Transylvanian Bear Race

From Viscri to Sighisoara, 950m of elevation over a 42km course, through forests and fields. That’s the Transylvanian Bear Race.

The courses will take you through Europe’s last unspoiled wilderness, combining the unique cultural heritage and landscape of Transylvania. Runners follow a pre-marked course through ancient Saxon villages, virgin forest, a ruined castle, open pasture land, meadows and rural village pathways. This culminates in the infamous ascent of the Sighisoara citadel, a UNESCO world heritage site and the birth place of Vlad Dracul.

I was a little tempted to enter in the ultra marathon (which is 80km here), but something tells me that for my first trail race, a regular marathon is going to be tough enough.

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For now my training I will be running 2/3 times every week, 10 to 15km each for now. Building up the distance in the new year, I hope get a ‘practice’ marathon (yes, that sounds kinda weird) on the books somewhere in march/early april of 2016. Trail-wise I plan on going off-road at least once every 2 weeks right away and  also a couple of races in early 2016. I’m also going try and write more about my training, the scheduling, the gear, the ups & downs, etc… Stay tuned!

Fast times: what will it take to run the marathon in under two hours? | The Guardian

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The world’s best marathon runners are just 177 seconds from breaking the two-hour barrier: what will it take to get there (apart from drugs)?

Nobody finds the marathon easy – even professionals, especially professionals. The distance is democratic. It has become an event against which hordes of people – fat people, thin people, people crooked by time and people sprightly as foals, rich people and people in need – test themselves. There are now more than 500 marathons all over the world, and more competitors than at any time in the history of the sport.

Source: Fast times: what will it take to run the marathon in under two hours? | Sport | The Guardian

4 Lies You’ve Been Told About Kinesiotape | Breaking Muscle

My experience of sticking tape on thousands of patients, running hundreds of taping workshops for health professionals, and taping myself whenever I hurt, is that tape works. It does cool and surprising stuff to reduce pain and improve movement. But I also hear a whole load of nonsense, misinformation, and misconceptions about kinesiology tape and what it does.

Source: 4 Lies You’ve Been Told About Kinesiotape | Breaking Muscle

Bring back the boom

I’ve picked up running again over the past couple of weeks and I’m trying to get at least one 10km run in every week. I keep track of those on Strava, because I really like their service and the maps, segments and integration with Garmin. Strava regularly runs “challenges”, usually coupled to a t-shirt of other piece of apparel that you can buy when you complete the challenges.

Last week I saw Koen post about their latest running challenge: Run 70km in seven days, from November 17th to 23rd. Needless to saw I joined in. It’s going to take some planning but with a couple of longer runs I should be able to make 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.
http://www.strava.com/activities/85657148/embed/9c91ae3571b7dad2bd7763044f28c174d4a2eb90

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.
http://www.strava.com/activities/87267754/embed/a738975d0738ddcffee8291e722a4e22934cb8e7

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!

http://www.strava.com/activities/88944851/embed/ae734b53cc2c46ead9ab123eabc6c5cb8ae347cb

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