Trail des Fantomes 2016

Running the Bear Race in June sparked something in me: a renewed motivation and drive for running, training and racing. Running 2/3 times each week: long runs, speed work, intervals. And off course, I started looking for new race to run.

Sportevents.be puts on bunch of trail and triathlon races in Belgium and I decided to do one in the middle of August: the Trail Des Fantomes in La Roche En Ardenne. They had a 33km and a 65km distance on Sunday and I was quiet sure which one I wanted to do from the get go. Ultra or bust, right?! 😀

Luckily, I’m blessed to have friends that are just as crazy as I am and that wanted to drive me down to La Roche on Sunday morning. The race started at 7, which meant we have to leave in Leuven around 4:30 in the morning.

Race day

My alarm went off at a quarter to 4 and I got out of bed right away. I was pretty nervous and didn’t sleep much at all the night before. Made coffee, dumped breakfast in a container I could take with me and triple checked all my gear. On the road 4:30 and as you would expect there was hardly on traffic (because it was still the middle of the night). Arrived in La Roche just after 6, where it was cold and very foggy. Found the registration tent, collected my bib and headed back to the car the change into my running kit.

A couple of minutes before 7 we all bunched up at the start, the air filled with nervous anticipation for the day to come. I was pretty nervous too, scared even. 65km, what did I get myself into?!? But when 7 o’clock came around, we went for it. 500 meters up the road and then straight up into the forest. At this point I already wished I had brought my trekking poles with me (pro tip 1 if you wan to run this race next year: bring them poles!). The climb was super steep and it felt like it just kept going and going. The first 15 or so kilometers were more of the same, alternating between steep ascents and speedy longer downhill sections.

Then the course hit the shores of the Ourthe river and it ran along there for a good bit. There wasn’t really a trail there so we were constantly scrambling over rocks, under fallen trees, up, down, etc… An okay part of the course I guess, but not a part where you could run or go fast so this part took a big chunk of time.

Around 25km we crossed the Ourthe, at a place where it was about 40 meters wide, and continued on the other side. I was doing good but tired from the slow rocky part. Interchanging running and walking for the next 10km, I pushed on.

By then it was around 11am and the foggy morning had traded places with a bright sunny (and hot) day. On a big downhill section, I noticed that the insole of my shoes were sliding around and bunching up under my feet. So I stopped and straightened them again, slightly worried that I’d have to do that after every 4/5 km for the rest of the race. But on the next big climb, the upcoming blister on my right foot started hurting much more all of a sudden. I pushed through it on the climb and when I reached the top I saw the insole had worked itself way out of my shoe on the inside and up to my ankle (past that blister, hence the extra pain). Knowing I couldn’t carry on like that, I took both insoles out of my shoes and stuffed them in my pack. But I also knew that that wasn’t going to make things any easier. These shoes, the Salomon S-Lab Wings, are light and fast race shoes that don’t offer a lot of cushioning. And taking out the insole basically took away the little cushioning that was in there from the start.

With still 30km to go, things weren’t looking up. I walked for a big portion here, running on the downhills and pushing hard and fast on the up hills.

Still walking and a couple of kilometers later, I passed Pieter, who was also walking and was clearly in pain. Chaffing at the legs, feet in pain, not eating anymore, the works. He was going to walk to the aid station at 40km and get out there. We walked and talked for quite a bit and ended up making it to the aid station together. That station was at 44km by the way, and by then he (and I) was in better spirits, I even convinced him to try and finish :). So we refueled and resupplied on water and cookies and headed back out. By then we had been out there around 8 hours and we still had about 20km to go. Rough, but I was going to finish this.

Doing a mix of running, walking and scrambling over/under things I made it to 55km, where 2 runners from the Netherlands passed me. With 10km and just under 2 hours until the time cap, they urged me on and said I should hurry. I was way too optimistic at first and said that wouldn’t be a problem. But as they were 100m ahead of me I changed my mind and I even got a bit worried. I was going to finish this and it would damn well be before the timecap! (the time cap was 12 hours or 7pm, at that point in the race it was just after 5pm). So, time too toughen up and hustle.

I hit the last aid station at km 60 about a minute before the Dutch pair. It was 5 minutes before 6pm then. We had glass of Coke or 2, some cookies and then headed out together for the last 5km, and the last big climb. We struggled up the 800m climb and started running once we were up and over the peak. All that was left was a slow downhill for about 3km, then the route dropped fast to the Ourth. Cross the river, about 500m through a camping site and the finish line was in sight. In the distance I could see Manuel (the guy crazy enough to give me a ride in the morning) and my mother & sister waiting for me :). They didn’t tell me they’d be making the drive down so it was a great surprise to see them there.

I crossed the finish line after 11 hours and 51 minutes. Relieved, exhausted, happy.

65km, 2800m of elevation gain and 4 UTMB points. That says something about how tough of a course it was and I certainly underestimated it. It took me longer than I had planned or expected but I made it through none the less. This was a rough ride mentally as well and there were definitely times where I wanted to quit. But in the end it was all worth it, those last 10km and crossing the finish line felt great.

Thanks for reading all the way down, until next time!

Transylvanian Bear Race – Post race report

I’ve been back home from Viscri for a (couple of) week(s) now and I still don’t quite know where to start with this post. What a race. What an experience. I feel like I still haven’t fully processed it entirely so here’s an attempt to write it all down…

Arriving in Romania

We left for the airport bright and early on Thursday morning, making sure to avoid the usual morning traffic. All went well and we arrive at Charleroi Airport on schedule and with time to spare. Checked in, sat down for a drink and headed to the gate. Weather in Belgium at the moment was the same as it had been most of the week: grey, windy and loads of rain. We took off with some delay but after a smooth flight we touched down at OTP and the weather was absolutely smashing:

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We jumped in the shuttle van to the car rental company to pick up our VW Jetta and hit the road north-west for Brașov. As we drove up north, the weather slowly turned. From intermittent showers to full on pouring down by the time we passed Brașov. That’s what the forecast for Viscri called for, and what the weather had been like for the past couple of weeks. By the time we arrived in Dacia and left the main road for Viscri, it was almost dark. The last 30 minutes were slow and the road to Viscri was in quiet a bad shape. We got settled in our rooms at Nina & Dorin’s place (Viscri 195), went for a short walk through the village and called it a day. We we’re all quite beat after a day full of travel.

Friday

We slept in a bit on Friday, had breakfast around 9 and headed out for a hike until noon. The weather hadn’t gotten any better overnight, ranging from a slow drizzle to all out downpour the entire day. Needless to say we all had enough of it after 3 hours of trotting around and getting soaked, so we changed into something dry, had lunch and then we went for a road trip. My dad had scoped out some points along the race course where we intersected with roads and that’s where I’d see them along the course. There were 3 points and we wanted to check them beforehand, to see if they could actually be reached by car.

The first point was in Crit, that’s fine. (later we found that the course had changed and that only the ultra would be passing there)

The other 2 points took us over small dirt roads, turned into deep deep mud after weeks of rain, and our Jetta was far from up to that challenge. Disappointed we headed back to Viscri for supper.

Pre-race briefing

27492844991_b22119c6a5_o.jpgA little before 19h I headed to Viscri 125, where the race HQ was located, for the pre-race safety briefing and for dinner with the other runners. I met 2 runners for England and as more people arrived we all introduced ourselves and chatted about how wonderful Romania is, about previous races and the usual “are you doing the ultra tomorrow? or just the marathon?”. All in good fun off course. And it wasn’t just a marathon, was we’d soon find out.

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We moved the renovated barn next door, where race director Ben would update us on the course, the weather forecast, signage and any other things we had to be aware of. Due to some last minute course changes, what first was the marathon course would be about 5km longer. That is, if we wanted to start at the official start: the fortified church. For some of the runners, it was their first time doing a marathon distance race and they didn’t want to push their luck by adding more distance to their day than needed, so they arranged to be dropped of along the course. Most of us on the other hand felt like we should be starting at the church, extra distance be damned, we’d tough it out. After the briefing we had a pasta dinner, a beer and chatted away with new people. Around 22h I headed back “home” (that’s what 195 really feels like for me when I’m in Viscri) to pack my race kit (and then reconsidered, pack again, changed my mind again, pack again..) In bed my 23h, head buzzing but I was able to get some descent sleep none the less.

Saturday – race day!

I was up around 6, jumped in the shower, triple checked my vest and food and then I headed up the village to 125 for breakfast with the other runners. Some coffee and eggs later, we all headed for the church a little before 8 to see of the ultra runners. 80km in this weather and terrain is nothing short from impressive and it was great to see these 16 amazing runners off. After that we headed back for some more coffee, pinned on our bibs, took some pre-race photos, filled up our bottles and headed back to church for our start. Nervous laughs and people checking their laces and vests for the 12th time. This was it. Here we go. With a couple minute to go before 9am, we all huddle together for a group photo, then everyone spectating counted us down and off we went!

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I was fairly familiar with the first 10/15km of the course (I ran it on our visit in November last year) and it felt good to know which way to go. What didn’t feel so good was the immense amount of deep and heavy mud on the first 25 minutes of the course. A couple of weeks of rain, combined with heavy logging vehicles moving in and out of the area hadn’t done the terrain any favours. Slowed down to a crawl we pushed on, the front of the pack still bunched together as the mud bogged us all down.

On a particularly nasty section my left shoe got stuck in the mud. I managed to keep my balance and got out of it while someone behind me pulled my shoe out. Laced up again and onwards. Not 5 minutes later, same thing happened with my other foot. This time I tripped and had to catch myself on my shoeless foot: down in the mud halfway up my calf with just a sock on. Someone pulled out my shoe again, I poured the water/mud from it and strapped back in. We were 30 minutes in, both my feet were drenched in mud and soaking wet. This was going to be fun.

The weather on race day also deserves a more than honourable mention: after days of rain and a forecast that called for intermittent thunderstorms and showers, we all feared (and packed) for the worst. But on Saturday morning, while having breakfast on the patio, the clouds started to recede and we actually caught a glimpse of some sunshine. Things were looking up. And sure enough, by the time I reached 30km mark and aid station 3 (I had been running for just under 4 hours at that point), the sun was all out in full force. After aid station 3, the route crossed an open meadow for 2km’s and without the cover of the forest, the heat was just too much too run in. I tried a couple of times but ended up hiking the better part through there.

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With almost 15km left to go, I was quickly approaching the point where I’d be running for longer then I ever had before. And with the number of participants being so small (around 45 people running the marathon), I had been running by myself for most the second part of the race. All that, combined with the blisters I had around my toes made I really hard to run and to keep running. Also: open blisters and muddy forest water aren’t the most enjoyable of combinations.  Kilometer 42 came and went and I was nowhere near the finished line, still deep in the forest without a sign of civilisation in sight. But I knew it wouldn’t be long now, I had to be almost there.

Bringing it home

Around 2km later, the course emerged from the forest and Sighișoara’s citadel appeared in the distance. It was mostly downhill until we entered the city itself and went up to the citadel. But before we got there, there were a bunch of large (too deep) concrete steps that were really hard to navigate with feet as sore as mine were by that point. At the end of the descend, I ran into my dad who was waiting for me there and who pointed me in the right direction up into the city. Running under the citadel’s gate, I was greeted with loads of shouting and applause from runners that had already finished were having drinks out in the town’s main square. I was really exhausted at that point but I managed to keep running along the cobblestones. Until I reached the stairs to the school, where the finish was. 2 steps in and my lower back just cramped up. Total shut down. Struggling up the stairs, stopping over 4/5 steps to stretch, I pushed through. Those cramps made this by far the hardest part of the course for me. When I reached the top, it wasn’t very clear where the finished was so I went left (more uphill, my back protesting even harder at this point). As I rounded the corner I was greeted with cheers from the finish line, where my mom and sister, along with some other runners where cheering me on. That was it. Done.

I ran the 47km course in 6 hours, 23 minutes and 58 seconds and came in in 16th place.

Post race festivities

After I caught my breath, we headed down the stairs and joined the other finishers for a beer and catch up on how our races went. Good to hear I wasn’t the only one having trouble going down those concrete stairs :). A good hour or so later, it was high time for a shower. I headed for the nearby hostel, where the race organisation had arranged a couple of rooms where we could shower. Refreshed and in clean clothes, I headed back to the town square for more drinks 🙂 Later in the evening, we all had diner together and I got to meet some more of the runners. I found myself setting with a 2 amazing people from Northern Ireland, father and daughter, who ran the race together. And with a marketing teacher from London. A fun evening with good and wine and new friends. We left around 10pm, as we still had an hour’s drive back to Viscri to do.

I was absolutely beat, knackered, sore and equally happy and warmed by the day and the amazing people I got to meet.

Sunday consisted of sleeping in, reading, eating, napping and more eating. The blisters were bothering me a bit and my left knee felt a bit wonky but other than that I was fine.

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On Monday we left for Bucharest early, anticipating Monday traffic and we still had get our rental car cleaned somewhere along the way. The drive down went fine and we ended up at the airport with time to spare. That was it then, the adventure was over.

Epilogue

Fast forward a couple of weeks, I can safely say it may be over that it hasn’t been forgotten. Not by a long shot. As is evident by how long it took me to actually finish this write-up I guess. Running this race reignited something me, a drive to run more, to push myself beyond what I have done in the past. I’m back to regularly running every week and I’d love to do more trails in the future, even got my eye on an ultra next year 🙂

Shout out to Paull ‘Wildman’ Mitchell for the gorgeous photo’s and to Ben and  Hannah for putting this all together!

Transylvanian Bear Race update – 2 weeks to go

2 weeks to go until race day, so I wan’t to post a little update on how my preparations are going.

The race has a strict set of items that all participants are required to carry at all times during the event. A compass, a waterproof map pocket, a waterproof jacket, a head torch, etc… The only thing missing from my arsenal up to now was the waterproof jacket. I have a bunch of jackets for running, but they are either too heavy to carry the whole way or not really waterproof. So I asked
around on Twitter and decided to go for a Salomon BONATTI jacket. Expansive yes, but I’ve been through a couple of rainy runs in it by now and it’s pretty great: breathable, really waterproof and fit for running. Waterproof jacket: check.

Apart from that, I’m expecting one more package with some last bits and bods (a cap to wear during the race, some extra nutrition stuff, some socks) from Bike24(I get most of my gear here, their prices are ok, they ship fast and are very responsive to questions).

That’s it gear-wise. But how am I doing?

Somewhere last week I caught a nasty stomach bug that has kept me in bed for the better part of Friday and this weekend. Not seeing up improvement so probably not going back to work tomorrow. But I should be able to sleep this off and hopefully my stomach will be back to normal when it’s time to run. (I got sick during my Amsterdam marathon, around the 30km mark. Not cool.)

Running-wise, it’s all systems go. My knee has been ok for the last couple of weeks so that should be ok. Running wise I’m feeling good as well, I’ve been doing lost of uphill work and repeats this last month and my conditioning feels good.

With my stomach acting up and the 2 days I’ll be away for a conference next week, taper time will start right now 🙂

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Closing out with this semi-running related tidbit: while strolling around the local bookshop last week I came across “The Way of the Runner: A Journey into the Fabled World of Japanese Running” by Adharanand Finn. Only 80 pages in so far, I’ll post about it again if I think it’s worth it :).

★ Köln Marathon 2013

As with most of my marathon plans the past couple of years, this one started on a whim and without any actual planning. I had run London in April and after that I just defaulted back to my regular Crossfit training, not doing any running and distance work at all.

I don’t really remember when we (Pieter and myself) entered Köln but I think it was somewhere in May or June. Fast forward to August, neither of us had done much running and Pieter decided to cancel the race due to a health issue. I still wasn’t sure if I’d go or not. It was after “our” badminton tournament in the second week of September (the 2013 Yonex Belgian International) that made up my mind, I was going to Köln. Booked a hotel and got a train ticket, no way back now. I ran 2 to 3 times during the following 2 weeks and things were looking good: no pain in my right knee (that’s what I was and still am afraid of the most), stamina and speed looking good. Time for a long(er) run.

With only 2 weeks to go, I mapped out a 24km route. The run itself went fairly good but I had forgotten to take water or food. Which is a bad idea when you’re going to run more than 20km. I hit “the wall” hard around 21km and struggled to get home from there. All in all, good time for that distance.

The weekend after that (October 6th, one week until the marathon) I ran the Brussels Half Marathon. I had run that race in 2012 as well and with all it’s uphill stretches, it’s a good race to see where you’re at fitness-wise.

I finished in 1:46:01, about 5 minutes faster than the year before. I was feeling good about Köln and ever started dreaming of a sub-4-hour finish (which was my goal when I started training for my first marathon in 2011). But I’m the first one to reign in those expectations and got my feet back on the ground. Once you hit 30km, anything can happen (especially when you haven’t trained for it).

I left for Köln on friday evening, with the Thalys from Brussels-South. Arriving in Köln, rain was pouring down and it was pretty cold. I made my way to my hotel and settled in. On Saturday morning I headed to the Marathon Expo to pick up my number and timing chip. After that I walked around town, did some shopping and had lunch with my sister and mom (who were in Köln to cheer me on the next day but they came over a day early). I planned where I needed to be on sunday and when and then went to bed around 11pm.

Sunday morning, 7am, wide awake and it’s raining. Fuck. That’s not what you want on race day. I only had to leave by 10 so I snoozed for 30 minutes, took a shower and headed for breakfast. Then I packed my bags, checked out and I was on my way by 10am. I decided to go the starting area on foot and to not bother taking the train or tram. It was only a 25 minute walk and public transport would be way too crowed to go smoothly. By then it had stopped raining but it was still pretty cold and very windy. With about an hour to go before the start (which was at 11:30am), I wondered around a bit, got changed into my running clothes (which were long sleeves and long compression pants for the occasion, it was way to cold for shorts), handed in my bag and headed for the starting grid. I made it to the yellow starting group (3:50 – 4:00) with 10 minutes to spare before the start. It had stopped raining by now and the crowd was ready, as always you could feel the anticipation of the race in the air, everyone was ready to go.

20km into to the race and I was still on track, I may have started a bit too fast but all in all I was doing good. Around 26km, my calves started cramping up so I pulled up my tights to my knees to give my lower legs some breathing room. 30km came and went, my legs were hurting but nothing I hadn’t seen before. Best of all, my feet were still in pretty good shape (off course they were hurting but it wasn’t the giant blister pain I had in London). The last 5km were especially rough on the mental side. I knew the last 1,5km of the route but not really how we would get there, so every turn I expected to recognise a building or street that wasn’t the case. When we finally turned onto the shopping street I knew it was almost over and that I had it in the bag. 2 more turns and one stretch (that was longer than I expected it to be) to the finish line. My time? 3 hours and 49 minutes. Boom! My first marathon in under 4 hours!

I met up with my parents and sister in the baggage collection area, we had a quick dinner, got our bags at the hotel and drove back home. I was sore for a couple of days but best of all: 0 blisters. Ha!

Was next? Not sure yet. Maybe Paris in April 2014. We’ll see.

★ London Marathon 2013

London is one my favorite cities in the world and to be able run the marathon there has been one of my dreams for a long time now. Not anymore. I did it.

Here's the full story.

First off, you don't just enter the London marathon. It's sort of a lottery system, you enter your application and a couple of months later you get notified on wether or not you made the cut (there's different rules for UK runners and foreign runners, not important here). I had entered myself in 2012 and did not get selected then. This year, I didn't want to leave it up to chance. I found out that the marathon organization gives out numbers to a couple of travel agencies (one in most EU countries). So I contacted the Belgian travel agency well before they started taking applications (which was August 15th, 2012). It was a bit more expensive than I had originally thought but that's because you had to book the total package (eurostar + other transport + hotel + marathon race number). But I went for it anyway. (Spoiler: happy I did)

Because the entire trip was arrange and booked by the travel agency, it was sort of a group-trip as well. Nothing against that, just a little weird when you're used to travelling on your own.

Saturday, April 20th 2012

Up bright and early and up to Brussels South, where the entire group (85 people in total, not all runners) met at the Eurostar gate. Checked in, read a book, had a drink and at 8:52 we left for London. Once we arrived we all moved to the bus (going through St. Pancras International on a busy morning with 85 people takes some time). We got onto our busses and from there we drove to the Marathon Expo at the ExCel convension center. Here we picked up our bid number and our timing chip and we had on hour to looking around to do some shopping. (I got me a TriggerPoint Massage ball and some Union Jack branded RockTape)

Back on the bus and to the hotel. I stayed at the Bloomsbury Holiday Inn, near Russel Square. We collected our keys, dropped of the bags in the room and then I headed off on my own (the group was going to walk from the hotel to finish, which was at the mall, but I'd seen all those places before so I didn't join them). I toped up my Oyster card and jumped on the underground, first stop: Nude Espresso on Soho square for some coffee and cake. Then, up to Tapped & Packed, more coffee (both are very close to the Totemham Court Road tube station). More walking around in the sun (the weather was absolutely smashing, tshirt and sunglasses for the better part of the afternoon), went to St. Pauls, walked the millenium bridge, Thames side, etc?

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Back at the hotel by 19:30. Checked all my running gear put it all in the bag we received with our number. That bag had our number on it and it was to only thing we were allowed to take to starting area (we'd deposit the bag before starting and pick it back up afterwards). With everything packed, I took a hot bath (yes, the room had a bath) and went to bed around 21:30.

Sunday, April 21th (Race day)

Breakast at 6 in the morning, on the bus to Greenwich by 6:45. – wait, that sounds rediciously early? – Yes, it was. The start was planned for ? 10:00. But we had to be this early because the bus we were on had to be in and out of the area before they closed off the roads for the race. So, at 7:20 we arrived at Greenwich park and we headed to our starting zone (All of us were in the Blue zone).

Note on the starting zone and boxes

The London marathon has 3 starting zones for non-elite runners: Red, Green and Blue. All 3 zones are divided into "boxes" that indicate the pace and the target time of the runner. All 3 zones start at the same time but follow different routes until they converge on each other somewhere between 3 and 5km. This is done because otherwise there'd such a massive amount of people packed together that you probably wouldn't be able to run for the first 5km. By separating the zones, the crowd has tined out enough by the time they joined again.

With over 2 hours of waiting to go, a couple of us found a place in the sun and exchanged marathon stories. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was time to get changed and drop of our bags. A final gear check (food, water, music, chip) and we headed to our respective starting boxes. 20 minutes to go. Right before the start, there was 30 seconds of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing last week (30 seconds at the elite start and 30 seconds at our start). And then we were off, short spurts of running mixed with walking for the first couple of hundred meters until we cleared the boxes and turned onto the street towards the official start.

The weather was great, the sun was out in full force and around the 7km mark I was a little worried about getting a heat stroke as I wasn't wearing a cap or a hat (who'd have though the weather was gonna be this nice, probably the first sunny weekend we've had this year). Just made sure I kept drinking enough, got to stay hydrated. 15km, feeling good, not sure what pace I was at but just kept going.

Just before 20km, we made a right turn and there it was, Tower Bridge. The entire course had been packed with the people cheering us on but running across Tower Bridge, man, amazing.

Around 25km both my feet started to hurt really bad and I had to slow down. As I walked past a water station (drinking and running at the same this is not something I'm good at), the 3h45m pace-team passed me so I was well ahead of pace. From 18 to 20 miles I stayed with the 3h56m pace-team but they didn't run at a very consistent pace (speeding up and slowing down quite a lot) and at the 21 mile marker I had to let them go as well. By then the 2 blisters I had on both my feet had brusted and the pain in the feet got worse (and you feel that pain every time your foot hits the ground, tough but had to keep going).

This is where I want to say thank you to all the people who came out to cheer us one. Literally every meter of sidewalk along the course, on both sides, was packed with at least 2 rows of people. Holding signs, handing out candy and small pieces of fruit for the runners (first time I've seen that during a marathon). At mile 21 there was a lady with a huge sign that said "Finishing is your only fucking option". Damn right. Onwards.

Mile 24 and 25, running with the Thames on our left, surrounded by a mass of people, just passed 4 hours. Turn right at Big Ben, an even bigger crowd here. No 26 mile banner, just one that said "600 meters". 400. 200. Turning right onto the roundabout in from off Buckingham Palace, I stay left and got out of the pack. Another small turn onto the Mall and the finish line was straight ahead. Sprinted, all out, balls to wall as they say. Finished. 4 hourse, 8 minutes and 33 seconds. Bam.

The only thing that slowed me down were the blisters and considering that the farthest I'd run in training was 17km (that probably explaines the blisters), I'm very, very happy with my time.

20 meters past the finish line, staggering and swaying left to right, an official urge me to get out of the way. I stood aside and turned to see what was up: a guy had just proposed to his girlfriend moments after they both crossed the finishline, a crowd had gathered around them (myself included, I had to get out of the way because I was in front of the camera filming the moment). She said yes off course and things got very emotional after that 🙂

I walked on, got my timing chip removed and collected my medal and my bag and then I made my way (slowly and not very steadily) to the overseas runners area, where the travel agency had set up a meeting point. That's also where I met up with my mom and my sister, who had come over to London for the day to cheer me on. Together we made our way to a first aid tent to get my blisters checked out. There was no qeueu (big surprise there) and I was in & out (and patched up) in 5 minutes. Then we walked over to Covent Garden where we ate something and headed back to the hotel after that. My mom and sis had to catch the train back to Brussels they couldn't stay long, we said our goodbyes and I headed to my room for a long hot bath. Exhausted and too tired to eat, I decided to have a quick bite to eat at the hotel bar. By 21:00 I could barely keep my eyes (I'd been up since 5:30) and turned in.

Monday, April 22th

Woke up around 6:30 (seems early but that ment 9 hours of sleep so that's not too bad), snoozed and dozed off again. Got up at 7:40, packed the rest of my things, checked out (left my luggage wit the bellboy) and had breakfast. I sat with our trip-organizer, a 72 year old man called Wilfried. Looking at him, you'd say he's 60 max. He attributes that to the 36 marathons he ran throughtout his life and by always being surrounded by active people. An interesting and passionate man.

After breakfast I headed into the city for some coffee. First stop: Nude Espresso on Brick Lane. Had a couple of espressos and starting writing this post. Meanwhile it's just before noon and I've move to "Look Mum, No Hands", a rather famous (in the coffee-lovers crowd at least :)) bike shop/coffee bar for lunch.

We meet back at the hotel at 16:45 and take the bus back to St. Pancras. We should be back in Brussels around 21:00.

Epilogue

This has been an amazing expierence and defenitly the most beautiful marathon I've run so far. The atmosphere on the course amongst the runners, the people beside the course cheering us on, the beautiful weather, ? And off course: London.

Thank you all for the support, both virtual and in person.

Jan

★ Iliotibial band syndrome.

About 8 weeks ago, somewhere in the beginning of November, I went for a run. It was my first time out running since the Brussels marathon in October and it felt great. I skipped a day and went out again. And again the day after.

And that’s when it went wrong. After about 20 minutes of running, I got a stabbing pain on the outside of my right knee. So much so that walking up and down stairs made me limp quite a bit (especially descending was painful). I waited it out and about 3 days later the pain was gone?So I waited another week and tried to run again but no avail. Struck with pain again I applied lots of ice and rested for 3 weeks. And then I tried again (stubborn, I know). You know where this ends?

I’ve done different sports all my life and I think I can tell fairly well when pain is either fatigue, strain or injury. This clearly was the later. Next up: see a doctor about it.

But I didn’t want to take this to my usual doctor, I wanted someone specialized in sports. The good news was that the doctor we used to go to when I was still living with my parents is specialized in just that. So much so that he advises and works with some of the athletes on Belgium’s national triathlon and running squad. Sounds good right? It took a while to get an appointment with him but it was well worth it.

As I’m writing this, I just got back home from my doctor’s appointment and the verdict is in. When I told him when that my knee hurt, he finished my sentence with “On the right outside? And it hurts more walking down stairs than up?” I knew I had come to the right place.

So allow me to introduce you to the Iliotobial band syndrome:

ITBS is one of the leading causes of lateral knee pain in runners. The iliotibial band is a superficial thickening of tissue on the outside of the thigh, extending from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee, and inserting just below the knee. The band is crucial to stabilizing the knee during running, moving from behind the femur to the front while walking. The continual rubbing of the band over the lateral femoral epicondyle, combined with the repeated flexion and extension of the knee during running may cause the area to become inflamed.

ITBsyndrome

What now? 9 rounds for physiotherapy to start with (calling for a first appointment tomorrow) and lots of exercises. Wether I’ll be able up and running again (pun intend) in time to resume my training for the Paris marathon (April 15th 2012) is not sure and even unlikely but I’m keeping a positive attitude.
Yes I can.