Het is zaterdag 15 juli 6:45 in de ochtend. Midden in het dorp Grindelwald in Zwitserland sta ik in het startvak voor de 51 kilometer lange Eiger Ultra trail. Mijn startnummer is 2117 en naast me staat iemand met exact hetzelfde startnummer. Hij bedankt me dat ik hier samen met hem aan de start sta en samen kijken we naar de klok en wachten tot deze op 7:00 zal springen, het startmoment van dit avontuur.
Maar eerst even terug in de tijd. Hoe ben ik hier terecht gekomen. De Eiger Trail zat niet in mijn planning voor dit jaar en ik had nog zo gezegd dat ik het aantal wedstrijden zou beperken.
It has been a while since I last posted a blog post. In fact, the last one was after finishing the final running challenge of 2016 on a high by finishing my very first 50 mile race in 10th position at the Bello Gallico trail.
Now that 2017 is already well underway I feel it is time to share my running challenges for this year.
What I learned from 2016 is that I should focus on one challenge at a time instead of trying to continuously join races that challenge my physical and mental abilities to the maximum. It was a wise lesson that I learned from 2 painfull DNF’s in the summer of 2016.
Taking this wise lesson into 2017 I have selected 3 running challenges that I will go for this year. The rest of the year will be filled with training and the occasional “fun run” that’s well in the comfort zone.
So here I am, the medal that proves that i finished the Bello Gallico 50 mile trailrun hangs around my neck. It is still difficult to believe but I did it!
At 9 AM on Sunday morning I come running into the finish location of the Bello Gallico, Mark Groeneweg who ended up being my running partner for this nightly adventure was right behind me. The room was filled with people, applauding as we ran up the stage on which we received congratulations and our finisher medals from race director Stef.
Astrid comes up and congratulates me and helps me with my running gear as I just gaze around trying to grasp what I just acomplished for myself. Several people I know from the trailrunning community congratulate me. Even Maarten and Marek (who I quietly see as an inspiration for me for running these distances) have sticked around to see me finish.
I say to Astrid that I am probably not that far in the back of the pack as I have seen nobody pass me and have passed quite some people in the later stages. She tells me that I finished 10th, I shake my head as I take this in.
I have been preparing for this race since August, after I had failed to finish the 65 kilometer Trail des Fantomes I had my eyes on the next big goal after that, the 80 kilometer Bello Gallico trail this December.
The Bello Gallico trail is the first trail race in which I am participating in which I will be using a drop bag, so this race holds another new aspect for me.
What is a drop bag? Simply put a drop bag is a bag with stuff that you check in at the start of the race and will have access to at aid stations during the race. So you can put things like food, clothes, batteries, etc in it that you might need in later stages but don’t want to carry with you all the time.
In the 50 mile Bello Gallico the drop bags will be available at the second aid station, just before the halfway point in the race at 37 kilometers. The 50 miles or 80 kilometers is short enough to be able to complete without the use of a drop bag so I probably won’t need most of what I pack but you never know what might happen in those first 37 kilometers.
Besides that, I might actually need what is in my drop bag, it is also good to practice the use of a drop bag as I expect that I will be doing longer events in the future in which I will definitely need my drop bag.
So what’s in my dropbag for the Bello Gallico trail….
There are just 17 days left before the start of the Bello Gallico as I start the last preparations for my first 50 miler, the Bello Gallico trail on the 17th of December.
So the rough training plan for these last 17 days:
- Put in a few long runs.
- At least one long trail run.
- A bit of speed work.
- A night training run.
- Stay in one piece.
These last 17 days start as I have just finished my last workday and that structure of having to get up at 5 AM every morning to go out for a run suddenly has dissapeared. I expected that this would result in me getting up every day and just wanting to run endlessly but that’s not how it went for the first few days apparently I had to refind my rythm.
It did not take me too long to find that though, I just had to kick myself in the butt a few times during the first week after quiting my job.
November has finished and the Bello Gallico trail is getting closer and closer. But I am ready for it!
It feels weird to hear myself say it or to see myself write it. Me being ready for a 80 kilometer trailrun. But after completing the past weeks of training and with just a bit over 2 weeks to go until the start of the Bello Gallico I am starting to believe that I am ready for this challenge.
Of course I won’t be running at the front of the pack and that’s also not what I am training for. I am training to finish this and to finish it running. Usually in these long races I am somewhere in the second half of the pack, and thats where I feel comfortable and where I think I belong. We will see where I end up on Sunday morning the 18th of December. But even if I am dead last, I won’t mind as long as I get the medal at the end.
So how did these past weeks since my last blog post go?
As the week starts there are 5 weeks left before the start of the 80 kilometer Bello Gallico trail, my final and biggest running goal for 2016.
The week did not start that promissing, at the end of the previous week I had a pretty hard crash during a trailrun training in Bouillon. It actually hurted that much that I was unable to move my leg, putting on socks was a challenge and getting out of the car after our drive back from Belgium meant I had to use my hands to lift my leg out of the car. I was happy that I am driving a car with automatic transmission so that I did not have to use my left leg while driving.
So with 5 weeks to go I was a bit worried that this injury might last too long to be able to continue my training. The original plan for my training week:
- Interval training on Monday
- Long run at low heart rate on Tuesday
- Long run with some strides at the end on Wednesday
- Rest on Thursday and Friday
- Run the 55 kilometer Lommetrail on Saturday. As a train as you race training.
- Short recovery run on Sunday.
One thing was for sure, I would not be running for at least the first few days in the week so that little plan could go right out of the window before it even started. The Lommeltrail was not very important for me since I had already run it last year, but it was a nice milestone on my way to the Bello Gallico. Considering how I was feeling after the weekend, running a trail of 55 kilometer seemed an unrealistic goal so I decided to wait until the end of the week to decide if I would be running there and if so if it would be 9, 15, 35 or 55 kilometer.
So how did this week turn out?
It is Sunday afternoon, the 13th of November, the runners of the Legends Trail training weekend in Bouillon (Belgium) are still on there way back to the headquarters, I look around in the eating area of the headquarters of this training weekend with one hand on my left upper leg, worried if I just destroyed my winter plans.
The week of training started perfectly and went exactly according to plan with a rest day on Monday, speed training on Tuesday and 3 long runs on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Before the weekend started I had ran 84 km and was feeling fitter than ever, looking forward to the weekend.
The Legends Trail training weekend
From Friday evening to Sunday afternoon Astrid and I would be volunteering at a training weekend for the runners of the Legends Trail which would take place in March 2017. Looking forward to see some trailrunning friends, meet a bunch of new people and hopefully getting a chance to do a bit of trailrunning myself we arrived in Bouillon in the South of the Belgian Ardennes on Friday afternoon.
The countdown to the Bello Gallico trail continues and with only 7 weeks to go each bit of training should contribute to reaching that finish line. After a succesfull training week the past week it was time to build upon that. This week I would extend the distance of my longest run, and would finally hit the trails again.
To train for these long distances I do more than just running more and more and more. A very important aspect of running is the strenght of your core (abs and lower back muscles) if these aren’t strong enough your running gait will become sloppy which causes more energy which is basically a downward spiral.
To train my core I do a workout with these new friends of mine, the kettlebells, three times a week together with Astrid.
Added to that a combination of planking exercises, push-ups and sit-ups should make my core strong enough to help me through the long endurance runs. But the main training still consists of running.
It is the 28th of September as we drop our bags on the floor of our apartment, after a 12 hour flight and a 30 minute train ride we have arrived home from our holiday in Japan. Pictures needed to be sorted, stories needed to be told, but also, training needed to be started.
Arriving home was also the start of the build-up towards the Bello Gallico trail on the 17th of December, my first 50 miler. For many runners in the (ultra)trailrunning community, this trail isn’t particulary difficult, but for me the 80 kilometers and 565m of elevation gain will be the biggest achievement of the year.
In these blog series I will try to keep a journal of how I am preparing for this adventure, starting with the month of October.
First of all I will start with a disclaimer:
I am not a professional athlete nor I am professional coach or trainer. I have always trained myself by doing what feels ok for me. Therefore my preparation for this 50 miler is not a recipe on how one should train for such an event.
In other words “don’t try this at home” but keep reading.