Road to Faroe: 8 weeks to go
My third month of training was a combination of highs and lows. It saw me running four times a week doing very challenging interval and hill trainings and punishing endurance runs. It is also when I met the man with the hammer, which made me doubt my ability to finish the race three weeks from now.
This is how it went:
Week 9 Piling up on mileage
After finishing strong on week 8, we decided to run four times this week. We started with a recovery run of 5,5 kilometers on Monday morning, followed by an interval run of nine kilometers the next day. On Thursday, we did a tempo run of 10 kilometers and finally a 25km endurance run on Saturday.
The Torshavn Marathon’s route will not circle around the islands. It will be two half marathons, so we would be running the same course twice. So we chose a 13km route, following Vlaardingen to Maasluis via the A20 – a long, boring and oftentimes dangerous route because of the narrow roads. Three hours and 1256 burned calories after, we treated ourselves to a generous spread of McDonalds junk including Angus burger, ice cream, French fries and the biggest cup of cola.
“Next week again,” we told ourselves, planning a 4x/week run on week 10.
Week 10 Summer and autumn
Things don’t usually go as planned. And you should consider this on your marathon planning. I couldn’t even remember what happened but Robin and I had a little disagreement so someone ended up sleeping on the couch. Needless to say, we both didn’t sleep well so we scrapped Monday and Tuesday trainings.
Wednesday was a holiday in the Netherlands and by this time, we’ve already kissed and made up. The training continued to the Brienenoordbrug, Rotterdam’s highest bridge, 70 meters high and 1,32 meters long. We ran up and down this bridge, eight times, until we couldn’t anymore. It was cold, the coldest celebration of King’s Day. It was even snowing in some places in the country. So winter leggings and wind-proof running jacket on, we conquered the bridge. It reminded me so much of Bruggenloop 2015. It was the same kut weer, (pussy weather) as we call that in Dutch.
But if you are running a marathon, train you must, come sun, rain and hailstones.
To make up for the missed sessions, we did an 8km easy run on Thursday.
We drove to Zeeland for the a weekend decided on the Zeelandbrug for our endurance run on Saturday. The weather was a bit better this time but it was still windy and cold, so again leggings on. We managed to go up and down the bridge (16m high, 5km long) four times, with the wind working for and against us (headwind forth/tailwind back). Our last round felt so great on my legs that I made a sprint at the end, finishing with 29,13km instead of the planned 27km. Technically, it was 30 kilometers but we decided to stop the watch at 29 and just walk/jog the last kilometer to the parking lot. The week was quite a success despite the early debacle.
The Torshavn Marathon is not an easy race. In fact, one English ultra runner says it is perhaps “the toughest road marathon”. Since the nearest hilly place to us is two hours away by car, we had to improvise and bridges are the next best thing to hills.
I am terrified of those hills.
Week 11 Man with a hammer
This was an ambitious week, too ambitious that I was “punished” for even trying.
I was so encouraged by how well the 29km went that I decided to amp up the training. As usual Monday was for a recovery run (4,5km) and Tuesday was for interval 7x350m. They all went smoothly, thanks for the wonderful, summery Dutch weather.
By Wednesday, May 5, the temperature climbed to 23 degrees and sunny, which is ideal when you want to laze away in a folding chair on the beach. But not when you plan to run long distance. Sixteen kilometers wouldn’t be that bad, I thought. So we went up and down the Brienenoordbrug again, this time much fast that the week before and without much muscle sore.
“Encouraging”, I thought again. So we proceeded with the planned endurance run. Saturday, 2x the Seven Hills parcour in Nijmegen, where I also ran my first ever race totaling 30 kilometers.
By Friday, we were already excited to troop down Nijmegen, with our little basket of crispy fried chicken (which we planned to cook the next morning) white rice and a big bottle of cola and find a nice, little spot overlooking the hills, where we can have a nice picnic after the run.
But some plans don’t work out. When we reached Nijmegen at noon, we found out that Giro d’Italia is passing by the city so there were road blocks and parking was nightmare. To rub salt to the wound, the temperature shoot up to 28 degrees and the sun was seething high and mighty with not a single cloud in the sky.
Slumped on the roadside, unable to run farther.
Armed with liters of water, several energy gels and candies, energy bar and pure determination, we proceeded, starting at the Fletcher Hotel where we parked our car. Eight kilometers ahead, the sun was burning my face and I’ve already consumed half of the water on my belt. Usually, I find my comfortable pace at 8 kilometers but this time, it felt felt like I was already running 25 kilometers. “But my legs are tough”, I thought so we pushed on until 15 kilometers, then went back to the car to fill up our water bottles.
The second round was a nightmare. At kilometer 19, I found it difficult to breath. The heat was punishing so I poured half of my water to my head and nape to cool my body down. I was breathing heavily and painfully. At 20km, I had to stop, consumed my last gel and drank from Robin’s water bag. From then on, it was only struggle. My determination was strong but my legs were crying. Breathing became more painful. I was alternating from running to jogging. My legs didn’t want to go on. But I let the clock run because I wanted to know how long will it take me to finish the marathon in this condition. By 23 kilometers I was already crying and Robin was becoming more and more worried. I had to stop once more on the side of the road.
“I’ll finish the 30km, I can do it.” I kept telling myself. I pushed on despite the cramps in my upper leg and painful breathing, pushed on until 25 kilometers. But it was too warm and I was so thirsty. Because of tiredness and the sore in my tongue, I didn’t even had enough energy to sip from the water bag. At 26 kilometer, I gave up. I was already dizzy, my surrounding was turning black and I had to clutch Robin’s arms for support or I’ll pass out.
But there was a silver lining to this. Until that point when I was about to break down, the Giro d’Italia cyclists were about to pass Zevenheuvelen. We positioned ourselves in one of the hills so when the racers passed, we had a clear and unobstructed view of their glorious run. It was my first time to see a cycling race and it amazed me to watch hundreds of cyclists, beautifully-synced while going at a speed of maybe 80 kilometers per hour.
Robin had to leave me, once again, on the side of the road to pick up the car parked four kilometers away. I couldn’t walk anymore. People were looking at me, wondering whether I am lost or need help. The police even asked me if everything’s alright. I must have looked really distraught.
We ended up eating our packed meal on the roadside, peppered with dust, sand and whatever pollution you get from passing cars. Then we couldn’t get out of the city because of the road blocks so we had to drive all the way to Germany, in tiny, remote villages to be able to reach the highway again. But German highways mean driving in the German autobahn. We had a short adrenaline rush driving at 200 km/hr crossing the A3 to the Dutch border.
Spontaneity is sometimes the product of disappointments. But nothing makes you feel alive than spontaneous things like this.
Week 12 The longest endurance
The Nijmegen run killed my legs. Ok that’s maybe a bit exaggerated. But I was paralyzed the next day. My upper legs were so stiff that I found it very difficult to walk. Normally I could reach my toes when I am stretching but I could barely reach my shins. I was only able to run on Wednesday, thanks to the nightly leg massage from Robin.
My Wednesday run was slow and so was my interval run on Thursday, although I managed to do a 10x350m run on the tracks. I wasn’t very optimistic about my next endurance run.
When you encounter a run like that in Nijmegen, you tend to lose your self confidence and doubt your ability to finish a race. It only takes one disappointing run to shatter all the trust you built up after many weeks of trainings. Definitely for a race like the Torshavn Marathon. It does not promise to be easy and for one whole week, I was antagonizing about not finishing the marathon, or at least not finishing it under five hours.
Thankfully our longest endurance run last Saturday went well. We did 32 kilometers, running the length of the iconic Oosterscheldekering. It was, by far, the most exhilarating endurance run in this training. This brought me back the confidence I’ve lost in Nijmegen. And for the first time, I felt like I was finally ready for Torshavn.