Race report: Kustmarathon Zeeland 2018

If you ask me why it took me two months to write this race recap, I’d give you the same excuse I’ve made a million times in this blog whenever I go back from a writing hiatus. I didn’t have time. Between race day and our autumn vacation in the Philippines, there was very little time to sit down and write a proper blog. But here it is, because I want to read back to these challenging races when I’m old and couldn’t run anymore.

Life interferes

I last wrote about my training log  for Road to Zeeland when I did the half marathon training.  In between 21km and the 35km endurance run, life happened. It was very hectic at work. When I came home in the evenings, I could only cook dinner, put the child to bed and go straight to sleep. But I was religiously running my endurance runs, partly on the beach of Scheveningen in preparation for Vrouwenpolder. Until daughter and I got sick.

The flu took two whole weeks off my training. With both me and the kid sick meant sleepless nights and very slow recovery. On the 3rd week I was able to train properly again but my condition was worse than before I started. Only during the last endurance run of 35km two weeks before the race did I feel a bit of confidence that I would at least finish.

Race day

Sleep is the most important thing in my life. That was also the very first thing that motherhood took away from me. I spiraled into a post-partum depression simply because I was lacking sleep. I usually could take on tough situations but without sleep, I’m angry and couldn’t cope well.

So imagine me standing on the starting line with only 5 hours of broken sleep! I already knew from the moment I woke up that this marathon was going to be tough.

Beach. Dunes. Stairs

If I could describe Kustmarathon Zeeland in three words, that would be it, beach, dunes and stairs. The first part of the race, from Burgh-Haamstede until about 19km to the first beach in Vrouwenpolder, was an easy road running. The beach part until 27km was also fairly easy. We trained for it, although we had to walk some parts to save our energy for later. But the course that followed was purely punishing. From Oostkapelle to Zoutelande was an endless series of dunes. My legs were burning with every ascent and descent. 

Then there were the stairs, at least a million of them. They’re the worst because they came up in the most unexpected places, after a series of high dunes when your battered glutes just wanted a little respite or at a corner before going up another dune, completely covered behind the bushes so you couldn’t mentally prepare for them. They just jumped out of nowhere staring at you smugly like your chance of finishing the race is on their hands (which felt like it of course). I have developed a slight aversion to stairs after this race.

We didn’t train for the dunes, which I didn’t expect would be so crucial. Nor for the stairs BECAUSE HELLO, who gets beaten by stairs in marathon races? Well me, apparently.

Long story short, we finished the Kustmarathon Zeeland in 5:24 minutes, well within the cut-off time of 6 hours. But I was battered and blue after that. And I maybe lost a few toenails (eeew!) I knew I wasn’t capable of hiking or cycling a mountain like what I did post-race in Faroe Islands and Japan. I was injured too and still suffering two months after the marathon.

So my best tip for running a succesful Kustmarathon Zeeland? Pound the dunes and the stairs. The beach is the easier part.

What went wrong?

Two months of procrastinating with this race report gave me time to analyze what went wrong in this marathon. This is not the toughest course obviously, at least for my Lowlands-trained legs. The elevation and hills in Torshavn Marathon put the dunes in Zeeland to shame but I was able to finish in 5 hours. Something in my training must be the culprit.

Sleep. That was the number 1 culprit but that doesn’t break three months of training into a total failure.

Sickness. Well yes but I recovered pretty fast after my flu and still had enough time to train.

Running with a buggy on the beaches of Scheveningen when the weather still allowed for shorts.
A taste of the beach in Domburg.

So what else?

I’m currently reading Training Essentials for Ultrarunning (spoiler alert), which made me realize the difference in the training that I did for Torshavn and Kustmarathon.

Speed training and hill work. These were the main culprits I think. These were glaringly  absent in my training logs. I did some interval trainings on a whim and one hill training on my birthday in  Nijmegen but a more structured plan was lacking in my training.

For the the Torshavn marathon, we pounded the Brienenoordbrug relentlessly every two weeks and did speed trainings on the tracks at least once a week. And those trainings carried me to the finish line well ahead of the cut-off time.

Other factors. I’m not discounting the fact that my weak core, my sloppy hips and my puny butts all contributed to this shameful performance. I didn’t train them. I know I should because I’ve done that before and I’ve read them in so many blogs how important strength trainings are but I hid under the excuse of lacking time.

To my defense, I was really busy. I’m a working mom with a huge responsibility at work and a toddler who have no screen time. And I cook warm meals several times a week. But still. I could have spent less time on social media to do at least an hour of strength training every other day.

The next challenge

I have signed up for another race next year. It’s an ultramarathon in the Netherlands with a cut-off time for fast runners. Hopefully I would be able to train better this time. Would you follow me in my Road to Texel?