I’m a half-marathoner!

What a busy month! This October, MRB & I ran three races:

  • Course Morat-Fribourg in Switzerland, a beautiful, hilly 17.2km race between the cities of Morat and Fribourg;
  • 4mijl van Groningen, a local race where I live, extremely flat, pleasant and fast course with over 20 000 participants;
  • Mizuno Half-Marathon in Amsterdam, my very first half-marathon!

I have been so busy running that I had no time for blogging. Shame on me! The race recaps will come very soon, I promise. It was such an intense, difficult and rewarding time. Now I need some rest and taking it easy. But I would like to officially thank Babeta for convincing us to register for the half-marathon race. What an experience! Stay tuned!

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May Summary and a New Training Plan!

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May was a very exiting month! A couple of highlights:

I also wrote an important blog post about food: my take on nutrition and making sure your body has what it needs.

Overall, I am very proud of this month, even though it might not be very impressive number-wise, it was still a very eventful month of constantly taking myself out of my comfort zone.

So, what is June holding for me? There’s only one thing which I do not like: my dance classes take a summer break and won’t come back until September or maybe even October. That makes me a bit sad, as I love dancing; maybe I should practice more at home. I still have my yoga, running and swimming, but dancing is very special in my life.

Other than that, there’s a lot of positive things: MRB and I registered for the Amsterdam Half-Marathon and we are starting a long, 21 week training plan for that as of today.
In meantime, we also registered for a smaller race which will be already this weekend!

I am super exited for the new training plan, and the new goals. At the end of June I will be volunteering at a local mud/obstacle race. And I decided to take on the Spartan 30 day push-up challenge – so far I can’t even do one, so let’s see how far can I go!

How was your May? What are your short- and long-term running plans?

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.

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 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!

Archive concert and a day in Amsterdam

Last week Friday, MRB and I went to see one of my favourite bands live in Amsterdam: Archive! I have seen them once before, many years ago (after the release of the album Noise), and since they came out with a beautiful new LP: Restriction, they are treating people all over Europe to concerts in the past and following weeks.

Archive is a large, 10 people band with a lot of diversity and dynamism in their music, toying with their approach to sound and composition, borrowing from diverse music genres to create a full-bodied sound where silence and music pay equal parts of importance. They played a multitude of newer and older songs, from You Make Me Feel of the 1999 album Take my Head to the newest releases, including the beautiful and extraordinary ballad End of Our Days. After the finished set they treated us to the most fantastic encore: Lights! I did not expect them to play an almost 20-minute song on this concert, so I was surprised and delighted to hear this live.

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After the concert we went for a drink to a nearby Café-restaurant Stanislavski, part of the Stadsschouwburg – the municipal theatre of Amsterdam. It is located in a beautiful building from 1894, neo-Renaissance, very bright and tall inside, a complete opposite of what a typical Dutch ” brown bar” looks like. We had a great time before we headed off to sleep a bit before the next day.

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We stayed in Amsterdam for a couple of hours to take a stroll through the old town in the rain and a dash of sunshine. I like Amsterdam, it is a wonderful city to visit and it was great to walk around the place once again.

The coming weekend will be much more running and much less party, but I wish you everyone a great time!

What are your plans for the coming weekend?