Leiden Marathon 10K race report

I really wanted to write an extremely positive report, especially since my training has been going quite well the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, my first 10K race in more than 3 years was a bit of a disaster!

It started with a broken night due to noisy neighbours. Ugh. And I had gone to bed very early (I was exhausted, to be honest) in order to be fresh and full of energy on race day.

Since I had time to kill before it was time to go pick up my bib, I walked down the street to cheer for the half and full marathon runners passing by. They are my heroes for my running these distances. And they are so fast.

And then it was time to change and walk to the centre of town to pick up my bib. The hubby came along, he’s my best supporter! We cheered more runners (especially the last ones finishing the half marathon — respect!)… and it was time to go line up.

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It took a good 20 minutes (!!!) to finally cross the start line, and then I was off. I started really slow (about 7:15/km), and I was actually quite proud of myself for not starting too fast as I always do. But I soon realised that regardless of how slow I was running, my early morning runs hadn’t prepared me for running by this warmth, in the full afternoon sun, with no shade whatsoever, and barely any wind. By the 2nd kilometre I already had to stop running to walk: I was feeling way too warm.

And so it went for the remaining 8 kilometres. Alternating between a slow jog and walking. My legs were fine, my heart rate was fine (quite low actually for the perceived effort…) but I simply couldn’t cool down. I wasn’t the only one suffering, I had a couple of quick chats with other runners who also had to stop and walk, and they all complained about the warmth.

By the way, I am eternally grateful for the supporters along the route that were holding a water hose to cool us down. Bless their soul. It was really needed!

But we all made it to the finish line. Slowly, but we made it.

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Am I disappointed with my result? Nah. Actually, I’m not disappointed at all. Despite a disastrous race, I had fun.  Giving up was never an option, even if the route took me 200m from my house. I could have literally waved the race goodbye, walk home and call it a day by kilometre 7! The solidarity among runners was strong, and that’s what kept me going. We were encouraging each other with pats on the back, telling each other “We’re going to make it, don’t worry!”

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My main lesson from this race: it might be a good time to start training in warmer temperatures if I want to eventually reach 21,1km…

My first race report of 2017!

I didn’t plan to run the 2017 Singelloop here in my hometown, Leiden. Actually, I had even forgotten the existence of this event until last week Monday, when I saw the warning signs about possible traffic congestion around the centre of town on Friday April 14, due to the event. And suddenly I thought: why not sign up for it? My 10K training is going well, I should be able to run 7km, even if I have to stop to walk a couple of times! And without further ado, I went to buy my bib number!

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On race day, I was feeling so, so tired, and I woke up with a headache. I went to bed way too late the night before, and sleeping in didn’t help. I went down for a nap in the afternoon, and it did help give me back some energy. But then… the nerves hit me! GAWD I was nervous. This was going to be my first race in almost three years, and my anxious brain wouldn’t give me a break. Will I be able to run the distance? Will I injure myself? What if I finish last, or what if they have to pull me out of the race because I’m too slow? I had to work hard to calm myself down — using all the techniques my very patient therapist has taught me.

When it was time, I got dressed and walked to the start. This gave me a good 15 minutes of brisk walk and a great warm-up. I was also able to test my knees and my Achilles’ heels — all seemed good to go! I felt a bit alone waiting for the start of the race; I knew no one taking part! I kept a bit to myself, put my music on, and FIVE MINUTES EARLY (19:25 instead of 19:30!!) it was time to start running!

As always, I started way too fast. I held on for the first kilometre, but then I really had to slow down. I paced myself by following other runners, but they were still too fast for me. Then a man came running next to me, and offered some encouraging words. I suppose my struggling was written all over my face! We kept running together until close to the finish — he walked with me when I had to walk, and he ran with me when I picked up the pace again. He literally coached me throughout the race, and I am SO THANKFUL that he did! We saw each other again after the finish, and I gave him a very heartfelt thank you for his help. Honestly, I think I would have abandoned if it wasn’t for him keeping me going. I never got his name, but fate put this stranger on my path for a reason: I FINISHED MY FIRST RACE!!!!

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My race stats really aren’t that impressive, I’m even a tad disappointed I couldn’t keep the pace of 7:00 min/km that I was aiming for. But hey… Not even two months ago, I was deeply depressed, and I was feeling like there was no way out of the nightmare I was in (work-related… it’s a long story!) And then I look at what I just achieved: I ran 7km, after a hiatus of almost 3 years. I deserve that medal!

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My next race is the 10K of the Leiden Marathon. I’m sure I can cover the distance if I continue my training (I’m not aiming to break my record, I’m only aiming at finishing), and if I continue my cross-training with swimming and cycling to improve my general fitness level. Because I have a confession to make… I signed up for a super-sprint triathlon again, in June! Ha! I will never learn… 🙂

Race report – CPC Loop Den Haag 10 km

My first race report of 2014! 😀

And to be honest, I came very close to not having to write this report, as I came very close to not racing at all. The week before the race was filled with pain and disappointments. I started having pain in my left knee last week Tuesday, to the point that I could barely stand, walk or sit without pain. I cancelled all my training sessions, rested my leg as much as possible, but I was already mentally prepared to not race on Sunday — even though I was extremely disappointed. This would mean cancelling a second race in a row (last time was December, when I got a really bad cold the day before my first 15K race). Add to that the fear of not being able to run anytime soon, of having to back out of my half-marathon in May, etc. I was really not a happy camper. The CPC Loop in The Hague is special to me. My first ever race, a 5K back in 2008, was during this event. And not being able to take part was even more disappointing!

On Saturday, my knee was doing better, but then I got struck by a migraine that never really left me all day, despite pain killers. I was starting to be hopeful though, thinking that maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to race the day after, after a good night’s sleep.

Unfortunately, I woke up in the middle of the night on Sunday with an even more painful migraine than the day before. Popped some painkillers, went back to bed, slept a few more hours, but alas, my pain level was unchanged. The irony was that my knee was feeling absolutely fine. I apologized to my husband, I said I wasn’t going to be able to go to the race to cheer him on (he was going to race his first ever 10K!) and I went back to bed. A couple of hours later, I was starting to feel a bit better — my head was still pounding, but I decided to just man up and go to the race to cheer for my hubby. I put my running gear on, just in case. As we arrived, my headache was definitely feeling better, still not gone completely, but I decided — what the heck, let’s just run this 10K, enjoy the GORGEOUS weather (16°C! in March!) and do my best.

And we were off! I had no racing plan, besides beating my personal record of 1:17:06. Anything below that would be fantastic! But I wasn’t too hopeful, considering the pounding in my head and the threat of knee pain…

I started pretty quick, way below my usual fast 10K pace of 7:00 min/km. I was curious to see how long I was going to be able to hold that pace! The pounding in my head slowly went away around the 3rd kilometer. What a relief! Around the 4th kilometer, I somehow managed to catch up with the 1:05 pacer guy. I tried to keep up with him, and I managed to keep a relative constant pace until about the 7th kilometer, but I was getting really tired by now, so I slowed down a bit and let him go his merry way. But looking at the splits, I did accelerate and ran faster in the 2nd 5K than in the 1st. I really didn’t expect that!

Split Time Moving Time Distance Avg Pace Best Pace Avg HR Max HR
1 6:41.0 06:40 1 06:41 05:15 151 158
2 6:47.3 06:49 1 06:47 05:57 158 162
3 6:49.3 06:48 1 06:49 05:51 159 161
4 6:52.1 06:52 1 06:52 06:14 160 163
5 6:37.3 06:39 1 06:37 05:43 164 166
6 7:00.6 07:00 1 07:01 05:18 163 166
7 6:55.3 06:56 1 06:55 05:44 164 168
8 6:38.0 06:37 1 06:38 05:12 164 167
9 6:36.4 06:37 1 06:36 05:15 165 167
10 6:25.5 06:25 1 06:26 04:56 167 169
11 :55.9 :56 0,17 05:28 04:13 168 172
 Summary 1:08:19.0 1:08:19.0 10,17 06:44 04:12 162 172

Around the 8th kilometer, that’s when the knee pain struck, this time in the shape of cramping/pain of the ITB. I slowed down, stretched my quads a bit (with my heels touching my bum at each step), and the pain went away almost instantly. Pfew! Crisis aborted! I cranked up the pace again, with the finish soon in sight, I just wanted to get this over with!

And FINALLY, the finish. I sprinted like a mad woman and crossed the line after 1:08:19 — more than 8 minutes faster than my earlier PR! I seriously didn’t expect such a result! I’m chuffed!

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And I couldn’t help but make a parallel between my first race 5 years ago, and Sunday’s race. What a difference 5 years make. My weight ballooned during those 5 years, and I had to resort to WLS in 2012 to finally lose weight and get back into running, but I’m now fitter and leaner than I ever was.

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Now, back to our regular programming of swimming, running, strength training and occasionally biking. My next race is early April, another 10K, but I’m not sure about that one. I have another 10K the weekend right after, a more prestigious (!) one, and I think I prefer to keep my energy for that race. We’ll see!

Looking back at 2013, and my goals for 2014

2012 was the year when I made an important decision to save my life: I had gastric bypass surgery.

2013 was the year when I built the foundations for my new lifestyle. Eat better, exercise more. I started from zero fitness to finishing my first triathlon. Oh, I’m still far from an athlete, but I like to think I made giant leaps of progress to become an awesome version of myself.

I started by hiring a personal trainer to keep me motivated, to keep me in check (nothing like having to answer the question “How often did you train this week and what did you do?” to actually make you go train on your own and keep going!), to teach me how to train, and to get a jump-start towards an active lifestyle. I owe him a lot. Even if we’ve now parted ways, the effect he had on me still hasn’t worn off 😉 I can still hear his voice in my head shouting COME ON!! when I want to give up, and I can still hear him ask me the dreaded question every week! And when I see him at the gym, he actually makes sure to ask how I’ve been doing and how my training is going…

Then, there were my goals. One in particular, a dream, a fantasy of mine for several years already: finishing a triathlon. Looking back, I know I didn’t train sufficiently when it comes to swimming, and I was still not very fit, but I did cross that finish line. I finished dead last, but I finished. Instead of demotivating me, it only encouraged me to get fitter and get better.

So, what did I do in 2013? Let’s see…

  • 8 x 5K races
  • 2 x 10K races
  • 2 x obstacle/mud races
  • 1 x super-sprint triathlon

Not bad for a first year!

And what are my goals for 2014?

  • Finish a half-marathon in May
  • Finish a sprint triathlon in August
  • Focus on 10K races instead of 5K races*
  • Learn how to swim the front crawl

* I choose to focus on 10K races this year rather than 5K’s, mostly as an extra challenge to myself. And not to sound like a snob (because really, I’m not!), but I noticed I’m taking this racing thing way too seriously now to genuinely enjoy doing 5K’s (generally more crowded and family oriented), and I just hate having to slalom around people walking, even though I’m not running much faster than them, and feeling stressed about how this slaloming will affect my end time. I’m not saying I’ll never do 5K’s ever again, but I will choose them carefully, i.e. smaller-scaled events.

Today is Blue Monday, apparently the most depressing day of the year, with our New Year’s resolutions slowly fading away. Apparently. Because I’m happy to report I’ve been going to the swimming pool 2 to 3 times per week since the beginning of the year, I’ve officially started my half-marathon preparation, and I’ve also stepped on my bike a few times already. Things are going smoothly! And do you know what helps? Getting new gear to keep you motivated. Look at what the hubs gave me for my birthday! 😀

5595_10151949104842585_134587233_nYes!! A beautiful Forerunner 910XT. I am SO happy. I’m tracking everything on Garmin Connect and I love seeing my progress! I already owned a Forerunner 305 and I was really happy with it, but I was really missing the swimming training tracking component the 910XT has to offer. My dad is going to inherit of my 305, I know he’ll give it a good home!

I think I’m well on my way to a fantastic 2014. If I can stay injury-free and if I can manage to keep my iron-deficiency anemia under control, I should be able to achieve my goals.

Wish me luck! 😉

September in numbers

Today is the last day of the month of September, and what a month it was! Outstanding. Magical. Fantastic. And that doesn’t even begins to describe it. Here are some numbers:

  • 6 races, on 2 continents
  • 2 obstacles/mud races
  • 4 x 5K races
  • Best 5K ever: 34:24, on Sept. 14
  • Bibs 92, 105, 4088, 1067, 402 and Z139

It all started on Friday September 6, with the Leiden Ladiesrun. It was the evening before we leave for our (truly deserved) vacation, so I went there with no expectations whatsoever. I was pleasantly surprised with a decent time, 37:05. Not my fastest 5K, but not my slowest either. I liked the event, it was small but well-organized, with a nice city course, with ladies of all shapes and sizes, many doing their first race. Great atmosphere. But no time to lose, so I grabbed my medal and rushed home to pack our suitcases!

2 days and a flight across the Atlantic ocean later, I ran my first ever race in Canadian soil, the Demi-Marathon de la Côte de Beaupré! The best cure for jet lag is exercise — or so they say — and I did my very best 5K ever that day! The first 2.5K were downhill and the last 2.5K uphill, but I kept a pretty good pace, and finished with 35:35, my first 5K under 36 minutes! It was a great family-oriented event, fantastic organization. We received a delicious and elaborate packed lunch and a microbrewry beer after the race.1012499_586183928105910_1301776078_n

About a week later, it was time for the Montreal Night Race. A fun event at night, and the first 5K race I ran with my hubby since… 2008. We had a blast! And I further improved my 5K record, going under 35 minutes for the first time with 34:24. I’m still amazed at that one! 1240143_557814827617337_799621550_n

The next even was on September 21, Run for Women, a 5K walk I shared with my mother. No speed record there, but we had a good time walking on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, early in the morning. It was a pretty decent event, we all got a goody bag with samples and coupons and a comfy t-shirt. It was just not as popular as I expected it to be, I was missing a bit of atmosphere. But I enjoyed spending quality time with my mom, we have to cherish the moments! 1186063_10151713321927585_986635913_n

Next up, the day after, my first obstacle run, the Défi Vikings! I was so nervous, I had no idea what to expect and I had no team mates to share my anxiety with… but I did it! And I have the bruises to prove it 😀 It was a fun, fun event, with a fantastic atmosphere, but the organization was a bit lacking. No beer after the race? No lunch? Just a glass of Gatorade and half a granola bar? And seriously, the visitors had to pay 8$ per person just to come cheer you on? That’s probably the venue’s fault and not the organization’s, but it was a bitter pill to swallow. The course was great and very challenging though, if they can fix the visitors’ fee issue, it’s an event I would definitely recommend. 1236817_10151716056312585_1721020751_n

A week later and a flight back across the Atlantic Ocean, the famous Mud Masters race! I insist on the word famous because it was sooooo crowdy. I was lucky to do the course with 3 fantastic team mates and we definitely worked as a team. But boy oh boy did we have to wait a long time to do some of the obstacles. So much that we just had to skip them. I have a bit of a bittersweet feeling about this race. On the one hand, I’m so proud of myself for even attempting it, and I’m even prouder for having crossed the finish line. And we had LOADS of fun. But at the same time, the fact it’s so popular and crowdy made it difficult to enjoy some of the obstacles, if it didn’t actually prevented me from doing them altogether (unless you are patient enough to wait up to 30 minutes to jump into the water from a suspended platform… I wasn’t!) I would probably sign up again, because I love a challenge, but I’m probably going to look into smaller scale obstacle runs… if that’s at all possible to find these days. 1380792_10151727223077585_2002610058_n

There you have it, a September month at the races! The season is almost over, my next race is in 2 weeks, in Eindhoven (another 5K). Then it will be time to step it up with swimming (and swimming lessons) and slowly run my way to my next target, a half-marathon in May 2014, and a sprint distance triathlon at the end of the summer. I need goals to work towards, otherwise I know myself, I’ll just get lazy again… and we don’t want that happening!

I’m a triathlete!

After years of signing up for the race but never showing up, after months of training, last Sunday was D-Day: my first triathlon! (and not the last, I believe ;)) In the days leading up to the event I was a ball of nerves, questioning my reasons for singing up for this race, hating myself for not going swimming more often… and being afraid I was going to forget to bring something on race day. Now that the race is done and over with, here’s my first ever triathlon race report!

The Race

It was cold, rainy, windy. Not the kind of weather conditions I was hoping for my first race, but I just had to deal with it. This also meant I had to read up last-minute ‘racing in the rain’ tips online. I packed some plastic bags to protect my gear in transition, and hoped for the best! I signed up for the super-sprint distance, 250m swim / 10km bike (which turned out to be 11.5 km according to my Garmin) / 2.5km run.

The Swim

From the start it was clear I wasn’t going to finish the swim quickly. I stayed at the back of the pack, but I lost a lot of energy trying to keep up and somehow panicked a bit. About half-way, I was ready to call it quits, I was dead tired, out of breath, out of air. But I decided to keep going. I switched to a backstroke to get my heart rate to slow down, but also to calm myself down. I came out of the water several minutes after everyone else, under a thunder of applause from the spectators – so it is true that the people finish last always get the biggest cheers!

T1

T1 went pretty swiftly, but I was still struggling with catching my breath from the swim. I just decided to take my time. I was happy I protected my biking shoes and my helmet/Garmin/headband from the rain!

The Bike

The bike is my strongest and I was quite proud of myself when I managed to catch up with the girls before me, and even pass three of them! I gave everything I had on the bike, I rode an average of 27 km/h — I never kept such a high average speed ever during training!

T2

All was not lost, I could still avoid finish DFL (dead effing last) so I did as fast as I could in T2. I had trouble putting my running socks on. The combination tight socks/wet feet isn’t a good one. I have to reconsider my strategy for next time…

The Run

I wasted a lot of energy in the swim, gave everything else I had on the bike, so there wasn’t much left to give during the run. I had to alternate run/walk a couple of times, even though I’ve run the distance very often in the past without the need to walk. And unfortunately, the girls I passed on the bike passed me swiftly during the run, confirming my finish in the last place, MINUTES after everyone else!

The Summary

It’s clear I need to learn how to swim, and I also have to learn to pace myself and keep some energy for that pesky run at the end! But it was a FUN day, despite the rain, and it only motivated me to train harder for next year. This is my first triathlon, but not my last. And as some athlete friends rightfully reminded me:

DFL (dead effing last) is still better than DNF (did not finish), which is still better than DNS (did not start).

So yes, I’ve earned myself the title of triathlete. Regardless of how slow I was.

Récemment mis à jour5

Living an active lifestyle

I’ve led a very sporadic ‘active lifestyle’ from my youth to my adult life. I’d be out and about cross-country skiing during the winter, but spend the summer sitting on my behind. I’d play organised sports for a couple of years, but then I’d sit on the couch for the next five. Lack of motivation, teenage rebellion, caught in the whirlwind of studying or working. There was always an excuse.

In 2007 and 2008, when I was actively trying to lose weight by dieting and exercising, I discovered sports I loved and started to actually enjoy exercising. But then weight stall frustration, stress, work and health problems became yet other excuses for not burning calories. And we all know what happened next: I put the weight back on, AND THEN SOME. Which led me to taking the difficult decision to go under the knife for gastric bypass in October 2012.

The weight is definitely coming off now, but I know I’m in this honeymoon period where weight loss almost magically happens without too much efforts. When this honeymoon period is over, I know I’ll have to be more vigilant at managing my caloric intake and the amount of calories I burn through exercise, otherwise I will re-gain. And I really don’t want to go there!

What do I need to do then? I need to live an active lifestyle, I need to make exercising part of my daily life — not for a summer, not for a year, but until the end of my days. But it’s not easy. There’s work, and commuting to and from work, there’s my other hobbies, there’s my wonderful husband, there’s household chores, etc. Making it all fit is really a challenge. I’m sacrificing my other hobbies (I haven’t done any significant sewing for at least a year now), I’m setting clear boundaries in regards to work, and I’m trying to get the hubby to exercise with me, so at least it would count as quality time 😉

Lucky for me, I’m still in love with running, biking and swimming. I’m still enjoying my training sessions with my personal trainer. I’m still enjoying going to the gym. It hasn’t been easy lately because I’m suffering from anemia (happens often after gastric bypass) and my energy level is sub-zero, but I have to push through it. Otherwise, I’m going to find excuses again and I’ll end up on the couch.

The longest distance in any race is the six inches between your ears

I stumbled upon this quote yesterday, and there’s so much truth in it. And not only for marathoners or triathletes! We have to constantly fight this little voice in our heads that is telling us to give up, to stay on the couch, to be lazy, to push that training back to tomorrow, next week, next month, next year… And it’s hard. But it’s worth it.

With my first super-sprint triathlon only 3 months away now (gasp!), there’s no time for pushing back a training. I am going to the pool, I am going for a bike ride, and I am running. I’m not fast, I’m not ‘performing’, but I’m out there having fun doing it, and that’s the most important thing.

In my enthusiasm, I’ve even signed up for a 10K race in now less than 2 weeks! And I have a 5K race in June! And an 8K run in July! And my super-sprint triathlon in August! And today I signed up for a 10K in September! Having goals is what keeps me going. I don’t care if I finish last – I just want to finish 🙂

I’ll finish by inviting you to visit and like my Facebook page to get the latest updates on my workouts and my gear – because one thing I had to sacrifice lately is time for blogging 😉 I hope to see you there!