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2017 – My Athletic Review

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2017 is over, it’s time to review and refine!

This year I’ve again reached my peak performance. At 32, turned 33, I’m apparently still on an upwards path when it comes to physical fitness. But for how long will that continue? There’s no other way to find out except to just keep going!

365 Days, 30 Races

On more than every other weekend on average, I took part in some sort of organized endurance racing event. Most hobby athletes, and probably all professional athletes would confirm that’s a lot. Like, A LOT.

Now the year is over I can safely say: it’s been too much. Although I’ve enjoyed every single experience in the fullest way possible and wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on any of them, towards the end of the year I noticed some sort of fatigue setting in. I’ve reached the maximum amount of racing I’m comfortable with, I guess. Finally! Now I can draw a conclusion and optimize for 2018.

As a side note: I’ve successfully stayed a non-smoker and vegetarian throughout the whole year and plan on keeping it this way. Both helped me quite a bit in lots of ways, but in particular with my athletic goals.

Also a vegetarian since 2017: Double Ironman World Champion and Olympic Triathlon Gold Medalist Jan Frodeno. Probably also a non-smoker. But who knows!
Also a vegetarian since 2017: Double Ironman World Champion and Olympic Triathlon Gold Medalist Jan Frodeno. Probably also a non-smoker. But who knows!

First, My Three Secondary Goals of 2017

I failed them all.

Yep. Usually, my posts are very positive and optimistic. Because that’s the way I choose to perceive reality. But when you set hard factual goals for yourself, there’s no room for interpretation. Either you achieve them or you don’t. This year, I didn’t.

I wrote about my three secondary goals of 2017 in last year’s post. Here they are again, including the results:

  1. Staying veggie, trying vegan: Well, I stayed veggie, but when I started my planned month-long vegan experiment, I caved after about two weeks. And that’s already been the second try for me, I gave up the first one just after two days. Conclusion: eating strictly vegan is tough! I’m definitely determined to try it again in 2018 and follow through again, though.
  2. No sugar: A full month of eating no products that contain industrial sugars. Just whole foods. I did this a bit longer, for about 20 days. But there were several occasions in which I just forgot about it and mindlessly ate a slice of cake someone handed me, for example. So I wouldn’t even count those 20 days as a success. Again, to be repeated in 2018.
  3. 7 Minute Workout x 365: I was very determined here as well up until about July/August. The fatigue was setting in right at the time of my biggest races, two full distance triathlons. Throw in the additional week of sickness and suddenly I fell behind my goal by a few weeks. The remainder of the year didn’t get any easier, so I ended on December 31st with 217 completed workouts, or a deficit of 148 workouts. Fail number three!

This sucks. And I don’t feel great about it, as I’m very much opposed to finding excuses for failure. It’s the plain realization that I set goals for myself I thought I could achieve and then proved myself wrong.

On to the Important Goals

Fortunately, these weren’t the only goals I set. The more important ones were a bunch of specific races.

Spoiler alert: I finished them all and achieved a few personal bests as well. Hooray!

One of the greatest side events of my year: Elbe river relay swimming race
One of the greatest side events of my year: Elbe river relay swimming race
  1. TWO Ironman Distance Triathlons: Challenge Roth and IRONMAN Hamburg
    These two were plain amazing. I had such a great time on both of them I will never forget those. It’s been great fun to compare them to each other, as well. Read more about both on my three parter Challenge vs. IRONMAN post: Part I: Training, Kraichgau, Elbschwimmstaffel, Part II: The Challenge Roth, Part III: The IRONMAN Hamburg
Met Ironman World Champion Sebastian Kienle at the IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau race
Met Ironman World Champion Sebastian Kienle at the IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau race
Probably THE highlight: Challenge Roth triathlon – incredible race
Probably THE highlight: Challenge Roth triathlon – incredible race
Got to appear in a small regional segment about the first ever IRONMAN Hamburg
Got to appear in a small regional segment about the first ever IRONMAN Hamburg
And finished that race the day after!
And finished that race the day after!
  1. Follow up on my EU Marathons in Zagreb and Bucharest
    Through a very lucky incident I was able to run both marathons this year. They had originally both been put on the exact same date, but Bucharest had to host a surprise NATO conference that day, so they moved the race by a week. Awesome! Read my race reports about Zagreb Marathon and Bucharest Marathon here.
Finished Zagreb Marathon in beautiful weather
Finished Zagreb Marathon in beautiful weather
Running was tough just 7 days after Zagreb, but the race in Bucharest was one of the best so far
Running was tough just 7 days after Zagreb, but the race in Bucharest was one of the best so far
  1. First ever Ultramarathon at Elbe-Lübeck-Kanal Ultra 61k
    Quite early in the year, in March, I went ahead and tried to do a race that’s longer than a marathon. It’s been exhausting, to say the least, but I’ve learned a lot. And it won’t be my last ultramarathon, I’m sure of that. Read about my first Ultramarathon
With my friend Holger, about 60.9 kilometers of running ahead of us at that point
With my friend Holger, about 60.9 kilometers of running ahead of us at that point
  1. My Classics: Hamburg Marathon and the two Hamburg Triathlons
    These two are always important to me, as I am born in this city and enjoy being here. The marathon is a huge event and the triathlons (Sprint and Olympic distance) are the biggest triathlon event in the world, measured by number of participants. I will continue to be part of those three races for as often as possible. In 2017, I broke my personal best on the full marathon with 3:26 hours and the Olympic distance triathlon with 2:29 hours as well, two more high points of the year. No blog posts about it, though – sorry!
Hamburg Marathon. Can you spot me?
Hamburg Marathon. Can you spot me?
Finally I got Sophie to do a triathlon with me. A bit proud of that!
Finally I got Sophie to do a triathlon with me. A bit proud of that!
Of course I was her support team, accompanying her all the way to the finish.
Of course I was her support team, accompanying her all the way to the finish.

Other Highlights

Some cool events come up rather spontaneously, and this year those were especially fun. I’ll mention three of them.

  1. Marathons for the Mind with Peter Thompson
    This guy from Bournemouth, UK, was doing a 44/44/44 challenge: running 44 full marathons in 44 different European countries, on 44 consecutive days, raising awareness and funds for people with mental health issues. One of the countries was Germany, and he chose Hamburg. So I contacted him and offered to be his entourage. He accepted, we ran, I wrote about it.
  2. Cologne 12, Part 2: The Revenge
    After trying and failing this race in 2016 due to circumstances beyond my control – a thunderstorm came up as I was 10 kilometers into the 12 kilometer swim, resulting in a emergency stop of the event –, I just had to come back to finish what I started and execute my revenge on this Cologne swimming race.
Not too sure about it beforehand, but 2017 was the year I finally conquered this 12 kilometer swim
Not too sure about it beforehand, but 2017 was the year I finally conquered this 12 kilometer swim
  1. The Swimrun: A New Experience
    A Swimrun – just a triathlon without biking? Nope, quite different. Offroad, trail running, cold lakes, no transition zones, teams of two – it’s really something! I tried this trending sport together with my friends Mischa and Rasmus on two different occasions in the fall of 2017 to report about it. The gist: tough, but worth trying.
7 hours and 18 minutes of constant swimming or running – not a walk in the park, to be sure
7 hours and 18 minutes of constant swimming or running for Rasmus and me – not a walk in the park, to be sure

Of 34 races total that I had signed up to do I managed to start and finish 30. The remaining four I skipped. None of those four saw me at the startling line. I either had spontaneously upcoming events that were more important on those days or just didn’t feel like doing those races. Not to worry, as all of them were tiny ones in the vicinity I can easily do some other year. Here’s the complete list:

Everything Else

  1. February 12: Wilhelmsburger Winterlaufserie, Part 2 2.5h run
    
These winter runs are a great way to keep the fitness during the cold winters.
  2. February 18: TIDE Runners Midnight Half 21.1k run
    Spontaneously took part in this guerilla style half marathon, had to choose between Shots and Squats.
  3. February 19: Bramfelder Winterlaufserie, Part 4 20k run
    
Terrible weather, but it’s been good to get out of the house and run a fast 20k to come back to a hot shower.
  4. March 12: Wilhelmsburger Winterlaufserie, Part 3 2.5h run
    
Managed to do exactly 30k in the maximum allowed 2.5 hours during negative degrees. Proud of it!
  5. March 19: Bramfelder Winterlaufserie, Part 5 20k
 run
    Last time at this race, I knew the track inside out. It’s been good to keep fit.
  6. March 26: Elbe-Lübeck-Kanal Ultra 61k
    My first ever Ultramarathon – it took me quite a while but I finished right in the middle of the runners’ field on a great sunny day with amazing family support.
  7. April 2: Ostseelauf 21.1k run
    
Sunday trip to my parents’ home at the Baltic sea included a half marathon for me. Wonderful scenery with the track leading right along the coast. Also ran a new personal best of 1:37 hours.
  8. April 9: Wilhelmsburger Insellauf 21.1k run
    
Windy southern Hamburg hosts this half marathon for a long time now. Great course through nature. Form of my life with another personal best of 1:34 hours for the half marathon distance.
  9. April 23: Hamburg Marathon 42.2k run
    
My favorite marathon race right in my hometown, with crazy weather: sun, rain, even hail. Still kept the pace and went for another personal best of 3:26 hours – just three minutes slower than my father’s best marathon time. I’ll catch him soon!
  10. April 30: Wedeler Halbmarathon 21.1k
 run
    Another great course in Hamburg’s surroundings. Incredibly windy, though. Still a fast 1:37 hours – but the best thing was my bib number: 1!
  11. May 7: Wings for Life World Run 25.5k run
    
World wide charity run. You run where ever you like and use their app to see how far you’ll get while being chased by a virtual car that’s increasing its pace continuously. Very fun!
  12. June 4: Cologne12 Swim 12k swim
    
As mentioned above, this was my second try at this race. This time I succeeded. My excursion into the world of long distance swimming also won’t be over, but it’s on a little hiatus since that race.
  13. June 11: IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau 1.9k swim, 90k bike, 21.1k run
    
Great traditional triathlon race in a beautiful part of southern Germany. We met World Champion Sebastian Kienle and I enjoyed a half Ironman during incredibly hot weather. Sun burn of my life, unfortunately.
  14. June 25: Hamburg Halbmarathon 21.1k
 run
    Another classic I’ve done many times. The slightly new course made it better in my opinion.
  15. July 2: Spreehafenlauf Veddel, 13,6k run / Neuhaus Triathlon
    
No energy left that day, decided to skip both events
  16. July 6: Elbschwimmstaffel Etappe 13 Blumenthal-Tangermünde 2k swim
    
Event to raise awareness for keeping our environment clean, focusing on the 700k long German river Elbe. A swim relay to cover most of the river, I did my small part as well.
  17. July 9: Challenge Roth 3.8k swim, 180k bike, 42.2k run
    
Main goal number one, my second long distance triathlon ever. Roth is the triathlon birthplace in Germany, probably even in Europe. It’s the best race I’ve ever had the chance to be part of, huge recommendation. With 11:36 hours I managed to beat my previous best time by quarter of an hour.
  18. July 15: Hamburg Triathlon Sprint with Sophie 500m swim, 22k bike, 5k run
    
Just six days after Roth another big highlight, doing a triathlon with my great wife Sophie. This was more a gift to me than to her, but she confirmed several times that she didn’t think it was too bad. That’s a win!
  19. July 16: Hamburg Triathlon Olympic 1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run
    
Slightly easier course this year, good circumstances to battle my last year’s self by 9 minutes.
  20. July 22: St. Peter-Ording Triathlon Olympic 1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run
    
Fourth triathlon within three consecutive weekends, a bit overkill maybe, but this one I can also recommend. St. Peter-Ording’s beach and surroundings are perfect for the sport.
  21. July 23: St. Peter-Ording Halbmarathon 21.1k run
    
No energy left that day after the triathlon the day before, decided to relax with the kids instead.
  22. August 13: IRONMAN Hamburg 3.8k swim, 180k bike, 42.2k run
    
In retrospect I’m a bit surprised I was able to pull this off after all the other events of the year. Very happy I did. Won’t be the last time I’m sure.
  23. August 16: Inselparklauf Wilhelmsburg, 12k run
    No energy left that day, three days after the full Ironman. Should have known that!
  24. August 27: Blankeneser Heldenlauf FANATIC 21.1k
 run
    This one has been on my list for ages. Never worked out until this year. What a cool race! It’s here in Hamburg and utilizes the hilly Blankenese neighborhood to create a tough half marathon. Really tough. I had to fight a lot. But the area is incredibly beautiful and the course layout and organization is perfect.
  25. September 3: Hamburg Airport Race 16k
    
I’ve been part of this race a few times before, it’s a classic. Never disappoints.
  26. September 10: Alsterlauf 10k run
    
Gone at it a bit too ambitious and couldn’t keep the pace I wanted to in the end. Disappointed, I learned another lesson: 10k races are not as easy as they seem when you’re used to marathons.
  27. September 15: Lichterlauf Harburg, 11,2k run
    
Postponed because of a spontaneous vacation with the family and my sister and brother-in-law.
  28. September 17: Insel-Swimrun Ratzeburg 4.7k swims, 28.2k runs
    
My first ever Swimrun event – it’s a weird type of race. Very fun though! I recommend reading the blog post I wrote about it.
  29. September 24: Alstertaler Volkslauf 21.1k run
    
Another half marathon in a cozy and foresty part in northern Hamburg. Worth it as well!
  30. October 1: ÖtillÖ Swimrun 7.5k swims, 33.8k runs
    
This race took the better part of a whole day. Rasmus and I were fighting quite a bit to get through to the finish, but it’s been a cool experience.
  31. October 3: Köhlbrandbrückenlauf 12k run
    
Forgot my timing chip for this fun run across the iconic bridge in southern Hamburg, so I ran together with a slower friend of mine, enjoying the view of the city and chatting away. Relaxing!
  32. October 8: Zagreb Marathon 42.2k run
    
Finally another EU marathon! I missed them. Zagreb is a pretty city, but they could have made the course more interesting. Great for fast finishing times, though. But after all the races I wasn’t fit enough to give a personal best another try.
  33. October 15: Bucharest Marathon 42.2k run
    
Just a week later I wasn’t feeling great, but good enough to enjoy the city. This race was really amazing and I can recommend it to anyone interested in marathon traveling. Big thumbs up.
  34. December 3: Ratzeburger Weihnachtslauf 26k run
    
The last one of the year. Cold, muddy, cloudy, slow, yeah – but running is always better than not running.

So, in retrospect I should have probably done about 80 percent of that. I felt depleted around the end of August, but still didn’t want to miss out on all those cool events I had been looking forward to for so long – especially the weird and fun Swimruns. But those really killed me. Directly followed by two marathons within fourteen days after the bigger Swimrun, I reached my limit. I’m glad I made it through all of it in the end.

But I learned my lesson and will change the plan for 2018 accordingly. More focus on specialty events, big races, and less filler events.

Less is More

If you have any suggestions, particularly on really nice races that could be considered to be little gems in the endurance racing world, let me know.

Thanks for reading – and all the best to you! Why not sign up for a 2018 race today? Right now?

You never know when something unexpected throws you out, like when I slit open my head and broke two ribs in an accident on December 21st. Not running for many weeks isn’t great. Better make most of it while you can is what I say. Can’t wait for 2018’s races!
You never know when something unexpected throws you out, like when I slit open my head and broke two ribs in an accident on December 21st. Not running for many weeks isn’t great. Better make most of it while you can is what I say. Can’t wait for 2018’s races!
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Bucharest Marathon
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2018 – My Masterplan