Road to Texel: So much to learn, so little time

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midst stormy winds, rain and freezing temperature, we did our last long run for the 60 van Texel ultramarathon. On a Saturday afternoon while everyone in Holland would rather stay home with a warm cup of coffee, we spent five long hours on our foot, fighting the elements and learning so much.

It’s a little sad though that I am only learning the art of slowing down at the end of my ultramarathon training. I never consider myself fast. In fact I’m one of those less celebrated back-of-the-pack runners who aren’t so willing to answer the proverbial question “what’s your finish time” after every race.

On this last endurance run however, I did what I was supposed to do. I ran slow. I ran one full minute slower than my marathon target, which is 7min/km.

The 80km/hour headwind may have helped to slow down my pace, coupled with the anxiety to aggravate my runner’s knee. My mind must have been playing tricks on me because everything hurt, from my quads to my knees, even my lower back, so I wasn’t really keen about doing a really long run. I even brought with me a pack Diclofenac in anticipation of the knee pain I’d be getting afterwards. The little confidence I’ve built up during the last 4 months of training was shattered after limping at the end of 43km long run two weeks ago. So I didn’t expect to run very far.

But I did, 40 long kilometers in an easy pace. And guess what? My legs were fine afterwards. There was only a slight irritation in my left knee and a neglectable muscle pain. There was no need to take the painkillers either and I could walk up and down the stairs without a problem.

Could I be overthinking my injury? Could my twice weekly Pilates sessions helped? Was it because I was using my Mizuno’s instead of Nike’s?

This last run somehow rebuilt my confidence that I can finish within the cut-off time. It felt so good that I knew I could still go on running for another 10 kilometer. I think I also found the right mix of race-day nutrition (oatmeal, raisin bread, banana and gels – in that order) and stretching breaks that may save me from a DNF.

So I learned to take proper breaks and accepted that it’s ok to walk for a couple minutes to eat your banana instead of continue running and choke on your food. I learned that stretching you quads really makes a difference and might possibly make the knee pain go away if done right.

And I have finally managed a long, steady run where I could hold a conversation up the very last minute and even managed a sprint to end it. Normally I would be too exhausted to talk at the end of every long, steady run.

Could I finally be learning the art of proper marathon training?

I’ve been running since 2014. In 5 years I’ve done 4 marathons and two 15km’s, all with varying training plans and results. But not once could I remember having done an endurance run where I felt this good after many hours of running.

That’s why this last training deserves this blog post.

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