Day 325: 4 mijl van Groningen (race recap)

A week after the Course Morat-Fribourg and a week before the half-marathon we were in the taper phase, so our mileage wasn’t very high. It just happened that October 11th, the last Sunday before the Big Day, a local race was ran here where I live: the 4 miles of Groningen. It is quite a large event with 23 000 participants, and it fit into the training plan just too well to not register for it.

It is hard to describe how wonderful this race was. The day was extremely cold (9°C with strong, cold wind) and the course was flat (so different compared to the previous race!) and straight. Basically, you run in an (almost) straight line from one city to another, with hundreds of people cheering and music and a great spirit. There was one bridge above train tracks that gas a tiny bit of elevation, and that’s it.

Before & after. Same smiles, more medals!

These three features (cold temperature, flat and straight course) resulted in a great pace. Lately, I am not feeling fast at all and having consistent runs under 6min/km is a challenge. However, during this race, we had a very even pace around 5:47 min/km tough the whole time and, to our surprise, finished in just over 37 minutes.

There was one water station along the course and, overall, it was well organised and ran smoothly. The only downside was maybe that the warm-up podium was along the starting corrals and we were literally less than two minutes there; after a couple of jumping jacks we were already gone. It felt super cold so we kept moving not to freeze our bits off, but a proper warm-up would be welcome, too!

We were very, very happy with the race and how it went for us. I’ll probably sign up next year, too!

Distance: 4 miles (6.437km)
Time:       37:07

Day 318: #hillsforbreakfast Course Morat-Fribourg (race recap)

There it was, two weeks before the half-marathon, our last long training run. The plan called for a 17k and, just conveniently, the 82nd edition of the historical Morat-Fribourg race (or, in German, Murtenlauf), a 17.2k, happened to fall on the same weekend. Seemed just too perfect, right? The catch: It was comprised, fully and unforgivingly, of hills.

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Don’t get me wrong, Switzerland is a beautiful country. The environment and the nature are stunning. One thing you certainly cannot say about it is that it’s flat; breathtaking mountains surround you everywhere. MRB got this brilliant idea of making the course entry my birthday gift. I had no choice but to smile, look around at the flat as a pancake country I live in, and prepare myself for a certain death somewhere in the Swiss hills between the cities of Morat and Fribourg.

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I was so incredibly nervous the morning of the race, I could barely speak. It was cold, but sunny, and I couldn’t decide what to wear. I laid out my long sleeve in the evening, but I was afraid of being too warm. When we finally arrived at the race, everyone and their mother worn short sleeve tees. Fortunately, we took ours with us, so we could change. It was a wise decision, after all. I even got a bit of a sunburn.

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The race itself was very difficult for me. Just look at that profile! I have no chance on training for those in my flat-as-a-pancake Netherlands.
The first 1.5km it tricks you into thinking it’s going to be OK, going down gently before the long, 5k climb of constant uphill starts. That’s when I walked for the first time, and I had to break to a walk a couple more times, including the steep climb just after the 12th km. And the downhills were not really very speedy or comfortable either; sometimes they were so steep they made my ankles hurt. I had to take multiple walking breaks and my overall pace is the worst ever. And then, just before the finish, there was the last steep climb and I was so, so happy to be finished.

After the finish line. So tired!

However, the views were so stunning, I don’t regret a single moment. It’s such a beautiful course, and apart from the “official” refreshments stations, there are locals treating runners with water and oranges and dried fruit. How friendly of them! You almost forget that they call you a “jogger” all the time…

The only downside and disappointment is that there was completely no bling. They promised us medals, but then said it was a “typing mistake”. What a bummer!

Distance: 17.2km
Time:       2:03:42

Days 198 & 199: Running is HOT (+ the 5k in Fribourg)

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HOLIDAY!

I am taking a week off from work and visiting MRB in Switzerland. We have a lot of exiting adventures planned, we started with a big bang the last weekend: Sonisphere music festival in Biel on Saturday, and a local 5.3k race in Fribourg on Sunday morning.

The weather is splendid, holiday-wise: warm and sunny. The environment is picturesque: fields, mountains, cows, flowers.
However, that means running hills in the heat (up to 32°C or 90F) and full sun. Sounds like fun!

Saturday: 5k easy run and MUSE concert

This was a very, very difficult run. I was completely unprepared for such weather conditions, as I have never ran in more than 20°C. After slathering myself with sunscreen and putting on a cap, I set off to check out MRB’s running route. He was mostly concerned about the hill, but it was the heat that defeated me. I was close to a getting a heat stroke, getting dizzy and nauseous, found some relief in a fountain, and barely made it. We had to walk a couple of times because I did not feel like I could run any more, it was that bad. We arrived covered in sweat.

In the afternoon we headed out to the festival, where MUSE played as the big star. The concert was amazing! Extremely crowded, but I could dance and jump and enjoyed the music. MUSE is out with a new album, so they played the new songs like Psycho and Dead Inside along the old, well-known hits, as Resistance, Knights of Cydonia, MadnessUprising or Supermassive Black Hole. It felt great when everybody was singing along. And I really liked the confetti!

Sunday: 5.3k race in Fribourg

What do you think about going for a race in the morning after a festival night full of dancing and jumping? Because we thought that would be a great idea, and we signed up! Fortunately we had enough common sense left to go for the shortest distance, which was 5.3k (there were also a 10k race and a half marathon). The weather was, once again, very hot and unforgiving, but luckily I felt better than on Saturday.

Our finish time was 31:40 what makes our average pace of just under 6:00 min/km, and that means it’s a PR and a first sub-30 5k for MRB!

The race itself was nicely organised, with a very generous goodie bag for the finishers. There were plenty of water stations along the course, what was a godsend in these weather conditions. After the 3rd kilometer, there was also a sprinkler and running through the water there felt simply amazing. As the theme was related to the environment, the medals we received are very unique, because they are made of wood.
I also bought that cool white running cap!

Yes, I move faster than light, so it’s hard to capture me in the picture when I run! Big thank you to MRB’s dad who cheered on us and who is the author of most of the photos we have from the race.

And thus, the first week of the half-marathon training is complete. I am a bit concerned of how will I survive longer runs in the summer heat, but I guess that’s also a part of the training.

Did you run any races this past weekend?
How do you deal with running in very hot conditions?

DAY 177: Nike Women’s 10KM Amsterdam – my first race!

First thought: We made it! With negative splits and all that buzz. How cool! Friday evening we went to pick up our race packs and stood in a line for nearly one hour, but that saved us standing in an even longer queue on the race day itself. The crowd was insane, and people were picking up their packs till minutes before start.

Flat Alice waiting for her first race

I need to say I was super nervous. I changed my outfit like five times before I figured out what to run in (short pants? long pants? jacket? no jacket? T-shirt over the jacket?), as it was not warm at all, and the race took place in the late evening. In the end I decided for long pants and a t-shirt and it was a good decision; I wasn’t too cold or too warm. We chose to try for 65 minutes, because MRB’s best 10k before was about 1:08; we chose our pacer to follow (thank you for pacing us, unknown pacer! you were so friendly and did a great job!) and set off around 21:30 into the city of Amsterdam. We even managed to get into the official starting photo, which caught us just meters before the start line.

The route took us from the Olympic Stadium to the old town of Amsterdam and back, very nice route with plenty of water around, picturesque old buildings, and a park. It was great to discover Amsterdam from the running perspective, although we couldn’t enjoy the views all the time as it was very, very crowded and we had to make sure that we stay close to our pacer, we don’t step on any other people’s heels, and we tried to stick together as much as we could.

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The course wasn’t too difficult, and the pace was quite easy for me. I was happy to maintain a nice running form throughout the whole course, and, for the first time, I ran the whole 10k without taking a walking break! Nice achievement for me. It surely does help when you have someone to follow, even if I wasn’t too fond of the crowd. There was only one downside, though, with the race route like it was planned, there were plenty of places where you had to step up/down a curb, and the curbs were not marked in any way; I would expect the organisers to put bright reflective tape on them, especially with such a crowded race which took place in the late evening, and finished after dark. Personally, I was super scared of tripping and falling (gladly I didn’t), so marking the curbs would be greatly appreciated. We overtook our pacers somewhere between km 7 and 8, and at the last km we put on our 5th gear and flew to the finish line, passing a lot of other runners. With the end time a minute faster than expected, and a PR for MRB by over 4 minutes, the race was great. We stayed a bit to watch the last runners finish their course, and I shed a tear of joy when the great gals, doing their best finished with the cheering of the crowd and a huge supporting escort from the race crew. It was great! Then we danced a bit in the afterparty and, finally, went to the hotel and celebrated with some drinks and some friends.

One interesting thing about the race was that there were no bibs, and no “real” medals. We got shoe tags which counted as bibs and had chips in them, and as a finisher medal everyone got a silver bracelet in the shape inspired by the channels surrounding the old town of Amsterdam.

Worn with pride!

#UPDATE as of May 27th. The race was great, and the experience was wonderful. However, I really do not like how the post-race experience is handled. Nike published a total of 10 pictures from the whole race, and a “personalised video” which came out bugged and featuring other people. I managed to find my own video – there was 1 low quality picture of me there. I am very sad and disappointed on the post-race experience from this NIke race. The idea behind having a personalised video is cool, but in practice it turned out to be very poor. The lack of photographs for anyone except of the chosen few is disheartening. I hope Nike will take from this lesson and organise it better next year.