Ultra-training in Basel

Ultra-training in Basel

The final lap - 70,5 km

The final lap - 70,5 km

The 24 hour race in Basel on May 8/9th was a good occasion for a longer training run. Since the course is a loop there is constant support – psychological as well as material – in the form of food, drinks, medical, massage, cheering – and places to nap. Plus the surroundings are great – lush green everywhere. My goal was just to do 80 km, enjoy some breaks and massage stops, and then see. With my present Channel swimmer weight I just want to be able to survive the run part of the Channel triathlon.

Taking the train to Basel I started two hours late and was happy to avoid the midday heat. It was hot enough in the afternoon, and I was really slow with my cardiovascular system giving me a bit of trouble like usual. Around 11 p.m. it started to rain, heavily.

With only one pair of running shoes with me I decided to take a nap for 2 or three hours. When I woke up it was still raining – so I slept until 4 a.m. I had not even completed 40 km at that time and knew 80 km would be out of the question. So I decided to at least go for 60 – slow and steady. With the Heidelberg halfmarathon only 2 weeks ago plus a couple of 1-2 hour training runs since middle of April I felt it would equal 80 km.

Happy helpers (medical and massage)

Happy helpers (medical and massage)

The massage and medical tent saw me three times – and they really helped me recover from the half marathon. At the end of the race, even though temperatures went up to 24°C again towards Sunday noon, I felt better than at the start – legwise and cardiovascular. With no reason to stop at 60 km I continued – also to please my counters and ended up with 70.5 km. My doctor-friend  had done a great job with some homeopathic pills (tuja), alignment of the spine etc. Also the next days I was amazed at the feeling of lightness in my legs. I always say I am a diesel engine – I am not fast, but I feel longer distances are like cleansing for the body and mind/soul, and I actually need them to be myself.

Great food!

Great food!

At times I was run-walking with other participants, engaging in friendly conversation. One lap-partner was 72 years old (looking around 60). He gently advised me, from his own experience, how to be able to run faster: “Loosing some weight really helps”, he said compassionately. At 60 his blood pressure had been up to 260, his weight over 100 kg and his doctor had told him either to change is lifestyle or be prepared to hit the grave soon.  So he quit smoking and drinking, became a vegetarian and started running. After each ultra he promises himself not to do another one again – but never sticks to this resolution for long. He only did 72 km this due to a very painful heelspur.

Runners, walkers and music group (in the tent)

Runners, walkers and ultra-music group (in the tent)

But the performances of the “elderly” generation were just amazing at the race. The overall winner at age 50 completed 238 km, the winner for over 60 did 181 km, the one for over 70 (born 1938)  did 166 km – amazing. The female winner of  my age category did 167, 8 km (my Basel best: 148)! Way to go when I am getting older and will have lost some weight again!

More Basel photos by Bijoy

First open water swims in May

First open water swims in May

Swimming in the rain

Saturday May 1st: swimming in the rain

Magic morning in Weinheim

Magic Sunday morning in Weinheim

For each swim lap from the little "beach" to the main  beach, Indu ran a lap around the lake.

For each swim lap from the little "beach" to the main beach, Indu ran a lap around the lake on Sunday

The first real open water swims this year on the weekend of May 1st and 2nd in 16°C, then 15°C  water – just an hour each due to other commitments, with the usual rain the first day and a glimpse of sunshine the next.  So nice to swim in clean, cold open water, finally!

The swims created quite a sensation with the local early morning walkers looking at me getting in or coming out full of disbelief mixed with admiration, shuddering at the thought of how cold the water must feel.

If I had a car I would definitely go there more often, but biking in the rain and cold after swimming feels too dangerous – I have to stay healthy!

I had hoped to do 5 hours in a cold outdoor pool beginning May, but the pool in Mannheim is heated this year and the cold Heidelberg pool mostly closed due to the bad weather. So I was looking forward to the Pentecost weekend at the Mondsee (moon lake) in Austria, with plenty of other lakes around.

Mondsee, Austria, May 22-24th

However, with the cold weather persisting, on the Pentecost weekend in Austria I only managed to do shorter swims again – a 30 min. dip Saturday evening after we arrived,

Cuddled up to stay warm before getting into the 12°C water of the  Mondsee

Cuddled up to stay warm before getting into the 12°C water of the Mondsee a bit more than half way on the way back of our boat trip

40 min.  Sunday morning before breakfast, 1 hour 30 min (4-5 km) in the afternoon at the end of a beautiful, at times rainy trip with an electrical boat across the whole 10 k wide lake, and another early morning swim by myself of 1 hour 15 or so  Monday morning before leaving for home. Two teammates booked for a relay in September were also testing the cold water – and I was relieved when they confirmed the water was not 15°C like the boat rental had measured close to the shore, but  more like 12°C.  (Swim photos are still in Inessa`s mobile.) I had hoped to be able to swim at least across the lake once for training – but that was out of the question at this temperature for me.

The longest May swim was only three hours (9 km) on the 29th – in 21°C pool water, mostly in the sun, and almost by myself! I stopped when I started to feel weak, luckily, for I had gotten quite a sunburn and was close to a sunstroke, as I realised a little later. When the sun does come out it is quite fierce, and it was the first sunny swim day. June 3rd is a holiday, hoping for a longer swim then.

Heidelberg Halfmarathon – Slow and Steady

Heidelberg Halfmarathon – Slow and Steady

Heidelberg halfmarathon profile

Only a halfmarathon – but no walk in the park. I had hoped the rather cold weather would last one day longer – but no, right on halfmarathon Sunday (April 25th) the sun started blazing and temperatures started to go up right from the morning (over 20 °C around noon).

No reason to stop

And maybe it was not such a good idea to run almost the whole route 10 days before (into a cool evening) and two times 10 k over the next few days plus some biking. Plus too much coffee (acidity).  So on half marathon day my legs felt like lead most of the time and with my body weight and the heat I was run-walking at an ultra-marathon pace, happy just to finish within the cut off under 3 hours (last year: 2:31). I had even played with the thought of only doing part of the half marathon and stop at my place at km 14, and run the last third by myself in the evening. But I was taking it easy and chatting to some other runners at the back of the pack every now and then – and there was no good reason to stop. People were just so nice – encouraging, cheering, offering food, water etc. even outside the aid stations – how could you drop out? I always love this feeling of togetherness in events like these. You don`t just run by yourself. You always run “together”.

Live saving showers

I had to walk more than usual, though, and took the time to get myself completely drenched by a couple of cold showers offered by people with their garden hoses, one on Philosophenweg and another one up on Schloss Wolfsbrunnenweg a mile or so before the Castle. They really helped me survive. Near the finish, a helper started to pace me on his bike, telling me we would make the cut off of 3 hours. I had not paid any attention to time, but was actually positively surprised. I finished just behind a 70 year old runner who I had overtaken when he had gotten cramps, but he outsprinted me in the end (my net time was still faster than his, however…).


Swimming definitely is easier….

At the same time, the 6 and 10 day Self-Transcendence Race in New York was still going on (this year the weather was extremely hard for the runners over there). Still I would really love to have the experience of a multi-day race one day. Longer distances have a totally different quality, but with running my physical was always too limited. That is why the Channel tempted me, 25 years ago. And now again. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years? My next humble goal is 80 km (my running distance for September) in Basel on May 8/9.