Sunday, July 22, 2012

Two and a Half Hours

Today was my first big test for October's Munich Marathon, which I passed with flying colors. It was my first really super long run. Two and a half hours is a long time to run, but the marathon will be just over four. I had done very well on my recent runs of 2:00 and 2:10. But two hours is the longest distance that I run in training to prepare for a half-marathon. Now it's time to do truly long runs to get ready for Munich.

I am a very old school runner. While running magazine and websites promote a lot of "Zero to Marathon in 12 Weeks" programs as the latest thing, I cannot follow them. First of all, my knees would never forgive me. I have tendinitis in my knees. As long as I build my mileage slowly, my knees don't bother me. But if I build mileage quickly, which those training programs tend to do, my knees would protest. Secondly, quickie marathon training programs only have one or two very long runs. I believe that the best way to prepare my body for the rigors of a marathon is to do a lot of long runs. With more long runs, there are more opportunities to figure out what works and what doesn't. When race day rolls around, I will be ready to go out and do my best.

My late running partner Bill used to tell me to analyze both my training runs and races to learn from what went right and wrong. Here's my analysis of today's run.

* The weather was perfect for a run. It was about 10 C (50 F) and overcast when I set out at about 10 this morning. I wanted to go earlier, but it was raining hard. I gave myself until 10 to either run or shower and try instead for a long run tomorrow. The temperature was not a typo, nor is Garmisch in the Southern Hemisphere. Summers here are typically hot, sunny days followed by a week of cool, rainy ones.
* I started off very slowly and ran a negative split coming back. It's not really fair to say that I ran a negative split because the route I run has a slight uphill grade going out and is downhill coming back.
* This was the first run where I didn't stop my watch during my refueling breaks. I walked while I drank my diluted Gatorade and ate my Gummi Bears. The walking was on purpose. It's time to start simulating the experience of walking through the water stops during the marathon.
* I made it home running and only walked during my refueling breaks every 30 minutes.
* My legs weren't as sore as I thought they would be. After I was home, my husband and I took a couple of short walks, which helped to alleviate the stiffness. As I write this post, I'm feeling pretty good.

* I went too fast during the second hour, especially between 90 and 120 minutes. I had a real burst of energy at around the 90 minute mark and went with it. Big mistake. If I did something like that at the 90 minute mark in the marathon, I would not make it to the finish line. When I took my refueling break at 2 hours, it was a real struggle to run back home. This is where my mental toughness came in and got me home, so it wasn't all bad. I'll know next week, when I run for 2:45, to hold myself back. It's better to make mistakes like that in training than during the race.
* There was too big a gap between when I finished breakfast and when I finally got out to run. It would have been okay for a shorter run, but it didn't work out on today's very long run. Even though I had my Gummi Bears and Gatorade, they didn't cut the hunger. The next time I have to wait out rain, I'll have some toast or a Power Bar before setting out.
* No wildlife. Last Friday I saw a fox for the first time in Garmisch. I used to see lots of foxes, deer, and even wild boar in the woods when I lived in Parsberg. Here I mainly see squirrels. But I did hear the song, "Fox on the Run" on my iPod today, though it would have been more fitting on Friday.

Next week I should make it to the Austrian border, or very close to it. Today I was within a kilometer of Griesen, which is a village on the German-Austrian border. The official border is just past Griesen.

All in all, I'm feeling very confident about Munich. This is the first time in five years that I haven't had any nagging aches and pains that prevented me from running a marathon. I'm feeling both physically and mentally ready for the next two and a half months of very long runs and for the race.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I'm a Long Distance Runner Because...

This morning I woke up late (about 7.40) and decided that I would do a short long run of one hour. I have been building up my time on my long runs for the past two months and I felt like my body needed a little break. This week I was also doing a lot of stair climbing at work and my legs were tired. Today's run started off fast, but I was able to hold the pace the whole time. My run really seemed very short! While I was running today, I started thinking about how I realized that I am a real long distance runner. Looking back on my Excel spreadsheet that I made for my racing history, I saw that about one-third of my races have been either half-marathons or marathons. I'm currently training for my fifth marathon, which will be in Munich this October.

I should have realized that I was made for long distance running back in junior high. Back in those days (early '70s) our class had to take fitness tests every year. If you made a certain standard on all of the events: 50-meter dash, 800-meter run, push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, and hanging from a bar, then you got a certificate that was signed by the president. It was a big honor to get this certificate because only about 10% of the class could earn one. I could pass the standard on all of the events except for the 50-meter dash. I barely beat the fat kid in the 50-meter dash. But I was one of the top finishers in the 800-meter run.

The following list will be similar to a post from last year about how I know I'm a runner. But there are differences between simply being a runner and being a runner who likes long distances. I know I'm a long distance runner because...
* A one-hour run seems short.
* Waking up at 6 on a Sunday morning to beat the summer heat (and hordes of cyclists and walkers) on a long run is a perfectly normal behavior.
* Energy bars and Gatorade are permanent fixtures on the weekly grocery list.
* I make fun of those who buy one of each color of an item that's on sale. But when Gatorade is on sale at the Commissary, I stock up on it. My basement storage room always has a good supply of Gatorade.
* A 5 km race is practically a sprint.
* A fun mental challenge is figuring out a playlist for a 3-hour training run with as few songs on it as possible.
* Non-running friends think that I'm a masochist. They don't realize that there is a feeling of great satisfaction in completing a two-hour plus training run.
* Non-runners also don't understand that even though marathon finishers look like the walking wounded on the outside, they are doing the happy dance inside.
* Finishers' medals for any race shorter than a half-marathon are put away. The only medals kept on display are those for half-marathons and marathons.
* When I tell people I don't drink much alcohol, they think it's weird until I tell them that I run marathons and that too much drinking affects my training.
* I love the looks on people's faces when I tell them that I ran 25 km (about 15 miles) in training.
* Bedtime is 8 pm on long run days.
* After a post-race recovery period, I can't wait to start doing long runs again.
* I like to eat ice cream. All of those long training runs burn off enough calories to allow me to eat ice cream without gaining weight.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Grease Monkey

Note to those who are not native English speakers: A grease monkey is a slang term for a mechanic, usually an auto mechanic. 

When I run on warm days, I feel like a real grease monkey. It has nothing to do with being a mechanic, though back in the mid-'80s I learned how to change the oil, tires, and spark plugs on my car. I also learned about cars from interpreting auto mechanics classes at the community college where I worked. But for long distance runners the term "grease monkey" takes on a whole new meaning.

Summer running means chafing where my clothing combined with sweat rubs against my skin. The best way to prevent chafing is good old-fashioned Vaseline. It goes on my toes to prevent blisters. Then a generous amount goes under the arms, under the sports bra, and on the inner thighs. Because I'm not slimy enough from the Vaseline, on goes a layer of sunscreen. When I do my long runs, I'm out in the sun for enough time to get a good burn if I forgo the sunscreen because I'm fair-skinned. After the work of getting all greased up, it's time to run.

After a short bit of running the sweat comes. I tend to start sweating very early in my runs. I read somewhere that early sweating is a good thing. It means that your body knows to start its cooling process almost right away because it knows it's in for a good workout. I'm going with the theory that early sweat equates to good fitness. We all need our delusions, right?

So I'm basically a combination of sweat, Vaseline, and sunscreen when I'm out on a long run. As time goes by on the run, I feel like the Vaseline and sunscreen are melting everywhere. Even though I feel like a real "grease monkey," it's better than having raw, chafed skin or a bad sunburn. I've had chafed skin on long runs and it can really be painful. When I do my long training runs, I always seem to get bitten at least once by an insect. I'm sure they're attracted to the smell of sweat or sunscreen (or both). I would think that the way I smell three-quarters of the way through a two-hour training run would be an excellent bug repellent. But no, I feel like the bugs swarm around me like dirt does to Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoons. That's when I realize that flies and other bugs eat poop, so a sweaty, stinky runner is probably a big treat for them.  Cows are especially attracted to sweat, or specifically, the salt film on my skin from sweating. I have been licked by a cow many a time when stopping to open a cow gate.

By the end of a two-hour plus training run, I feel like a pile of melted butter with salt residue. I'm covered with Vaseline, sweat, sunscreen, salt, and sometimes even cow slobber. My legs are tired and I don't exactly smell like a bouquet of flowers. But as Mom always said, that's why there is soap and water. After a good shower all of the grease gets washed away and I'm back to just feeling good about accomplishing another long run and milestone in training for the Munich Marathon this October.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Euro '12: Final Thoughts

Here are more thoughts about the European Football (soccer) Championships, or Euro '12, which ended Sunday night with Spain beating Italy 4:0 in the final match. Spain made history by becoming the first team to win 3 major tournaments in a row: Euro '08, World Cup 2010, and Euro '12. Italy was classy in defeat and paid Spain many compliments. In both the World Cup and in Euro '12 Spain looked very flat. In fact, Spain came close to being eliminated by Croatia in the group stages. But La Furia Roja (the Red Fury) has a way of coming up with great performances in the finals. Spain's decisive victory on Sunday silenced the critics who complained about La Furia Roja being boring. I can easily see Spain defending its World Cup title in Brazil in 2014.

Trainer of the Tournament: Cesare Prandelli of Italy. He took over coaching the Italian team in 2010 after its disastrous performance at the World Cup. In 2010 the Italians didn't even make it out of the group stages after winning the title in 2006. The players on the 2012 Italian squad seemed to be a bunch of aging veterans, misfits, and others who were considered hard to handle. There were very low expectations  for Italy at Euro '12 because the team had poor performances in qualifying and in pre-tournament friendly matches. Yet Prandelli did a great job of guiding the Azzuri all the way to the final. Italy's highlight of the tournament was its win over heavily-favored Germany in the semi-finals. Even though Spain won the tournament, Italy won the most hearts and fans.

Typecasting: If I was a casting director, Euro '12 would be a gold mine for finding people to fill specific roles.
Count Dracula: With his slicked-back hair, Italian coach Cesare Prandelli would be a good choice to play Dracula or a grown-up Eddie Munster.
The Incredible Hulk: Mario Balotelli of Italy. He is incredibly muscular and looks very deadpan, or even angry. His celebration after his second goal against Germany in the semi-finals was to take off his shirt and show off his muscles without cracking a smile.
German Soldier or Hitler Youth Leader in a World War II movie: German goalie Manuel Neuer. He has short blond hair, blue eyes, and a sturdy build. If this was the 1930s, Neuer would be held up as an ideal example of how a German should look. My son has a poster in his room in which Neuer is holding a football with his right arm extended in what looks like an old Nazi salute.
1920s American football player: The Czech Republic's goalie Petr Cech. He wears a leather helmet when he plays to protect his head because he suffered a severe concussion. That helmet looks like something an old-time American football player would wear.
My Favorite Martian: Franck Ribery of France. He has a long, thin head and pointy chin. I can easily imagine him with a set of antennae on top of his head.
A Young Beatle: If I was making a documentary about the Beatles, I would cast David Silva of Spain because he has a mid-1960s Beatles haircut. Silva would probably play the role of Ringo because he's short.
Hannibal Lecter: Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands. With his shaved head he has a resemblance to Anthony Hopkins. OK, I confess that Sneijder looks evil because his team, Inter Milan, beat Bayern Munich in the 2010 Champion's League final.  Even though Sneijder didn't score any goals, he was instrumental in Inter's victory. That automatically makes him mean.
Nemo: Mesut Oezil of Germany because of his eyes. Oezil's eyes look like fish eyes because of how they pop out.  His Real Madrid teammates even call him Nemo.
A Southern Redneck: Petr Jiracek of the Czech Republic. He is the only player with a mullet.
Dr. David Hayward: German trainer Joachim Loew. The evil Dr. Hayward is a character on the US soap opera "All My Children" played by Vincent Irizarry. Loew and Irizarry could pass as identical twins. They are even the same age!  A couple of years ago I was at the gym with my son. "All My Children" was on one of the TVs. Dr. Hayward was in that particular scene when I looked at the TV. I turned to my son and said, "Jogi Loew is on TV." He looked at the TV with "All My Children" and did a double take while wondering why the German national trainer was on an American soap opera. He was also amazed at the resemblance between Loew and Irizarry. If "All My Children" ever comes back, and Irizarry has other committments, Loew can step into Dr. Hayward's role.
Opera Singer: Gianluigi Buffon, the Italian goalie. He really belts out the Italian national anthem. While his  projection is excellent, he needs to work on his singing voice.

Melting Pot: Germany's team has a lot of starting players who are from different countries. The players themselves are German citizens; they were either born in Germany or came to Germany as young children. Mesut Oezil is Turkish, Sami Khedira is Tunisian, Mario Gomez is half Spanish, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are Polish, and Jerome Boateng is from Ghana.

Battle of the Midgets: Two of the smallest players at Euro '12 were Germany's Philip Lahm and Mathieu Valbuena of France. Lahm is listed at 1.70 meters (about 5'7") and Valbuena between 1.63 and 1.67 meters (5'4" to 5'6"). Both players faced each other during the 2012 Champion's League playoffs, but not at Euro '12. When my family watched the Marseilles vs Bayern Munich series earlier this year (Valbuena plays for Marseilles, Lahm for Bayern), my son started calling Valbuena, "The Mighty Midget." Unfortunately, Valbuena didn't get any playing time at Euro '12, even though he was on the French squad. Maybe France would have scored more goals with the Mighty Midget in the lineup. The Greek team also looked to be quite small, but then again I saw the Greek players next to the very tall German defenders, so it was hard to make a real comparison.

Neighbors: Two of the German national players come from towns which are very close to Garmisch. Bastian Schweinsteiger is from Oberau, which is 8 km away. Thomas Mueller comes from Weilheim, which is 35 km away. Both men play for Bayern Munich.

How I Knew Spain Would Beat Italy: In my last post I described how I used the songs on my iPod to predict how Italy would do in its matches, at least for the quarter and semi-finals. On Sunday I went for a two-hour run. There were 50 songs on the playlist that I was using, but only one was by Eros Ramazzotti. I added one from Antonello Venditti and decided that if Eros came up first, then Spain would win (he has recorded most of his songs in Spanish as well as his native Italian). In retrospect, I should have used "Spanish Bombs" by the Clash, which actually has a few words of Spanish. But that's another story. Anyway, neither Antonello's nor Eros' song came up. Then it was Plan B. I decided that all of the songs by British singers or bands would represent Spain because the English were the Redcoats in the American Revolutionary War. Spain is La Furia Roja or the Red Fury. Songs by American bands or singers would represent Italy, since US Revolutionary War soldiers are depicted wearing blue. Italy's team is the Azzuri or the Blues. During my run I listened to songs by: Elton John, the Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, the Police, the Rolling Stones, Credendce Clearwater Revival, Bruce Springsteen, the Hollies, the Who, Frank Zappa and many others. But when I finished my run and tallied the songs, the British tunes outnumbered the American ones. It was at that moment I knew that Spain would win. If the Italian team needs someone to predict the outcomes of their matches, I'm available. But I won't be holding my breath waiting for a phone call from Italy.