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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Giethoorn

We got up to a few things whilst I kept the radio silence. One of those things was vising Giethoorn, the “Venice of the North”. Which is a small town in the northern Netherlands with no roads, instead it is criss-crossed with little canals.


Mum was visiting and so we drove up north one Saturday morning, arriving in time for lunch. Then, we ambled over to the boat we had reserved for the afternoon and quietly zoomed away from the pontoon (it was electric). We had a whole four hours, so we really could take our time and have a good look around.

We went through the village itself, which was pretty crowded, but there were fewer and fewer boats the further we got away from the village, and out onto the lakes, as most people booked for 1-2 hours, rather than a whole afternoon. There were all sorts up there, from sporty people in kayaks, to those using Canadian-style open canoes, to those who, like us, were a bit lazy and just fancied motor-ing about, and a few people on a loud party boat, complete with bbq.

The village itself was a plethora of typical dutch-style houses, all complete with thatched roof, which Catherine really likes and has on her list of requirements for our “someday house”.

There were of course a lot of bridges for pedestrians and cyclists to get around. Some where lower (a lot lower!) than others. Of course I wasn’t the only captain on board, and we all took a turn at steering. We mostly steered clear of the banks and reed beds. 🙂

Leaving the village behind there were fields with various livestock in them, mostly cows. I was experimenting with the new camera we got, and managed to snap this picture of a cow. Have a close look, because once you see it, you cannot un-see it!

We took turns in putting our feet in the water, and Catherine may or may not have had a nap….

There was a lot of wildlife, most of it of the flying variety (think birds, ducks, geese, swans). We chanced across this bank of swans, with mummy-swan giving me dirty looks for doubling back to have another look.

This duck took a liking to us and followed us for a good 15 minutes, and decided to bring his mates.



I also tried my hand at some photography, and we cozied up to a bank of water lillies for me to have a go with the macro settings.


We would all recommend adding Giethoorn to your list of places to visit, best plan the whole day though! We drove home in the evening and topped the whole lot off with a tasty meal, wine and a dash of spirits. Needless to say we all slept pretty well.

 

Overnighting at Kaapweg, the video edit

It has finally occured to me (after 5 months, admittedly) that I still have this blog. And that I actually made a video of Matt and I’s stay in the forest back in April. It’s a bit long, and not my most exciting work. But for anyone who needs to kill off a few (ok, many) minutes on a Tuesday, here is one way to do it.

Hopefully, it inspires you to go out too. If not, I hope it at least makes you laugh (at us rather than with us works too). If it doesn’t move you at all you’re probably miserable and I wouldn’t want to meet you anyway.

I’m working on some stuff that’s months behind. E.g. Viking run, which happened in May. And then I went quiet all through summer, though other than a week in France, I was work for most of it.

But things are going well, we have a car now, so we’re travelling around a little more, and the launch of the new GoPro drone has gotten me excited. (I very much doubt I’ll get one, but it reminded me I have a camera in the cupboard that needs using!). I promise to get better at editing video into something someone might actually want to watch. Hopefully if/when you see the results, you’ll agree!

Cheers,

B

Motorbike in pieces, the forest and more Two Twits.

It’s been another week. Week 15.

Since last week’s quick catch-up, things have been happening.

Tuesday involved some bouldering after work. Enough bouldering to pull skin clean off my fingers (as nasty as it sounds), especially as I was working on a tricky problem on the 5+/6a section. It involves a little run-up and grabbing on by finger tips. Good fun and on the list of climbs to conquer next time I go. The other nemeses being the ones with overhangs.

Wednesday afternoon involved a short 7km run from work at a brisk 5:20/km. Again, work really needs to start on this running malarkey once more.

Thursday evening I tried to get my motorbike into the storage unit downstairs. Thankfully I succeeded, but not without difficulty as the hallway is pretty tight. It involved a fair bit of shifting the bike over (by lifting it up). The reason for this is to give the bike a complete strip-down, clean, and service of essential (but neglected) work. Having been a student for the past two works with no garage, there are a few things which I may have skipped which it is high time I caught up on. So far I’m going to put a new set of brake lines on, as well as brake pads to really improve the braking system, as it’s overdue replacement. A few other things involve giving the exhausts a good polish, as they’re completely tarnished from all the road crud, and generally giving the whole thing a good, in-depth clean and check to se if anything else needs replacing or fixing. (I’ve found quite a few bolts and nuts that have rusted which could do withe replacing, and several bolts have seized and could do with some copper-slip).

Finally Saturday Matt and I decided that camping was on! So off to get some spare bits and pieces I went. But honestly, that deserves an entire post to itself.

B

Sunset

I completely forgot about this. Last time I was home (the time I went skiing), I set my camera up on a tripod and did a time-lapse of the sunset. I left the camera on automatic, so it adjusts itself (yes, I need a better camera for stills).

But let me keep it brief (which I don’t usually do). Here’s 90 minutes in 20 seconds. Sunset….

Boom.

Week….err 15. 

Catherine pointed out it had been a long time since I posted anything here. She’s right. I should rename this place “benjamindoesntrun”. Since the last post (which conveniently, was actually running related), I have not done much running at all.

So what have I done? Well, I was asking myself that.

Week 10 I went to France. To check in with mum and dad, and seize the opportunity for a bit of skiing. Cross-country this year. Links to those workouts are here and here.


 Went skiing with dad a bit too.

 

The following weekend we went to Leiden for Arjen and Nathalie’s house warming party. Followed by a lazy Sunday if memory serves me right.

Then along came Easter weekend. Starting with a wine tasting at Catherine’s work on the Thursday. Where we bought our first lot of wine in bulk, feeling very grown up in the process. I had the Friday off, Catherine did not, so I spent most of it catching up on administration and even logging on to do a bit of work. 😦 but I met Tashi for a cake and drink. Easter Saturday we went up to Groningen to see Mike and Marina and meet their little girl Norah. Easter Sunday we took as a day off and did almost nothing, we were both pretty tired. And in Easter Monday we caught a train to Hilversum, and walked to Laage Vuursche to eat a pancake. And then, rather than walk back the same way, we walked to Baarn and caught the train home from there. Relaxing walk through the woods and found some great MTB trails for if when I get a mountain bike.

The following weekend we had a visit from Catherine’s parents and her nephew, and we were all too happy to showcase the fun bits of amsterdam. (All within the law, we wouldn’t condone anything forbidden to minors).

I also picked up my motorbike from Matt and Helen’s where it had been hibernating.

On the Sunday I rode to the north. Eenrum, over the afsluitdijk as it was a nice day and Catherine had gone out with her family, to attend Mike and Marina’s farewell party, as sadly they will return to the US this month.


This brings us to last week. Matthijs came over for a spot of brewing on Wednesday. We will see how that turns out.

And on Saturday I went to Groningen one last time with Arjen, Mike and Arjen’s buddy Tjeerd for a beer festival. It was good fun, and the aftermath of that can be found on Untappd. Let’s just say I fell asleep on the train home and ended up rather further down the line that intended.

Sunday Catherine and I rode over to Naarden Vesting, an old fortified town to have a look around and a little walk. Very pleasant.



As a side note, Matt and I are praying for good weather next weekend…..

Have a good week.

B

Sunday of week 7

On monday we had our final test for the Padi open water diver (still have the actual open water sessions to do mind you), but we both comfortably passed it…. I had 1 mistake. 😦

Catherine flew home Tuesday so I had the house to myself all week. I essentially did nothing other than eat, watch TV and sleep. Oh and go to the bar several times. But I’ve been pretty tired that last few weeks, so it was nice to recuperate. (Though this shouldn’t be interpreted as Catherine tires me out, no, no, no!)

Matthijs and I had planned to go for our second outdoor weekend this week, but the weather was truly dismal (so dismal that Catherine’s flight back is over an hour late as a result). We’ll get back to you on that one in March, as there’s no possibility before that.

I had a quiet weekend too. Read lots of economist articles (Thanks Tashi, for sending those our way). And then rather than bore you with the spcifics in writing, if you have 159 seconds to spare, you can see for yourself what I did Sunday below.

Of course, the soundtrack is intended to be ironic. Anyone who lives here will have figured that one out. 😉

A few key learnings from a night in the woods

Whilst the video is almost finished (or in other words, currently uploading to youtube), I wanted to share a few key takeaways from our night out in the woods.

A lot of it will probably sound pretty obvious, but as it is with this kind of thing, its only obvious after the fact. Due to Matt and I being quite “go go go” kind of guys, we may have overlooked a few things on our way out.

The first is related to gear. Obviously, the more the better, and owing to our walk in and out of the forest being about 10 minutes, in this case it wasn’t a question of “how much” we could carry. I think we showed that with minimal preparation, it’s possible to spend a night in the woods and have a good time doing it. Though in future trips, it would be advisable to take more clothing layers of various thicknesses to be able to fine tune the level of “warmth” going on, without resorting to wearing a coat in bed which is decidedly uncomfortable.

An improved sleeping bag is definitely a must. Last time I relied on some hand-me-down gear from my mum and dad I slept in a leaky tent. The sleeping bag I used is perfect for guests when they sleep on our couch, but not so much to get the right kind of warmth out in the woods.

A thermos, means we wouldn’t have to resort to heating water up every time we want a hot drink. In all likelihood, we would warm water up anyway for the hot bottles we put by our feet, but the logic of improved sleeping bag means maybe we would be less reliant on that. (Though, it’s a case of not forgetting the thermos in the kitchen, as I had actually prepared it).

Not only an improved sleeping bag, but if we are to continue hammock camping, we need to insulate the bottom half of ourselves too. If we’re talking scientifically, a sleeping bag (as well as clothes, quilts, etc) keep us warm by trapping a layer of air within the material from which they are made. Unfortunately, when you’re lying on the material, the air is “crushed” out, meaning you’re no longer insulated. This results in the cold we felt coming from underneath. We countered it somewhat by using the survival blanket (this aluminium foil type stuff), but it didn’t entirely solve the problem. So thinking logically (and which a quick google search confirmed) we need some kind of under-insulation. One option could be to simply put a camping mat inside the hammock, and another could be an “underquilt”, which is like a sleeping bag, except it hangs on the underside of the hammock, but not directly beneath the occupant, meaning there is a palce for the air to trap itself and keep you warm.

It would be ideal if we could find a way to bring a small fire which is not a gas flame. Now obviously, this weekend anything in the forest was not combustible owing to the fact everything was waterlogged. But also, it is illegal to make a fire in most forests, so there is that to get around as well.

Food is the next big one. This time, we were only in the forest for about 18 hours, so it wasnt major. We picked up cup-a-soup and some pot-noodle and ravioli, but it would be more enjoyable if we brought something a little more gourmet along. Also useful would be bringing a kettle as well as a pan, so that the tea and coffee don’t have to taste of tomato sauce.

   

 I’m sure I’ll think of other factors as time goes on. But maybe I’ll share a few more after our next trip.

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