Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Meah Days

It's Sunday morning here in clog-land, it's foggy, and it's -8C (17F). The combo of fog and cold means it's also very humid (100% humidity actually). It's time for my long run of the week (8 to 10 miles). Trying to get motivated by reading other people's blogs. Thanks Fran,Tall Mom, Charisa (even though I got very jealous), Michelle, and TMB, who all had posts this morning for me to enjoy with coffee :-)
Admit it! You want some!
So why was this a "meah week"? Nothing special really. I pulled my hamstring on Sunday, which kinda threw all running out for a couple of days. We also had some really dark days at the beginning of the week (very cloudy, and short) which also threw me a bit off. Thursday evening I cycled, and that felt good. However, I felt really crappy on my Friday run. Yes, I did make it out, I wasn't back after 10 minutes, and ran a total of 5 miles. But my heart rate climbed pretty high pretty quickly, and no matter how much I slowed down, it would not go down. The same happened before my race on Sunday. I also felt pretty bad the rest of the day, until yesterday morning. I heard from a colleague he had exactly the same, so maybe some bug was going around our office?
Yesterday I ran to the gym (about 1.25 mile), cycled, and ran back (1.25 mile) and that felt pretty good. So I have high hopes that today's run will be a good one and next week will be a good week of training. I would like to do a half Ironman on June 26th, and need to start training a bit more seriously.
They also have a half ;-)

The plan for this week is:
Sunday (today): 8 to 10 miles
Monday: swim 1,500m
Tuesday: run 6 miles
Wednesday: swim 1,500m; bike 60minutes and strength train
Thursday: run 6 miles, bike 90minutes
Friday: swim 1,500m and strength train
Saturday: run 6 miles, bike 90 minutes
Sunday: long run 10 miles

Wish me luck :-)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Back to Running!

My hamstring was still bugging me after my nosedive in the mud on Sunday, so I skipped all my Tuesday to Thursday workouts and runs (Monday was a rest day). Cycled an hour on the trainer yesterday, and I'm about to go for a run now. It's a bit early (for me - 6:45) and a bit chilly (for me - -3C), so hopefully I won't be back in 10 minutes... Have a beautiful day!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Looking back... to the Wiesbaden scandal

Yeah, I know. Never look back during the race. But a bit of retrospective after the race is pretty good. So... the Mastboscross. In hindsight (which is 20/20) I probably should have run the 5K, my legs were not yet available, especially since triathlon training resumed this week as well. However, the big bummer is that I must have pulled something when I stumbled (and felt flat on my face) since my right hamstring has been screaming at me since Sunday night. So, I am on self-imposed injury recovery rest until Thursday. (Which gave me time to cook dinner and setup my new coffee machine yesterday, yeah!).
So far, I have raced 15 times since March 2010, from a 5K to a full marathon, with 3 half marathons and a half Ironman in between. So far, I have gotten ill after two of these races (R.I.T.N.Y. 5K and Wiesbaden 70.3) and hurt after one (Mastboscross).

I was looking through my blog's statistics yesterday and found that quiet a few people googling Wiesbaden 70.3 norovirus ended up on my blog. If you remember (or not), I was taken down pretty hard by a stomach bug that I assumed to be norovirus after the race. Through facebook, I found out another person had too. My family was concerned that maybe long distance racing was not for me, since it made me so sick. But yesterday, my interest peeked by those key words, I googled "norovirus nach Wiesbaden 70.3" myself. Apparently there was a scandal going on and I wasn't even aware of it.

I found several articles in the Wiesbadener Kurier and, according to Google translate (my German is non-existent), at least a few 100(!!!) people complained to the race director that they got sick with norovirus after the race. Like me, symptoms started on the Tuesday after the race, and were pretty heavy. According to those articles, they estimate that at least 500 got sick. They suspect it may have been the harbor water.

So my question is: as I scientist, I know causality will be hard to prove. However, if 500 out of 3700 athletes get sick, it is very probable that the race had something to do with it. Shouldn't the race organizers have sent a message, acknowledging some foul-up and offering a promise that it would never happen again?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Never look back...

Friday, as we were preparing for a lovely Friday night/ Saturday in Utrecht, I received an e-mail with race information for the Mastboscross on Sunday January 23rd. This struck me as odd, since the Mastboscross, a 10K through our local forest, was not supposed to be on until the 30th. Or was it?

Well, despite what my agenda and race schedule said, the 10K was on the 23rd. It did not make a huge difference to me, since I was just going to use it as a training run. A quick check of the entrant list showed there were only 18 women registered (only 13 finished), so I had a decent chance of being last. Especially, since people around here take their running *very* seriously.

On "race day" we woke up a bit late, so I ate my usual 2-bread slice breakfast. My tummy was rather unhappy about something I ate yesterday so I almost decided to stay home, but didn't. I slowly jogged the two miles to the start instead of a warm up. Even though my heart rate was too high for such a slow pace, I felt good, so I went ahead. The line for packet pick up was very short, which was great since I got there 15 minutes before the start. At 9:55 I was at the start, chatting with a co-worker and one of our students who were coincidentally also running (they rocked it).
The 5K and 10K started simultaneously, with the 10K running 5(!!!!!) laps. The gun went off and we started. I felt like everyone passed me within the first half mile, but I looked back and saw a few more people. After that I felt I was running pretty much alone the whole time. And it was a looooooooooooooooooooooooooong time. Seriously. I was unprepared for how challenging the course would be. There were several races going on that weekend, including a long cross race (9.8K) and the 10K. So I figured the 10K would not be a cross, but it sure felt like it. There was a lot of mud (especially after it started raining half way), a tree trunk across the road we needed to jump over, a few very steep ups and downs where you could fly down and get some speed to go back up, a lot of branches to avoid... It was cross-ier than I expected.
The first lap was painful. I went out too fast and couldn't sustain that pace. The second lap was painful too, but it was still early. My hubby got a few pictures half way through the second lap, sadly on the flatest, most devoid of trouble section.

The third lap was starting to be routine. I was recognizing all the landmarks and wondering how much longer the torture would last? My legs were toast and I realized I did not have my usual pre-race Luna bar and I probably should have brought a gel along as well. I thought "it's just a 10K", forgetting that a 10K is an hour long affair. Note to self: stay on top of nutrition. The third and fourth laps were the worst mentally, knowing that I still had to go through two, and one more time. At the end of the fourth lap, I think the announcer thought I might be turning to the right, towards the finish... Instead I took a left and he had to announce: "this lady is taking a left". Duh!!!

The last lap was good. I knew I would be seeing my buddy tree trunk and his friends mud puddles for the last time. I bade them farewell as I charged towards the finish. They also gave me a parting gift: a face plant, 100m before the finish (fortunately I was still under tree cover and almost no one saw it). I was looking behind me to see if anyone was trying to pass me, and I knew there was at least one woman behind me. I must have looked behind me a bit too long, because a root jumped out in front (probably to wave goodbye) and my foot caught it. I totally dived into the sand (fortunately not a mud pit), made a yelp, crawled back up and continued running while thinking "I hope I did not hurt anything" and fortunately I did not!

Moral of the story: never look back!

After the race, I collected my medal, chatted with colleague and student who very nicely cheered me on at the finish, ran/shuffled to work (about a mile from the race) and picked up the bike I left there on Friday. Biked home, showered, changed and biked the 30 minutes to our favorite restaurant in Meersel-Dreef (Belgium) for a lovely lunch with the hubby :-)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Early morning musings on a rainy day.

[06:00] Alarm goes. I should get up and go for my run. 
[06:05] Hubby is not getting up either. Might as well stay in bed too then. I'll go run tonight at 6, before my phone date at 7 and our dinner at 8. Go back to sleep now.
[06:08] Whooops. I have to stay at school until 6pm, so no way I can get my workout done. Gotta get up.
(Me) I'm getting up now to go run.
(Hubby) Grunt. Grunt. Wake me up before you go. Grunt.
[06:12] Pfff. Scale has gone up again.
[06:15] What should I wear? Oh yeah. My awesome new Saucony reflective jacket (might as well give it the rain test), with my Azalea triathlon shirt.
[06:20] Food. To eat or not to eat? Eat. I'll have two slices of ontbijtkoek*
[06:24] What is the New York Times saying today? Cool. New opinion columns.
[06:38] Done with eating. I should probably go. Nah. What does say?
[06:45] Oh. I have not checked in a loooooooooooooong time. Pink looks so cute pregant. Hmm. It's still dark outside. No iPod.
[06:55] Fine, I'll get up now. I bet it's raining outside, but it's too dark to see. Maybe I can check the weather online. Oh, but if I do, I'll spend another 30 minutes reading blogs.
(Me) I'm going for my run now. ..
(Hubby) Enjoy your run, I'll see you soon.
[07:01] Where ARE my shoes? Oh, yes. By the door... Duh...
[07:06] What is taking the elevator so LONG?!**
[07:10] It's POURING!!! No way am I running.
(Hubby) Back so soon?
(Me) Yeah... It's really pouring out there.
(Hubby) That does it! Already giving up on your new training plan...
[07:16] He is right! If I give up now, I'm no longer gnarly. I can handle a bit of rain! Where is my cap?
(Me) Hmmm. You're right. Fine. I'll go! See you in an hour.
[07:19] Where ARE my shoes? Oh, yes. By the door... Duh...
[07:22] What is taking the elevator so LONG?!**
[07:24] Lucky me! The rain has gotten lighter. Why won't the garmin find the silly satellite so I can start running already?!
[07:25] Ok GO!
[07:34] First mile, easy peazy
[07:35] Argh! The buckets have started falling! Hard!!! Must avoid huge muddy puddle.
[07:36] Splash. Whoops. There goes the left shoe.
[07:37] Splash. Where did that puddle come from. There goes the right shoe.
[07:44] Am I the only gnarly person running in the complete dark, in the pounding rain, or am I the only stupid person running in the complete dark, in the pounding rain?
[07:43] Two miles down, three to go.
[08:15] Made. It. Home. Jacket soaked. Shoes soaked. Pants soaked. But t-shirt completely dry. Jacket awesome.
(Me) I'm back! Can you take a picture?
(Hubby) Why?
(Me) Cuz this was an epic ride and I am completely soaked.
(Hubby) Really? You don't look wet.
I promise, I was really soaked!
 *Dutch spice bread/cake, very light on the tummy, but good combo of fast and slow sugar.
** I always take the elevator down in the AM. No point in injuring myself by missing a step or two due to sleeplessness.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Egmond Half Marathon Race Report

My first race of the year (the 5K was technically still in 2010) is a fact, and was a complete success. I wasn't planning on racing the Egmond Half Marathon, until a colleague bragged that he was running it and that it was a really hard race. Hard race? Count me in!
It was that pretty! (photocredit:
 The Egmond Half Marathon is considered hard, since about a third of it (7 of the 21K) is run on the beach. This is what IAAF has to say about it: "The popular but difficult race is contested partly over a North Sea beach and on a road through sand dunes." Their description was spot on. The course starts with 2 miles though the very pretty little town of Egmond-aan-Zee. After a short run in very deep sand (balance losing kind), the course reaches the harder section of the beach. During these 4 miles, the sand wasn't as much of a hardship as the wind! Boy was it blowing (in the wrong direction of course ;-) The next three miles or so were over the sand dunes, on a little winding path that went up and down, left and right. It was not paved, merely covered with hay (?!) so we would at least not sink in too deep in the mud. The last few miles were paved, so a lot easier. I was thinking I could probably finish it in 2:10, definitely in 2:05, but was secretly hoping for sub-2 hours. However, despite logging more than 120 miles in December, my only speedwork was a 5K...

We flew back from the US on Friday and arrived in Amsterdam on Saturday. After an hour long nap, we woke up (or the alarm did). In a moment of inspiration, I decided to re-do our hobby room, moving every. single. piece. of. furniture. Great on the legs of course. I managed to fall asleep at a decent time, but woke up halfway through the night (jetlag). I eventually fell back asleep, but 7am came way too soon. I got up, decided on an outfit (+ backup), grabbed my gels, handhelp, ipod, and Garmin and started the trek to Egmond. I took the train to Amsterdam, and from there a colleague (the same one that goaded me into signing up) picked me up (that was very nice of him) and we drove to Heiloo, a village close to Egmond, where we took the shuttle to the race site. Pfew. When we got there, I perused the expo (and scored a really nice Saucony jacket for EUR50). I got ready, dropped my stuff, and walked the 1.5K to the start. I wasn't nervous. I was really excited about running, since I felt I had trained sufficiently for once. But I was COLD!!!

The race went really well. It was a lot harder than I expected, but I was also much better prepared than I thought. I really wanted to start slow, but as usual I got carried away (and there was a downhill). Those two first miles in the town went by really fast (08:35 and 08:34).

Miles 3 to 6 were on the beach, and they were hard. I was planning on running the beach miles in about 10:00min/mile, but decided to run them on perceived effort instead and stopped caring about what Garmin said.The sand wasn't bothering me too much, but the wind was really making it difficult, so I was working hard. I managed mile 3 in 09:03, mile 4 in 09:12 and mile 5 in 09:02.

During that time, this little itsy bitsy girl started drafting off of me. She was running one step behind me and was using me to shield her from the wind.  I know how big of a difference it made from the few big guys that passed me and gave me the brief reprieve from the wind). She drove me insane!!! Obviously I thought it was unfair that I was doing all the work and she was just tagging along, but mostly, I got pissed off that she would not look at me. The few times I turned around and told her (after 2 miles) that it would be nice if she went ahead, she completely ignored me. Also, she was running so close that I was worried we would trip each other up. So eventually, I started running to the right, slowing down, accelerating... She would not budge! So I just stopped dead in my tracks for three seconds, so she had to move on! She found herself a sweet older guy that probably felt flattered and followed him for the next two miles...
What do you think? Was I wrong to get annoyed?
*** END RANT***

The final miles on the beach was tough. I finished mile 6 in 09:24 and mile 7 in 09:47. This last mile was especially hard, since it included crossing the really deep unpacked sand to get off the beach, and a very steep hill through the dunes. Fortunately, mile 7 was also where the aid station was.  The next section was a path through the dunes. I got worried there, because I was hoping the section would be easier than the beach, and it wasn't. It was pretty narrow, so it was hard to pass other runners. It also was not paved, so I occasionally sunk through the mud. But I have to admit, I really liked the rolling hills, they gave my sand running muscles a bit of a break. Miles 8, 9 and 10 took respectively 09:00, 08:57 and 08:46. The last few miles that took us back to town were paved thankfully. After mile 9, my body was just about done and my brain took over. I kept on trying to calculate whether I could still break two hours. I was really just doing math for four miles. For example: to get sub-2 hours, I need to run 9:07 min/miles. Which means I need to finish the 10 miles in close to 90 minutes, etc. Those thoughts kept me going despite a strong urge to just WALK!

I crossed the finish in 1:57:08, a new PR!!!!

I was very excited, obviously, to have managed a PR, on such a challenging course. So secretly, at my next race (half marathon in march) I am hoping to PR again! A few things that I think contributed to this good race:
  • Good training (obviously)
  • Good nutrition plan (I found some great gels that don't make me gag)
  • Music (this was my first race with ipod)

So, all good! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

December 2010 and who knew I had it in me?

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

December was my last month of prep for the Egmond aan Zee half marathon. I managed to run 128.4 miles according to my Garmin, my highest monthly mileage EVER. Mostly injury free too :-) We spent early December recovering from our many wonderful visitors, getting used to the piles and piles of snow that came down, and to prepare for our trip to the US.

Race of the Month: Run Into The New Year 5K
I love US races so much more than European ones. People are much relaxed and out to have a good time. So what better way to enter 2011 than a midnight 5K? So that's what I did. My in-laws joined me and walked the 1 mile while I ran the 5K. The run was entitled R.I.T.N.Y (run into the new year) and started at 11:59PM on December 31st. It was to benefit the Miracle League of the Triangle and took place on a parking lot in Cary. I had just run my last two long-ish runs of the Egmond aan Zee half marathon (January 9th) the days before so my legs were total jello. I wasn't planning on racing it hard, but it was a good opportunity to get a speed workout. I finished in 25:20, 12 seconds slower than my PR, so a good race in all. I was 3rd in my AG (30 to 39) so not shabby at all.
Wearing my Amsterdam marathon shirt

I was wearing my Amsterdam Marathon shirt, my new running skirt, and my new pair of shoes. I know, nothing new on race day, but this was just a good speed workout. I had to laugh (a bit) at the other runners who were looking funny at me, thinking I was underdressed. Most of them were running in compression cold wear, with multiple layers, gloves and ear muffs (?!). Obviously, 8C in the south is really cold! In contrast, this was my warmest run in at least 6 weeks...

Training this Month
Training this month was very gnarly! I managed 128.4(!!!) miles, despite the fact that there were snow and ice and sub-zero (celcsius) conditions at every single run! I think what helped is that I knew there would be no better days. When the weather is only 50% bad, it is easy to skip a run and wait for the next good day. When days are 90% bad, might as well suck it up and go ;-) So, except for three weekends, I did all of my runs in the dark and cold. My long runs were therefore special treats, as I could run in daylight with music (no music when it's dark). Some memorable long runs included a Monday night 8 miler (the ice on Sunday was too thick), 10, 11, and 13 milers in sunny snow and my last 11-miler on the Outerbanks.
The bike path I usually run on

When the weather gets nicer, I'll run IN the woods

Since everything around home is flat, I do hill repeats on the overpass

My 11-mile run on the Outerbanks, in the sun, was wonderful!
My shoes got old....

... so I got new ones, and it makes such a difference!
Travel for the Month
We kept things easy for the first part of the month, and then flew to the US to spend our 2-week vacation with my in-laws. Since the weather was pretty bad and we did not trust the Dutch railways (they are usually very reliable, but have been failing a bit too much lately), we spent the night at a new airport hotel, called the CitizenM. So far, there are only three hotels, Amsterdam city center, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and Glasgow. The concept is pretty neat: high tech, high design, for a low price. The room is pretty small with a huge bed. However, since the toilet and shower have sliding doors, it doesn't feel very small. I would, however, not recommend you share a room with someone you are not very intimate with...
Citizen M hotel room

We got to NC on the 25th, just a few hours of a mega snow storm... I was looking forward to some nice warm runs in NC, but alas, that was not to be...
Waking up on the 26th...

I did run 4 miles in this...

Instead, I had a few cold runs, and some huge amounts of good food.
Hibachi at the Crabtree Valley Mall

Ridiculous Steak Sandwich at City Beverage, Durham, NC
Then, we lived it up at the Sanderling Resort & Spa on the Outerbanks
Sunrise (jetlag after effects)

Breakfast: Cinnamon Raisin French Toast with Creme Cheese

Frozen Water (Sand Side)

Anyone up for a swim skate?

Jockeye's Ridge

Lunch after the 11-miler

Followed, soon after, by dinner...

And yes, I did get completely wasted on one cosmopolitan...
This concludes the August to December review. Next up, regular blogging...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

November 2010 and the Nijmegen Zevenheuvelenloop

*** This is post 4 in a series of 5 posts meant to catch up on five months of blogging absence***

Things got back on track (well almost) in November. I started getting inspired in my training, and I got better at fitting workouts in before and after work. I think I had trouble running in the dark in October, but by November I was used to it. I ran one 15K race, the Nijmegen zevenheuvelenloop, and it went well (finally). My parents and our best buddy from the US came to visit, so we had some delightful times with them.

Race of the Month: Nijmegen Zevenheuvelenloop (15K)
I entered this race on a whim. It just sounded like fun. Zevenheuvelenloop literally means: the run of the seven hills. Now, if you are familiar with the Netherlands, you will know that the Netherlands are FLAT. So I thought that the race was misnamed and the hills would be a bit of a joke. Ha. Ha. Ha. Those were real hills, but the race was still a ton of fun. Ondrej and Dan (our buddy from the States) came with me to Nijmegen. While they went in search for lunch, I went in search of the changing area. This race is huge (I think about 25,000 which in the Netherlands is huge). However, it was extremely well organized, with areas available for people to change and leave their (non-valuable) things. Once I got changed, I went to find the boyz and joined them for a drink (the non-alcoholic kind of course).

The Run
The start was freezing cold (another sub-zero day) so I kept all my clothes on. I really needed to use the restroom, but the lines were huge, and the smells terrible so I abstained. I was in the last start group, and the winner of the race (Leonard Komon) achieved his world record before our group even started...
The Elevation
The race itself was great. I started strong and kept a good pace. I felt I was giving it a hard effort but I was pretty consistent. There were indeed 7 real hills so it was hard to keep an even pace. My first two miles were sub-9 minutes (warming up). Mile 3 had a good hill and took me 9:17. Mile 4 was a bit congested and I was struggling to get some layers off (gloves and sweater). Miles 5, 6, and 7 were the bulk of the hills and took me 9:28, 9:19 and 9:31.  The last 2.35 miles were all downhill and took me 9:06 and 8:43 with the last little bit taking 8:53. I finished in 1:25:34 (1,149/2,133 in women up to 34 years old). It was not a great time, but it was the first race in a long time where I felt I was doing well. All good!
Looking pretty happy!

Training this Month
November training went pretty well. I came back from my Greek vacation rested and ready to resume training. I was looking forward to the hour changing, in the faint hope that there would be light in the morning again. That was not to be, so I just learned to suck it up and run no matter what the weather. I think this helped me keep on track with the running. Except for the couple of days after the zevenheuvelenloop, where I was battle a cold, I was very consistent with my runs, most of which took place before work. One memorable run was on Sunday 28 November. We went (again) to this little town that is simultaneously in the Netherlands and in Belgium. I did my long run (8 miles) of the week there, in freezing cold weather (-8C). However, despite the cold, the landscape was beautiful and the run felt (almost) easy. 
Two days later, I had my first run of the snow season. The Netherlands can be cold, yet rarely have a lot of snow. This year however we got piles and piles of it. 
I did not know it at the time, but November 30th was the first of many many snow runs. The slow paces tell the story...
Total running for November was 77 miles according to my log (80.2 according to Garmin, I round down on my log), and 30 miles of biking, no swimming. I gave up on the cross-training which I think is one of the reasons (along with faulty shoes) why I was on the verge of an injury.

Life and Home reports will have to wait, I forgot my pictures in Europe...  

Next and last in this series: December and the Run Into The New Year 5K