Kühtai Rodeo

I’ve been cycling quite a bit this year, I still have my Alpen Brevet in a couple of weeks, but as a good trainings ride, I fancied doing the Kühtai Rodeo.

What is the Kühtai Rodeo? I hear you say, well there is a mountain near Innsbruck called Kühtai, it is about 2000m high with 1400m of climbing. There are 3 ways to the top, a bit like Mont Ventoux, and if you ride all three in one day, you’ve done the Kühtai Rodeo.

It’s 120km long with an impressive 4300m of climbing. It was a long weekend in Bayern for Maria Himmelfahrt, so on Monday I drove to Innsbruck, only to realise that I had left my front wheel at home!

So off I went again on Tuesday morning, it was going to be hot so I set off at 6:30am to arrive at 8am. The first climb is 23.6km long with a total of 1419m of climbing. It started off pretty easily, but after about 10km, there was a kick of 1km with 129m climbing, including a flatter bit at the end.

Otherwise it was all doable, not too bad, but quite inconsistant gradients.

I got to the top and took the first photo of the day, I took one with a finger up, and one without incase I bailed later in the day!

After the photo, I rolled straight down to start the 2nd climb, the one I was worried about, the one going over Haimlinger Berg. The descent seemed to take ages, and included a 1.5km climb, but soon I could see the valley floor and I got to the roundabout, did a 360° and started the 2nd ascent.

I realised later that I hadn’t even drunk 1 bottle on the first ascent and hadn’t eaten anything, a bit stupid. So up Haimlinger Berg I went, it is 9.6km at 10.4%, serious stuff, but a quite consistent gradient and in the shade, before the heat of the day. After 1h I was done on Haimlinger and hit the short 1.5km descent and stopped at a fountain to fill my bottles.

There is a longer tunnel and it felt like hard work, then it went on for a while longer after at about 14%, it felt really tough. After it flattened out a bit, I saw that I still had 250m more to climb, it seemed to go by quite quickly, even though it was in steps, alternating between steep or fairly flat, before I got to the top for ascent number 2.

I rolled back down to the fountain to fill up again and ate a little, then I quickly rolled down to Ötz to start the final ascent, I was feeling pretty decent, but it started getting hot and there wasn’t much shade. As soon as I started climbing, I could feel that it was going to be tough, I was suffering and had been too late starting my nutrition. I was throwing everything I could down to get liquid and energy in, but my watts were dropping.

There was a time when I was struggling at 200w but much sooner than I expected, I was back at my favourite fountain where I could fill up my bottles and put my head under cold water to cool down. It also suddenly cooled a lot and even started raining for a while. I had already ridden the rest of the climb on ascent 2, so knew what to expect. The 14% part was tough, but I was feeling a bit better and soon I was within striking distance of the summit.

When I got to the top, I was really happy that it was down, it was ‘only’ 4300m of climbing, not the 7000m that await me in a few weeks, but it was hard work anyway, with much more climbing per km than the course will have in Switzerland.

After a donkey came up to me for a stroke, I headed down to where I parked, happy with a job well done. Unfortunately the 90 min journey in the morning took about 3h in the afternoon, as it was the end of a long weekend and it started pissing down as I got back to Germany, so everyone decided to head home at the same time!

I think I would do the Kühtai rodeo again, but I’d probably try a few other mountains around before that. Doing the climb once was nice, tough but doable. I guess I may do the Imster radmarathon some time, which goes up Haimlinger Berg (when it’s passable in May), so I guess that it when I will be back.

Next up – Swiss Alpenbrevet aka what was I thinking!

Perth Holiday – My Near Death Experience

This isn’t a sporting blog post, this is just something I want to document, so that I don’t forget it.

We’d been looking forward to going to Perth for about 6 months now, ever since we booked the tickets. I’d booked hotels in Margaret River, Albany and Esperance so that we can do a 10 day road trip in the middle of our 3 week holiday.

We were flying with Emirates and I really wanted to upgrade to business, even if just for part of the trip. That worked out in the end, and we flew in business from Munich to Dubai, it was pretty awesome! I drank a Leffe and had lovely food, Katja had some champagne, all was good in the world!

In Dubai, we went to the lounge, ate some more, Katja showered, then soon enough we boarded the full flight to Perth, this time in economy. A guy got moved to sit in the aisle seat next to me, with Katja being next to the window.

I’d been watching some White Lotus on the first flight and started watching again after we took off. After a little while I suddenly felt really ill and turned off my screen. I told Katja that I felt like I might be sick, she asked if I wanted a sick bag, I said why not – then I woke up on the floor with my legs on a seat.

Apparently I had passed out and Katja had shouted for help, the flight attendant had moved me to the aisle, where I passed out again, then I was moved to the emergency exit row where I now lay with my feet on the seat. I didn’t know what had happened but I wasn’t feeling good. I couldn’t stand up without getting so dizzy that I would pass out, even sitting up led to me feeling worse.

After a while I was moved to the very back of the plane. There was still 10h of the flight remaining, I just had to lie on the floor and wait until we would land in Perth. The rest of the flight was fairly uneventful. In order to land, I needed to be in a seat, they cleared the back row for me and gave me oxygen so I could get up and lie down on the back row until we landed.

They had said several times that I would be seen to by medical services at Perth airport when we landed, but just before landing they told me that there are no medical services at the airport, so they could call an ambulance if I wanted, but that I would have to pay for it. I didn’t know if I had travel insurance or not to be honest, so I was a bit worried about that.

After we landed, I felt much better and could get up and walk around fairly normally. My Dad had text to say that he had googled it and apparently some people are very sensitive to altitude and pass out. That seemed possible, so we collected our luggage and got an Uber to the hotel as normal. We went out and got something to eat, I had a meat feast pizza, which I couldn’t finish, but I ate 3/4 of.

I have had some issues with blood loss after long flights before see –https://www.richardrae.de/2016/10/27/health/ so the next morning after a nice breakfast, I went to the pharmacy and bought Omeprazole (a PPI for stomach acid) and an antacid. We then had a little walk around the town and the harbour, but we were pretty tired, so went back to the hotel to sleep a bit.

I went to sleep and when I awoke, the hotel manager was in the room and Katja had been crying. I was pretty confused, I had had some odd dream, but otherwise all was fine. I was informed that I had started panting in my sleep and then Katja couldn’t wake me, so she called for help, and they had called an ambulance.

It was a bit weird for me, but as I chatted to James, the hotel manager, about Liverpool and football, I started feeling a pain in my stomach, then generally felt bad. I only remember waking up with blood all over the carpet in front of me and James holding me on my side, apparently I had vomited up the blood. They called to check how long the ambulance would be, it came pretty soon after.

It’s all a bit blurry, but the paramedics pushed some fluids into me, but I still couldn’t really sit up without passing out, so they took me on a wheelchair to the ambulance using the lift. I don’t remember it, but apparently I was sick twice more in the hallway on the wheelchair.

After lying down in the ambulance I can remember things a bit better, I know they had the sirens on and that the journey was short. When we arrived, it was a pretty urgent situation, with me being immediately rolled in and seen to by lots of different doctors and given a blood transfusion (2 bags in the end).

Things gradually got less hectic and fewer people were around me. I was told that I would have a gastroscopy but that surgery would be on standby, in case they needed to operate. They said that the worst case was that they would remove my stomach – that sounded pretty bad to me.

(A German girl was also waiting for surgery having had an e-scooter accident and breaking her jaw, she was doing a longer trip, but probably couldn’t eat solids for weeks meaning her trip was pretty much over)

After I woke up, they told me that they didn’t find anything as my stomach was full of blood and food. I had to stay overnight and just have clear fluids until midnight, then nothing until the next day when I would have another gastroscopy. I was very uncomfortable in the hospital bed. I had canules in both arms and couldn’t bend my arms much, or sleep on my side or front.

Katja had left when visiting hours were over, I really felt for her, she had to go back to the hotel and worry about me until the next morning. The next morning I had my 2nd gastroscopy and they said they didn’t find anything again, so thought it might be a Dieulafoy, which is an artery that comes to the surface, bleeds, then disappears. This wasn’t great to hear, as they hadn’t fixed anything, but they said I could go home the next day.

That night was the worst night in hospital. I was so uncomfortable, hungry and my mind was all over the place. Anyway, the next day I got released after getting an iron infusion (I asked for one as my haemoglobin was 10.0 when I got in, but was now at 9.3)

We got an Uber to the hotel and I lay around feeling very weak. We went out to the supermarket in the evening to get something to eat (a protein shake and berry juice), it’s only about 500m away, but it was a real journey for me, I just had no energy. I was still having black stools, but had been told by the doctors that it might but be leftover from before, by my pants were constantly being stained black.

The next morning we went down to eat breakfast, I spoke to someone at the front desk to thank them for their help so far. We went to the breakfast room and were being shown to our table when I felt dizzy. I reached out for the closest chair and passed out. I woke up apparently just a few seconds later on the flood, sweating like crazy. The ambulance arrived and back to the hospital I went.

There was less urgency this time, I was rolled into a waiting area, but soon my blood pressure started falling slightly, so the paramedic put a line in my arm, he said it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around, he was a cool guy and very competent.

After I started feeling pretty crappy and my blood pressure crashed, I was taken in to see the doctors again. This time I had some finger in the bum checks and the confirmed that I was actively bleeding still. The gastro team were very confused but decided to do a gastroscopy with a push down into the large intestine, in case that is where the bleeding was coming from.

I was then scheduled for my 3rd gastroscopy that day, I was groggy afterwards but just remember hearing from the doctor that they had found it. Back in the ward I was feeling a bit better. The paramedic had put my canules away from the elbows, so I could read or use my phone much more comfortably this time.

I started seeing that my O2 saturation was rising, it had been between 90-95, but after they had clipped the 10mm ulcer they had found, it was usually around 97%. The next day I was feeling much better and was soon off the constant blood pressure and pulse measurements, so I could get up and go to the bathroom and brush my teeth, luxuries!

I was told that I had to stay 2 nights after having an ulcer clipped, so I was in overnight again. In the afternoon I was allowed soft nourishing foods, instead of the clear fluids I had been on, man was that great! Custard and yogurt have never tasted so good!

The next morning after getting a soft solid breakfast, I was released again, but this time feeling much better than last time. When we got to the hotel, the staff told me that we could watch any movies we wanted for free in the room, very nice of them. They also comped us 2 nights and when we got to the room, someone knocked at the door, it was room service with complimentary food for us, very nice, 10/10 for the staff at the Parmelia Hilton from me.

The next day I felt really much better and the holiday slowly began. We went to the Zoo, then Scitech the science museum (it sucked, its for very small kids), then boola bardip museum – which was great, then Rottnest Island, then the Aquatic centre and beaches, then a day in King’s Park (whilst going for a blood check in the hospital on the other side) and finally to Mandurah for a really good middle week of the holiday.

We finally had to check out of the Parmelia Hilton, which we were pretty sad about, but we had booked at the European Hotel, which sucked in comparison (also generally!). We went to the Perth Mint and had tickets for a live music show in the evening, but unfortunately whilst at the mint I got my blood results back, which showed that my haemoglobin was 10.5, up from 9.2 when I left the hospital, but not nearly as much as I had hoped.

Almost immediately after getting these results, I started feeling a bit wobbly. We did the tour of the mint, but I felt a bit dizzy. After we walked back into town and went to the supermarket, I had to grab for a post as I felt so dizzy and I had to tell Katja what was happening.

We walked to the hospital and went to the emergency department, where they took me in and checked my over, but after a few hours released me again. I still didn’t feel good at all and didn’t for the next several days.

The holiday was pretty much over as far as activities went. From Friday when we went to the mint, until Tuesday when we checked out of the European and went to the Melbourne on my birthday, we did pretty much nothing as I just felt a bit lightheaded as soon as we did anything.

I did feel a bit better on Monday and on Tuesday, my birthday, I felt a good bit better. I guess I was just a bit ill or stressed and that in combination with my low haemoglobin resulted in my feeling like crap. I never had a black stool again after they clipped my ulcer, so I guess it wasn’t blood loss at least this time.

I was very worried about the flights home. I felt like there was a non-zero chance that I was going to die onboard. I mean if I bled like I did in the Parmelia Hilton, but was starting from a lower blood haemoglobin this time, and we were hours from medical help, I really thought I could die. This wasn’t helped by us seeing my gastro doctor on the street the day before we flew and he seemed unconvinced that the ulcer had been the problem…

Anyway, after waiting around all day for the flight, we took off with my heart racing. We got up to altitude and I lay down asap (we had the 4 middle seats just for us). Nothing eventful happened, so I soon calmed down a bit.

But the 2nd flight is where it started on the flight to Perth, so I was still worried about the 2nd flight home. Due to a strike, there were no flights to Germany, so we had changed to fly to Brussels. That meant that we were in a Boeing 777 which was very full, no lying down this time!

I had decided not to eat in the 5h before the first flight and nothing on board. I ate some toast in Dubai and nothing in the 2nd flight either. I tried to keep hydrated as best I could though. End of the day, nothing happened during this flight either and we got back safe. I think Katja was as stressed as me, we were both very happy to be back in Europe safe and sound.

So that’s it. It was a long story of a very unfortunate holiday. I hope my travel insurance pays for my medical bills, otherwise I might be out €10k. I need to have another check up gastroscopy in late March, hopefully all is fine then. I’d love to have a long term solution to this problem mind, I don’t want to fear holidays in the future.

Zugspitze Ultratrail – Basetrail XL

I signed up for this on a bit of a whim last year, when Alex said that he was doing the 69km Supertrail. I didn’t fancy that, but the basetrail XL at about 50km with 1660m of climbing sounded challenging enough. Originally it was on when I was planning on being in England, but it was postponed by 1 month due to the G7 meeting nearby, so I signed up.

Unfortunately on June 1st I got Corona, had symptoms and stuff but felt ok soon enough. Then I started noticing that I wasn’t breathing so well, or sleeping well. Training hasn’t been going well since then and I certainly haven’t been hitting my weight loss goals either! So I went to the start not expecting a lot, but thinking I’d be fine anyway.

So on the day I got to Garmisch and eventually found a parking space before getting on the shuttle bus to the start in Leutasch. The bus got in at 7:40 for a 9am start, I still needed to go to the toilet, check in my bag and have my rucksack checked for the mandatory equipment, but I had loads of time…

The toilet queue was 40 minutes long! I had a chat with some of the other queuers about training and stuff, but it was crazy that there were only 3 toilet stalls for nearly 600 guys. Anyway, job done and then the rest went quickly. At 9am I was ready to go and we started to the sound of Highway to Hell, just like in Mainz marathon.

The Start – Climbing
The start goes up a bit ass mountain, it’s around 950m uphill and we’d reach the peak after about 8km. The first km was flat, then the next and the next! Soon it started going uphill gently and I started to walk parts, I thought it was well worth saving energy now for later, I expected to be out for 5h30 altogether.

It started getting steep soon enough and everyone was walking. I was impressed with how fast some people go uphill, I guess they weigh less than me but anyway, impressive. The last 250m of climbing after the hutte started to bite a little and some people passed me, soon enough it was over though and I was ready to descend.

Part 2 – The descent

My shoes were a bit loose and I have been having problems with blisters when running downhill in the Speedgoat 5s, so I stopped to do up my left shoe a bit tighter. The downhill was steep and on loose gravel at the top, some people descent like mentalists! I almost fell once and others were way out of control on occasion. After the steepest part, it got a bit better but people were passing me right and left. I must have lost 25 places.

I was very happy when the more technical descent was finally over and it flipped almost immediately from me being passed constantly, to me passing others constantly! I took my time at the first aid station before setting off on the next section, which was pretty flat.

Part 3 – Flat

I was still catching people but trying to go easy, I was doing just under 5 minute per km, so not motoring. The sun and temperature was an issue though, and that I still had about 35km to go, so I was happy to just keep rolling.  It was nice running for a while, then soon there was another little climb which was runnable, before a really nice fast downhill.

There was a sign for the next aid station in 500m, but then it started going steeply uphill on a road, then in the forest, that 500m probably took over 7 minutes, bit of a shit sign really!  I drank some more but immediately started feeling not great. My stomach was hurting, I was hoping I’d be able to keep everything down.

Part 4 – The lows

The next while seemed to be steeper uphill which I walked pretty slowly. Some passed me but I didn’t care. When I reached the top, I was looking forward to a downhill, but that didn’t happen! It just kind of rolled up and down, but in a completely useless way for me. I couldn’t run up the steep hill or down the steep hill, so it was just slow going all round.

My stomach still wasn’t happy, but at the end of the rollers after about 31km came a beautiful lake, I was very impressed, especially that it wasn’t very busy there. We’ll be going to visit some time soon.

Apart from the lake, I hated all of this part. It felt like the uphills were often long and more gentle (6-10%) but I was in no state to run them, but the downhills were 20%+ also unrunnable for me, just shit, all shit!

Part 5 – Cola to the rescue!

The next aid station came after another fairly useless technical descent, there was about 13.5km to go, I knew there was a hill, but thought it was short, followed by a nice fast descent into Garmisch in the last 10k, I was wrong.

I took on lots of cola which really seemed to get me going again. There was a cheer point which was cool, someone sponged my head and lots of people were cheering, it was awesome. But then came the steep ass hill.

I was struggling to walk parts of it, but at least that meant it had to be short. Well the consistent climbing part was short, but the rolling useless terrain continued on for the next few km. At least I was feeling better so could run more of the slight uphills now.

Part 6 – Roll to the end

The last aid station came at the last little kick in the teeth roller and they told us it was all downhill from here. There was also only about 7km to go, so it could go quick if the path was nice and runnable.  Unfortunately large parts were very steep, like quads destroyingly steep. I felt like I was sloooow here, but no one passed me.

To start with though there was a little slat bit next to the ski lift exit where loads of women dressed in dirndls made a shoot where they cheered on the runners, it was also a nice morale lift.

On the downhill, Katja sent me a couple of messages asking me where I was and if I was ok. I took this opportunity to put in my headphones and send her a message, then listen to music for the last few km.

When it flattened out, my legs felt shockingly good. I kicked on feeling like I could finish strong, I was also quickly aware that it was warm and sunny again. I passed someone, the first person I had seen since the last aid station, he gave me a fist bump, then I headed into the last 2km, knowing the job was done.

In Garmisch the route is pretty shitty. It goes along a little path next to the train station, then under a long bridge, up some stairs, across to the other side, down some stairs and back under the long bridge! Anyway, there was a few hundred metres to go when I could finally get onto flat asphalt and enjoy the finish line run in. Off came the cap, hands in the air and celebrate that it was finally all over in 5h44!

The End

It was a very hard day for me, I am in no way trained for a near 50km mountain run at the moment. I had guessed that I would need about 5h30, but I had also hoped that more of the downhills would be good for some 4 minute Ks, they were not.  I felt like I had done a fairly poor job all in, but my result was 41st from just under 600 runners, so it wasn’t dreadful, just not as good as I’d hope for.

During parts 2 and 4 (the descent and the lows) I had decided that I wasn’t doing this sort of shit again, but already by the time I crossed the line I was thinking that I could try this again next year. I am too heavy to be great uphill (I could and should lose weight), I am also poor technically on the downhills. I think next year though, those 2 things could be improved upon. That along with some better training and better health leading into the race, I think 5h flat would be doable.

I’m not saying I will definitely do it again, I’m saying I might.

The messages I got hours later from a here unnamed Supertrail runner make me think that it might not be fun to go much longer than what I did here!

Next up:

My autumn plan is the Tegernsee Half marathon and the Munich Half marathon. Munich would be a solid attempt at a PB. I need to get myself fit and healthy again though. I ran a 17:29 km Parkrun shortly before getting corona, I seem to have lost at least a minute since then, it’s a bit depressing. Well long COVID isn’t eternal COVID, so hopefully I’ll be back on form again soon.

and when I am, I’ll see you again here!

Geretsried Stadtlauf 10km

It’s been 3 weeks since the marathon and I thought I’d give the Raffeisen Oberland Challenge a go this year. It starts off with a 10k in Geretsried, which should be a fast course.

On the Friday night before the race, Katja was out and I ended up eating lots of shit, including a full Ben & Jerrys, a big bag of doritos and M&Ms too. It wasn’t ideal, but I also didn’t know what to expect having not done much organised training since the marathon.

We went to Munich in the morning so that Katja could get her nose piercing swapped (or not) then we ate brunch in town, so I had 2 croissants and some bread. We then headed to Geretsried where it rained and we were there pretty early.

I had my alphaflys with me, even though my big toe nail is still black after the marathon. I saw Armin from Roche before the race and we ran a loop of the course beforehand as a warm up.

The race started at 3pm, and I set off and was in first place from the start. I looked around a bit worried and only after about 300m did others join me at the front. I felt pretty good but didn’t know what to expect when my GPS beeped for the first time, it showed 3:25, things were going well!

A group of 3 had got ahead of me and seemed a bit fast for me, but I had hoped that they might be running the 5k. I was with 2 other guys in a nice little group and we stayed together nicely. It was a 4 loop course and on the 2nd loop we lost one of the guys in the group, Wolfgang. He was the guy who ran with me and Alex in Fürstenried for quite a while before leaving us behind.

After 2 loops I was hoping to see some of the first 3 split off of the 5k, but none did, so I was in 5th place, but running with 4th. He started to get a few seconds on me, but the elastic never broke. I passed 5k in 17:49 and felt good, especially as I had passed a km marker and my GPS was spot on.

In the last loop, I brought the 4th place guy back and was feeling strong when someone overtook us like we were standing still! I ran into the stadium and had about 300m to go, but saw on my watch that sub36 wasn’t going to happen, despite every km split being on time for it.

I came in in 36:11, a good result for me, but 5th man, 4th in my age group and 6th overall.

I feel like I could have gone sub36 if I had done a little bit better prep for the race. I forgot my electrolyte drink and ate way too much the day before the race. Considering that my PB is only 25 seconds faster, I think I can go under that next time out.

Anyway, the race was good fun, it had set me back on course to get some training done and get those PBs that are there for the taking.

The next race in the series is a hilly half marathon. I’m not sure I’ll do that one as it’s on the same day as a work event and it’s pretty far away to run a guaranteed non-PB and leave me needing a good amount of recovery afterwards…

That means my next race might be on July 3rd, quite a while away. I might need to do some parkruns in the meantime to keep the juices flowing! A sub 17min 5k and sub 35min 10k would be so awesome!

Zurich Marathon – 2h47:56 PB!

I recently saw a flashback photo that was 4 years old, it was from the Paris Marathon, my PB is from Berlin in 2016, bloody hell that is ages ago! As you can see from my last few posts, things have been going well, my training has been more relaxed, I haven’t lost much weight, but I don’t feel overtrained and I feel ready.

That was until Tuesday, when I started feeling a bit ill. I went to the Roche run and had shortness of breath, not too bad but noticeable. I did my 5x1min intervals but they felt hard. On Wednesday it was a bit better and better again on Thursday, not great but ok. On Friday I had an easy 35 min run with 5 mins faster and I was flying! A slow jog was 4:20/km, so I was healthy again, all good!

I got the train to Zurich, checked into my hotel and went straight to get my start number, there were loads left to be picked up considering there was little time left. I brought food from home but probably overate a little.

The race starts at 8:15, really early, so I had alarms set for 5am, I was awake at 4:30 anyway! I ate my peanut butter and honey on baguette and sat, stood and walked around the room until just before 7am when I was ready to go to the start.

It’s 3.5km from the hotel to the finishing area, where you can hand over clothes bags, then it’s another 1.5km to the start. I felt that would be too much for before the race, so took an e-bike to the finish area. It was really cold, and that was with extra clothes on, that I would have to take off.

After the bag was gone, I was in arm warmers, a hat, gloves, a buff around the neck and my normal shorts with TCEC vest. It was pretty damn cold, but I still decided to bin the arm warmers just before the start. At 8:05 I had my last pee and went to the start block, but it was really full so I had to push forward. I could see the 3h pace group way ahead, so I wanted to start a good bit before that.

The race started and I found my stride pretty quickly, the first km was 4:05, which had me a little worried, but I was soon ticking off 3:55ish kilometres. I was noticing that I was constantly slightly faster than my goal 4:00/km pace, I didn’t want to do too much too soon, but it felt fairly comfortable so I continued on, passing 10km in about 39:20.

I found a great group for the long out and back into a very slight headwind. People kept shouting for someone called Nicola, including a “You’re a legend, Nicola” shout. There was a women running next to me, so I said, “wow, you must be famous”, she didn’t reply.

I soon thought, famous, Swiss Nicola who is running at sub 4 mins per km pace…. Nicola Spirig the Olympic Gold winner in the triathlon? Oh, yes, that was her, but it wasn’t the woman I had spoken to before! We even had a TV camera with us for quite a while.

The awesome group into the headwind

The group paced perfectly for me, it was 3:55 per km and we passed the 21.1km half marathon in 1:23:30. I shook my head, that is so far to fast it is unbelievable, I was working on an optimistic goal of 2:50, but here I am running 2:47 pace, this could end badly.

But the kilometres kept coming and going, every peep of the garmin started with a 3 and I felt fine. Spirig kicked on ahead and after the turn around our group disintegrated, which was a shame. I had the feeling that I was usually running downhill, though obviously I wasn’t as it was pretty much flat. With 27km done, I had more than 1h02 to run the last 15km, looking good!

I started to feel like I might need to stop for the toilet after about 28km. It wasn’t too bad, but I felt like I could go when I see a toilet, or I might be forced into the bushes later. I knew there was a drinks station at 36km, and they are about every 4-5km, so I was looking for one from 30km onwards. I eventually found it at 32km, it felt like it took ages (strava suggests 30 seconds) but I was done and good to go to the end.

I was playing everything very conservatively, I had about 2 minutes in hand and felt fine, but I took a planned little walk break at 36km to take my last gel and drink some water. I was off again and going to the finish line. After 37km, I had 23 mins to beat my goal time and I still felt fine. I couldn’t really judge my pace anymore, but the old garmin kept saying 3:57 or so, sometimes 4:02 or so, but that’s a rounding error at this stage.

After 2h31m, the groups are gone and it was a more solo battle

My mental maths was going into overdrive, if I don’t blow up, and I don’t feel like I’m going to, then with 2.2km to go, I’ll be able to average slower than 5:00/km and still do it… this is in the bag! I was overtaking more people than were passing me, which I don’t think had been the case for the last 10km. In the town the course is a bit more twisty, but there are more people cheering.

After about 41.5km, I could see the finish on the otherside and I knew I had done it. I was grinning but could feel the emotion coming too. It was a little further to the finish than I thought, and I realised that sub 2:48 was still on, so I kicked a little and finished in 2:47:56 – a dream!

Just missed having a good finish line photo

I couldn’t/can’t believe it! This is the time I wanted and deserved in 2016, I have been working for ages for this and it has finally happened. I cried a bit at the end, as I am prone to do. I was just so happy that I got the result that I think I deserve.

So, it’s over. I actually feel pretty much okay 1 day after the race. My feet are a bit of a mess, but I’m not destroyed. So where does that leave me now? Well I’m not going to do an Autumn marathon, too much stress. I do want to do the Raffeisen Oberland Challege series, which is a load of different races throughout the year. I have the feeling that I could maybe beat my best 10k time on a good day. My 5k time of 17:31 or whatever it is should be a sitting duck on a fast course, who knows, maybe my HM time could go too!

I would like to try another marathon some time. I weigh about 80kg now. I can get to 75kg, but I don’t think hard training and weight loss works for me. I need to start my training cycle at 75kg or less, then I think I can start to look towards 2:40 as a crazy goal time. I may well never beat my time from yesterday, but that wouldn’t be too bad. It fits with my other PBs well, it always annoyed me that I’d never run a good marathon before, but now I have 😀

Ronde van Vlaanderen 2022

The first big event I’ve done in ages, RVV was finally going to happen. Adrian had said last year that he really wants to do it, and I said straight away that if he does, I’ll ride it with him. Only later did I decide to do a marathon, which happens to be 8 days after the ride, but RVV shouldn’t be too tough, so it’d be fine……

Weather wasn’t looking good on the way there

I flew to Brussels from Munich and unpacked my bike bag and left it at the airport so I could stay mobile all weekend, Adrian picked me up at the airport. We went straight to Oudenaarde to get our start number, my T shirt and finisher medal, a bit weird!

We were staying in Ghent, which is 25km from Oudenaarde, we thought we’d get the train to the start, but were pretty worried that the bike places would be full and we wouldn’t be allowed to travel. We were planning on getting to Oudenaarde at 8:30 and we had to start by 9am, so it would be a bit tight if we couldn’t get the train.

Everything worked out though, the train was jammed with bikes, but we were allowed on. We got straight to the start and set off. There were a lot of people on course, I worried it was going to be a case of us crawling around for 144km, we even waiting in a queue to go around a tight corner after a few km!

In the first 30km there were a shitload of cobbles! I’ve never ridden cobbles before and pretty much hated them immediately. My bottle holder shook loose on the first cobbled section and I stopped to fix it. My multitool fell apart in my hand, so I just chucked the bottle holder and put the bottle in my back pocket.

On the next cobbled section, my GPS shook loose and fell on the road, that went in the back pocket too.

It was about 0°C and windy at the start, I was dressed nice and warm. I had a long arm top, then a baselayer, then a long arm jersey, then my warm jacket! I also had my leg warmers (which constantly fell down) and heat pads on my toes, along with neoprene overshoes. I was warm enough when we were riding, but still cold when we stopped or descended!

Selfie with a mouth full of waffle

On the first cobbled climb of the day, I dropped my chain at the bottom and it jammed behind the cassette, I could fix it but it took a while. I had the best click in of my life to get going again just as the gradient kicked up.

Adrian was riding well and had waited after my many mishaps at the start but soon was getting ahead of me on the climbs too. I was luckily faster on the descents and more technical sections (not cobbles) so we could still ride together.

I could feel that my legs were getting tired way before the end of the ride and I also was a little hungry going into the 2nd food stop after about 78km. I ate a bit of cake, 2 waffles and a gel and was good to go. Almost straight away we hit the Koppenberg, maybe the hardest climb of the day. It was damned hard, over 20% and cobbles, luckily it wasn’t too long and I never felt in trouble, even though I was crawling, my main worry was that someone would stop in front of me, which they luckily didn’t.

Top of the Koppenberg

On we went, my bike had stopped falling apart (my cross bike btw) but my gears were pretty jumpy, I was having some problems using my bottom gear, even though I really needed it.

Adrian was generally getting away from me on the climbs and cobbled sections now, I still felt generally fine, but my climbing legs were done. As soon as the climb was done, I could speed up and kick on again though.

The rest of the ride kind of passed by and soon came the famous last 2 climbs, the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg. The Oude Kwaremont started on road but changes into cobbles. By this point I hated cobbled so much and just wanted to survive the climb. I was looking out for the church at the top but couldn’t see it (it’s on the Muur, not the Oude Kwaremont!).

I was waiting for the steep bit to come, but it didn’t, the climb is more of a bad cobbled section than a hard climb really, if it was asphalt, it would be a breeze.

So on we went to the final climb, the Paterberg. It’s supposed to be a bitch, but when we got there, it really wasn’t so bad. It is steep and it is cobbled but it is also very short. It felt like it was over before it began and the climbs were over, it was time to get the head down and do the last 14km to the finish.

Adrian had been putting ever more time into me on the climbs and led on the way to the finish. There was a big headwind, so I tried to take the lead a bit. Soon we were in the last 5km and I was on the front, I felt like I was riding through treacle, I could come to a stop! With only about 1.5km to go, I looked back and saw that Adrian had dropped, I guess he wasn’t cruising as much as I had assumed. I waited and we rode the bolt straight last 1km to the finish. I considered doing the Gilbert stop and bike pick up, but decided against it with so much traffic.

At the finish line

It was over, I didn’t much enjoy the ride, but I am happy to have done it. I will watch the pro races with a new respect in the future, how they race up the Koppenberg and others is beyond me! I would quite like to try again with some more bike fitness, but I’d also like to never ride cobbles again, so I’m not sure.

Well deserved beer afterwards

As long as I didn’t catch Corona at the ride or afterwards, I don’t think it hurt my marathon too much. I currently have a bit of a cold* on the Wednesday after the ride, but if that clears, I’m good to go on Sunday, the weather forecast looks great, I’m scared, please let me be 100% fit and I’ll break 2:50.

Forstenrieder Half Marathon 2022

It’s only 15 days until my marathon now! The last week and a half of training has been tough, last weekend was a double long run weekend, followed by a 39 min 10k on Tuesday as a tempo run, I am feeling tired, not helped by the fact that Zak the Dog has started waking me up at 6am everyday -little shit!

Today I had a 26km marathon pace run in the plan, so I decided to run the Forstenrieder Half Marathon to keep things interesting. It also happened to be pretty warm, about 18°C and unbroken sunshine, though we’d be running in the forest, so should have plenty of shade (incorrect!).

I got to the start at 11:45 for a 1pm start, though I planned to run from 12:30 so I could do 2km warm up followed by 5km at race pace before the start. I was slightly worried about wearing my Alphaflys as the course was 1/3 on trail, but did it anyway…

Alex of the Roche Road Runners team said he would try to run with me at 4:00/km, until he couldn’t anymore, I thought he’d manage the whole thing at that pace after running a 2h53 marathon in Autumn last year.

I did the first 6.8km and it felt easy, my GPS was all over the place though, so I decided to manually monitor my pace by clicking whenever I passed a km marker in the race. I got back to the start with about 3 mins to spare and could start right at the front, all good.

So off we went and Alex was a bit fast, the 1st km was in 3:47, then a 3:50, well at least we banked some time! We soon settled to just below 4:00/km pace and started to see what the course had to offer. There was quite a lot of trail, it wasn’t technical, but often a bit off camber, I hate that. There were also plenty of stones, but that is nitpicking a bit.

I also had the feeling that we were going slightly uphill from km 5-12, then it started going slightly down again, which was good. I remember a 38:50 split at 10km, way too fast and it was starting to feel a little tougher than I’d like.

After 15km, we were back on asphalt and going downhill and I kind of drifted ahead of Alex and the other guy I was running with, I did consider slowing down, but I think my pace was fine, they were struggling. So I kicked on alone until the end, in the last 2-3km, there were the slower 10k runners on course, so I could see lots of other runners and try to cheer people on, but I get the idea people just feel offended when they get overtaken by someone clapping them on!

Soon enough I was on the home straight and crossed the line and stopped my watch in exactly 1h23:00, only to realise I had to run 25m more to the real finish line! After stopping I had a little dizziness, which was less than ideal, but it subsided in 30 seconds or so, I think it was an above marathon pace effort though.

Looking happy at the end!

I binned my warm down, leaving me with 28km with 26km at above marathon pace on the day, not bad. I could have gone faster, but 16km more at that pace would be very tough, luckily Zurich will be cooler (8:15am start), flatter and all on tarmac, I’ll also be running slower than 1h23 half marathon pace, I’ll do exactly 4:00/km pace.

Alex finished 50 seconds behind me, happy with his run having predicted he’d struggle to break 1h30. My Alphaflys seemed to take a bit of damage during the race, along with my feet. I had a very odd blister on the bottom of my foot and my big toe nails hurt, at least I have plenty of time to recover anyway.

So next weekend is the Tour of Flanders 144km sportive, then it’s go time, Zurich marathon in sub 2h50, I think I can do it! I know I can do it!

I might blog them both, unless they go very badly that is 🙂

Ottobeuren 10k 2022

I haven’t done a race since February 2020! How crazy is that? Well today was my only full effort race in the run up to Zurich marathon, so I was hoping that it’d be a goody.

I set off at 8:40 for the 100km drive to Ottobeuren, I had to get my number by 10, even though the race doesn’t start until 11:05. I’d weighed in at 79.5kg, weight loss hasn’t really happened for me this year, but nerves probably led to another couple of kg being gone before the start of the race 😀

I talked to a guy on the start line, he reckoned he would run 1:20 for the HM, but it is hilly so he wasn’t sure. I didn’t know it was supposed to be hilly! We set off and a lot of people were ahead of me from the get go, I looked at my watch on the back straight (it starts with 300m on the track) and it said 3:15/km, they were fast, I wasn’t slow.

So I settled into a pace and the first km beeped at 3:29, wow, crazy fast. The next km was in 3:31 but I felt very controlled and started overtaking a few people, the next couple of km went the same, just over 3:30/km, I started dreaming of a PB. I passed the guy who told me it was hilly after 3km of very flat (actually slight downhill) running and said – not very hilly so far!

I imagined an out and back course, so each flat km meant 2 flat km to me, until at the turnaround at 4.5km all was going great, I slightly missed the turn losing a few seconds but nothing serious. The turnaround being at 4.5km did make me think that something was wrong, but I didn’t know what exactly.

After about 5km there was a turn off the asphalt track, I thought it was for the HM runners, but it wasn’t, it was for all of us, I lost another couple of seconds. Then we started to climb. I’m not talking about crazy mountains here, but there were some fairly steep slopes, and the asphalt was gone and we were on a bit muddy trail instead.

I had been passed by 2 people on this part of the course and my next km was in 4:00, poo. The trail part was all fairly tough but soon we dropped back down to the asphalt and had 2km left to go.

This was when I realised that the first few km had been slightly downhill, so it wasn’t too easy on the way back, but I still was managing 3:45/km pace, so was doing okay. Soon enough the track was in view and I just had 300m or so to go. I could hear someone trying to pass me, but I think he was running the HM, so probably thought better of it when I started accelerating at the end.

So I crossed the line in 37:09 (official time). I had thought before the race that I would be between 36-38:00, with 37:00 being about par. On a flat asphalt course, I would have run 36:30 pretty certainly, that would give me a sub 2:49 marathon, and I really think I will run sub 2:50. I’m not at my fastest ever right now, but I feel more undertrained than overtrained, so should be getting fitter before the marathon, rather than burning out as I usually do.

I had a great time doing my first race for years. I drove home singing along loudly to music in the car, it was almost like COVID never happened!

So now I have a double long run weekend next weekend, then a 26km at marathon pace the weekend after (Forstenrieder HM – but not racing) then the Tour of Flanders, then Zurich. I’m looking forward to it all – well maybe not the double long run weekend!

Long time no write – Zurich Marathon – RVV and ZUT 2022

I was reading through my old ‘mai oui, Paris’ posts yesterday and was very impressed with how fast I was at the end of January and in February, much faster than I am now. But then that was the problem wasn’t it? The marathon was in April, and I was dead in April!

So I was reading it and trying to learn from the past, but I’m not posting at the moment, so how will I learn in the future? Well, there is a cure for that!

It’s 2022 now, I haven’t done a single race since early in 2020 since the Corona shit hit the fan. I’ve done a few park runs and my achilles problem has completely gone (hopefully for good) so I have decided to give this marathon thing another shot.

It’s going to be a bit different this time though. I was listening to Matt Dixon’s podcast and he talked about how too many people collect miles (km) and measure success based on just the number of miles or hours run. Well that is 100% me! Reading about Paris in 2018, I would feel like crap, but run everyday and extend runs to meet my arbitrary km/week goal, until I wore myself out and overtrained.

So this time I have a training plan, it has shockingly little running sometimes and I can swap out any easy run with an easy bike, according to the coach (Matt Fitzgerald). I am way behind where I was in 2018 at this time of year. I weigh 80kg, whereas I want to race at 75kg. I reckon I would run about a 38min 10k (may be optimistic), not the sub36 I could do back then.

But there are definite positives too. I am getting fitter. I am losing weight. I stopped drinking caffeinated coffee and my stomach is a world better when I run now. I also sleep much better, no more waking up to pee in the night, I generally sleep right through now. I’ve also been doing more core exercises and cycling on the trainer, to keep things more rounded and hopefully injury free.

So, where does that leave me. I have just under 10 weeks until my marathon in Zürich. I think that my weight will be about where I want it come marathon time. I will do my training plan as close to perfectly as I can, and trust that that will get my fitness to where it needs to be. I have been working on my race nutrition already in training, taking Maurten gels in every other of my every 4km walk breaks, something I am considering for the marathon itself… I have also bought some Alphaflys, and some Saucony Endorphin Speeds for training to get used to the carbon plates, so I should be good on equipment 🙂

We will see, as always the goal is a PB, followed by 2:48, followed by 2:45. I think I can do a 2:48 if I get to February 2018 shape in April 2022.

Oh yeah, back to the title of this post – RVV and ZUT. I’m going to ride the 135km version of the Tour of Flanders 8 days before my marathon. I don’t see any downside, unless I crash. I’m also planning on doing the Base+ Zugspitze Ultratrail in July. It’s 49km with about 1800m of climbing, a big day, but not soooo crazy. It should be an adventure, which is good I think. Speaking of adventures, I am trying to get a start for the Ötztalerradmarathon again and I have put my name down for the London marathon (I thought it was in April, but it’s in October :/ )

So 2022 could be a busy year. After a very not busy 2020 and 2021, I am really looking forward to it.

So see you next time when I’m update on my 10k in Ottobeuren, my only planned 100% effort race in my marathon training.

Trailrunning and the Schwarzeck

So not much has happened since my last race, I raced another 10k in March 2020, it wasn’t great but I had excuses, then everything got cancelled because of Corona. My marathon was off, Parkrun was and still is called off and every other race going was done too.

I decided to try to stay fit and get in shape for a 5k later in the year (wouldn’t have been possible, but whatever) then I injured my achilles. I’d been having issues with my achilles for a while, but this was something different, this was a real injury – a partial tear.

After a few days I could walk without limping, but it just didn’t get better. I could run, but only with extreme pain in the following night. I tried some short runs and even ran about 16k quite fast once while supporting Alex run a marathon in Tempelhof, but my running was basically over for 2020.

We moved to Bayern near the mountains in mid February 2021 and we did a few hikes and lots of walking. I decided after about 9 months of not being able to run, to give it another go. After a 6km run all was okay, but the real test was in the night afterwards. I woke up the day after – and everything was fine! I could run again! My achilles still feels a little sore to the touch, but it works for running.

So, with no races happening in 2021 either, I decided to try some trail running here in the mountains. I’m not very fit at the moment and a few kg heavier than I should be, but it’s been fun so far! I am getting used to walking up steep gradients, I basically have no other option most of the time around here, when the paths are uneven and 20% steep.

2nd from right is the Rabenkopf (Schwarzeck too)

So today I set out and wanted to run up the Rabenkopf. Its a 1550m high mountain (starting at about 600m in the valley) that starts 6km from where we are staying in Bichl. I ran to the start and hit the climb after a quick dixie break. Pretty damn quickly I was walking, but could jog sections. The climb is only 5.5km but with 900m climbing. The 1st km was done in 8 mins, all good I thought. The next part was also fine, I briefly took a wrong turn, I somehow missed the slightly trodden 20cm wide path that went off to the left!

Soon came an unexected flat section which I ran until I got to a hut. I looked to the right – fuck – did I have to go up there! I almost turned back immediately, it looked steep and getting progressively steeper, as well as being covered in snow at the top!

I set off anyway and apart from a few little slips and slides, it wals fine. I did lose my footing on a narrow section which gave me cause for thought, but nothing came of it. Soon I came to a cross and a plateau, I knew it wasn’t the top, but I thought it probably wan’t that much further to the top.

I asked someone coming down if that was the way to the Rabenkopf, they said yes, so off I went. There were plenty of sections where I had my hand down to help with getting up rocks or over roots. There were also at least two exposed parts where the wind hit and it was icy, I won’t lie, I was scared on those bits. I was overtaking a lot of people though and I felt calmed by the fact that some fairly old people were coming down the mountain, if they could do it…

I got to the top of the Schwarzeck and the view was great down into the valley, I mean I could see Roche off in the distance even thought it’s 20km away! The view to the Rabenkopf scared my though, I had to go down a little, then it looked very narrow and steep to the top. I hardly even considered it, I turned straight back the way I came (Mistake – I could have taken the easier other way down)

Going down steep, narrow exposed icy paths aren’t my speciality apparently. I fell on my arse at least 3 times, the rest of the time I was hanging onto trees and branches for dear life! Only after getting back to the hut was I back in the clear. I decided to take the MTB route back down so it would be runnable. After that it was all easy going, I mean it would have been if I wasn’t knackered, but I was safe, just tired.

MTB route down

I got home after 23.5km in 3h08. If you consider that I ran there and back (12.5k) in just over 1h, it means the other 11k on the mountain were done at 5.5km/h!

So – my conclusion – I like this kind of adventure running but should probably wait until the routes are free of snow. I think it would have been fine if there was no snow today. I have to get used to being underway longer than I normally would be. 3h08 is a long time, but I still ‘only’ did 950m of climbing. I fancy running up some bigger stuff or doing a few peaks some time in the future, so that’ll take a while longer!

I hadn’t blogged in over a year, and I am back to running and races aren’t coming back anytime soon, so I thought I’d check in. Actually it was that I read my old Liege Bastogne Liege repost a couple of day ago that made me want to blog again, so here I am. I am going to try to run the peaks of the Gipfel Cup in the coming months, I may blog my progress…