Monday, April 25, 2011

Utrecht Half Marathon - Race Report - Cruel and Unusual

I'm going to go all Dutch on you (aka direct) and tell it how it was: this race SUCKED! Obviously, it wasn't the race director's fault that it was 25+ degrees (77 Fahrenheit). BUT, the weather forecast has been showing high temperatures for more than a week, so it was absolutely INEXCUSABLE that the first two aid stations were out of water!
At least the color of my face matched my top

Now that's out of the way, let me say the following. THANK YOU to the ambulance personnel and Red Cross for being out in force on the course. Every time I saw an unconscious person by the side of the race, they were receiving professional help. Sadly, some of these people seemed to be doing quite poorly (at least one was out cold and at least on one a defibrillator was being used...). I hope they all make a full recovery (good vibes their way).

Also, a big SHOUT OUT to all these kind Utrecht residents that opened their arms (and sprinklers and hoses) to us. I very happily took advantage of every single opportunity to turn this race into a wet t-shirt contest. Fortunately, I was wearing pink!

Finally, THANK YOU to my hubby and our buddy Steve who interrupted their lovely long bike ride to wrestle the streets of Utrecht to meet me at mile 8.5 and hand me a fresh bottle of water (saved my day) that would lead me to the end. 

Now that's been said. Overall, I think I did a great job running this race. My preparation (in quantity of miles) was definitely not up to par with Egmond aan Zee. So, either way, it would not have been a stellar performance. I used this race to practice preparation and nutrition, and I think I did a great job with that. I ate breakfast at 8, then a sandwich at 11am, and then a luna bar 1/2 before the race. I also drank 2 glasses of water every 1 1/2 hours or so. I was definitely properly hydrated going into the race, but despite drinking at least two full water bottles and quite a few water cups left and right, I think I got dehydrated about 2/3 into the race. My back was hurting, something I have never suffered from before.

I ran the first three miles as planned (09:20 instead of 09:40; 09:20 and 09:00), thinking I was being conservative. I never picked up the pace... It was just too freakin' hot. I was taking a few sips of water every 1/2 mile or so, and took my first gel right on time at mile 3. At the first aid station (mile 3.X), there were three tables, but no water. I repeated the water sipping and gel taking until the next water station. Still no water. I got very mad, not so much for me, but for all those people that were working hard, trying to do their best, and being failed. The race director's chatter over the PA made it worse. What I think he said was that they were sorry there wasn't more water, but they were doing their best, there would be water later...

Approaching the hand over...
My heroes... (hubby on the right)
By then I had decided that if my hubby wasn't there to meet me at mile 8.5, I would quit. I usually am not a quitter when it comes to races (I quit a lot of my workouts instead), but being safe is much more important than finishing. I saw too many people laying on the side of the road. However, hubby was there, and I got to continue. As soon as I was out of sight though, I started walking... I was just toast. I walked for about three minutes and then started running. My splits after that point got even slower. I stopped one more time to untie my shoe laces even further, my feet were swollen beyond my usual lace allowance... 

The last 3 miles of so were pure torture. It really is cruel and unusual to put an out-n' back at the end of a race. Every 250 meters or so it looked like were were nearing the turnaround, but no. Also, in those 3 miles I had to stop twice(!) to let ambulances through and witnessed a defibrillator being used on a runner. This really scared me and made me realize that the finish time, or even finishing is not as important as being able to walk away. It's easy for me to say, I never really care about my time anyway, but I now care even less about finishing. 
Starting up again after the stop was HARD!!!
And yes, I did finish after 2:15:27 of sweltering heat (2:12:03 chip time), making me #290/491 in my category and 1650/2102 overall ( I was told 3,700 had signed up for the race). The time is my personal worst (PW), but I cannot stand heat very well (never have, even as a kid), so the fact that I was able to pace myself and drink enough was quite an achievement. Also, I was told 3,700 signed up but only When I got home and got ready for the shower, I found a forgotten water sponge stuck in my bra...

PS: Don't you love my new running outfit? The skirt is from skirtports.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Utrecht Half Marathon - Prep

Tomorrow is the Utrecht Half Marathon. This was supposed to be the half where I went sub-1:55. However, as things stand, I did not train enough to be able to pull it off this time. Instead, I signed up for another half on June 18th in Zwolle where I WILL go sub 1:55. My (not so) secret goal is to go sub-4:00 at the Amsterdam Marathon in October, so a sub 1:55 in June would really set the stage.

So, my revised plan for tomorrow is as follows: practice! Tomorrow I will practice my nutrition and even most importantly, my pacing during the first 6 miles (and then I can blow up). The plan is to start with 9:40, 9:20 and 9:00 minute miles and then try to stick with 08:50 miles until the end. If I keep the 08:50 miles up long enough, I will be able to go sub-2:00 (but I probably won't...).

I will bring my own water and GO GELs. While I had no nutrition problems at Egmond aan Zee, I really had trouble with the aid stations in Den Haag. So, I want to see if it's feasible for me to carry my own water for 13.1 miles. The hubby has very graciously agreed to meet me around the 12k mark for a bottle and gel handover. I think 3 gels (every 30 minutes) and a pre-start Luna bar should do it.
According to the forecast, tomorrow will also be very warm, and I really don't do well in heat. So, I plan on drinking a lot during the day tomorrow, and trying to stay out of trouble [insert cheesy smile here]. My bib number is 21569 and the half marathon starts at 2pm. Happy Easter y'all!


Our friend Steve from the US, my hubby, and I spent two amazing days in Brugge, a Unesco world heritage site in Belgium, also referred to as the "Venice of the North"... Enjoy the sights!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Now that I have a goal (sub 1:55 on June 18th), I had to come up with a plan to achieve it. So... I took my sub-2 or bust plan from Runner's World and made some adjustments to the recommended times. My first tempo run was supposed to be on Thursday, but got moved to Saturday for practical reasons.

I have to confess, I really don't like running fast. I get really hot really quickly so I tend to blow up. Saturday's tempo run was no exception. The original plan called for a 5 mile run, of which 3 miles at 8:50. According to the McMillan running calculator, my tempo runs should be around 8:30, but I knew there was no way  I could do that so I settled for trying for 9:00's.

I first warmed up with 2 miles (the ones that include the stop lights) at 09:34 and 09:45 (faster than the 10:10 I was planning for) and then sped up. I had set the Garmin to Average Lap Pace, but I must have started too fast because it showed 08:15 for at least the first 1/2 mile. I slowed down and finished the first mile in 08:54. I got really hot during the second mile and after the turnaround. I took a 2 minute walking break (FAIL) during which I stopped the Garmin to get my heart rate from 180 to 140. I finished the second mile (08:49 excluding the break) and did not stop until I finished the third mile (08:52). I then took another 2 minute (it might have been longer) walking break and started jogging the last mile home. Fortunately, I met quite a few colleagues and had a good excuse to switch back to walking ;-) Total: 5.2 miles in 47:54.

While I really don't like speedwork or running fast(er), I am secretly looking forward to the next round!

Happy training!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Week 14 in Review - Switching Gears

Now that triathlon is out, and running is in, I am switching gears and focusing on running a sub 1:55 half and (maybe) a sub 4:00 marathon in 2011. I just signed up for the Zwolle half marathon (with a maximum enrollment of 3,500) on June 18th (at 8:15 PM!). This time, my goal is to really follow the plan (with a few minor adjustments since I will be running two other halfs during the 10 weeks) and to go sub 1:55.

Last week, I tried to get back into running-only mode. I ran Tuesday (6 miles), Wednesday (6 miles) and Friday (8 miles). Every single one of those runs was at around 9:50 pace with an average heart rate of 168 or so. So I think I am getting back in running shape.

I ended up skipping my long run on Sunday. The weather over the weekend was AMAZING, so we ended biking to Zevenbergen on Friday (30-something miles), biking to Willemstad on Saturday (40-something miles) and I went to my bike/racing clinic on Sunday (another 25 miles or so).

Totals for the week:
Run-training: 20 miles
Bike-recreation: 95 miles

All good!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Now that I have decided to focus on running instead of triathlon, I can actually enjoy long leisurely bike rides with my hubby without worrying about distance or pace. And that's exactly what I did yesterday. We biked from Breda to Willemstad and back. It took us about six hours, including two coffee breaks and one longer snack and sightseeing break. The weather was beautiful, and the scenery mostly amazing...
Apple pie break in Zevenbergen
It's baby season!
My bike in its touring outfit
More babies
Hubby climbing to new heights
View from the same heights
Second break - Willemstad
Willemstad - people actually live here
Willemstad Harbor
Third and last break!
Such a beautiful day!
I'm off to my bike-skills class today! Happy training!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Still around!

I'm still here, still trying to train, although I have completely switched gears and decided to focus on running. I just don't see a lot of enthusiasm in the Netherlands for triathlon, and I have to confess, I find cycling in the Netherlands incredibly boring. I miss the hills of Pennsylvania, where I could measure myself up a 5 mile long hill. Around here, the only way to get a workout is to go really fast, but I am too chicken for that.
The hubby and I went to the South (Maastricht) this weekend to find some hills...
 So... I'm going to give up the tri thing for the time being and focus on running, and keep cycling and swimming for fun... Now I need to find a new blog name... Any suggestions?