April Runs

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Archive for the category “Races”

Medal without racing

After testing my A.D. running abilities yesterday, this morning (after a night full of crying, feeding, cuddling and crying again) I left my bed at 6.30 am. I had to go running again…
200420131570I haven’t been downtown with my running shoes since last December and somehow, intuitively, that was where I wanted to go. One of the reason was the Singelloop, a 6.6km annual run around the historical city centre – my first race last year, my first running race ever! Last night I missed it so I wanted to check if there were still any remains of it today.

200420131571To my surprise, I haven’t found anything that would even remotely remind of a running race with 5000 runners along the city centre canals. All was clean and quiet. I guess the cleaning guys had a loooong night. 200420131572



200420131575I did not want to go further than 2 km down the main canal but then I suddenly remembered there was this one cemetary that I always wanted to visit but never had the time or opportunity. Funny enough, the gate was open this morning:200420131576


Half an hour later my 5.5 km loop was done and I was back at our city gate. What a beautiful morning!200420131578

And there is a bonus to it too – so that I always remember why it pays to get up early: at the end of my run, I picked up the Singelloop medal from the cobble stones. So here I am – no race but still one shiny medal!



2012 at its end…

It was an excellent year, my first RUNNING YEAR. I started running on January 1 (my first 10K in many many years) and continued till the end of November when my 28 weeks pregnant body asked met to give it a break… So to show off a bit:

I did not quite make it to the magical 1000 miles marker but honestly, I am very happy with my 1565 km in 11 months. On top of it, I cycled 950 km, walked 316 km, peddled 30 km in a canoe, ice skated 76 km, swam 4 km and cross trained 100 km.

All together, the ‘moving forward’ total was 3100 km and took 340 hours. This means that with the exception of my horizontal-pregnant December, I was exercising at least an hour a day!

On top of it, in January, I exercised for 31 consecutive days (Janathon) and in June, I ran for 30 consecutive days (Juneathon). Both highly recommended events that keep you running and blogging for the entire month!

I ran a half marathon, 10 mile race, 10 km race and a 6 km race.

I was not alone: of course, the baby in my belly was there since the beginning of June, but there was V by my side and all the blogging and running friends! So thank you all for your never ending support, for kicking my ass to get moving. I owe you!

Happy New Year!311220121524

P.S. The picture does not show that I hung my running gear aside – quite the contrary:  It is hanging ready to be used any time soon…


About the blog: 600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


As my dear blog readers already know, when not running, I try to engage in other exciting activities instead. A couple of weeks ago an email appeared in my inbox. An email I was not paying much attention to – but V did. It was an invitation to subscribe for a rally. Excuse me, a rally? As in driving and navigating? Ehm, and I should be the navigator?

It turned out to be a ladies road race, one where funny outfits, coffee breaks and tea house visits counted more than speed and smell of the burning tires. So we subscribed, washed the old Saab convertible and on Sunday morning (after my early morning run through Leiden) headed to Soestduin, a beautiful spot in the middle of the woods. 

More than 40 equipes were already lining up… at the coffee table. We signed the presentation sheet, gathered our ‘bolletje-pijlte’ (dot-arrow) route description, the list with treasure hunt like questions, the goodie bag and our start number 35.

The weather was beautiful and so during the next hour or so we walked around the parking lot admiring the equipment of some of the competing teams.

And then short after 11 am it was time for us to pull the top down and start as well.

The route was supposed to be about 100 km long. Our first crisis came at km 3.2: we lost our way completely. Nevertheless, since this was a female race, there were 40 female navigators and I was predetermined to improve my reputation.

Ehm, km 25: we got stuck in black mud. Was this supposed to be the perfect day out? Luckily we managed to free the car and get back on the road again. Somehow surprisingly we kept spotting all the items that the treasure hunt questions were asking about. And little by little we started improving our speed  as well. By the time we hit the lunch location (see the red and green team ‘Stop and Go’ below, frantically filling in their treasure hunt question sheet), we were in the middle of the race again.

In the afternoon, anybody who saw us would mix us up for a team of experienced car racing devils. We were quick and merciless (which reads as we managed to stay on the correct path without overheating the car) , passing others and filing in all correct answers. And then, after about 110 km of a great ride through beautiful countryside, there was the end. Lots of coffee, food, champagne and talking… We were quite tired and actually getting ready to head home when we suddenly heard the magic words: “And the second place goes to…”

Dam tot Damloop

I have heard about this race many years ago: the biggest Dutch running event with thousands of runners and even more supporters along the way, great atmosphere and interesting  10 mile course… No wonder that the start numbers were sold out 12 minutes after the online registration opened. Luckily we managed to ‘sneak in’ by combining pleasant and useful and joined a small charity project to run (and collect funds) for them.

This was all long before I got pregnant…

Saturday night: Here I am, the night before the race, feeding myself with spaghetti like crazy, feeling quite good but sadly realizing I have to do this on my own as V caught some stomach bug and looks like she will be spending the whole weekend hanging above the toilet.

Sunday 8 am: I am dressed in my (summer) running gear, drinking my coffee, eating cereals, watching the mercury in the outside thermometer – it keeps shrinking around 8 Celsius. It looks like it will start raining soon, too. The last quick look to the website of Dutch railways does not fill me with optimism either – the shortest railroad between Leiden and Amsterdam (where I have to be at the start) is closed for rail works all day today. I decided to take my bike to the station, just in case I need to quickly get to another station for an alternative route.

10 am: Finally I am in the train. It is packed with runners (recognizable by white plastic bags with numbered stickers that match their start number and running shoes hiding under the winter gear) and tourists (recognizable by huge question marks in their faces with: ‘People, where the hell are you all going??”), so finding a seat is out of the question but at least the train moves in the right direction.

11 am: Amsterdam Central Station, the first obstacle of the trip is behind me.  Now digging a map from my plastic bag and trying to find the spot where our charity meets. Since the principal color of our logo is purple, I am happy to fix purple balloons with my right eye and walk towards them. Ehm, wrong charity (at this point, there are 4.000 charity runners around). Several minutes later I am on the spot, right on time for the group picture.

11.30: It is still dry and actually even sunny, the temperature raised to rather comfortable 13 degrees so I am undressing (wearing the charity T-shirt today rather than my own Team AprilRuns), stuffing my plastic bag and throwing it to a truck number 8 (they say I will find it later on 10 miles further, in Zaandam…). The queue in front of the toilets makes me want to pee again and again and again. Luckily I am not too shy to use the facilities of 2 pubs nearby.

11.45: I am quickly calling V to tell her we are moving towards the start corridor. She says “don’t rush, the fastest Kenyan guy has already finished”. The official race started at 10.59 and I will only find out later that there are 50.000 runners today starting practically continuously between 11 am and 3 pm (out of 20 start corridors)! Leonard Komon (‘the Kenyan guy’) finished at 44:48, highly disappointed as he stayed some 20 seconds behind Haile Gebrselassie’s world record.

11:50: Our charity group hears the gun shot from Ronald de Boer, a Dutch iconic ex soccer prof. Little do I care, I am pre-programmed to run so I run. The sun is shining, the crowd along the route is huge (later I hear it counts 250.000 people!), I hear music, drums, people clapping their hands and I feel good.    

1st km: The first bit along the city centre (Prins Hendrikkade) quickly turns down to the Ij tunnel, about 1 km long tunnel under the river Ij. This is the biggest descend and ascend of the race (about 25 meters). The crowd speeds down to the dark mouth of the tunnel accompanied by African drummers who unpacked their huge drums in the middle. Half way through the tunnel some runners already stop running and walk. I keep my pace around 6 minutes per kilometer, smiling, enjoying, singing along. As we climb out of the tunnel (yes, in Holland the 25 m are qualified as climbing), I am happy with my pace. As of now, my GPS dependent Garmin is only useful for the time, not for the distance. Tunnels don’t do him good.

2nd km:  Luckily there are markers on the road each kilometer. We are running through Amsterdam North now – many locals around the path, kids, music groups, BBQ parties, beer… oh no wait, I am here to race.

5th km: 30:48. As planned, I make a quick pause to drink and ‘feel’ my body and let it speak. I feel surprisingly good even though on paper, the first third of the race was too fast for me. I decide to keep the current pace till km 8 and see how it goes from there.

8th km: 49:19. There is a fruit station here. I grab 2 halves of a banana, walk for 10 seconds and still feel really good. Suddenly my Racing Me comes up with an idea: back in spring (while registering) I set a goal of running this race under 1:40, under 100 minutes. If I keep my current pace I could actually still make it. Hmmm, once the little worm of an idea crawls in my head, I am not to be stopped anymore.

10th km: (second 5 km bit ran in 30:58) I have to pee. Well – I ALWAYS have to pee when running so lets neglect the urge and plod on. I am checking my pace by singing along with the street musicians and/or with my mp3 player. All still going good, keeping my pace right around 6 min per km.

11th km: The weather is changing, it is getting colder and windier but what the hell – it is just 3 more miles to go. I will be warm in half an hour!

14th km: I have to admit, the last mile is getting longer. Luckily we are entering the city of Zaandam, the last bit will lead us through the city centre with yet another amazing crowd (although the picture does not show that many people).

16th km: I do not have any ambition to speed up, my legs would not allow me and even though I am racing, I am still very aware of the fact that I am carrying a little passenger with me. My breath is easy and regular, and yet I manage the third 5 km piece in 31 minutes. The cobble stones are okay today, my knee is holding excellent. We have to pass 2 bridges and then turn to the finish line on Peperstraat. I quickly check the time board. My mind is unable to do the maths but I have good hope I actually managed to stay within my time limit.

Finish: Happy and tired but not breathless or exhausted. It was a good race, I ran very flat splits (you hear me talking as if I were a professional, haha) and this all is rewarded by my Garmin showing 1:39:41. Later on, this very time will be confirmed online as well. I am halfway the 18th week of pregnancy and I just ran 10 miles under 100 minutes. And – the charity has collected some EUR 5.700 so far!

3 pm: Sitting in the train home, chewing on a banana, smiling and every now and then reaching towards the medal to check it is still hanging around my neck.

4 pm: Home sweet home, hugging V and finishing the bowl of pasta (I love leftovers from the fridge) and doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the day.

Cliff Young

“I like to finish what I start doing. I like to see it through to the end, to the best of my ability.”

Prague by night

When planning our ‘racing autumn’, my eyes fell on the Nike Run first. One quick remark of 12Honza (“Prague by night is unforgettable, V will love it!”) made me change my mind and so we registered for the Mattoni Grand Prix Prague on September 8 instead. Of course we combined the race with a long weekend trip to Czech rep. to see my mother so the 1.5 day before the start shot, we were working in her garden, harvesting plums,

hiking around and enjoying the good old Czech cuisine. (Turns our V. loves my mum’s homemade meat loaf). Oh yes – not to forget: we had a great dinner with the whole family on Friday and finally announced my pregnancy. Surprisingly, nobody made any remark regarding the pregnant woman racing. Both my mum and my brother know that there is no chance to change my mind once I set my goal…  On Saturday afternoon, we went down town to pick the start numbers and to breathe some of the ‘racing air’. The starting area looked like this:

We walked around with ice coffee, did some shopping and returned to my mum’s house. For the last time we tried to persuade her to join our friends along the race in Parizska street and to see us running. And at the end, she agreed to come with us! After a series of telephone calls we managed to get a camping chair and 2 friends to accompany mum to the best spot to watch us. We equipped them with a bottle of Becherovka as one never knows when the traditional liquid medicine will come handy. Both the liquor and the camping gear turned out to be unnecessary as we picked a perfect spot at a terrace in front of a fancy café. Mum could see us easily from her place!

Slowly we walked to the start area on Staromestske square that now looked like this:

We found the toilet (twice) and our D corridor and then all of the sudden I spotted attributes that unmistakably belonged to 12Honza (design glasses, black Asics running shoes ‘for formal occasions’, big smile, running pants with a hole on the right knee,…) with his daughter

and he spotted us.

A bit of a surreal moment to shake Honza’s hand, I was so happy we met there! We wished each other good luck and an enjoyable evening and shortly after that the famous Moldau from Smetana’s My Country brought me to tears and made us running.

The evening city was amazing. Yes, it took a bit of an extra focus to avoid the curbs and uneven cobblestones in darker areas but hey, we are urban people and this 10 km track showed Prague at its best. Especially the long stretches at the embankment were not to be missed. Funny enough, we passed pretty much all ‘important’ areas of my young student years and as our pace was moderate, I could show V all of them and even comment on ’what happened here and there…’

Before we knew, we were half way through, keeping the pace at a comfortable 6:15 or so per km. We drank some water from the bottle that V was carrying with her and ran on. Every time as we were passing Parizska street (4x in total) we waved to my mum. Then as we were passing Manesuv bridge on our way to finish, the fireworks above the river exploded!

At Ovocny market, 12Honza with his daughter ran over us in a mighty finish pace and soon we were passing the finish line as well. The race was fantastic as the atmosphere of medieval city by night cannot be substituted by anything else in the world. Our time 1:03:44 was way below what we predicted and I am very happy with it considering the fact I am almost 16 weeks pregnant.

With the golden medals hanging around our necks we walked to Parizska street again and joined our support team at the terrace. It was great to chat with them some more while drinking huge glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice and chewing cheesecake. I saw the twinkle in my mum’s eyes. She was so happy and proud of us! We talked and talked and if it was not for the public transport that we were depending on, we would have stayed over the midnight…

On Sunday morning we went to my mum’s cottage again to enjoy some more sun and hike a bit and also to finish some garden works.And then it was time to head home. A perfect weekend if you ask me – and I am sure we will be back!

Charity Run? Why not!

During the past months, funny thing has happened to me: somehow I started realising I was becoming a (slightly) better person. Not in the sense of better/faster runner but better as in more receptive to other people: their stories, sorrows, lives.

This might be a temporary thing, enhanced by our tiny running/racing successes but never mind, I am predetermined to use it to the max. And so I enrolled our 2 headed Team AprilRuns to the charity project Europa Kinderhulp and in September, we will be running the world famous Dam tot Damloop (10 miles from Amsterdam to Zaandam, 40.000 runners!) and raising funds for this charity.

Europa Kinderhulp is a Dutch charity organisation with its main goal to enable different kids from all over Europe to spend 2-3 weeks of a nice holiday in Holland, to escape from their socially and financially poor surroundings. It is not any life saving general project, it is just an attempt to help each individual kid to forget the misery at home and play.

I remember myself when I was a kid, how important my holidays were for me, the 2 fabulous months every summer. If we can raise some money to lighten up a couple of children’s faces, to make sure they spend the holiday of their life, our goal is achieved.

Asking others for money is not what I do nor am good at. I have never done it and I am not sure if I am good at it. It helps knowing that the money is being raised for a very good cause. So if you feel tempted to help, here is what you can do:

  1. Visit our Dam tot Damloop charity website  and feel free to read/donate;
  2. Email me or leave me a blog comment to arrange for a different way of payment.

If the whole idea is not interesting to you, never mind: the point of charity is that it is voluntary. Keep running!

Recovery Run Random Ramblings

  • Yesterday, 8500 happy people enjoyed the running day in Leiden. Well, 8500 minus 1. According to the local paper, one of the runners died of a heart attack after finishing the 1/2M race. I do hope that media won’t use (abuse) this personal tragedy to support the wicked theory of how unhealthy running is…
  • My legs are sore but I am already checking the calendar for future races (is this normal?) – perhaps a 1/2M in Katwijk at the end of September?
  • Finally read Born to Run. Should I slowly start testing my own barefoot running abilities? Will do so next time on the beach.
  • After surviving 20 km running, I am sure I can survive the dentist next week, too.
  • Should I opt for some proper training plan? I am a bit afraid that the regularity would kill my idea of the freedom that running brings. On the other hand, I could use some (semi)professional guidance in order to avoid the common mistakes.

… and then my 30 minutes were over and I ran home…

We did it!

This morning, I woke at 5 am to drive my mother to the airport. It was rainy and windy and misty and the idea of running 20+ km in these circumstances sounded everything except appealing to me.

Fortunately the weather improved significantly so after the chaotic ‘what-to-wear’ session (while working warm crusli and banana into my stomach hoping it will stay there) we returned to the original idea of long pants and Team AprilRuns shirt. What a comfort to participate in a 1/2M race that starts just 2 miles from our house! We parked the bikes, visited the portable toilet, panicked some more about Garmin, iPhone, starting numbers (nothing unusual) and walked to start area.

Some twenty minutes before the shot this is what we saw in front of us:

And this is what we saw behind us:

I suggested to run the first 10k in a comfortable pace and see how we feel. Of course, the reality did not resemble the theory at all: the first 5k was one of our fastest ever, then after a short drinking pause (10 seconds of walking) the second 5k was quite similar. Except for my knee we felt very good. The path was quite nice, leading us through small villages and fields, we even saw deer. And along the path there were lots of locals cheering and offering drinks, fruit, sponges… I absolutely loved the atmosphere and was predetermined to enjoy it all the way.

The crisis came around km nr 12. The black currant gel did not go down too well I guess. Also, there was some wind against us and I’ve noticed we were slowing down a bit. Around that moment, I lost my hand made wrist strap with pace time for my Dream Time of 2:20. Well, whatever – as long as we finish, I thought.

I was encouraging V to run faster but she would not leave me behind. I was guessing that part of the reason being her two tennis matches last night. All the time, even though I ran with an mp3 player and earplugs, I was looking around enjoying the crowds: kids giving us high-five (and begging for sponges and gels), families, older people, bikers, dog walkers, musicians. And indeed, the kick I got when people/strangers clapped and yelled my name is hard to describe. And so my first crisis left as fast as it came.

At 15k we paused again, drank some and from that point somehow I knew we would make it. Suddenly more and more people around us were walking rather than running. I have to admit, watching an athletic guy with muscles that looked like sculpted by ancient Greeks in front of me and then passing him by (with my snail pace but still) – that gave me a kick of a century!

Short after that we crossed the 20k sign and intuitively speeded up just a little as one cannot look too slow down at the city centre. The finishing line was a dream, we crossed it hand in hand, laughing like crazy and utterly happy. We ran our first 1/2M and we did it together: for ourselves and also for April.

And for the statistics (not that time matters so much), the time was 2:14:45.

P.S. Even though this little bit is written all the way at the end, it is the most important part of this post: Thank you, V, for doing this with me. And thank you 12Honza, Shadow, Cheeta, Barborka and ALL other bloggers for your blogging which is a neverending source of inspiration for my humble running attempts.

3 days to go

This morning the organizers of Leiden Marathon sent us a reminder that our race is to start in 3 days. As if I did not know! I have trouble in falling asleep for days already, my metabolism has gone crazy, my legs feel heavy (after 5 km of running yesterday evening I had to stop!), my breath is shallow, both knees aching now, not to mention my mind and the voices in my head that keep telling me that there is no way to manage a 20+ km run! What is going on?

I guess it is the pre-race stress and I keep calming myself down that everybody feels it one way or another and that it is a good thing as it helps me to get focused. Or am I just fooling myself? Let’s not forget I was not making any proper long runs in the last month, my body has probably already forgotten my first (and last) 17km training run…

Nevertheless, on Sunday morning, I am predetermined to be out there and fight everything that comes across my path (myself to start with). My first priority is to finish the race. If things go well I would be very happy with any time under 2:30.

P.S. No explanation for this move – but I did register V and me for the 10 km Mattoni Grand Prix in Prague on September 8.

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