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

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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

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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Day 307: First day of Fall

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Rejoice! Fall is here!

I love autumn. It’s my favourite season by far. Summer is great and winter and spring both have wonderful things about them, but nothing beats fall. Maybe part of the reason is that I was born in the fall; nevertheless, there is some magic in the fallen leaves and rainbows and the colours of the foliage. Not to mention that the weather is absolutely perfect for running.

Today, finally, after being ill and generally slacking, I ran. It wasn’t a good run or nothing special, but I made it out of the door (what was hard). The Morat-Fribourg race is in just 10 days and I better get some form back before it happens. Moreover, this race is mostly uphill so I even took the tiny little hill in the park today. It’s going to be a challenge to run 17k uphill; after all, the Netherlands is flat as a pancake and it’s hard to find anything remotely resembling that.

I can’t say I am particularly proud of the run today, but I have to make the best out of the last four weeks before the Amsterdam half marathon. My registration letter has arrived already, so this thing is real. Kinda scary, too.

Distance: 5km
Time:       32:42

Do you like to run in the autumn?
Which is your favourite running season?

Running Portugal

In August, I visited my aunt who lives in Lisbon, Portugal. I spent an amazing time there; the city and its surroundings are absolutely beautiful! Of course I had my running gear with me, and I would like to share with you some of my experiences on running in this wonderful environment.

First of all: Lisbon and its surroundings are full of runners. Running is a popular sport among both natives and tourists, and there are plenty of ways on comfortably getting around on your feet.

Sightseeing: Get ready for some hills and stairs

If you plan to do running and sightseeing at the same time, Lisbon has a treat for your hamstrings, as it is located on seven lovely hills. The views from the top are absolutely amazing and definitely worth the climb, even if, like me, you simply walked the entire way. For obvious reasons, you will find most of the runners somewhere else; along the river.

The River Tagus

Lisbon lies on the bank of the beautiful river Tagus with stunning views and promenades which span the city. Not surprisingly, these promenades are some of the favourite places for runners. Moreover, there are trains and metro lines very close to the river, and the tickets are very affordable, so it is really easy if you decide one day you want to go to the Expo area and run along the river there. It is really pretty and full of modern architecture. If you want a break, there’s the Europe’s largest indoor aquarium and plenty of spaces to sit down and relax.

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Another wonderful area with a convenient promenade along the river, topped off with a multitude of green parks, architectural monuments (both old and new) and museums worth visiting. If all that running around makes you hungry, I can recommend a delicious Italian-style pizza in the restaurant at the Museu Coleção Berardo (modern art gallery).

Out of the city – beaches!

There is a train line which connects Lisbon to its suburbs all the way to the picturesque city of Cascais, and all along the riverside and oceanside there you can find beaches.
I dedicated my old pair of running shoes to the sand and it was spectacular. The water was very cold (too cold for me to swim in, and that’s not something that happens often), but the plus side of it is that it cools the air down at the very edge of the beach making it pleasant to run even when the temperatures are very high. However, if you dream of beaches that span for miles, you’ll have to make your way around some old timey fortifications which dot the coast.

Cascais and Boca do Inferno

Conveniently reachable by train, Cascais is not only a picturesque port town with a beautiful small palace, a Paula Rego museum and a wonderful park. If you follow the road further down the coast, you’re in for a visual treat: it is lined with black cliffs. You’re in luck, because there’s a path right along them where people are free to bike, run or walk. Just be careful when you do want to step onto the rocks themselves, they do tend to fall off without warning…

Equipment

Everyone has their preferences on what to take on their runcaction, but I have a couple of tips based on what I found useful during my stay in Lisbon.

  1. I know this is obvious, but sunscreen is an absolute must if you do not want to end up severily burned. I also recommend having a running cap and a hydration bottle even if you do not run very long distances. It can be very, very hot.
  2. At the same time, it can also get cold all of the sudden. Even though the weather was splendid all two weeks I spent there, there was one exception: an afternoon/evening when a long-sleeve running tee was much more sensible.
  3. Beach shoes, or a pair of running shoes dedicated to running in the sand. There can be sharp stones, shells and jellyfish there, so if you decide to run barefoot, be careful!
  4. LED and/or reflective gear. The day is not that very long in Lisbon in August and you want to make sure you will be visible on those dark mornings or evenings when you go run.
  5. Some sort of GPS to guide you home in case you get lost. Portuguese people are extremely kind and helpful; so helpful that, when you ask them for directions and they do not know the correct route, they will still try to guide you the best they can. What might result in you getting lost even worse.
  6. A bikini that fits under a running bra/running shorts (or running shorts that can get wet). Just in case you want to take a dip in the ice-cold ocean after all that running!
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Running on the beach!

What are your tips for running on holidays?
Is there anything else you want to know about running in Lisbon and surroundings?

Not yet dead

There’s no way to hide that any more: The last two months I have been struggling with running. Greatly. Partly because of how busy I was at work and during my amazing holiday in Portugal and Switzerland.

However, the half marathon in Amsterdam is in just 5 weeks, and I have 2 more races before that. It is about time to get back on track.

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Hereby I am making a promise to myself, taking you all as witnesses, to follow and complete my training plan and get ready for the big event. Maybe that’s going to help me keep myself accountable.

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At the same time, I have some holiday experience and recaps to share with you. Here is what you can expect the following weeks:

  • My subjective guide to running in Lisbon, Portugal
  • Tips on running while on holiday
  • Recap from my holiday
  • Product reviews of some of my running gear
  • Going back to my beloved tribal fusion bellydance
  • The recipe for the best pizza crust you have ever made (stolen from MRB)

In meantime, I would like to invite you to my instagram for a sneak peek of what’s to come and more frequent updates!

What have you been doing this summer?
Any plans for races coming up soon?

How to survive the bad times

Recently, I haven’t been writing much. The last weeks are difficult for me, and for some time, I couldn’t even get myself to do any serious running. But I am still running and I find it important to keep myself running. I think most runners will encounter a period when it’s difficult to run, due to external or internal reasons.

Therefore, I compiled a list of tips and tricks that have helped me to survive so far.

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How to run when you don’t feel like it

  1. Be prepared.
    Make sure you have clean running clothes, and that you know exactly what distance and what sort of run you want to do (or your training plan asks for). This helps me keep running more or less on schedule.
  2. Ditch expectations.
    Even though you or your training plan expects a 7km progressive run, you might end up doing a slow 10k or a fast 5k instead. And that’s OK. It is more important to run than it is to run exactly what’s in the plan. Even a bad run is better than no run at all.
  3. Entertain yourself.
    Run your usual route the opposite direction. Find a new one. Try to take in the surroundings and look for changes. Count all the people walking their dogs. Check out a new playlist, maybe a new music style. If you run by distance, try to run by time, or vice versa. Try running completely without any tracking device whatsoever. Try a type of run you didn’t before, like a fartlek or a hill run.
    For me, even the simplest changes can make the difference to actually enjoy my run even when initially I didn’t feel it at all.
  4. Keep your eyes on the goal.
    While some runners are lucky enough to just run without the need for training plans or goals, most of us have some sort of expectations from our running. It might be an upcoming race, weight loss, or experiencing the runner’s high on a sucky day. I find it easier to get my feet out of the door when I think about the big picture.
  5. Treat running as a hobby.
    Let’s face it, very few of us here can consider themselves professional athletes. Of course it’s fun and games to get faster, better, set PRs, etc. However, in the end, whether you finish as the runner #90 or #99 in a race really only matters to you and maybe the few of your close ones.
    There will be another chance, another race. Maybe your weight will drop slower than you expected. But don’t worry: you’ll get there, eventually. If you need some slack, give it to yourself. I know that runners spend majority of their time either running or thinking about running (I’m guilty as charged!), but it is still just a hobby of ours. We take it very seriously and that’s OK, but it’s also fine to let the priorities go somewhere else when necessary.

JustRunWhat are your tricks to keep yourself in the game even when you totally don’t feel like it?

Day 240: The morning run that sucked. Utterly.

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I did it…

It took me some time and it almost did not happen, but, in the end, today morning I dragged my lazy bum out of the bed and slapped on my running shoes and got out of the door for my first morning run in a long-ish time.

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But I wasn’t proud of myself. It sucked.

It was supposed to be a 7k progressive run, but already after 400m or so, I knew it will not be a progressive run.
I felt bad. Not any particular pain or discomfort, just a general feeling of meh.

Remembering how first mile is a lie, I decided to push the run anyway. And boy did I have to push, just to keep my feet going. Alright, I thought to myself, maybe I couldn’t run a progressive 7k, but I could run just a comfortable 7k. I tried to think of all the people who can’t run or who can, but won’t, and it helped for a little, until my GI tract woke up around the 4k mark. From that point on, I went steadily slower and eventually had to walk more than I could run.
At 6.2km, I called it quits. My time was really slow and I felt like crying.

I went home feeling defeated, made a quick smoothie and went for a yoga.
Yoga felt OK, but the negative lingering feeling didn’t go away.

Later this afternoon I plan to go swimming, hopefully that can make me feel a little bit better.

Day 227: Goodbye old, and the longest run so far

Goodbye, old friends

Last Sunday, I retired my first pair of running shoes.

Last Sunday, I ran the longest distance to date, 14km, and with no walking breaks.

It is hard to describe my feelings on this run.

On the one hand, I felt strangely emotional, even a bit sad. After all, these shoes took me places I never thought I would reach. My first running steps. My first race. Three different countries. Cold runs which left my toes numb and runs which made me almost faint from the heat.

On the other hand, I felt exited for the new distance and a slightly new route.
After I finished, I felt totally badass. That’s like 2/3rds of a half marathon, and, to be honest, I could keep going. Even though I was tired, for the first time I believed, deep down, that I can really do this.

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I can run a half marathon in October. Sure, there’s much needed training still ahead, but now I feel like I am up to the challenge.

Lastly, I did this run in the evening. After all this talk about morning running, I still struggle to get up and fit my runs in early. Well, tomorrow is another try. One day, I’ll get there.

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Distance: 14km
Time:       about 1h28mins (my app crashed, so I don’t know the exact time)

P.S. The next run will be on my new shoes! Stay tuned!

How to wake up in the morning to avoid the heat

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As I mentioned last time, it is extremely hot right now and us runners, we have to be very careful to stay safe and hydrated in such weather.
Therefore, if you want to keep running the great outdoors, the recommended running times are early morning and late evening, when the temperatures are manageable. Both times have their advantages and disadvantages, but there are several benefits of running in the morning:

  • you strengthen your discipline
  • by the time you arrive at work, you’ll be fully awake and your brain will be well oxygenated, what may improve your work performance
  • if you drive a car to work, being well awake makes you drive safer
  • your afternoons and evenings are free, so you can do whatever you like… even run again!
  • running improves your mood, making the whole day more pleasant and can help you cope with stressful situations
  • you get to enjoy the sunrises
  • you feel like a badass!

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However, waking up early to get your run can be a struggle, especially when you’re a night owl. I know I am, and, so far, I find it very difficult to wake up in the morning for my runs. I used to run in the morning around January/February, and I enjoyed it a lot. I hope I can do that again, in my opinion – it is worth it!

Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks one can use to join the Early Morning Crew. Here’s what I’m going to do to help myself wake up early enough.

  1. Make sure you prepare your run before, so you don’t need much effort in the morning. Lay out your running gear. If you follow a training plan, check your schedule in the evening so you know what run type and distance you need to do. Prepare your route beforehand, if you need that. Watch an inspirational video. Rise and Shine is a great one!
  2. Start small and do only your short runs in the mornings, so you do not need that much time.
  3. Take small steps. By moving your alarm clock backwards 20-30 minutes each week, you help a gradual transition.
  4. Move your phone/alarm clock out of your reach so you have to actually stand up to turn it off, and set up the most annoying sound for the alarm.
  5. Remember: There was a reason you set that alarm clock in the first place.
  6. Keep waking up earlier even on rest days, or if you run in the evening. You can use the extra time do some cross-training or maybe you can show up early for work and leave early, too.
  7. Don’t forget to warm up before running!
  8. If you need to, eat something small. Bananas and peanut butter toasts are great.
  9. Drink a glass of water with few drops of lemon juice after you wake up.
  10. Go to sleep early.

There is one more thing you can do, which is out of my reach, but it might help you. It is to find a running buddy or group to keep you determined to show up for training.

I hope this weekend I can write here a summary of my beautiful morning runs!

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Do you struggle with early mornings?
What are your tips and tricks for early morning runs?