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My Health
nufcrichard
I thought I would write a little post about my health. Don't worry, it isn't too bad, but I have had my issues and they flared up again in the last couple of weeks.

So to start with, a little history. In April/May 2009 I went to a conference in San Diego.  I got there a bit early and headed straight from San Diego to Vegas, where I spent a few days, then headed back to San Diego for about 5 days.  I wasn't very healthy generally back then, I guess I weighed 90kg or so, but I was training for La Marmotte so had been cycling quite a lot.  I reckon that if all had gone to plan, I would have been a 11h finisher (I finished in just over 8h in 2013), but it is hard to say exactly.  My short stay in Vegas wasn't exactly a healthy time either, I drank lots, I ate lots, I stayed up all night and even took an ADHD pill that was offered to me by someone who I met when I was there.  It was a really fun few days, but when I flew back to San Diego I wasn't feeling great.  I remember very clearly playing pool with a colleague of mine Ed, and having to go to the bathroom.  A deep black tarry mess came out and I even commented on resuming playing pool that that was the worst thing ever to come out of my body!

The next few days weren't great, I was sweating even more than normal, just walking around the hilly streets was getting me out of breath, and I was frequently quite light headed.  After getting back to England I had muscle ache pretty much everywhere and my normal 10k cycle to work was really difficult.  After maybe 10 days of feeling awful, I went to the local walk in centre because my T-shirt was moving from my heart beat when I was sitting down, so I thought I could have a heart problem.  After a few tests my very dismissive doctor told me it was probably just a cold, but they would wait for the blood results.  When they arrived they showed that my haemoglobin was 9.0, very low and borderline requiring a transfusion apparently.

Multiple doctor's appointments followed, each with a new doctor who had no idea of my medical history, so had no idea why I would be anaemic or what was wrong.  I got sent to Endocrinology, who were very friendly, took blood and tested everything, only to ask why I was at Endocrinology, when I should obviously be at Haematology or Gastroenterology! Months passed and eventually I felt better after taking iron tablets.  The doctor's appointments stopped without them actually testing to find out the cause, but at least I was feeling better, so no harm done.

In September 2009 I flew to Chicago for a holiday, again it wasn't a very healthy holiday, but I only drank a few too many beers and ate a bit too much, nothing Vegas-esque.  Again I noticed that I had a black stool, so I immediately took iron tablets again and felt better pretty quickly.  I didn't bother with going to a doctor, I mean in America would be crazy expensive and in the UK had been such a long waste of time last time, so I again left it.

Years later when training for the Franfurt marathon in 2014, I had been on good form.  I was now living in Germany, had lost weight, was fit and hoping to break 3h in the marathon.  In the summer I started increasing my mileage after doing a half distance triathlon in June.  Earlier in the year I had been doing my intervals and hitting all of my times, then I started to miss the last few intervals because they were too hard, then I could only manage 1 repeat at the right pace, then I gave up on intervals all together.  In late August I was feeling very tired, my training was going badly and I felt like I was going backwards.  I decided to visit a doctor to have a blood test.  The results came back, my HGB was 11.2 and my iron was low.  I hadn't had a noticeable bleed, but I was anaemic anyway.  It took a good while to get over it, I think because my iron was low, so I needed a while to build that back up whilst also making lots of new red blood cells.  Anyway, I got over that and started to take iron frequenly, even without any real reason for doing so, just to keep my levels up.

So that gets us upto date!  All has been well for quite a while now, I have been healthy and had no noticeable anaemia.  I take iron tablets frequently, either 50mg or now 25mg, as I don't want to have too much, as that would also be a bad thing.  I had hoped that my problems were behind me, until last week in Poland...  Me and Katja went out for a run on Tuesday along the coast in Sopot.  Katja, who has had problems of her own, was running at a good pace of about 5:05/km.  Usually that kind of pace on flat ground would be a gentle jog for me, I would expect my HR to be 120 or so.  The problem was that my HR was up at 150 sometimes, with an average in the mid-140s.  My heart rate belt is getting a bit old, and often gives dodgy readings at the start, but this run felt quite difficult too.  When we got back I had to go to the bathroom (a constant problem for me when running) and I again I saw what I didn't want to see, a deep black colouration.

That only lasted 1 day, but I felt pretty bad and my HR was high all the time.  I decided that this time I needed to get it seen to, so when I got back home, I went to the doctor's.  It was 1 week later and I told him everything, maybe in less detail than here!  He sent me for a Gastroscopy that afternoon!  They didn't find anything bad, just some redness, but no blood, no growths and no ulcers.  I got my blood results back and everything was ok, by ok I mean in the normal range, my HGB was 14.0, which is in the normal range, but my normal is >15.5, so it was 10% lower than my normal.  Now I am waiting for a colonoscopy next week on Wednesday, and for the stomach biopsy results, which I hope show Helicobacter Pylori, as then I will get Antibiotics and hopefully that will be a cure of my problems.  I am not really looking forward to the colonoscopy, but I guess it is always good to know if there are problems.  It would be great if everything down there is fine, and I have Helicobacter, then a quick 1 week of Antibiotics could really be the whole cure!  Imagine that, not carrying 100 sheets of toilet paper when running, and not worrying about my iron levels whenever I am in training, that would be great.  I will add a post-script in the next week or 2 to add in the results as they come, but right now I am feeling quite positive about everything.  I had feared that my HGB would be lower than 14, 14 without low iron should be pretty quickly recoverable I hope.  I hope next week is the end of this little 7 year long story, I will let you know!

UPDATE:1
since my initial post I have had my colonoscopy.  I wasn't looking forward to it, but the Moviprep was actually the worst part of it.  You have to take this horrible tasting laxative in 1 litre of water, then wait for the explosions to start!  It took over 4 hours for me, which sounds like it is more than normal.  Soon enough it was doing it's thing.  I had to repeat the whole procedure the next morning, meaning I had to take a sick day at work.  I was asleep for the colonoscopy itself (thank God for propofol!), and didn't have pain or discomfort before, during or after, but my guts haven't been too happy since then.
After the colonoscopy I was told that my gastroscopy results had shown that I do have H.pylori.  As my colonoscopy didn't find anything bad, he was a bit perplexed by what had happened.  He said that my HGB had been 12.2 the week before (they took blood from me too. That sounds more likely than the 14.0 that my GP had found, as I wasn't feeling great.

Today I went back to my GP, it has been 9 days since my colonoscopy.  He said that all my results were fine, and we could look at the small intestine using a swallowable camera, but as I am feeling better, it might not be worth it.  My HGB was 13.5 after my colonoscopy, 1.3 better that 8 days previous. My iron and ferritin were low, but rising.  I hope that if I keep taking iron, I will be back to 100% pretty soon, by my working I should be at about HGB 15 now, and back to normal in less than 1 week.  The doc was ready to send me home, saying I just need a check up in January, when I enquired about my H.pylori.  He looked through my file and agreed that we should treat it, so now I have a full packet of ZacPac on my desk and I will start taking them tomorrow.  It is 42 tablets, 2 antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor twice a day for a week.  As mentioned earlier, I hope it helps not only to prevent future bleeds, but also with my runner's trots problems!  I'll check back in on the 19th when I run the Lindenseelauf 15km, hopefully I will be raring to go be then!
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Lindenseelauf Part 1 2016
nufcrichard
I am writing this late for a few reasons, but I don't want to not write a race report, so here it is!

On the 15th, so 11 days ago, the Lindenseelauf series started.  It is made up of 3 races, a 10km in October, a 15km in Novermber and a final 10k in January.  I have done the 15km and the 2nd 10km before, but I fancied trying the whole series this year.  I know that I am not on top form after my pre-marathon taper and post-marathon rest, but what the hell, I like racing and it is good to have a reference point to know where I stand.

I went to the market with Katja and had a coffee, before cycling to Russelsheim for the race.  I got there about 40 minutes before the start and signed up for the whole series.  Sebi Dahl and Konrad were both racing too, both are fast but Sebi is about as fast as me, so he is a good goal for me to beat.

I didn't do a lot of warm up but felt ready at the start line.  I had been doing a low carb diet which had meant that my heart rate had been crazy high during my recent training.  I also had done some 400m repeats 3 days before and still had muscle ache in my calves!  So the race started and I felt pretty controlled.  I wasn't flying, but I felt ok, even though I say that my HR was higher than normal.  After 3-4km there is an uphill that I don't love, but after that the course is pretty fast and flat.  I went through 5km in 18:20, but I wan't overly confident of even splitting the race.  Sebi was about 20m ahead of me and I thought I might catch him, but it didn't quite happen.  After 8km I felt tired and was running slower than before.  I had overtaken an African runner, who then promptly overtook me again with about 1km to go.  Another guy caught and overtook me with about 1km to go too, that doesn't happen too often to me, as I usually pace quite well (you can see them both in the 2nd photo).




So coming over the finish line, I saw that I had run 37:30, so the 2nd 5km was just over 19 minutes... urgh. Sebi was 10 seconds ahead of me.

I don't think any of the TCEClers were very happy with their performance.  I have run 30 seconds faster on the same course in January, but I guess that isn't much faster given that I knew I wasn't on form going into the race.  Konrad blew up too, he usually runs 34 mins or so, but 'only' managed 35:30.

Everyone headed off straight away, leaving me alone to await the results and prize givings.  I was 11th overall, but 2nd in my age group, so got a bottle of wine.  They messed up the team rankings, so we came 3rd instead of winning it, but I got a 6 pack of beer for that anyway.  The tombola is pretty crazy in Rüsselsheim, I reckon about 50% of racers win something, I was in the unlucky 50% this time, but what can you do!

I will be back on November 19th for the 15km, I doubt I will be on top form then either, I am going to write a post explaining why, so I won't give any spoilers now!

Seee you soon!

Swimming
nufcrichard
Now that Berlin Marthon is in the books and I have taken 1 week completely off, and this week has been an nice easy week, I am thinking about the future.

I went to the TCEC swim training yesterday, I was awful!  We had a 4x200m set in the middle, I swam the first 200m in 4 mins, then it was a downward spiral to 4:20 and even as low as 4:30.  I could feel that my technique was falling apart, my muscles ached and I was just so slow!  So today I decided to have a look at see how I got to where I am today, the best way to understand the future is to understand the past.

I didn't swim at all this year until March 28th.

In April I swam 6 times, all after the 16th of April, so I guess I can say that is when my season started. I was worried about the Woogsprint Triathlon at the end of May, so wanted to get some swim fitness going.

In May I swam 9 times! That is a lot for me. I was trying some drills and faster swimming, but the volume was pretty pittiful, I didn't swim more than 2km in a session once. I was generally swimming 2k or just less, then heading home.

In June I swam once in the pool (the day before the Woogsprint) and 750m in the Woogsprint.

In July I swam twice, once on the 12th (1.6km after 5 weeks of zero swimming) and once on the 25th (also 1.6km).

In August I swam once in the pool , on the 1st of August for 1.8km and once 1.5km in Merzig Triathlon.

In September I swam once - in the Rhein Ahr Triathlon.

That is not impressive. I hadn't really realised it, but since the Woogsprint on June 5th, I had swum 5 times before yesterday. That is 5 times in 17 weeks, with 2 of those swims being Olympic distance triathlons!  The annoying thing is that I don't think that I am that bad at swimming. I mean off minimal swim training I did a 13:14 750m swim in Darmstadt. That isn't good, but it also isn't dreadful. Last year in Wasserstadt I swam 34:30 for a half distance, again not world beating, but decent.  I just need to put in some training, and I can be at least midpack of a Landesliga race.

So, I know what the problem is, I don't swim enough.  The solution - swim more!  It sounds very easy, but I really like running, and winter in running season for me.  Cycling is good too, especially when the weather is good.  Swimming takes so much time for me to do.  Yesterday I went to the TCEC coached swim training, I left the house at 19:15 and got home at 21:45.  I swam for 1h05 including rests, that is 2h30 time out the house, that is a marathon long run!  I can bitch and complain all I like though, I need to swim more, so I will try to get to the coached TCEC swim sessions frequently, meaning at least once a week, better twice a week.

As I swam 16 times to get into decent swim form for the Woogsprint, if I go to the trainings twice a week for 8 weeks, I should be back to good form (for me). That should set me up nicely to swim faster next season, which will be important, as I think I might not run a marathon next spring, instead concentrating on triathlon instead for Roth and Maxdorf.

So that was pretty much a stream of consciousness, but I wanted to have it down in black and white. I got better at swimming when swimming twice a week (even though they were short sessions). I got gradually worse when I swam about every 3.5 weeks, and now I suck big time!
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Berlin Marathon 2016 - 2:55:16 a PB but...
nufcrichard
So finally it was time for the Berlin marathon.  I didn't know what to expect, and that is exactly what I got!  so let's start at the start and go through my training going into the race.

I had decided that I would do a 12 week build to the race, starting straight after the Maratona.  It would be 3x4 weeks with an easier week every 4th week.  I was aiming to run 100km on my up weeks and obviously less on my down weeks.  My routine for Rotterdam worked well and I wanted to do that again, meaning running 8 times a week, with intervals on Wednesday, a ML run on Thursday, an easy double on Friday, and a long run on the weekend.

Some of that plan worked out, I did run 100km per week pretty much in my up weeks, but looking at my training log I see 3 proper interval sessions over the 12 weeks, along with 4 that are borderline, so not on a track, or not organised intervals, or were cut short due to the heat. Even being friendly and saying that all 7 count, it is 2 fewer than I should have done, but in reality I did 6 sessions too few during the week.
Then there are the long runs.  In a 12 week build I would like to do 6-9 30km+ long runs, maybe 6 with some quality and the other 3 being easy paced long runs.  I did 2 long runs over 30km in the build up to Berlin, a 33.3km run with 2x10mins faster running and a 32.5km long run with 10 and 12 mins of faster running.  The others were 27km, 26km, 25.2km and 25km, those would have been ML runs before Rotterdam, but were my long runs before Berlin.

So why did I not train as well for Berlin? Well it was too hot for me to train properly this summer!  It has been almost constantly sunny, and over 28 degrees for the last 12 weeks!  In those conditions I cannot run an over 30km long run with quality, I just cannot do it.  Intervals are also more difficult in those conditions, but the fact that the running tracks were closed in July also hurt my interval sessions early on in training.  I guess laziness also has to be included as a reason, I like running, but when conditions are hot/humid, I prefer a nice E paced run for an hour or so, not a 2h run and not hard running either. Having achieved my main 2 running goals in spring, it was also a little more difficult to get motivated knowing that 2:45 was unlikely.



So to the race: Katja and I got to Berlin on Thursday and I checked into the race as soon as possible. I did a little running analysis, which showed that I am a very efficient runner, which was nice to find out!  On Thursday and Friday we did a good amount of walking around and seeing the city, before taking it much easier on Saturday.  I felt ready on Sunday and got to the start area just over 1h before the 9:15 start time.  The toilet queues were crazy and I ended up waiting 40 mins or so to go, so I was in a hurry by the time that was done and dusted. (Note: the long queue where I waited is the stupid person queue, there are lots of other shorter queues around, but they are a little harder to find).  I changed into my TCEC trisuit and checked my bag and went to the start.  The start is further away from the start area that I expected, so much so that I started to worry and even jog part of the way to the C block.  I got there with 8 minutes to spare and pushed my way into the middle of the block, ahead of the 3h pacers.



The countdown started and it all seemed quite surreal, but within a few seconds it became real and the race started.  I have never had such a clean start to a race before, let alone a big race!  Apart from a small woman who seemed to be walking, I didn't have to slow at all really, and I was at 4:10 pace within metres.  The course in Berlin is wide and flat, and the roads are long and straight.  I was running at just faster than 4:00 per km pace at the start accoring to me GPS, though the 5km marker showed I was actually just over at 4:01/km pace.  The next 5km also went ok with my pace staying about the same, but I really wasn't sure about holing it for the whole race.  10km-15km was a few seconds slower and by the half way point I knew it was going to be tough.  My heart rate was always around 163-165, which is just a little high for my liking, 160-162 would have been fine.  My pace was slowly falling though, and I went through the half in 1:25:18.  I said to myself that even a 1:30 second half would get my a PB, so if I could just keep up a good pace for a while longer, I could cruise in a decent time.  My sub2:50 dreams were gone, there was a zero percent chance of me running a negative split!

The kilometres kept ticking away, even if it was starting to hurt more and more, at 30km I had to have a quick toilet stop but I was happy that there were only 12km to go, I think that would have fazed me in the past, but now it just meant there wasn't too much more to run!  I hadn't seen Katja at 7km as I had hoped, and I also hadn't seen Has anywhere, so when I saw Heiko Braun at 32km I was really happy to see a familiar face.  The kilometres kept ticking and I kept running into a headwind, it wasn't strong, but still noticeable.  I had seen the 39km sign a few times over the last few days, and knew that it was close to the final turns towards Brandenburger Tor.  I was looking for the 39km sign for what felt like an age, and when I finally saw it I knew it was nearly done.  There was some weird stuff going on between km39 and 40, it looked like an Ekiden hand over point (though it would be too late for that) and someone had a baton to pass to someone, but it was a firework which made a bang, then fired sparks everywhere, it was a bit crazy!

Soon enough I was at km40 and a look at my watch showed that I wasn't going to break my PB.  I gave myself 10 minutes I think, but that wasn't going to be enough, not when you think it takes 2mins for the bit after the 42km mark.  I ran on a bit disappointed, then realised, hang on, it's like 200m after the 42km mark, that is max 1 minute of running, so I should actually PB, if I kept up a solid pace.  The final long straight was with the wind and you could see the Brandenburger Tor and the park where it all ends.  Just before Brandenburg I saw Katja, which was a good little boost.  I strangely don't remember running through Brandenburg, I think I may have been looking at my GPS!  I saw I had 90 seconds to break my PB, so I pushed the pace without sprinting and 30 seconds later knew that I had it.  I crossed the line in 2:55:16 - a 20 second PB.



I was very tired, my feet really hurt, my hips ached, but I was done!  There is a pretty long walk after the finish line, where I got my medal and after a while got something to drink.  I had to be careful not to drink too much, otherwise I would have been throwing it back up soon enough, like someone else I saw.



So at the end of the day what I can I say?  My training was worse than for Rotterdam, I most probably weigh more (I was just over 79km for the race) but I ran pretty much the same time.  That says to me that I should run faster given better training and more consistent training over the coming years.  I could also weigh less, but it really doesn't seem to come off as easily as I would like.  I hope one day to run a good marathon, i.e. one that matches up with my half marathon time, which at the moment would be a 2:45, but hopefully will be faster in the future.  If I get a place in London, I will definitely run it in spring, otherwise I might not run a marathon in Spring 2017, rather run a few HMs and 10ks along with my training for Roth.

The plan now is 1 week of complete rest, then some cycling, swimming and maybe an easy 5-8km run or two, then I can start to run again.  I think I need the rest so that I can start fresh again for next year, so I shouldn't cut it short due to boredom.  I am looking forward to the shorter races in winter, a 35min 10k is my next big goal time, so I hope I can manage it.  Anyway, see you at the next race :)

Note to self: Pack clean underwear for after the race! walking barefoot and commando after the race is not fun!

Rhein Ahr Triathlon 2016 - Triathlon Season Over!
nufcrichard
Only a few days after my good 5km run and 2 weeks before Berlin, I had my last triathlon of the season planned.  Ideally 2-3 weeks before my marathon I would have done a 10k-HM run, but actually I think it worked out well in the end.

Sinzig or Remagen (which is what everyone calls the race) is kind of an Olympic triathlon.  You swim 2.8km in the Rhein with the flow, then cycle 45km with quite a few hills, then a 10.5km run.  The swim should actually be faster than a normal 1.5km swim, so that wasn't a bad thing for me.
We had arranged to meet at 7am at the pool on Sunday and I set off in partial light at 6:30am.  I met up with Heiko B and Wieland and we drove to Remagen with takes about 90 mins.



It was surprisingly cool when we arrived, it has been consistenly warmer than 28 degrees for a while now, and was predicted to be 30 degrees for the race.  The water temperature was 22, but we could still use wetsuits, phew!  The teams were pretty different to our usual set up, in the 2nd team we had Heiko Maris, Walter, Marco, Andre and me, I have only raced with Marco before, so didn't really know what to expect.



45 mins before the start, and having finally found a toilet, we boarded a ferry which would go 2.8km upstream to the start.  It actually arrived 30 mins early, so we just had to sit around and wait in the sunshine with nothing to drink, not ideal.  At 10:30 the race started for the Landesliga and I was right at the back of the group from the start.  The water speed is apparently fastest in the middle, so you should swim in the middle.  I swam next to the shore like an idiot!  I had water in my left eye almost immediately, so had to breathe unilaterally all the way.  Even though I swam very badly, I got out in 26mins and a few seconds.  A few masters swimmers who started 5 mins behind me overtook me, a bit embarrassing.



The transition was looong, maybe 800m or so of uphill running.  I got onto my bike and knew I was last out of transition from the TCEC 2nd team, 2nd time in a row.  I set off interested to see what the course was like.  It was never steep, but did drag upwards for a long time.  I started overtaking more and more people on the climbs, passing Andre and Marco quite quickly.  I could see someone ahead of me in a TCEC top, but it took ages to catch him, it turned out to be Walter.  I was faster than him on the uphills, but on the downhills he was faster so we actually ended up riding pretty close to each other for a long time.  The first loop was done after 40 mins and the 2nd wasn't bad.  I had gotten a warning for crossing the white line early in the ride, so I was careful not to annoy the referees further.  The course was very good, except that the main downhill road was dreadful.  I was checking my skewers as I rode as my bike was shaking so badly going downhill at speed.  After the 2nd loop was over there is a fairly flat run back to the transition, which I took quite easily.  I had 46.5km on my GPS when I arrived at transition and I was right behind Walter.



After destroying my feet in Merzig, I decided to put on socks this time.  Somehow, even after putting on socks, I was out of transition 35 seconds ahead of Walter!  I don't know what he was doing!  I wanted to take a gel with me, the same ones we will get in Berlin, but as I grabbed it, I realised that I had taken powered drink with me, so I chucked it and did without a gel.  I knew that Heiko M was ahead of me, and I feared that Heiko B had overtaken me in the water and was more than 5 minutes clear of me.  The run course was 3x3.5km, with a little uphill part at the end of each half loop.  After about 2km I saw Heiko B running in the other direction, he told me that Heiko M was just ahead of me.  Just after the first loop was over, I could see him and cruised past him, I guess running isn't his strength.  I wasn't 100% sure if Heiko B was way ahead of me or not, but as he was behind Volker, and either not catching him, or very slowly catching him, I thought he was probably behind me.



The next 2 loops came and went, I needed to pee but could hold it.  I ended up running in a 41min run, which is ok, but nothing special (my GPS said it was 10.05km).  The weather really wasn't bad, only a little warm but cloudy enough to be reasonable.  My time of 2:33 was also only ok, though I was happy to be the first TCEC finisher.  I had a cheeky look at my watch when I finished to make sure that none of the masters were less than 5 mins behind me, though I knew they were further back.

All in all it was a good day.  I haven't trained for triathlon, so doing reasonably is actually a success!  It was too warm to run a good HM anyway, so Nibelungenlauf would have been a long tempo run anyway.  Now I can forget about triathlon for a little while and concentrate on Berlin.  Afterwards I will try to swim more often, though it would be had to swim less, I didn't swim at all between Merzig and Sinzig!

Anyway, Berlin, Berlin, Berlin. That is my goal now, I really hope I manage a sub 2:50.  Who knows what will happen though, you will find out in my next blog post, so keep tuned!

Mainzer Firmenlauf 2016 - 10th place
nufcrichard
For the 3rd year in a row, I was signed up to run the Mainzer Firmenlauf.  In 2014 I was anaemic so didn't run well, doing about 19:40 for what may well have been a bit short course.  In 2015, well you can read the post here, but essentially I was pretty dead after my Iron-distance race a few days beforehand, but still dragged myself around in 19mins, though the course was long!

This year my well of excuses seems to have run dry. I am in full training for the Berlin marathon in 2 1/2 weeks and things are going quite well.  It has been relentlessly hot and sunny for the last month or so, so my workouts have suffered and I have only managed 2 real long runs, so my confindence isn't top notch, but I feel like I should still have my form after a good year of running.  I am at about 79kg too, which is pretty decent for me, I wouldn't mind dropping 1kg more before Berlin if possible though.  My aim in Berlin will be a sub2:50, the equivilent 5k time would be 17:44, so faster than that was my goal time.

It was 29 degrees in the daytime, but in the shade at 18:30, it was a bit cooler, maybe 24-25 degrees at the start.  There was a new route this year and I was interested to see if it was actually 5km or not!  I wanted to get right on the start line, but pretty soon I saw that wouldn't be possible.  I got as close as I could and when the gun fired, I got going about 13 seconds after the leaders.  The first 100m were a bit cramped, but it soon opened out.  I looked at my GPS after 400m and saw a 3:20 pace, but loads of people were ahead of me, people like to start races fast!  I settled into a good pace as we turned into the old town.  There were a lot of twists and turns on route, after maybe 1km my mouth was so dry that it was sticking shut.  Someone seemed to be offering water, so I took one, in retrospect they may not have been offering it to me, but I took a big plastic cup full of water, drank maybe 30mls and threw the rest over myself, I think that helped my mouth situation a lot.

I was overtaking people a lot of the time and as it wasn't very busy at the pointy end of the race, the corners weren't too bad.  I don't love running on cobbles, which we had to do quite a lot.  I could hear GPSs beeping around me, so had an idea when we had 2km and 3km done.  I wasn't 100% sure that I wouldn't blow up, as I so rarely run at 3:30/km pace or faster, but I felt like I was going okay.  After reaching the most distant part of the course we turned back toward the finish, there were a lot more twists and turns and I was starting to feel the pace, I looked at my watch and saw that we had done 14:30 already, so I thought I only had 3 mins to run, I would be fine.  After a couple more turns I could see the start line ahead of my, which meant just a few hundred metres until the finish line.  I had followed someone just ahead of me who had a very easy running style for a few minutes, but as we made the last turn onto the home straight, I decided to try to kick past him.  He saw me at the last minute and sprinted too, we crossed the line basically side by side, but I later saw that he started a few seconds before me, so I finished ahead of him.

My finish time was 17:06, which was much faster than expected.  There are obvious caveats though.  My GPS, which is obviously the best GPS and much better than any Garmin, showed 4.93km at the end.  Others had between 4.5km and 4.9km.  The problem is that it was so twisty a course through the middle of town, that every GPS track I have seen is wrong.  I tend to think that it wass 5km, as the start/finish lines could have easily been moved to add 100m if it was short.  That doesn't mean that it is right though, so who knows.  End of the day, if my GPS is right, it would be worth a 17:20, much faster than my 17:44 goal time. If the course is right, then 17:07 5km would be my best race ever, better equivalently than my half marathon in Frankfurt even.  Given that it was warm and that the course was twisty, I think my time is really good for me, and it is a real confidence boost.

So to Katja's favourite bit.  I saw at the end that Christian Bock won the race in 15:40 or so, pretty impressive. Martin Skalsky was 2nd. Given that they are 2 high quality runners, the top places were always out of my reach, but they are starting to come into sight ahead of me, and who knows, maybe one day I will be able to run with them.  I saw lots of people I recognised in the finish area, including quite a few TCEClers.  I like it that familiar faces are all around even in a race with 6500 entrants.  I managed 10th place in the end, top 10 was also a goal for me, so that is another positive.

So, next up is Sinzig Triathlon on Sunday. I hope it is wetsuit legal, but it seems unlikely.  I haven't swum in ages, so it would be interesting.  Then 2 weeks later is Berlin. I had considered running a 10km 1 week beforehand as a confidence booster, but now I think it might be best to taper properly given that I already have done my equivalent shorter race time.

Merzig City Triathlon - Olympic Distance
nufcrichard
It’s been quite a while since my last race, mainly because it’s been hot, and I don’t race well when it’s hot.  Berlin marathon training has been going well though, I am half way through and starting to feel a groove coming.  Long runs haven’t really happened yet, I just can’t run 28km+ in training when it is 30 degrees and sunny!  Anyway, though running training is going well, I haven’t exactly been a regular fixture at the pool, or on the bike really!  Since Italy 6 weeks ago I have ridden about 4 times, twice longer than 60km.

That all being said, it was time for Merzig City Triathlon, a proper Olympic distance triathlon, 1.5km swimming in the River Saar, 40km of flat cycling, and 10km running.  I have been a bit worried about the swim, it goes 750m upstream, then 750m back downstream.  The riverflow is very slow, but it still makes a small difference swimming upsteam.

With the race starting at 10:30am, I set my Sunday morning alarm for 5:30am.  I had to get to Mombach for 6:50am where I met the team of the day – Michael, Marco, Tim and Robert.  We set off and were there in good time.  We got signed in and were ready in time to run a 2.5km loop before the race as a warm up.  The weather was warm and sunny, but the water was 19.8 degrees, so it was wetsuit legal (phew!!).  At exactly 10:30am we started.  It was quite physical at the start, but it soon spread out, i.e. everyone started swimming away of me.  I felt ok, but I was obviously quite a long way back in the field.  After what felt like a long time, I made the turn and could finally make my way back to the water exit.  I had the feeling that I had swum dreadfully, so when I got out of the water and saw 29:30 on the clock, I was actually pretty happy, it’s a bad time, but I had feared a 33+min time given how far back I was.

In transition I saw Marco was still there, but I was the slowest TCEC swimmer.  I got started on the bike and started overtaking people.  I wasn’t flying, but I was doing ok, my average speed was 38km/h and pretty much stayed there throughout.  As it is a 4 lap, 8 U-turn course, there are plenty of chances to see if you are catching someone or they are faster than you.  I caught Marco pretty quickly, and saw that Michael was a good few km ahead of me.  Robert and Tim were probably 800m ahead of me and seemed to have found a little group, no accusations here, but the 10+ people or so in the group didn’t seem to cover 100m total.


After 2 laps I didn’t seem to be catching Tim or Robert, but after 3 laps I was definitely catching Tim.  At the very end of the 4th lap I passed him, probably getting into transition about 5 seconds before him.  I had a great T2, largely because I had new triathlon laces on my shoes, and I decided not to put on my socks I had brought with me.



I started off on the run hoping to catch Robert, I ran the first lap in 9:20, that would give me a 37:20 run, but on the 2nd lap I thought I was going to have to stop for a comfort break.  If I had found a dixie, I would have stopped, but I didn’t so I ran on!  It weirdly went away, allowing me to run on until the end.  What was getting progressively worse though was my foot, which was rubbing in my shoe and had blistered.  It was quite painful, but the race was nearly over.  I passed a few more people, happily repassing someone who had overtaken me earlier on.  I ran in a 38:20 time, I didn’t see Robert at any time in the run, so he had beaten me.


I was content with my performance, my swim was crap, my bike was ok and my run was decent.  My placing for each was 39th, 12th and 8th respectively.  For some reason I can’t push so hard whilst running in a tri, my heart rate was only 160 average at the end, it should be 170+ really.  On the bike I also couldn’t put out the watts that I usually do.  I think I need to move my saddle back a bit, I had moved it forward recently but it seems worse now.  One good thing from the ride was that I held aero position well all the way.  I found that if I clasp my hands together, then my triceps don’t get as stressed.  Also I can hold the bars between my middle and ring fingers, that also seems to help too.  I don’t know why, but it does!

So overall in the league, I was 15th and TCEC was 3rd, it definitely could have been worse! I also got another/replacement beer glass like last year that I broke a while ago, that makes it well worth the journey!

Next up is the Vereinsmeisterschaft in 2 weeks, then Remagen Olympic 1 week later, then 3 weeks later is Berlin. For all my whinging about not swimming enough, I won’t swim much before Remagen, or ride much either.  Berlin Marathon is my goal so I will be training fully towards that, especially if the weather gets cooler, then I might knock out some big weeks.

Back in 2 weeks!

Maratona dles Dolomites
nufcrichard
I have wanted to ride the Maratona for a few years now, but in 2014 and 2015 I didn't get picked in the draw.  Last year I got together a few people and made a team application, which apparently increases the chance of getting a place.  Surer enough I got in! and I could look forward to what is said to be one of the best organized and prettiest sportives in the world.

I have ridden 2 major European sportives before, in 2012 it was a nightmare in the Marco Pantani Gran Fondo, I went too hard on the Gavia, nearly died on the Mortirolo and cut short my planned long route to the medium route.  In 2013 I had decided to was time to get serious and I did La Marmotte.  With 5200m of climbing over 176km, it is a bit of a beast, especially when the weather is hot, which it was at about 38 degrees!  I was very happy with my training and performance though, sneaking in a Gold Medal time and surpassing all of my goals I had made earlier in the year.  The Maratona has 4200m of climbing over 138km, pretty hard, but not as bad as the Marmotte.  I certainly didn't have the fear this year, in fact I went to Italy with only 1300km of cycling behind me in 2016, including 2 100km+ rides and 1 200km+ ride.  I did my first real climbing of the year 1 week before the Maratona, climbing 2000m over 110km in Taunus.

I still felt like I would be fine for the Maratona, despite my lack of training.  I had set myself a goal of 6:30, and I had decided to try to climb at between 260 and 280w, never going above 300w if possible.  I had done something like that before last year, and even after 200km and 2700m of climbing, I felt fine.  So, we got to Italy on Friday and found our apartment at the top of a 4km long steep hill!  We decided to race up it for fun, Jochen set off fast, but I soon caught up and even got ahead of him, before he punctured and had to push the rest of the way up. My confidence was further improved!

After lots of formailities and food, it was time for the ride on Sunday morning. We had to be at the start before 6:10am and it was 13km away with 250m of climbing.  Germany played against Italy the night before, only winning on penalties, so the 4:30am alarm hit pretty hard!  Although the weather was good, it was damp, cold and still a bit dark when we set off to the start.

At 6:30 the good riders started, and a few minutes later we moved too. I thought it was the start, so started my GPS, but after 500m we stopped again. about 20 minutes later is was actually time to go, so we set off.  I had decided to ride with Jochen, as we are pretty comparable riders.  Dimi had brought a brick of a bike, so was riding really slowly, and Sam and Stephanie seemed like they were there to enjoy the course, so also would be a bit slower.  The start was pretty busy, but the climb of the Campalongo starts after only a few km, so it spread things out a little. I couldn't put out much power due to the traffic, but it was probably a good thing in the long run.  We passed people literally left and right for the entire climb, before getting to the top and starting the first decent.

I know that I am not a great descender, and Jochen is a bit better, so I was happy to keep him in sight all the way down the short decent.  After about 4km the 2nd of 7 climbs started, another pretty easy one to be honest, and another where we just constantly passed people.  On the descent I was going pretty well, even getting ahead of Jochen, but then I skidded my back wheel out a little, and then saw someone injured on the road a little later, my fast descenting was done for the day!

I remember that on Passo Sella I finally managed to get my power output right.  It is a bit steeper and the traffic was starting to thin a little.  It still seemed pretty easy though.  I can't remember the 4th climb, but the 5th climb is the Campalongo again, and this time it was much clearer, as we were faster than most and hadn't stopped for refreshments yet.  We had decided that on the flatter part at about the halfway point we could stop for a refill.  That happened to coincide with me running out of drinks too, so was pretty much perfect.

I had been wearing my wind jacket all day as it was a bit chilly, but it was starting to get too warm for me.  I decided to change before Passo Giau, the hardest climb of the day.  On the 30km flatter part in the middle of the ride I had decided that I would try to find a group and ride easy.  Jochen decided to get on the front of a group and do about 95% of the work, not a brilliant idea!  There were 2 pretty significant climbs on the 'flat' part, but it wasn't too tough.

At the bottom of Giau I was still feeling good, my legs were getting a little tired, but nothing too bad. As soon as the climb started I knew this climb was a different kettle of fish, it was steep!  Jochen had got away from me on the last descent, and especially as I had stopped to take off my jacket, so he was ahead.  I caught up to him after 1-2km and he was in trouble.  He told me to leave him behind, which I did, and he seemed to disappear pretty quickly, considering I was spinning at 60rpm in my lowest gear (34x27)!

Giau did seem to take a while, but I was always sure that I would make it to the top.  It felt more like the low RPM was killing my legs, instead of the steepness if required power output.  After about 56 minutes I reached the top and had a 90 second break to refill my bottles, drink coke, orange juice and sports drink one after another and get going asap.  Only the long route goes up Passo Giau, and the people who I was climbing with were pretty good riders.  Pretty good riders can descend pretty well, I cannot.  I did not pass 1 person on the decent, lots of people passed me, and rode out of sight in a matter of seconds!  I was happy to be down when we started the last climb of the day, an 11,5km climb, but only 5.9% average gradient.

It was a fairly easy climb again, though I was getting tired.  The was a long false flat in the middle, but I enjoyed the fact that the top is at 2200m and there were signs to show the altitude at each 100m increment.  After 3800m of climbing, knowing there are only 200m more to the top really is a nice feeling.  The metres clicked away quite comfortably, I wasn't passing quite as many people and I was behind Stig and Cornelius (awesome names!) for quite a while.  At the top there was a drink station, but knowing that the last big climb was over, I skipped it.  I saw I had 5:55 on the clock and 20km to ride, 6:30 should be possible.

I descended quite well, and the medium route people were on this descent too, so I could overtake some people!  I had a look every now and then to see how much was left to ride, and how much time I had in hand.  By the time I had got to the bottom in La Villa, I could average less than 20km/h to the end, and still go sub 6:30.  I had heard that there was a sting in the tail, then I saw it, the Giat or Cat.  It is only about 250m long, but it was about 20% all the way.  I just stayed out of the saddle and ground it out to the top, then set off on the last 3km, all slightly uphill.

I thought I was leading a big group and was asking for help, but no one was coming through to help me.  It turned out that only 1 guy was behind me, it didn't matter, I was annoyed!  With 1km to go, I had 6 minutes in had, the race was run.  I zipped up my top, tried to make some room for myself and celebrated my last few metres, hoping for a good photo or video (neither worked out!).  My final time was 6:26, I am pretty happy with that.

In the finish area I head that 'Big' Miguel Indurain was there.  I shook his hand, told him he is a hero, and took a selfie with him, though lots of others were doing the same, so it doesn't really look like he is having a photo with me!

After 25 minutes Jochen finished too, then another 1:35 later Dimi finished too.  It turned out that Stephanie and Sam got DQ'd for missing the cut off, so were already back at the apartment, even though we waited for them for ages at the finish line, poor communication all round. After eating and drinking, we just had the little matter of the 13km home, and even better the 4km 9% climb to the apartment.  It wasn't as bad as I expected really, we took it easy, still dropping Dimi, but got to the top in the end.

All round, I really enjoyed it.  Next year I will do Roth, so I doubt I will go any big sportives, but if I can be bothered to train, I would love to ride the Ötztaler Radmarathon, to be honest that and the Alpine Brevet are the only ones that really scare me enough to inspire me now.  I do think I have unfinished business with the Mortirolo, and I need to climb Ventoux some time, but the Ötztaler seems like it should be next on the list.

Next up, Merzig Olympic Distance in 6 weeks, I will be marathon training from now on in too, Berlin is only 12 weeks away.

Zell Sprint Duathlon
nufcrichard
I hadn't planned on doing Zell, as it is a team sprint and as I may have mentioned before, my swimming isn't that good.  It turned out though that the 2nd team didn't have enough people to make a team without me, and due to high water levels in the Mosel, it was changed into being a Duathlon, absolutely perfect for me.

I had done a little online stalking of my team mates, I know Stephan already, he is a great runner and biker, Volker seems like he must be very good, he was in Hawaii and still runs fast, then there was Marco, who ran a 4h+ marathon in Mainz, it seemed like he might be out limiting factor.  We met up in Mombach at 8am and headed to Zell, which is about an hours drive away.  Heiko was with us and was racing in the 1st team, that race started much earlier, hence the early start.  We were there at 9am and it was pretty clear why we wouldn't be swimming, the current was crazy!  I reckon you could float 750m in about 12 minutes in that stream!

We had a little chat about our tactics when we were all there, I suggested that we run our first 2.6km at 10km race pace, then ride like crazy and run the 2nd 5,2km run as fast as we can, whilst staying together.  Marco said that he thought 4:30/km would be ok for him, so that was out plan.  We watched the Regionalliga and saw that Konrad was doing great and the others were giving their all too, our race started at 11:55 with a mass start.  We started at a good pace, but not over doing it, we were just over 4:00/km and Marco seemed ok, so we held about 4:05/km for the 2,6km.  We weren't first place, but we were far from last too, so it was ok.


















We got into transition together and start of the bike was hectic.  We were trying to get into a line, but other teams were doing the same right and left of us.  We eventually got going and I took the front.  I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard, but after 30s I pulled off the front, and no one came through. I continued on, but no one passed me, then I heard the shouts, we weren't together anymore, Marco was off the back.  The rest of the ride was really easy, Stephan was on the front, I was 2nd and trying to pace Marco as best I could, and Volker was at the back making sure we stayed together.  I was surprised that our average speed was 37.5km/h after 8km, the ride was really flat and only 14km long, but it felt like we were doing about 32km/h!  Soon enough we were back in transition, we had actually passed a few teams and only been passed by a few, so again, it wasn't too bad.




We had a quick change of shoes and set off on the 5.2km run.  It actually went better than I had feared, we started at 4:30/km pace, but slowly accelarated ending at 4:00/km pace for an average of 4:15/km. The run was still very easy for me, and for Stephan too. I couldn't see Volker too often but I think he was cruising too.  Marco was at 100% all the way and really fought for the team like a trooper.  I have been in that situation in our Bike and Run in Cologne in 2014, and it isn't easy or fun when the others are jogging but you can't keep up!  He gave everything though and we came away with a pretty respectable 6th from 13 teams in the 2. Landesliga.

It was mentioned by a few people and I can't help but wonder about what would have happened had we had 1 more fast runner.  I personally think I could have comfortably run 9:45 and 19:30 for the 2 runs, already 4 minutes faster than we actually did, add in a faster bike, say 1 minute faster and we would have been under 50 minutes, quite easily winning the 2. Landesliga. Obviously that isn't the point of the race, but it does show that we aren't far away from being a good team for that league. The first team isn't strong though, so I think we will lose our best people pretty consistently in the future.  We will see though, maybe we will find some new people who can step in and do well.

I found out that my next league race in Merzig is actually an Olympic distance, not a sprint.  I will have to do some swimming in prep for that. The bike and run courses are good though, both flat, even if the run is a little technical.  I have until the middle of August to get ready for that, so I don't have to worry yet!  Something else I am contemplating, Rudern gegen Krebs might well be cancelled due to the high water level of the Rhine.  If it is I might sign up for Lampertheim sprint, which is 500m-20km-5km.  Last year Jochen was 3rd, I reckon I could win it if all goes well.  It's a pain to get to, but if I can't row, then it is an option, we will see later in the week.

Until next time!

Wallertheim 10km 2016 - 2nd Place
nufcrichard
On Thursday when I went for a run, my knee started hurting a few km from the end.  It was pretty painful, but went away after a few minutes.  On Friday I ran to work, and it happened again, and again when I ran home, not ideal and I considered having a few days off running to let it heal.  Wallertheim 10k isn't the most important race of the year for me, so I could run it or not, no problem.  I did worry that if I didn't run, the fast guys wouldn't turn up and I would miss my chance to win the race.  Then on Friday evening Jochen said that he would run too, so it was decided, I would run.

On Saturday morning Jochen wrote again, he wouldn't run, he drank too much on Friday night, so I thought I would just cycle, I got ready to ride, then saw another message, Jochen would run after all, but he would drive to the start, so I put my running stuff in my bag, and cycled to Wallertheim.

Last year it was very hot and humid for this race, I remember it being quite hard, not hilly, but not 100% flat and it has lots of turns.  This year it was dry, not so humid and cool at about 20 degrees, near perfect running weather.  I cycled the 30k to the start and was there in good time.  I saw that Christian Bock was there, so I wouldn't be winning today!  At 3pm I pushed to the start line and started the race completely free of traffic. Quite a bit group of people were ahead of me, but I looked at my gps after maybe 400m and saw that my pace was sub 3:30/km, too fast.  I immediately eased off the pace and let the group go, and pretty soon afterwards the over-ambitious runner of the group started to fade.

After about 2km I found my way up to Peter Merkel, a good runner who beat me in Framersheim.  We ran together for the rest of the first lap taking turns on the front, I don't know if that was on purpose or is just what happened, but it worked out well.  At the end of the first lap I saw the leader going in the opposite direction, but no one else, it turns out that about 4-5 of the fastest group were running the 5km, so I was in a fight for 2nd place.  I was feeling pretty strong, but as we went back out on the 2nd loop, Peter was just ahead of me and I started to have some negative thoughts of letting him go and cruising in for 3rd.  That was until on a long straight slight downhill I could hear that I had a step or 2 advantage on him.  I looked around, then accelerated to try to break him.  At the turn around I had about 20m advantage on him, but I know that I am generally faster on the flat/downhills, but he is better uphill.


Something a bit weird happened at the turn around, a guy asked if he could pace me, I said ok, but that I would be running my own pace, so he ran in front of me for the next 1km on the slight uphill.  As soon as we hit the flat I passed him and he peeled off. I knew then that I had 2nd place in the bag, as it was all flat or slightly downhill to the finish line. It didn't sit very well with me that this random pacer guy got involved in the race for no reason, I guess if it happened in the other direction i.e. he helped someone who was 1 place ahead of me, I would have been pissed off!  Anyway, I got onto the final straight and ran pretty hard for the last few hundred metres.  I saw my time was 37:13, which was faster than I had expected given that I am carrying a little extra weight, and I haven't done any intervals in a long time!  I reckon on a fast course I would have been sub-36:45, so basically near my 10k PB time.


Jochen, who amazingly didn't start too fast, came in a strong 4th place in just over 39mins.  I think it was a pretty successful day.  I decided that I would wait to collect my prize, most probably a bottle of wine. The race started at 3pm, I was done at 3:37, most were finished by 4pm, the prize ceremony started at 5:15pm for the 5km race, and they decided to call out every participant's name so they could go to the front and collect their certificate.  I left when they started with 40th place in the 5km race, as I knew there were about 80 runners in the 10km and they planned to do a tombola, so I reckoned that they wouldn't be done until at least 6pm. That was the only really annoying part of the day, the rest of the race is really good, but waiting more than 2h after a 40min race is stupid.

The race has really helped my confidence, and I feel like my next marathon campaign will be starting at a good base level.  I don't have any races planned for a long time now, as I messed up my planning for Worms Triathlon, so had to drop out. That means I might not race until August in Merzig.