May 2013 Archives

Leiden half marathon

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I need not have worried from my last post--this morning I was perfectly aware that I was running a half-marathon today, pre-race jitters and all. I did get to sleep at a more or less sensible hour (though I could have used more) but I woke up this morning from a dream where I was in fact doing a triathlon rather than a running race, and it was 10:00 already and I needed to be in Bürkliplatz (central Zürich) for the start at 10:30 and I'd have to ride my bike from my house but of course that meant I hadn't racked it, and oh wait I'd need to be wearing swimming gear for the start...

So the actual race morning was a lot less, well, nightmarish. I would have liked another hour of sleep but Sophie doesn't allow that sort of behavior from Mummy at this age. We had a nice breakfast at the B&B and then I got dressed for the race. We went back to the race expo so that I could exchange my race shirt for a smaller size (it's always hard for me to guess whether I belong in M or S), and then I found the entrance to the start. Lined up behind the 1:55 pacers as according to plan and then was surprised when we all started running at 10:28...

[Race log]

Leiden is a pretty big race - my number has five digits, and they started the half together with the full marathon. So that was another reason I was glad to have the pacers as we fought through the crowds. I only had to keep track of them and didn't have to think of much else. They ran the first kilometer about exactly on spec (5:28) but most of the rest of the time they were going too fast. I did notice this but decided that, since I secretly hoped to beat 1:55 and they were well on their way to doing just that, I would stick with the pacers most of the way around at whatever speed they were going and then try to put on my acceleration in the last 3-5km or so.

To be honest I didn't notice a lot about the race and the course except that it was indeed flat, and windy. There were people cheering and clapping along most of it along with several brass bands. The sponge posts had sponges shaped like a runner - I really should have got one just for that. The pace was about right for making me feel mildly uncomfortable but not straining to keep up, and I just sort of noticed km after km tick by, almost all of which were faster than target pace. I did notice that there was a weird part of the course description where it seemed to be sending us over a spot on the Rijn where there is no bridge according to Google Maps, and I couldn't figure out how that was supposed to work. It turns out that they did indeed set up a temporary pontoon bridge at that spot, looked like maybe some military vehicle for the purpose. That got a laugh out of me. I also tried to make a point of high-fiving any kids I saw holding their hands out, and I was a little surprised how few other runners were doing the same. I like acknowledging the spectators and sort of wonder why other people don't.

Around 16km there was a funny little loop on the course that was clearly there to make up the distance, and when we got there it was a little congested so I decided it was safe to get in front of the pacers and run my own race for the rest. I'd been afraid I would fall apart if I didn't have my 'safety' runners to track anymore but I felt surprisingly okay (though obviously really tired!) At 19km I got a nice little surprise, where Mike & Sophie had found a spot to cheer for me! I made sure Sophie saw me but I think I passed by too quickly for her to register immediately, but I'm told she was very very excited to see Mummy run! They saw me again just before the finish but I didn't see them that time.

The finish was a bit uppy-downy (by Dutch standards) due to all the canal bridges in central Leiden, but lots of people, lots of crowd energy, lots of cheering, and I was able to find a little acceleration for the finish (although I wouldn't call it a sprint.) The clock read 1:56:23 when I crossed the line but my chip time was 1:53:43, decently under the 1:55 that was my official goal. Apparently this puts me in the top 20% of women finishers, which is a better result even than the Zürich 10K in April.

So all in all I am pretty pleased! I wish I had felt less tired throughout, but that is typical I suppose, wanting to feel effortlessly speedy instead of having to work for the speed you've got. I told myself some time ago that I wouldn't think about doing a marathon unless I had reason to believe I could finish in a time that qualifies for London or Boston, and this half time is still a few minutes outside that so I'm off the hook for the time being. ;)

I made a reservation yesterday at the best Dutch-pancake house in Leiden for dinner, so we duly went along this evening and I had two very fine pannenkoeken as a reward for my efforts. Even so I think it will be some time before I run for longer than an hour - the 10K was more fun all round and I bet I could beat my PB if I tried...
No shit, there I was, pinned down by a hail of enemy firedirty nappies...

Here I am in Leiden, about to run my half marathon in the morning. I'm still not quite sure how this came to pass (apart from the madness of signing up to do a half in the first place) because evidently I have a talent for attracting some sort of perfect storm for logistical chaos.

Plan 1: I'd go to Leiden and stay with friends, maybe Mike and Sophie would join me.
Circumstance 1: Friends' kid turning 3 on Saturday.

Plan 2: We'd all go to Leiden for the weekend in time for the birthday party, maybe have an extra day in total.
Circumstance 2: I need to schedule one last work trip to Leuven.

Plan 3: We'd all go to Leiden, Mike & Sophie would return Monday and I'd follow Wednesday after a quick detour to Leuven.
Circumstance 3: We have visitors from Tuesday to Friday before the trip.

Plan 4: We will all (visitors included) fly out on the same flight to Amsterdam on Friday, they'd return home and we'd get to Leiden.
Circumstance 4: Mike's grandmother dies, funeral scheduled for Wednesday after the marathon.

Plan 5: We depart as scheduled, throw away the return leg of our tickets, Mike & Sophie fly AMS -> LHR Monday, I take Eurostar from Brussels Tuesday evening after my now-shortened trip to Leuven, we attend funeral and fly back Thursday.
Circumstance 5: Sophie has really nasty nappy rash (bleeding and everything), needed to see a doctor this past Wednesday, we were told to return on Friday if it wasn't better (but wait, flying to Amsterdam Friday!)

Plan 6: Same as above, only we make frantic request of our friends in Leiden to get us an appointment with their kid's doctor to get another opinion on the rash, which was indeed not better by Thursday evening.
Circumstance 6: My boss in Leuven won't be around Monday, or Tuesday morning, so I won't see her. Also in the general heightened chaos I was a dumbass and left my keyring at home, meaning I can't even give back my office keys which was part of the point of the trip.

Plan 7: Forget Leuven, it's not worth the night's hotel cost. But my Eurostar ticket is non-refundable. So I'll stick to my travel plans but spend Monday night also in Leiden going to the library or visiting the spa or something.
Circumstance 7: [ watch this space ]

Intentions: When I went out on Wednesday for my last training run I thought rather optimistically that I might, after arrival in Leiden, go out for an easy little leg-stretcher.

Reality: Yesterday started at 4:45am in order to catch the flight, involved all the walking in the world through Schiphol, wrestling a tired toddler through multiple nappy changes that are painful and scary for her at the moment, walking all over Leiden with kid in tow to get from appointment to appointment, trying to comfort screaming toddler through yet another examination of her ass, getting to the house of friends where we finally decided to force a nap on her and she took a full 40 minutes to finally, blissfully, mercifully, fall asleep. Then when she woke up it was dinnertime so we went to a Greek restaurant where the food was great when it eventually arrived, but the arrival took, oh, 90 minutes? You know, to the table with the TODDLER? It was a major miracle that she did not spend the last two hours screaming and I don't know how she did it because I sure would have liked to. We got her to bed at 10pm instead of her usual time of 7 and it still took me an hour to unwind enough to fall asleep. So yeah, no run.

Today we mostly hung out with friends attending the aforementioned birthday party, then went to get our race numbers, and I had a nice big steak for dinner. At 8pm I felt like it must be time to go to sleep already. At least I didn't walk 20000 steps like the Fitbit says I did yesterday (does that count as a leg stretcher after all?)

Am I really running a half marathon tomorrow? The whole thing seems so far away...

one week out

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Exercise and fitness are so much easier when I'm not up to my ears in work stress. How's that for a really obvious piece of insight?

I've been keeping up with the half marathon training plan, which is just as well since the race is a week from tomorrow. Today was the last longish training run, and despite a marked lack of enthusiasm for a nearly-two-hour run I ended up enjoying it. We had the first day of weekend sunshine for a while, and I had new shorts to try out, and the whole run went by rather more quickly than I thought it would.

It's been really obvious these past few weeks, since the workload started climbing again in early April, that my workaholic brain is not at all happy with the idea of my taking time for such frivolities as running. To be honest, had it not been for the training plan and the half marathon I'd signed up for, it is very unlikely I would have kept running as regularly as I have, and the majority of the last four weeks' training sessions have been completed more or less under protest. They were, nevertheless, completed, and I tell myself that this is what will count next Sunday. The prediction tables suggest that (based on my 10K in April) I should be able to run it in 1:55 or so, and so that is my immediate goal. At the very least I want to come in under 2 hours, and I have about 90% confidence that I can barring any disasters.

Since blogging about all this has fallen by the wayside, I completely failed to mention here the Flughafenlauf, a 17km race I ran on the 9th. Mike's race report sums it up pretty well; as for me I started off way too fast thanks to that downhill but held up more or less okay until 14km, when I just wanted very badly to stop running. I took an extra-long break at the final water station and then resumed running, only to be overtaken by a bunch of people in the last kilometer due to a nasty little steep hill that I just had no energy left for. What surprised me, though, is that I ran the last 3 km almost the same speed as the rest, even though it felt like I had dropped my pace at least a minute per km. At any rate I got to the finish line with the supremely annoying time of 1:35:00.7, unable to summon even a little bit of finishing sprint.

Sophie has become rather the enthusiast for her parents' running; she cheered me on from Mike's shoulders as I set off (his age group started 45 minutes after mine) and, when I finished, she broke free of the friend who was watching her in order to worm her way into the finishing chute and find Mummy and give me a great big hug! This was of course extremely sweet but also a little less than convenient, as I needed rather desperately to sit down and find some water and allow the vaguely sick feeling to pass. In the end I found a nice patch of grass and she entertained herself by holding my race number to her chest and pretending to run in a race of her own. We're thinking maybe we should enter her in a suitably short (250m) kids' race that will take place in August.

As for swimming and cycling, well, not much has happened on that score. I tried to start ramping them both up in April, and went to exactly one swimming session of the triathlon club before the silly season of travel interfered with my attending any more. That particular session has now been cancelled for the summer and I haven't made it to the somewhat less convenient one that started this week. It was pretty shocking when I did go to see that I'd lost pretty much all the meager swimming form I had built up between November and January. I'll have to see what I can build up again starting in June, I suppose.  My cycling form is not in such a dire state, but after that lovely ride that was the subject of my last post, every single weekend has been disgusting, weather-wise, so I haven't had a chance to repeat it.

I still want to target an August triathlon, and I'll be able to scale back the running after I return from Leiden. I just hope the workaholic brain actually allows me to get to the pool and on the bicycle often enough.

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