It’s all or nothing (or how to be an inconsistent runner)

Set lofty goals. Like, really lofty goals and then don’t work towards towards them. That’s the secret sauce to being an inconsistent runner. Like the time I ran a marathon having never run more than 26km, or the time I did a 25km night time trail run in the snow having a: never run in snow, b: never run trails at night, c: not trained. You see where this is going.

But it’s also immensely exciting, because you’re pushing the unknown. My tactic is to put myself in a position where there are only two options. Finish. Or die. Like leaving your keys and mobile at the finish line. There’s simply no way back other than to keep on going. If it doesn’t exactly do your legs and muscles any favours, at least it makes you pretty self-reliant.

With that preamble out of the way, my latest hare-brained scheme this year was a 38km trail run in the Belgian Ardennes. the Trappist trail (trappist, as in.. beer). Well suffice it to say, that my previous experiences seem to have worked, this time I showed up on race morning with a twinge in my knee, so I changed down to the 28km race. And with the magnificence of hind-sight that was a very, very good idea. I held fast until 25km in, and that’s where I really started to struggle. the two river crossings were surprisingly pleasant on the leg muscles.

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Nevertheless, the Ardennes are absolutely beautiful, as is the Orval monastery where, of course, I stocked up on beer (post-race of course).img_3613

But most importantly, being a Trappist race, there was free beer at the finish line! And non of that alcohol-free rubbish. Real, Belgian beer!

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In other good fun news, The Color Run (Colour spelt wrong) came to amsterdam a few weeks back. Whilst most people treated it as a fashion show for various hippie outfits (which made it quite fun), we actually ran the whole thing, in the company of Matt and Helen. No sports commentary here though… A colour run is a colour run.



Keep running!

B

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Week 3, 2016

Boom. You blink and another three weeks fly by. Must be having fun! Anyway, a quick update is due before what promises to be a slightly more interesting week than the norm.

The healthy living continues (within a reasonable degree), and as long as we make it past tomorrow, the most depressing day of the year, apparently we will be able to keep it up indefinitely! Regardless, last week I snagged a spot in a spinning class. This is not the usual manly aura I like to think I portray, but nevertheless, its a tough workout (I’ve got the heart rate data to back up that statement). Two reasons, firstly it’s actually pretty good fun, and two it’ll help get my legs bike fit again, which after a lot of running, they are no longer. I went cycling a couple weeks ago and it was not a pretty performance. I got some video from the handlebars but it’s pretty much the dullest footage I’ve ever seen, as literally nothing happens (except that I saw a cormorant and a pheasant).

This week also happened to be my 26th birthday. Cue some beers and a really good pizza at a small place in Amsterdam. Presents included some liquor, a decanter, a bench plane and something else, but more on that later in the week. I also happened to snap a complete cliché photo of Amsterdam. Here you go:

Like I said, the rest of the week unfolded without much ado. Though thank you to all those who sent their wishes on my Birthday. Always appreciated.

This weekend, Catherine was putting some finishing touches to her thesis so it stayed pretty quiet and domestic, including a full clean of the kitchen by yours truly (it needed it). But we also went for a meal at Matt and Helens, with the usual excuisite food. We also breaded the cat, which in hindsight was pretty mean. But he didn’t seem too bothered. In fact, he showed the bread who was the boss by ripping it to shreds and spreading it all over the appartment. We also played a game of exploding kittens (fear not, it had nothing to do with the actual cat…), which is quite amusing if you come across it.

  Sunday was much like Saturday, though we went for a trail run around a pond/lake thing not far from here, though rather than ramble on, I put it all together in a short clip.

This was of course rounded off with hot-cocoa, as you would expect. Not to mention a piece of Christmas cake (which, for those who arent English, is made for Christmas and then eaten for about 6 months because its so rich and stodgy, in fact I’ve always claimed that if I ever embark on some sort of expedition somewhere far-flung, it will be my emergency food as it’s pretty much indestructable and very dense….).

 We have some weather-dependent plans next weekend and some stuff lined up for this week too which is quite out of the ordinary.

Till then, have a good week.

B

New Year

Terrible! It’s been a month since I posted an update of some description!

That’s genuinely not very good is it? But that’s the upside of the new year, I can reset and aim to do better.

But with that, let’s have a look at December.

Actually December was relatively quiet. I drank a substantial amount of beer. (Look on untappd for details as per usual). I had a work Christmas party, which didn’t end well for me, but I will spare you the details.

I rode my motorcycle (for once, this is actually a rare event these days).

Here’s a picture of it from last summer, only just sent to me by my dad.

 I flew back to the UK to attend a christening for one of Catherine’s nephews.

I went shooting. Tried a .22 bolt action and a .22 semi auto. As well as one that I’ll call the BFG (starts with “Big” finishes with “gun”).


My targets were kind of all over the place, but hey, there’s a first time for everything.

We went for a walk with Catherine, her parents and her niece, and we found a very friendly robin. He was happy to be filmed really close. We also chanced across a rat playing with two squirrels, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap that.

I got to meet Catherine’s newest nephew. Who I found very quiet and inquisitive for an 8 month old. He must be one of the first kids I’ve ever been able to hold without making them cry. For some reason kids don’t like me.

Christmas Eve was celebrated at Catherine’s parents house, as we usually do, before we hit the road north to get to my cousins for Christmas Day. We stayed there through to Boxing Day upon which we drove two hours south, picked up Catherine’s parents and then drove one out north again to have a meal with Catherine’s parents, my parents, my cousin and grandma. This has been a yearly thing for the past three years.

I flew back on the 27th to be at work the next day. Followed by beer and steak with the boys, one of which I hadn’t seen in several years (the friend, not the steak).

Before I knew it New Years Eve was here, my parents are visiting, Catherine flew back. We did the shopping and got ready for the evening. Interspersed with food and board games (thank you Matt and Helen and Judith and Bart). I was feeling a little under the weather for most of the evening, but I think it’s mostly down to my body saying “enough of the abuse, give me vegetables, water and tea”.

What’s important to remember though, it’s not what you eat between Christmas and new year that matters. It’s what you eat between new year and Christmas that makes the difference. 😉

Nevertheless I made it to new year, we watched the firework display on my street (from the comfort of or living room) before turning in and waking up refreshed today to kill our livers some more with a full English breakfast of sausages, bacon and eggs.

I promise to be a little more regular this year.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Benjamin

Week 44: A week of firsts!

[Update: Apologies for anyone trying to read this post last night, a technical error meant we suffered from a bit of premature e-publication…..]

After all the excitement of last weekend we took the week fairly easy. Combined with a few later evenings at the office, it was a quiet week at home.

There was one picture I wanted to include form this week. It’s a quick snack I resort to when all else fails. It simply tabasco and salt on bread. (I checked with Andrew, I’m not weird…..).

Oddly satisfying nibble
Strange taste predilections aside I followed Catherine in signing up for our next race! We’ve changed tack completely this time, no long distances (well, depends on who’s point of view you’re using) and no roads. This time, we’re going for a trail run….at night…..in March. Yes, its the Neverest Runforestrun Night trail run. Obviously this is going to require some slightly different training. Though trails are in the mountains right? And this is Holland, ergo there are no mountains, so how bad can it be? (Famous last words?…..)

We started the weekend off by dipping a toe into the Netflix show “Narcos”. Which after a couple episodes we are looking forwards to continue watching.

Saturday was a productive day to say the least. As it was halloween we started off with some early morning pumpkin carving. But a jack-o-lantern with a face is boring, and as Catherine is a mad cat lady, we decided to make a witch’s cat instead. I think it turned out quite well. The plan is to roast the pumpkin seeds in such a manner.

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Following such excitement, we decided to raise it up a notch and prepare a picnic, jump on the motorbike and head out to the beach. A short 40 minute ride got us to Noordwijk. It was really nice to take the old girl out for a spin again (I’m referring to my motorbike, not the Girlfriend!), as she hadn’t moved since mid-august, just sat forlornly on the street outside our apartment. Amazingly, the tyre pressures were still fine, and she started on the first press of the starter. She might not hbe the most soulful bike, but by jove is she reliable!

Anyway, it was a sunny day and we were quickly very warm. For the last day of October we could not have asked for better weather! Catherine even ate in just her t-shirt! After a bit of lazying about we walked off up the beach and then came back through the little section of national park which is adjacent to the beach. A selection of pictures follows.


  
We rode home to prepare some dinner and get ready for the next thing on the plan for Saturday. My first ever live football match! It’s no secret I work for a sports apparel company, and we just happen to be close to Ajax Arena, where Amsterdam’s Ajax football club are based. And as I won the draw for seats for this weeks game I got to go along and take Catherine with me! The game itself was a bit of a massacre, with Ajax butchering the visiting team Roda JC (whom I’d never heard of). The ambience was really nice and jovial and quite frankly it was all over way too quickly. Also at one point in the match, everyone got their smartphone out and starting flashing the flash…. very strange. But I filmed a quick clip of it to show everyone! 🙂 I filmed a few other bits and pieces too that I’ve spliced together in a quick video (or I might combine the two, I haven’t decided yet).


  
 Anyway, I’m no football fan, but if the opportunity to go a football match presents itself again, I will definitely go. Catherine and I agree that we would like to go see Bayern play at the Allianz Arena in Munich, after all, we already have the appropriate attire!

Sunday was a lot quieter! We did all the necessary things in the house. As well as a small reorganisation in the living room in light of the arrival of my graduation present to myself…. In the afternoon went to see our friends Helen and her slave Matthijs at their very first market stall in Westerpark! Yes indeed, The Baking Tin had it’s first public outing! We took home one of each cupcake for a private sampling. If you follow my instagram, you’ll have seen why I spent the afternoon drooling. We also walked around the market a bit and picked up some interesting cider from Scotland from a friendly chap who’s business it is to sell Cider. We got a Whiskey cask aged cider and a cider with Ginger. I have high expectations from these two little brews. Interestingly, the chap told us the brewer (is a cider maker a brewer?…) doesn’t add sugar to the fermentation process, but rather chooses a particularly sweet variety of apples. I will report back…..


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We also saw a market stall that sold lamps made from reclaimed car parts, including an old Garret turbocharger (which I’m coveting), but I must have noted down their name wrong as I can’t find them. 😦

That brings us neatly to Sunday night. After dinner we will be rounding off the evening with a trip to the movies to watch Spectre with a well earned beer (though in the movies, it’ll only be Grolsch).

And here finally, is the quick clip I put together:

Week 42, The Amsterdam Marathon!

After weeks of waiting (and not preparing), it was go time on the Amsterdam Marathon!

   On Saturday, after a quick haircut at a great barber I found, I met Catherine at Run2Day, where Catherine gifted me a pair of compression socks for the upcoming ordeal. Following that, Andrew picked us up and we drove to the olympic park for packet pick-up. The queue was fairly long, but once in the main hall, it was fairly quick and painless to get the race numbers and the t-shirts (included in the €70 starting fee for marathon runners, optional for the shorter distances).

Following that, it was home for pasta! Carbs, carbs and more carbs! I debated at length what to wear, obviously wearing the actual race shirt wasn’t allowed, as per here. The next morning I got up at 6 for a hearty helping of porridge, before snoozing for another hour and drinking plenty of fluids. Then we made sure we had packed everything I needed, including all the energy gels and a bottle of water in my bum bag.

Off to the metro we went to meet Andrew. The closer to the start, and naturally the busier the metro got, until it was heaving with people in brightly coloured running gear. Andrew and I agree that women by far have a better selection of cool leggings when it comes to running gear! Interesting patterns, cool colour schemes and so on. Neither of us particularly want pink running clothes, but a bit more variety in the men’s section would be cool.

We began queueing to enter the starting blocks, until we figured out we could skip the queue if we went around the side. I admit that was cheeky, but the queue really was going nowhere. Eventually in the stadium, we didn’t hear the start, but all of a sudden it was time to go! Around the stadium we went and out on our way!

   The first few kilometres were fined as we steadily cruised through Amsterdam. At kilometre 11 I caught sight of Tashi, who was marshalling. Unfortunately, just as we ran towards him, someone asked him a question and stood in front of him with her umbrella. So as I ran past I tapped him on the shoulder. I don’t know what I did, but I managed to trip myself up. Thankfully, I trained in Judo when I was younger, so instinctively rolling when I fall comes naturally. However, I managed to hit my head on the road, hard, and bruised my shoulder pretty badly. I couldn’t quite roll perfectly because of the water bottle tied around my waist, but I managed to get back up in one smooth action, pick up the energy gel I dropped and get on with the business of running. As I told Andrew, on the upside, my legs weren’t the most painful thing anymore! 

The following few kilometres went by without particular hiccup. A little tired towards the halfway mark, we thought we might have gone out a little too fast. 

We continued and got progressively more tired. That’s when strange stuff started happening. Including having bursts of energy followed by moments of utter devastating fatigue. But the weirdest ones were emotions. At one point I said to Andrew, “it’s very strange but I really feel like crying right now”, to which he answered “dude me too!”

The last 15 kilometres got pretty tough. It was blatantly clear that our sub-4hr goal was long gone. At this point the mere thought of eating more energy gel repulsed me. So I managed to choke down some water, chunks of banana and the odd energy drink at aid stations. 

Unfortunately by this point Andrew had opted to visit the medic to have his knee checked out, so we were no longer running together. My pace crashed, I was cold, and was loosing the will to keep going. Only the problem was, I didn’t have my transport card nor the key to my house, they were both st the finish line with Catherine! So the choice was made for me, I had to go on! 

   With about 10km to go I saw Matthijs cycling along. What a relief to see a familiar face. Don’t get me wrong, the support along the way was tremendous! With my name on my race bib several people were encouraging me including the one English girl who told me to “smash it Benjamin, smash it!” And people holding up signs such as “smile if you’re not wearing any underpants”, which even though I was, made me grin anyway. 

Eventually both Matt and Helen were lining the course at various intervals to take pictures and shout encouragement! And this made me smile. And it’s hard to feel miserable when you’re smiling. 

   When the 4:30 pace group caught up with me I managed to dig deep and hold on to them. Right behind the pacer was a little old lady, hunchbacked who had obviously spent the entire race glued to the pacing team. Big respect. Though I admit, if she could finish then I sure as hell could (she still beat me, there’s no space for ego in this sport). I managed to hold on to the group until the last kilometre or so, when I just let them go and hobbled to the finish. The last 500 metres seemed endless. 

As I crossed back into the stadium with half a lap of the track to go, I was very much on the brink of tears, but the elation at having dragged myself through it buoyed my spirits and had me grinning like some disturbed maniac. Until I finally crossed the line, 4 hours 33 minutes after setting off. I initially thought there was something wrong with me, I couldn’t swallow my water, but it was just the lump in my throat.

   I filtered through to get my medal and found myself in a queue where some grumpy old woman was just giving them to people, so I changed queue in favour of the one where a much prettier lady was actually putting them around our necks (and actually smiling, it’s the small things in life). I got my plastic sheet to wrap around my shoulders and hobbled out of the stadium, where I was given a tiny bottle of iso-drink (yuck), a cup of water and half a banana (stingy). I walked thorough the crowd to the point where I’d arranged to meet Catherine. And from then on, a quick change of clothes, had my medal engraved, caught up with Matt and Helen and Andrew, hydrated and then ate chips, croquet, and had a beer. 

   Then it was home time for a shower and a well-earned sit-down. (And more chips, a rib eye steak, more beer and eventually, some sleep!). 

Would I do it again? Ask me in 6 months….

Week 41

Since our tumultuous weekend (and Monday), not a lot happened. We were both ill with the flu this week so we’ve mostly just gone to work and tried to recover in the evenings. We’ve been a bit sleepless on account of sniffles, coughing, and general aches and pains. So all in all, not a particularly eventful week (and quite a busy one on the work front).

Instead, I thought I’d share a quick video I made over the summer when I moved (it was the perfect opportunity to take a road trip with the boys). I quite like time-lapse photography and videography, and it’s something I would like to do a little more of, I just need to find interesting subjects to snap.

So, without further ado. Enjoy your weekends!

B

What happened this weekend? Week 34

Saturday morning was dedicated to the more householdy things. Washes, cleaning, the usual after a busy work week. We also baked a cake and Catherine got a refresher on rewiring plugs.

We arranged to meet Tashi at Sail to check out more boats. It was absolutely incredible. We decided to wait a bit and watch one of the locks do its thing. Good opportunity to sit in the sun.  

     We walked along the banks of the Ij and saw the multitude of boats going by as well as some boats moored along the quai, including a submarine, a Dutch navy S.A.R ship as well as a destroyer. Other interesting “boats” included a Citroen (see pictures). Moored alongside, there were some beautiful training ships from the Russian navy, as well as really old “pirate” style ships which looked like props from Pirates of the Carribean. 

   

  

  

  

  

                From Sail we legged it west to Matt & Helen’s for Matt’s birthday party. It was an excellent bash! Matt’s little brother is part of a Spanish style Mariachi band (promise to find out the correct name). Great singing and music and even a little dancing! 

   

  

       The trip home was excitin too! We missed our metro by a few scones so we had to take a train to Amsterdam central and then the last train to Utrecht which also stopped by our house. We were both exhausted but the train ride included a puking dog and a girl instagramming stitches on her leg. Sunday was a quiet day which included a run for me (the running date was pushed back to Monday). Got 12km in, and used the new shoes that arrived this week. They’re incredibly light and the support is good. As a forefoot striker I prefer less cushioning and they fit the bill. However the heel is fairly tight, adidas seem to size shoes fairly small. Worth considering if in the market for running shoes. Also a first, I made use of an energy gel half way through. Not too bad and accounting for the placebo effect, I found it gave me a nice little boost of energy. 

Early night Sunday to get ready for another week!