Blog Posts

The Carsington water half marathon

The Carsington water half marathon

I run a lot more than I blog. It makes sense that I do many more training runs than posts, but what I mean is that I run epic, stunning races and then never pen the experience. My first marathon? I have pictures but no […]

The Two Rivers Marathon: A rainbow nation themed race in the heart of Europe’s lowlands

The Two Rivers Marathon: A rainbow nation themed race in the heart of Europe’s lowlands

What do you picture when you read the words: Ultra marathon? Do you think of winding trail paths or long days in the alps? I think of wide asphalt roads with unforgiving climbs. I see unending tarmac with runners of all shapes and colours in […]

Amsterdam: A blast at the half

Amsterdam: A blast at the half

The water stations felt like running on the sticky side of Duct Tape.

I can only assume that prior runners ran at full speed while trying to gulp down sports drink from a cup. Clearly, they got more on their shirts and on the road than into their mouths.

Instead of trying to save a few seconds and making the road as sticky as a two-year old with a lollipop, we took our time, thanked the volunteers and calmly took on the minefield of cups and sponges. This made our shirts and shoes happy, as well as the outstretched hands of spectators competing for high-fives.

On the 21st of October, I had a blast at the half marathon of Amsterdam.

In 2014, Amsterdam was my first ever go at a half marathon and it was exciting to be back there. My goal was to have fun and enjoy the company of my five year running buddy. We helped each other get through the boring parts of the course in 2014. This year we chatted throughout the race and had even more fun.

The start

We misjudged the time it would take from the first gun to go until it was time for our bibs to beep. We ended up waiting more than 40 minutes in the starting pens. Most people stared at their phones or simply stood around looking bored. One guy stood with this finger on his watch ready to press start before any of us could even see the start banner in the distance. Instead of hanging around aimlessly, we snapped selfies, dicussed our race strategies and enjoyed the vibe before the start.

The fun

I don’t usually high five people during races. In the best case, my hands are sticky from spilling gels or energy drink over myself. In a more dire scenario, I just came out of a porta-potty sans hand washing facilities. Why spectators insist on making contact with my hands is beyond me.

But during this race, my running buddy was a big hi-fiver and I soon caught the bug. I was still running along as an anti-high-fiver when a DJ stuck his hand in front of me so unexpectedly that I had to hit it or risk colliding with his hand. After this self-defense high-five, the ice was broken and I started swerving to the sides of the course to reach little kids’ hands.

The culmination of extending our hands came 400m before the finish. My friend high-fived 6 kids in a row but then had to veer to the right to turn a corner. She narrowly missed the 7th extended hand and left behind a very disappointed looking adult woman, who clearly felt she missed out on the fun.

We also waved our arms above our heads like monkeys at every single photographer. You never know when one of you will be only half in the picture or looking the other way, so we tried to make sure we get at least one perfect shot with outstretched arms and open eyes.

The finish

Entering the Olympic stadium is always a special experience and in my opinion, the best part of this half marathon. Unlike the Marathon that starts in the stadium, the finish stretch is the only time the half marathoners can experience this historic track.

We have a customary finish line photo since 2013. After the race, we always take a minute to get our bearings back, grab our medals and then bug a stranger for a portrait. After four years in Amsterdam, we have a montage that shows our connection with the race over the years.

It is special to see the memories made on hot and cold days, before and after weight-loss, before and after pregnancy and soon before and after surgery (which is apparent from this year’s shot lacking a member of the gang).

 

Running a race can be a serious affair. A race is a perfect stage to give your best effort or run a PB.

While the serious stuff can be important, some days it’s just great to set out for some serious fun and earn a medal while doing it.

The bright side: Bucharest 10 km

The bright side: Bucharest 10 km

Was it Shakespeare who said, ‘expectation is the root of all heartache’?   When I registered for three half marathons over three weekends in October, I had fully expected to be 100% Achilles pain-free. Seven weeks of heel raises, supplements and reduced running and I […]

Balance in Bucharest

Balance in Bucharest

It’s challenging to describe how dilapidated Dinamo stadium is. Like many buildings in Bucharest, its days of glory is clearly behind it. Every metal surface is rusted. The concrete is covered in peeling paint. Faded plastic chairs surround the oval that is scattered with cinderblocks […]

Vienna waits for you

Vienna waits for you

Are you’re a Billy Joel fan? Do you know his song “Vienna”?

If you don’t, it is worth a listen. Like his other tunes, it sad and it sweet and you’ll feel like you know it complete.

It’s about being young and ambitious and learning to slow down and pace yourself.

The chorus repeats: “Vienna waits for you”.

Bored with the flatness of the Danube bank, I played games with Vienna’s graffiti

In the beginning of June, I started a new job.

I jumped at this opportunity primarily because it promised to send me around the world on runcations.. uhm.. I mean business trips. The company kept its word and immediately send me to Vienna for a fortnight.

During this time, I had 11 runs scheduled on my Hanson marathon plan. While that lead to a frustrating 11 dirty running shirts and 22 stinky socks, it gave me the chance to plan almost a dozen routes in a foreign city.

Of course, claiming I plotted a dozen routes through an unknown city is vastly exaggerated. I first tried to fill as many runs as possible with races and running events. This meant I could meet other runners and at the same time not worry about ending up between a factory and the highway.

Three weeks of runs in Vienna

In the 12 days I was there, Vienna hosted multiple running events in the city itself and many, many more in the surrounding area.  I joined the Brooks run tour event and entered the universities’ 5 km. I even happily spectated at the Wien 100 km national championships; happily, because I was glad not to be running 2.5 km laps in the Austrian heat myself.

I didn’t plot out all my runs in advance, because I first tried to identify good running areas, and then try to stick to what I learned works. I have jotted down three areas I found for discovering the rich running culture this magnificent city has on offer:

  1. Prater

Prater is all you need to remember if you want to have the time of your running life in Vienna. It is a large park between the Danube and the Danube canal.

It is the heart and soul of running in the city. Brook’s run tour, the 100km championships and the University’s business run where all hosted in Prater.

Not only does is have 4.3 km straight asphalt road with marked distances, forest trails and drinking fountains, it has a 400m running track and beer gardens.

I did a speed session on the track overlooking the stadium. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed on the track, but the bartender in the cafeteria gave me a perplexed: “Why shouldn’t you be able to run on it?”, so I felt I had the needed permission.

The running track in Prater
  1. Run along the river.

Running along the Danube canal is a great runner-up to Prater. If you are staying near the centre and going to Prater is not an option, you can enjoy the traffic and traffic light free bank along the canal. You will certainly encounter hordes of other runners who will do their best to ignore you.

I guess there is some unspoken rule between runners in Vienna: When you see a fellow jogger, look in the other direction while passing them. Under no circumstances should you make eye contact. Verbal greetings seem to be serious faux pas.

In stark contrast to this behaviour, non-runners on the river relate substantially more social as they hang around popup beach bars, drink alcohol and exhale sweet smelling smoke. All of this is set against miles of uninterrupted street art. You are likely to spot artists working on sculptures, mosaics or murals. In the weekend you may pass by poetic speeches or musicians.

Don’t get me wrong, running along the canal is a special experience, but I found it got old. I started getting bored with the graffiti and endless flatness of the banks.

Also, there is a limit as to how far you can go. I did many of my 7 to 8 km runs along the river, but during a 14 km run, the riverbank faded into a gravel path before disappearing unexpectedly and leaving me stuck on a meadow between the highway and the river.

On the bank of the Danube canal
  1. Through the city centre

I ran through the city centre multiple times and loved the stately buildings, statues and fountains. And while I admired the city’s grandeur, so did everyone else. The centre is usually packed with tourists trying to snap selfies and catch rides on carriages. Dodging tourists makes this option difficult running terrain.

One morning I decided to beat the sight-seers to it, and head out at 7 am. I discovered another group that wants to avoid tourists: Delivery vans.

Ever wondered how and when that ‘Austria has no kangaroos’ umbrellas get to the shop shelves or the Spanish riding school gets rid of the manure of dozens of horses? All of this happens in the small window between first light and tourist take-over.

While you might be the only pedestrian around, you will by no means have the city to yourself.

Running while avoiding delivery trucks and trolleys

An alternative is to go on the shaded bike path along the ring road, but you would have to wait at the traffic lights.

 

Stephansplatz in the centre of the city

Despite all the route-planning perils I face during my stay, Vienna is a stunning city and has so many areas to discover on foot.

Why don’t you plan to go for a run in the capital of Austria? Vienna is waiting for you.

Heuvelrugloop: Hilly home run

Heuvelrugloop: Hilly home run

Do you have a favourite race? I bet you do. Even if it does not immediately come to mind, you must have a race that is (metaphorically) written on the calendar in permanent marker. That race that trumps all others. While you think about it, […]

How I spend 4 hours hating running

How I spend 4 hours hating running

“I hate running”, a t-shirt boldly stated at kilometer 40.6.   Hysterically I shouted: “Me too!” and almost bumped into a runner who had started walking.   I veered to the left to avoid the weakling walker and realized that I had lost count. Frustrated, […]

Death by chocolate keto cake

Death by chocolate keto cake

The lead-up

While stuffing myself with lemon meringue tart, trifle and pavlova around Christmas, I read Tim Noakes’ Real Meal revolution book and become reconvinced that low-carb eating is the way to go in 2018.

The main course

My brother has been keen to explore the benefits of ketosis, so we decided to embark on a keto diet adventure together. Throughout January we shared recipes and motivation and I lost 3 kg. I was impressed by this! I have maintained my weight for at least two years, but have not been able to dip under it for long periods.

The Intermission

It was going surprisingly well so I decided to give myself a small break while my parents-in-law visited during the first week of February. Please don’t tell my brother.

I stretched my small break another week when I needed to travel to Florida and then another week to celebrate my work project coming off the ground. This has led to some disorderly eating to say the least.

The reboot

So, this weekend I have decided that March 2018 must be different. I am still planning on running the Rotterdam Marathon on the 8th of April and would hate to carry any dessert-weight around the course.

I started Saturday enthusiastically with a spinach omelette and luncheoned on a whole BBQed chicken.

Then I decided to take it up a notch and bake a nut-crusted-avocado-chocolate keto-pie.

The battle

It didn’t take me long to decide on this Tastes Lovely’s avocado filling. I didn’t have any coconut flakes, but heaps of walnuts, so I paired it with this sugar-free nut crust.

I had to wing the pie crust a bit since I did not have white chia seeds, but black, and used Stevia instead of Lakanto monk fruit sweetener. The recipe was also a bit vague on how to combine the ingredients, so I just smashed everything together in a bowl with a fork.

The crust looked a bit raw after the specified time as well as after an additional 15 minutes, but I thought it would all come together in the end.

From the crust, it just went downhill. I don’t have a food processor, so I decided to Nutri-bullet the avocado and cocoa. Queue half chopped avo, stuck blades and cocoa on every kitchen surface.

Since I am “hard-core keto” 😉, I didn’t want to use maple syrup but Stevia. After putting in way too much sweeter, I started thinning down the brown avo-chunk mouse with real cream and then with coconut cream. The resulting chocolate goo tasted like Stevia extract.

Not being one to give up, I thought the crust and berries might break some of the taste and assembled a gigantic pie that can only be described as an unpalatable avocado-stevia mix with hints of raw chia seeds. Mmm…

The bitter-sweet defeat

At least I didn’t invite any guests to share in this death by chocolate experience with us; I guess it could have been worse.

 

The battle might have been lost, but I still have hope for the war. With any luck, this is not a prelude of what eating in March is going to be like!

 

Do you have any keto-baking horror stories? Please share them with me in the comments!

My favorite moments of 2017

My favorite moments of 2017

Before we reach February and everyone starts to forget that new year’s resolutions are ‘a thing’, I thought I should hurry up and post a belated 2017 retrospective.   Last year has been the most turbulent running year yet. 2017 had fantastic highlights interrupted by […]