April Runs

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Archive for the tag “1/2M”

Salzburg 1/2M: Slow but great!

After my slow and not very well built 1/2M in Limassol in March, I felt it was time to attempt to race better. He he, little did I know… I decided to run 1/2M in Salzburg on Sunday, the day of S’s first birthday. Originally, all of us would go to Salzburg together: the girls would be enjoying a nice day out while I would get my run done and join them later for lunch and some more walking. The thunder on Saturday night and temperatures dropping to freezing point made us change our plans.


The wall with the names of all participants in the University Auditorium

At 6.00 on Sunday morning, freezing to death in my light jacket, I left for Salzburg all alone. Arriving to downtown at about 8 am, the soft rain changed into something I was not willing to run in. However, the streets were full of happy (and wet) runners and so I was waiting for a miracle. And it came: By 8.45, it was suddenly dry and the clouds moved several miles outside the city. The starting shot caught a happy colorful crowd, both marathon and half marathon runners started at the same time as the marathon course was designed as 2x ‘our’ 21.1 loop. Foto0111 The first 5 km part was great. As my nose was blocked and I had a bit of a sore throat (this is becoming my new tradition during races), I decided to make it a nice and easy run allowing me to breath well, look around, enjoy the historical down town and its outskirts. I quickly joined a group that formed itself around the 4.45 marathon pacer and stopped thinking about the time, distance and other problems – just stopped thinking all together. After the marker of the second km, the paved surface was substituted by an unpaved sand path. Due to the rainy night and morning, the path was somewhat muddy but nothing too serious. The first pit stop was placed in Hellbrunn and it was great – enough drinks and fruit, well organised (volunteers who actually knew how to pass a plastic cup without spilling its content all over us), cheerful people. The scenery was good too…


One borrowed picture: Hellbrunn

… and this lasted for another 5 km. Around one third of the race I decided to leave ‘my’ pacer behind me and as I could still spot the green balloon of the 4.30 one, I attempted to move towards him. Why oh why did I waste so much energy to do this? I passed the 1/4M mark in 1.09 and felt well. We came to another well equipped pit stop at Schloss Leopoldskron and by the 13 km marker it became obvious that I had no speed to continue chasing the guy. I calmed down and ran a while behind a tall German girl who kept a pace similar to mine. Every now and then she stopped to make a picture (or to catch a breath?) and we have been passing each other on and off till the finish line (for which I thanked her at the finish).


Yet another pic I did not take but it looked exactly like this yesterday.

The last third of the race lead us back to the old town: paved roads, good crowds on the sides, very very supportive people and volunteers, music – and then the sun started shining… Unfortunately, I did not have any energy left to speed up, quite the contrary, the last 2 miles were sort of painful – but in a good way. The first 2 Kenyan runners (who were finishing the second loop) passed me with the speed of light around 19th km. I hardly had time to focus on them and off they went. And there was the finish line, again with many people, music, beer, fruit and even this cherry cake: Foto0114 So to sum up: my finish time, 2:21:14, is the worst out of my thee 1/2M’s that I participated in but when it comes to my feelings, this was probably the best race I ran in. I would be happy to return next year :-).

Limassol 1/2M

It was supposed to be an easy flat race on a track that I know as well as my shoes. I have been running along the Coastal Road here in Limassol for months now so when I found out that the annual Limassol Marathon pretty much copies my favourite training route (with the start some 500 m away from my office) and that I would be on the island exactly at the time when it takes place, it was hard to resist. Out of the 4 offered distances (full M, 1/2M, 10 K and 5 K) I opted for the 21.1 K, a distance that I ran once before during a race (Leiden 2012, pre-babies) and several times during my training. With enough ‘winter kilometers’ in my legs, I felt confident that I would be able to run this race well, if only I could get some sleep one or two nights before the D-Day.


As the race day was approaching, the kids were getting a bit ill, sneezing and coughing. On Saturday, I myself woke up with a head that felt as if it were hollow but decided not to pay attention to it. We all went out and enjoyed the sunny day and light breeze. During the afternoon, E did not feel too well so we made a steam-bath for her with Eucalyptus oil, made sure she drank enough and put her to bed early. Ignoring my own cold, we ate pasta (the only item that I found in my runner bag) with tomato sauce and I allowed myself one small beer and went to bed too. At midnight my Camelot ended: while E was sound asleep, S started crying and was not to be calmed down. She felt really warm and to our surprise, her fever raised to 39.7. Of course we were panicking. To cut a long story short, early on Sunday morning, after hours of cuddling, singing, walking around with her and attempting to put her to sleep, she was quietly asleep in her bed, with fever under control. I still had 1.5 hours or so before it was time to get out and race.

At 7.00 I announced to V that I was not going to leave the house and running was out of question. At 7:30 she forced me outside the entrance door and told me that if she needed me, she knew where to find me because at any given time, I would not be further away than 10 km. Yet again, she was right.

Foto0028By 8.00, I was in the office changing myself and attaching my bib number to my shorts. Then 2x number  1 and number 2 (how great not to be depending on the portable toilets down the road!), check check double check and off I went. Out of 4000 registered runners, some 3500 participated in corporate runs (5 and 10 K). As the corporate teams were lining up near the starting point at Molos, it seemed like everybody knew each other there  and I felt a bit lost, thinking about my girls at home… What distracted me was the fact that the marathon runners were lining up at the start gate while half marathoners and 10K runners were supposed to take place behind them. Weird, I thought.

Foto0032Around 9.00 I heard the gun shot and as the crowd started moving, I crossed the start line some 3 minutes after that. I went with the crowd, the pace was around 6 minutes per km and it went well. After about a mile I suddenly saw a pair of bare feet running next to me. They belonged to a tall blond guy with light blue eyes. As we plodded on, we started talking. Funny enough, he was Dutch coming to Cyprus to enjoy his ‘old days’. Being 60 now, he was never a runner till about 3-4 years ago when somebody advised him to try barefoot running. His life story was quite amazing and so was his running story including the barefoot runs in Himalaya’s. He was happy to be able to talk to me in Dutch while I was happy to be just listening. The pace remained slightly above 6 min p/km and when at 9 km I realised that I wouldn’t be able to keep it forever (or for the next hour or so), it was too late to do anything about it. We passed the 10 km mark at 1:03 and I told my guy that it was time for us to part.

The turning point at Amathus excavations caught me in a bad shape. I was hot, my throat was sore and most of all, I felt no urge to run as my thoughts were wandering to the kids. What looked like a well started race turned into a nightmare as I suffered through the last miles with some kilometers slower than 7 minutes, not being able to come to a good pace and focus. At the eighteenth km, I was only about 1.5 km from home and the idea of leaving the track and turning home was quite tempting. At the end, the biggest achievement was probably simply the fact that I finished.

I crossed the finish line at 2:20:51 official time. To my surprise, I was not the last one – about one fifth of the runners was still on their way. I quickly walked to the office again, called V (to find out that the girls were sort of ok) and biked home. There was still half a day ahead of us to continue curing the little ones and I was left with mixed feelings.

limassol medaileP.S. On the organisational side of the race, it was quite a chaos. My email inquiries with regards to the advertised car rental discounts and bib numbers pickup remained unanswered. Also, I have never experienced a volunteer refusing to pass me water arguing that “there is another water station several miles further, this water is for the full marathoners.” But despite all this, I might be back next year :-).


My private 1/2M

While Janathon is in full swing, due to extensive work load and some travelling this month, I had to skip my attendance at the 1/2M in Egmond, a race that I was looking forward to since Christmas. The idea of matching my longest run so far (Leiden 1/2M back in spring of 2012) kept sitting in my head, though. I thought I had the legs for it and after the last week treadmill torture there was even the mental prep. The only thing I did not have was a plan.

Last night, I went out with a friend – just one beer as we both had a looong working day behind us. But then as we were almost leaving the pub, our waitress by mistake served us double scotch on the house and what do you do? Letting the ice melt in the long glass filled with whisky was not in my books. And I still had my Janathon run to make! By the time I dragged myself through 4 painful and sleepy kilometers, showered and hit my bed, it was way past midnight.

This morning I woke up with the “I’ll never drink again” feeling and somehow, almost automatically started pouring water in my camel bag. The thing is, I thought, when carrying a water bag, I will be motivated to run further than just a few miles. If only my head was not sore…

Little by little I gathered my running gear, a package of caffeine chewing gums to substitute my morning coffee and once my Garmin (“Did we change continents AGAIN?”) found its position, off I went. I decided to run westwards following the Coastal Road until I passed the Old Port and the new marina.
old port
There at the crossroads I chose the southern unpaved road to Lady’s Mile. By then, I was about 5 km into my run feeling good. The surrounding scenery quickly changed from industrial views of the harbor to the semi desert landscape around the Akrotiri salt lake.
akrotiri salt lake
Unfortunately, the flies and other unidentified insects equipped with wings and stungs wanted to join me… And so we were all running/flying through hard sand and over the salty plains up until the point where we could enjoy the sea view. Despite my habits I drank quite regularly as the temperature started to climb and I was really happy with my water bag. Around 11th km I stopped for a while and still felt surprisingly fresh. Nevertheless, I decided to turn back and run towards the city again.
After 14 km I finally started to feel some discomfort and slowed down a bit. Unfortunately the caffeine chewing gums turned to be of no use for me (unless I wanted to keep them whenever I need to turn my stomach inside out) so I threw the whole package away and bit 2 pieces of fruit sugar instead. That helped for another 4 km or so. I think that is where I had a small crisis. Being me, I covered it by a short break at the ATM machine as I needed to withdraw some cash anyway.
These magical 5 or perhaps 10 minutes did the trick again and the rest of my run was luckily as easy as the beginning. By the time I was approaching the starting point, I figured that with a tiny D-tour I could press the Garmin stop button at 21.1km. By then, I clocked 2:26:30.

Can one’s day start in any better way?

P.S. The pictures are not mine this time…

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.

Happy Easter Running

The Easter weekend is almost over and it was good. My mother and April enjoying themselves with good food, talking and cuddling, me and V spending two mornings on the road (10 and 12 km). Both our runs were easy going and rather enjoyable. We managed to run next to each other, talk a bit, focus a bit, get tired but not too much… I think we found a pace that is ‘runnable’ at the 1/2M next month. Mum is leaving tomorrow morning and this might have been the last time for her to be with April.

Btw, this is the picture we chose for our Team AprilRuns shirts:

Bad news and The Plan

April’s arthrosis got worse during the past months, she suffered especially from painful swelling in her right front leg.  Several days ago we took her to the vet again and insisted on an x-ray. Unfortunately the results were not good. The pain and swelling are caused by an aggressive bone tumor (osteosarcoma) and it seems like the cancer is spreading into other parts of her body already. Without going into much details, the facts are devastating. She probably only has weeks to live. Except for some pain management, there is nothing we can do for her. No words to describe how we feel. There is a lot of quiet moments, tears and hugging. The good thing (as long as there is a good thing about this situation) is that the pain killers seem to work quite well and April is all happy and vital.

Yesterday evening I took V for a run along the river. I thought it would do us good to go outside together for a change. It was a nice quiet evening and as we were running, without much thinking V said that she would like to run a race with me and The Plan was born: we registered for the 1/2M in our home town.

It is a crazy idea – except for V’s tennis competition and my biathlon races 20 years ago, we have no experience with races. We never even ran 21 km in one go! But somehow, yesterday evening out there, thinking about us, the dog and all important things in life, we formed the AprilRuns Team that will participate in the Leiden Half Marathon on May 20.

Does it make any sense?

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