Archive for February, 2010

My yellow pages

Rhodia ruled notepad no. 19

Large ruled Rhodia Notepad

Just like buying books, buying a new notebook makes me happy. I am a happy Moleskine user (not very original, but I love them!), but I recently discovered a new great writing tool; Rhodia notepads. My local stationery shop down the street sells two types. One is a (small) 5 x 5 squared notepad (Rhodia No. 16)  and the other one is a larger ruled ‘travers’ notepad (Rhodia no. 19).

I bought the small one a couple of weeks ago, and was very satisfied with the quality of the paper and the way the yellow paper stands out from my other notes and printouts. However, I needed more space to write on, so I also bought the large ruled notepad, which is perfect, because there is a lot of space left of the vertical line. This leaves space for numbering, topics, after-the-fact remarks and besides that  just looks very nice.

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Running optimism

As this weblog is only about one week old, I guess I’m still in the phase of introducing myself and my running. So! I’m currently training for a half marathon, which means that most of my runs are somewhere between 8 and 15 kilometres.

I Did a 10.5 run yesterday, which was kind of tough, probably because of the intense 1-hour spinning workout I did on Monday and because of my post-workday stress-releasing workout on the cross trainer on Tuesday. I use spinning and the cross-trainer in addition to my running training, mainly to prevent running injuries while still being able to work out. Plus, I do spinning with two friends, so the social aspect adds to the fun (I love spinning!)

Back to yesterday’s run; although it was tough, it was a good run. I was so happy that, for the first time in weeks, it was not freezing cold, snowing, windy and/or pissing down. I wore only two layers (and my full leg running tights) and I was dressed too warm!! That felt great, especially because I was almost getting used to having my ears frozen off and not being able to reheat my body after a run. I guess spring is almost around the corner! (Ok, that might be a little bit too optimistic)

What an average runner like me can learn from a speed skater that is disqualified during his golden Olympic race, because of a stupid mistake.

Yesterday I wrote a draft post about how top athletes can inspire an average runner like me. It started out like this:

Being Dutch and an enthusiastic sports lover, I have been building up a serious sleep deficiency thanks to the Olympic Winter Games. Because of the time difference, the speed skating starts somewhere between ten and twelve o’clock and, depending on the distance, lasts until two or three at night.

So far it’s been good. The Dutch ice skaters have won 5 medals, three of which gold. The first one was won by Sven Kramer who was the best at the 5000 metres, on the first speed skating day of the Olympics. This was great, of course, but not that much of a surprise. In the Netherlands, there is a general consensus that Sven is superhuman, invincible and ‘THE best’. Consequently, the Winter Olympics have been dubbed ‘Svencouver 2010’.

I was going to write about Mark Tuitert and Ireen Wüst, who have had their share of misfortune and struggle but nevertheless recovered and both won a gold medal at the 1500 metres. But then it became clear that even an invincible superhuman like Sven can lose.

What happened? In ice skating, skaters skate rounds of 400 metres, alternating the inside and outside lane. In the last race, some 5 rounds before the finish, Sven was going for the outside lane (which he was supposed to do) when his coach shouted at him to take the inner lane. At the very last moment Sven made a decision. He took the inner lane, and he was wrong.

He had been skating the perfect race. Sven was about five seconds faster than this crazy 21-year old Korean former short tracker Lee, and he was going strong. Then things went wrong, because he relied on someone he was convinced he could trust, not on his own gut feeling. The guy that has won every single international 10k race he ever raced, and was faster than the Olympic record time, was disqualified for not changing lanes. Sven was of course completely devastated.

One thing I love about sports is that it can offer such powerful metaphors for life. Sometimes you do everything right, and you make one mistake that ruins everything. Sometimes you rely on others instead of your own instinct, and you fail. Sometimes people that really really want you to succeed (like Sven’s coach), make a wrong decision. They can try to help you, but still say and do the wrong thing, and fuck up. And when the damage is done, there is nothing you can do but find a way to go on, to somehow get over this huge disappointment, regret and anger. You will have to stop replaying the situation in your head, wishing you had done differently. Because you cannot change what happened. You can only change what happens next.

Brought to you by 3 doors down – Music and running

My favourite running music

In the world of runners, I belong to those in the running-with-music camp. Yeah sure, I like singing birds and the sound of nature and all that. But when I run, I listen to music, using my crappy worn-out mp3 player (that has survived countless instances of rain and water spilled during races, and is not manufactured anymore, thus holy)

Music gives me the spirit and motivation to run. There is nothing like MUSE’s Plug in Baby while running up a steep hill. Shoulders back, teeth clenched, GO! Or Radiohead’s dreamy tunes during a boring very useful long run.

On my mp3 player, ‘survival of the fittest’ is the main rule. The Prodigy lasted for quite some time, but the Arctic Monkeys did not even last a month. Most ballads were purged, and Britney only managed to impress my running companion with Toxic. As music is so central to my running experience, I realised it should have a place on this blog, starting out with this post.

My all time favourite running music is by the band 3 doors down. I have listened to this band since I was fourteen years old, and as I grew up, their music remained a soundtrack to my life during all the rough times. As my life has (temporarily) quieted down a little, this band is mostly a soundtrack to my running. For I won’t duck, but I will run (The road I’m on). And when I have to, I will be going down in flames. Most ballads are ruthlessly skipped, but their powerful music never bores me. Therefore, my marathon training will be brought to you by the great rock band 3 doors down.

What´s your favourite running music?

The anatomy of my decision to run a marathon

Mid-April last year, I was watching the Rotterdam Marathon on tv. After all the professional runners had ran the distance in unbelievable pace, I saw how 30 000 amateur runners were waiting to start their 42.195 kilometres of hell. At that moment I realised that if all these middle-aged men and housewives could do it, I should be able to complete a marathon as well.

I started running in 2006. My initial reasons to start running were that I was fed up with not being fit and that I needed a challenge. I quickly found out that for me, running was a way of getting rid of everyday tension and neutralising negative feelings. Running made me feel better and stronger, both mentally and physically.

The first few times I went running, I was able to run for about two minutes on end, max. I could barely make it to the corner of my street! Slightly overweight, and massively out of shape, it took me over two months to be able to complete a 5 kilometre run, in over thirty-one minutes. It felt great!

Motivated by my acquired ability to run 5k, I continued. Slowly but surely, I got a little bit faster and started to run longer distances. One and a half years after my first 5k, I ran my first half marathon. I was completely exhausted when I passed the finish in the Olympic stadium in Amsterdam. It took me day to recover.

Last October  ran my fifth half marathon, and decided to run a full marathon in 2010. Initially I wanted to run the April Rotterdam Marathon, but this one turned out to be too soon. Now I’ve decided to run the Amsterdam Marathon in October 2010.

I already know there will be plenty of times I will curse myself for this decision, whilst running in a rain storm, or the morning after a party that got a little out of hand. I will definitely declare myself completely insane the day of the marathon itself.

But when I only think of the moment that I will cross the finish line, I get Goosebumps. I must feel absolutely amazing. It will also be very hard. Not just running the actual 42+ kilometres, but also the long training sessions beforehand. But I will do it, because if they can do it, I can do it as well!

To sum up, I think this decision is mainly composed of:

* An irrational belief that past achievement provide guarantees for the future

* Compulsive minimisation of how long 42.125 km really is

* An obsessive longing for how I will feel when I cross the finish line

* Fanatic disregard of the amount of time it will take me to train for a marathon, and the absurd muscle pain I will suffer post-marathon

* The outcome of a comperative analysis between myself and thousands of other people (who have already ran the marathon)

Did I miss something?

On life.

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Quoted in Haruki Murakami – What I talk about when I talk about running