Half Marathon Race Report

Last Monday I ran my 6th Half Marathon, and although I was quite optimistic about the race, it did not go exactly according to plan. My PR on the Half Marathon in 2.00.30, and even though it’s only numbers, I really wanted to run the Utrecht Half Marathon in under 2 hours.

I was very exited to run. When I arrived in Utrecht I immediately felt that the atmosphere was very good. I was so happy when the race took off! I felt really strong and finished the first 11 kilometres of the race in 59 minutes. I forced myself to slow down, but around the 16th kilometre my body was done, and went into a strike. My stomach started to turn itself around, I felt sick and suddenly I could not even breathe properly anymore! The last few kilometres were really tough, and in the end I did not make my two hour goal.

I was really disappointed that I had missed my goal by more than 4 minutes. I think I started off with a pace that I could not only not keep up with, but that also caused me to break down in the final kilometres. I really should have started of easier, but it is so hard to slow down when you feel like you can conquer the world…

But also I think that part of the key to a <2.00.00 race is losing a few kilos of bodyweight. I am currently at a healthy weight, but the next 3 weeks I will try to lose a few (maybe 2 or 3) kilo. Training-wise I will incorporate more of the much hated interval training sessions, and try to keep doing the slow long runs. In 3 weeks from now I will run another half marathon (a small local one) and if I manage to keep up with my training (at least 3 times a week) and really watch my weight, I really should be able to finally finally break that 2 hour mark.

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Pre-race day

Tomorrow I am running the half marathon of Utrecht. I have run over 20 races these past years and every single time my day before the race was filled with excitement and incredible anxiety. Right now, when I think about tomorrow’s race, I can feel my heartbeat go faster and I get that funny feeling in my stomach: a mixture of intense happiness and the feeling I might go sick. I think it’s astounding how the prospect of running a half marathon feels just like the prospect of a hot date with someone you really like.

What on earth makes me so nervous about running 21.1 kilometres? Ok, it’s quite a long distance, but I am quite sure I can pull it off. My preparation has been pretty good: I have been a good girl since the party night I had on Thursday: no alcohol, lots of sleep and healthy foods (ok, except for the Easter croissants this morning).My favourite running gear is ready to use and I’ve made a list of things to bring.

Tomorrow I will probably be even more nervous, to the point where my hands start shaking and I shout at my boyfriend because of minor things. And then I will run the race, shout at myself for running ridiculous distances like a half marathon, be incredibly happy, fulfilled and proud when I cross the finish like and once again be completely in awe of the fact that people run twice the distance I have just run. And then I will remember that is exactly what I will be doing 7 months from now.

How do you cope with anxiety on a pre-race day and/or morning?

My Stormy Run

In the last few weeks my runs have not been as easy and fun as I had wanted them to be. In preparation for my half marathon I started doing 15k+ long runs a few weeks ago, and although one 17k run went quite smoothly, all the others were really hard work. Last week I went out for a 19k run, and ended up walking the last 5 kilometres, because I just could not run anymore.

This made me nervous. I really like the half marathon distance, but when you hit the wall at 16 kilometres, the last 5.1 are really really tough. And the fact that all my long runs went rubbish started to affect my self esteem.

Luckily, though my stormy almost-20-kilometre long run went really well. I was really dreading going out for a run: it was drizzling, the clouds looked ominous, and there was a lot of wind. But it never really started to pour down with rain, and actually it was really good running weather! It almost felt like an afternoon in autumn at the sea, and the drizzle was quite refreshing. So, I’m looking forward to the half marathon on Monday!

The one hundred push-ups and two hundred sit-ups challenge

I’m always up for challenges! And I found a new one, or actually: two!

Lately, I’ve become very interested in fitness without complicated machines and equipment. Of course, running is already a low-equipment activity (because essentially, you only need running shoes), but in my additional training I did use the fitness equipment at my local gym. But it turns out that training your muscles by just using you body weight is much better for both you muscles and you body orientation. And of course it is a big upside that you can do no-equipment exercises wherever and whenever you want.

I’m going to start with the basics: push-ups and sit-ups.

A few days ago, I came across this website, and decided to accept the challenge of one hundred push-ups, and two hundred sit-ups. After doing an initial test, you can look up the ideal training schedule for your current ability, which consist of a 10-20 minute workout of 5-7 sets of push-ups/sit-ups. This was exactly what I needed.

Training schedules can be annoying, because they can create a sense of obligation. But the one thing I love about them is that they give you the confidence that if you stick to the schedule, next week you will be stronger/faster/better than you are right now. Looking at the exercises in week 3, I gasp. But I know that because the number of push-ups are gradually increased, in 3 weeks I’ll probably be able to do as many as 28 consecutive push-ups.

There is one ‘but’: I’ll stop once my arms get too big. I like muscled arms, but I do not want to look like the hulk! I’m still a girl who wants to wear cute summer dresses. I have no limits for the sit-ups, I won’t complain if my belly will become ‘too toned’ (:

The ‘I’m too busy to run so I’ll just keep working’ non-run

Instead of plain run (b)logging, just for the fun of it, I will try to develop a typology of runs, as I encounter them. Today (or as a matter of fact, every day this past week), I did not run. I fell into the I’m too busy to run-trap. I kept working, and now I regret not running.

I guess every runner knows those days where you stress out, skip your run, and then become more stressed out because you did not go for a run. It is really quite stupid and frustrating. I have told myself so many times, that no matter what, I should just go out for a quick run. And still, somehow I don’t. It’s not even an excuse, I really did want to go for a run. But every time I thought about it I liked at my still unfinished thesis chapter and I kept working.

Ok, now let’s rationalize this run where you did not run until it has some bright sides:

1. You can count it as your rest day/week.

I’ll go for a run tomorrow and my legs will feel great, because they have had some time off. Last week I ran 17km, so I’m not really behind on schedule.

2. Less laundry!

Ok, I only had one bright side…

The run in which you run a lot longer than you thought you would.

Instead of plain run (b)logging, just for the fun of it, I will try to develop a typology of runs, as I encounter them. My sunday afternoon run was typical for the category ‘a lot longer that you thought you would’.

I had wanted to do a quick run on saturday, but in the afternoon I was really focussed on my thesis and didn’t want to think about anything else. By the time I started to think about whether I would go for a run, it was already dark (and very cold!). So today I tried again. It was a very sunny day here in Amsterdam, but at the same time it was very cold, so I decided to still put my winter gear on. I wasn’t sure it would be a good run, because I have had a week of not enough sleep and probably one or two glasses of wine too many (for a couple of days on end).

To my surprise, the run went really well! The streets and the park where I ran were very crowded with families spending the first sunny sunday of the year together outside. There were also ridiculous amounts of runners out! I took off thinking I would run 13 kilometres, but ended up running 17, only 4 km short of a half marathon! Given that I still have a full month of training ahead of me, that feels quite good.

I love these ‘a lot longer than you thought you would’-runs, because a run of this kind means that:

(1) you had a good run.

Otherwise you probably wouldn’t have gone further than planned!

(2) you can run further than you thought you could.

Ok, this probably only counts if the run is your weekly long run. My longest run so far this year was 13k, so I didn’t think I was yet capable of running 17k comfortably. But I was, and that feels nice

(3) you gain confidence in reaching your training goal.

Even though I’ve run a half marathon before, 21.1 kilometres is a pretty long distance to me. In order to run a personal best in april, I should really focus on running long distances more than I did in my earlier trainings. I don’t think I’ve ever ran as far as 17 kilometres with 1 month to go, so this probably increases the chances of actually running a PB on april 6th!

Moleskine Passions Book Journal – My Review

Since yesterday, I am the proud owner of a Moleskine Passions Book Journal, and I love it! All my life I have tried to keep a record of my reading, but all my initiatives to keep a book journal ultimately failed. I’ll still have to see whether I’ll keep up with this journal, but I think the beauty of the journal will help me (as will my 30 books a year challenge). I thought I’d give a little review of the Book Journal!

I don’t know why, but somehow I had expected a pocket-size Moleskine, so I was very pleased that the journal turned out to be the size of a normal Moleskine.The pages are thinner than in a normal Moleskine, so instead of 192 pages, the book journal has 240 (which are numbered! Jay! No numbering by hand!). The first three pages can be used for planning.The format for books starts at page 5, and is organized alphabetically.

There are 6 pages for ever letter of the alphabet, followed by 60 pages you can categorize yourself, using the stickers you can find in the back pocket. I used these stickers: My favourites, Wish List, Lent, Borrowed, Holiday Reading and Present list. I’ll finally have a central place to record the books I lent and the books I borrowed, which I always forget. I don’t know how many books I’ve lent out and never got back, and there are at least 10 books in my library that I cannot remembering buying or receiving as a gift (This is why I always write my name and phone number in any book I lent out, but of course that’s not a guarantee you’ll get it back either).

I like the tab for Holiday Reading, because for me planning my holiday reading is almost as much fun as planning the rest of my travels. Moreover, careful planning is absolutely necessary as I’ll need a book for every mood, varying in heaviness (both physically and content-wise!).

Finally, I love giving books as a present, but sometimes it can be so hard to find the perfect book for someone (especially when you have only 10 minutes left before the bookstore closes and you panick and decide to buy a best-seller they already have). It is such a good habit to write down which book to buy for whom at the moment you come across a book that screams your friend’s/mom’s/dad’s name.

At the end of the Journal there are 15 blank pages, which can be used for drawing or collages or whatever you’d like. These could also be useful to record information on favourite authors, or to make year-lists of books read.

On the Moleskinerie weblog I have read several comments by people who did not like the new passions journals and say they are unneccessary  because it would reduce people’s creativity now they did not have to make their own journal (from a plain Moleskine). Some claim that Moleskine’s uniqueness is being lost (which was on the website), and that it’s becoming too much of a ‘brand’. I disagree.

To me, these people sound just like those who complain that the small town band ‘they discovered’ is getting too ‘commercial’. They like to think of themselves as unique and pride themselves in having found a quality notebook (or a good band). Then they claim the Moleskine brand (or band they ‘discovered’) has changed because so many people like it. But in fact, they miss being (or feeling) unique, and therefore start looking for something else. But the the Moleskine Passions line does not change the fact that there are still good-old plain Moleskines, waiting to be turned into something creative (or less creative, in my case ;)). I love  the simple blank or lined Moleskine Notebooks, but I also like the Book Journal and I think it will actually enhance my creativity and really make me think about my reading more.

Well, I’d better start reading.