Finally back in shape! Or, rather, finally back to training according to my program. Easter brought with it a full-blown viral infection that knocked me sideways and off my well-prepared training path. Courtesy of my daughter. She gets the sniffles and coughs for a few days while her virus silently mutates into a super-pathogen on par with smallpox or ebola. To tell you the truth, I was lucky to survive the incident without succumbing to hospital intensive care. My wife tells me that a few days off from training would be good for me and even went as far as to imply that my symptoms weren’t potentially lethal. After all, she hadn’t been incapacitated in any meaningful way. Could it be that her Norwegian genes had provided her with a superior immune system? Can you believe it? Here a poor innocent athlete is virally ambushed by his runny-nosed little daughter and is left to fend for himself, coughing his lungs out and wiping out entire acres of rain forest’s worth of Kleenex on his near-death bed all the while only asking for a little bit of sympathy, and what does he receive? Scepticism and a raised eye-brow. What, I ask you, is the world coming to?
But, dear readers, not to worry. Despite my immediate family’s attempts at the contrary, I have once again survived a close encounter with the afterlife and have hit the ground running. Well, maybe more of a jog, initially, but still. The week after Easter was spent running calmly with control, avoiding interval training and the more severe of the long runs. Last week, coach Sondre threw me to the wolves to see if I had recovered, and I believe that that’s the case. I even managed an extra-curricular run yesterday, since I wanted to go for a run in the beautiful part of Germany that is Saarland. I have two godchildren that live close to Saarbrücken and that I try to visit whenever I can, even though the visits have been fewer and far between the last couple of years. My godson (nine years old in a few weeks) was to receive his first communion and his mom – my cousin (I’ve mentioned that I have sixteen cousins, haven’t I?) – had invited us for the festivities. A child’s first communion is a pretty big deal in Germany, and his older sister’s party three years ago had been a wonderful celebration. My mom and dad, my brother and his wife and several aunts and cousins had arrived for the weekend and as is customary, enormous amounts of food were served with relatively short intervals. I myself arrived just in time for lunch on Saturday and it seemed to me that I haven’t even washed down the last of the German sausages with a glass of Bitburger before it was announced that dinner was just around the corner. Adding to all that were the half-dozen or so boxes of homemade Slovak sweets and cookies that my aunts had brought in the trunk of their car. I’m telling you, one gets heavier by the minute during these family gatherings.
I had set my alarm for 06.00 on Sunday morning in order to get a head start before breakfast and the departure to church, and as I sat on the stone steps tying my shoes outside the front door, I shivered a bit in the cold morning air. The hills around the house are pretty undulating and steep, so even though the sky was already pale in the east, the morning sun hadn’t yet climbed above the ridge in front of the house. Since my hill training has been sorely lacking during these long winter months running indoors, I chose not to start with the steep hill leading straight up a side street from the house, but instead chose a more conservative route down the main road of the small village that led down the small valley towards Heusweiler a few kilometres further down the road. It was painfully slow going after all the food and beer the previous evening, but I had made it to bed at a reasonable hour and really only had my own tired eyes and legs to battle, rather than a headache and hangover.
My cousin and her family live in the little village of Kutzhof, and even though it’s separated by around a kilometre of empty road from the next village down the road, when one starts running around in the immediate neighbourhood, one realizes that it’s all just the same big village. The next cluster of houses is never far from the next bend in the sinuous country road. In no time at all I found myself on the outskirts of Heusweiler and took a quick peek on my Suunto only to realize that I had accidentally paused it after only 400 metres of running. Bummer. I spent a few minutes trying to locate my position on my phone GPS, activated my backup app Runkeeper, and ran off down the road towards the centre of town, where I turned at Lidl to go in the opposite direction. During my run from the house, the sun had slowly begun to warm my back, but running back eastward again I was blinded by the sun in my eyes. Luckily, there were always sidewalks to run on so I wasn’t in any immediate danger of being run over by someone. I had run flat and downhill most of my run and now started the slow and painful climb back up again. I could have spared myself a bit of nausea if I had turned back the exact same road I had come, since the hills weren’t as cruel there, but instead of turning right at the intersection at the start of town, I continued up the hill towards Numborn on the other side of A8, one of the highway-arteries criss-crossing the region. I passed over a bridge that spanned the Autobahn and saw that the morning traffic was getting started, even though it was early Sunday morning. They love their cars, the Germans. At this point, I started to regret my lack of hill-training for the last six months. That’s the downside of running so much indoors. My calves have withered to a pair of small, chicken-like muscles, bitterly reminiscing their long lost glory days when they would have easily mastered these puny Saarlandisch hills. As it was, I only grumbled and sweated my way up and up the road.
At any rate, the view was magnificent. The hill I was running up fell away softly to the southeast, revealing the valley I had just run down in the opposite direction, and the sun had by now risen high up into the sky, illuminating the landscape with those pale rays of light you only see at dawn. The dewy grass by the road watered my ankles and right here I stopped to enjoy the view, accompanied by the many birds chirping in the trees behind me. Also, my lungs and legs needed the break. I’ve run here several times before, so I didn’t need to check my GPS to know that I had to turn right down on Barbarastraße to get back home to Kutzhof. I had imagined the downhill as a triumphant run back to the house again, but it was every bit as painful as the uphill run had been. Curse those wretched legs! I arrived just in time for breakfast, with everybody already gathered round one of the large tables in the kitchen. I sat down next to my cousin Maros, grabbed a bowl of corn flakes and smiled a happy smile. I love breakfast after my morning runs, even though the morning runs themselves are a bit of a nuisance. Maybe you remember that I told you that Andrej, the husband of one of my cousins, completed his first ever marathon a few weeks ago? Well, Maros finished his first marathon last weekend: the beautiful Paris Marathon, and in an impressive sub-4 hour time as well! Huge congrats! So now we’re four marathoners in the family, not counting Jakob. And there’s more to come.
I thought I’d round off this week’s entry by showing you last week’s training schedule. As long as I remember, I’d like to update you with more specific progress like this all the way to the race in August. So here it is, on popular demand. My training schedule. Enjoy, and speak to you soon!
Monday 13 km, calm tempo
Tuesday 12 km (3k warm-up, 6k marathon tempo, 3k wind-down)
Wednesday 10 km, restitution
Thursday 10 km, restitution
Friday 27 km, calm and steady tempo
Sunday 12,4 km (400 vertical metres), first hill-training in ages
Total 84,4 km