Thursday, December 30, 2010

October 2010 and Amsterdam Marathon

*** This is post 3 in a series of 5 posts meant to catch up on five months of blogging absence*** 

October was a bit of a disaster. I fell of the working out wagon (post-race soreness, my hamstring was hurting and my teaching load grew exponentially). We had some nice trips to Aachen, Germany, and home to Greece. The Amsterdam marathon was the big event of the month.

Race of the Month: Amsterdam Marathon
I signed up for this marathon right after running my first half-marathon in under two hours. So, I was feeling pretty cocky, thinking I could definitely train for a full. Unfortunately, life got in the way (you've heard that before) and I toed the marathon line completely untrained. Two weeks before the Amsterdam marathon, I ran the Breda singelloop, relatively untrained. That half-marathon caused a lot of soreness, keeping me from running for almost a week (as if those two weeks would have made any difference). I tried to change my registration from the full to the half, but it was too late. Sooooo... Here is how it went down.

I spent the night at my aunt's an d uncle's in Amsterdam, walked (and got lost) to the train station where I took two trams and walked to the starting line. I had planned to wear a sweater and a jacket to the start and leave them there. However, it was literally freezing (1C/33F) so I kept them on until the start. The ambiance at the start was very good, the organizers were trying to have a new course record set (not by me ;-) so they had pulled all the stops. We started in the Dutch Olympic stadium, so it took a while to get stated.

First 10K (1:03:47)
I quickly took off the jacket and tied it around my waist before crossing the start. About 5K into the thing I started feeling warm enough to also take the sweater off. We ran through the Vondelpark, a very nice park in Amsterdam where I had never been before. I was feeling a bit apprehensive, body parts were already starting to hurt.

Second 10K (1:04:14)

This part of the race was along the Amstel river. It was very scenic and beautiful, with a small out and back along a windmill. I was feeling good, passed the half marathon point in about 2:15.

Third 10K (1:12:42)
I hit the wall shortly after the half-way point. Mile 16 to be very precise. I started my walking breaks around there as well. It did not help that this part of the run was along an industrial area, and therefore pretty ugly. Things looked better a bit further, when we rejoined the residential areas. My aunt lives around the 30th kilometer. About 2K before the place we had agreed to meet I started walking. My legs were completely cramped up.  They saw me walking up to them, ready to go home.
I had told them the night before that, if I decided to quit at that moment, they should remind me I only have another 10K. There was some negotiation going on. I handed over the extra clothes.
Handing over the extra weight

The last bit
And then I started that last 10K. Which incidentally took 1:25:49. I think I walked most of it... As I was walking through the Vondelpark, a woman spectating tried to cheer me on. I wasn't having any of it so she offered to run with me. That got me going, and she kept up for a good 500m. I was trying to cajole her into finishing the darn thing with me but her high heels would not allow for it. Still, this encounter inspired me and I kept running after that and until the finish.
I finished in 5:02:03. Not even achieving my C goal (A was under 4:30, B under 4:45, C under 5:00). The finish was bittersweet, the fast 1/2 marathon people were zooming past. In general, that last 10K was utter sufferance. I swore I'd never run another marathon and gave up on ever doing an Ironman. Of course, I changed my mind 10 minutes after finishing of course ;-)

Training for the Month 
Training was rudely interrupted by the two races and it took me a while to get going again. I spent three days in Amsterdam at the end of the month for a conference and logged some delightful miles running around in between banquets. However, I think was too soon after the marathon and my new shoes were not up to par, and I ended up with a very sore knee. I went to runners world, a major running store chain in the Netherlands to get fitted for new shoes, right before the marathon. The guy was extremely arrogant, completely dissing my current shoes. According to him, I underpronate, and those were overpronation shoes. So he sold me a pair of New Balance shoes for 150EUR (yup, almost 200USD). I did not wear them for the marathon, but I did use them in those early post-marathon runs. My knee completely imploded and my running mojo was gone. I initially thought the pain was a marathon after-shock, but after many trials and experiments, I am 95% confident that it was due to the New Balance shoes. Total running for October (including marathon) 59 miles. Total bike 58 miles (mostly the week before the marathon when my hip was hurting). No swimming.

Travel for the month
We went to Aachen for a weekend, to visit a family friend. I spent three days in Amsterdam for the conference, and we went to Greece for fall break. All good trips!
Munching on some delicious German pastries

Sightseeing in Aachen

More sightseeing

Hubby enjoying the views

Waiting for the train back

Life this month
Life was good this month! We finally finished furnishing the house, and our stuff came from the States. The last trips to IKEA were made, the last screws were put in place. All was good!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

September 2010 and Singelloop 13.1

*** This is post 2 in a series of 5 posts meant to catch up on five months of blogging absence*** 

September should be renamed IKEA month. Seriously. We spent the month buying and building IKEA furniture. My in-laws came to visit, we went on a weekend trip to Baarle-Nassau to celebrate my hubby's birthday and I found my way to the gym and the pool.

Race of the Month: Breda Singelloop half-marathon (1st weekend of October).
This race was organized in my new town, looped twice around my house, so obviously I had to sign up. The distances were 5K, 10K, 15K, or the half-marathon. Since it was two weeks before the Amsterdam marathon, I was hoping it would help me train.
The name singelloop comes from the word singel, which is used to refer to the myriad of canals surrounding the historical center of Breda.  Most of the run was along those.
The half marathon was supposed to start at 2pm. I was busy nailing some furniture (what else), and got carried away. So I had to dash to the start, and got there at 1:55pm, just in time to make some small talk with all the serious runners that already had their ipods on. It was a LOT hotter than I had anticipated. It was 24C, which is rather high for a Dutch fall day, but I wasn't too overdressed.

The race consisted of two loops. The first loop was fun, but a bit too hot, and I was feeling my lack of training. The second loop started right next to the finish. I passed that point just a few minutes before the winner. It is really a strange feeling knowing I still had half a race ahead of me, yet some people were close to done.
The only big downer of this race was that there were only two water posts, very close to each other, so I was getting very thirsty. Fortunately, the race passed close to my house, and my hubby was there waiting for me with a bottle of water. It would have been SO easy to stop and go home there, but him being there was good motivation to keep going. About 2 miles later, the race passed close to our house again, and the temptation was large. I started walking, pondering over my choices. Eventually I decided I really wanted the medal and to be able to wear my t-shirt, knowing I had finished the race. My legs were cramping really bad, so I finished the last 1/2 loop using a combination of running and walking. I think many other people suffered from the heat and lack of water. Surprisingly, I finished in 2:08:54, 52nd out of 94 women. So, not even too shaby. If I had run the same time as my Pittsburgh half, I would have finished 24th.
Moral of the story: I need to train a bit more!

Training for the Month
Things got better! Yes they did! I found a pool, and I found a gym. The hard part was getting used to a new routine. We do all of our commuting by bike, which requires some good preparation.
This is what my new bike looks like

We started getting up at 6 again, so I would have time to work out before work. The pool is only open Monday-Wednesday-Friday from 7 to 9 and I tried to be there at 7, to make it to work on time for 9. Then after work, I tried to fit in a second workout. The results were mixed. Most of my efforts were focused on running, since the Amsterdam marathon was looming ahead. I totaled 55 miles of running, 72 miles of biking, and 2,000 yds of swimming (hey, I found the pool, it doesn't mean I also used it...).

Travel for the Month
My in-laws came to visit us for two weekends. So we spent one weekend in Scheveningen, and visited Breda, Nijmegen, and Eindhoven. We also went in a day trip for lunch to Meersel-Dreef (Belgium) and on an overnight trip to Baarle-Nassau (20k by bike) for Ondrej's birthday and spent the night at a B&B.
Scheveningen Beach with Ondrej and his mum

The dunes
A delicious lunch of spare ribs (me) and mossels (Ondrej's mum)
Our new coffee hangout: Inspire in Breda
Spinach Bacon soup (delicious) in Meersel Dreef
Off to Baarle-Nassau (Ondrej on his folding bike)
Traditional Dutch roadside view: cows
The sun was shining for a bit
Loads of rain showers too
 Life this Month
Pretty good. Getting used to our new routine. How to get to work, how to workout before and after work. Where to hang out for coffee during the weekend, where to do groceries. Ondrej's parents' visit was also a huge highlight!

Progress on the furniture corner: dining room corner

Monday, December 27, 2010

August 2010 and Wiesbaden 70.3 Recap

*** This is post 1 in a series of 5 posts meant to catch up on five months of blogging absence*** 

So August was the month of many transitions. We moved to the Netherlands on August 1st, spent a few days, then went to Slovakia for a 1-week vacation, to Wiesbaden for my race. After coming back (and a nasty bout of norovirus), Ondrej started working and I got the keys to our new apartment. A few days later, I also started my new job. So yes, August was very very hectic, but also very rewarding.

Race of the month: Ironman Wiesbaden 70.3

I went into this race with zero expectations. I had not really trained in a while (due to life getting in the way). My last swim had been on July 12th, and my last bike training on July 11th. I had kept up the running a bit longer, but in the three weeks preceding Wiesbaden, I logged a grand total of 11 miles. So yes, I had one hell of a taper. I was hoping to finish and that was about it. I realize now that planning my first 70.3 during such a hectic period of our lives was maybe not the best idea in the world.
You know the rule of "nothing new on race day"? Well, that only can be applied if you had the opportunity to try things beforehand. I had many new things on race day, fortunately everything worked out. "New on race day" items are marked with *. I'll spare you further details, but here is how the day went down.

Race Morning
I  woke up, ate a chocolate croissant* and drank hotel provided instant coffee (disgusting).
I took the bus (got motion sick) and made my way tot T1. I realized that apart from uncovering my bike, changing into my wetsuit and surrendering my clothes, I had nothing else to do but stare at other people doing a zillion other things and feel clueless.
A torrential downpour started. But really torrential.
While waiting for the start, I made small talk with fellow triathletes. I waas amused by how threatened they felt by my size (I am pretty tall) and their disbelief when I said I was completely untrained.
Fortunately, this race had a wave start, with the women starting straight after the pros and elites.
The Swim Start
I made my way into the water and my brand new, never tried before goggles* broke. Mild panic set in, but I fixed them. I decided to start on the far end, where fewer people were waiting. The swim was U-shaped, so everyone was keeping as far to the left as they could. I was happy to have the right side to myself. This was a great move, as I was surprisingly fast. I had never used a wetsuit to swim before* and had never realized how fast those things make you. Score! I passed a lot of people on the swim, even a few elites from the wave before. However, 3/4 in, I was starting to look forward to getting out!
The new wetsuit got me out fast!
I must have had the slowest transition ever. 8+ minutes to be exact. I was really thinking very hard whether I wanted to go on the bike... I also took a long time changing into a dry pair of shorts and a dry top.

The Bike
I eventually decided to start the bike. My HR was 180+ after running to the mounting line. I got passed a lot during the first 10 miles. They were flat-ish miles, but I wasn't in a hurry, I had not been on my bike in forever, and I knew I still had 5000+ ft of climbing.

Eventually the climbing started and I stopped being passed. Despite weighing almost 150 pounds, I am a pretty good climber. I just am terrible at the downhills, so I got passed a lot during those. I did not help that it was pouring again (really pouring).
Like I said: POURING
At some point, with 10 miles to go, I really needed to pee, so I decided it was time for a potty-break. The porta-potty was very precariously perched and kept wobbling, I was soaking wet, so the process took a lot longer than necessary. When I got a out, a guy was desperately in need of a pump, so I kindly lent him mine, which took him forever to figure out. Total length of the break: about 12 minutes. Needless to say, the few people that had not passed me by then, zoomed by.

When I finally got to T2, I knew there was a good chance I would finish. A volunteer took my bike, another one gave me my T2 bag, and off I went to the tent. I had put too many choices of clothes and food in the bag, so it took me a bit too long to decide on what to change into.

The Run
The run consisted of four laps through downtown. The course was flat-ish, but VERY muddy. The first two laps were fun. For some reason running off the bike came easily. I slowed down considerably at each aid station to eat.

The third lap was a lot more painful.The course was getting boring, and I was only half-way. Fortunately, I spotted my buns cheering, so that made me want to go a bit faster, so that I could see him again :-)
The last lap was hard! My legs were really cramping up, so things were a bit slower. There was a lot of walking in that last lap. Fortunately, it was also the last one.
And no, it wasn't me that finished in 5:55 (that was a relay team). It took me over 7 hours to finish.
So what did I learn: I need to plan my training better around major life events (duh), I need to work at my bike handling skills (I really only got passed going downhill), and perhaps I could save up for a carbon bike (I must have been the only person racing on a steel bike). But it was a complete blast, and I was very proud of myself for finishing.

Training for the month
Not much. Except for Wiesbaden, I logged one 5 mile running workout. That's all folks.

Travel for the month
 Loads and loads. Moving from State College to Breda. We also went for a week to Slovakia to visit Ondrej's grandparents. We had loads of good food, nice walks through town, and some museum visits.

My all time favorite Armenian Honeycake

Another delicacy including poppy-seed, butter, and powdered sugar
Loads of good coffee
A long weekend at the cottage in Modra
After Slovakia we went to Wiesbaden, where we visited some cool places.

Life Events
We moved and started our new jobs. Ondrej started on the 17th, while I started on the 23rd. We got the keys to our apartment on the 19th. So, the end of August was packed with IKEA visits, and furniture assembly.
Our apt building, in the middle of a park
The living room
Our first (and only) piece of furniture: the sofa bed
 For the first two weeks we slept on the sofa bed in the living room. Finally, we also got a bed.
Our tiny bedroom (the master bedroom became the hobby room)
Towards the end of August, we also had our living room area done
 Next up: September

Monday, December 20, 2010

Whoops... Update

It's been four months since Wiesbaden 70.3. So many (good) things happened. My hubby and I started our new jobs, we got our new apartment in Breda. We also made some fun trips, including a weekend to Aachen, Germany, a trip to Scheveninigen, and two weekends to Baarle-Nassau. I raced a half marathon, a marathon, and a 15K since. After three months of transition pains (finding a pool, finding new runs and picking a gym), I have been training consistently for about a month, despite the weather's best attempts to thwart me (see below). Over the next two weeks or so I am planning four blog entries to summarize these past four months (and races) before my good (blog) intentions for 2011 kick in:-)

Sunday's Long Run

Fortunately, the bike paths were mostly clean

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Garmin 310XT - One More Time, With Feeling

DC Rainmaker is giving away yet another one of those... Yippee!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Norovirus 1, Alinda 0

Yup, been taken down by norovirus. Will return to regular programming soon (with the race report).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I did it!

Yup, I survived 1.2 miles of swimming, 55 miles of biking, and half a marathon despite at 6+ week taper. Here are the stats:
Swim 33:36 (8/52 in AG)
Bike 4:08:05 (46/52 in AG)
Run 2:20:56 (43/52 in AG)

All in all pretty slow, but considering the POURING rain, the mud and the lack of training, I am HAPPY! Race report to follow :-) In the meantime, check out my lovely wubby's post... Isn't he the best?

Friday, August 13, 2010

First BIG Rookie Mistake

So we made the 4 1/2 hour drive from Den Haag, The Netherlands to Wiesbaden, Germany. This was my first time in 3 years driving in the Netherlands, and the first time in 9 months driving a stick shift, and the first time in 3 years driving a rental car... However, I am very happy to report that drive was pretty uneventful.

We are staying at the lovely Radisson Blue in Wiesbaden. My only pet peeve is the price of valet parking (25 EUR/day for them to park our car in a public lot...). So I parked my own car, thank you very much, for a price not much below that... So parking in Wiesbaden is a rip-off.

On the (very) bright side: the city is completely, and absolutely STUNNING! (sorry, pictures will need to wait a couple of days). So, if all goes to bits on Sunday, at least I will have a great walk through an amazing city.We also had some great all you can eat sushi, so all is happy.

Now, for the triathlon stuff (well, yeah, that's why we are in town). Since I have NOT been training for the past two months (my last real training session was early June, WHOOPS), I have decided that my goal for Sunday is to enjoy the race, and if things go really well, finish before the 5:30pm cut-off. There, I said it. I will be a triathlon-tourist. I will stay out of others' way, cheer them on, and enjoy the sights. And if I finish? GREAT! In my infinite (lack of) wisdom, I signed up for a half ironman that has 1,500 (5,000 ft) of climbing, and "technical descents" on a day like this:

So, at least I won't get too hot...

On an even funnier note, I manage to do my first huge silly ROOKIE mistake: I did not bring shoes. Yup! You read this right. I was soooooooooooo worried I would forget my running shoes, I decided to wear them on the trip and to walk around Wiesbaden. I have done so for all my races until now. But while driving, I realized I had to give my shoes on Saturday. See, for this race, instead of setting up the transition ourselves on race morning, we get to rack our bikes the day before (Saturday), and put all of our other stuff in three bags, two of which we need to surrender on Saturday. Also, the swim-bike transition is different from the bike-run transition and I don't think I get to see T2 until race day...

So long story short, I had to pick: option 1) surrender running shoes on Saturday and walk barefoot... 2) keep running shoes and walk barefoot, 3) buy a cheap pair of shoes... I present you, the shoes of shame!

If you want to see whether I finish, I am pretty sure that you can follow the race at: Find Wiesbaden 70.3. I will be number 685 :-)