One way to tell you’re on the way of becoming an ultrarunner

Please don’t read any further if you are podophobic. There are some graphic details below!

Good you are still here.

It’s the second time it’s happening to me and I guess this time I jumped immediately to the last stage of grieving (acceptance). The first time I definitely hit the first stage (disbelief). My tip: be prepared and accept the fact it will happen to you too.

So what’s this bad thing that will happen, and why should you grieve?

Toenails. And the loss of them.

Why we loose toenails and/or why they turn blue/black is explained beautifully in this post by Runner’s World.

And, as I don’t believe in TMI, here’s mine right now…

Black toenail, trying to hold on to it…

Rookie mistake

Facepalm, rookie mistake 1
Tuileries Garden, Paris near Louvre

I’ve been running in the mornings lately, but due to work/family related stuff needed to do my long run (30K) in the evening last Friday.

I started running around 18:15 and felt bloated from the first steps onward, bit nauseous even. It’s not my first rodeo and normally these bloated, nauseous feelings subside in half an hour to an hour or something.

Not this time…

The run was a struggle from beginning to end. My intestines cramped continuously. I needed to stop several times to let one go, couldn’t even do that running. After 20K i was a couple of hundred metres from my house, but still decided to finish the run (28.5K) but afterwards part I wish I hadn’t.

When I got home after almost 3 hours of running, the cramps cleared pretty fast, but I was beat. I had a bad night sleep and I didn’t recover during that night. Saturday I was still feeling bad and tired.

Fortunately my run on Sunday was fine again.

Looking back I probably ate way too much during the day on Friday. I had a warm meal during lunch and I fuelled up 2 hours before the run with a teff shake. I usually do that in the morning before a long run. My gut was probably still full when I started running. I’m not sure why I thought that was a good idea. Afterwards I definitely felt like a rookie!

Fortunately, every mistake during training (and during a race) is an opportunity to learn!

Delegate!

I juggle with time. I’m a father, husband, freelancer, book and film enthousiast and last but not least, runner. Life definitely happens. There’s not enough time, or, better, if I want to do it all, I need to be efficient with what when. I need to be both effective and efficient. 

Side step

Efficient is not the same as effective by the way. Example: When you go into an elevator you have two choices:

  1. Press the floor you want to go to and then press “close the doors”.
  2. Press “close the doors” and then push the button for the correct floor

They are both effective, but option 2 is more efficient.

One way to be more efficient is to delegate tasks. Although I love the science behind training plans, the puzzles and figuring out the right training from day to day, week to week and month to month, it takes up too much time. And I’m not an expert, so it takes up even more time to figure everything out. 

If you are someone who just wants to run 3 times a week and maybe finish a marathon once in your life, delegate your training to an online training plan. Stick with the plan and you’ll finish the marathon, no worries.

If you are a pro-athlete, you have probably delegated way more than just your training plan. You probably have a whole team of people that will help you out day by day and with everything going on. Dietician, physical therapist, coach, trainer, massage therapist etc, and so on. Or at least have very easy access to them.

Personal Coach

If you are more like me, aspiring to run ultra’s (requiring a lot of training etc.) but not a pro athlete, you don’t have all the time in the world. Delegating your training to just a static online training plan, won’t help either. Delegate this to a personal coach! He or she doesn’t have to be close by the way, online is fine, but it needs to be personal and tailored to your personal life. That means at least a weekly update although I prefer the daily adjustments if needed. And I love the conversations and the understanding both physically and mentally with what you are doing. The rest of the world thinks I’m crazy anyway. 

It will cost money. I know. But the payback is huge! The time I’ve spend on my own training, figuring it out, the mistakes I’ve made and all those kinds of things have cost me way more money and time. There’s definitely a return on investment, both in money and in time spend on feet.

Run a few miles more on your shoes. Don’t buy that new shirt, the old one is just fine. Do you really need that new race vest? Get a coach!

Why I run…

Why I run

Of course I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t love running. I love the outdoors, the training, the sense of adventure when racing ultra’s. And after running for a lot of years, you could also say I’m an addict. I need the adrenaline, endorphins and everything else. But there are two reasons that are more fundamental to who I am as a person and why running helps.

Solving puzzles

When I start running, the first 30 minutes are juist about the running itself. My body needs to get into it, get into the flow. So in this first 30 minutes I’m watching my posture, looking at my cadence, making sure I’m breathing correctly. In these 30 minutes my body relaxes more and more and things start to go by themselves, no more need to concentrate on things. 

After those 30 minutes my mind wonders and I’m in puzzle solving mode. They are the day to day or work related things I want to solve. It can be an argument with the kids or Irma, it can be a problem at work, it can be an idea for a presentation, anything at all. My mind goes all sorts of ways, but in the end the puzzle is solved. I know what went wrong in the argument, I solved the problem at work, I have a good idea for the presentation, etc. and so on. My mind relaxes.

That almost zen mode of clear thinking doesn’t happen with me by just sitting in a chair, thinking about things. I need to be moving my body, preferably with an easy run for longer periods of time. I mentally get frustrated or better get mentally stuck when I don’t run.

I actually think I dream less when I run more. I process things during running so no need to process things while sleeping.

Tired

The second reason why I run is partly related to the first, but is a reason on its own as well. I have ADHD tendencies with an emphasis on the H. Although not officially diagnosed, Irma is a psychologists and we did a couple of tests. Let’s say I’m on the spectrum. 

One of my coping mechanisms is making sure my body had enough movement and therefore is tired. When my body is tired, I can relax more. I can sit still longer, my mind doesn’t race and I can be relaxed. I can actually sit really still instead of fidgeting with stuff (my hair, a pen, or whatever I can get a hold of).

Not running

…is not really an option, or better said, has some challenges for me. I have notices this especially in the last couple of weeks as I’ve been injured and now recovering. In this period I’ve biked, but that doesn’t give me the same satisfaction. And it has been a challenge even more now with the coronavirus and sitting indoors as much as possible. My coach (Danielle Snyder) really helped me get through this by the way.

Why do you run?

Here we go…

This is me:

  • Father (Fien & Bram)
  • Husband (Irma)
  • Freelancer (Clear&Done)
  • Runner

Nothing special, except for the fact that running is a bit different for me than for most people. I usually say:

I’m a runner, but a bit on the extreme side of running. I like to run distances over a marathon and preferably in the mountains… ultra trails.

People look at me like I’m crazy, and I probably am…

A Dutch guy running in the mountains is weird anyway. It’s the Netherlands. It is flat, really flat.

I’m a normal guy, trying to combine a full family life (priority 1) with a 32-40 hour workweek (priority 3) with a 5-6 day a week training and running schedule (priority 2). I’m trying to live as an athlete (living, working, training, eating vegan/vegetarian, repeat) without the full support a professional athlete has although I do have a wonderful coach Danielle Snyder.

In this (hopefully weekly) blog I’ll write about my challenges and my highlights, my questions and my answers to the complexity of this combination of priorities. I know there are more people like me, facing the same challenges. With this blog I hope we can combine our collective knowledge and experiences to help each other out. And I’m hoping for your input.

Me during the 80k Trail des Templiers 2018