It’s a quarter past six on a Sunday, and the bells are singing.

I woke up this morning intending to get in a couple hours of running, regardless of how the hip felt, but was thwarted by a knee problem that arose six days ago. Now, I question why I’m even trying.

I have long struggled with depression. I first realized what this feeling is when I was in Junior High School. Some people will say that it’s chemical imbalances within the brain or the body while others will believe that it stems from personal trauma or dietary issues. I believe it’s probably a stew whose strong aroma is a sum of many parts. Regardless, what would really “knowing” do for me?

Austria (and Europe) has experienced a longer than normal, and extremely gray winter. This paired with the fact that I have had ZERO days since the beginning of November without physical discomfort, and without the ability to express myself in the way I love best–through running; running long–the past five months have been the most difficult that I have experienced in a very long time. I often find myself sitting in front of books, accomplishing nothing, and I slip further away. I awake each morning, the hours pour by like the waters of the river Mur, and before I know what’s happened I’m crawling back into bed for the night. What is wrong with me?

Nothing is wrong with me. I’ve crawled into my head to hide from issues rather than confront them. Life can be difficult, I just need to face it head on and quit hiding. The world would be a better place if we could all do that.

Today is a BIG day. It’s Lisi’s BirthdayEVE! And not only is it the day before her birthday, it’s the day before her 30th! Birthday. Now, I know some people freak out at the prospect of turning 30, but I see it from a slightly different angle…

Lisi and I have made it SOOOO far together! And, though she has pulled most of the weight, we’re closer and more in-step with one another than we have ever been in the 9-years since we first magnetically collided.

I know it’s not my birthday, but I’m going to make a wish anyway. I wish that at the end of the next 30 years, we will be as happy and health(y/ier) than we are today.

Happy Birthday my Love!

Walking is healthy. But, I prefer to run.

I’m the type who prefers occasionally running to work or school, as opposed to walking or hopping on the tram. Unfortunately, I am still struggling with an injury that has weighed upon my self-esteem and emotional balance since early November.

I just want to run pain free. Speed is not something I’m remotely interested in at the moment, and winning races isn’t something I allow myself to daydream about. I just want to wake up early and share sweat with the sun as she makes her daily climb over the horizon.

The doctor, the massage therapist, and the Osteo have all done a little bit to make my body, in the larger picture, feel lighter, healthier,  and happier, but the the worst of worsts has yet to be solved.

I guess I’ll go now. I need to give a Physical Therapist a call.

I hope you’re happy and healthy. Blow the rising sun a kiss for me.

Does it really take me so long to update my blog? Why do I even have this thing? I don’t really have a theme, or follow any type of format… 

Unfortunately, I’m just lazy (or am I?). 

Since my marathon disaster I’ve had one running week worth writing about, and the rest of the time I’ve been injured. I’ve seen the doctor three times for treatment, as well as to get some blood work done to figure out why I’m sick every 6-8 weeks, and possibly why I feel a little depressed, lethargic, and under energy.

Regardless of my measurements, one thing is certain. I need to update more often!

I hope everyone is happy and healthy and ready to celebrate the holiday and bring in the New Year in style!

In the past five or six weeks, a good half of this marathon build-up, I have spent two weeks recovering from the idiotic half marathon I ran, and another three fighting off two separate „colds.“ While I was able to run during the recovery from the half marathon (not a high volume of miles, but great quality work), I have unfortunately not been able to do much running through the past three weeks. In fact, in this last week before the marathon I have committed to not run a step until I am completely well. Yesterday’s nine minutes of running were the first test, and though I was stiff and my body reacted sluggishly, I could breathe through both my mouth and nose. That’s a very good sign. I have no fever or great deal of fatigue, just a lack of confidence. Today I will attempt a half hour run and take liquid about halfway through (as training for Sunday). The next two days will help me decide whether or not I will attempt to run 2:24, or whether I will attempt to run 2:30. Regardless of the end goal, I am going to start out extremely slowly and try to listen to my body rather than follow blindly the lead of those running around me.

Wish me luck with that!

This training build-up has not been the best of my life, but I was feeling more confident than ever until I caught the second cold. I have no idea where my fitness is, what kind of response my body will have to not running for four days straight, or if I’ll be able to find that balance I had found post half-marathon disaster (the balance of remaining completely relaxed at a high speed).

When I had finally listened to my body and focused on relaxing rather than pushing to some psychological limit in order to reach an arbitrary training goal that I had set for myself, I was surpassing the arbitrary goals with ease and arming myself with the knowledge that I could go faster farther if I needed too. That’s a powerful tool to have in your pocket on race day.

Now… I don’t know where I stand. I guess I know that I’ll be standing on the starting line of the Graz Marathon in three days, regardless. I will watch the men I yearn the most to beat sprint away at the gun, and hold a deep hope that my patience and decision to run within myself will allow me to catch a pair of them in the final agonizing kilometers.

An endurance triathlete a few friends and I were talking to this past weekend said that regardless of what has happened in training up until that point, he is always sure and accepting of one thing, „I’ve got a hard days work ahead of me.“

Once you’ve said it, it’s easy to accept. Regardless of your ability level or your goal, when we all meet again at the finish line, we will have endured a long, hard days work.

Hopefully, we’ll all be satisfied and chat happily with no regrets.

I’ll be chatting in broken German.🙂

The past couple of weeks have been a wash.

I ran a mini-taper (running jargon for taking it easy before a competition. A taper is thought to let the body refresh and be fully fit on race day) leading into a half marathon. The half was designed to be  a systems check for the October 14th marathon here in Graz. The only way I can describe the disappointment is to say that I pushed the motor to hard while it was still cold, drove in third when I should have been in fifth, and that EVERY light on my dash strahled out into the deep dark abyss that was/is my current mental emptiness. My body hasn’t been right since.

I’ve been struggling to find a puzzle piece why, and my Coach’s answer is a pretty good one. Someone who wants to run one hour and nine minutes (1:09) shouldn’t run the first two miles of a race at sub one o’four pace (1:04). My problem there is complex, but I’ll try to lay it out for you…
For starters, I am uber competitive and want nothing more than to mix it up with the fasties. I don’t care what your personal best is, or what country you hail from, when we go at it I want to beat you. Heap on top of that hot mess the idiotic and immature idea that I don’t make game plans, rather run by the “triumph or die” (most often die) strategy of “Hang onto the lead group AS LONG AS POSSIBLE,” with the thought that eventually I’ll stick, run a great time and beat some bad men. These previous two thoughts in themselves aren’t too shabby if, and this is a BIG if, the race is shorter than two miles AND you’ve got the ability to run anywhere near the tempo the leaders set out on. I don’t run races that short, and I’m not a world class athlete. The third part of my problem is that I get sucked into running another athlete’s race well too often. The ONLY way to reach my highest potential as a runner (and human being) is to be me. I have to finally accept that running within myself, and applying my efforts evenly throughout a race (a task in life) will ultimately make the difference between me winning or losing (whether I finish first or not). My desire to win will only have a platform to express itself if I control my actions rather than allow them to be controlled by others.

So, after a taper week for the half, and a week to recover from the destruction I did to my body during the half, I find myself dead tired, without coordination or strength. Lifting my legs feels like a job in itself and my breathing is heavy. But… the cool, crisp air of fall has arrived, washing the warmth of summer from my skin and leaving me with a fresh, renewed feeling (and the motivation of a crooked politician in an election year–except I only play fair).

If you’ve made it this far, kudos. And thanks. I think if there is a message to be taken from my Tuesday morning ramble session, it would be this:

Becoming the absolute best that you can be in life is not only manifested with commitment, motivation, and will, through consistent hard work and sacrifice, but also with patience, reflection, and the ability to adapt.
It’s not enough to feel or even to know something. You have to be able to apply what you’ve learned to life. And that my friends, is as easy as doing.

I’ll let you know how that works out soon.

I’ve never been one to be shy of growing older. I think that we, as human beings–creatures–should be proud of each year we survive this crazy game we’re thrust into. However, in this week of August, as the pages of the calendar marking days slowly peel back and fall away, my looming 29th birthday has caught me by surprise. It’s not so much the number of years as it is the lack of number of accomplishments. And none of this would be a problem if it weren’t for one stupid morning this week when the men renovating an apartment across the Hof woke me up with their lärm.

Shaving is really an ignorant ritual we all subject ourselves too. And it’s also something men and women can equally relate too. Women are told that they should shave their legs, and men their faces. So, on Tuesday I obliged. With the face part. I received a light knick on my chin, in the same place as always near an old scar from an incident when I was younger. I don’t care to explain the incident now, but we’ll call it the, “Andy fell out of a tree and sliced his face open on the way down” incident. I won’t bring up the, “Andy fell out of a tree and sliced his face open on the way down” incident again because it has absolutely nothing to do with my story. On Wednesday when I awoke earlier than expected (apparently it’s okay to start drilling into concrete at 7 a.m. in Austria), due to the aforementioned lärm, I was further disturbed to find that my face was rough as a grainy sandpaper and that I needed to shave… TWO DAYS IN A ROW. So what does this back to back shaving mean??? I’m gettin’ up there.
In this week I have become conscious that I am nearing 29 years old. The age my parents were when I was 7…
But the shock has been short lived, because to be perfectly honest, I haven’t had any real goals for my life until the last year, and I’m doing everything I can to achieve them. What’s a number, right? (Of course, the lack of numbers in my bank account could prove to be significant).

And for those of you who come for RUNNING INFO:

I woke up last Thursday with a slight cold (sore throat, cough, sneeze, crazy runny nose) that persisted until Wednesday of this week, which was disheartening. However, it didn’t stop me from getting out for a 2 hour long run on the weekend, up and over Jungfrau (I think it’s called that…) and Plabutsch, covering around 800m (2600ish feet) of climbing in somewhere around 25 to 27 kilometers. I was definitely needing a good long slog on the trails, through the trails and up some (albeit small) mountains.
I followed that up on Tuesday with a track session of 400/400/800/800/400/400 with 400 jog recovery, starting at 70’s for the first couple of 4’s, 2:26 for the first 8 (went through the first 2 in 39… killed me) and 2:22 for the second 8 before dropping a smooth 68 and finishing with a strong relaxed 64 for the last 400. It took me the entire workout to warm up, and on the last 400 I finally found the speed I’ve been missing throughout this entire marathon build-up.

I’m running relaxed and easy through the rest of the week (Wed. 16km, Thurs. 10km, Fri. 8km + strides) and tomorrow, Saturday, I’m running a half marathon in Vienna. It’s a strong field, so wish me luck!

The past three months have been rough.

I went through a period directly after the Salzburg Marathon when I vented my let down by  jumping in a bunch of short small events with no recovery or down time in between. Fortunately, I had cruised most of the marathon, and my body wasn’t as beat up as it normally would have been. So, four days after the marathon, when I hopped in a 4 kilometer road race in the city where I live, Graz, I wasn’t fresh, but I wasn’t worried. I won the race on a kick, coming from behind to surprise the leader, who thought he had the race wrapped up. I continued with a few more similar races, getting outkicked in each. I guess I let my head get ahead of my body. I’m more of a long drive to the finish type, and not so much a kicker.

The consequence to running these events is that when all the racing finally caught up to me, I was KO. Both fortunately and unfortunately, it all caught up to me just in time for two weeks of tests. The amount of stress I felt was comparable to nothing I had ever experienced, and I was physically and emotionally torn down to a point where I couldn’t control myself. It was frighteningly intense. The fortunate part is that I had no time for training, and was forced to take a two week break (of course I got a little running in!).

It’s been a month and a half since, and I’m about ready to open myself back up to the world. A build up for my latest goal, the Graz Marathon on October 14th, has already begun, and I’m in full swing preparing for the next round of Exams in the middle and last week of September. Conveniently, on my birthday. I just need to get through these, and if all goes well I’ll be allowed to begin my actual course of study at TU Graz University in October.

For those who aren’t aware, I’ll be entering a five year program (3 years to bachelor/2 years to master) in Earth Sciences. My goal of wrapping up a bachelor degree by my 30th birthday is out the window, but I’ve gotten started, and the hoops that I need to jump through are the biggest road block left.

For those more interested in the training side of things:

I’m hitting around 90 miles a week, which is 30 a week more than I ran in my build up for Salzburg, and I feel pretty fit. Ironically, given the increase in mileage, my short speed intervals are incredibly fast and enjoyable right now. Unfortunately, my tempo work is the opposite. I guess it’s a sign that I need to focus a little bit more on that right now and make sure the quality is there.

Regardless, I’m in need of a good long slog through the mountains and forests of Austria. I sure do wish some of my good friends could be here to pass the time with me. I’m a bit lonely, but mainly because my German is okay, but not good enough to really fully express my thoughts and ideas.

I hope that you’re all well, happy, healthy, and in pursuit of your wildest dreams.

Bis Bald,

Andy

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These pictures tell a story. Beginning on the road outside of our apartment. From here, you look through one building into a garden. On the other side of the garden lies the building we call home.

Through the “hallway” and into the Hof (enclosed garden) you are welcomed with a blooming spring, and if you look closely, you can see my jeans on the dryer (or window sill in English). Up one flight of stairs, and then you can see the #8 Monster which guards over our 300 squard foot castle!

From the front door looking forward, our cozy kitchen. However, if you turn right, you see the room where I spend most of my time. The bathroom!

On the other side of the kitchen wall is our bedroom/living room/study/fitness room/laundry drying room.

We have a “hoch bett”, which gives us a little more space than a bed on the ground, but involves a lot of climbing.

So, feel welcome and make yourselves at home. Just don’t eat my last piece of chocolate, and rinse your dishes off before you lay them in the sink!

Thanks,

Andy

The day of the big race had arrived, and I went through my pre-race activities as is normal for me. My largest hurdle on a race day is staying relaxed, but this day I was loose, calm, and mentally open. Unfortunately, my body was acting the opposite. However, I kept a positive mindset on all that was going on around me, as most often my feeling during an event is the exact opposite as the hours leading up to it.
I forced myself to eat a little more breakfast than usual, which isn’t hard. I had one apple, one half of a banana, and two pieces of bread with butter and marmalade. That’s one more piece of bread, and one half of a banana more than I usually take. I was hoping to store a bit of extra sugar for the end of the marathon, as in my first and only other time running the distance I crashed HARD over the final 6 miles.
Lisi, her father and I made the half hour drive from the country side into Salzburg, Austria, chatting casually, and trying to keep things loose and relaxed, yet focused. I made my final pre race restroom pit stop at a small running club about 2 miles from the start area, where the restroom was clean and there was no line. What I received there was my first hint that things may not be running optimally. I’ll save you the details, but let’s just say things were NOT „coming together.“
In warming up for the event I didn’t notice anything grossly out of sorts. I had spent the week leading up to the race a little sluggish and unresponsive, which is not atypical for me. I had been having some minor hip tightness and lower back discomfort, but I knew it was something I could push through if it sprung up in the last portion of the marathon.

As the gun signalling the start fired, every one of the thin, toned pair of legs building a wall along the starting line exploded forward, spilling a universe worth of nervous energy into the city street. In this one instant I knew that I would be in for a long hard fight. The group I intended to pace with had exploded out, and opened a five second lead by the first half mile. I slowly started to make up ground, until finally, around the fifth kilometer, I had connected with the small pack of five or six. I attempted to remain as relaxed as possible, but my legs felt as though they had roots attempting to hold them to the ground. I focused my breathing to keep a low, steady heart rate before taking the lead of the second pack at 6 kilometers. For the next 7-800 meters I attempted to „flush“ the tired from my legs and wake my system up, but it was to no avail. I decided it was in my best interest to let the pack go, and try to find a tempo I knew I could manage for the duration of the race. The second pack, my goal time, and my intention to scrap and battle for a good finishing place were all gone before I hit the 5 mile mark of the 26.2 mile race.
By 15km my head had turned from upset to distraught, and all I wanted to do was step off of the course. My tight hip had already become a problem, and a tightness that usually precedes cramping had already moved into my hamstrings. I had only quit one race prior in my entire life, and I remembered the feeling it left with me. I knew that I would finish this thing, regardless of how hard it would be.
After running 6 km at 2:20 pace early in the race, I went through the half marathon in 1:13. My pace didn’t change much after that until I hit the last 5km of the race, when I began to slow quickly. What surprised me was how well my body had held up after feeling so crummy early. I never shook the lethargy or heavy legs, but my aching hip only made taking corners difficult, and the tightness in my hamstrings never began to cramp. If I had any reason to run harder over the final 5km it would have been possible, but I had packed it in around 15km, and this had become a long run for me. It was not a race.
It was a long, hard day. I did a good job of taking in fluids and fuel to ensure that my recovery would be speedy and that I wouldn’t waste the incredible level of fitness I’m carrying right now. After the race I let a couple of barely noticed tears escape… it’s hard to know how to feel when you put all of yourself into one event, and you wake up that morning and just have not good day, for no reason you could have changed. But I guess that’s life, right?

The day after the race I had some residual soreness in my hip and lower back, but nothing else bothered me. Two days after I was full of energy and ready to run another marathon in a week or so. And today… well today all I know is that I need to make more time to get my mileage, but that I should be pretty proud of my 2:30 marathon. Especially since I did it on a day when I couldn’t have felt much worse… and also because I only averaged 68 miles per week in the build up. I don’t know many people who can run 2:30 on less than 70 miles a week.

Thanks for sticking with me. One day I’ll make us all proud.

Current Training Gear

* Saucony Kinvara/Fasttwich/Type A5

* Race Ready LD Split Cut short

* Smartwool PhD Running socks and PhD Graduated Compression

* Nathan Quickdraw Plus Handheld Bottle

* Timex Ironman Triathlon watch

* Hammer Gel

* Hammer Endurolytes

* Hammer Endurolytes Fizz

* Hammer HEED

* Organic Chocolate Whole Milk

* Ibex (wool products)

Recent Race Results

* August 12th - 1st Place TEAM Kainach Berglauf 3:23 (44 km)

*July 7/8 - 1st Place TEAM 24 Hour Run (412 km)

* June 24th - 4th Place Steyt Stadtlauf 20:04 (6.2 km)

* June 9th - 1st Place Lippizannerheimatlauf 1:14 (half marathon - 1000 ft elevation)

* May 24th - 2nd Place Brück Businesslauf 13:45 (ca. 4.5 km)

* May 10th - 1st Place Graz Businesslauf 11:50 (ca. 4.2 km).

* May 6th - 8th Place 2:30 Salzburg Marathon

* April 15th - 1st Place 1:10:29 Grawe Oichtental Halbmarathon. Course Record!

* September 24th - 2nd Place 4:30 Flatrock 50km. One TOUGH course!

* September 10th - 1st Place 4:05 Do Wacka Do Trail Race 50km. Course Record!

* June 4th - 4th Place 6:17 (50 Miles) The North Face Endurance Challenge MidAtlantic Region in Washington, D.C.

*May 1st - 1st Place 1:07 (10 Miles) The Claw XTerra footrace in Alafia River State Park, Fl

* April 4th - DNF Mad City 100km USA Championships in Madison, Wi

* November 25th - 15th Place 6:42 JFK 50 Mile in Washington Co., Md

* October 1st - 1st Place 20:30 The Beer Run 4 Miler in Gainesville, Fl

Coach and Support Crew

* Howard Nippert - Coach
* Gary Wing - Physio
* Lisi Maurer - Personal water crew and moral support (A.K.A - wife)
* Dana Howard - Wardrobe Coordinator ;-)
* Mary Kirkendoll - Yoga Monster

* LTV Bawag PSK Köflach

Sponsors

* Hammer Nutrition

* Lloyd Clarke Sports Racing

* Saucony

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