Sunday, July 14, 2013

No Go Barbarossa

Within my training plan for this summer I had registered, paid and trained for, der Hexer's Barbarossa Stage Race, 14 - 20 July.  Unfortunately, work is getting in the way of my plans and I will not be running.

The weather, route and plans are set.  The race briefing goes this evening and the runners set out on what I'm certain will be an incredible event tomorrow morning.  Best of luck to all of you!  Look forward to seeing you at Micha's next event or on a trail out there somewhere...

ThüringenULTRA 2013

I ran my fifth ThüringenULTRA a week or so ago and after each TU I’ve written and posted a race report.  2013’s TU was yet another hit and a brief report is a must!

Let me open by saying that Lauffeuer Fröttstädt, the village of Fröttstädt, all the volunteers and the Race Director Gunter Rothe put on one heck of a good ultra.  Highlights for me this year included the friendly spirit of the race, the countless volunteers and all of their efforts to ensure that the runners had a great event, seeing old friends and making new ones.  The TU is one of my favorite ultras – count me in for 2014!  See this link for last year's report with details on logistics and conduct of the race.

I went into the 2013 TU having just run the Cortina Trail in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy the week prior.  Doing so is part of a training plan I’m participating in leading up to an event in late August.  The idea in running back-to-back (B2B) races like this was to experience running on “race tired” legs and a tired mind.  The TU certainly tested my mettle in this regard.

 I anticipated Gunter’s 2012 TU course changes going into this year’s event.  The first half of the TU is a bit longer and a bit hillier than the second.  The early climbs forced me to expend a bit more energy than I had initially anticipated.  Just prior to kilometer 46 and the rest stop at Bergwacht Hohlebron my legs had become very heavy.  I decided to blow through this water point and keep pushing through over this relatively flat portion of the course.  When I came into kilometer 54 and the Sportplatz at Floh-Selingenthal I was smoked.  By this point I was running low on water and needed to take a few minutes to restock my running pack’s front pouches.  I spent a bit more time at the Sportplatz than I had originally planned.  Watching the minutes tick by I finally grabbed a bunch of stuff to eat on the trail and moved out at a fast walk.

Gunter caught up to me as I was coursing between the Sportplatz and Jobsstein and we had the opportunity to catch up on things.  As usual I probably held him back, but it was great chatting.  At kilometer 59 and the rest stop at Jobsstein I decided not to stop and found that I had regained some energy I was missing back at the Sportplatz.  I left Gunter (hope that he was not aggravated at me for just taking off) chatting with the support crew at the rest stop.  I was able to maintain a relatively consistent pace through kilometer 68 and the rest stop in Tambach Dietharz, but again found that upon arrival there I was running low on gas and needed to eat.

 I think I’ve mentioned this previously, but I continue to re-learn lessons from previous events when it comes to diet and energy.  Failing to hydrate and maintain a certain level of food intake over the course of an event leads to trouble.  The TU and the kilometers after Tambach Dietharz again demonstrated this issue.  I was drinking and eating a gel or other food at hour intervals.  I need to tweak that a bit and perhaps reduce to forty-five minute intervals to maintain a consistent level of physical and mental energy.  I’m also going to experiment with some solid foods, minus caffeine during my next long training events.

Because of the B2B nature of this event and my lack of consistent fueling things got tough as I drew near Tabarz and the 86 kilometer mark.  I found myself walking all of the uphills and struggling mentally to move over the flats.  I was able to talk myself into running while in the forest to gain some time prior to entering what I knew was going to be a scorcher over the fields between Klauenberg and the water point at Langenhain.  

From Langenhain I narrowed the scope of the TU down to the space between kilometer 92, the world famous rest stop at kilometer 95 and the finish line.  The crew at kilometer 95 were on their game again this year rocking to AC/DC and firing runners up with cheerleaders and all kinds of goodies.  After exiting the stop here I finished the TU on will power alone

My mental and physical states at kilometer 96 were exactly where I wanted to be in this event and as part of my training regime.  I was physically tired, growing mentally weak and my will to finish this thing quickly was waning.  It was interesting to follow my cognitive processes as I drew up to finish.  I was able to recognize the seemingly endless chatter that goes on in my head and focus it into a stream of positive self-talk.  It was stimulating to recognize and slip into the here and now of the pain, weakness, hunger and desire to finish.  I’ve never been one to focus on a mantra.  I tend to come up with one and by race time I’ve forgotten it, or allow negative thoughts to carry it away.  During the final stage of the 2013 TU I focused simply on finishing.  I repeated to myself, “Yes, you are going to finish.  And yes, you are going to finish this bugger running.”  Looking back the last five kilometers of the TU were my most rewarding.  I was in a place my mind and body told me I should not be and I was able to overcome both with my will.  Like running itself, I recognize that I need to practice these mental exercises and hope to incorporate them into future training.

The ThüringenULTRA is a tremendous 100KM ultra event that takes place in the Thüringer Wald the first weekend in July.  Many thanks go out to Lauffeuer Fröttstädt, the town of Fröttstädt, all the volunteers and RD Gunter Rothe.  Can’t wait to sign up for 2014!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Day After - Hiking Cortina

And I've got to tell you the hiking around Cortina d'Ampezzo is simply fantastic...

You either did...  Or you didn't! 

Speed Metal Racing - The Cortina Trail

Running loose and low right now between work, family and races, but thought I’d share a super race experience I just had in Cortina d'Ampezzo Italy.

A year or so ago a friend proposed that we race together again.  Her idea included traveling to Cortina d'Ampezzo to join in on The North Face’s Lavaredo Ultra Trail brother the Cortina Trail.  It seemed like a super idea to get together with she and her family, spend a little time in Italy on vacation (always good) and run a 50KM mountain race as part of my 2013 race program!  So we signed up…

We traveled to Cortina the Thursday prior to the race to get settled in and meet up with two sets of friends.  When we arrived in Cortina and into the Friday preceding the race, the weather left a great deal to be desired.  Thursday night it snowed 30cm over much of the course of both races providing an interesting challenge to the organization team and to the runners.  Reports on the Lavaredo Ultra Trail web site throughout Friday illustrated that the team was working hard towards solutions to start the event.  By Friday evening and the race briefing the organizational team had come up with a plan that reduced the length of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail (85KM versus 118KM) and significantly changed the Cortina Trail (47.5KM) course.  Start times for both events were shifted to Saturday morning with the hope that the weather would stabilize enough to allow for a safe running of both courses.

After a couple of days of snow, rain and overcast skies Saturday dawned with blue skies and cool to moderate temperatures.  

Christine and I met shortly after the start of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail to get lined up and organized for the Cortina Trail.  An additional friend joined us as a bandit to run the first ten kilometers of the course.  The three of us were joined by another 743 runners who jumped off at 0900 to enjoy a challenging course over some of the Dolomites most incredible terrain.

The Cortina Trail course was a blast to run.  The first seven or so kilometers were almost straight up an 1800 meter climb.


The back side of this climb was about a two kilometer decent of more than 500 meters.  I have to chalk this portion of the race up as my favorite leg as it covered incredible single track trail that blasted its way down off the mountain.  Going down was like jamming to speed metal – it was a blast!  The next significant climb took us from about kilometer 21 to kilometer 26 and Forcola Lerosa at 2200 meters.

From Lerosa we blasted down almost 900 meters of elevation change and ten kilometers to Malga Ra Stua.  At this point in the race you’ might have been tempted to think, “Wow!  I’ve made it to the rest stop and cut off point at Malga Ra Stua it’s cake from here…”  Not to be friends!  From Malga Ra Stua and kilometer 32 we headed back up to 1800 meters and kilometer 41 before heading all the way back down into Cortina d'Ampezzo and the finish line.

The race course itself was a spectacular mix of mountain single track, hiking and logging trails.  The scenery and environment are simply phenomenal. 

The 2013 Cortina Trail course consisted of two major support areas or check points with two additional smaller stops that only served beverages.  Each support area was very well staffed; organized and outfitted with food, water, and caffeinated beverages to include Red Bull (I drank four over the course of the race!).

The Cortina Trail started with 745 registered runners.  696 runners finished.  The Women’s Winner, Kasia Zajac of Poland came in at 05:03:03, while the Men’s Winner, Oliver Utting of Canada came in at 04:02:21.  The final runner, Giorigo Giacomelli of Italy came in at 12:35:05 – A tremendous effort!

I’ll be straight with you.  After several disappointments associated with The North Face’s UTMB management I had my doubts about any races associated with them.  The organization team of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail is simply phenomenal.  I highly recommend either of these races.  The organization, planning, conduct and support of both of these events are fantastic.  The Lavaredo Ultra Trail is on my 2014 list of must do races!