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.

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Days 165-171: Week 8 of 10k training

11212611_10152886810022717_3959023713251531796_oHappy Mother’s Day to all who celebrate it today!

And, first of all: Congrats to MRB for his first race! He smashed the GP Bern yesterday and he told me he enjoyed it thoroughly. Can’t wait for the Amsterdam 10k!

The race is in a week. In a week! I am starting to feel weak in the knees for that. That’s a bit early, isn’t it? But there’s only two runs left, and then, hey, the R-day. I have been training really hard and I actually need to cut back a little bit, because the last week has had one major theme: cramps. I was certainly overdoing it.

Wednesday – slow 5k

Yup, two rest days to start the week! I only did some yoga on Monday. I also did yoga on Wednesday – a lot of it, actually, and I had a pretty nice evening run, concentrating on going slow. I noticed that, while going slower than comfortable place, my Achilles tendons tend to stiff up. I guess that’s because I tend to strike more on the heel when I run slower? No idea.

Distance: 5.7km
Time:       37:03

Thursday – fast 10k and bootcamp training!

My first morning run in ages! I knew how busy would I be, so I decided to get up earlier and run before work. And it was great. It started sunny, then it started to rain – hooray rainbows! – and it finished pouring. I ended up soaked, but it was really nice anyway. Not to mention that the park is so empty early in the morning when it rains. Nevertheless, I still met some other runners. So great to see dedicated people.

Bootcamp, people!

In the evening, I went to my first bootcamp training! It was great fun. I really liked the social aspect of the training, and even though I am still not the strongest person out there, I am managing far better than I used to. I was on the winning team in the plank challenge we did! Maybe I should enrol for regular bootcamp trainings? Once or twice a week? What do you guys think?

Distance: 10.1km
Time:       59:30

Saturday – slow 5k

And slow it was, but mostly because I basically walked half of it. I had incredible cramps in my calves. The whole run was run-cramp-walk-repeat. I hydrate a lot, I slept quite well, I went to yoga before running, I try to eat enough protein and I even eaten some chocolate to replenish minerals (I am one of the few weirdos who isn’t crazy on chocolate; I know, I know, it’s strange), but I think I simply overwork myself and my body is not yet used to such training intensity. My guess is that I got a prime example of too much, too soon.

To relax and train differently for a bit, I went for a swim. The open air swimming pool is now available and I love that place. I will be going more often. I love swimming, and even though I am not a fast swimmer, it was so enjoyable! I lost count of the number of laps, but it was a solid 1 hour in the water. Splendid.

Distance: 5km
Time:       35:32

Sunday – “race pace” 5k

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This was a very interesting run. I started out bit too fast, but paid attention to my form and breathing, and I was flying (Lap 1)! It felt pretty good actually, and I didn’t have to push too hard, but somewhere halfway my right calf started to cramp up, so I took a walking break (Lap 2). After I felt better I picked up a bit slower, but with a still nice tempo. The run itself felt really good, I was bummed for the walking break in the middle, but I am not going to push myself too hard a week before the race.

Distance: 5km
Time:       29:04

I can’t believe that it’s almost race day! 

Days 158-164: Week 7 of 10k training and April summary

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April total distance 102.7 km!!!

Yes that deserves three exclamation marks: I ran over 100km in April total. Amazing.
But that’s not the only thing. I tried my first fartlek. I ran over horrible mood and even got a PR on 5k (28:16). I learned to have a healthy relationship with running. I tested the new Adidas shoes. I went wall climbing and I loved it. And I completely smashed my first attempt on the 10k distance, making it in under 1 hour! That sums up to a truly eventful and successful month.

So, how did the last week go?

Monday

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When living in the Netherlands, there’s one day that virtually everyone gets out and parties together, and that’s the King’s birthday on the 27th of April, aka: KINGSDAY! There are only two rules two kingsday: 1. wear orange 2. get out and have a great time. So we did. No one parties like the Netherlands on Kingsday, and when Kingsday happens to be on Monday, the party lasts all weekend long. You can imagine I was very glad that Tuesday was a rest day this week…

Wednesday

The slow 5k didn’t feel too great, even though I ran after yoga. In general, this week’s runs were not that great. I was taking plenty of walking breaks and did not push myself very hard. But I am managing to slow down the “slow” runs to something resembling jogging, and to pull off slower paces. It’s not easy, running slow!

Distance: 5.5km
Time:       37:34

Thursday

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My second ever attempt on 10k was much worse than the first. I walked a lot. I didn’t really have the mental strength to keep pushing, and I didn’t feel good about the run in the slightest. There is a saying among runners that the only workout you regret is the one you haven’t done; if so, this run was close to being second only to that.

Distance: 10.1km
Time:        1:02:21

Saturday

Starting with a yoga in the morning and the run directly afterwards, it was a good start into a busy day. It would be better if I didn’t have to endure the urgent need to use the bathroom the second half of the distance, but I somehow pulled that through. Thank God.
And there are so. many. runners. Saturday morning in the park. It’s like a swarm. Maybe they have a mating spot somewhere in the neighbourhood? Just kidding.

Distance: 5km
Time:       33:23

Sunday

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I am so happy I managed to pull this run in under 1 hour… even if just a couple of seconds. Especially that it rained cats and dogs during this run. I was completely soaked. And much fewer people than on Saturday, obviously, but there were still some hardcore runners I met on the trail. Strangely, the only thing I was worried about is whether my phone would survive it (it did). But the run was much more of a struggle than the one last week. I finished dead tired despite the walking break I took and some spots when I slowed down to get some breath.

Distance: 10km
Time:        59:47

And now, two weeks left to the Nike Women’s 10k Amsterdam!

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Days 151 – 157: Week 6 of 10k training

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Another week in the books, and it was a quite hectic and eventful one. Running-wise, I feel like I could push myself harder, but I am satisfied with how it went overall.

Tuesday – Running with the Girls

It’s amazing to see an army of girls running and training together. Even though the interval training wasn’t that very long or intensive, we had the opportunity to test out the Adidas Ultra Boost shoes, which I reviewed afterwards. We ran up and down a hill, raced against each other, squatted, planked and walked lounges; my hamstrings certainly got their part of the work done.

Thursday – the Day of a Spider-Monkey (wall climbing)

My planned 7k was postponed by a day to make place for a wall-climbing event. It was really great! It was my second time ever (previous one was two years ago) and I enjoyed it so much. It’s a good workout for the whole body (and, surprisingly, I wasn’t even sore afterwards) plus we finished with a nice get-together with a beer and some talks. I am considering enrolling for an actual course and including wall climbing into my workout routine… if I find the time for it.

Friday – 7k comfortable 

I had absolutely no mood for anything, so I decided to run comfortably in place of a fast run. I went to a yoga class first, what normally gives me very pleasant runs afterwards, but this time it wasn’t the case. I struggled through it and couldn’t really make it good for myself, made walking breaks, and was glad when it was over.

Distance: 7.1k
Time:       43:01

Saturday: 5k slow run

Yes, I still struggle with “slow” runs. They are never slow enough, I always fall back to my comfortable pace, and even with walking break, stopping to tie my shoelaces, smelling the flowers, I end up way ahead of the recommended pace. At least it was slower than the other runs.

Distance: 5.4k
Time:       35:10

Sunday: 10k fast run
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Being my first attempt on 10k, I did not push myself too hard and ran at a comfortable pace instead of a fast pace, and even took a walking break around halfway.
Now I know I can run a 10k, so I am ready for the race in Amsterdam; I also know I can do it under 1 hour, what I kind of expected, but wasn’t really sure about.

How did your week go? Any new accomplishments?

Days 144-150: Halfway done!

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MRB enlightened me today that in four weeks we are running the Amsterdam 10k.
We are halfway through the training plan! Can you believe that?

This fifth week of training went very well for me. I ran some very nice times. Over the weekend, I visited a friend for her birthday party in a city on the other side of the country, and spent a fun night full of bus adventures. I went to a concert of my other friend’s band Frankly no Helix which went really great! I danced a lot, so that counts as cross-training, right?

Monday – dance and yoga

Tuesday – 8k fartlek
The decision to do fartleks in place of fixed intervals was one of the best I could have made. My intervals are still not very long (max 600m), but they are getting longer and faster. With all the slow rest, walking and stopping for taking pictures of flowers, I still finished with a 6:07 mins/km average pace.

Part of the credit goes to the breathing technique where I tried the 2/1 breath method (breath in on 2 steps, breath out on 1) during the faster intervals. I noticed I could keep the fast pace for longer that way. The breathing itself feels quite unnatural and has to be a conscious effort, but that might get better over time (I hope).

Distance: 8km
Time:       48:57

Thursday – 8k comfortable/fast run
Being quite exhausted from a lot of work, I needed to take it easy, and decided to run comfortably instead of a fast-paced run. Even though the run was certainly a highlight in my rather poor day, in itself it felt wonderful.

It didn’t start that great, though. I knew I am not going to push for a fast run, but even going at a comfortable pace, the first kilometre felt like a chore. Then, suddenly, I got into the zone I haven’t felt for quite a while, my zen mode, my state of running nirvana, which stayed with me basically till the very end. I didn’t pay attention to anything, not my breath, not my pace, nothing; I just ran in the full automated state when I did not even feel in control of my legs; and, by some kind of magic, I ended up with an identical time as on the Tuesday run.

Distance: 8km
Time:       48:55

Saturday – 5k jog
You can imagine that, after a party and night time adventures, I was glad that the plan called for an easy run. Although, I have to tell you, delicious birthday cake for breakfast is simply an amazing thing, and Amsterdam looks absolutely beautiful at this time of the year. As an example, have some tulips.

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I did not run in Amsterdam, though, I am saving that for the race!

Distance: 5.5km
Time:       37:46

Sunday – 7k fast
Trying the breathing technique I described earlier (and despite the night filled with dancing), I pulled out a really, really nice pace. I am quite proud of this run and how far I improved over these last weeks. At the beginning of this training, I would consider this to be fast for me for a 5k, and now look at me – I am running further and further and my times are getting better and better. By the end of this 7k, though, I felt really tired. But that just means I tried hard enough, right?

Distance: 7.1k
Time:       40:04

On top of that, my FB feed is filled with all the lucky people excited for running the Boston Marathon tomorrow. All the best of luck to everyone! Godspeed!

Days 121 & 122: First week of 10k training

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I know many of you still have to train in the snow and cold, but here where I live the spring is in full swing. I am surprised and delighted by seeing the trees being covered in flowers more and more day by day. I go run in the park more often now and it is so wonderful. Even though the temperatures are not much higher than a month ago, the sun and the views certainly make the weather feel nicer. And oh, the sunsets… in the picture above is the view from my window. I feel blessed and so lucky to be able to enjoy this view so often.

The last week was an example for me how my training will look like the coming two months. I suspect that I am not eating enough for the increased physical activity, as I am getting hungry and tired easily. Fortunately all I have at home to binge on is fruit and nuts, but it’s a signal that I need to either increase my calorie intake or my protein intake. I’ll be experimenting in the next two weeks or so and hopefully I’ll find the proper way to fuel myself.

Saturday

I woke up for the morning yoga class and head off to my slow 5k through the park directly afterwards. It was slow indeed, but I didn’t mind – it was what it was supposed to be. I had all the time to pause and take in the environment and even take some pictures. Other runners were passing me, but I resisted the urge to speed up.

Distance: 5.4km
Time:       37:41

Sunday

Do you know what does not make one well prepared for a fast-paced run? Drinking and dancing at a rave till 6 a.m. does not. I had a great night and a short rest, but that resulted in a difficult run.
The training plan called for a fast run above my anaerobic threshold, so I headed up at a very fast pace, and I managed to keep it up for about 3km. After that, I noticed I was slowing down noticeably, and I did what I haven’t done for a long time now: I took a walking break, and I felt OK about it. Now that’s a big deal. After the walking break I did not feel particularly refreshed or much better, but I was able to pick up my pace and finish the distance in the way that I was supposed to. I did the day 10 of 30 days of yoga with Adriene while looking out of my window and enjoying this:

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Distance: 5.1km
Time:       30:59

Is there spring already where you live, or do you still run in the snow?
Do you enjoy the view from your windows?
Are there any particular things you feel blessed for recently?