Monday, May 4, 2015

Wings for Life World Run

Yesterday was the Wings for Life World Run in Munich. Wings for Life is a very unusual run. It's not really a race. Everyone starts off and then 30 minutes later a catcher car starts. When the car catches you, then you're out. The goal is to run as far as you can before being caught. Another thing that makes Wings for Life unique is that it takes place simultaneously at 35 locations worldwide. The Munich race started at 1300 local time. But the one in Santa Clarita, California took place at 4 am!

My pre-run goal was about 16-17 km. I looked at the pace calculator and predicted that distance based on my half-marathon results from last year. But I surpassed my expectations and ran for 18.93 km! That's 11.74 miles for the metric system challenged. My statistics:

For the entire world:
Overall: 19,068th place out of 68,742
Women: 3,039th place out of 29,362
Age group (F55): 37th out of 588
For the Munich run:
Overall: 1140th out of 3228
Women: 192nd out of 1377
Age group (F55): 3rd (!!!) out of 27

It was my first age group podium place in a large German race! I have been on the podium in my age group in small, local races but never in a big one. It looks like the way to get on the podium in Germany is to get older. The number of women in German races really drops off after age 45. I'm still a bit shocked about being 3rd in my division in the Munich run.

I started off the morning with a very nervous stomach and, suffice it to say, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom after breakfast. While in the bathroom, I realized that I have driven the A95 Autobahn many times between Garmisch and Munich and know where all of the parking areas and major rest stops are. Fortunately, I did not need to make any stops, either at a main rest stop or in the bushes at a parking area.

The organization was very good, though I was glad that I got to the Olympic Stadium about 2 hours before start time. There were long lines for number and t-shirt pickup and also for the women's toilets. Everything was close by, unlike at the Munich Marathon, which requires runners to walk a full marathon to get their numbers, check their bags, and then head to the start area. The only fault was that there were no signs indicating where the start area was. But I employed my usual strategy of following everyone and hoping that they were going the right way. It worked. My only real complaint was that there was no post-run food. There were lots of drinks--water, Apfelschoerle (apple juice mixed with mineral water), different types of Red Bull (Red Bull is one of the sponsors), and alcohol-free beer, but no food. There were bananas and energy bar pieces at the water stops along with water, a sports drink, cola, and Red Bull. I did get a couple of energy bars in my swag bag though.

My pace was very consistent to say the least. After a slow start (first km in 5:56), I hit the 5 km mark in 27 minutes, 10 km at 54 minutes, and 15 km at 81 minutes. That included walking through the water points at 5, 10, and 15 km. Just after the 16 km mark, one of the people in the pack saw the catcher car in the distance. I thought that I might be able to make it to 17 km before being caught. Still no car after 17 km, and then I wanted to see if I could make it to 18 before the car came, which I did. Even at km 18, I was running the same pace as earlier. During the last kilometer there were a lot more police riding by on motorcycles telling the runners to stay on the right side of the road, so I knew that the catcher car was getting close. I tried to make it to the 19 km mark, but ended up just 70 meters short of it. I had to walk back about 400 meters to the shuttle bus that took me back to the Olympic Stadium.

The weather was rainy, just like at the City Run half-marathon last year. But it was warm enough for shorts and a short-sleeved technical shirt. I was soaked through at the end but had a change of dry clothing in my bag. The course was nice with a few slight up and downhills. It was mostly roads with some dirt trails thrown in and ended up going out of the city. There were park trails, residential streets, and farm roads. I thought that I wouldn't run in any mud or puddles, but I was wrong. But as they say, dry weather is for wimps--happy dry wimps, but wimps nonetheless. It got a bit tight on some of the Olympiapark trails at the beginning. But the crowd thinned out after a bit.  When I was caught by the car, I was on a farm road out in the middle of nowhere. I was tired but very happy with how far I ran and for keeping a steady pace. The walk back to the shuttle bus almost seemed harder than the run!

I wanted to pin a photo of my late running partner Bill on my shirt, but opted not to because of the rain. Even with it being inside a plastic bag, I was still concerned that water could get in and ruin it. But I knew that he was with me just like he is at my other races and even in training. I even heard his voice saying, "Good job, Shorty!" when I was caught. To this day I follow what I learned about long distance running from him over 20 years ago.

The Wings for Life World Run was a great way to end my birthday week. At the age of 56 years and 6 days, I still can run well. My former running partner Pat, who's now 71, has always been my inspiration for what an older athlete can do. She was, and still is, my role model and now I feel like I want to be an example of what an older person can accomplish. I hope that next year one of the Wings for Life World Runs is in Munich so I can again run for those who can't.

Monday, September 29, 2014

All-Around Ski Racer Data

Since I started watching ski racing, it seems like the number of athletes who can earn points in every discipline in a season has declined. The photo comparing Felix Neureuther's muscles and physique with Alexander Kilde's also piqued my interest. So I went onto the FIS site and looked at past World Cup standings to see if this  phenomenon was really true.

The data that I looked at started with the 1967 season, which was the first World Cup season, and went through to 2014. My original thought was that as the number of races and disciplines increased, the number of all-around ski racers decreased. The criterion that I used was scoring points in every discipline in a season. It didn't matter if those were podium points or if the athlete only scored one  point in a particular discipline. Back in the early days of the World Cup, it was harder to score points because only the top 10 racers earned them. That number increased to 15 in 1980 and 30 in 1992. 

From 1967-79 ski racers competed in 3 disciplines: downhill, giant slalom and slalom. In 1980 super-combined was added as a separate discipline. Super-G was added in 1986. Before 1986 Super-G counted toward giant slalom points. 

The chart below shows that as the number of races and disciplines increased, the number of racers who scored at least one point in every discipline decreased. There were two things that I found interesting:

1) Across all three time periods women tended to have more racers who scored points in every discipline in a season than the men, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of total racers with points.
2) For both women and men, the average number of athletes who could score points in every discipline in a season decreased by approximately 50% from 1967-79 to 1986-2014. The average percentage of those who scored points in every discipline compared to all skiers who scored World Cup points has decreased dramatically. I didn't run any tests to see if the numbers were statistically significant, but the phenomenon can easily be seen. 

The ranges in each category are the high and low numbers for each period. 

I was especially surprised by the men's results. Even though there were a few early years where there were 8 men who scored points in every discipline in a season, the men seemed to be either speed or technical specialists from the beginning of the World Cup. Across every era more women scored points in every discipline in a season, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of those who earned World Cup points. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Then and Now

I haven't written in this blog in over 1.5 years, probably because I didn't have much to say. Anyway, the 25th anniversary of my very first race is coming up next month. It was the Rancho Penasquitos Towne Center 5K, which was one of the most boring courses that I have run on. How scenic and exciting can the streets of suburban San Diego be? Not very, unless you are a big fan of strip malls. My time in that race was 30 minutes and 17 seconds, which is a pace of 9:47/mile or just over 6 minutes/km. I remember being proud of myself because I broke a 10:00/mile pace. Believe it or not, I still have the cotton t-shirt from that race. Twenty-five years later I can run 5 km much faster than that first race time. As I was running yesterday, I started thinking about how races have changed in the past 25 years.

Applications. The late, great Dr. George Sheehan used to say that the difference between a jogger and a runner is a signature on a race application. He died before online registration was invented. The old procedure for applying for a race seems so archaic now.  First we runners had to get a paper application, usually at a sports store. In San Diego there was a "runners' bathroom" where runners could get booklets with a race calendar and application forms. Then we brought the application home, filled it out, enclosed a check for the registration fee, and mailed it. After anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, we received our confirmation and race number. Now registration is online with instant confirmation. It is rare (at least in Germany) to get your race number in the mail.

Race Shirts. Back in the '80s and '90s, most race shirts were cotton or a cotton blend. Yes, people used to run in 100% cotton shirts. Now when races have shirts, they are nice technical shirts that can be worn for running or other exercise. It is still considered uncool to wear a race t-shirt in the race, except for the German City Run series, where it is required. At least the City Run shirts are made of technical fabric and not cotton. The last cotton race shirt I got was from the 2006 Hohenfels Box Run 10K.  I still have some of my race t-shirts from the 1990s and early 2000s.

Race Bibs and Computers. When I first started racing, a volunteer on the side had the job of sitting by the finish line and recording the times with a pencil and paper as the runners finished. Sometimes there was someone to record the times for the men and a different person wrote down the women's times. Back in those days race bibs had a detachable part at the bottom with the runner's number and division that was removed at the finish. A race volunteer would collect the torn-off bib tab and put it in order, usually threaded on a piece of string. The tabs were then given to other race volunteers, who used pencil and paper to figure out the finish order of each division. It often took a long time to get results. Award ceremonies were often over an hour after the race ended because it took time to figure out who won in the different age categories. Now finish line data is entered onto a computer and results are instantaneous in smaller races and take a few minutes in larger ones. Runners can also go online to get their results and (at least in Germany) download their finishers' certificates.

Timing Chips. Racing in the days before timing chips was interesting. When a runner talked about a race time, it usually went like this, "My official time for the half-marathon was 2 hours and 7 minutes, but it took me 15 minutes to get to the start. Therefore, my real time was 1 hour and 52 minutes." Placement in a race (both overall and in age group) went by the official time, regardless of how long it took to get to the starting line. With chip timing, the real time from start to finish is used no matter how long it took to get to the starting line. We runners now have an accurate measurement of our time in a race. There are no more "official" and "real" times.

Block Starts. When I first started racing, there were no block starts. Faster runners were supposed to start at the front and slower ones to the rear. In theory that system was supposed to work. But in reality everyone, both fast and slow, wanted to get as close to the front as possible so that their official and real times were close. Block starts emerged at the same time as the timing chips. Runners are put into a block based on their predicted finishing time. Because the runners are using a timing chip, it doesn't matter if they start in Block III instead of Block I. Block starts are also nice because they reduce some of the crowding in the early kilometers of a race. Back when I started racing, it was often hard to get into my race pace because it was so crowded during the first few kilometers. Now I can get into my race pace much faster because of block starts.

Recreational Runners. When I started racing, it was in San Diego. Every level of runner, from elite to the more "relaxed," competed in races of all distances. I tended to finish in the top half of the overall field and among the women. When I came to Germany, the attitude was, "serious runners only need apply." While I was a fairly decent recreational runner in the States, in Germany I finished toward the back of the pack both overall and in my age group. Over the years more casual runners have started entering races in Germany. While I still finish toward the back of the pack overall, I am now in the top one-third of my age group and in the top half of the women. I really enjoy the City Run series because they are more of a "people's run" and not just for the speedy. There are also more fun runs, like the Color Run, in Germany. Even as recently as 15 years ago, nobody would have thought of doing fun runs in Germany.

Pace Groups. Back when I started racing, there were no pace groups. You figured out your pace per mile or kilometer on your own and adjusted your pace depending on when you hit the mile or kilometer markers. Now if your goal for a half-marathon is two hours, you find the people who are leading the two-hour pace group and run with them. They have done all of the pacing work for you.

Women. When I raced in the States, there always seemed to be a fairly even number of men and women in races of all distances between 5 km and a half-marathon.  But when I came to Germany in 1992, racers were overwhelmingly male. When I ran the Munich Marathon in 1993, there seemed to be 10 men for every woman in the race. In fact, the prevailing attitude at that time was that women shouldn't run because it was bad for them. I was told that I would damage my knees and hips, have my organs fall out, or become infertile from running. My knees and hips are fine, I assume that all of my organs are still inside my body, and I got pregnant. When I ran the Munich Marathon in 2012, the ratio of men to women was about 4.5 to 1. In shorter races, there are still more men than women, but the ratio is getting closer to 2 or 3 to 1. Another thing was that when I first came to Germany, there were often separate races for men and women. For example, there would be 5K and 10K races in some of the towns near where I used to live. The 5K was for women and the 10K for men. Even though I had run half-marathons and marathons, I was restricted to running in the 5K because women obviously were not capable of running 10 kilometers. Later some of the races allowed men to run the 5K and women the 10K, but the times did not count. But at least that was a start. Now women in Germany can run any distance they choose, even marathons and ultra runs.

Some Things Never Change. What has not changed in the past 25 years...People still race to challenge themselves. It doesn't matter if they are fast or slow. There is still the thrill of finishing your first 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon. Post-race refreshments are still the same, usually drinks, fruit, Power Bar pieces, candy, or pretzels. It is still considered dorky to wear that day's race t-shirt in a race. The clothing and shoes may have changed over the years, but racing will always be about giving your best effort whether the conditions are perfect or less than ideal. All runners who enter a race deserve respect for what they are doing.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mid-Season Report Card--Men

The 2012-13 men's ski season started on a sad note with the death of young Austrian skier Bjoern Sieber just before the season opener in Soelden. Here are the men who both impressed and disappointed me as the season approaches its midpoint. As with the women, the skiers are listed in alphabetical order.

1. Travis Ganong (USA): After a slow start this season, Travis has started to improve, with top-10 finishes in his last two races. Out of the men on the US speed team, Travis seems to be the most consistent, scoring points in 4 out of his 7 races this season. I expect that Travis will break into the top 5 very soon.

2. Werner Heel (Italy): Werner is having his best season on the World Cup and is currently ranked 10th overall. He is currently ranked 11th in downhill and 3rd in Super-G. In his 7 races this season, Werner has one 3rd place, two 5th places, and two 6th places.

3. Ted Ligety (USA): Ted has always been a great giant slalom skier. But this season he is beating his competition by huge margins in that discipline. He has also improved a lot in Super-G and is 6th ranked in that event and 12th in slalom. Ted has 2 4th place finishes in Super-G and is a surprise 3rd in the overall standings.

4. Matteo Marsaglia (Italy): Matteo's best event is Super-G and he is currently ranked 2nd in it. He has come a long way from last season, when he was ranked 16th in Super-G. In his three Super-G races this season, he has one win, one 2nd place, and one 9th place.

5. Matthias Mayer (Austria): This young Austrian skier is only 22 and already ranked 5th in Super-G. Matthias has scored points in 5 out of his 7 races, including two 6th places and a 7th place in Super-G. He is definitely one to watch and should hit his physical peak as some of his older teammates get set to retire.

6. Manfred Moelgg (Italy): Manfred started strong with a 2nd place finish in the opening giant slalom in Soelden. In his 7 races this season, he has 4 top-5 finishes. He is also ranked 7th overall this season.

7. Felix Neureuther (Germany): For the past several seasons, Felix has been one of the world's top slalom skiers. But this season he has really improved in giant slalom. He is currently ranked 4th overall,  2nd in slalom, and 7th in giant slalom. His previous best ranking in giant slalom was 29th in 2010-11. Felix has been 7th place or better in 6 out of his 7 races this season. He has 3 podium finishes: a win at the Munich City Event and two 2nd places.

8. Dominik Paris (Italy): Dominik is the fourth Italian on my list. He has always been good in training, but never seemed to be able to have a good performance on race day. But this year he has finally broken through that mental barrier and is currently ranked 2nd in the downhill standings. He has a win, a 5th place, an 8th place, and a 15th place in downhill this season. In addition, he has a top-15 finish in one Super-G race. Dominik is only 23 and looks to be a star for the Italian team in downhill.

9. Alexis Pinturault (France): Alexis still needs to work on his consistency, but he is only 21. He is ranked 8th overall, which is his best ranking in his young career. He is also 4th ranked in slalom and 9th in giant slalom. Out of the 6 races that he finished (he has 2 DNFs), he has one 1st place, one 3rd place, one 5th place, and one 6th place. Alexis is no longer the rising star of the French technical team; he is the star.

10. Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway): Aksel is ranked 1st overall, in downhill, and in Super-G. In addition, he is one of only two men who have points in every discipline this season (the other is Ivica Kostelic). He has finished 11 out of the 12 races he started this season and placed in the top 10 in all of them. Aksel has has 6 podium finishes: three wins, two 2nd places, and 1 third place. The way Aksel is skiing this season, he looks like a sure bet to win his 3rd overall title.


1. Swiss Speed Team: Didier Defago, Carlo Janka, Silvan Zurbriggen, and the rest of the Swiss speed team have been a big bust this season. Janka is taking time off to regroup and see if he can find his mojo. With Didier Cuche retired and Beat Feuz out this season with an injury, it was apparent that those two were the consistent workhorses of the Swiss team. There does not seem to be much promising young talent on the horizon for the Swiss and their veterans, with the exception of Janka, are getting toward retirement age.

2. Austrian Speed Team: Austria only has one win in a speed event this season. Hannes Reichelt tied with Dominik Paris in Bormio last week. Klaus Kroell, last season's downhill champion, had his best finish in Bormio in 4th place. Max Franz gets a pass because he is injured, but Joachim Puchner is not performing up to his earlier potential. Romed Baumann is having another less-than-stellar season. The bright spots for the Austrian Power Team are Reichelt and young Matthias Mayer.

Mid-Season Report Card--Women

I have had a bad case of writer's block since running the Munich Marathon. I could have written about all of my workouts, but that would get boring after a while. With the World Cup ski season being close to halfway over, and a new year beginning, I thought this would be a good time to share 10 skiers who have impressed  me so far this season. The order is alphabetical, not in order of being impressive. I am also including those who have had disappointing performances, at least from my subjective viewpoint.


1. Chemmy Alcott (Great Britain): Chemmy missed the last two seasons due to a broken leg. During that time she worked as an excellent commentator on Eurosport UK. Anyway, Chemmy made her comeback this season in Lake Louise, the place where she broke her leg in 2010. She has only scored points in 2 out of her 8 races this season (skiers in the top 30 get points), and she is near the bottom of the standings in total points. But her determination to come back and compete at a world class level is incredible.

2. Anna Fenninger (Austria): Out of the 12 races that Anna has been in, she has had 3 podiums, 6 top 5, and 8 top 10 finishes. She has been on the podium twice in giant slalom and once in Super-G. Anna is also 4th in the overall standings.

3. Christina Geiger (Germany): Christina is a very consistent performer for the German women's slalom team. In her 4 slalom starts this season, she has been in the top 15 three times, with a 6th place in Semmering her best result this season. Christina's goals for this season are more top-10 places.

4. Lara Gut (Switzerland): Lara is ranked 8th overall and is a real all-arounder. She has 4 top 5 finishes in 12 races: 2 in giant slalom, 1 in downhill (a win), and 1 in super-combined. Even though she doesn't compete in slalom, she is strong in her other events. Lara is ranked 3rd in downhill, 10th in giant slalom, 11th in Super-G, and 5th in super-combined.

5. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (Germany): Maria is currently ranked 2nd overall and is a true all-arounder. She is the only woman who is ranked in the top 10 in every event. Maria is ranked 3rd in slalom, 4th in downhill, Super-G, and super-combined, and 8th in giant slalom. Maria is one of only three women who have points in every discipline this season. The others are Julia Mancuso and Tina Maze.

6. Wendy Holdener (Switzerland): Wendy is only 19 and is already making her mark as one to watch in the slalom event. She has scored points in all four of her slalom races this season and has finished in the top 10 in her last two races. Wendy seems to be getting better and better with each race. I wouldn't be surprised if she had a top 5, or even a podium finish, in slalom this season.

7. Tina Maze (Slovenia): Tina is leading the overall standings by 492 points over second place Maria Hoefl-Riesch. Her performances in every discipline have been "a-MAZE-ing." Tina set a pre-Christmas break record of 999 points and is on track to get 2000. She has been averaging 67 points per race and shows no signs of slowing down. Tina is ranked 1st in slalom, giant slalom, and combined, 3rd in Super-G, and 17th in downhill. Out of 17 races, Tina has been on the podium in 12, with 5 wins, 3 second places, and 4 third place finishes. If she ends up winning the overall title, she will be the first skier from Slovenia to win it.

8. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): Mikaela is only 17 and already has two podium finishes in slalom this season, including one win. In the 7  slalom and giant slalom races that she finished, she placed in the top 10 in all of them. Mikaela still needs to work on her consistency (she had 4 DNFs this season), but she is looking like she will be a real force for many years as long as she stays healthy.

9. Veronika Velez-Zuzulova (Slovakia): Veronika has established herself as a star in slalom. She is ranked 2nd in that discipline this season. In her 5 slalom races this season she has 4 top-10 finishes including two wins. She has come on very strong, winning the last two slalom races (the City Event in Munich, which she won, counts as a slalom race). I would not be surprised at all if Veronika has more podium finishes this season.

10. Kathrin Zettel (Austria): The Austrian technical specialist is having a great season. She is currently 3rd in the overall standings, 2nd in giant slalom, and 7th in slalom. In the 10 races that she has completed, she has 7 podium places (1 win, four 2nd places, one 3rd place) and was in the top 10 in the other three.


1. Frederica Brignone (Italy): Frederica was a rising star in giant slalom after winning the silver medal in that event at the 2011 World  Championships. She had a good season last year. But this season she has failed to finish or qualify for the second run in a giant slalom race. Her only points came in the super-combined event in St. Moritz.

2. Lena Duerr (Germany): After showing a lot of potential last year, Lena failed to qualify for the second round in 4 out of her 11 races. She only has two top-10 results. Maybe as the season goes on she will become more consistent.

3. Elisabeth Goergl (Austria): In 12 races this season, Elisabeth has had only 3 top 10 finishes. She has performed below expectations. Last year she was ranked 6th overall, while she is 20th this season.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More Musings About Munich

Here are some random thoughts about last Sunday's Munich Marathon:

Perspective: Last Sunday's race was one of my less stellar races. But every runner that I know has had both good and bad races. I have been very lucky because my good races outnumber the bad ones by a lot. I have had very few truly awful races. If it was the other way around, I would have quit running and racing long ago. Even though I had a disappointing (at first) experience in Munich, it will definitely not deter me from racing again. It's the bad races that make me appreciate the good ones even more. Now that a few days have passed, I am satisfied with how I did in Munich. I was tempted to quit the race, but I kept going all the way to the finish. Even with walking during a lot of the last 12 kilometers, I made it to the finish line with lots of time to spare. In an ideal world, all of our races would be great and each one would bring a new personal best. But we don't live in an ideal world and we have to take the bad with the good, learn from our experiences, then move on to training for the next race.

The Mental DJ: I started off the first half of the race with The Sweet's "Little Willy" in my head. It's a fun song to run to. In the second half the tunes switched between George Thorogood's version of "Move It On Over" and the French nursery rhyme about the bridge at Avignon (Sur le pont d'Avignon...). My mother used to sing me the Avignon bridge song when I was a child.

Dreams Really Do Come True: I have mentioned my pre-race nightmares in previous posts. On Sunday one of them actually came true. Sunday morning I woke up at about 3 am after having a dream about being in a parking garage and not being able to find my way out despite following other drivers to the exit. When I woke up, I started thinking, "How do I get out of the Olympic stadium parking lot and back home again?" When I had run Munich before, my husband was there to drive me home and I never paid attention to how we got back onto the Mittlerer Ring. When I ran the half-marathon that accompanied the marathon in 2010, I took the U-Bahn (subway/metro) from the stadium to my favorite park-and-ride. As I left the parking lot, there was a sign saying the road to Stuttgart/Lindau/Garmisch was on the left and the way to Nuernberg and Salzburg was on the right. Then the road split. The right fork had two lanes and the left fork had one. Because of the sign, I took the left fork, which was really the entrance into the stadium from the Mittlerer Ring. I was really supposed to take the right fork but stay in the left lane. Therefore, I ended up going the wrong way.  But, as the name implies, the Mittlerer Ring is a ring road. I knew that if I kept going I would eventually get to the Garmisch autobahn. On my wrong-way journey I discovered a tunnel that looked like something out of a science fiction movie. It was brightly lit up in white and Day-Glow green.

Running Apps: During one of my pre-race bathroom stops inside the stadium I was talking with two women. One was older and the other was younger. The older woman said that she was running her 38th marathon. The younger was running her tenth. I felt like such a novice because I was *only* running my fifth marathon. Our personal best times were within 3 minutes of each other's. Then the younger woman asked me which running apps I used. I pointed to my watch and told her that my watch was my running app. I don't use high-tech running apps because I don't really need to know my training distances to the 23rd decimal place and times to the nearest nanosecond.

The Kindness of Strangers: My husband was unable to come up to Munich on Sunday. Normally he's my official photographer. But I brought a camera with me and asked random people to take my picture both before and after the race. Everyone was happy to oblige. I even took someone's picture before the race. I figured that if someone really wanted to steal my cheap camera, he or she was welcome to it.

Stauwarnung (Traffic Jam Warning): When I ran the half-marathon that accompanied the marathon in 2010, both races started at the same time. The half-marathon started at the halfway mark of the marathon. This year it started three hours after the marathon. I can understand why the start times were staggered. In 2010 the U-Bahn was like the Tokyo subway at rush hour both before and after the race. It was barely breathing room only. With different starting times, the subway trains would be less crowded, at least in the morning before the race. But it seemed to be a problem for the runners because there were fast half-marathoners mixing with the slow marathoners. A lot of the slow marathoners were literally being pushed out of the way by the fast half-marathon runners. It also made the course more crowded. The good thing is if I decide to run the half-marathon next year I won't have to leave for Munich so early.

Refreshments: The organizers deserve a big pat on the back for having plenty of refreshments at both the water points and in the stadium after the race. I have been in races where the slower runners had almost no chance of getting water or food because they had run out. I remember one half-marathon in San Diego where the runners were asking homeowners for water from their garden hoses because they had run out of drinks at the water points. It's always nice when race organizers realize that not everyone is an elite runner and that slow runners also need water, sports drink, and food.

Numbers: There were over 18,000 runners in the four races on Sunday: marathon, half-marathon, 10K, and marathon relay. Eighty-one countries were represented, 59 in the marathon. There were 4934 men who finished the marathon and 1163 women. It's nice to see more and more women running the marathon. When I ran Munich for the first time in 1993, it seemed like there was a 10-to-1 ratio of men to women.

I haven't decided if I will run the marathon next year or the half-marathon. There's still plenty of time to figure it out.

Monday, October 15, 2012

2012 Munich Marathon

Here is my report on the Munich Marathon. My time was a less than stellar 4 hours 34 minutes 39 seconds. It was my slowest marathon, beating out my 4:29 in Berlin back in 1994. But the important thing is that I finished. As a fellow runner once said, "A last place finish is better than being the first DNF." No, I wasn't last and made the time limit by about 1.5 hours. I'm going to divide this report into 3 sections: pre-race, during the race, and post-race.

Pre-Race: I should have turned around and gone home as soon as I saw the black cat that I almost ran over on my street. Even though I'm generally not a superstitious person (except for the requirement to wear something black on race day), that set the tone. Then there was the ordeal of getting my number, taking my bag to the storage area, and then walking to the starting area. Someone obviously had a sadistic streak when deciding where all of those things should be. At most races everything is in one area, or at least close by. Not for the marathon. The number pickup was about a 10-minute walk from my car. Then it was another 10-15 minute walk to the stadium, where the bag pickup area was. I posed for a couple of pre-race photos, stripped off my extra layers of clothing, then walked about 1.5 kilometers (almost a mile for the metrically challenged) to the start. I was tired before I even started running!

Murphy's Law of racing was in effect. The Porta-Potty line that you're standing in is always the slowest. I saw some Porta-Potties on the way to the starting line and decided to take advantage of them. I got in what looked to be the shortest line. But all of the other lines seemed to move faster. It always seems to happen that I get stuck behind all of the runners with  digestive issues.

There were a couple of guys dressed up as bottles of Erdinger alcohol-free beer, which is one of the marathon's sponsors. They planned to run the race dressed like that because their numbers were pinned to the costumes. In the start corral I chatted with two guys from Ireland who had run a marathon about 5 weeks previously. They were lamenting how the Irish football (soccer) team is "rubbish," especially after their 6-1 drubbing by Germany earlier in the week. There were announcements about the number of countries represented in the marathon (59) as well as the number of tons of bananas and apples and thousands of liters of sports drink and water.

The weather was perfect for a long race. It was about 10 C (50F) at the start, though it felt cooler due to a chilly breeze. The sun came out and it warmed up to about 14-15 C (57-59 F) in the afternoon.I was surprised by the number of people wearing tights and long sleeves. I would have died of heat stroke if I was dressed that way.

During the Race: The race wasn't really very memorable and I felt out of sorts almost from the beginning. At around the 7 km mark I talked to an American who was living in Munich. He and his companion (I don't know if she was his wife, girlfriend, or just a friend) were running their first marathons. The other thing that was memorable was at around the 35 or 36 km mark. There was a group of men in an apartment above the course. They were singing the FC Bayern theme song (FC Bayern, Stern des Sudens...). For those who don't follow German football (soccer), FC Bayern is the First Division team from Munich.

 I was actually doing quite well through the first 25 km, with a time of 2:06 and change at the half-marathon mark. It was somewhere between 27 and 28 km when my left calf decided to cramp. I stopped to stretch it, but that made it worse. So I walked. But when I walked the toes on my right foot would cramp up. The only way to loosen them up was to run. I was still able to run at a slower pace most of the way. But after about 30 km I did a lot of walking. As I got toward 37 km, I started figuring out how long it would take me to walk that distance and if I could make it before the time limit. But I was able to get in some running. Just before I got to the tunnel that leads into the Olympic stadium, I was able to run all the way to the finish line. Somehow I was able to block out the pain in my calf and keep going to the finish line. It was a big relief to finish. The strange things was during training I had some minor soreness in my left Achilles tendon after my long runs. A little ice would fix it. I never had problems with my calf or toes cramping during training, so these cramps were very odd. My Achilles tendon was perfectly fine during the race. Go figure.

After the Race: The finishers' medal was nice. It was shaped like a gingerbread heart and said, "G'schafft," which loosely translates as, "Done" or "completed."

After the race I drank a cup of sport drink and had a banana. The sport drink tasted better during the race, when I mixed it with water. I also grabbed two pretzels to eat in the car on the drive home.

The Olympic stadium has changed. Instead of the nice, springy track there was pavement until the last 50 meters. The infield was also covered in Astroturf instead of natural grass. One good change is that the steps had been renovated. Instead of metal steps with spikes, they were smooth concrete. But it was still a Herculean effort to get up them to get to the bag check area. Did I mention that the race organizers have a sadistic streak?

On the way to get my bag, I saw someone wearing the best t-shirt. On the back of the shirt it said (in English), "If you can read this, that means I'm not last." I thought of my late running partner Bill, who used to tell me that if there was no last place finisher, a race would never be over.

Now it's time to rest and put some ice on my sore right knee. Tomorrow I have an appointment with my masseuse. She will definitely be earning her money. Soon it will be time to think about ski season. As it gets toward spring, I will decide which races I plan to do next year.