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…

Losing focus, running out of steam

I’ve been, again, my usual procrastinating self. “I have plenty of time, the race is only in x weeks! I can take a couple of days/weeks off surely, I’ve worked pretty hard so far, I deserve a bit of a break, right?”

Ugh.

Will I ever learn?

I did the same thing last year, thinking I could complete a triathlon with just a couple of visits to the pool. “There’s still time!” And then the pool changes their opening hours during the summer (or closes altogether), and then you can’t fit it in your schedule… and we all saw how I made a complete sinking fool of myself on race day.

This Sunday, I should have been running my first half-marathon. But it won’t happen. I took a little bit of a break about 5-6 weeks ago, but I’ve never been able to get back into the rhythm. Plagued by headaches, runner’s trots, dehydration, muscle cramps. Laziness. Frustration. I can’t seem to be able to get passed 12km running nowadays, while back in March, I was able to complete a long run beyond 15km the day after riding my bike for 70km with strong head winds. I’ve had my blood checked, everything is A-OK. So there are no other possible explanations for my legs cramps, except poor posture, poor mechanics and basically, my body saying no.

I can’t help but feeling angry at myself for falling off the wagon again. For losing focus, for erasing all the progress and efforts of the first months of this year with this stupid break.

In a way, I know I needed this break. I was beginning to drag myself to my training sessions, not enjoying them for one bit. Because I had to train. It had become a chore, a job, not something I getting any pleasure from. But now I see my goals approaching, and there’s no way out of this: I have to let them go, accept failure, regroup and find new goals. And work hard to achieve them.

So I will run on Sunday, but not the 21,1km I was dreaming of. It sucks, because this race was in my hometown, but it’s ok. I’ll participate next year. Instead, I’ll probably go for the 10K, or maybe even just run an easy 5K, for the heck of it. And I’ve picked a new date for my first half-marathon: 21 September 2014.

As for triathlons, I had 4 races planned for this summer, but I think I’ll keep just one: the one nearby my hometown. It’s a tough one, with 750m swimming, but I love the area where the race is taking place and because it’s so close to home, it just feels right.

And this also means getting back to the gym and focus on muscle strength and endurance (especially my core), something I’ve neglected a lot these past months.

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!

Running for a reason

A good friend recently lost her battle against breast cancer. You can read a bit more about it here. a_sisters_hopeI signed up for an 8K sponsored run, to help raise funds for breast cancer research in the Netherlands, so more lives can be saved.

My target is €250. Will you help me?

Surf to the donation page and enter my participant number PM50038.

Thanks in advance!

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!

Tri’-ing for a triathlon, again

Four years ago, almost at the same date, I signed up for my first triathlon. Unfortunately, I never managed to get the training and the preparation done, and in the end, I didn’t participate.

But it’s been nagging me ever since.

So I did it again. I signed up for my first super-sprint triathlon, to take place in August. I have 7 months to train and prepare. I should manage, right? I mean, I’m still busy building up my running with the Start to Run program, but in 7 months, I should be able to run 2.5km. I have yet to get on my bike, but I’ve been cycling at the gym and I’ll join spinning classes soon. And as soon as the weather gets better, I’ll hit the road with my bike, for sure. And 10km on the bike ain’t too bad. The biggest challenge, and my biggest weakness, is swimming. I suck at it, and the swimming pools in my area are not open when I would need them to be, so I’ll have to do wonders to make swimming training fit around my schedule. Anyway, if I want it enough, I can make it work, right? Even if that means going for a swim at 7:00 in the morning and get to the office later than usual. Or something.

I’ll have a chat with my personal trainer next Tuesday, to get advice on what muscle groups I should focus on when I’m training on my own at the gym, or at home. ‘Cause yeah, I’ve been assembling a cool mini gym at home. I love my pink stability ball 😉

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I’m still going to check out my triathlon training books, but advice from a pro cannot hurt. And it also gives us a focus for our personal training sessions: working out to get fit for my first triathlon! I’m excited just thinking about it 🙂

I’ll give the swimming pool a try this weekend, wish me luck!

Bypass challenges for sporty people

I’ve been a very good girl lately! I’ve been to the gym – enthusiastically! – and I’ve enjoyed 2 trainings with my personal trainer so far. It’s so much fun. My muscles are aching and I can barely lift my arms above my head after a session, but no pain, no gain, right?

The first personal training session started with a bang. I was pushed to my limits. So much that at one point, I had to sit down because my heart rate was plunging and I was feeling extremely dizzy and light-headed. Yep, I was crashing. I absolutely didn’t see it coming and it took me by surprise. I thought I had eaten enough and I made sure I drank plenty of fluids during the day. But juggling a small stomach pouch with limited absorption capacity, along with my new physiological incapacity to digest sugars and fats, with high-intensity sports activities… wow, that’s a challenge.

I did a bit of research on the internet and there are only a few scientific studies about nutrition and endurance sports after gastric by-pass. Patients who had bariatric surgery and practice endurance sports must be careful with commercially available sports drinks, gels and bars. Sugar is the biggest issue. It’s a bit of trial and error – some preparations might not cause any discomfort for certain persons, but trigger dumping for others. Same goes for protein powders. After some reading, I came up with my own recipe for a sports drink, which doesn’t contain as much sugar as regular sports drink, but just enough to give me a little bit of energy without causing me any discomfort:

– Water
– 2-3 tablespoons of concentrated fruit syrup (like this one)
– 1/2 teaspoon of salt

I’ve been drinking this mix for a couple of weeks now at the gym and so far so good 🙂 I even survived the 2nd personal training session a couple of days ago – and trust me, it was intense. But I didn’t crash!

On the running side of things, I was amazed at being able to run 4 minutes today. It seems it was just yesterday that 1 minute felt like eternity! Here’s what the trainings look like for this week:

2/2, 2/2, 4/3, 3/3, 3/3 (bold= running, standard = walking)

I treated myself to a new pair of running shoes, my old pair was… well… old. They were not absorbing shocks as much as they used to (5 years ago!) and I just wanted to make sure I was still a neutral runner by letting the guys at the shop analyze my running. Aren’t thy precious in pink and purple? 😉

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That’s it for now, folks! Time to go nurse my sore muscles 😉

A present for myself

Things are going well on the sporty front, I’ve managed to go to the gym twice per week the last two weeks, AND I also managed to get the hubby to get a subscription, so we could go together! It’s always more fun with someone else 🙂

And since this period in my life is a journey of healing, reconstruction and transformation, I’ve decided to offer myself an early x-mas/b-day present: a personal trainer. Just to help me get started. To help me train the right way to achieve my goals. To motivate me when my body acts as an enemy and I just want to feel sorry for myself. To make me enjoy physical activity, and help me keep the habit for the rest of my life. It’s far from being cheap, but I think it’s worth every euro. I’ve talked to him a few times already, about my goals, what I want to achieve, and I think there’s a good connection there. I’m meeting him again this evening for a real intake, with measurements, weight, etc. and goals setting, so we can start working together. I think it’s going to be fun!

Yesterday was a really good day. I think I have to mark 11-12-2012 in my calendar or something. At work I had a wonderful  chat with a coach, who is also there to help me through this journey – not only on the work front, but also in my personal life. She shared great insights and I came out of her office lifted, optimistic, relieved and confident. Then in the evening after work I went to the gym and I did something I’ve missed so badly and could only dream of doing again: I ran. Not fast, not for long (I did the first training of Start to Run, a podcast series from Belgium, similar to the Couch potato to 5K program), but I ran. It was the best. feeling. ever. The feeling of achievement was almost too overwhelming, I thought I was going to cry! I’ve come such a long way…

The road ahead is still long and tortuous, I’m about to start a heavy hormonal treatment that I know from experience is going to make me feel tired and cause me a lot of pain, but I am determined to not let it stop me. I will listen to my body, but instead of working against it, I will work with it.

I think I got my mojo back 🙂