed containers with seats, which was set upon the bed of a big-rig capable of travelling through deep snow and up and down steep hills. The vehicles were really functional in this environment, but there was also a down-side--sitting in the back we were isolated from the driver. He couldn’t see or hear us, and although we’d been given a two-way radio the previous day on our tour to the glacier, the morning of the race we had no radio and were essentially cut-off. Twice along the trip to the starting line the caravan of busses stopped and we saw runners in the busses ahead climbing out to empty their bladders of the morning coffee, but we had no way of telling the driver to let us out too, and we were locked inside. Thank goodness none of us were desperate.
All-terrain busses

Spiked tires of our all-terrain container busses
After about 90 minutes we arrived at the start and were told we should stay in bus till the starting line was ready because it was really cold and windy. But by now everyone in our bus needed to pee. So we were told to go do our business and then get back into the bus to wait for the start. As our bus emptied and the bitter cold and brutal winds hit us, I saw some of the women run up the road to go drop their drawers hidden behind a large rock. What are they thinking?!? This is not a time to be shameful. My roommate and I simply ran behind the bus and pulled down our tights, struggling to get them back up and in place as we climbed back into the bus. The ferocity of the wind was an unwelcome surprise. The weather forecast was for little to no wind on race day, but the extreme cold and gusts were a shock to the system. A temperature of -17 Celsius (+1 Farenheit), with wind gusts of 70 km/h. Good God.

Back in the bus for the final minutes and the anticipation was killing me, as well as everyone else. No one was sitting down. Everyone was crammed in the aisles, like bulls waiting for the gate to drop. Finally we got the word that the Start would be in 3 or 4 minutes and the starting line was about 50m from our bus, but before going there we still needed to drop our bags on the large green tarp so that our gear could be returned to the finish line. But why is no one getting off the bus? After a minute or so those of us in the back started to lose patience and wanted to get out but the Chinese group in the front were blocking the door and didn't look like they were in a hurry to go anywhere. So I started with a few rousing hoots and team calls, 'Lets get this show on the road!’ The others in the back followed suit and started cheering which got things going and soon we were finally out. I was immediately blasted by the wind. I pulled my windbreaker out of my pocket, which was supposed to be for emergencies. This was in fact an emergency. I put it on and never took it off. The temperature was said to be -25C. There were men holding the poles on each side of the Start sign spanning the road, otherwise it would have blown away, the gusts were at least gale force. It was like a dramatic rescue operation, not the start of a race. It was completely crazy. I was in the front row to start because I wanted to be in the photos. What? Why not. The start photos are always cool and I'm never in the front row, usually the second or third, hidden behind the tallest guys in the race. But today I wasn’t shy and I elbowed a couple of people to hold my place in front.
The Start (me on the start line in yellow jacket) [Thanks to Andrea for this 'cool' photo]
My sunglasses were on even though the sun was not up, but just to protect my face. In that same vein, that morning I had smeared myself so much with Body Glide that I could have gone to film a porno instead of run a race.

Then the race director was screaming a count-down which certainly could only be heard by the few people who were directly in front before the wind carried his voice away, but that was enough to get the group started. 3...2...1...and we were off. The first steps rolled smoothly and felt good. But why is everyone still behind me? Normally I am practically steamrolled by the pack, but this time I was the leader for about the first 50m, until the guys finally started to find their pace and bust past me. I didn't care whether I was too fast, I just wanted to get going and warm up. We started uphill, on a road that had a couple of tracks from a 4-WD that had gone through earlier but the ruts still had deep snow and it was really hard to run. The wind was ferocious and we crossed a pass where it blew though like a wind tunnel and I felt like I was running in place, standing still. It reminded me of trying to move against the forces of the snow blowers during the Limes Mud Run two weeks before. Ice crystals battered my face and bit into my skin; I vainly tried to shield myself with my hands.

My toes were so cold after 1km that I thought for sure I would end up with frostbite. I kept trying to wiggle them, but it got harder and harder to get them to move ...I started to get scared.

Then at km 2 there were two race organizers stopping us and checking our faces for signs of frostbite. I heard after the race that there were several people who were pulled out at that point because they had initial signs of frostbite on their chin and cheeks. They were brought into the all-terrain vehicle there, warmed-up and treated before being re-released onto the course.
I told the helpers that my face was fine but my toes were cold. They checked my face and offered me one of the cups of warm elderflower drink. When I reached for the hot drink a guy stepped on the back of my foot and my shoe came off! I was so mad because this guy had been running right behind me, too close, and drafting off me for a while, and that is not cool, and then my feet were so cold already and now my shoe was off under my gaiter and I was already scared of having frostbite. I let him know that I was not happy with him and he apologized a dozen times.

Then off onto the steep rocky incline to access the ice sheet which covers 80% of beautiful Greenland. It really is a sheet of ice. Sections of it were almost like an upside-down egg carton of bulbous sheer ice. There was snow between the undulations and you had to try to stay on the snow so you didn’t slip, even with the spikes on. Glowing ice as far as the eye can see. Strange formations. Sometimes the snow was deep, to my knees, other times it was completely blown free from the ice and you had to carefully scurry across the ice, though once I had to squat down and slide because it was steep downhill and I was afraid that I would slip and fall. There were only about 20 runners ahead of me, and since the snow had completely blown over the course during the night, we were trailbreaking. The path was marked with poles, sometimes with a piece of fabric at the top acting as a makeshift flag.

Although I'd never been on terrain like that before in my life, it reminded me of so many places I'd been...the sand dunes in the desert were similar in that the snow was slightly crusted on top and there were places that I could balance over it and not break through, otherwise you just had to step in the footprints of those who had gone before you. But it was also like a technical trail run in the mountains, up and down, back and forth in a jagged pattern with every step on uneven ground. The wind was so strong that I absolutely had to keep my sunglasses on for protection, but it was a shame because the sun was not up and the light was already dim and I couldn't fully appreciate the true colors and beauty of the ice through the filter of my glasses. And then as I came upon the highest point in the course I was confronted with the most beautiful sunrise I'd ever witnessed. The color palette was breathtaking, the way the light reflected and played off the ice and snow was surreal. A bright pink sky illuminated the blue ice that extended to eternity.
Yes, that is ice...as far as the eye can see

Then when I was near to the edges of the glacier there were areas where it just ended suddenly, no transition. It drops off several meters and then there is earth.

Once I was finally off the ice sheet and back onto the deeply snow-covered road, I took a quick check of my watch to see how far I’d run and the time. I was shocked to see that it had taken me an hour to run only 7 kilometers. I felt like I’d just started, though my legs were already feeling the effects of having battled through knee-deep snow. Only 35 kilometers to go. But from there it was supposedly ‘all downhill’ to the finish. Actually the course was very hilly, with 850 meters of positive elevation and 1100 meters loss. So, in truth we were running more downhill than up, but the rolling characteristic of the terrain made you feel like you were always about to face your next climb.
Knee-deep snow for the first kilometers
The road was good in some places where the vehicles had packed the snow, but in others the wind had blown snow over the route and the tracks were narrow and deep. I was happy to have my gaiters on to keep the snow out of my shoes, but my toes were still cold. I kept trying to wiggle them around to increase blood flow but it felt like I had stones in the front of my shoes in place of my toes. The rest of my body was actually warm enough, and even almost too warm when running uphill in the sun. I briefly considered taking off my light wind-proof jacket, but I was not uncomfortable, and as I’ve learned when running ultras…don’t change anything unless it is necessary or unavoidable.

A couple of runners passed me between kilometers 15 and 25, including a woman who’d removed her gloves and was taking off her jacket while explaining that she was going through menopause and was always too warm. Then there was a Swiss runner who withdrew his Go-Pro camera from a pocket and filmed us running side-by-side before he increased his pace and I watched him slowly disappear over the next hill. But during the last 15 kilometers I found myself passing a few runners who’d slowed their pace, some to a walk, as is common in any marathon.
Russel Glacier

I stopped at all the aid stations to drink and chatted briefly with the helpers. Those poor souls were freezing. At least I was moving and keeping warm, but they were there serving us in the most extreme environment imaginable, so the least I could do was stop and greet and ask how THEY were doing. Every five kilometers they served cold (and sometimes icy) water and a warm beverage: either warm elderflower or warm isotonic drink. Once they also had sports bars available. At those icy temperatures I did not feel thirsty so during the first 15 kilometers at each aid station I drank only a small cup of water, but then by about kilometer 20 I noticed that I was feeling really drained and I trouble-shooted the problem: Speed to fast? No. Enough energy via food? Yes. Mineral deficit? No. Dressed properly? Yes. Pain anywhere? No. Enough fluids? Oops.

So at the next aid station at kilometer 21, I drank two full cups of water and two of elderflower drink. I soon felt better, but still pretty drained after the intensity of the first hour of running over the ice sheet.
After passing the half marathon mark the rest of the course became relatively monotonous—up and down, still cold, beautiful scenery—but I was really ready to find the finish line. There were, for obvious reasons, no spectators along the course. And even when passing by the 41km mark I could not see the finish line. But just afterwards I crested a hill and saw the airport, my hotel and just beyond the point at which I could stop running. There were a few runners who’d already finished and were cheering as I approached. When I crossed the finish a woman placed a medal over my head and also gave me a welcoming hug. I’d never experienced this before at a finish line, a hug, but it was so wonderful, a gesture of praise, but when you are completely empty it just made me want to melt into her arms, as if she were my mother, and just let her carry me home. But, reality check, I needed to get into some warm clothes, so I collected my winter jacket, some food and then hurried back to my hotel room for a hot shower!
As I undressed and took off my shoes I noticed that my right sock was bloody on one side. This is not surprising after a marathon, but naturally also not entirely welcome. So I hesitantly took off my sock to find….nothing! No cut. No blister (on that foot). And nothing which appeared to have caused some bleeding. An unsolved mystery. But on the left foot though I had severe pain under the second toenail and I had to take a safety pin underneath the nail to pop and drain a blood blister. Ouch. And unfortunately even after a hot shower my big toes were still numb.

It wasn’t until I was in bed later that night, recalling the events of the day, with the satisfaction and peace of mind of having accomplished something extraordinary, that I realized I had in fact regained sensation in all toes.

All was good in the world.
Marathon finisher medal
Northern lights visible every night we were there

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mud runs

Life is short. Try everything once. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again. That’s pretty much my opinion of a lot of things in life, which also pertains to mud runs, obstacles course races, Braveheart battles, extreme races or Hindernisseläufe, whatever you want to call them.

For the 2016 Limes Run in Bad Gögging, the Armin Wolf Running Team was given five free entries to the race. Let’s just say I didn’t jump at the opportunity to take part. I looked at the photos on the Internet from the previous years and saw crawling through the mud, swimming in ice cold water and, above all, lots of smiling faces. So, due to the last observation, I agreed on one condition, that we would run in a group. I didn’t want to have to go all out and battle the obstacles on my own; I just wanted to have fun, which is why most people take part in these things anyway.

At the start
There were three guys and two women in our group; Daniela (Dani) was the other woman and she’d done a few of these before, although the last time she did one she seriously injured her knee and couldn’t do any sports for almost a year, so getting through this race was mentally important for her. Christian, a physical trainer, and Dominik, a physical therapist, had done these before, and then there were Stephan and I who were virgin mud-runners.

My cheering squad (a.k.a. my family) :)
The weather had been cold the week before and even though the day of the race was expected to be much warmer, it was supposed to rain. So when I woke up that morning to gray skies I wasn’t surprised, it wasn’t till I started driving out to the race that I was amazed to see the sun come out and the clouds disappear! It stayed that way all day, sunny and mild temps…someone was smiling down on us.

The long swim in 8 degree C water
We started in the fourth wave of runners, each wave separated by ten minutes to avoid back-ups at the obstacles. It was a relief to finally start, and the first kilometer was simply running through some fields to warm-up. Then came the lake. A 150-m swim in water temperature of 8°C (46°F). When I got in the water I could hardly breathe, my body was in shock. The rescue helpers were sitting in boats and yelling at us to take deep breaths. I just tried to get across as fast as I could but as I was about half way I had caught up to some swimmers in front of me. I couldn’t get around them and they were kicking water into my face. I tried to stay calm and somehow managed to get across and out of the water. I was so relieved to have the swim behind me but was shocked to see a second smaller lake with about a 40-m swim just in front of us followed by a mud pit! So, truth was, I wasn’t really having fun yet, but that was just about to change.

We then ran along tractor paths through the fields and let the sun warm us. There were some beautiful Shetland cattle and we decided to stop and take a group photo, as a friend was following us on his bike with camera. The five of us lined up arm-in-arm, still soaking wet, with the only thing separating us and these mighty animals being a wire fence. An electrified wire fence. As luck would have it Dominik’s rear-end touched the metal wire and a shock wave ran through all five of us. We jumped with surprise then fell into hysterics when we realized what had happened, another photo with laughs and we were back in motion.

Electric shock anyone?

Outfits varied wildly: some in shorts and short-sleeved shirts while others were in long tights and multiple layers. A group of guys were dressed as Superman, red cape and all, while many were outfitted as Viking-type warriors.

Dani and I behind the warriors

Crawling through the mud on all fours, diving under canoes in the river, climbing up knotted ropes dangling from a bridge and running through snow blowers, all of this was waiting for us, in addition to the total 24km of running and a whopping 14 times in the water.But it was fun and after just under 3 hours we crossed the finish line with smiles on our faces and above all relief at having finished without any injuries!

So, according to the ‘try everything once’ philosophy, I tried it, it was fun, the comradery made it special, but I’m pretty sure it will one of those one-timers, at least next time will not be any time soon!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Regensburg Landkreislauf 2016: A 65-km Win in the Mountains

Full of anticipation at the Start
I love this race. This was the 7th year of the event and I’d taken part every year, the first four in relay teams and the last three as an ultra runner. I was hoping to run it as the crowning of a great year following the Marathon des Sables in April, the 100km Biel in June and several smaller races and a duathlon scattered in between. But what all athletes know is that an injury can sneak up on you at any time, and 4 days after Biel, while doing cartwheels with the kids, I tore my hamstring. For five long weeks I couldn’t run. But maybe it was a blessing in disguise as it gave my entire body time to recover from those two giant races, which I wouldn’t otherwise have done.

Training really started up again in full force during our family vacation in the United States in August. We spent two weeks out west visiting Yellowstone National Park, Salt Lake City, and the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t sure how many opportunities I’d have to run outside, but I did get some good runs in, with a few interval sessions and a long mountain trail run at Snowbasin outside of SLC. At altitudes of 6,000 to 9,000 ft, this was really good training. Then in Rhode Island I worked on endurance and mid-length tempo, and before I knew it the five weeks were over and we were back in Germany. And even though my coach said I was still lacking in speed and endurance, time was out, I was as ready as I was going to get.

The weather had been fabulous in the two weeks leading up to the race. Late summer, hot and sunny days with warm nights perfect for grilling and dinner on the terrace. But on the day of the Landkreislauf the weather turned to fall: 14°C and pouring rain, for the entire day. Instead of shorts and a short-sleeved top, I had to pull out my long compression socks, ¾ tights and rain jacket. 

In the two previous years, I was the first female finisher, which was not without weight on my shoulders to make it a three-peat. There were 300 relay teams and 42 ultras registered, including 5 women ultras...and they were strong. Experienced ultrarunners and iron(wo)men. Winning was not going to be easy. I would need a strategy. The first 45km were relatively flat and the last 20km heading into the Bavarian hills were characterized by lots of steep ascents and descents. That would be my only chance. I don’t like to run flats. I have trouble keeping up a pace for very long because I get bored, fall into a monotonous rhythm and since the motion is not very dynamic I start to stiffen up. So the plan was: try to find a comfortable rhythm for the first 45km, stay as close as possible to the competition without losing too much ground, and then when I get into the hills where I feel strong, run free. But would it work?

Armin Wolf Laufteam runners...and Armin too
I started the race near the front of the pack and was too fast over the first leg. I kept trying to slow down but the flow of the others runners kept up the tempo. Finally after 8km I slowed down to where I wanted to be. Then at around km 15 I was passed by another female ultra. I kept her in sight so I wasn’t too worried, but when the second caught me at km 18 I wondered if I shouldn’t try to pick it up. But the second runner, Heike, and I decided to run together and it was really enjoyable. We swapped stories and were entertained by my bike support, Nussi. He sang to us and relayed stories about how much the city had changed since he was a kid. Heike was also a good pacemaker and I was happy to just run alongside her and not have to pay much attention to my watch. Eventually the first female began to increase the distance between us and by km 35 Heike also began a slow break away from me. I hung back at a comfortable pace, knowing that there was a lot more to come.

And it was still pouring rain, with occasional ferocious wind gusts, but thankfully, with my rain jacket, I was not cold, though I was soaked to the bone. My shoes were squishy like sponges and I felt hot spots forming on my toes and balls of my feet. I knew blisters were on the prowl but since they were not yet painful I tried to ignore them. (For a list of what I ate and drank see the footnote at the end)

With Veda at the start
In Wiesent, at the 42-km marathon mark, my husband Frank was waiting with my kids and a friend of ours, Matthias, who would run with me for the rest of the race. Matthias was training for the Berlin Marathon so this would be used as a long training run for him… and I was so happy to have the company and additional motivation! 

Six and a half minutes separated me from the lead woman. Then my start number ripped off my belt. The material was soaking wet and weak. I took off the belt and handed it to Nussi who tossed it in his front basket. Matthias suggested we use his clip-style belt, which was in Frank’s van. So after another flat 4km on a beautiful trail alongside a river, we saw our support vehicle again and got the fix on the start number. Then into the woods for the first major ascent. The race was on.

Two kilometers steep uphill. I’d ridden it on the mountain bike two months earlier so I knew what was to come. This time it didn’t feel so bad. Or maybe I had just run it through my mind enough that it was no longer a mental threat. Either way, I was now in my element and about half way up the hill we caught up with Heike who had slowed to a walk. As the climb steadied out a bit she began to run again and we were shortly together, but then on the next steep hill she slowed down again and that was the last I saw of her. One down, one to go.

A relay runner battling the elements 
Up, up and up some more until we reached the convent in Frauenzell, where shortly before Frank and the kids had told us that I had gained 4 minutes over the first female during the climb. Progress. But she was still nowhere in sight. 

The course kept climbing and dropping. I pushed myself over the ascents and just left gravity to take its course during the descents while concentrating on form and trying not to slip on the wet fallen leaves. I was rejuvenated by the speed.

Over another ridge, across some fields and down an embankment, then she was in sight, about 500 meters ahead. Still a huge distance. Matthias said ‘we got her’…but I said it is too early and the distance was too great for an attack. I still had time.

Then into the next patch of woods and suddenly we saw her stop and talk to two other ultras and a bike supporter. When I was about 100m distant they started to run again, but this time I knew it was only a matter of time. Then we were back out into some fields and up another incline and down the other side where the kids were shouting encouragement on my approach. They were so excited that I was back in the race and gaining ground. Nussi filled up the bottles but I kept in motion. 

Then there was another ascent before Brennberg and I couldn’t hold off the inevitable, I was consistently gaining. I soon caught two other male ultras and the bike supporter,  and I knew that before we reached the top of the hill I needed to make the final pass of the lead female. I came up right behind her, then with all my reserves I switched to the other side of the path and powered by as strong as I could. She let out a deep breath. I kept up the pace as fast as I could when I entered Brennberg and soon heard screaming and shouting as Frank and the kids drove by me, thrilled to see that I’d taken the lead. I pushed with all I had until I was past the chapel and over the steepest point of the entire racecourse. This had cost me a lot of energy, but thankfully there were now some descents where I could get a shot of regeneration. I kept my strides long and the tempo high.

Then there was a steep descent which burned my quads, but there was no slowing down now. Before the next turn-off onto the trail into the woods the van was again in sight and my family was going crazy with cheers. That gave me more strength and determination to see the race through. Down, down, down. Then up again along a steep path that was a complete mud bath. Nussi had to dismount and walk. Even I, though unwillingly, had to slow to a march, the mud had cut my tempo so much so that it didn’t make much difference in speed whether I walked or ran, and walking would reduce my heartrate.
DJ at the finish trying to keep his equipment dry

Then into Dietersweg with a final onslaught of cheers from my family before they (and I) were headed to the finish. Only 4.7 km to go; 4,700 meters. And mostly downhill. But I never let down the tempo.

With adrenalin pumping, the 64th kilometer was my fastest of the day. I could hear the sounds of music and moderation and knew it was almost over. One last look behind me to see if it was all clear, not yet aware that the next female was now almost a kilometer behind, and there was nothing left between me and the finish. My three youngest kids came out to run with me the last 100 meters awhile Armin Wolf announced my arrival. Emotions ranged all over the stratosphere. I have never been so happy to cross that finish line. I had pokered with my strategy, fought an incredible battle over 6 hours and 45 minutes through the worst of weather conditions, made my family and friends proud, and finished off the running season on the highest of highs.

Life is good.

Ultras on stage at the awards ceremony


Fluids: Water throughout the race, about 100ml every 10 minutes
            Oatmeal milk starting at km 43, about 50ml every 20 minutes
            Coke at km 50...one sip and then did not want it again!
            Brought isotonic but didn't drink it
Food: Salted Caramel GU (my favorite!) at kms 8, 18, 44, 50 (spit half of the last one out)
          Granola bar: one third of a bar at kms 15 and 40
          1/3 of a banana at km 37
Salt tablets at km 25, 44, 50

Did not stop to rest at all but at km 28 I had to quickly bend over and pick up an energy packet for Heike which fell out of her waist belt, and then at km 45 I had to prop my foot up for a second on the back of the van to scoop sand out of my shoe.