★ The cost of not buying good software.

Good software is virtually free, regardless of its purchase price, because the payback dwarfs the investment. If your time is worth something, you?d be rational to pay hundreds of dollars for applications you use every day.

An interesting and usual point of view, but one that’s spot on none the less: “good software pays for itself”.

Apps like 1password, Alfred, Sparrow, TextExpander, Adobe Lightroom come to mind. Think about how much you use these and how much time they save you (or how much easier they make certain tasks).

★ Brussels Marathon 2011

So I ran the Brussels Marathon yesterday, here’s the whole story:

Why Brussels?
That’s something a couple of people have asked me in the weeks leading up to the race. Brussels isn’t known for being a beautiful or easy race, so why did I pick it? Rewind back about 4 months, Pieter and I had just finished our first marathon in Stockholm and it was the evening after the race. With the adrenaline still racing through my head, I thought “I want to do this again!”. And the only race that didn’t need loads of planning and travel would be one that’s close to home. Brussels it was. So right there and then, I entered the race. No way back from there.

About the race:In the October 2011 issue of Runner’s world NL, the race in Brussels is described as follows:

“Beautiful start (Jubelpark) and finish (Grote Markt) but the only thing that runners really remember is the Tervurenlaan.”

“If you’re looking for an easy race or if you’re trying to set a personal record, don’t choose Brussels”

Race day:
We arrived in Brussels around 8 AM, changed into our running gear and sat around waiting until we were allowed to enter the starting lane. I  was in the 3h59 section, with the 3h45 pace-runners right in front of me. Just after 9 the starting gun went off and off we went. We passed 3 tunnels along the Louizalaan in the first 5k and exiting those was a good wake-up call for what was yet to come. Up until the half of the race, I was able to keep up with the 3h45 pace group but when we hit the park in Tervuren around 24k my hamstrings started cramping up and that forced me to slow it down a notch. By kilometer 30, the soles of my feet started hurting like hell, it felt like I had a huge blister on both. A switched between running and biting through the pain and running slower and the back of my feet.  This was when I was heading up the Tervurenlaan, a long slowly rising stroke that never seemed to end. At 37h, the 4h pace ground passed me. I was able to keep up for another 5 minutes but had to let them go after that. When we crested the end of the Tervurenlaan and saw the Jubelpark in the distance, spirits got lifted again, almost there, just hang in there. Passing under the arches at the Jubelpark, the speaker cheered us on: “only 2 more miles to go, all downhill from here!”. Well, I know that wasn’t true? we still had to go up the Wetstraat. Yeah, that didn’t go very well. By then, my hamstrings were so cramped up that they were hard as stone. And both my feet were killing me with every step. As I arrived at the top of the Westraat, the 4h15 pace runner passed me. From there it truly was only downhill, only 1 more to go. I pushed myself a little faster for the final stretch and crossed the finish at 4h15m27s.

Afterthoughts:
All things considering, I think it went pretty well. The weather was really hot for this time of year (27° C and very sunny, Indian summer my sweet patootie), I had been sick the week before the race (a nasty flu virus that kept me in bed for 3 days) and my overall preparations could have been better. In comparison, in the 4 months leading up to Stockholm I ran considerably less.

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The numbers: In the 4 months leading up to Stockholm I ran (not including the marathon itself) 553k, averaging to 138k per month. From June to October, I ran 300k at an average of 75k each month. This probably caused the pain in my feet as they weren’t used to taking such a beating anymore. A lesson learned.

All in all, I’m very happy with the result. It was a great experience and I’m ready for some more 🙂 (more on that soon ;))

★ Yonex Belgian International 2011

For the 7th year in a row, I was part of the group that makes this badminton tournament happen. The tournament is part of the Badminton Europe Circuit and it is highly regarded within the circuit of both it’s organization and it’s accommodation. The daily organization is done by a couple of people working for the Badminton federation, but during the tournament, a group of volunteers come together to help out.

And that group of people is what makes this week something I look forward to. Starting Tuesday morning, we were on the road, picking stuff up at different locations, gathering everything we needed at Sportoase in Leuven. And it basically doesn’t stop after that. Tuesday evening the light and sound guys arrive, on Wednesday we finish the hall, the dining area, the ticketing stand, the tournament office, ?

From Tuesday morning to Wednesday afternoon, we transform this:

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Into this:

Sportoase Leuven (Before tournament on Wednesday evening)

On Thursday the tournament starts and everyone is busy with their assigned tasks. I divided my time manning the live-stream, taking pictures and doing everything and anything else when needed. (I spent most of Friday afternoon at the emergency room, accompanying a Danish player that got injured during his match)

On Saturday we change the hall from 6 to 2 courts in the afternoon and from 2 to 1 court in the evening. Plus we add the podium, the car, loads and loads of carpet to cover all the floor. This year, we had national sports television coverage for the first time so everyone was a little on their toes. The TV crew arrived at 7h15 on Sunday morning so after another short night, we were back at Sportoase to make sure everything went smoothly. The result:

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The days are long (usually I get up around 7 and I’m back home by 1 in the morning), the work is hard and after an entire week, you’re completely exhausted. But it’s working with this amazing group of people that makes it all worth it. Most of us don’t see each other often and some even only during the tournament, yet this week is something I (and I think many of the others) look forward to. It’s great to be around these people and to make this event possible. See you all back in September 2012.

You can find the rest of my photos here

★ Eurostar’s mobile app: tried and tested

(written on Sunday, December 25th)

London, a city that has captured my heart since a couple of years. It’s big, loud, busy and always buzzing, yet it never fails to bring me to ease. I feel at home there.

A trip to London always starts with a train ride on a Eurostar train, which always is a pleasant experience. (I love traveling by train) And since a couple of weeks, Eurostar has made traveling with them even easier for smart-phone owners. They now have an application (both for iOS and Android) within which you can check prizes, book tickets and most of all: you can check in using the application on your phone. No more printing tickets, double checking if you did in fact print them, just make sure you have your phone (which, isn’t really a question right, who travels without their smartphone?)

The fantastic guys and girls over that The Mobile Revolution (Belgium’s leading dutch news site for everything mobile) received at day-ticket from Eurostar to test the application. I have been part of the Mobile Revolution team for a couple of months now, not so much as a writer but doing sysadmin stuff and keeping the site up and running. When Tom posted about the app and that they had a ticket to test it out, I happily applied 🙂

And as I’m writing this, I’m sitting in coach 12, seat 45 of Eurostar train 9154 bound for St. Pancras International. Eurostar was so kind to make it a Standard Premier ticket, which is 1st class in Eurostar terms. Larger seats, loads of leg space, a power plug and onboard breakfast. Livin’ it up.

Using the app to check-in is pretty great and all went very smooth. When you try this yourself, make sure you don’t place your phone completely against the scanner but about 15cm away from it in a more vertical way. (if it’s doesn’t scan, get ask for help form a Eurostar staff member, it really is supposed to work :))