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.

DISAPPOINTMENTS:

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.

IMPRESSED ME:

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.

DISAPPOINTMENTS:

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.




Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dream On

In a previous post of mine I wrote about my pre-race nightmares. When I have these dreams I do well in my races. It's when I don't have them that I do poorly. So far I have had four pre-race dreams before the Munich Marathon. The weird thing was that most of them were six months before the race, right around the time I decided I wanted to run Munich. Judging by the number of pre-race dreams that I have had so far, I should do well in Munich next month.

All sorts of things have happened to me in my pre-race nightmares: I have missed the start of a race, I have come in dead last, I finished after everything from the race had been cleaned up, I have gotten lost (usually combined with being all alone on the race course), I ran on courses that went through buildings or other strange places, I had no idea where the race start was, I was stuck in a long line to register for a race mere minutes before the start, I couldn't find my race gear or clothing, I ran on courses that were more like mazes than road races, I was supposed to race with a partner who was sleeping and wouldn't wake up, and I wore inappropriate clothing to races. In other words, anything that could have gone wrong in a race usually did in my dreams. I have run through houses, parks, castles, museums, construction zones, and even the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse at Disneyland. If only some of the real courses I have run on were that interesting.

Just when I thought that I had experienced every bizarre possiblilty in a pre-race dream, I had a totally new dream experience earlier this week. Here's what happened. I was at the beach with my husband and son. There was a marathon taking place at this beach. But there was no set start or finish time. The runners could start and finish anytime they wanted to. The catch was that the race was through the water to an island with a lighthouse on it and then back to the start. I decided to run this marathon. I was dressed in running shorts and a shirt with a race number on my shirt. I was barefoot. I took a big inner tube (it was the one that we bought in Italy for using in the water) and got into the center of it. Then I walked into the water to start the race. I ran on a hard, narrow ridge, which was supposed to be the race course. Imagine that ridge being like the plates on the back of a Stegosaurus. I ran in the middle of the inner tube on that ridge for a ways. Suddenly the ridge disappeared and there was nothing for me to run on. Yikes! I could tell that the water was over my head. There was only one thing to do--turn back to the shore and forget about doing the race. I turned around but couldn't find the ridge that I was running on before. It seemed to take forever just to move a couple of  meters in the water. Then I woke up.

It's good to see that after over 20 years of having pre-race nightmares, something new can happen. My dream a few days ago was the first one in which I ran in the ocean. That's what makes my pre-race dreams so fun. I never know what is going to happen in them or where I will end up. I hope that as long as I keep racing I will continue to dream on.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Speedo Land

I just returned from a week on the beach in northern Italy. We were all originally supposed to stay for two weeks. But the weather report for the second week called for bad weather (cool, overcast, and rainy). Since Bibione is an outdoor place, we thought it best to cut the trip short and head home. The main thing to do in Bibione is to go to the beach. The beach isn't much fun in the rain.

After looking at all of the people on the beach in Bibione, I think it should be renamed, "Speedo Land." It seemed like just about every man on the beach was wearing a Speedo swimsuit. Only a very small percentage of men should be wearing Speedos: Olympic divers, Olympic swimmers, and men with the classic marathoner's build. Unfortunately, 99% of the Speedo wearers on the beach in Bibione would never pass for an Olympic diver. They were more like the Italian guys who sat a few rows ahead of us on the beach with big bellies and 1970s disco era type gold chains, or else they were part of the over-65 set. There was even one guy who tucked the back of his Speedo into his butt crack to make it like a thong. Looking at that guy's butt was harder on the eyes than watching an Aly Raisman floor exercise routine. That old saying, "The bigger the belly, the smaller the Speedo" is true.  After having a baby, I realized that my bikini wearing days were over despite all of my running and sit-ups. Maybe the guys in Speedos just don't care because they realize that once their holiday is over, they'll never see the other people on the beach again.

The water on the beach was very warm and shallow a long way out. We could walk out about 200 meters from the shore and still be able to stand. Even though the Adriatic was warm, it was still very refreshing after being out in the hot sun. The only down side was that we had to watch out for jellyfish.

Italian TV has a lot of channels. But it seemed like at least 50% of them were devoted to football (soccer). When one of the football channels wasn't broadcasting a replay of  the previous weekend's matches from Italy, Spain, England, or France, it was doing a feature on a football team or interviewing players or a trainer. It was TV heaven for my son, who's a big football fan. He didn't care that everything was in Italian. In fact, he decided that he could learn some Italian by watching football matches.

Bibione has grown since the last time I was there, which was about 10 years ago. The path along the beach used to end just at the outskirts of town. I used to be able to run from my apartment, to one end of the path, to the other end of the path, and back to the apartment in about 30 minutes. On this trip I ran out  one way 30 minutes and still hadn't reached the trail's end. There are also two parallel trails: one for pedestrians and the other for cyclists.

Early morning is when all of the runners come out. The last time I was in Bibione, I felt like I was the only runner out on the beach in the early morning. Maybe it had something to do with going later in September on my previous trips.  But on this trip it seemed like between the hours of 7 and 8 a.m. runners and walkers owned the pedestrian path on the beach. My fellow runners and I were out early to beat the heat. There were male and female runners of all ages on the pedestrian path. The Germans were the ones with the pasty white skin and the Italians had more olive-colored skin. But both the Germans and Italians wore dark socks. They must have thought I was an oddity in my off-white Thor-Los. I saw one man wearing a City Run shirt, but it was from the one in Nuernberg. There was also an older woman running in a bikini.

The ice cream in Bibione was to die for. Italians make the world's best ice cream. Every flavor I had was excellent and I couldn't pick a favorite. There was an ice cream shop about 50 meters from our apartment and we went there every night either before or after dinner. That particular shop had its standard flavors, but each day there were some new and different flavors. I wish I could have stayed longer just to be able to sample all of the various ice cream flavors. I have always believed that ice cream should be its own food group. But real Italian ice cream should be a part of everyone's daily diet.

It's a good thing I brought my running gear with me and went running every other day for between 40 and 60 minutes. Otherwise I would have had to buy a Speedo.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

International Travels

Two weeks ago I was supposed to have run across the Austrian border. But I decided to go on a different path that another runner recommended. It was an interesting path with a big uphill section in the woods, a flat part that went along a stream, a section that reminded me of the California desert with short, scrubby plants and miniature pine trees, and then another part through the woods. It was part of the 25 km Plansee Rundfahrt (Lake Plan trail). The desert-type section reminded me a bit of Lone Pine, California, where my mother lives. I was surrounded on all four sides by mountains. I would like to run that trail again to see where it eventually goes, but not as a long (3 hour) training run for a marathon. The uphill was long and grinding, which made the run more difficult. I had to walk on part of the uphill section. When I came back down, it was a little hard on the knees. But maybe one day after I recover from the marathon I will drive out there to the starting point and run it.

Today's run was 3 hours and 15 minutes and I stayed on my usual path to the village of Griesen and then over the Austrian border on the bike/hiking path toward Ehrwald (an Austrian ski town). I'm not sure if Griesen even rates being called a village. It's one of those places that you'd miss if you blinked your eyes driving through it. Back to my run...I was off to an early (7:20 am) start because we are in the middle of a heat wave. The only way to beat the heat is to get an early start and carry a big bottle of diluted Gatorade. I was lucky because there is a lot of shade on the route from Garmisch to Griesen  due to the combination of a lot of trees and the sun being below the mountain peaks. The Austrian section was also very shady. There was definitely a big temperature difference between the sunny and shady sections. Fortunately, only about 25 to 30 percent of the route that I ran today is in the sun. Even though this route parallels the main road into Austria, it is still very scenic because it also runs next to the Loisach River. I think that the river also helped to keep things cool.

All in all, today's run was a good one. I started off slowly, though I noticed that I picked up the pace rather early. I was hitting my checkpoints faster than I did two weeks ago, when I ran for three hours (last week I hiked instead of running). Even on the way back, I was faster than I expected to be. It almost seemed a little too fast for the time/distance I was running. I felt great and ran at this relatively speedy pace until the 2:55 mark. Then the legs started to protest. I walked through my refueling stop at the 3:00 mark. (I walk through all of my refueling stops to simulate walking through the water points on race day.)  When it came time to run again, I had to really slow my pace. I really need to work on reining in my energy in the middle section of my training runs or the marathon won't be pretty. My very long training runs seem to follow a pattern: the first 30 to 45-60 minutes is at a nice easy pace, from 45-60 minutes to 2:00-2:30 I have lots of energy and tend to go faster, then the last bit of the run is very tough. I can still run through the last part, but I'm definitely slower and I spend a lot of time wishing that I could walk the rest of the way home.  If I can hold my slow early pace for the first 90 minutes, I'll be in better shape for a marathon finish. I expect to finish the marathon in around 4 hours and 15 minutes. Now my knees and left Achilles tendon need some ice. Then they'll be fine and not so stiff.

On the subject of marathon running, my husband made a comment about it last night. I was telling him that my mother thought that I'm crazy for wanting to run a marathon at my age. OK, she thinks it's crazy to run a marathon at any age. Then my husband said that marathon running is a sport for emaciated Africans. I'm not African and I'm definitely not emaciated. Neither is my stepbrother, who runs the Los Angeles Marathon every year. My former running partners, who also ran marathons, were also not emaciated Africans. But the marathon is a physical and mental challenge that very few people can accomplish. The feeling of crossing a marathon finish line and getting a finisher's medal is hard to put into words. Any runner who has ever finished a marathon will immediately understand how it feels to cross the finish line. To me a marathon finisher's medal is like an Olympic gold medal. That medal represents all of the time, training, sweat, getting soaked by rain, bug bites, and ice on the knees that went into earning it.

FIY, the Munich Marathon is on 14 October. Less than two months to go!